Catholic Democrats

Catholic Democrats May 8, 2008

I came upon the interesting and encouraging group Catholic Democrats this morning. This organization looks to be very promising in terms of understanding the interplay and interchange of Catholic social teaching and public life. I most certainly will be a regular reader of its articles and statements.

Here’s a description of the organization from the Catholic Democrats site:

Catholic Democrats is a national non-profit organization of concerned Catholics, based in Boston. We present the weekly scriptures on this page because our organization is grounded in the Gospels, and faithful to the social teachings of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. We have brought together people across the country who share an aversion to the current abuses of US military power, the exploitation of social issues to advance the economic interests of a few, and the misuse of our Catholic faith for political gain.

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  • ben

    I went to look at this site.

    This group seems to lack a clear understanding of the gravity of the evil of abortion. First, they seem to think that catholic opposition to abortion is some sort of sectarian belief instead of a categorical moral principle grounded in reason. Second, they seem to view abortion as merely something undesireable to be discouraged–like smoking–and don’t seem to understand that it is murder.

  • I concur with Ben. I was not impressed in the least bit with the content of that website.

  • Policraticus

    Ben and Feddie,

    I don’t see anything that suggests that there is no “understanding of the gravity of the evil of abortion” within the organization. What I do see is a limiting of the discussion to the approach to specific public policy. This is not the same thing as not understanding “that it is murder.” That is an unfair and dishonest caricature of the intention of this organization, and it a confusion and conflation of moral and legislative aspects.

    With respect to being “impressed” by the content, I suppose that your taste is reducible to your political preference rather than any real substantive issue.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    I’ve got to agree with ben on this. Take, for instance, the following quote:

    6. From a practical standpoint, outlawing abortion would result in changing a surgical procedure that is safe for the mother into an illicit drug problem with a predictable and substantial incidence of birth defects and potential maternal death. Misoprostol is widely available in other countries, costs pennies to make, and potentially could be sold for hundreds of dollars if the substance was illegal. 8% of misoprostol treatments fail to induce abortion, and have a relatively high incidence of induced birth defects.

    First of all, I would take issue with describing abortion as a “surgical procedure that is safe for the mother…” The “safe for the mother” qualifier speaks volumes about the uncomfortable reality that is left unsaid here. Moreover, describing it as a safe surgical procedure feeds into the myth that the vast majority of abortions can be construed as a kind of health care. Most abortions are no more a ‘surgical procedure’ then knifing an innocent person is a surgical procedure. At bottom, the problem is seeing abortion as analogous to the government regulation of drugs and alcohol. Misuse of the latter are actions of a type and gravity such that they can be controlled and their damage limited by being legal but closely controlled by the state. The state, however, cannot justly permit, even in a controlled way, the willful destruction of innocent human life.

  • I have to agree with both sides here, because both sides worry me and both sides are valid. I think that the main point of that website is that there needs to be a different approach to abortion than just merely overturning Roe V. Wade and many people are not comfortable with that. This is the general concern that I tend to share with those from the “Left”: So far I have not heard good arguments as to what is going to happen after an overturn of Roe v. Wade. In other words, how can making abortion illegal be sustainable before we get mothers going through “unsafe methods” to have an abortion with fatal consequences and their lawyers going to the Supreme Court again to have abortion become legal again?

    In Venezuela, abortion is illegal and that is why I have A LOT of girlfriends who had their babies in their teens and they are happy even today. However, Venezuela (or other similar countries) is not like the U.S. where an emphasis on “rights” is so strong, so you won’t really have people (knock on wood) in Venezuela going to the Supreme Court to challenge the law on abortion, because in all honesty, it just doesn’t cross their minds that it should even be challenged.

    I hate to be pessimistic, but this is just my humble observation: given how “individual rights” occupy a central place in American policy, I deem it very tough to keep an overturn of Roe v. Wade sustainable before it is “overturned” again, because in the end the “right to privacy” will prevail over the “right to life”. Perhaps the defense of certain rights that I hear defend by some around these comboxes is really counterproductive in the end on the issue of abortion.

  • Brett

    The problem with the quote above is that it starts “From a practical standpoint.” I encourage anyone who lets “practicality” guide their moral lives to then go off and worship that account of Practicality and not confess to worship God. This goes for letting “practicality” rule in the moral discernment of abortion or war or any other issue, as far as I am concerned.

    Fidelity, not practicality. As Clarence Jordan once said, “Faith is not belief in spite of evidence but life in scorn of the consequences.” Being faithful might be foolish, but it is the call. I don’t understand how people as sinful as Christians (Democrat of Republican) can think they can base moral action (and legislation) purely on the basis of self-perceived practicality when fidelity to God as known in Scripture and Tradition is clearly the vocation of all Christians…all people.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    What I do see is a limiting of the discussion to the approach to specific public policy.

    Poli,

    The Church has made clear that public policy which addresses the incidence of abortion without addressing its legality is insufficient. In this regard, the quotes used at the beginning of the Catholic Democrat’s article on abortion is very misleading. That the Church leaves the crafting of public policy to the laity, who have special jurisdiction and competence in the secular world, does not mean she condones any such policy. The policies which are crafted must be formed and animated by the general principals of Catholic Social Doctrine. While I acknowledge the validity of an approach to abortion which says that we should limit the incidence of abortion until conditions are such that we can make it illegal, I cannot see how an approach which permits legal abortion as such is a permissible one. Changing the law to protect innocent life must, at the very least, be a remote goal. The Catholic Democrat’s approach seems to be to permit abortion in order to limit harmful consequences (i.e., birth defects caused by the illegal use of misoprostal). How is that not consequentalism? I am totally in support of an organization of Catholic Democrats, but their position on abortion is very disappointing.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    “I think that the main point of that website is that there needs to be a different approach to abortion than just merely overturning Roe V. Wade and many people are not comfortable with that.”

    Katerina,

    On the contrary, I think that the vast majority of pro-lifers, even conservatives and republicans, agree that a merely legal approach to abortion is insufficient. While that is the case, crafting laws which protect innocent human life (or striking down supreme court decisions that hinder the creation of such laws) must at least be a remote goal. CD seem to be advocating something different: permitting the legal destruction of human life in order to limit certain negative consequences.

  • I don’t find anything on the website that opposes criminal penalites for those involved in abortion. I do find that it properly introduces important information that is often left out of the discussion, particularly in Catholic and pro-life circle. Some people have so wedded themselves to a particuclar approach and certain secular political alliances that they find anything a varience to that to be a challenge. Individuals certainly are free to pursue these stragtegies and allainance but they are not free, in justice and charity, to insist that others are obligated to follow their judgment.

  • Br. Matthew,

    What you quote above on no.6 is under the title “Facts regarding the Bush position on abortion:”

    I’m confused?

  • Either way, Br. Matthew, I agree with you on this: crafting laws which protect innocent human life (or striking down supreme court decisions that hinder the creation of such laws) must at least be a remote goal. CD seem to be advocating something different: permitting the legal destruction of human life in order to limit certain negative consequences., so I’m not too comfortable with how that no.6 is worded.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Katherine,

    Nearly the entire section entitled ‘Moral Scorecard’ is an argument for permitting legal abortion as such (i.e., not the permissible argument that says it should be permitted only until conditions for the possibility of legal change are present.) The argument is consequentialist: we can do evil (supporting laws which permit the killing of innocents) in order that certain consequences are avoided (criminal penalties against those involved in abortion and birth defects caused by the illegal use of abortifacients). One could quibble with the plausibilities of these purported consequences themselves, but the larger issue is that the argument is a consequentialist one, and should be ruled out on those grounds alone.

  • I’m happy to see Catholics pursuing non-legislative methods of abolishing abortion. But it makes me cringe to see Catholics defending the legality of abortion. Even if their arguments are reasonable (in that our current system of criminal justice would have a great deal of trouble abolishing abortion), it feels scandalous to defend the legality of abortion.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Katerina,

    No. 6 is not giving the position of the Bush administration, it is giving the CD’s argument against a pro-life strategy which aims at legal change.

    I’m not too comfortable with how that no.6 is worded.

    You and I are in agreement on this. I too am very uncomfortable with their argument.

  • Why do Catholic Democrats feel beholden to this pro-choice position? Why not simply be Democrats who are pro-life to the max?

    Because they are principled, or because they want to win elections?

  • I guess I don’t see why they couldn’t just say members of the Democratic party support abortion, we do not. I don’t see why they should feel a particular need to defend the party’s position. Anti-war Republicans don’t feel the need to defend the Iraq War. As far as applicability, you simply say that the political programs resulting from the election of Senators Obama or McCain are not such as to justify primarily voting upon this issue.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Why not simply be Democrats who are pro-life to the max?

    I guess I don’t see why they couldn’t just say members of the Democratic party support abortion, we do not.

    Both are very good questions, especially given the gravity and scope of the problem. It is frustrating.

  • “Katherine,

    Nearly the entire section entitled ‘Moral Scorecard’ is an argument for permitting legal abortion as such”

    No, YOU find it to be an argument for legal abortion. The very valid observations that are made are not the whole story on abortion policy. But they are matters which are very upsetting to self-satisfied political activists who have decided on a particular course of action and would even go so far as deny others the sacraments because they do not defer to their political deals.

  • I wish they’d direct some of their energies into challenging their party’s pro-abortion stance. McCain may be associated with some ‘unsavory characters,’ but abortion is a grave and intrinsic evil, a crime against humanity. Seems these folks have soft heads and hard hearts.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    But they are matters which are very upsetting to self-satisfied political activists who have decided on a particular course of action and would even go so far as deny others the sacraments because they do not defer to their political deals.

    Nope, they are very clearly an argument for permitting legal abortion and are not merely my subjective experience of them as such. With regard to the rest of your statement (self-satisfied political activists, denying the sacraments, etc) are these aimed at me or anybody else on this thread? Even if they are and, what is more, even if they are true (they are not), they are still an ad hominem and thus invalid.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    That should be “…and thus invalid with regard to any argument you might be trying to make.”

  • Poli.-

    Abortion is not a political issue for me. It is a moral one.

    If you go through SA’s archives, you will note that I have praised genuine pro-life dems on numerous occasions. I think you also know that I have gone after proabortion Republicans just as hard, if not harder, than proabortion dems. So, for you to suggest that my considered view of the website’s substance is based on nothing more than general disdain for dems . . . well, that’s disappointing. I think my concerns are being echoed by other folks in this comment thread, many of whom can hardly ne described as conservative partisans.

    I would love nothing more than to see the Democratic Party become a pro-life party, and for abortion to essentially be taken off the table as a political issue. It would thrill me to no end.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Just to back up my claim (contra Kathleen) that the CD site is consciously arguing for legal abortion and not merely presenting certain unconnected “valid observations”, we have the following statement, from point 6 in the section titled Moral Scorecard:

    Advocates of illegality must explain how these fully foreseen consequences would be compatible with the compassion implicit in the Catholic world view.

    This quote, which concludes a line of though begun in point 4, shows a number of things.

    1. Its shows that these are not merely observations, but observations linked in such a way as to form an argument. Why else would the authors maintain that ‘Advocates of illegality must explain…’ except that these “valid observations” are meant form an argument which “Advocates of illegality” must refute.

    2. Since it is an argument against “advocates of illegality”, it follows that it is an argument advocating the legality of abortion.

    3. It is a consequentialist argument, since it argues for an intrinsically evil action (supporting a legal regime which denies millions of persons their right to live) by an appeal to consequences.

  • Phillip

    Maybe there might be a bit more to the mission statement to say that they are “..faithful to the social teachings of the Catholic Church” vis “social teachings of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    One more thing.

    4. Lastly, and most ridiculously, the Catholic Democrat site challenges the “advocates of illegality [like, you know, the Pope?]” with “the compassion implicit in a Catholic Worldview”. Legal protection of all human persons is now incompatible with compassion. Absolutely amazing.

  • Phillip

    Thanks, Br. Didn’t have time to venture the whole site.

  • There is room for differences on what the primary solution to abortion ought to be: abolishing abortion through legislation or abolishing abortion through social action. It is possible to be pro-life to the “max” and say, “I support making abortion illegal, but will focus upon making abortion unnecessary.”

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Phillip,

    Wrong. According to the Catholic Democrat’s the USCCB are of the “advocates of illegality party”, as can be clearly seen in their statement from 2000 entitled Abortion and the Supreme Court: Advancing the Culture of Death which says among other things:

    In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court decisions Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton ushered in legalized abortion on request nationwide. By denying protection to unborn children throughout pregnancy, these rulings dealt a devastating blow to the most fundamental human right — the right to life….

    No more damning indictment of the coarsening effects of Roe on our national character can be imagined. This ruling has helped to create an abortion culture:

    * in which many Americans turn to the destruction of innocent life as an answer to personal, social and economic problems;
    * which encourages many young men to feel no sense of responsibility to take care of the children they helped to create and no loyalty to their child’s mother;
    * in which men who do feel responsibility for their children are left helpless to protect them;
    * whose casualties include not only the unborn but the countless thousands of women who have suffered physically, emotionally and spiritually from the deadly effects of abortion;
    * in which fathers, grandparents, siblings, indeed entire families suffer and are forever changed by the loss of a child…

    Modern medicine has brought us face-to-face with the continuum of human life from conception onwards, and the inescapable reality of human life in the womb. Yet our legal system, and thus our national culture, is being pressed to declare that human life has no inherent worth, that the value of human life can be assigned by the powerful and that the protection of the vulnerable is subject to the arbitrary choice of others. The lives of all who are marginalized by our society are endangered by such a trend.
    As religious leaders, we know that human life is our first gift from a loving Father and the condition for all other earthly goods. We know that no human government can legitimately deny the right to life or restrict it to certain classes of human beings. Therefore the Court’s abortion decisions deserve only to be condemned, repudiated and ultimately reversed

    We recommit ourselves to the long and difficult task of reversing the Supreme Court’s abortion decisions — Stenberg v. Carhart as well as Roe v. Wade itself, which laid the foundation for a right to take innocent life. We invite people of good will to explore with us all avenues for legal reform, including a constitutional amendment.

  • Phillip

    Br.,

    This statement by the USCCB would not be contrary to the Church’s position and so would be included in my statement.

  • “With regard to the rest of your statement (self-satisfied political activists, denying the sacraments, etc) are these aimed at me or anybody else on this thread? “

    No, but it is aimed at others in different forums who have been quite vocal.

    “they are very clearly an argument for permitting legal abortion and are not merely my subjective experience of them as such.”

    I would ask that you show how each of the statements are factually untrue. Now, if your point is that none of the seven points are necessarily factually untrue (or, really, not matters which Catholics are bound by conscience to hold as factually untrue) but don’t politically help the pro-life cause, that is very different.

    If your point is that we can’t publicly state things that are not untrue but can be seen as not helping a particular political agenda, I can’t accept that I am bound as a Catholic to accept that.

    The Republicans have done a laudable job of proposing legal restrictions on abortion. Many pro-lifers have left aside other means of protecting human life in order to take advantage of the opportunity to work with the Republicans on this worthy goal.

    The Republican Party and their pro-life allies have also made some very practical adjustments to their program. They do not support making abortion an act of murder under law. They do not support making abortion a federal crime. They do not support making it illegal for a woman to have an abortion. They do favor permitting the states to enact legislation making it a crime (though not the crime of murder) for doctors or others to perform an abortion.

    I have no objection to the Republican position. Criminalizing the abortionist but not the mother, I believe, will have the same impact in protecting human life while allowing the state to deal with woman in troubled pregnancies through the social service system. I don’t believe the Republican proposal for allowing the penalty for performing an abortion to be less than the penalties for murder in any way facilitates a greater number of actual abortions. I don’t have any philosophical objection to federal laws against abortion, but feel expelling those from the effort who believe this is best handled by the states only weakens our changes for success in the foreseeable future.

    At the same time, while I support and wish well all of those pursuing the above initiative, I also support and wish well to those who are working to reduce or eliminate abortion by programs of social assistance. Pro-lifers working with the Republican Party have been inactive on such initiatives, which would harm their political alliance with the GOP. Until recently, pro-life Democrats have done little to take advantage of the openness of many in the Democratic Party to support such initiatives. I am most glad that some are taking up this cause.

    Those who insist that pro-lifers may only (in good conscience) follow the Republican strategy, need to be reminded of the actual social experience with abortion. Brazil and the Philippines, were abortion is illegal, have some the highest rates of abortion in the world. In the Netherlands, with a strong social welfare state but a permissive abortion policy, the abortion rate in the lowest anywhere outside the Muslim world.

    Now, some may dislike it that I post the above mentioned facts. Some might say I am arguing for abortion. Nothing of kind. My position is BOTH/AND not EITHER/OR. I’ll work on whatever initiative I am in the position to best assist at a given moment.

  • Katherine,

    That was a good response. I am with you and I think you and Brother Matthew are (hopefully) talking past each other. I am also an advocate of BOTH/AND and not EITHER/OR. We need to work towards a reversal of Roe v. Wade AS WELL as pursue the social programs avenue. You make a good point with regard to Brazil and the Philippines and that is something that we need to keep in mind as we work towards making abortion illegal. We HAVE to pursue all avenues.

  • “We HAVE to pursue all avenues.”

    I could not agree more.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Katherine,

    Let me respond to some of your points as best I can.

    I would ask that you show how each of the statements are factually untrue.

    First of all, it is impossible to prove that their observations are factually untrue because they are counterfactuals (i.e., “if abortion is made illegal, then…”) and counterfactuals cannot be proven true or untrue. Someone might argue that they are probably or improbable. However, my point is that while one may do so, it is unnecessary to do so because the argument itself is a consequentialist one, and therefore should be rejected by Catholics.

    The Republicans have done a laudable job of proposing legal restrictions on abortion. Many pro-lifers have left aside other means of protecting human life in order to take advantage of the opportunity to work with the Republicans on this worthy goal.

    I’m glad to hear you say this. It shows your fairness to your political opponents.

    I have no objection to the Republican position. Criminalizing the abortionist but not the mother, I believe, will have the same impact in protecting human life while allowing the state to deal with woman in troubled pregnancies through the social service system.

    Sounds good. I hope you can use your position as a supporter of Obama to advocate for his potential administrations acceptance and furtherance of such a policy.

    Pro-lifers working with the Republican Party have been inactive on such initiatives, which would harm their political alliance with the GOP.

    I’ll grant you that this may be. Though I would say the same applies to the Catholic Democrats. I suspect that their qualified support for legal abortion (which you, I hope, don’t share) stems from their desire not to harm their alliance with the Democratic Party.

    Those who insist that pro-lifers may only (in good conscience) follow the Republican strategy, need to be reminded of the actual social experience with abortion. Brazil and the Philippines, were abortion is illegal, have some the highest rates of abortion in the world. In the Netherlands, with a strong social welfare state but a permissive abortion policy, the abortion rate in the lowest anywhere outside the Muslim world.

    It is a tragedy that even though the law protects the lives of all human persons in Brazil and the Philippines, some still illegally kill such persons. It is also a tragedy that the Netherlands permits many of its citizens to be unjustly killed, even if less are killed there than in Brazil. The truly Catholic position is to both work for illegality as well as reduction. The problem comes when someone says we can bypass the former and simply focus on the latter.

  • Bro. Matthew,

    The purpose of CD is to develop a public policy blog that addresses a range of issues in a concrete, non-ideological way — a way that is consistent with Catholic thinking. They hope to explore and critique practical measures that might be implemented which can help to alleviate the human challenges that beset this society.

    Regarding abortion, their main focus is to reduce the incidence of abortion — not to change the nature of law or society. They see the Bush administration, and the public policy organizations that are aligned with them (Heritage Foundation, Catto Institute, and the Family Research Council, for instance), as being counter-productive to this effort.

    This allegation against the Bush Administration and its cohorts is one that you may or may not agree with. It makes no difference. What CD is suggesting is that there is a better way to deal with such problems, especially at the concrete level where people’s lives are directly impacted. They intend to breathe new life into the debate.

    I believe they are correct in their assessment, as I have tried to argue repeatedly on this site. Its way beyond time to address these matters within the context of public policy to see whether more effective means can be implemented. For too long, public policy has been an ineffective tool altogether.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    …or visa versa focus on the latter and ignore the former.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    They intend to breathe new life into the debate.

    If “breathing new life into the debate” involves arguing against the legal protection of innocent life, then count me out. I will stick with the Catholic approach, even if the “Catholic Democrats” find it impractical or inconvenient.

  • Br. Matthew,

    If “breathing new life into the debate” involves arguing against the legal protection of innocent life, then count me out.

    I don’t understand why you see a dichotomy here.

  • “If “breathing new life into the debate” involves arguing against the legal protection of innocent life, then count me out. I will stick with the Catholic approach, even if the “Catholic Democrats” find it impractical or inconvenient.”

    You’re wedded, then, to what hasn’t worked in over four decades. How many more decades to you advise we continue this insane approach?

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Katerina,

    Do you realize that the CD site is arguing against legal protection of the unborn?? How, exactly, is that compatible with “breathing new life into the debate?”

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    How many more decades to you advise we continue this insane approach?

    I advise that we continue this “insane” approach to kingdom come, if necessary.

  • “Do you realize that the CD site is arguing against legal protection of the unborn??”

    No they are not. They are arguing within the context of public policy. That is quite different.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    They are arguing within the context of public policy.

    Yes, and the policy they favor is to permit the legal destruction of human life.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    …and they argue for such a policy on consequentialist grounds.

  • “Yes, and the policy they favor is to permit the legal destruction of human life.”

    You’re confused about the nature of public policy. It always operates within the context of the law. CD not advocating anything about the legal destruction of human life. While they don’t address the question you want directly, it hovers in the background. Otherwise, why would they want to reduce the incidence of abortion?

    “…and they argue for such a policy on consequentialist grounds.”

    Wrong. The sanctity of life is presupposed in their mission.

  • “I advise that we continue this “insane” approach to kingdom come, if necessary.”

    Sounds a little extreme.

    If one wants to change the law, it is necessary to change many things as a propaedeutic to changing the law. In part, it will be necessary to explain the sanctity of the unborn.

    However, don’t think that stacking the Supreme Court with the RIGHT Justices is the way to change the law. If the law is not reflected in the hearts and minds of the citizens, it will not be a just law.

    Now if someone can come up with a strategy that will overtime move society so that the law can be passed, then great, Then the law will have been truly changed. But to merely hijack the Supreme Court and claim that that is equivalent to changing the law so that the unborn can be truly protected — well, that is fantasy.

  • “hijack the Supreme Court”

    Like the liberal justices did in Roe, right?

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    CD not advocating anything about the legal destruction of human life.

    Interesting. Then why do they cast their arguments against the “advocates of illegality”? Points 4-6 are clearly aimed at attempts make abortion illegal.

    Wrong. The sanctity of life is presupposed in their mission.

    I don’t care what is presumed in their mission. If they think that the possibility birth defects from illegal drug use and an overtaxed justice system are sufficient reasons for allowing such a monumental injustice (the wholesale destruction of innocent life on a huge scale) to be protected by law, then they don’t really know what they are talking about with regard to the sanctity of life.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    If one wants to change the law, it is necessary to change many things as a propaedeutic to changing the law.

    They don’t want to change the law, thus their argument against the “advocates of illegality”.

  • “Interesting. Then why do they cast their arguments against the “advocates of illegality”? Points 4-6 are clearly aimed at attempts make abortion illegal.”

    They want to direct attention to the public policy arena where changes can be made that will reduce the incidence of abortion.

    Those who advocate for the “illegality of abortion” move the national focus away from policy to the political question of who sits on the Supreme Court. This, in public policy terms, has long been a major distraction.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Sounds a little extreme.

    If you want to avoid being extreme, following the Gospel is going to be alittle difficult.

  • Gerald-

    It’s not just about the Supreme Court, as you know all too well. That is just the first step. Once Roe and its progeny are overruled, then the issue is returned to the States, and thus the political arena. What prolifers hope to do is outlaw abortion at the state level, state by state, until such time as the practice can be banned nationally vis-a-vis a constitutional amendment.

    I have not problem working with dems to reduce the rate of abortion in the interim, but for you and others to suggest that no steps should be taken to outlaw abortion until “hearts and minds are changed” is patently ridiculous. It’s not an either/or choice. The law can be used to change hearts and minds. Civil rights legislation did that over time, and prolife legislation can likewise change the mindset of many Americans.

  • Phillip

    Perhaps one way to look at why changing the laws on abortion can have impact on the culture is to look at civil rights legislation. Prior to the 60’s, laws which enforced racial bias also may have had the benefit of reinforcing prejudice in people’s minds. Once these laws were reversed and others defending persons against discrimination were passed, changes in perspectives followed. Certainly not immediately nor completely even now. But the change in laws may very well have assisted with changing the culture.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    They want to direct attention to the public policy arena where changes can be made that will reduce the incidence of abortion.

    ….but will leave untouched the injustice of legally sanctioned death to innocent persons.

    Those who advocate for the “illegality of abortion” move the national focus away from policy to the political question of who sits on the Supreme Court. This, in public policy terms, has long been a major distraction.

    A distraction? Legal protection for the unborn cannot happen as long a Roe is in place. The Democrats are implicated in the state of affairs in which Roe is the focus of attention vis a vis abortion. If they supported progressive candidates who nevertheless supported the right to life we wouldn’t be in this situation. If they took their unqualified support for “choice” out of their platform we wouldn’t be in this situation. If the Democrats want the Republicans to stop using abortion as a wedge, all they have to do is remove the albatross from their neck. That they refuse to do this; that they would rather go down in flames than do this, speaks volumes. To say that we simply need to focus on the public policy arena is to let the Democrats off the hook. They need to stop pointing fingers and look within. Democrats cannot change the nature of the debate by changing Republicans, but they can do it by changing themselves.

  • “If they think that the possibility birth defects from illegal drug use and an overtaxed justice system are sufficient reasons for allowing such a monumental injustice (the wholesale destruction of innocent life on a huge scale) to be protected by law, then they don’t really know what they are talking about with regard to the sanctity of life.”

    I don’t believe this is what they are saying. Rather they are saying that a full range of practical issues will have to be addressed if a wholesale change in the law is enacted.

    They are saying that the “advocates of illegality” haven’t thought through these matters. This indicates a lack of seriousness on their part. In short, the means by which they propose to bring about a change in the law are satisfactory. There needs to be a better way.

    One other point: CD is not saying, or implying, that abortion is a good to be protected. What CD is saying (in what you describe above) is that” the advocates of illegality” (Bush, Heritage, Family Research Council, Catto, etc.) haven’t addressed the problem of the unborn in its wider dimension. And the truth if the matter is that they haven’t. This is irresponsible.

    To change the laws requires more than proposing that nine Justices reverse the law of the land.

  • “….but will leave untouched the injustice of legally sanctioned death to innocent persons.”

    Yes, they will leave that to others. There is nothing wrong with having a public policy focus.

  • “If you want to avoid being extreme, following the Gospel is going to be alittle difficult.”

    Are you saying that the Gospels and moral theology contradict prudence? Or are there distinctions here that you’re covering over?

  • “Like the liberal justices did in Roe, right?”

    Yes, it works both ways. And that is the problem. The means to get to where we are at is the same means that some have advocated to get where we want to go. But is that the best way? I don’t think so.

  • To change the laws requires more than proposing that nine Justices reverse the law of the land.

    Exactly.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    To change the laws requires more than proposing that nine Justices reverse the law of the land.

    Actually, reversing the law of the land would be sufficient to change the law. Obviously, efforts wouldn’t stop there. Nobody doubts that changing the law is going to have immediate effects, some of which are negative. The point is that such negative effects can be dealt with through careful planning, but they cannot be an argument against changing the law, especially when it comes to something as fundamental as protecting innocent life.

  • One other point: CD is not saying, or implying, that abortion is a good to be protected. What CD is saying (in what you describe above) is that” the advocates of illegality” (Bush, Heritage, Family Research Council, Catto, etc.) haven’t addressed the problem of the unborn in its wider dimension. And the truth if the matter is that they haven’t. This is irresponsible.

    To change the laws requires more than proposing that nine Justices reverse the law of the land.

    This is a pretty sweeping indictment, Gerald and Katerina — is this to suggest that Republican support of Crisis Pregnancy Centers and adoption agencies are a futile effort? (I’m not arguing that they are sufficient unto themselves, more can be done, but I’ve been hearing the ridiculous “Republicans have done NOTHING” slander in this discussion for a good while).

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Are you saying that the Gospels and moral theology contradict prudence? Or are there distinctions here that you’re covering over?

    Infused prudence and the gift of counsel can contradict the acquired virtue of prudence, such as when somebody decides to die in someone’s stead (Kolbe), or fast for an extended period of time. That said, even natural prudence, insofar as it is directed to the real and not merely apparent good, cannot be invoked in a consequentialist argument, such the the CD presents.

  • Feddie,

    Yes, I understand the long range strategy, as you describe it. It would be nice to have these matters decided in the state legislatures. This would bring the issue more directly to a question of “hearts and minds.” It would then be a bottom up solution. And then this could be followed by a Constitutional Amendment. A bottom up solution.

    But the problem I’m addressing is now.

    Clearly Roe has not been a satisfactory solution for either side. It’s been top down, and thus the decision rests on sand.

    Working to reduce the incidence of abortion has the potential to create a new politics and a new language that can transform hearts and minds. This change will flow out of interpersonal relations. This dynamic can provide a concrete basis for substantive changes in the law that will have a legitimacy grounded in the body politic.

    The Civil Rights analogy has many problems, including the Civil War. But I understand where you are coming from. Even the Civil Rights Act of 1965 is still being worked out. Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Atwater/Rover politics — these are consequences that we still struggle with. But much progress has been made. You are certainly correct there. I guess the path ahead will be messy no matter what.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Yes, they will leave that to others. There is nothing wrong with having a public policy focus.

    I have no problem with this, but were it true they wouldn’t be arguing against the advocates of illegality would they?

  • “Infused prudence and the gift of counsel can contradict the acquired virtue of prudence, such as when somebody decides to die in someone’s stead (Kolbe), or fast for an extended period of time.”

    Yes, but still we are operating in the realm of politics. Our aim is not to create martyrs but to change public policy and the law.

    One who has infused prudence and the gift of counsel might very well be better equipped to act prudently within a concrete political context. But there is still the fact that ethics and politics are not the same as moral theology. There is a difference between truth for its own sake and truth for the sake of doing. In the doing — even if appropriate consideration is given to right reason — things are very, very messy. Nothing can change that truth.

  • This change will flow out of interpersonal relations. This dynamic can provide a concrete basis for substantive changes in the law that will have a legitimacy grounded in the body politic.

    So we should vote for a politician who is adamantly opposed to ANY change in the law that would even remotely restrict abortion in any circumstance, on the slim hope that through his advocacy of “interpersonal relations” we might ultimately produce the concrete basis for substantive changes in the law?

  • “I have no problem with this, but were it true they wouldn’t be arguing against the advocates of illegality would they?”

    I believe they are arguing against the means employed by “advocates of illegality.” I’ve mentioned above some of the 501c3 foundations, and the Bush administration, as some of the more obvious suspects.

  • Katherine,

    Let me respond to some of your points as best I can.

    Thank you.

    First of all, it is impossible to prove that their observations are factually untrue because they are counterfactuals (i.e., “if abortion is made illegal, then…”) and counterfactuals cannot be proven true or untrue. Someone might argue that they are probably or improbable.

    Well, since soothsaying is a sin, no Catholic can be bound to believe that “x” action will in fact produce “y” result. Therefore, each Catholic is at liberty to make his own best judgment as to the results of certain actions.

    because the argument itself is a consequentialist one, and therefore should be rejected by Catholics.

    I’m not going to reject something because it is a word I don’t even know the meaning of. I’m a housewife, widow and retired lady steelworker. Speak English.

    I’m glad to hear you say this. It shows your fairness to your political opponents.

    They are not my political opponents. They are my fellow citizens.

    Sounds good. I hope you can use your position as a supporter of Obama to advocate for his potential administrations acceptance and furtherance of such a policy.

    I hope so too.

    I’ll grant you that this may be. Though I would say the same applies to the Catholic Democrats. I suspect that their qualified support for legal abortion (which you, I hope, don’t share) stems from their desire not to harm their alliance with the Democratic Party.

    I don’t support legal abortion. I am glad there are some who work with the Republicans to achieve legal restrictions. I am glad there are others who work with the Democrats to support social assistance program that have a proven record of saving unborn lives. Like in any collaborative effort, I understand that requires various participants to leave some differences for outside the collaborative effort.

    It is a tragedy that even though the law protects the lives of all human persons in Brazil and the Philippines, some still illegally kill such persons.

    The law is not protecting the unborn in these countries. They have a higher incidence of abortion than in countries with no legal restrictions. That’s not protection.

    It is also a tragedy that the Netherlands permits many of its citizens to be unjustly killed, even if less are killed there than in Brazil. The truly Catholic position is to both work for illegality as well as reduction. The problem comes when someone says we can bypass the former and simply focus on the latter.

    Or that we can bypass the latter and simply focus on the former. But the key word in that sentence is “we”, as a society. Individuals however, might find that, for whatever reason, they are in a position to contribute to one or the other of these initiatives. Or, individuals might find they are in a position where they are not able to contribute to neither but are in a position to pray for the unborn. That discernment is for the individual, not for pompous prelates.

    There is an old joke about the Frenchman saying “Who cares if it works in practice, the question is ‘does it work in theory’?” I’m going to do what I can to protect the unborn IN PRACTICE. I’m interested in the results of public policy initiatives. I could give a rat’s behind on some convoluted theory of jurisprudence and the harmony of natural and civil law contrasting common law under federal systems and Roman civil law as taught in the 19th century Franco-Teutonic academic centers, blah, blah, blah, blah….

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    This dynamic can provide a concrete basis for substantive changes in the law that will have a legitimacy grounded in the body politic.

    I see what you are trying to say here, Gerald, but laws which protect life don’t get their legitimacy by being grounded in changing attitudes and beliefs of the body politic, they are legitimate because they reflect the reality of the human person and seek to protect those persons from injustice, thus the civil rights analogy. The legitimacy of reversing laws which protected the practice of segregation did not stem from the fact that such a reversal was supported by the body politic (it was not) but because the very existence of such laws were an injustice and helped perpetuate racism (an intrinsic evil).

  • Christopher,

    Should one vote for a politician who announces that Roe be overturned and then does not nothing more to further the cause of the unborn? Aren’t you a little tired of the transparent hypocrisy and cynicism that is so smugly exhibited by national politicians? Perhaps you are not. But I am.

    The real positive work on behalf of the unborn is being done in the community. You’re just kidding yourself if you think it is going on in Washington.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    “Perhaps Governor Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has said it best in his speeches this year to audiences across the country: “I don’t know anyone who is pro-abortion.””

    Look in the mirror Dean. Of course this site’s purpose is to lend comfort to Catholics who desire to vote for candidates who care about innocent unborn life not a whit. Love how they put “pro-life” in scare quotes. Only truly stupid pro-lifers, or those who really are not pro-lifers, will fall for this transparent bilge.

  • Bro Matthew,

    There are many kinds of legitimacy. Political legitimacy is what I’m referring to here. Without social and political legitimacy, positive law lacks legitimacy? Even a Constitutional Amendment lacks legitimacy without social and political legitimacy — Prohibition.

  • “Look in the mirror Dean. Of course this site’s purpose is to lend comfort to Catholics who desire to vote for candidates who care about innocent unborn life not a whit. Love how they put “pro-life” in scare quotes. Only truly stupid pro-lifers, or those who really are not pro-lifers, will fall for this transparent bilge.”

    The usual nonsense.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    Really Gerald? Here is Dean speaking to Naral in 2003:

    http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/interestg/naral012103/dean012103spt.html

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Katherine,

    Well, since soothsaying is a sin, no Catholic can be bound to believe that “x” action will in fact produce “y” result. Therefore, each Catholic is at liberty to make his own best judgment as to the results of certain actions.

    As I said, we can make arguments based on probability and such would obviously not be soothsaying, though I suspect you are not being entirely serious here but are rather a little annoyed with my response. Anyway, my point was that one should reject the argument because it is consequentalist, which means that it argues for something objectively (or intrinsically) evil by an appeal to consequences. Our faith, however, doesn’t allow us participate in objective evils by an appeal to consequences. Anyway, my apologies if I came across as condescending.

    They are not my political opponents. They are my fellow citizens.

    Its possible to be both a fellow citizen and a political opponent, but of course I see what you are getting at, and I find it admirable.

    Like in any collaborative effort, I understand that requires various participants to leave some differences for outside the collaborative effort.

    I’m glad you see things this way. That said, CD does not share your viewpoint, since they insist that abortion should not be made illegal.

    “The law is not protecting the unborn in these countries. They have a higher incidence of abortion than in countries with no legal restrictions. That’s not protection.”

    The law is protecting the unborn insofar as it makes their destruction a crime. This is all the law can do. The fact that illegal abortions happen isn’t the fault of the law but rather of a society which (apparently) doesn’t do enough to support women.

    That discernment is for the individual, not for pompous prelates.

    Our prelates speak out about this because the gospel of love mandates that they do what is within their power to protect innocent life and to educate the faithful about their responsibilities in the secular world as laid out in Catholic Social Doctrine.

  • Gerald – Ignore Donald. He’s the very definition of the word “troll.”

  • TeutonicTim

    Not surprising at all. Here’s some paraphrasing as I read it:

    “There are democrats who are opposed to abortion, so it’s OK”

    It’s NOT OK. Abortion is part of the platform of the democrat party

    “They’re arguing within the context of public policy”

    OK, so why do you all try to change public policy on every other issue?

    “There are other issues that need to be addressed before getting to abortion”

    Like pushing public funding of abortion, cloning, creating and destroying embryos, refusing to pass anti-partial-birth-abortion bans?

    I also am extremely amused at the willingness of the “universal” Catholics here who constantly say that their catholicism transcends politics, while choosing to be enamored with groups like this. I can only imagine how a “Catholic Republicans” site who go over here.

  • Matt,

    Good advice.

  • Donald R. McClarey

    Oh and I would urge everyone to compare and contrast the difference in attitude on the site towards the death penalty and abortion.

    “1. The Democratic Party Platform courageously evolved this year to the Catholic position on the death penalty, for the first time since 1988.” Government action to abolish the death penalty.

    “5. Practically speaking, no one can predict that abortion will ever become illegal in the United States, even were Roe v. Wade to be overturned. ” Not if we elect you folks, that is for sure.

    It seems that abortion is one of the few areas where Catholic Democrats are unwilling to use the power of the state to implement policy.

    I do wish to be helpful to Catholic Democrats. Under abortion they have a quote from John Paul II but it has nothing to do with abortion. Perhaps they could replace it with the following:

    ” At the end of the twentieth century we are witnessing a strange paradox: the sanctity of human life is being denied by an appeal to freedom, democracy, pluralism even reason and compassion. As the Bishops’ Statement points out, words have become unmoored from their meaning (cf Living the Gospel of Life, 11), and we are left with a rhetoric in which the language of life is used to promote the culture of death. Freedom is sundered from truth, and democracy from the moral values required for its survival; a faulty notion of pluralism loses sight of the common good; reason often refuses to engage the truths which transcend empiric experience; and a false sense of compassion is incapable of facing the limits and demands of our nature as created and dependent beings. The language of human rights is constantly invoked while the most basic of them – the right to life – is repeatedly disregarded. The Bishops have identified the source of this contradiction in the moral confusion winch comes inevitably with “the gradual restructuring of American culture according to ideals of utility, productivity and cost-effectiveness” (Living the Gospel of Life, 3). So great is the confusion at times that for many people the difference between good and evil is determined by the opinion of the majority, and even the time-honored havens of human life – the family, the law and medicine – are sometimes made to serve the culture of death.

    At such a time, Christians must act. This is a fundamental demand not only of discipleship but also of democracy, which flourishes when “people of conviction struggle vigorously to advance their beliefs by every ethical and legal means at their disposal” (Living the Gospel of Life, 24). This is not easy in a situation where there is at times deliberate falsification of the Church’s teaching and scorn for those who promote it. Yet none of this can be allowed to blur your vision or diminish your energies.

    Your action needs to be both educational and political. There must be a thorough catechesis on the Gospel of Life at all levels of the Catholic community. Catholics imbibe much of their surrounding culture, and therefore this catechesis needs to challenge the prevailing culture at those points where human dignity and rights are threatened. Such a catechesis has as its goal that shift of perception and change of heart which accompany true conversion (cf Eph 4:23). The call to conversion must ring out in your homes, in your parishes and in your schools, with complete confidence that the Church’s teaching about the inviolability of life is deeply in tune with both right reason and the deepest longings of the human heart. This educational effort will increasingly open the way for Catholics to exercise a positive public influence as citizens of their country, without false appeals to the separation of Church and State in a way that consigns the Christian vision of human dignity to the realm of private belief. The choice in favor of life is not a private option but a basic demand of a just and moral society.

    The pro-life concern must be present in every aspect of the Church’s pastoral activity. It is my fervent hope that your meeting will signal the commitment of the whole Catholic community to implementing the teaching of Living the Gospel of Life, that it will help to coordinate better the activities of the various groups involved, and that it will strengthen the resolve of many people to continue their generous and tireless efforts. Commending all gathered at the Washington meeting to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer who is the Way and the Truth and the Life (cf Jn 14:6), I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

    From the Vatican, February 20, 1999

    Pope John Paul II”

  • Donald R. McClarey

    Troll- Matt Talbot definition: someone on the internet who has opinions I disagree with.

  • HA

    How many more decades to you advise we continue this insane approach?

    I suggest we all pause for a moment and ponder where Christianity would be today if every venture that took longer than 40 years to fulfill had been declared “insane” and scrapped.

    Oh wait, that’s right — it wouldn’t exist at all. Never mind.

  • Gerald & Matt,

    I think you two should both sit back a minute and examine your rhetorical consciences about that smug little put down you just attempted to slap on Donald. All he has done is call your attention to the clear untruth of Howard Dean’s claim which Gerald quoted (clearly not a problem, none of us here belong to the Church of Howard Dean) and also called your attention to the teachings of your Church.

    Also, frankly, in a thread in which everyone has given the usual lip service to providing real help to pregnant women via crisis pregnancy centers and other means other than using the power of the law to ban abortion — I find it ironic that you immediately heap insults on someone who sits on the board of and actively helps run his local crisis pregnancy center. Forgive me for suspecting that you are doing nothing so very active to help the unborn, while running about the virtual world blowing the Obama trumpet.

  • HA

    I’m not going to reject [consequentalism] because it is a word I don’t even know the meaning of. I’m a housewife, widow and retired lady steelworker. Speak English.

    Katherine, with all due respect, any arguments about Catholic ethics are probably best avoided if you can’t be bothered to look up and research a word as basic to that topic as consequentialism. If someone like Donald or Teutonic Tim, or whoever were to set up a “Catholics for McCain” website were to utter a statement like the above-cited, they’d be laughed out of here posthaste.

    Given your preferred candidate, I doubt you’d be subjected to the same kind of abuse (not on a site like this, anyway) but among the general Catholic community, I suspect you will find your effectiveness to be limited.

    That being said, I appreciate your candor. Moreover, your website, and the man you support — not to mention how very often you and Gerald seem to agree — are all a lot more understandable now.

  • HA

    Oh, and it’s worth pointing out that Br. Matthew was far too much a mensch to say what I just did. He gives me a worthy goal to shoot for.

    But the fact that even he, with all his grace and forbearance, can’t seem to get through to those on the other side of this issue says a great deal about them.

  • Darwin Catholic,

    Perhaps it is you who should reread McClarey’s comment smearing this site and those who participate. He said: “… this site’s purpose is to lend comfort to Catholics who desire to vote for candidates who care about innocent unborn life not a whit.”

    This is nonsense, like I originally said, and your smug comment defending him only adds to the nonsense. Heap insults on him? Give me a break.

    And then you conclude by demeaning me: “you are doing nothing so very active to help the unborn, while running about the virtual world blowing the Obama trumpet.” Are you so sure?

  • “I suggest we all pause for a moment and ponder where Christianity would be today if every venture that took longer than 40 years to fulfill had been declared “insane” and scrapped.”

    You’re confusing means and ends. No one is saying the struggle should stop. What is being said by some — myself included == is that a radical reassessment of approach needs to take place. The current strategy to protect the unborn is stuck. This is rather obvious, isn’t it?

  • HA,

    It is you that misunderstands consequentialism.

    Katherine is not saying that the morality of an act is to be judged solely by its consequences. Not at all. In fact, she accepts that the unborn have an intrinsic dignity which cannot not be violated. For her, this is not in doubt. So there is no consequentialism whatsoever in her thinking.

    What she is doing, however, is calling into question what is currently being done in the practical order to make that principle incarnate in the concrete. The recognition that the practical order (contingency) resists the inherent truth of the unborn person is not inaccurate. Indeed, it is this reality that poses the challenge.

  • Darwin,

    Forgive me for suspecting that you are doing nothing so very active to help the unborn, while running about the virtual world blowing the Obama trumpet.

    This is just cheap.

  • SB

    Cheap, yet easy to respond to, if it’s wrong. After all, if someone so frequently ridicules other people for doing the wrong thing or doing nothing at all to help the unborn, it’s only fair to ask what he himself personally does.

  • SB,

    “if someone so frequently ridicules other people for doing the wrong thing or doing nothing at all to help the unborn, it’s only fair to ask what he himself personally does.”

    The current strategy is not working. That is what I’ve said. Now, can you give me the names of those I criticized? Just who are they whom I’ve ridiculed?

  • Cheap perhaps, yet I can’t help feeling it rather richly deserved.

    Gerald keeps telling us that the old ways are tired and we need to try something new, but the only new thing he can think of is rejecting those who say they believe abortion is a great evil for those who promise to do everything in their power to protect it and make it available. That’s not change I can believe in.

    So while I will admit that Donald’s criticism of the entire site, to which Gerald objects, if perhaps something of an exageration, it strikes me as dead on in regards to Gerald’s posts and comments. He has done practically nothing _other_ than advocate that we elect the most strongly pro-choice president in US history. If does not have it in himself to be ashamed of that, I could wish that the editors of this site, who invited him, could do so.

  • ben

    Gerald,

    When I read commentary like yours and Katherine’s about the Pro-Life movement, I don’t recognize it. Please offer some suggestions about what more we could do. I know many people who dedicate enormous amounts of time to ending abortion, and I know a few poeple who have dedicated their entire lives to this cause. None of them are political activists. I know a woman who runs a home called the Maternity of Mary, and she invites women to come live with her if they are facing a crisis pregnancy. These women are invited to stay as long as they need to, and some have stayed until their childre were 3 years old. I know another woman who has worked to make materials available in spanish to women who need them so they will know where to go for help. I know several young people who have walked across the country in prayer and pennance for the sin of abortion. I know some young people who try to counsel women entering abortion clinics to make different choices. I know many people who have adopted children, and I have adopted a child myself.

    But I don’t know any republican party activists. All of the pro-lifers I know vote, because that is an important part of the battle too, but none of them think of voting a pro-lfe work.

  • Cheap perhaps, yet I can’t help feeling it rather richly deserved.

    Gerald and Katherine are being grossly misinterpreted here and I wonder if these comboxes are even worth it.

    Face it, people, we are all on the same camp: we want to reduce abortions and we may differ in are the means through which we bring this about. Yes, reduce abortions and the ultimate hope is to eliminate it altogether. Is it going to happen? No. In Venezuela, where abortion is illegal, there are abortions still, even though the culture is very much anti-abortion. It’s the same problem with poverty. We can work to reduce poverty, but it will not be eliminated altogether. It is sad, but that’s how it is. Some approach the issue of poverty from a free-market approach, some of us completely reject it. Yet I ‘try’ not to judge people’s reasons to choose one approach over the other and think that they just “hate poor people”. No, I’m not equating abortion with poverty before somebody points out how evil I am and start judging my faith. It is purely an analogy and how there is room for different approaches in pursuing our goals. I said above we have to keep trying to overturn Roe v. Wade, but also understand how the “day after” Roe v. Wade will look like. It is the latter that Gerald and Katherine are talking about and we need that.

    This is why we can’t move forward, because people get so defensive and fall back on the cheap statements made above. If we acknowledge that we’re all on the same camp and that we differ in how to bring our end about and that all of these different means may very well be valid, then and only then we will move forward.

    What is extremely disappointing is how some understand “let’s try another approach” as synonymous to “abortion is not ‘that’ evil”. This misinterpretation is cheap, unacceptable, judgmental and doesn’t get us anywhere. Well, it hasn’t gotten us anywhere in over 30 years. We are certainly not going to get anywhere by being judgmental of people’s faith and their actions done in good will.

  • Katerina,

    I can appreciate trying another approach. Repudiating legal remedies is a nonstarter though. Sometimes Gerald and Katherine are fine with legal remedies and other times they are ready to throw legal remedies down the river. It would be far more hoest to simply support Obama despite his abortion position. It insults everyone’s intelligence to say that Obama or the Democratic party have a crypto-antiabortion position.

  • ben,

    I said above: “The real positive work on behalf of the unborn is being done in the community. You’re just kidding yourself if you think it is going on in Washington.”

    Thus I agree with what you’re saying about people doing amazing work in the community. I further believe we should pay more attention to that work and design a strategy around it that brings the truth that is reveal at this level to the national consciousness. The potential for moving the social conscience of this country forward is huge. Right now, politics in Washington overshadows that possibility. The sad truth is that in Washington the challenge of the unborn is used as a wedge issue. Politics has become more important than the unborn.

    What’s so difficult in this to understand? I’m not the only one raising these criticisms, although I came to this conclusion many years ago. Read Doug Kmiec, for instance, who is likewise looking for a new political approach.

  • MZ Forrest,

    You fail to understand what is being said.

    “It insults everyone’s intelligence to say that Obama or the Democratic party have a crypto-antiabortion position.”

    Those are your words and thoughts, not mine. And, while I don’t want to speak for Katherine, my reading of what she’s written is quite different from what your describe.

    Maybe you are opposing something that doesn’t exist?

  • Possibly. I’m not seeing unicorns at the moment either. I’m not in the mood to play games this morning. Considering we have been discussing this issue for better than 3 months, I’m more than casually aquainted with your position.

  • ben

    Gerald,

    I don’t really think that anybody really believes that the real work is being done in washington. By in large pro-lifers have very little respect nor esteem for politicians.

    That’s one of the reasons why is is so easy to decide who not to vote for.

  • SB

    For what it’s worth, I think several folks above are plainly misinterpreting Donald’s remark:

    Look in the mirror Dean. Of course this site’s purpose is to lend comfort to Catholics who desire to vote for candidates who care about innocent unborn life not a whit. Love how they put “pro-life” in scare quotes.

    Notice that he referred to “they.” He wasn’t talking about Vox Nova; he was talking about the Catholic Democrat site that everyone else was talking about.

    Now, can you give me the names of those I criticized? Just who are they whom I’ve ridiculed?

    Well, you haven’t named names. But every time this issue comes up, you offer broad and sweeping criticisms of Republicans, pro-lifers, etc., for supposedly pursuing the wrong strategy (legal change) to the exclusion of anything else.

  • Ben,

    You say that people realize the real work is not being done in Washington. The implication is that it doesn’t matter what their representatives say or do about the unborn because it won’t matter anyway. The real work is being done in the community.

    I hope I’m not putting words in your mouth here. But if this is true, why is it that these political wedge issues are so powerful? Constituents will vote against a candidate because of their views on these social issues, even though you say they know nothing positive will come from Washington. That seems contradictory to me.

    Frankly, these issues as currently framed distort the political system and are hurtful to the cause they presume to support.

  • MZ,

    “I’m more than casually aquainted with your position.”

    Perhaps. But my position is not reflected in what you criticize.

    Nor am I in the mood to carry this further.

  • jh

    THere is really not a lot politicians can do about abortion except be a constant voice against it. Untill the Court gets this down the states we hit a ceiling. THe best they can do is the incremential appraoch which is important.

    That being said a lot of Pro-life work done in the International arena and thus that is significant

  • SB — “Well, you haven’t named names. But every time this issue comes up, you offer broad and sweeping criticisms of Republicans, pro-lifers, etc., for supposedly pursuing the wrong strategy (legal change) to the exclusion of anything else.”

    No, I’m not merely criticizing Republicans and pro-lifers. I’m also criticizing Democrats, pro-choicers, and their associated groups. Neither side is representing the other accurately. Few are seeking common ground, yet there exists common ground. This is a failure of ideological politics.

    After all, I am a Republican and consider myself to be a defender of the dignity of the human person. But I don’t like what’s happened to the Republican Party over the past two decades. Clearly, Republicans across America don’t like it either. The Party is a mess and there are few who don’t realize it. It needs to be purged.

    The focal point of my criticism is the nature of the debate. I’ve tried to argue that it’s bad on all accounts. Perhaps for one living outside of Washington this is not so clear. Nonetheless I fully expect that these wedge issues will loose their thunder over the course of the next Administration. More attention will be placed on finding intelligent ways to address the problems we face as a nation. Should that occur, it won’t be necessary for me to defend myself.

  • JH — “That being said a lot of Pro-life work done in the International arena and thus that is significant”

    This is a critical point, JH.

    The central idea that is stirring in the hearts and minds of populations around the world is that of the dignity of the human person. For this reason, personal dignity should be moved front and center in domestic policy and in our state-to-state relations (foreign policy) and in our people-to-people relations (public diplomacy).

    To the extent that the US emphasizes its commitment to the dignity of the person — across the full spectrum of human existence — America’s position will be strengthened.

    Since the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the US has not had a commanding idea at the center of its domestic or foreign policy. We are a nation adrift. Now is the time to begin movement in that direction.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    In the most recent issue of Commonweal, David R. Carlin (a lifelong Democrat) has written an article called Two Cheers for John McCain, which is less an article about McCain then it is about Mr. Carlin’s frustration with his own party. I quote this both because I think something Carlin says is relevant to the issue at hand. He writes:

    But what are the big issues as I see them? For me the single biggest issue is, and has been for many years, abortion. For those who believe, as I do (and as the Catholic religion does), that abortion is unjustifiable homicide, there is no logical way to vote for the presidential candidate of a party committed to the preservation and extension of abortion rights. As for the common argument given by a certain kind of Catholic-namely, that the Democrats are right on so many other things, and together these outweigh abortion-that seems to me to be an argument that is either intellectually careless or downright disingenuous. For how can anything outweigh the slaughter of innocents? Catholics who make this argument may say they believe abortion to be homicide, they may even actually think they believe this; but they can’t possibly believe it. For how could anybody really hold such contradictory beliefs?

    The bolded section is the section I am concerned with. I share Mr. Carlin’s view here. I just don’t see how people can believe abortion to be what the Church (and reason) says it is, and then go on to say that
    1) Abortion is a surgical procedure that is safe for the mother. (Does anybody else see how sick this characterization of abortion is?)
    2)That this procedure should be kept legal because of the consequences of making it illegal. (Nobody has really addressed that this is a consequentialist argument- that we should reluctantly support legal abortion because of the potential drawbacks of “illegality”. Perhaps we should also support making “enhanced interrogation” (a military procedure that keeps our country safe) because of the consequences of banning it (opening ourselves to ticking timebomb scenarios). [I don’t believe such drivel, I’m just making a point that CD’s argument is essentially the same species of argument] That is the argument that CD is making.

    Like Mr. Carlin , I think [charity demands we assume this, unless they say otherwise] that CD thinks that they believe that abortion is what the Church says it is- the killing of innocent life. But if they really understood the content of this belief, how could they claim points 1 & 2? If abortion is the taking of an innocent human life, how on earth does one portray it as “a surgical procedure which is safe for the mother”. The cognitive dissonance there is amazing. And how can they possibly advocate preserving the legal status quo, when that status quo undermines the very purpose of law itself?

  • Bro Matthew,

    “Abortion is a surgical procedure that is safe for the mother.”

    CD is not saying that “abortion IS a surgical procedure that is safe for the mother.” They are not attempting to define abortion in those gross terms. If abortion were defined as nothing more than a surgical procedure, such claim would not be correct — for reasons you indicate.

    What CD is doing is pointing out that, in practical terms, a woman who decides to have an illegal abortion (this presumes the laws have been changed) would not be able to find a doctor that would perform such abortion because they would be prohibited from doing so by law. They would thus be forced to turn from a “surgical procedure” to the use of a drug, namely, “Misoprostol”. CD then points out that this drug is correlated with birth defects and maternal death. In addition, it would become part of an illicit drug trade.

    These are consequences — and there are probably among many others — that would result from making abortion illegal.

    NOW, the purpose CD has in making this point is not to argue against making abortion illegal. Their mission has to do with public policy only. Rather, their purpose is to demonstrate the shortcomings of the Bush Administration’s stand on abortion. The Bush Administration, they are attempting to demonstrate, has not thought through the implications of their own policies.

    CD, however, is NOT arguing that abortion should be kept legal BECAUSE of the outgrowth of such consequences. That is not their intent. No, they are merely stating that these potential public policy problems have not been adequately addressed in the Bush Administration’s position on abortion.

    The analogy that comes to mind is the war in Iraq. While US forces won a decisive military engagement in Iraq, the Bush Administration had no plans to bring about a political settlement. Thus we are bogged down in Iraq, and have been for nearly five years.

    In short, the texts you quote are part of a CRITIQUE of the Bush Administration. They are not intended to argue that abortion must remain legal because of the consequences that would result from making it illegal.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Gerald,

    If you were not here to ‘translate’ CD’s statement, one would not come to your conclusion. The text itself is an argument against “advocates of illegality”. If “the purpose CD… in making this point is not to argue against making abortion illegal”, perhaps you could drop them a line and suggest that they get rid of the “advocates of illegality” language. Perhaps you could convince them to drop the scare qoutes around “pro-life” and “murder” while your at it, since they do nothing to bring the country together toward a new strategy but are obviously there to antagonize those they should be trying to unite with. Perhaps they could say, “we support the pro-life movement’s attempt to change the law in order to prohibit the wholesale destruction of innocent human life, but here are some possible ramifications we should think about. These ramifications are obviously not proportional to the millions of lives that have been lost, and the legal system that has permitted this, but they are things we need to think about at this time and address through public policy so that we can be ready for them.”

    In other words, why don’t you suggest that CD use language that doesn’t require translators like yourself to let us know the hidden meaning behind the literal words of the text.

  • In other words, why don’t you suggest that CD use language that doesn’t require translators like yourself to let us know the hidden meaning behind the literal words of the text.

    There is no need for translation here. Just critical thinking and reading texts in their proper context and keeping in mind the purpose they serve. At first, I had only given a quick read to the 6) I referred to above, but I couldn’t just pick 6) and not read the whole web page that dealt with abortion. On top of that I admit my prejudice when looking at Democrats and their attempt at being pro-life, but I want to move on from that, because I have honest and good-willed Catholics who are in the pro-life movement as much as their “Republican” Catholic counterparts. Actually, after I went back and read the context of the reference to abortion being a “safe procedure for the mother”, I understood it the way that Gerald did: in the context of illegal drug trade and further consequences that come as a result of the shift.

    We need to read documents in context and the purpose they serve; otherwise, we will never move on from this.

    Gerald,

    I agree with all your comments above… that is how understood that abortion page in the CD website. One has to read the whole thing in its entirety, otherwise the text can be taken out of context and give it a fair misinterpretation.

  • G. Alkon

    Mr Carlin’s point is powerfully made, and is a useful response to the CD group, one that they would do well to consider.

    That said, nowhere in the quotation from Mr Carlin is there the suggestion that Catholics should vote Republican.

    Obviously, he must have reasons to offer his qualified support to McCain. I haven’t read the article.

    But a lot if this debate and argument — and a lot of the apparent legitimacy of a group like CD (whether or not one believes this legitimacy is deserved) — derives from the horror that many feel at seeing the pro-life movement hitching its wagons to the Republican party.

    It makes perfect sense to me that a Catholic would feel unable to vote Democratic.

    But after 40 years of Republican economic and military policy, it seems to me that supporting them on ostensibly “pro-life” or “Christian” grounds is incoherent at best.

    It will be said that the Republicans at least promise new anti-abortion legislation.

    Does this promise outweigh the other policies that they have already enacted and will certainly continue to enact? Is the question of “weight” of lives destroyed not out of place?

    It seems that it would be a great testimony — and a great, authentically public and political act — if Catholics emerged en masse who articulated a truly independent, non-Democrat, non-Republican position.

  • Why don’t pro-life Democrats support making abortion illegal? No one has said it because it is obvious: they would never win an election.

    So why don’t they run as Republicans? Because the Republican ideology of limited government (i.e., ‘sinners’ don’t deserve help) would reject any attempt to create a massive program to end abortion, unless such efforts focused upon criminalization.

  • Why don’t pro-life Democrats support making abortion illegal?

    Because they believe the State doesn’t have a compelling interest in protecting innocent life. Of course this is actually the pro-choice or pro-abortion position.

  • SB

    NOW, the purpose CD has in making this point is not to argue against making abortion illegal.

    You’re just making this all up. Reading in “context,” far from supporting your point, refutes it. When someone writes a webpage full of dire predictions of all the problems that would occur if abortion were illegal, and says not one word that explains how to address those problems, is clearly doing so in order to argue against making abortion illegal.

    If someone puts up a webpage called “Republicans and the Environment,” and it is chock full of bullet points like “Democrats don’t explain what will happen when they destroy the economy with carbon taxes,” but doesn’t write a single word in favor of carbon taxes, I don’t think you’d have the same confusion as to whether the webpage’s sponsor was secretly in favor of carbon taxes.

  • SB

    That should read, “they are clearly doing so in order to argue against making abortion illegal.”

  • Br. Matthew,

    The entire context is set in the heading:

    “Facts regarding the Bush position on abortion:” All comments CD posts on abortion flow from that heading.

    I don’t believe I’m translating. It seems perfectly obvious to me what they are doing.

    Perhaps your difficulty with them is that they are not addressing the issue in the context that you would like, or have become accustomed. Their context is a public policy context. Public policy has to do with the distribution of goods and services. Clearly, they are not out to make abortion illegal. That is not their purpose. There are other organizations that are more suited to that effort — e.g., Family Research Council, Culture of LIfe Foundation.

    Quotes around “pro-life” is too commonly used. I agree. But quotes are not necessarily used as a scare quote, but rather to set something apart. I do it myself, knowing I shouldn’t. But the intent is not to diminish what is between the quote but to emphasis it.

    The term “advocates of illegality” refers to certain political coalitions in the ongoing debate — primarily the far right. It is directed primarily at the means these advocates use rather than the end itself.

    This emphasis upon means should be of interest to you because the means must be proportionate to the end. Otherwise the end justifies the means. And if that is the case, then that which is achieved will reflect, not the end that was originally intended, but the means that realized the end that ensued.

    Regarding your suggestion: “In other words, why don’t you suggest that CD use language that doesn’t require translators like yourself to let us know the hidden meaning behind the literal words of the text.”

    I really think your concerns are implicit in what they are doing. They wouldn’t be intent to develop a blog on public policy proposals that would reduce the incidence of abortion unless they thought there was something inherently wrong with abortion. Also, it is well to recall that abortion is only one of the many issues they are addressing. They are pursing a broad range of issues that are consistent with a culture of life. To me, this is a huge step forward from anything I’ve seen.

    At least thus far, this site represents a new mode of thinking regarding public policy. I’ve said before — although many scoffed — that ideological politics is at a dead end. The terms to which we have become accustomed — liberal and conservative — have become meaningless. People are looking for a return to the pragmatic center. It would appear that this site is a response to that need,

    In a post the other day entitled “Chomsky on the one-party system” I made the following comment about American liberalism:

    “Liberalism is about a belief in social progress. It is not an intellectual doctrine. It is not an ideology, like it is in Europe. It is committed to ends but not necessarily to specific means. If laissez-faire policies will achieve the liberal goal of equality of opportunity, liberals will follow those policies. If, on the other hand, the complexities of modern society require government intervention to insure equality of opportunity, they will follow that course as well.

    “Liberalism is not a dogma. It is a belief in social progress, and it will turn to whatever means are best suited to accomplishing that end.”

    This is an expression of an open spirit that we need to encourage, it seems to me. If we participate wisely with CD, we might benefit from the synergism they offer.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Katerina,

    In order to understand what CD is talking about when they speak of “advocates of illegality”, see how the term is first used in the text. For instance , point 5 of the section entitled Facts regarding the Bush position on abortion. There it says,
    The Republican Platform for 2004 called for a Constitutional amendment banning abortion. But the advocacy of illegality alone does nothing to decrease abortion.

    The hidden and flawed premise here is that the only reason for making abortion illegal would be to reduce abortions; as if such legal structures are not, in and of themselves, monumental injustices which completely undermine our government’s ability to seek the common good. Next, we have sections 5 & 6 in Moral Scorecard which says that were abortion made illegal, it would result in catastrophic drug use and the mass imprisonment of women. We can take these comments in two ways:

    A) The benign reading: CD is not arguing against making abortion illegal, rather they are simply pointing out some of the consequences of illegal abortion, consequences which we should take seriously and address (by public policy), even though not arguing against illegal abortion itself.

    B) The ‘case against illegal abortion’ reading: Under this interpretation, CD is making an argument against illegality as such (though a conditional one, since it presupposes the truth of certain counterfactuals). Such an argument would be saying: we cannot countenence illegality because it would have these terrible consequences.

    It is obvious that the latter reading is the one suggested by the text, since these observations are wrapped up with the following statement:

    Advocates of illegality must explain how these fully foreseen consequences would be compatible with the compassion implicit in the Catholic world view.

    The suggestion is that, because of certain negative consequences, making abortion illegal would be contrary to “the compassion implicit in the Catholic world view.” This is totally obvious. The hidden and flawed premise here is that (granted the truth of these counterfactuals- which are not at all obvious or necessary), such consequences would make upholding the legality of abortion morally permissible, even normative.

    However, regardless of whether or not you accept the obvious interpretation, why not just have CD clear up all the misunderstanding by making the language changes I suggested in my last post? Why not just make it totally transparent that they, in opposition to their party platform, support legal change, but that they themselves, for practical reasons, will focus their efforts on change brought about through public policy?

    Regardless of whether or not Gerald’s way of reading the document is warranted by the text itself (I think such a benign reading is obviously vitiated by labeling their opponents “advocates of illegality”)

  • Katerina,

    Thanks. I’m glad Poli brought attention to this site. I’ll be following it to see what evolves.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    The last three sentences of my last post were flotsam that I neglected to delete, which is why they don’t seem to make any sense. Just ignore them.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    The term “advocates of illegality” refers to certain political coalitions in the ongoing debate — primarily the far right. It is directed primarily at the means these advocates use rather than the end itself.

    By “means these advocates use” you mean making abortion illegal right? Why else would they label them “advocates of illegality”??? And if not, why not jettison the obviously misleading label “advocates of illegality”?

  • Bro. Matthew,

    I don’t know whether we were cross posting or not. I believe I addressed many of your main points directed to Katerina in my post above yours.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Gerald,

    Yes, we did cross post. However, I don’t think you really addressed all the objections made in my post to K. You addressed some of the language issues, but I’m not really finding the explanation compelling.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    The question still remains why CD must be so elusive in their language. Why not make the changes I (and others) have suggested? Especially with regard to “advocates of illegality”, the obvious sense of which vitiates the benign reading you suggest.

  • Bro. Matthew,

    “By “means these advocates use” you mean making abortion illegal right?”

    Only in part. For there are many political strategies that can be used to make abortion illegal. The current “advocates of illegality” have dominated the scene with their strategy for decades. Rather than furthering their cause, they have helped create a great divide. (The Democrats have their problems too. I’m not critical of only one side.).

    “Why else would they label them “advocates of illegality”?”

    The term “advocates of illegality” does not refer to all individuals who favor making abortion illegal. It refers primarily to a group of activists in the debate who dominate the action.

    But having said that, you are correct. The language could be improved upon because it can be interpreted to have a much wider application than intended. I doubt, for instance, that they would take a stand against the US Bishops. They do offer the Bishop’s document — Faithful Conscience — on their front page. So technically, you are correct. They could do better with their language.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Gerald,

    Your interpretation of “advocates of illegality” is belied by the following quote from CD:

    Mr. Bush has never publicly advocated the illegality of abortion. He was asked directly in the third Presidential Debate (10/13/04 in Arizona) if he would like to overturn Roe vs. Wade. He declined to answer this question, saying only that he would not use a litmus test in selecting judges.

    Here CD makes “advocates of illegality” all who would overturn Roe vs. Wade, presumably also the US Bishops, who clearly called for such in the document I provided above. So CD is arguing against all who would overturn Roe, which makes it impossible to give full legal protection to the unborn. The scope, therefore, of “advocates of illegality” is far greater than you suggest, it includes all those who would overturn Roe v Wade.

  • There are plenty of issues with the abortion section. The use of this quote for example doesn’t help their case:

    “Extremely sensitive situations arise when a specifically religious norm becomes or tends to become the law of a state without due consideration for the distinction between the domains proper to religion and to political society. In practice, the identification of religious law with civil law can stifle religious freedom, even going so far as to restrict or deny other inalienable human rights.” – John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace, 1 Jan 1991

    I don’t think they understand what JPII was saying in that quote.

  • Bro. Matthew,

    “Here CD makes “advocates of illegality” all who would overturn Roe vs. Wade”

    What connection does Bush have with the strategies and activities of James Dobson? Or Tony Perkins at FRC? I get their material daily and they clearly advocate for making abortion illegal. Indeed, they push, push, push, regardless of political consequences.

    These, and others like them, are the “advocates of illegality” referred to by CD.

    As for Bush, the reason he took the position he did is obvious. It didn’t figure into his calculations. This is not unlike any politician. They all do the same.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    MZ,

    Yes, that particular quote, in the context in which it is provided, is extremely misleading. The context is a debate surrounding how to best approach abortion, legally or through public policy. How might one mistakenly read “even going so far as to restrict or deny other inalienable human rights” in such a context? What “right” might naturally come to mind in such a context? Perhaps the “right to choose” or a right to privacy? Such a reading would of course be entirely contrary to JPII’s purpose.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    I get their material daily and they clearly advocate for making abortion illegal. Indeed, they push, push, push, regardless of political consequences.

    Great. We can agree that “advocates of illegality” refers to those who want to make abortion illegal and who refuse consequentialist arguments for qualified support of an intrinsic evil. We are making progress.

  • Actually Br. Augustine the quote isn’t even in the context of abortion. Here is the full paragraph;

    Even today much remains to be done to overcome religious intolerance, which in different parts of the world is closely connected with the oppression of minorities. Unfortunately, we are still witnessing attempts to impose a particular religious idea on others, either directly, by a proselytism which relies on means which are truly coercive, or indirectly, by the denial of certain civil or political rights. Extremely sensitive situations arise when a specifically religious norm becomes, or tends to become, the law of the State, without due consideration for the distinction between the domains proper to religion and to political society. In practice, the identification of religious law with civil law can stifle religious freedom, even going so far as to restrict or deny other inalienable human rights. In this regard, I wish to repeat what I stated in the Message for the 1988 World Day of Peace: “Even in cases where the State grants a special juridical position to a particular religion, there is a duty to ensure that the right to freedom of conscience is legally recognized and effectively respected for all citizens, and also for foreigners living in the country even temporarily for reasons of employment and the like”8. This holds true also for the civil and political rights of minorities, and for those situations in which an extreme and uncompromising separation of religion and political life, in the name of respect for conscience, effectively hinders believers from exercising their right to give public expression to their faith.

    The itallicized portion is the excerpted quote. He speaking about reconciling religious beliefs and cultures in this message.

  • LOL, you’re gettin’ a little too agitated!!!

    Nope. The phrase “advocates of illegality” refer to those who would take any means to achieve their end. I’ve listed some of these groups.

    The only way these groups can achieve their end is through some kind of fluke. Get the right guys or gals on the court and whoopee — a reversal of decision. But these gains would not be permanent. They might easily be overturned. Such success is not attractive, I would think.

    Only as the positive law acquires social and political legitimacy will sound gains be made. This is one of the reasons I prefer an evolutionary approach. Once you win hearts and minds — well, only then do you truly win.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    MZ,

    I was referring to the context of the quote as it was presented in CD, not its original context. I should have been more clear, sorry.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Gerald,

    I’m really not agitated. I’m sorry if I come off that way.

    Nope. The phrase “advocates of illegality” refer to those who would take any means to achieve their end. I’ve listed some of these groups.

    Ok, but realize this is a different claim than the one you just made regarding consequences. It is one thing to say a person will pursue just laws regardless of the political consequences (which is to say they will not be dissuaded from their goal by consequentialist arguments). It is quite another thing to say that they will pursue just laws through unscrupulous or unjust means (terrorism, intimidation, etc). As far as I can see, there is absolutely nothing in the text to suggest that “advocates of illegality” are those who attempt to create just laws through unjust means, but I find very much that suggests “advocates of illegality” are those who refuse to support and fight against unjust laws without regard for consequentialist arguments.

  • HA

    What is being said by some — myself included == is that a radical reassessment of approach needs to take place.

    As you wish – feel free to substitute “radically reassessed” for “scrapped” in my original post if you think anyone here won’t see through that. Given your penchant for euphemism, Gerald, and your stated views about the legal protection of innocent life, I think we all know what words such as “breathing new life into the debate” really amount to. I.e., they’re as Orwellian as the “safe for the mother” comment highlighted earlier.

    It is you that misunderstands consequentalism.

    In point of fact, Katherine shut that discussion down by dismissively admonishing Br. Matthew to “speak English” when he so much as mentioned the word (in a discussion about ethics, of all places—what nerve he has!) As such, I never even got around to arguing what consequentialism was, but if you still feel — absent of any evidence — that I misunderstand the term, so be it. Given your similarly curious conviction that Obama’s policies will sopmehow reduce abortion, I’m not particularly surprised.

    As for me, even though I find Katherine’s approach to consequentialism and yours to be equally unpersuasive, I do suspect hers involves a lot less self-delusion.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/voxnova/2008/05/08/catholic-democrats/#comment-21099

  • HA

    Gerald and Katherine are being grossly misinterpreted here and I wonder if these comboxes are even worth it.

    Given your own postings here, it is understandable why you would think that, but really, you should take that up with the two of them. Whether they are themselves fellow travelers of the abortion lobby, or merely its useful idiots, is largely irrelevant. It is their own words that have done the most damage to their cause, and that is what people have taken issue with here.

    By the way, if I recall correctly, someone on this site once gushed about how she wanted to write like Gerald when she grew up. Having sifted through Gerald’s Orwellian bloviating for, lo, these many months, I wonder how old a person making such a statement would have to be – twelve, maybe?

    In any case, I look forward to your “we are all in the same camp” routine when Blackadder or Donald present to us their road-maps on reducing poverty or crime or violence. Likewise, the next time some “neoconservative” assures us that waterboarding is a procedure that is “safe for the interrogator” or that a certain bomber plane is “safe for the pilot”, I look forward to your assurances that such statements are as innocuous as you found the “surgical procedure that is safe for the mother” phrasing to be. But I’m not holding my breath.

    As I see it, the only alternative to the current political stalemate being proposed and lauded here is — get this — yet another politician! (It’s kind of like waging a war to end all wars, or a massively funded program designed to reduce government spending.) What’s more, this is a politician with a 100% pro-NARAL record who promises to thwart any further restrictions on abortion, and who would happily subsidize third-world abortion clinics with US tax dollars and block another Alito or Roberts from entering the court (while offering us the occasional rhetorical asides about being punished with a baby, or how a friendship with a US senator who thinks abortionists might deserve the death penalty is comparable to a friendship with an unrepentant bomber/terrorist who regrets not having done more).

    If that’s the alternative, then I’m sticking with the stalemate.

  • HA

    It insults everyone’s intelligence to say that Obama or the Democratic Party have a crypto-antiabortion strategy.

    There’s a reason why MZ’s begrudging semi-endorsement of Obama got so little flack and not a little praise even from those who disagree with him. If you feel you can’t vote for whomever the Republicans offer this time around, and you don’t feel right about a third party choice either, so be it. After all, sometimes people decide they simply have to Vote For the Crook.

    But given Obama’s abortion record, one should at least have the intellectual honesty as a Catholic to hold off repeatedly doling out “he radiates truth and goodness” nonsense.

  • Bro. Matthew,

    “I’m really not agitated. I’m sorry if I come off that way.”

    No, no. I guess agitated was the wrong choice of words. No, I was actually laughing at what I’d said. And then you came back and said::

    “Great. We can agree.”

    I was trying to intimate caution — signaling that there must be some disagreements up ahead.

    No , I wasn’t trying to say you were agitated. I’ve never thought that of your comments. I was laughing at myself.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Gerald,

    Ok. I’m open to discussing disagreements. I am a Dominican after all. 😉

  • Bro Matthews,

    “It is one thing to say a person will pursue just laws regardless of the political consequences (which is to say they will not be dissuaded from their goal by consequentialist arguments). It is quite another thing to say that they will pursue just laws through unscrupulous or unjust means (terrorism, intimidation, etc).”

    The political consequences I’m referring here are methods and dynamics that hinder, not promote, the outcome. The divisions that such groups that I’ve mentioned create in society by their methods are simply not helpful to achieving the end we seek. It is for this reason that their influence beginning to wane. There is now a split in the Evangelical movement about questions of social justice, for instance.

    So this is not a matter of them not being dissuaded by consequentialist arguments. Its a matter that their approach is not guided by reason and prudence. Of course, this is always the danger when their is a dichotomy between reason and Biblical principles — voluntarism and nominalism.

  • Bro. Matthew,

    “Ok. I’m open to discussing disagreements. I am a Dominican after all. ;)”

    Good. Personally, I’ve been subject to Dominican influence through Jesuit care. How’s that for treading lightly! So I always feel hesitant to disagree with you. But what the heck? If you don’t mind, I don’t either.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    “I’ve been subject to Dominican influence through Jesuit care.”

    Then I think disagreements do indeed lie ahead. 🙂

  • HA,

    Your bitterness is less interesting than one would hope.

  • Bro. Matthew,

    Too bad these exchanges have to be through the internet. So much is skipped, or assumed. But they have been rewarding discussions for me nonetheless. Hope the same for you.

    Have a nice evening.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Have a nice evening.

    Well, I guess we don’t all live in the Pacific time zone. I hope, however, that at some point you will take a look at and respond to my 5:33 PM comment. Good night and God bless.

  • jh

    IN a related note the Bishops of Kansas tolkd the Governor to stop going to Communion

    http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2008/05/pastoral-action.html

    I wonder if Catholic Democrats will have a statement

  • Katerina

    Too bad these exchanges have to be through the internet. So much is skipped, or assumed. But they have been rewarding discussions for me nonetheless. Hope the same for you.

    Definitely! We should have a Vox Nova conference somewhere and we should all bring our boxing gloves along! Seriously… personal conversation is so much more fruitful and rewarding than the Internet :-/

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Too bad these exchanges have to be through the internet. So much is skipped, or assumed. But they have been rewarding discussions for me nonetheless. Hope the same for you.

    I actually prefer to dialogue through the written word, partly because I find that reasoning is best done slowly but also because I have an absolutely horrible memory. I would not be a good oral debater. Writing gives me time to think things over, allows me to consult sources, and to refer back to the previous comments of myself and others. It would, however, be fun to have a Vox Nova conference. I’ve always wanted to meet, face to face, those who I interact with here.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine, OP

    Whoops, I skipped over Gerald’s comment at 6:32, which did indeed address my comment from 5:33 though, again, I am not persuaded.

    The political consequences I’m referring here are methods and dynamics that hinder, not promote, the outcome.

    Gerald,

    I have no problem in believing that such political consequences are what you were referring to. What I don’t buy is that these are the kind of consequences CD is referring to. The consequences which CD is referring to (drug abuse and incarceration) are consequences of making abortion illegal, not the methods whereby “advocates of illegality” seek to promote a certain end (a society which protects life).

  • TeutonicTim

    “unless such efforts focused upon criminalization”

    What’s wrong with that Nate? A woman who aborts a baby is guilty of murder, and medical records prove it. Just because it might be “legally acceptable” by “pro-life” democrats doesn’t make it something other than what it is.

  • Nate Wildermuth

    TT, I’m only pointing out that criminalization has often failed to stop sin. I think that is, in part, because of our broken system of criminal justice. If we really want to stop sin, we have to go further. The government’s role is not only to safeguard human rights by positive law, but to promote human duties. The government has the authority and duty (tempered by subsidiary) to promote the duty to have your child – to create a world “where it is easier to be good,” which is the very definition of the “common good.”

    So I’m saying that criminalization does not go very far in making a world where it is easier to be good. Abortion should be illegal, but where do you go from there?

  • HA

    Your bitterness is less interesting than one would hope.

    Wow, even more “bitter” name-calling from the Obama camp. I suppose some people never learn.

  • I appreciate the quote from the current issue of Commonweal. I’ve followed Mr. Carlin’s writings in Commonweal for many years and think I sent him a modest campaign contribution when he ran for Congress. He raises the question that can we really profess to believe abortion is homicide if we don’t make recognizing that in the criminal code our highest priority.

    Professor Carlin raises a tough question, I will be the first to admit. It is one I am trouble answering. In struggling with this, It would be helpful to know how two leading pro-lifers resolve the matter — President Bush and Senator McCain. Being philosophically consistent with our believe in the human personhood of the unborn, Professor Carlin suggests that abortion be recognized as homicide. President Bush and Senator McCain do not support this — extending the U.S. Code to recognize the personhood of the unborn and thereby extending the laws against homicide to the unborn. Nor do President Bush and Senator McCain favor a separate federal offense even with a lesser penalty for abortion. Nor do they favor state laws to make it even a separate, lesser offense for a woman to abort. They do call for states to have the ability to make it illegal for doctors (or others) to perform an abortion.

    While I cannot see how the Bush/McCain position is reconcilable with Professor Carlin’s philosophical position, I do see the merit in it from public policy stance. To my rational judgment, criminalizing the doctor and not the mother would seem to have the same practical effect at protecting unborn life while allowing society to deal with women in problem pregnancies in a more supportive way. The state-by-state troubles me as so long as one state holds out, it allows travelling for abortion. However, for some this fits their concept of American federalism.

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