Don’t Ignore the Good..

Don’t Ignore the Good.. January 30, 2009

Even as the much of the Catholic blogosphere remains obsessed with such weight matters as minuscule portion funds being directed toward family planning services for low-income women (but not abortion), I would rather focus on two very important decisions, courtesy of the Obama administration.

First, the bill funding S-CHIP has finally passed, paving the way for the provision of health insurance to 4 million additional children who today are uninsured. Deo gratias. Recall that Bush actually vetoed this bill a while back based on a mixture of pure ideology (free markets ueber alles!) and misconceptions about what S-CHIP actually did. The additional spending amounts to about $33 billion over five years– remember too that the health care experts claim that the provision of health insurance actually provides good stimulus, by reducing the need for precautionary savings to deal with unforeseen medical expenditures. Amazingly, Republicans turned against it partly the Democrats refused to prohibit covering children of newly-arrived legal immigrants.

Second, Obama ordered the EPA to reconsider the Bush administration’s rejection of the ability of states (especially California) to set their own stricter strict automobile emission and fuel efficiency standards. As the Time snotes, “While it stops short of flatly ordering the Bush decision reversed, the agency’s regulators are now widely expected to do so after completing a formal review process.” At the same time, Obama plans on introducing nationwide regulations directing the automobile industry to improve emissions standards, which remain shockingly low in the United States. Finally, some belated action of one of the major moral issues of our time.

So, in Obama’s first few days we get (i) the planned closure of the Guantanamo prison and the end of the torture techniques approved by the previous administration for the CIA; (ii) the S-CHIP decision; (ii) the energy decision; and (iv) the reversal of restrictions on providing aid to family planning groups abroad that provide abortion or abortion counselling. And yet, in the noisy Catholic blogosphere, you will hear a lot about (iv), the one dubious decision, and not much at all about the virtues of the other decisions. How predictable.

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  • Lcb

    So the lives of babies taken are totally balanced out by less smog?

    Let me rephrase:

    If Obama brought world peace, world healthcare, ended hunger, but killed one extra baby in order to bring it about, would there be a net gain or net loss to the common good?

  • I approve of S-CHIP as well.

    I understand that some portions of the Catholic blogoshpere are overheated, yet if you really want to “focus on the positive” starting and ending your post by poking an olive branch in their eyes probably isn’t the best way to go about it.

    You won. It’s time to stop whining.

  • To phrase it another way, how would you have reacted to a post from the last eight years that started as follows:

    “While many in the Catholics blogosphere obsess over whether a few detainees might have received the same treatment that hundreds of our own military personnel have been subject to, I would rather focus on the very clear signal President Bush has sent out about the evil of abortion.”

    If you want to celebrate the good, celebrate the good. There is no need to do so at the expense of those who are raising legitimate concerns.

  • Kurt

    I would add the President’s signing the Lilly Lebbetter Fair Pay Act, as well as the pro-worker Executive Orders he issued today.

  • S.B.

    The “miniscule” funds flowing to abortion-related services dwarf the even more miniscule number of people subjected to “torture” over the past eight years. Yet I somehow missed your many posts ridiculing people who care about torture regardless of the number of people involved.

  • Jeremy

    Kudos to having the EPA ‘reconsider’. Kudos to taking the first step on torture, but my understanding is that is directive is more bark than bite, still a good first step.

    Keeping with the positive tone, can we talk about how much good Mr. Bush’s PEPFAR program did?

  • Policraticus

    The “miniscule” funds flowing to abortion-related services dwarf the even more miniscule number of people subjected to “torture” over the past eight years.

    If the U.S. were ordering abortions to be performed, then you would be correct. However, it is not clear to me that funding that may be given to organizations who in turn may use it for abortion and abortion-related purposes is more morally abhorrent then the direct approval and order for the torture of human persons. “Miniscule” funds are not equivalent to persons, even if the latter is “miniscule” (whatever that could possibly mean).

  • John:

    I appreciate your point, but “I” didn’t win anything. The person who, in my estimtion, was the better of the two in terms of supporting the common good won. This is a relative evaluation.

    I also know what you are trying to say with your quote, but it simply didn’t happen that way.

  • Kurt– agreed.

  • MM introduced the term “miniscule.” Perhaps he should define it.

    The point isn’t which is “more evil.” The point is Obama’s action on the MCP is objectively wrong, and we should hope for more.

    Yes, Obama is more than the MCP, but then Bush was more than torture as well. S-CHIP doesn’t excuse Obama’s MCP actions any more than Bush’s appointment of likely anti-Roe justices excused Bush on torture.

    As I mentioned, MM sounds a lot like Bush supporters, circa 2005.

  • SB:

    What Policraticus said.

    How many times do we have to go over this? A person who orders torture is actually doing something instinsically evil, and the cooperation is formal. This funding decision is very tangentially connected to abortion. The equivalent would be to directly order an abortion. I’m not getting this post bogged down in this again, thus proving the very point I’m trying to make in it. It is a decision I think was wrong, but I’m sick and tired of people like you focusing on it to simply crowd out the other news.

  • Magdalena

    As Christians it should make us sad that due to his ideological commitments MM is going to have to spend at least the next 4 years apologizing for Caesar, even when it requires all kinds of moral contortions. But conservatives were more than willing to perform a similar service for President Bush… does any part of the human race have a monopoly on sycophancy? Our first mistake is putting our trust in princes.

  • blackadderiv

    We just spent quite a bit of money bailing out the auto companies. I fail to see how turning around and making it harder for them to make profitable cars is a good idea.

  • Jeremy

    Keeping with the positive tone, can we talk about how much good Mr. Bush’s PEPFAR program did?
    I’ll take that as a no.

  • “We just spent quite a bit of money bailing out the auto companies. I fail to see how turning around and making it harder for them to make profitable cars is a good idea.”

    Raising emissions to sensible levels is a superb idea. Global warming and all that? I have a funny feeling that the car companies who have bitched and moaned about this for years will suddenly realize that they can quite easily make and sell cars up to the new specifications. And anyway, moving toward more energy efficient cars is part of the bailout provisions.

  • I agree with the dangers of viewing politicians as “leaders”. All this vision stuff is junk. Reading Obama’s speech – or any American pres. – is like reading bad melodrama. Maudlin, histrionic, turning policy into the supernatural. Not to mention all the commemorative issues.

    That said, Obama’s had a pretty good start. By comparison to Bush, anything’s a pretty good start. The nature of the country – government of the people by business and for business – will not change however, nor will its basic belligerent nature.

    Obama certainly has a lot of international good will – grown from the dung Bush left everywhere – so he definitely has a chance to noticeably improve conditions, without fundamentally changing them.

  • blackadderiv

    I have a funny feeling that the car companies who have bitched and moaned about this for years will suddenly realize that they can quite easily make and sell cars up to the new specifications.

    Those silly car companies. Despite the fact that they do this full time and have their livelihoods at stake, they haven’t the foggiest idea what people are want in their cars. If only they would listen to people on the Internet, who have no experience or knowledge of the industry beyond what can be gleaned from armchair speculation. If they did that, they’d know that the way to be profitable is to sell more fuel efficient cars. Nevermind that pretty much every high fuel efficiency car sold in the U.S. is sold at a loss, if only they’d make even more cars with even higher fuel efficiency, they’d be rolling in cash.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    I cannot wait for the libertarians to show up, misusing (characteristically) the principle of subsidiarity to denounce S-CHIPS, nationally backed EPA standards, nationally ordered directives re: labor et al.

  • S.B.

    I’m sick and tired of people like you focusing on it to simply crowd out the other news.

    An odd perception you have there. Nothing is stopping you or anyone else from writing about “other news,” as you’ve shown in abundance. And no one that I’ve seen is writing posts equivalent to yours, i.e., saying, “we shouldn’t be talking about the trivial and miniscule problems in Gaza, or the trivial and miniscule issue of S-CHIP, because abortion policy is so much more important.”

  • blackadderiv

    Mark,

    We had a fairly extended (and sometimes quite heated) debate on S-CHIP a while back, and I’m not sure how productive it would be to have the same argument over again now. I would note that the current S-CHIP expansion is being paid for by an increase in regressive taxation. Must one be a heartless libertarian to wonder if raising taxes on poor people to pay for the health care of children whose parents make $80,000 a year is really such a good idea?

  • S.B.

    However, it is not clear to me that funding that may be given to organizations who in turn may use it for abortion and abortion-related purposes is more morally abhorrent then the direct approval and order for the torture of human persons.

    So it would be more morally equivalent if the US didn’t directly torture anybody, but instead (as under Clinton/Gore) shipped them off to Syria or elsewhere so that they weren’t directly involved and could deny that they knew what was going to happen? I’m positive, for that matter, that Obama will do the same, no matter how much obsequious flattery he gets for saying that he won’t “torture.”

    “Miniscule” funds are not equivalent to persons, even if the latter is “miniscule” (whatever that could possibly mean).

    The point is that very few people were tortured. It’s not that the “people” were miniscule, but that their number was miniscule. And one could easily argue, just as MM has here and elsewhere, that torture is therefore a trivial issue that affects few people (just as few babies, MM claims without evidence, might be aborted because of Obama’s funding decisions).

  • S.B.

    Do you not have an opinion on MM’s moral view here, i.e., that an issue is morally “trivial” or “miniscule” just because it might involve the deaths of a relatively few people?

  • MM-

    Why don’t you write a post for once that articulates your point of view without taking a cheap shot at others.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Polemics has its rightful place.

  • “Polemics has its rightful place.”

    On cable news networks…

  • Mark-

    Playing the same song over and over becomes tiresome. The question is whether MM wants his views to be taken seriously by those who might be of a different political persuasion, or whether he simply desires an echo chamber. I know you and MI desire the latter, but I thought better of MM. Perhaps I was wrong.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Feddie,

    A challenge to one’s complacency is good, is in not?

    And you do not know what I desire.

  • Mark, polemics does have its place and a challenge to complacency is good, but a couple things: polemics ought not be the norm in conversations between fundamentally likeminded people (i.e. Catholics), and polemics aren’t the only way to challenge complacency.

    MM, like BA I find it extremely unlikely that producing cars with much better emissions standards and efficiency is as easy as you seem to think, and for the same reason as BA: if it were, why wouldn’t they have already done so, given the high demand for both?

    Better emissions standards and efficiency may be worthwhile, but “a major moral issue of our time”? I’ll chalk that up to rhetorical hyperbole.

  • As long as we’re talking about ‘minuscule’ effects, preliminary gestures towards stricter emission standards in CA, isn’t exactly a crowning accomplishment. The U.S. as a whole generates about 22% of total CO2 emissions (which is obviously very high per capita). California probably makes up about 5%-10% of that, of which roughly 40% of emissions come from passenger cars. These regulations, if enacted, would reduce 40% of 5%-10% of 22% by an as-yet-unspecified percentage.

    Meanwhile, the developing world will undoubtedly refuse to implement CO2 restrictions because when the choice is a 3rd world economy or potentially higher water levels in fifty-a hundred years, the choice is pretty easy. And, as BA notes, the U.S. will have ensured the demise of some of its major industries, while little to no progress will be made globally at reducing CO2 emissions.

    This post might as well have been written by the Obama press office. On what scale is funding abortion internationally ‘minuscule’ and a preliminary gesture towards entirely ineffective CO2 reduction regulation significant?

  • Feddie,

    The point of the post was that Obama has done a fair amount of good so far (so far, who knows what the future will bring) and the Catholic blogosphere still focuses on the minor negative stuff. Mexico City decision? Bad policy, but very little funding on the line, and very tangential relationship to any single abortion– adn we all knew this was coming. Family planning in stimulus? May have nothing to do with stimulus, and its inclusion was pure “politics as usual”, but it’s completely trivial in the overall scheme of things and is specifically not allowed to fund abortion. Are we to oppose all government support of family planning now, even if it covers stuff that we don’t approve of?

    Listen, Feddie, you may think I don’t care about abortion, but I do. It frustrates me that so many Catholics are stuck in this narrow and blinkered way of thinking, lots of “gotchas” and phony outrages, and meanwhile, no change in the status quo, not even an inkling of reaching out to the very large moderate middle on this issue, a group who is currently turned off by the perception (real of imagined) that the Catholics are in bed with thhe right-wing evangelicals and Republicans on this issue, caring more about sexual morality than justice and the common good.

  • On emissions, yes, Blackadder mocks me as an internet engineering amateur, and he’s right. However, I have a far more cynical and jaded view of big business than he and others have. I remember a time when airlines claimed they had to charge close to $1000 for aroute to be profitable, while now they can do it for $200. I remember the car companies complaining that the safety measures demanded by Ralph Nader back in the day would ruin them. And they said the same about the efficiency increases proposed in the 1970s. As for the point of selling for a loss, that refers to hybrids, I believe, not regalar cars that meet the required emissions standards. Other countries impose these standards, and yet I don’t see the ruin of car industries elsewhere.

    Oh, and until recently, there has never been a demand in the US for energy-efficient cars. In the contary, the taste went towards large inefficient behemoths, and these monsters turned out be to insanely profitable.

  • Blackadder’s “regressive tax” canard refers to funding S-CHIP by raising taxes on tobacco products. Sorry, but this won’t work. There is a sound case for believing the price of tobacco products is too low, and an increase will reduce demand. It’s the old case of the market price simply not working as the social cost is greater than the private cost, and the social cost refers to the greatly reduced health and the associated health care costs that must be born by society. For the “individualist” who appeals to personal responsibility, I in turn appeal to the addictive natire of this product. No, there is a certain poetry to funding children’s health with taxes on tabacco– how would you fund it?

  • John: A quick response…

    (1) This is why a global Kyotoi-style agreeemnt is needed.

    (2) Saying that others will not do the right thing is never an excuse for not doing the right thing yourself.

    (3) Global warming is a global problem; we need to get past thinking in insular terms.

  • If Obama brought world peace, world healthcare, ended hunger, but killed one extra baby in order to bring it about, would there be a net gain or net loss to the common good?

    One can never do evil to bring about a good. But please, let me know when Obama feels he has to kill babies to bring about these goals, and I’ll agree with you. By the way, it is this very kind of consequentailist reasoning that is often employed to defend the killing of civilians in war, whether Hiroshima/Nagasaki, Vietnam/Cambodia or Gaza.

  • What is the difference between killing someone and giving someone money to kill someone?

    It’s not much.

  • love the girls

    Amazing. 32 posts and not one mention of Obama attacking Pakistan.

  • Minion, you don’t really expect much from people who cheered Bush as “pro-life” for allowing a handful of pharmacists to refuse dispensing the pill ?
    Roe v Wade should fall, since it wouldn’t change anything, but it should fall so all these “pro-life” Republicans would have nothing to hide behind. Abortion is the most convenient excuse for supporting war and exploitation of regular people. In addition, the only thing conducive to reducing abortion – say, some freakin’ employee benefits for mothers, mandated by law – is what those lovelies routinely oppose. OooOOooo regulation!

    There are few people more full of crap than the “pro-life” Republican, who’s anti-life on everything else.

    The single mother who needs help ? She wants HANDOUTS (that slut)

    Don’t even bother, just tell ’em to STFU and go back to listening to Rush.

  • Lcb

    My line of reasoning is anti-consequentialism. I am not judging the action, but objectively judging the impact on the common good.

    If an innocent is killed to bring about some good change, then there is a net loss to the common good.

    Obama ought not to be lauded because he is not creating a net gain for the common good. One could argue that these would be laudable if he had preserved the status quo in relation to abortion. But he has not. Despite these good things, he is still enabling abortion in an active way. That is evil. Intrinsicly so. No amount of good works justifies torture. No amount of good works justifies expanding abortion.

  • alex martin

    No, no…You’re totally right. Any babies that might be incidentally killed due to Obama’s policies are totally balanced out by whatever further government regulations he may pass that may or may not be effective in the long term. As long as you feel good about yourself, that’s all that matters. A minion indeed.

  • I hope people noticed Magdalena’s fine comment on this latest tribute from Barack’s Minion:
    As Christians it should make us sad that due to his ideological commitments MM is going to have to spend at least the next 4 years apologizing for Caesar, even when it requires all kinds of moral contortions. But conservatives were more than willing to perform a similar service for President Bush; does any part of the human race have a monopoly on sycophancy? Our first mistake is putting our trust in princes.

  • MM sounds a lot like Bush supporters, circa 2005.

    Yep. Plus ca change.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Isn’t it amazing how people cannot simply rejoice over more children’s health care, more equitable pay at work for all at the work place and moves to ensure cleaner air and a better environment.

    I know I applauded Bush’s Africa AIDs relief back in his term.

    Now if, say, Obama commits us to Afghanistan in a manner that turns it into another Iraq, I will be the first to criticize, although I voted for him.

    It’s curmudgeon city these past few days in V-N threads.

  • Isn’t it amazing how people cannot simply rejoice over more children’s health care, …

    It isn’t amazing at all, given MM’s apparent incapacity to post on anything without poking genuine pro-lifers, as opposed to pro-forma pro-lifers like himself, in the eye.

  • This post wasn’t about rejoicing over more children’s health care; it was about sticking it to pro-lifers. The post began and ended with jabs at the Catholic pro-lifers.

    If you want to celebrate positive developments, go for it. That does not mean others’s concerns are illegitimate, and there’s not need to minimize the bad things in order to celebrate the good.

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    Zippy,

    Maybe I don’t see him doing that.

    I’ll try to see how he could be taken as doing such. I know there is a SEGMENT of the pro-life community that is adamently against government-lead help for the disadvantaged and to resolve issues that more local spheres have performed quite under par on.

    I am referring to those groups that idolize the likes of Karl Rove and reduced themselves to a mere twig of the Republican party. This is by no means the whole or majority of the pro-life movement, but it definitely exists.

  • Mark:

    “…obsessed with such weight matters as minuscule portion funds being directed toward family planning services for low-income women…”

    … was a jab at genuine, as opposed to pro-forma (like MM), pro-lifers. MM wouldn’t say things like that if he really thought of the Mexico City policy as a genuinely and gravely bad thing, just like Republicaths wouldn’t say things like “club Gitmo” if they really thought torturing captives was a genuinely and gravely bad thing.

  • typo: “…if he really thought of getting rid of the Mexico City policy as a genuinely gravely bad thing …”

  • Mark DeFrancisis

    John McG,

    I think MMs point is that these things SHOULD be the concern and joy of ALL pro-lifers, if they are to achieve the fullest credibility and moral attractiveness in the public sphere.

  • blackadderiv

    There is a sound case for believing the price of tobacco products is too low, and an increase will reduce demand.

    Well, sure. People still smoke, after all, so of course the price is too low. Even with the price increase, though, a lot of people (disproportionately poor people) are going to continue to smoke. If they didn’t, if every smoker responded to this tax increase by going cold turkey, then there wouldn’t be any money to pay for S-CHIP. I assume that someone somewhere ran a calculation and found that if you increased the tax by a buck, you’d still have enough smokers out there to raise the $34 billion in additional revenue. So at the end of the day, what you have is the government taking money from a group of people with below average income and giving it to a group of people with an above average income. Maybe there is a justification for doing this. But if you accept that public policy should reflect a preferential option for the poor, then I’d say be skeptical.

  • blackadderiv

    I have a far more cynical and jaded view of big business than he and others have. I remember a time when airlines claimed they had to charge close to $1000 for aroute to be profitable, while now they can do it for $200.

    Okay, but how did it happen that we went from $1000 tickets to closer to $200? Did the government step in and mandate price decreases? No. What happened was that we had massive airline deregulation (thank you Jimmy Carter), and increased competition brought the prices down.

    You’re aware that a lot of European imports don’t meet CAFE standards, right? That it’s cheaper for them to just pay the fine? You know about how CAFE is responsible for the rise of the SUV?

  • MM:

    Let’s rephrase those 4 decisions

    1. Give some health care to some kids
    2. Create chaos for struggling automakers by preventing a unified standard for environmental regulations.
    3. A closing of Guantanamo Bay that doesn’t really close the bay-or do anything for that matter other than posturing.
    4. Fund murder

    Amazing first two weeks. My “Yes we can” t-shirt is in the mail now. I hope it gets here soon so I can throw away all those old retreat t-shirts.

    What’s predicatable is you not caring an ounce about the lives of the unborn as long as Obama fulfills your desired goals on health care. You’re a single issue voter and you don’t care how many people die in abortion. If you actually cared, you wouldn’t call the funds and following increase in abortion “miniscule.” Every additional life lost is an outrage, not something to be dismissed in the grand scheme of things. You can understand that one more person tortured is a travesty; why do you refuse to see the same is true for the unborn?

    You accuse conservatives of being in bed with the right, but it’s hard not to react strongly away from the left when met with such disdain and indifference for the pro-life cause. You’re in bed with Obama, and you’re willing to become his apologist rather than the Church’s. Shameful.

  • MJO

    Forgive for not (yet) reading all the other comments yet, but I must respond to Lcb (the first post).

    Barack Obama has not “killed” any babies. Language like that is incendiary and irresponsible.

    What happened to personal responsibility? No one in this country is forced to choose abortion. Can Obama propose policies that would reduce the number of abortions? Sure. But making them illegal would not stop abortion, it would just send women who choose abortion to underground clinics where their lives would be in jeopardy.

    So yes, Lcb, if Obama were to solve world hunger, introduce world peace, and give all people health care while not altering the abortion laws, it would be one hell of a victory for the common good. Grow up.

  • “You accuse conservatives of being in bed with the right, but it’s hard not to react strongly away from the left when met with such disdain and indifference for the pro-life cause. You’re in bed with Obama, and you’re willing to become his apologist rather than the Church’s.”

    I am to infer that the “right” and the “Church’s” is the same thing? The pro-life cause, by the way, seems to be met with indifference in both parties these days.

  • The previous was to M. Denton and I wish I could learn how to use italics and hyperlinks like the other cool people around here…

  • Sam:

    To type something in italics, <i>surround it with these tags</i>

    (You won’t see the tags in the post after you publish it; you will just see “surround it with these tags” in italics).

    To create a hyperlink, type <a href=”[type in a URL here]”>type in some text for the link here</a>

    … and “type in some text for the link here” will show up as a hyperlink.

    This would be a lot easier if comments here had a preview feature, but you takes your chances with typos on this kind of stuff.

    We’ll see if I made any in this post — here goes nothin…

  • Oh and you don’t need the [] square brackets in the URL; just put in for example http://zippycatholic.blogspot.com/. So the final hyperlink bit would look to you, as you are typing it, like:

    <a href=”http://zippycatholic.blogspot.com/”>Zippy’s Blog</a>

    … which will come out looking like:

    Zippy’s Blog

  • Grrr. Comment went to moderation, lets try with one less link. No square brackets are necessary in the hyperlink, so the final hyperlink bit would look to you, as you are typing it, like:

    <a href=”http://zippycatholic.blogspot.com/”>Zippy’s Blog</a>

    … which will come out looking like:

    Zippy’s Blog

  • Ah, nevermind. Moderated but quickly approved, thx.

    Sam, you are welcome. The way you’d want to type it is

    <a href=”http://www.rimatara.blogspot.com/”>Sam’s Blog</a>

    The “http://” on the front of the web address is not optional, you’ve gotta have it.

  • kurt

    One must give the President credit for some consistency. Yesterday’s Executive Order prohibits companies from using funding they receive from government contacts to pay for union busting. However, the President did not ban companies that union bust using their own funds from bidding on government work.

    The President also is leaving in place the policy that government funds for overseas assistance cannot be used to pay for abortions but he is not prohibiting groups that do so with their own funds from bidding on government contracts to provide non-abortion related services.

    As a Catholic, I am opposed to both abortion and union busting. I could live with the President’s consistent approach or a total blacklist of organizations that union bust or provide abortions from any government contracts. But consistency does seem to have virtue.

  • Sam:

    I am to infer that the “right” and the “Church’s” is the same thing? The pro-life cause, by the way, seems to be met with indifference in both parties these days.

    No. I think the right is more accurate on abortion’s legality but the Church and the right have plenty of substantial disagreements. This is why I think Minion’s pushing Catholics farther towards the right is regrettable.

    But you’re right about the indifference on both sides of the aisle, though the Republicans have given pro-lifers a few victories (Mexico City & Hyde) that save lives. Though it appears that less and less Republicans are committed to that cause.

  • It isn’t amazing at all, given MM’s apparent incapacity to post on anything without poking genuine pro-lifers, as opposed to pro-forma pro-lifers like himself, in the eye.

    The people who think funding family planning (but not abortion) is a major crime, and don’t give a tinker’s damn about health insurance for children of the murder of civilians in Gaza by US-funded weapons are not (in my view) genuine pro-lifers. They are people who cannot step out of their comfort zone, for anything. And they are killing the pro-life movement. As for the constant attacks on me– keep it up, it’s a good substitue for self-reflection, is it not?

  • As for the constant attacks on me– keep it up, it’s a good substitute for self-reflection, is it not?

    The amount of unintentional irony in your public statements continues to rise, even when that seems impossible. You are a poster boy for attacking as a substitute for self-reflection.

  • radicalcatholicmom

    Zippy: I have to wonder why you read MM’s post if you harbor so much disdain for him?

  • “Family planning” in the public parlance is artificial birth control, which is a mortal sin.

    Mortal sins kill eternal souls.

    The absence of material well-being does no such thing.

  • Because Zippy sees the world in terms of dichotomies, a very Protestant way of looking at things (that’s not me, that’s Henri de Lubac). His “us-versus-them” appoach is a bit more sophicated, but it’s still present. It’s tiring, quite frankly.

  • Zach: what do you think of Murray’s advice to Cardinal Cushing on the issue of contraception?

  • Lcb

    Mm,

    What do you think of Murray’s erroneous advice?

  • Well I think there is a difference between legal contraception and contraception promoted and funded by the state.

    The latter is what we were talking about; the former is the issue Murray was addressing, no?

    I’m not all that familiar with what happened.

  • Daniel H. Conway

    “The absence of material well-being does no such thing…”

    Ahh, one can invoke the image of the noble poor. How in times past or special places in the world, the noble poor retain lives of virtue in spite of constant hunger.

    Probably always been a lie. The absence of material well-being often compels one to horrors, or forces one to live amidst mind and soul-warping disaster. Rape, prostitution, routine, random violence, drugs, constitutes the majority of the lives of the world’s poor. The world’s poor are born, live, and die in favelos in Sao Paolo, ghettoes in Port-au-Prince, decrepit townships in South Africa, as examples. All are examples of the horrors of drug and corruption controlled inhumane poverty. It is unlikely that much that Zippy understands as virtue could be identified in these environments. The noble poor never existed. It has been a myth. But that adds a special intensity and touch to “Blessed are the poor” as Luke would have it. And “Woe to the rich” as he continues.

    Once, Henry Cardinal Newman noted that the state of slavery would not change him as a man or as a person. On this, many have indicated how dramatically mistaken he was. The role as slave would enormously impact who he was, how he thought of himself, and his relationship with others and God. Even JP2 recognized this difference with Newman on this matter. Slavery and poverty create soul-destroying environments. The non-voluntary absence of material wealth destroys souls.

    Why is this still a question?

  • David Nickol

    “Family planning” in the public parlance is artificial birth control, which is a mortal sin.

    Mortal sins kill eternal souls.

    The absence of material well-being does no such thing.

    Zach,

    Your first statement is not 100% true, since Planned Parenthood (as far as I can tell from their web site) teaches NFP. I am sure that they don’t promote it as the most effective method of family planning, but if someone chooses it as their preference, it appears they teach it.

    Your last sentence is very doubtful indeed. Can you demonstrate that there is no connection between poverty and “mortal sins” like murder, suicide, drug use, out-of-wedlock birth? I think poverty is responsible for killing a lot of souls.

  • You know about how CAFE is responsible for the rise of the SUV?

    I know that the SUV infestation began because these things were, for some reason, allowed to operate at a more lax standard. It’s the CAFE loophole, not CAFE itself, that is responsible for this negative trend.

  • What do you think of Murray’s erroneous advice?

    I do not think it was erroneous.

  • For a little factual interlude, let’s focus on what the stupifd family planning provision actually entailed (From Time’s Amy Sullivan):

    “The provision would have allowed states to cover family planning services–but not abortion–that they already cover for low-income women who don’t otherwise qualify for Medicaid, just without first requiring states to obtain a waiver from the federal government. That’s it. It wouldn’t have permitted new services to be included under “family planning.” It wouldn’t have required states to cover anything or anyone that they didn’t want to. It just would have allowed them to do what they’re already doing without first going through the red tape of obtaining a waiver.

    …States can still provide the same family planning services to low-income women by applying for a waiver. Twenty-six of them already have waivers. The others–and this is important–wouldn’t have been required to expand their Medicaid coverage even if the provision had gone through. The only thing the provision would have done is eliminate the waiver requirement for states that changed their minds and decided to start covering low-income women under Medicaid.”

    That’s pretty much it. Not exactly stimulus, not very good public policy, and reflects poorly on Nancy Pelosi, but come on. Are we now in the business of opposing every dollar of public funding that goes toward non-abortion family planning? In that case, forget the Mexico City policy, might as well just cut funding to zero. And why stop at public funding? Should we fight private insurance coverage, given it comes from an implicit tax anyway?

    Is this really the state of Catholic debate in 2009?

  • Daniel H. Conway

    Mr. Nickol,

    If one is raised in any of the aforementioned places, those places in which those with no material well-being are herded, I suspect soul-killing experiences. The absence of material well-being comes with a particular stigmata, and the right wing wants to be blind to that. Its part of the religious propaganda. And it mimics the story in which slavery did not do damage to the person or the soul of the enslaved. And it is deadly wrong.

  • S.B.

    Daniel —

    I think if you read the New Testament, Jesus and every other writer were quite a bit more concerned about the souls of rich people than the souls of poor people. Eye of a needle, and all that. So it’s quite literally the opposite of Christianity to go on and on about how poverty damages the soul.

  • Are we now in the business of opposing every dollar of public funding that goes toward non-abortion family planning?

    We should be. We are Catholics. If that opposition is not our personal priority, that is one thing. But going after people who are doing that work like an attack dog is something else. It is the latter that you do all the time, and it is despicable.

    Should we fight private insurance coverage, given it comes from an implicit tax anyway?

    Yes. We, corporately, should. Again, it may not be your personal calling or cup of tea; but if you are attacking anyone who happens to be doing it, you are fighting on the side of Hell.

  • Because Zippy sees the world in terms of dichotomies, …

    The only “dichotomy” I see is the one between doing good and doing evil, which is one we should all see rather than struggling veyr hard not to see it. When you attack the good, you are doing evil. And you do this – attack the good – all the time. It isn’t enough for you to promote the things you think are important, and let others do other things that they think are important. You always have to attack the good, and attacking any resistance to public funding of contraception is a perfectly fine example of one of your Hellish non-sequiturs, as far as I am concerned.

  • Joe G.

    We’re told that the same old partisan issues shouldn’t prevent us from doing what’s right, etc. That it’s so important to our economy that we must drive the stimulus package through, despite the fact that there’s already enough Democrat votes to get it moving.

    The stimulus package included hundreds of millions of dollars for “family planning,” and the Mexico City Policy was repealed during the first week of the new administration.

    Is anyone still unclear about their priorities? This took place during the first week, folks. You can bet there’s more to come, especially when you consider Planned Parenthood’s financial situation. Planned Parenthood will have to come to the well, repeatedly, and they not only know the guy hoisting the bucket, but they’re allowed to cut in line.

  • LCB

    So, MM, you are readily admitting that abortifacient contraception should remain legal?

    In other words, you want individuals to be free to murder their unborn children, using chemical methods?

    It’s the consequence of agreeing with Murray.

  • MD

    If Jesus had such relatively little concern for souls suffering the plight of material poverty, I wonder why he gave us the dicta, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto me;” and “You say me in the widowed, in the orphanned…”

  • S.B.

    If all Jesus cared about was that poor people had more material goods so that their own souls could be saved, he could have created a world in which more than a few percent of all the people who have ever lived have escaped poverty. In fact, the blatantly obvious point in the passages you quote is that to the extent Jesus is concerned about anyone’s soul, he’s concerned about the souls of the people doing the giving.

    Look at it this way: In the parable of the sheep and the goats, it’s the people who failed to give or show concern for others whose souls are in jeopardy. It would be quite a different parable (although more consistent with what you and Matt Talbot seem to believe) if it went like this: “When the Son of Man come in glory to judge the living and the dead, he will separate people into the sheep and the goats. To the sheep he will say, ‘You had enough money and material things on earth. Go into heaven!’ And to the goats he will say, ‘You were poor on earth, and your souls are therefore corrupt and tarnished. Go into damnation.'”

  • Sorry, Zippy, but Jesus had a lot of sharp things to say about hypocrisy. And if somebody wants to fight all non-abortion-related contraceptive funding from private or public insurance, while at the same time has no problem subsidizing the most powerful military in the world (including absolutely and completely non-negotiable nuclear weapons), the yes, I see a whiff of hypocrisy.

    As I keep saying over and over, and you don’t seem to get, is that the pro-life cause will never make any inroads with the great “moderate middle” if it is seen to be associated only with sexual morality, and not broader issues of justice.

  • MD

    When my mother died I was very young,
    And my father sold me while yet my tongue
    Could scarcely cry ‘Weep! weep! weep! weep!’
    So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.

    There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
    That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved; so I said,
    ‘Hush, Tom! never mind it, for, when your head’s bare,
    You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.’

    And so he was quiet, and that very night,
    As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight! —
    That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
    Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.

    And by came an angel, who had a bright key,
    And he opened the coffins, and set them all free;
    Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing, they run
    And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.

    Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
    They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind:
    And the angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
    He’d have God for his father, and never want joy.

    And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark,
    And got with our bags and our brushes to work.
    Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm:
    So, if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

  • Daniel H. Conway

    S.B.

    I think you have a problem of point of view. It is those “with” that are held responsible. The sheep/goat parable is this example. Which is important in the Matthean Gospel since this Gospel was directed at individuals likely to possess wealth. I don’t think a promotion of soul-bending poverty is intended in the Gospel of Luke.

    I suggest a look at life. If poverty was not soul-killing, I would suspect we would see less inhalant abuse on reservations and in South African townships, less crack use in the favelos and in American inner cities, and less murder in all these sites.

    I am addressing the clear statement: The absence of material well-being does not kill souls. I disagree. And I think the evidence is on my side. Involuntary poverty kills souls like slavery does.

  • MM:

    If I stipulate every bit of that, none of it excuses you for attacking what is good – and opposition to public funding of contraception, just as an example of what you happen to be attacking right now, is good. You are fighting on the side of Hell, just like the torture apologists did.

  • Lcb

    Mm,

    Do you believe that contraception is wrong?

  • S.B.

    It’s not that the Gospels are “promoting” material poverty, but they certainly don’t have even the slightest language to support your concern that material poverty is bad for the soul — quite the contrary. I know you can think of ways that poverty is bad for the soul, but it’s 100% contrary to the entire spirit of the New Testament to suggest that poverty is WORSE than non-poverty in that regard. The New Testament is full of warnings about having too much money — the love of money is the root of all evil, rich people will barely make it into heaven, etc., etc.

  • David,

    I think you’re quibbling – Nancy Pelosi wasn’t talking about teaching couples NFP, and you know that.

    And poverty is not a sin; strictly speaking poverty cannot kill souls.

    In fact, many religious choose poverty to be closer to God and to the poor.

    You seem to be drawing a bit too heavily on Karl Marx’s ideas. Conflict, i.e., sin, is not the result of material inequality. It is the result of the free choices human beings make.

  • MM:

    I oppose contraception and funding gaza.

    Some people don’t sell out their faith to accommodate the obama agenda.

  • David Nickol

    I know you can think of ways that poverty is bad for the soul, but it’s 100% contrary to the entire spirit of the New Testament to suggest that poverty is WORSE than non-poverty in that regard.

    You seem to be drawing a bit too heavily on Karl Marx’s ideas. Conflict, i.e., sin, is not the result of material inequality. It is the result of the free choices human beings make.

    S.B. and Zach,

    Using what Jesus said about the poor to justify the status quo and claim there are spiritual benefits to poverty as we know it today is a distortion of the Gospels.

    And regarding what Jesus said about the rich, all of us who have computers and have the leisure time to post messages on Vox Nova are rich beyond the imagination of the people who heard Jesus preaching against riches. It would be very dangerous for us to think ourselves as in any way resembling the poor Jesus was speaking about just because we are not the super rich.

    In fact, many religious choose poverty to be closer to God and to the poor.

    My one close-up look at the poverty of religious orders came from having a friend of the family who was a Christian Brother at the high school I went to. Their “poverty” had nothing to do with a lack of material comfort. I won’t say it was a joke, but they ate very well, had very nice cars to drive that belonged to the community, always got hot tickets to things like sporting events, and so on. They lived in small individual rooms and had very little in the way of personal belongings, so in that sense they were “poor,” but the community itself was very well off. All of their personal needs were well taken care of. I think the kind of poverty one finds in a Trappist monastery is the exception rather than the rule.

    I don’t think human beings make many “free choices.” Is someone who grows up poor in the inner city no more likely to become a gang member or use heroin or crack than someone who lives in an affluent suburb?

    Regarding Karl Marx, he didn’t say anything whatsoever about sin, and your implication that my comments are somehow Marxist is bizarre.

  • David Nickol

    Some people don’t sell out their faith to accommodate the obama agenda.

    Michael,

    Actually, I wonder if it’s possible to live an ordinary life in America (or any modern country) and follow the teachings of Jesus.

  • More importantly, why is the champion of American football considered the “world champion” in this country ? 😛 Same for baseball & basketball.

    Lack of geography skills ? Is our children learning ?

  • So how’s this whole “calling out hypocrisy” thing been working out for you?

    Has anyone read this post or others like it and thought, “Geez, why yes, I was so wrong to get worked up over the Mexico City protocols. Allowing states to set their own auto emission standards is a much bigger deal.”

    If the problem is that the pro-life movement is perceived as too closely aligned, then it seems sniping at the pro-life movement for that is completely counterproductive. There will always be a por-life movement. The Republican Party will always at least pretend to care about its concerns.

    It seems to me the shortest path to solving this problem is to make the Democratic Party a more hospitable place for pro-lifers, rather than lecturing pro-lifers about what they should and should not be concerned about.

  • Dale Price
  • David Nickol

    More importantly, why is the champion of American football considered the “world champion” in this country ?

    Gerald,

    And what about the Miss Universe Pageant?

  • S.B.

    David N:

    Your response to me is entirely full of strawmen. Try again.

  • S.B.

    I’m positive, for that matter, that Obama will do the same [send people to other countries to be tortured], no matter how much obsequious flattery he gets for saying that he won’t “torture.”

    Looks like I may be right, according to the link provided by Dale Price: Obama has for now preserved the CIA’s ability to engage in extraordinary rendition. Naive sycophants should take note.

  • M.Z. Forrest

    It appears to be nothing of the sort. http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/02/the-rendition-c.html

    Nihilists, don’t lose hope.

  • S.B.

    Yeah, and if you believe that spin, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

  • MD

    Where can I by the Acton Institute commentary to the New Testament?

  • David Nickol

    Your response to me is entirely full of strawmen. Try again.

    S.B.,

    And your response to me is no response at all. When I have time, I will explain to you how wrong you are!

  • S.B.

    From Wikipedia:

    In a New Yorker interview with CIA veteran Michael Scheuer, an author of the rendition program under the Clinton administration, writer Jane Mayer noted, “In 1995, American agents proposed the rendition program to Egypt, making clear that it had the resources to track, capture, and transport terrorist suspects globally — including access to a small fleet of aircraft. Egypt embraced the idea… ‘What was clever was that some of the senior people in Al Qaeda were Egyptian,’ Scheuer said. ‘It served American purposes to get these people arrested, and Egyptian purposes to get these people back, where they could be interrogated.’

    Technically, U.S. law requires the CIA to seek ‘assurances’ from foreign governments that rendered suspects won’t be tortured. Scheuer told me that this was done, but he was ‘not sure’ if any documents confirming the arrangement were signed.”[16] However, Scheuer testified before Congress that no such assurances were received.[17] He further acknowledged that treatment of prisoners may not have been “up to U.S. standards.” However, he stated,

    “This is a matter of no concern as the Rendition Program’s goal was to protect America, and the rendered fighters delivered to Middle Eastern governments are now either dead or in places from which they cannot harm America. Mission accomplished, as the saying goes.[18]”

    Thereafter, with the approval of President Clinton and a presidential directive (PDD 39), the CIA instead elected to send suspects to Egypt, where they were turned over to the Egyptian Mukhabarat.

    Scheuer testified before Congress:

    “I have read and been told that Mr. Clinton, Mr. Berger and Mr. Clarke have said, since 9/11, that they insisted that each receiving country treat the rendered person it received according to U.S. legal standards. To the best of my memory, that is a lie.”

    And Obama’s administration is full of Clinton/Gore people. So don’t be a complete naif. You didn’t blindly believe Bush when he said, “we don’t torture,” did you?

  • S.B.

    David — I didn’t say anything to which you purport to be responding. All that I said — and you do NOT respond to this — is that the New Testament 1) never suggests that material poverty is an especial danger to the poor person’s soul; and 2) quite the contrary, it warns in no uncertain terms that material wealth is dangerous to the soul. Indeed, your supposed response just strengthens my point: Everyone in the Western world today is unimaginably “rich” compared to the people in Jesus’ day. If you think the New Testament has any meaning at all, we’re all in danger.

  • grega

    “It seems to me the shortest path to solving this problem is to make the Democratic Party a more hospitable place for pro-lifers, rather than lecturing pro-lifers about what they should and should not be concerned about.”
    Well solving the problem is certainly beyond party politics. After all some form of legal Abortion is pretty much prevalent in most ‘christian’ countries and in all former (or current) communist countries. The question thus goes somewhat deeper and to our core societal values her in the West- let’s face it we decided to value choice and personal freedom in this instance over the historically tougher moral standards.
    Nevertheless ,I still think there is some truth to your observation JohnMcG. It is indeed somewhat frustrating that certain interest groups manage to all but hijack this or that party.
    I find it somewhat ‘ironic’ that the same folks that are so concerned with preserving plant and animal life to a default are hard pressed to muster similar vigor when it comes to human life.

  • Do you believe that contraception is wrong?

    I readily give full religious submission to the teachings contained in Humanae Vitae.

  • grega

    “I readily give full religious submission to the teachings contained in Humanae Vitae.”
    Sounds a bit funny – is there perhaps a difference between ‘religious submission’ and actual day to day behavior? However in case this is not some funky word mincing –
    You are a better man than me or perhaps in the order of 90% of adult Americans.
    I find that a number of aspects of Humanae Vita were obviously conceived by celebate clergy. Why are most sexually active adults worldwide not surprised that the ‘product’ of such holy musings are unworkable for the average married person.
    ‘every sexual act open to life?’
    Year right – that is exactly what is happening.

  • alex martin

    “Why are most sexually active adults worldwide no surprised that the ‘product’ of such holy musings are unworkable for the average married person.”

    Because they haven’t tried it? Because sin clouds the mind and leads us to make really stupid decisions? Because they have a warped sense of sexuality? Take your pick.

  • LCB

    Because they haven’t read H.V. Challenge the next H.V. dissenter you encounter, and ask them if they’ve ever read the document. You will have some very sheepish H.V. dissenters rather quickly.

  • LCB

    MM,

    Should individuals be free to murder their children with chemical contraception?

  • grega

    LCB,
    personally I found Zippy’s language and choice of words questionable but you certainly take it one step further – again one has to appreciate the honesty.
    Sure your point regarding H.V. and that plenty of folks have not read the document is well taken – plenty read it and did not agree.
    If this would have been a particular convincing encyclica you can be assured more catholics would follow it.
    I read Humanae Vitae, I like the way these indeed essential questions are introduced and openly discussed – for example:
    “But the most remarkable development of all is to be seen in man’s stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life—over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life.”
    On the most fundamental level indeed the majority in our society very much embraces this direction.
    Natural Law?
    Most of us indeed try to make things happen for us-we try to understand. Science and Technology are here to prosper.
    Religion does have an important role – but that role is changing.
    Yes Dogmas are ignored more than ever –
    Why? One reason certainly is that the one very successful concept that influences ALL our lives ‘Science and Technology’ is not based on dogma but on openness.

  • David Nickol

    Should individuals be free to murder their children with chemical contraception?

    LCB,

    I know that many pro-life “enthusiasts” claim that using the birth control pill is “killing babies,” but is there anything one can point to (CDF document, encyclical, or some other official, high-level Church communication) that you can cite to demonstrate that this is a teaching of the Church?

  • David Nickol

    LCB,

    As I read the Pontifical Academy for Life’sStatement on the So-Called “Morning-After Pill”, it condemns “emergency contraception” as equivalent to abortion, but it does not say, “By the way, this applies to all use of oral contraceptives.”

    I am not sure the science behind the statement is 100 percent sound, but that’s another discussion.

  • Adolfo Rodriguez

    So, David, are you trying to argue that the Church does not teach that using oral contraceptives are a grave sin? Or are you trying to wriggle out of Church teaching some other way, like grega? Or are you just trying to argue that some chemical contraceptives don’t abort children as an unintended side effect?

  • love the girls

    “So, David, are you trying to argue that the Church does not teach that using oral contraceptives are a grave sin? Or . . . ”

    He’s playing the devil’s advocate because that’s what he is.

  • grega

    The post was titled “Don’t ignore the good”
    I guess if one calls the majority of ones fellow brothers and sisters murderers one has not much capacity left for goodness.
    I feel sorry for you.
    The world is a much better place than that – this society is a much better communitas than implied in your cynical loopsided views.

  • David Nickol

    So, David, are you trying to argue that the Church does not teach that using oral contraceptives are a grave sin?

    Adolfo,

    I am not arguing much of anything. The Church obviously considers any form of contraception sinful. The Church also, in the document I cited, says use of Plan B (the emergency contraception drug) to be equivalent to abortion, because they say it prevents embryos from implanting. What I am trying to find out from LCB — and now from you — is if there is any high-level statement from the Church that claims the use of the pill as a contraceptive is equivalent to abortion. I am not saying the Church doesn’t consider the use of the pill as a contraceptive to be seriously sinful. What I am saying is that some pro-life “enthusiasts” equate the use of the pill with abortion, and I have seen nothing from the Church that argues this point.

    It is commonly said that the vast majority of married Catholic couples use some form of artificial birth control, and clearly that includes the bill. It would be one thing if Catholic married couples were following their own consciences on contraception. It would be quite another thing if they were following their own consciences on the use of the pill of the Church has declared that using the pill consistently as a contraceptive (instead of in the form of Plan B as an emergency contraceptive) is equivalent to having abortions.

    Or are you trying to wriggle out of Church teaching some other way, like grega?

    I am not sure why you are trying to personalize the issue. I am asking those of you who seem to claim that using oral contraceptives is equivalent to abortion to point to a teaching of the Church that makes that claim. I am not trying to wiggle out of anything. I am asking for you to support your position by quoting an authority.

  • And the Nazis made the trains run on time.

    No, I’m not saying that the MCP or funding contraception is the moral equivalent of Nazism. I am saying that telling people to shut up about the bad stuff because look at all this good stuff that’s happening isn’t a terribly noble instinct.

    I hope and pray that the Obama presidency does move the culture such that it will be more receptive to the pro-life message. But pretending that bad policies aren’t bad policies isn’t going to help make that happen.

  • S.B.

    Here’s what a more principled liberal says about Obama’s policy on rendition:

    http://dissentingjustice.blogspot.com/2009/02/still-flip-flop-my-fellow-liberals-push.html

  • adolfo rodriguez

    I’m not sure why it matters that the Church has said anything about the pill/unintended abortion. Does it change the fact that using artificial contraception is a mortal sin? That was the point of my question. If the pill might unintentionally add abortion to the equation, all the worse for your soul I suppose.

    Do you often wait for the Church to document issues of science before you accept or reject them?

  • adolfo rodriguez

    grega,

    I’m not sure I agree that mandating higher fuel efficiency is a good thing at all. I do not accept that as true. I am happy the President has undone some (not all) of the Bush administration’s decisions on torture. After that, I can’t say that I agree with very much he has done.

  • David Nickol

    I’m not sure why it matters that the Church has said anything about the pill/unintended abortion.

    It matters because some pro-life Catholics are claiming that more abortions are occurring through the use of pharmaceutical contraceptives than through procured abortions. Unless I see evidence to the contrary, I am concluding that they are speaking for themselves, and not for the Church.

    Does it change the fact that using artificial contraception is a mortal sin? That was the point of my question. If the pill might unintentionally add abortion to the equation, all the worse for your soul I suppose.

    Can you cite an authoritative Church document that says using artificial contraception is a “mortal sin”?

    Do you often wait for the Church to document issues of science before you accept or reject them?

    The Church doesn’t pretend to be an authority on science, only faith and morals. In any case, the science is unclear here. I don’t think anybody knows prevention of implantation ever occurs when the pill is used as a conventional contraceptive. The Pontifical Academy for Life believes when the same drugs are used as emergency contraceptives, they don’t prevent ovulation and do prevent implantation. But I am not sure their science is correct, especially because many Catholic hospitals do use emergency contraception for rape victims under certain circumstances. (Google “Peoria protocol” or “Connecticut protocol” for details.)

  • adolfo rodriguez

    CCC:
    2399 The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).

    2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil: Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.

    Didja notice that ‘intrinsically evil’ portion attached to contraception? Intrinsic evils tend to be mortal sins.

  • adolfo rodriguez

    Any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guild of a grave sin. (Casti Connubii, #56)

  • David Nickol

    Didja notice that ‘intrinsically evil’ portion attached to contraception? Intrinsic evils tend to be mortal sins.

    adolfo,

    Saying that something is intrinsically evil does not in any way demonstrate that it is a “mortal sin.” See this article in America.

    Here is an intrinsic evil:
    Wife: Does this dress make me look fat?
    Husband: (crossing fingers behind back) Oh, nooooooo, dear!

    Lies are intrinsically evil, including little white ones.

    I am looking for something that uses the words mortal sin. If the Church says that using contraception is a mortal sin, I want to see it in those terms. I am not saying you won’t be able to find anything. I am saying I haven’t seen it, and if it exists, it shouldn’t be that hard to find.

  • alex martin

    And the quote from Casti Connubii? Or do you not understand that grave sin = mortal sin?

  • The USSCB doesn’t need to say anything about oral contraception being an abortifacient. Science tells us all we need to know. When the pill fails to prevent ovulation, it has a backup mechanism of causing sloughing in the woman’s uterus, making an embryo unable to successfully implant. When an embryo cannot implant in it’s mother’s uterus (because of human action), the embryo dies. This is equivalent to manslaughter (at least), i.e. if you think the embryo is a human being. And Catholic teaching is that the embryo is a human being.

  • David,

    Adolfo is right. In Catholic moral teaching, “grave” is another word for “mortal”.

    These sins kill eternal souls.

  • grega

    David, the church typically does not rub it in – they desire to bring along as large of a group as possible after all.
    Thus ‘official’ utterances tend to be clear and not so clear at the same time.
    Come on we are adults here – if one reads Humanae Vitae -the spirit is rather clear – every sexual act has to be open to conception of life. Period
    A large majority of adults in the proper age group however does not follow this at all. Most would not follow it even if the church would make the far reaching declarations that some around here are so eager to make – declarations along the line of :people who contracept murder children -didn’t you know? .
    The church authority among all groups however continues to errode – the oh so pious SSPX’lers very much included. Thus for decades to come plenty of fudder particular for folks outside the child bearing years. It would be interesting to know the age and number of children of those who most verbally argue that contraception equals killing children.

  • David Nickol

    And the quote from Casti Connubii? Or do you not understand that grave sin = mortal sin?

    Adolfo is right. In Catholic moral teaching, “grave” is another word for “mortal”.

    Alex and Zach,

    I think it is quite different to say something is a grave sin and something is a mortal sin. Every Catholic school child knows (or at least knew in my day) that there are two classes of sin — venial and mortal. Nobody ever taught us that “mortal” and “grave” mean the same thing. “Mortal,” for Catholics, is kind of a technical term. While I don’t want to minimize the seriousness that “grave” conveys, I am not prepared to concede every grave sin is a mortal sin.

    I don’t have time right now to do an exhaustive search, but the Catechism spends a fair amount of time talking about mortal sin in general terms, but only in a few instances does it actually say which sins are mortal. There are only a few:

    2539 Envy is a capital sin. It refers to the sadness at the sight of another’s goods and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly. When it wishes grave harm to a neighbor it is a mortal sin:
    St. Augustine saw envy as “the diabolical sin.” “From envy are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbor, and displeasure caused by his prosperity.”

    2484 The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.

    2313 Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely.

    Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes, as are the orders that command such actions. Blind obedience does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out. Thus the extermination of a people, nation, or ethnic minority must be condemned as a mortal sin. One is morally bound to resist orders that command genocide.

    2302 By recalling the commandment, “You shall not kill,” our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral.

    Anger is a desire for revenge. “To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit,” but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution “to correct vices and maintain justice.” If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, “Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.”

    The surprise is that both envy and anger can be mortal sins committed only in the mind or heart. Merely having (or, more probably, nursing) either of those two emotions is identified specifically as a mortal sin.

  • David Nickol

    Let me just add that it would be foolish to say, “This is a sin I can commit, because, although it is grave, it is not mortal.” But I am convinced there is a reason why contraception is called grave rather than mortal.

    Of course, someone may come up with a reference that proves me wrong. I said I had never seen abortion specifically called murder, but someone pointed out instances where Pope John Paul II said flatly that abortion was murder.

  • I think it is quite different to say something is a grave sin and something is a mortal sin.

    Grave matter is one of the three criteria for mortal sin. The other two are knowledge and free consent. So if one freely, knowingly consents to doing X, and X is grave matter, one has committed a mortal sin.

    So for example if one commits murder under some kind of extreme duress, it might not be a mortal sin, if in fact free consent is impaired. (Duress by itself does not mean that free consent is impaired though. A better example of impaired consent might be something which happens very suddenly, with little or no time to think). If one does not know that one is killing an innocent person, one has not committed murder. If however one freely consents to killing an innocent person, one has committed murder.

    Same with a contracepted sexual act. If one is under some kind of extreme duress – suppose the husband threatens to kill their children if the wife does not have sexual relations with him with a condom – then it might not be a mortal sin, if and only if that extreme duress in fact actually impairs her free consent. If however she knows she is engaging in a contracepted act and freely consents to it, for any reason, even what she considers to be a very good one, indeed even if that reason is “to save the lives of her children”, she has committed mortal sin; because a contracepted sexual act is grave matter.

    So it is true that grave matter and mortal sin are not exactly the same thing: objectively grave matter is in fact one of the three criteria for mortal sin. The other two are the ‘subjective’ criteria of knowledge – in the sense of knowing that I am doing that thing, not in the sense of agreeing that it is wrong – and free consent.

  • David Nickol

    If however she knows she is engaging in a contracepted act and freely consents to it, for any reason, even what she considers to be a very good one, indeed even if that reason is “to save the lives of her children”, she has committed mortal sin; because a contracepted sexual act is grave matter.

    Zippy,

    You make a good case except for this one aspect. Suppose, for example, that the husband says to the wife, “Have sex with me while I am wearing a condom or I will kill the children in their beds.” The wife has nerves of steel, so she weighs her choices carefully, and her judgment is not impaired by fear. On the one hand, it would be a tragedy to have her children murdered. On the other, consenting to contraceptive sex would be a mortal sin. Being a good Catholic, she says, “Okay, dear, murder the children. Better they should all die than that I commit a mortal sin.”

    Are you saying that it is not coercion for the husband to threaten to kill the children, and that a woman under such a threat can still give full consent if she remains calm and rationally considers her choices? You are saying it is possible to give “free consent” while someone is holding a gun to you childrens’ heads?

  • Are you saying that it is not coercion …

    “Coercion” is a broad term. I am saying that under many circumstances which we could quite legitimately label coercion it is nevertheless the case that acts are freely chosen in the morally pertinent sense.

    You are saying it is possible to give “free consent” while someone is holding a gun to you childrens’ heads?

    Yes. We know this is possible, because as Pope John Paul II points out in the encyclical Veritatis Splendour, Christian martyrs have refused to do evil under just those kinds of circumstances. More generally, he makes the point that:

    “[I]t is always possible that man, as the result of coercion or other circumstances, can be hindered from doing certain good actions; but he can never be hindered from not doing certain actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil.”

  • I think we’re starting to wade into 21 Ninjas territory.

  • I think we’re starting to wade into 21 Ninjas territory.

    Into and well past, I agree. But the answer when a 21 ninjas scenario is posed is still “you don’t do evil, not even in order that good may come of it”.

  • grega

    Glad you are having ‘fun’ – Absurd.
    Zippy good luck communicating that line of reasoning
    to your average catholic family.
    The church is not even trying anymore – for good reasons.

  • Zippy good luck communicating that line of reasoning
    to your average catholic family.

    Christianity has always been a tough sell to hedonists and pagans, in this age and in every other; yea verily, even those hedonists and pagans who call themselves “Christian”.

  • David Nickol

    Zippy,

    I am trying to figure out, under your line of reasoning, how a woman can be raped without it being her fault. Of course, if she is physically overpowered, then she has no responsibility for what happens. But if she has a gun to her head or a knife to her throat, then she is “freely” choosing to commit fornication or adultery with her rapist. I guess if she is overwhelmed by fear and panic, you would not consider her to give full consent. But if she keeps calm and considers the situation rationally, it is her Catholic duty to say, “Kill me. I can’t allow you to rape me, under pain of mortal sin.”

  • grega

    In your estimation what is the percentage of hedonist and pagan posing as “Christians” in the Catholic Church?
    While I set myself up for that kind of labeling I would strongly dispute that the majority of Catholics – folks that clearly use one from of birth control or the other – can be labeled as hedonists or pagans.
    Are you married by the way? and if yes would your wife embrace the sort of conclusions you draw from your examples?

  • David Nickol

    Christianity has always been a tough sell to hedonists and pagans . . .

    Since Christianity didn’t thrive among the Jews after the death of Jesus, who were the Gentiles to whom Paul reached out and who basically formed the Catholic Church? If they weren’t pagans, what were they then and for centuries following that?

  • But if she keeps calm and considers the situation rationally, it is her Catholic duty to say, “Kill me. I can’t allow you to rape me, under pain of mortal sin.”

    Exactly.

    It should be noted that doing the right thing at times involves great heroism.

  • But if she keeps calm and considers the situation rationally, it is her Catholic duty to say, “Kill me. I can’t allow you to rape me, under pain of mortal sin.”

    Exactly:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Goretti

    It should be noted that doing the right thing at times involves great heroism.

  • Test. (My replies seem to be going into moderation).

  • David:
    Google St. Maria Goretti

  • grega

    Oh the places a black and white logic is taking you…
    One should not be surprised – we have come sort of full circle – the son of God battled the religious ‘Experts’ of his time for the sake of a more humane direct interpretation of the word.
    Todays ‘expert’ opinion produces stuff like this:
    “..indeed even if that reason is “to save the lives of her children”, she has committed mortal sin; because a contracepted sexual act is grave matter.”

  • Jesus urged us to take up our Cross and follow Him. And to prove he wasn’t just speaking figuratively, He did so.

    I don’t think that’s “a more humane direct interpretation of the Word,” if by that you mean one in which we need not sacrifice things and even lives of this world to do what is right.

    Christianity is a Cross. The Cross will always be a tough sell.

  • Oh the places a black and white logic is taking you…

    Indeed. “Do not do evil in order that good may come of it” often means the Cross.

  • David Nickol

    Zippy,

    To say that a woman must choose death rather than submit to rape is absolutely preposterous and outrageous. To say that having a gun held to her head is not coercion, and that a person being threatened with her own death or the death of her children can give “full consent” strikes me as downright evil. You are turning rape of a woman with a knife to her throat or a gun to her head into consensual sex.

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  • David:

    Some things are dichotomies, and some aren’t. In your own statement of the scenario you yourself stipulated no impairment of the woman’s will; just a cool-headed evaluation of the consequences of consenting to sex or not. Expressing outrage at what follows from your own stipulations is not an argument.

  • David,

    Would it be licit to torture the rapist’s children in order to prevent him from carrying out this act?

  • David Nickol

    Some things are dichotomies, and some aren’t. In your own statement of the scenario you yourself stipulated no impairment of the woman’s will; just a cool-headed evaluation of the consequences of consenting to sex or not. Expressing outrage at what follows from your own stipulations is not an argument.

    Zippy,

    Having no impairment of the will (such as being drunk, or terrified, or confused) does not mean a woman who chooses to be raped instead of killed is doing so with “full consent of the will.” If that were the case, women should be educated in advance that they must choose death over rape, so that if the situation arises, they will not do the “wrong” thing due to an impaired will!

    Just because a decision is made coolly and carefully does not mean the person making the decision is not acting under duress.

  • David Nickol

    Would it be licit to torture the rapist’s children in order to prevent him from carrying out this act?

    John McG,

    My answer would be no.

    Here’s one for you. A bank robber is holding a gun on a bank teller and demands all the money behind the counter or he will shoot and kill the teller. There is a million dollars in cash involved. Clearly it is a mortal sin to steal a million dollars from the bank. The teller is not one to panic, and although he must make a quick decision, he is of sound mind and thinking clearly. Will he be committing a mortal sin if he hands over the money to the robber, since it will be an act of direct material cooperation with the robber’s mortal sin? Should he say, “No, shoot me”?

  • I could be wrong, I’d be inclined not to think no, since preventing my own murder would be a proportionate reason to materially cooperate with evil.

    If he asked me to shoot another hostage, or desecrate the Eucharist, or even to lie to the authorities, I would be wrong, but all these questions are up to God’s mercy rather than my analysis.

  • David Nickol

    JohnMcG,

    Then wouldn’t preventing your own murder be a proportionate reason to “choose” to be raped rather than murdered? Is it reasonable to say that someone is giving full consent of the will when they are told, “Do this, or I will kill you?”

    I will agree that there are circumstances under which a person is morally obligated to die rather than commit an evil act even under duress, but I think it is outrageous to maintain that a woman is obligated to die rather than be raped because if she can think clearly, she is giving full consent of the will even with a knife to her throat.

  • David Nickol

    Here is something helpful from the Ascension Health web site which directly addresses the issue of duress, giving an example of being at gunpoint:

    Immediate Material Cooperation. Immediate material cooperation occurs when the cooperator participates in circumstances that are essential to the commission of an act, such that the act could not occur without this participation. Immediate material cooperation in intrinsically evil actions is morally illicit. There has been in the tradition a debate about the permissibility of immediate cooperation in immoral acts under “duress.” When individuals are forced under duress (e.g., at gunpoint) to cooperate in the intrinsically evil action of another, they act with diminished freedom. Following Church teaching, the matter of their action remains objectively evil, but they do not intend this object with true freedom. In such cases, the matter remains objectively evil as such, but the subjective culpability of the cooperator is diminished. Very recently, the Vatican has rejected the arguments of those who would apply this concept of duress to Catholic organizations as a way to justify their immediate material involvement in certain objectionable actions.

    Zippy is just plain, flat-out wrong on this one.

  • Well, I’m not so sure. There’s a difference between material cooperation and formal cooperation and actually perform an act that is itself immoral.

    Putting money in a bag is not intrinsically immoral. Adultery, lying, desecrating the Eucharist, etc. are.

    Your example was carefully designed to avoid the caveat — it implied the victim was acting in freedom, or as much as possible.

    So, I don’t think he’s “plain, flat out wrong” so much as you pulled one on him. You placed a pre-condition on your question, then yanked it away.

  • You placed a pre-condition on your question, then yanked it away.

    Exactly. Under the stipulated conditions the act is mortally sinful. Which is why St. Maria Goretti is a saint, btw: she gave her life to avoid a mortal sin.

    (And since when did the Ascension Health web site become the Magisterium?)

  • grega

    “So, I don’t think he’s “plain, flat out wrong” so much as you pulled one on him. You placed a pre-condition on your question, then yanked it away.”
    Zippy got carried away with examples all of his own making – in most reasonable American opinion the stuff he/she proposes is outrageous.
    Calling the majority of ones fellow citizens as having ‘murderous intentions’ IS outrageous.
    And it is oh so humble to accuse the majority of ones fellow believers as being pagans while excluding oneself. I know plenty very good decent humble catholics – those folks would never utter the stuff the great Zippy blasts around so freely.

  • Zippy got carried away with examples all of his own making…

    Tell that to St. Maria Goretti. I’ve already asked her to intercede on behalf of you and David.

  • David Nickol

    Your example was carefully designed to avoid the caveat — it implied the victim was acting in freedom, or as much as possible.

    John McG,

    I am not quite sure what you mean. To clarify my position, I am saying that someone who is given a choice between between being killed (or having her children killed) or being raped and “chooses” to be raped is not acting with full consent of the will and not committing a mortal sin. She is acting under duress. I don’t care if she is given a year to make the decision and consult with priests and ethicists and makes a cold, rational decision based on all available information. When you are forced into a choice like that, you are not giving full consent of the will. Your will can be in perfect working order, you can have all your wits about you, and your decision is still not a “free” one.

  • David Nickol

    (And since when did the Ascension Health web site become the Magisterium?)

    Zippy,

    Please show me something from the Magisterium that says doing something objectively wrong to avoid being killed is acting with full consent of the will.

  • David Nickol

    Tell that to St. Maria Goretti. I’ve already asked her to intercede on behalf of you and David.

    Zippy,

    Well, she’s certainly not going to try to convince us that you are right, since you are wrong.

    I am asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind so that you can understand the meaning of “full consent of the will.”

  • David,

    You are moving the goalposts so much that they are off the field.

    I’m not sure if it’s the Holy Spirit at work, but I am coming to the conclusion that when you use the term “full consent of the will,” it means whatever is most likely lead you to claim victory in your current debate.

    So, other than expressing outrage at the very notion, can you please explain why the actor in your carefully constructed hypothetical is not acting with full consent of the will? How, exactly, her will is impaired?

    To go over it again, it does strike me as very unlikely that somoeone would be able to give full consent of the will with a gun pointed to one’s head or with a threat to kill one’s children, though it may be metaphysically possible. I (and likely most others) read your hypothetical to stipulate that. If that was not your intention, then you did a poor job of expressing your hypothetical.

    If you want to do an end zone dance over your “victory” here of stipulating preconditions, getting your adversary to commit to something, and then yanking those conditions away like Lucy’s football, I guess I can’t stop you.

    But think about what you’re celebrating — that there are more situations in which it is acceptable to commit evil. So I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t join you.

  • David Nickol

    John McG,

    Let me explain the disagreement as I understand it. Perhaps I am not making myself clear. I understand you and Zippy to be saying that in order not to give “full consent of the will,” your will must be impaired in some way. You must not be thinking clearly because you are drugged, or terrified, or mentally deficient, or in some other way making an informed decision.

    On the other hand, I am arguing that you cannot give “full consent of the will” when you are under duress — when you are being threatened by some terrible consequence if you do not do something that you would not otherwise dream of doing. You cannot freely choose when someone is wrongfully forcing you to make a choice between two alternatives of which neither is acceptable to you.

    I will grant that sometimes circumstances force people to choose between to unacceptable outcomes. I will also grant that there are situations in which circumstances, or an evil person, will force one to choose between dying and something else, and the correct choice will be to die.

    However, I am saying that a woman who is faced with a “choice” between being raped or killed is not obligated, no matter how clearly she is thinking, to choose death. And further, she is not committing a mortal sin to submit to rape. There are many, many reasons why I would argue that, but one is that submitting to something is not the same as actively doing it. If that were the case, submitting to being killed to avoid being raped would be committing suicide!

    Once again, all I am saying is you cannot give “full consent of the will” when you are being threatened with some terrible consequence if you don’t cooperate.

    If a woman who submits to being raped to save her life gives full consent of the will to the sex act that takes place, then does a woman who refuses to be raped when threatened with the death of her children then then give full consent of the will to the murder of her children?

  • David Nickol

    But think about what you’re celebrating — that there are more situations in which it is acceptable to commit evil. So I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t join you.

    Much as I like to win arguments, I am not arguing here out a desire for victory. I am arguing because I am absolutely appalled by the claim that if a woman must choose between being raped or murdered, the correct choice (if she has her wits about her) is for her to choose being murdered.

    Is it a mortal sin to deliberately skip mass on Sunday? I presume it is, even though a lot of Catholics seem to skip mass whenever they please without thinking much of it. In any case, suppose someone says, “If you don’t skip mass this Sunday, I will kill your children”? If that person skips mass to save his or her children, is that a mortal sin? Is it done with full consent of the will? Don’t you feel God would understand and sympathize with a person who skipped mass to save his or her children from being murdered?

  • Please show me something from the Magisterium that says doing something objectively wrong to avoid being killed is acting with full consent of the will.

    Sure. From Veritatis Splendour:

    [I]t is always possible that man, as the result of coercion or other circumstances, can be hindered from doing certain good actions; but he can never be hindered from not doing certain actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil.

  • Is it a mortal sin to deliberately skip mass on Sunday?

    No. It is a mortal sin to skip Mass on Sunday without a good reason.

  • John:
    To go over it again, it does strike me as very unlikely that someone would be able to give full consent of the will with a gun pointed to one’s head or with a threat to kill one’s children, though it may be metaphysically possible.

    I agree. But David has stipulated full consent of the will, and then gripes about what follows from that stipulation.

  • David Nickol

    But David has stipulated full consent of the will, and then gripes about what follows from that stipulation.

    I’ll state my point once more. You are insisting that the only reason one would not give full consent of the will is that their will is somehow impaired. For some reason, they are not thinking straight. I am saying that there is another reason that one may not give full consent of the will, and that is that through an evil act, a person has an unacceptable choice forced on himself or herself.

    Here’s a scenario. The rapist says, “Either you submit to rape, or I will kill all your children. I will be back in a year so you have time to fully consider your choice.” The woman spends a year consulting authorities and reading. When the man comes back, she says, “Kill my children. I have consulted with Zippy and JohnMcG, and I have thought long and hard, and I believe it would be a mortal sin to submit to rape. Nothing is more evil than a mortal sin, so kill my children.” As I understand you, you would say that she has made the right choice. My belief is that should she submit to rape to save her children, she would not be giving full consent of the will, because she is not acting freely. She is forced into a choice she would never have made otherwise by someone whose intentions are evil. Whichever way she chooses, she is not giving full consent of the will. Without this choice being forced upon her, which no person has a right to force another person to make, she would never consent to have her children killed, and she would never consent to be raped. No matter how level-headedly she weighs her options, and no matter how rationally she chooses, the choice is not a free choice.