Question to Ponder

Question to Ponder February 20, 2009

Which is more dangerous to the cause of life: a party which claims to represent life, sometimes protects life, sometimes works to hinder the cause of life, or a party which doesn’t make that claim, which sometimes protects life, and sometimes hinders the cause of life?


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  • TimF

    Seems to me to be a loaded question. I’m sure you have your answer. You and others really need to quit obsessing about Catholics who don’t share your ideology and support of the Democrats.

  • Tim

    I don’t support the democrats.

  • I would say the most dangerous is the notion that pro-lifers should settle for either.

  • Kurt

    What is dangerous is citizens not participating in democracy as fully as their situation allows, or not recognizing that both political parties represent important forums for people of good will to work for the common good.

  • The most dangerous thing would be for pro-lifers to uncritically embrace either party, and for the pro-lifers in either party to fail to demand from their party leaders fidelity to the principle that life begins at conception.

    I see that more in one party than in the other.

  • bill bannon

    What clouds this dichotomy is that Obama is not loathe to war in the sense that Catholic liberals are loathe to war and he may well be in Afghanistan and then Pakistan with forces that in the long run exceed the Iraq period(Pakistan was weakened this week by surrendering the beautiful Swat area to the Taliban…and being thus a weak yet nuclear nation). Obama is no Ghandi on violence plus he is pro choice…so I really think the dichotomy needs tweaking shall we say. And he is pro death penalty which I and the Church from Augustine til Pope Pius XII in 1952 supported generally.
    Indeed several Popes actually led armies during the Renaissance like Pope Julius II despite Aquinas’ position against the clergy do so…..although Pope Julius had three daughters while a Cardinal so that he may not be an actually iconic Pope to refer to as a behaviour model.

  • I would say the most dangerous is the notion that pro-lifers should settle for either.

    Which “pro-lifers”?

    What clouds this dichotomy is that Obama is not loathe to war in the sense that Catholic liberals are loathe to war…

    Actually many Catholic liberals agree with him. Catholic radicals on the other hand…

  • Without going beyond the hypothetical, I would say that party that doesn’t make any such claim is more dangerous. If I declare myself a Catholic, I can be held accountable if my decisions don’t reflect the teachings of the Church. If I make no such claim, such accountability becomes impossible. A political party that claims to represent life can be rightly chastised when it falls short of that standard. A party making no such claim provides no standard by which to measure its actions and accomplishments (at least in that area).

    • But, Ipsitilla

      Is it not true that the party becomes the representation of what it means to be politically pro-life, thereby subverting the issue of life itself? And is this not the reason why heresy was seen as more dangerous than outright disbelief?

  • David Nickol

    A political party that claims to represent life can be rightly chastised when it falls short of that standard.

    A party that defines ‘life” or “pro-life” as something pertaining only to fetuses is seriously restricting the meaning of the word. I think I am saying what Henry just said, only in different words.

  • A party that defines ‘life” or “pro-life” as something pertaining only to fetuses is seriously restricting the meaning of the word.

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    The Republican party’s version of “pro-life” is a perversion of the Catholic version.

  • Mickey Jackson

    The pro-life movement will never be successful if it allows itself to become associated with either major political party. Unfortunately, this seems to be exactly what has happened; witness all of the pro-life leaders who insisted that McCain was the next best thing to the Messiah when it comes to protecting innocent human life, despite his support of embryonic stem cell research and his essentially pro-choice position on abortion (he just thought that the choice should go to states, not individuals); and who, during the primaries, said that Catholics would be obligated to vote even for Giuliani if he got the nomination because the GOP is the “pro-life party.” Our moral credibility is almost completely gone thanks to our association with the Republican Party; perhaps the results of the 2008 election will serve as a wake-up call.

  • Mickey Jackson

    And just to clarify: I am not a Democrat, I did not vote for Obama, and I am by no means suggesting that the Democratic Party is any more compatible with the consistent ethic of life insisted upon by the social Magesterium of the Holy Catholic Church.

  • Nathan

    Why is everyone here always focusing on the national electiosns. What about the local officials who “move up” the political food? How many of you are supporting and encourage prolife – “womb to tomb” people to run for public officials. I know a catholic city council member who is personally pro-life but know if he announced it to the community he would lose the next election because his constituent a majority of whom are catholic would not vote for him. This is not a party thing because the city council races here are non-partisan. Debating which party to support is a red herring. What about helping truly pro-life politicans get ahead and get to positions of real power.

    • Nathan — the issue is not really “which party to support” because I support neither the Republicans nor the Democrats. It’s really to deconstruct the paradigm as many see it today, to see how valid it is, and if not, what should be done. Since I am neither pro-Republican nor pro-Democrat, I have my views. But others have their own ideas; one even thought it is better that a party tries to be pro-life and misses the mark than not try at all. There is something valid there, if in the attempt, there was room for improvement, and not dismissal of many of the concerns which are necessary for a position on life. And like it or not, national political positions and debates affect the local area, even as one’s local area could influence national politics. It’s not one or the either, but both at once, just as Catholicism emphasizes with the particular church in relation to the universal church.

  • What Nathan said.

  • c matt

    The Republican party’s version of “pro-life” is a perversion of the Catholic version

    Yes it is. Almost as bad as the Democratic party’s version, which is, if I understand it correctly, that free and legal abortions = pro-life.

  • David Nickol

    Yes it is. Almost as bad as the Democratic party’s version, which is, if I understand it correctly, that free and legal abortions = pro-life.

    c matt,

    I think you are missing the point. “Life” refers to a lot more than the period from conception to birth. Poverty, hunger, health care, decent housing, social justice, and a helping hand in emergencies are all life issues, too. The argument that the right to life of the unborn is the most fundamental issue, since all other rights are irrelevant if you don’t live to be born, makes sense only if you are concerned with all those issues. Those who feel it is a triumph to save the unborn so they can be born into a world where there will be indifference when they are hungry or sick or discriminated against don’t have the right to call themselves “pro-life.” The Nazis were anti-abortion, but we don’t look back on them as pro-life.

  • DN,

    Do you think your desctription is an apt description of 21st Century America? Or the GOP’s vision for America? Is it really analgous to the Nazis?

    Or are you just beating a strawman?


  • Is it not true that the party becomes the representation of what it means to be politically pro-life, thereby subverting the issue of life itself? And is this not the reason why heresy was seen as more dangerous than outright disbelief?

    I guess it depends on where people are getting their cues from. Frankly, anyone who looks to a political party to define their morality (or its practical applications) is barking up the wrong tree. When it comes to Church teaching, heresy is more subversive than disbelief, but when it comes to politics, I’d argue that the word heresy is not applicable, since a political party does not define moral absolutes, it can only attempt to operate in accordance with them. Again, it’s a matter of where our true allegiances lie.

    A party that defines ‘life” or “pro-life” as something pertaining only to fetuses is seriously restricting the meaning of the word.

    That’s exactly what I’m getting at – an attempt to restrict the meaning of “pro-life” is something that can (and must) be intelligently challenged. But such a challenge would be meaningless semantics if there were not a pre-existing claim to be pro-life.

    The Republican party’s version of “pro-life” is a perversion of the Catholic version.

    Can you name any political party’s version of “pro-life” that isn’t?

    Just to clarify, I am not attempting to carry water for any specific political party, here in the US or elsewhere. The question was posed as a hypothetical, and I offered my view in that light, ignoring on purpose the situational baggage of our current political landscape. My opinion is simply this: when it comes to politics, I’d rather quibble over how to more fully embody the pro-life definition than argue why one should be pro-life in the first place.

  • Phil

    Believing that a political party is going to usher in some form of the Kingdom of God is the most dangerous. Political parties and political leaders are hampered by the mood-of-the-electorate and that makes it very difficult to hold a consistently Christian moral position regarding public policy.

    So when one sees Christians making war on one another about which political party is the most pro-life one can be sure that the gospel of life has been put on the back burner – or removed altogether.

  • If we’re talking hypothetical: In politics as in life I’d prefer people to acknowledge right as right even if they don’t live up to it and can thus be accused of being inconsistent or hypocrites.

    If we’re actually having an argument about whether those who insist on voting for anti-abortion politicians should be scorned as having an incomplete vision of the human person: I have a feeling we’ve done that before.

  • David Nickol

    Or the GOP’s vision for America? Is it really analgous to the Nazis?

    Or are you just beating a strawman?

    John McG,

    I did not in any way imply an equivalence between the Republicans and the Nazis. I said being anti-abortion is not, in and of itself, being pro-life in any meaningful sense of the term. The Nazis were anti-abortion. Humans are mammals, and whales are mammals, but that does not mean whales are humans.

    Here, as I understand it, in two paragraphs, is the authentic Catholic position on abortion and civil law:

    22. It must in any case be clearly understood that whatever may be laid down by civil law in this matter, man can never obey a law which is in itself immoral, and such is the case of a law which would admit in principle the liceity of abortion. Nor can he take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it. Moreover, he may not collaborate in its application. It is, for instance, inadmissible that doctors or nurses should find themselves obliged to cooperate closely in abortions and have to choose between the law of God and their professional situation.

    23. On the contrary, it is the task of law to pursue a reform of society and of conditions of life in all milieux, starting with the most deprived, so that always and everywhere it may be possible to give every child coming into this world a welcome worthy of a person. Help for families and for unmarried mothers, assured grants for children, a statute for illegitimate children and reasonable arrangements for adoption – a whole positive policy must be put into force so that there will always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to abortion.

    Paragraph 22, it seems to me, is the “Republican” paragraph, and paragraph 23 is the “Democratic” paragraph. In my opinion, the politically conservative, religious, “pro-life” movement says if you believe in paragraph 22 but not in paragraph 23, you can still call yourself pro-life. I would contend if you believe in paragraph 23 but not paragraph 22, you are equally pro-life. But it seems to me to be authentically pro-life and in conformity to Catholic teaching, you have to embrace both paragraphs.

    Both paragraphs are about what the law ought to say and do. I don’t see how it is possible to say the Catholic Church is exactly right about the law in paragraph 22 (mandatory legal prohibition of abortion) and then essentially ignore the Church in paragraph 23 when it says “it is the task of law to pursue a reform of society and of conditions of life in all milieux” and “a whole positive policy must be put into force so that there will always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to abortion.”

    How does the Republican party approach paragraph 23? Tax cuts so people can keep more of their own money, and private charities and volunteer work might be a help. But they do not constitute “a reform of society and of conditions of life in all milieux” and they do not guarantee “that there will always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to abortion.”

  • David Nickol

    Who, if anyone, is upset that the unmarried mother of six who just had octuplets receives food stamps and also receives federal disability benefits for three of the first six kids?

  • kurt

    If we’re actually having an argument about whether those who insist on voting for anti-abortion politicians should be scorned as having an incomplete vision of the human person: I have a feeling we’ve done that before.

    I would hope that every person who insists that they must vote for anti-abortion candidates would be respected for their principled discernment. I have not seen much argument to the contrary, but I don’t get around as much as some others.