Question To Ponder

Question To Ponder October 15, 2009

If the policies of one political candidate would include the abolition of abortion, but he would also, in his time in office, bring about war and widespread genocide against one race, while the policies of his opponent included lax abortion laws but would be against genocide and war, who do you think should win and why?

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  • Henry – my first reaction is that both parties are unacceptable, and that citizens are obligated to begin and nourish a third party, which is both non-genocidal and pro-life.

  • Henry – my first reaction is that both parties are unacceptable, and that citizens are obligated to begin and nourish a third party, which is both non-genocidal and pro-life.

  • Matt (and anyone else)

    Sure, one can vote for a third party, but that would mean either abortion or genocide will be the result; which of those two do you think is the prudential choice as “best”?

  • phosphorious

    The “pro-abortion” side is best. . . because “pro-abortion” is a misnomer. Laws that allow abortion have a different moral force than laws that cause war.

    There is a bright line between killing and letting die.

  • R

    I think the second candidate would be the better choice and here’s why:

    In the first instance, no matter how he’s brought about the “abolition of abortion”, a widespread genocide will still be killing unborn babies, because there would be pregnant women of the targeted race, meaning the death of their children, born as well as unborn.

    In the second instance, if the abortion laws are merely “lax,” one can work toward helping women, campaigning to educate about the realities of abortion, etc., and while some abortions would still surely occur, they would not be due to the state slaughtering pregnant women, and the pro-life citizenry could still work to promote life.

    Maybe there is built in bias in my answer? I don’t know, but that’s how I see it. I see less death, and the potential for decreasing death, with the second candidate.

  • Mark Gordon

    There is a bright line between killing and letting die.

    It’s not “letting die.” It’s letting be killed. There’s your bright line.

  • brettsalkeld

    Perhaps the question ought to be:

    Who should win between two candidates, one of which would make abortion illegal while decriminalizing the murder of one ethnic group (and, to make the question fair, a group quite likely to actually be murdered with some frequency after the decriminalization), while the other would maintain the status quo?

    And, yes, as R’s point indicates, decriminalizing the murder of a given ethnic group would presumably decriminalize the murder of the unborn within that group, so there is some overlap.

  • brettsalkeld

    I second Mark’s excellent clarification of phosphorious’ excellent clarification.

  • phosphorious

    “It’s not “letting die.” It’s letting be killed. There’s your bright line.”

    Fair enough.

    But pro-choice laws don’t force women to get abortions.

    Whereas a president who wages war is ordering soldiers to kill.

  • Mark Gordon

    Let me remind phosphorious that the man who steps back and allows the innocent to be killed is as guilty of the crime as the man who wields, in this case, the suction machine. That’s the whole principle of “accessory.” Moreover, I would contend that “pro-choice” law doesn’t merely permit abortion; it positively enables the practice by carving out in law a moral justification for it.

  • phosphorious

    “Let me remind phosphorious that the man who steps back and allows the innocent to be killed is as guilty of the crime as the man who wields, in this case, the suction machine. That’s the whole principle of “accessory.” Moreover, I would contend that “pro-choice” law doesn’t merely permit abortion; it positively enables the practice by carving out in law a moral justification for it.

    So allowing something to happen and causing it to happen are of equal legal standing?

  • wj

    Lax abortion laws amount *do* amount to genocide over time. But, hey, that’s good for the crime rate, no?

  • Mark Gordon

    While it is true that a President who wages war is effectively ordering soldiers to kill, Catholic teaching does not hold all war to be unjust. We are not, in other words, directed to be absolutely pacifist, only provisionally so. We are, on the other hand, called to oppose abortion, legal or not, in every case.

    That said, if I could only choose one I would opt for the second presidential choice on the grounds that we already have lax abortion laws and adding genocide and possibly unjust war to my country’s repertoire of evils would be unacceptable.

  • phosphorious

    Lax abortion laws amount *do* amount to genocide over time. But, hey, that’s good for the crime rate, no?

    You must mean in numbers, not in intent, no? Not every mass killing is a genocide.

    Is number the deciding factor here?

  • David Nickol

    Let me remind phosphorious that the man who steps back and allows the innocent to be killed is as guilty of the crime as the man who wields, in this case, the suction machine. That’s the whole principle of “accessory.”

    First, to be an accessory to a crime, you have to do a lot more than step back and allow it to happen. You have to participate in some way. If I am in a bank, and a robbery is taking place, am I a bank robber if I don’t try to intervene?

    But in any case, abortion is not a crime. To those who are “pro-life,” it is a sin that should be a crime. Is the person who allows a sin to be committed as guilty as the person who commits it? This would require a great deal of intervening in the private lives of others.

  • David Nickol

    “Lax abortion laws amount *do* amount to genocide over time. But, hey, that’s good for the crime rate, no?”

    Genocide: : the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group

    By no stretch of the imagination is legal abortion genocide.

  • phosphorious

    We are not, in other words, directed to be absolutely pacifist, only provisionally so.

    This is problematic in so many ways, but perhaps the simplest way to point out the flaw in such reasoning is this:

    Is a president required to take extraordinary measures to see that no unborn child is killed as a result of a military action (just or unjust)?

    Or is ti enough that there is no intent to kill an unborn child?

    If the second, then I don’t see why pro-choice laws are such a big deal, since one can support pro-choice laws without intending that nay unborn child be killed.

  • brettsalkeld

    phosphorious,
    Not intending the death of any specific unborn child is not the same as not intending the deaths of unborn children generally. No unborn children’s deaths are intended in military action even in a general way, but they certainly are intended in a general way by pro-choice legislation.
    Furthermore, in the case of military action one is aiming at another good at the cost of an evil. In the case of pro-choice laws one is simply aiming at the evil.

  • phosphorious

    No unborn children’s deaths are intended in military action even in a general way, but they certainly are intended in a general way by pro-choice legislation.

    This is not exactly right. Military actions seek the death of the enemy, and are indifferent to whether the enemy is born or unborn. This is why I asked if a president was required to take extraordinary action to prevent the death of the unborn in a war. We are perfectly willing to let the unborn die in a war, if the cause is “just.”

    “Furthermore, in the case of military action one is aiming at another good at the cost of an evil. In the case of pro-choice laws one is simply aiming at the evil.

    This is flat out false. Take the recent case in Brazil, where the mother of a nine-yea-old girl secured an abortion to save her life. . . she almost certainly would not have survived giving birth. The mother was seeking a good, the life of her daughter.

    It is in general true that a woman who gets an abortion is aiming at some good, unless you believe that a woman would do so out of pure malice. You may disagree that the good (her own health, the financial security of her family) is worth the cost (the death of the unborn child), but it’s silly to think they are not after some good or other.

  • phosphorious

    No unborn children’s deaths are intended in military action even in a general way, but they certainly are intended in a general way by pro-choice legislation.

    I’m not sure this is true: I may be against helmet laws, for example, but that doesn’t mena I intend for people to die in motorcycle accidents.

  • Mark Gordon

    If I am in a bank, and a robbery is taking place, am I a bank robber if I don’t try to intervene?

    Lousy analogy. A man in a bank being robbed not only lacks the means and the freedom to intervene, to do so would risk creating an even greater tragedy. Abortion law isn’t like that. Not only do we have the means and the freedom to act, but failing to intervene only compounds the tragedy. Of course, in order to arrive at that conclusion one must be convinced that the unborn are human persons with a dignity equal to yours or mine, and therefore worthy of protection. You don’t believe that, I know, and I accept that you don’t.

    But in any case, abortion is not a crime. To those who are “pro-life,” it is a sin that should be a crime. Is the person who allows a sin to be committed as guilty as the person who commits it? This would require a great deal of intervening in the private lives of others.

    David, abortion was once a crime and ought to be a crime again. As for intervening in the private lives of others, please. American law intervenes in our private lives in a hundred different ways. Again, when the issue is protecting innocent human life, the intervention is justified. As Pope John Paul II wrote: “When a parliamentary or social majority decrees that it is legal, at least under certain conditions, to kill unborn human life, is it not really making a ‘tyrannical’ decision with regard to the weakest and most defenseless of human beings?….While public authority can sometimes choose not to put a stop to something which – were it prohibited – would cause more serious harm, it can never presume to legitimize as a right of individuals – even if they are the majority of the members of society – an offense against other persons caused by the disregard of so fundamental a right as the right to life.”

  • brettsalkeld

    phospohorious,
    The woman may be aiming at a particular good. The law does not. (Now, a law that said abortions would be allowable only in the cases where a mother’s life is threatened would be aiming at a particular good.)
    And no, we are not perfectly willing to let the unborn die in a war, even when the cause is just. A just war must be fought with just means, and that includes striving to eliminate civilian casualties.
    Lastly, the right to not wear a helmet does not directly lead to death the way a right to abortion leads to death. Every time that right is exercised, someone dies. The analogy does not achieve its end.

  • Mark Gordon

    I don’t see why pro-choice laws are such a big deal.

    I can really only attribute a statement this callous to some ideological block. Pro-choice legislation permits and in some cases enables the killing of the unborn. Whether you intend that unborn children die as a result of abortion is beside the point. Others intend for them to die and the laws you favor permit and enable that killing.

    Since this is a Catholic blog and my head is spinning, let me just check: you do believe that the unborn are human persons with a dignity equal to yours or mine, don’t you?

  • Henry,

    I’m used to reading very thoughtful discussions from you on a variety of topics. I don’t understand why you would ask this kind of question.

    Primarily, it sets up an entirely fictional set of conditions which, while I suppose are theoretically possible, are so unlikely as to be irrelevant to actual political discourse. Especially since the dichotomy seems aimed at dividing factions against one another, posing the question without any further context borders on snark.

    I think this post is beneath you, Henry. May I encourage you to continue posting at the higher standard to which you normally hold yourself?

    • Rabbert,

      Realities in the world are never simple, and situations like this do exist in one fashion or another (many people consider what was done to Native Americans was a genocide, for example). When I ask questions like this, it is a challenge to ponder and deal with situations which are not ideal, so as to be able to deal with easier situations, once people have discerned for themselves the prudential principles they rely upon and why.

  • Ronald King

    Abortion has been and always will be the end result of males inflicting on women a value system and a social structure that inherently invalidates the nature of the woman to create communities that welcome and nurture life. Consequently, they have been forced to adapt to a system that has always been a threat to their basic human worth and the children they may bring into the world. When there is no freedom to change a world filled with violence then hope is lost. Women have been oppressed and consequently they have been devalued as human beings. How can we expect them to see an unknown and unseen child in their womb as a gift if we continue to create a world in which we use and kill their children for tribal or personal gain.
    So I would support the candidate who would search for peaceful solutions to world conflicts. A candidate who would attempt to communicate and build relationships that would enhance the hope that peace may be a possibility.
    The culture of death is everything that does not support life and this has existed since the beginning. Abortion begins and ends with male violence at every level of human interaction. Every form of violence or lack of love causes suffering in those who are created to love. Women must see that we will validate them by creating peace at every level of human existence.

  • David Nickol

    I can really only attribute a statement this callous to some ideological block.

    It seems to me that within Catholic thought (as I understand it), the primary focus regarding abortions should be on people who perform or procure them and to a much lesser degree on the “victims.” One can only imagine God will provide for victims of abortion, for the large percentage of babies that miscarry, and for the truly huge number of embryos that fail to implant. Who would want to believe in a God that punishes in any way a baby that dies before it is born. If personhood begins at conception, then an abortion is wrong because it is the taking of a human life by someone who has no right to do it. So I don’t grieve for the aborted baby. I don’t think this makes me callous (in the sense of “feeling no sympathy for others.”) I don’t think aborted babies suffer. Therefore, I don’t think it is hard-hearted of me not to be concerned about their (nonexistent) suffering.

    On the other hand, according to the UN, 18,000 children die every day from hunger or malnutrition. Their suffering, unless you avert your eyes, is visible. It concerns me more than the plight of aborted babies. And there is something I can do about — support various charitable organizations. One might spend a lifetime fighting political battles against legalized abortion and not save one life, but contributing to the right charities can save lives and relieve suffering.

    I think it is perfectly possible even for the most devout of Catholics not to be concerned with overturning Roe v Wade or whatever. First, to roll back abortion “rights” in the United States is probably impossible. Second, there is no guarantee that if abortion is criminalized in the United States, there would be a significant decrease in the number of abortions, particularly because the pro-life movement seems to me to be inclined toward prohibitions that would be toothless because they would not punish women who obtain abortions.

    It seems to me some “pro-lifers” are so intent on legally prohibiting abortion that they are hostile to efforts like the 95-10 Initiative that might actually have a chance of doing a great deal of good.

  • Kurt

    Since this is a Catholic blog and my head is spinning, let me just check: you do believe that the unborn are human persons with a dignity equal to yours or mine, don’t you?

    I believe that as a principle. However, I would not strictly apply that principle to criminal law. Instead, I favor the position of the Republican Party — namely that rather than extend the criminal code to consider abortion an act of homocide, I would support legislation to make it a lesser but still illegal act for a doctor or other person to perform an abortion.

    The rational for this this is complex and requires some explantion, but given it is the position of the Republican Party, I would leave it to someone more affiliated with it than I to take on that task.

  • phosphorious

    brettsalkeld:

    The woman may be aiming at a particular good. The law does not. (Now, a law that said abortions would be allowable only in the cases where a mother’s life is threatened would be aiming at a particular good.)

    A law that says the decision is the woman’s, and that the state should not intervene in such cases, is aiming at a good: individual autonomy, a virtue that conservatives defend in every other instance.

    And no, we are not perfectly willing to let the unborn die in a war, even when the cause is just. A just war must be fought with just means, and that includes striving to eliminate civilian casualties.

    In theory, I suppose you are perfectly correct, but can you actually name a war where this strict standard was ever applied? Not WW2, not Vietnam, not Iraq 1 or Iraq 2. To my knowledge we have never fought a war where either due diligence was applied to avoiding civilian casualties or even where attacking civilian populations was ruled out as simply beyond the pale. But with warfare, for some reason, we find all sorts of ways to rationalize these deaths when they inevitably happen. To approve of war. . . even a just war. . . means being perfectly willing to sacrifice the innocent to the demands of the state.

  • phosphorious

    I can really only attribute a statement this callous to some ideological block.

    I can understand your reaction, given that you obviously did not read the antecedent “If the second. . . “

    In other words IF our tolerance for war is based on the fact that we don’t INTEND to harm innocents, then I’m not sure why we would be so upset about abortion. Unless it’s merely the numbers.

    “Since this is a Catholic blog and my head is spinning, let me just check: you do believe that the unborn are human persons with a dignity equal to yours or mine, don’t you?

    Since you are a Catholic, and you have been offended by my misreading, let me clarify: I believe the unborn, starting at conception have a dignity equal to my own.

    But I do not believe it has a dignity greater than my own, to the extent that we shrug at the waging of war because some wars are theoretically just, whereas we loudly demand that the full force of the state be applied to every single case of abortion.

    The garment of life is either seamless or not. . . and this is a practical matter, not one of trolley cases and hypotheticals.

  • phosphorious

    Rabbert,

    Also consider that while Henry’s example may sound like an Ethics-101-type hypothetical, it is almost exactly the case that faced us all in 2004: a president who was an enthusiastic wager of war and user of torture, who at the same time was an opponent of abortion.

    By 2004 it was pretty clear that Bush had lied about WMD to fabricate a pretext for going in to Iraq, and that he had authorized the use of torture. It was also clear that he would nominate anti-abortion Justices and prevent ESCR.

    Henry’s question is exactly relevant to the current state of Catholicism.

  • Pinky

    Imagine a married man named John. He works at a large company. John received CPR training years ago.

    John has a very cute co-worker. When John was dating, then engaged, he came to understand the appropriate bounds for male-female contact outside of marriage. CPR, fine. Mistletoe, iffy. Sex, out of the question.

    John sets up a blog on which he discusses his co-worker. He writes about their first handshake and the time they bumped into each other in a crowded elevator. His married friends exchange blog postings about how rough marriage is, how they don’t like their wives, and every possible scenario that would lead to physical contact with their attractive co-workers. Could I give her a hug on her last day? What if she sprained her ankle, and needed to lean on me for support? And always, CPR: to touch the lips of another woman in a morally acceptable way.

    Is John truly being faithful to his wife? Is he living in the gray areas of what-ifs in order to understand his marriage commitment better, or to indulge in extra-marital fantasy?

  • phosphorious

    Is he living in the gray areas of what-ifs in order to understand his marriage commitment better, or to indulge in extra-marital fantasy?

    This is an excellent point.

    But I would go on to argue that Catholics are ever vigilant in the case of abortion, being suspicious of any rationalization and claim of prudence, but much less so in the case of war.

    The claim that “War is not an intrinsic evil” while true enough, is a cover for a lot of what actually is, in fact, evil.

  • brettsalkeld

    phosphorious,

    Thankfully I am no conservative and I am quite willing to limit individual autonomy in many cases. Number one on the list is when that individual autonomy aims to end a life. But, to address your concerns more directly, pro-choice laws are not aimed at autonomy in general, but specifically at the ‘autonomy’ to kill one’s child.

    It seems to me that your whole line of reasoning presumes that one should legalize the choice for abortion because that, in itself, does not guarantee any specific abortions. It only guarantees ‘individual autonomy.’ But any time that autonomy is exercised in the way the law allows there is an evil. There are no situations where the particular autonomy guaranteed by such laws is used in an ethically acceptable way. To me that is the same as saying we can legalize vehicular homicide because that does not, in itself, force anyone to ‘choose’ to commit vehicular homicide. In principle, we are only guaranteeing drivers’ autonomy, not forcing them to run other people down.

    As to just wars, your points probably indicate why JPII and others suggest that the conditions for just war are virtually impossible to fulfill today.

    As a seamless garment fan, I am perfectly willing to join such a denunciation of war. It is hard for me to see that you would join my denunciation of abortion. Why does the seamless garment require the denunciation of every affront to a culture of life except pro-choice laws? It is, in part, such rhetoric that has led many conservative Catholics to turn their back on the seamless garment to the great detriment of the Church’s witness to a culture of life. (Of course, I also blame conservatives for their selective application of Church teaching and the resultant lack of credibility Catholics have in the public square, but liberals downplaying the evil of abortion doesn’t help.)

  • brettsalkeld

    As to intention not to harm innocents, Church teaching on ectopic pregnancy demonstrates that those in the womb are valued as much as, but not more than, those of us not in the womb. Which is not to say that some Catholics don’t treat fetal life as a greater good than other life. I disagree with them, but I don’t think pointing out that the rest of us are just as valuable as unborn babies is a very good argument for the pro-choice position.

  • David Nickol

    It seems to me that your whole line of reasoning presumes that one should legalize the choice for abortion because that, in itself, does not guarantee any specific abortions.

    The problem is that we are not in a situation where we are deciding to legalize abortion. Legal abortion is the law of the land. We are in a position where we must decided how much effort, if any, should be expended to try to re-criminalize abortions. Is it possible? (Almost certainly not.) If it could be done, would it lower the number of abortions? (Seems doubtful.) Are there other, more achievable ways to lower the number of abortions? (Probably.)

    Also, while it is the teaching of the Catholic Church that abortion is equivalent to murder, there are many people in the United States who don’t believe that. How far are Catholics required to go in imposing laws in a pluralistic society that are based on religious beliefs others do not share?

    And what moral authority does the Church have when demanding the criminalizing of abortion when Catholic women have an abortion rate at least as high as other groups in the country?

  • phosphorious

    brettsalked,

    But, to address your concerns more directly, pro-choice laws are not aimed at autonomy in general, but specifically at the ‘autonomy’ to kill one’s child.

    Again, I’m not sure this is the case: pro-choicers argue that if a woman is granted the same privacy in terms of her medical affairs that a man is, and that if she is allowed to make medical decisions with an eye to her own best interest, and not someone else’s, then that may entail a certain number of abortions. They do not specifically seek to abort fetuses, but they are willing to countenace such abortions as a result of protecting a woman’s autonomy.

    Which is shocking and unCatholic. . . but exactly the same reasoning involved in waging a war: innocents will die, but the needs of the state are paramount. And many Catholics fail to be shocked at this.

    I am not mere;y shouting “Tu Quoque” here. My point is that by singling out abortion for special outrage, we have almost guaranteed that war goes unopposed by Catholics at large.

    Perhaps you are happy with the catholic response to the Iraq invasion and the use of torture. I am not.

    No one anywhere has any questions about the Church’s stance on abortion. But, as recent polls have shown, very many Catholics are unclear about the Church’s stance on torture.

    My claim is that this is a more pressing danger to Catholic social teaching than the state of abortion laws.

  • Wj

    I’m with Rabbert on this one. And, please, stop with the comparisons to last year’s election. Though I did not vote for either candidate, and find them each despicable in their own way, it is hardly fair to cast McCain as a supporter of genocide and stalwart protector of the unborn and Obama as some great force for peace. Last I looked Obama’s policies are as supportive of our military-industrial complex as McCain’s; we are still in Afghanistan; we are still committed to the “pax Americana” won through force and exploitive use of capital, we are just doing it respectably. And does anyone *really* think that McCain would not have supported a “moderate” nominee to the SCOTUS if doing so was seen by him as increasing political capital among independents?

    As a general matter, the sort of “thought-experiment” undertaken by Karlson in this post is much too thin on details and context to do anything but provoke the kind of unending back and forth that the comments have thus far revealed.

  • phosphorious

    Which is not to say that some Catholics don’t treat fetal life as a greater good than other life. I disagree with them, but I don’t think pointing out that the rest of us are just as valuable as unborn babies is a very good argument for the pro-choice position.

    I disagree: the very fact that abortion is called an “intrinsic” evil, while war is not, means that we simply have a higher tolerance for killing the born than we do for killing the unborn.

    Abortion is killing. War is killing. With war we are quite comfortable with weighing one life against another, we even see a kind of manliness in it: Bush was the one who could make those hard decisions! Kerry would have “waffled!”

    Abortion? No. Simple. Not allowed. Even in that famous case recently in Brazil, where allowing a nine year old girl to come to term with twins almost certainly would have killed her. That abortion was wrong, even though to do nothing would have been to let a young girl die.

    As Chesterton said in another context: if we can’t have equal justice, we can at least have equal injustice. I only insist that we give the rationalizations of poor, frightened women the same weight we give to those of smug, war-mongering plutocrats.

  • phosphorious

    Also, while it is the teaching of the Catholic Church that abortion is equivalent to murder, there are many people in the United States who don’t believe that. How far are Catholics required to go in imposing laws in a pluralistic society that are based on religious beliefs others do not share?

    This is a crucial point: guided by natural reason, a person might simply fail to believe that a fetus, or a zygote is a full fledged human being. Are we to make it a law that an American must agree with the pope on this point?

    Elizabeth Anscombe argued that contraception is as bad as abortion, and that a culture of contraception increases the number of abortions. Is contraception therefore murder, to be treated legally the same way?

    There’s what’s moral, and then there is what can reasonably be enforced by the state. It is not enough to prove that abortion is a sin, you must also prove that it can unproblematically be made a crime.

  • brettsalkeld

    I only insist that we give the rationalizations of poor, frightened women the same weight we give to those of smug, war-mongering plutocrats.

    I agree 100%. I’m not sure you do. You seem to give much more weight to the former than the latter.

  • phosphorious

    And, please, stop with the comparisons to last year’s election. Though I did not vote for either candidate, and find them each despicable in their own way, it is hardly fair to cast McCain as a supporter of genocide and stalwart protector of the unborn and Obama as some great force for peace.

    I did not “compare” anything to last years election, or to the election of 2004. I cited the 2004 election as a case where catholic social teaching came up short. It was a clear case of the blather about “intrinsic evil” was used, not just to oppose abortion, but as a cover for an explicitly pro-war, pro-torture attitude.

    Obama is not soem “great force for peace.” But I am impressed and relieved by the fact that, at a time when republicans were swaggering about, promising to “double Guantanamo” and ridiculing liberals for wanting to “coddle terrorists” (that is to stop torturing detainees), Obama ran, and won, on a promise to end the US’s involvement war and torture. I would like to see him do a better job of keeping his campaign promises in this regard, but it was a genuine relief to see a politician pandering to America’s love of peace. I didn’t think American had a love of peace anymore.

  • brettsalkeld

    My claim is that this is a more pressing danger to Catholic social teaching than the state of abortion laws.

    My claim is that they are both a pressing danger, and weighing one against the other when one must (as in the case Henry gives us here) should in no way diminish our concern about the other. FYI, my friends in the pro-life movement are sick of me telling them they are not allowed to be casual about war (heck, even the environment) just because they feel abortion is the greater evil. I will tell you, my friend in the pro-peace movement, the same thing. One’s prudential evaluations about which battle is more winnable or which is more urgent should in no way lead to the conclusion that the status quo in either is OK.

  • phosphorious

    I agree 100%. I’m not sure you do. You seem to give much more weight to the former than the latter.

    Again, fair enough: I do think that any random abortion can be better justified than any random war. I am always willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to the powerless, not the powerful.

    But as matter of simple fact, current Catholic practice goes in the opposite direction: we will, however “reluctantly”, defend any given war, but will sneer at any claim that a woman who seeks an abortion is anything but a narcissist who hates children.

    Pro-lifers very glibly talk about the “Sacrament of Abortion” as if pro-choicers actively seek to increase the number of abortions because they hate life. This basic slander animates much of the discussion in this area.

    That should probably stop.

  • phosphorious

    brettsalked:

    My claim is that they are both a pressing danger. . .

    Again, here I disagree.

    Doctors recommend that we get eight glasses of water a day. . . but if you are drowning, getting enough water is not your problem.

    The ocean in which we currently drown is that, as I have said the Church maintains a clear stance on abortion, but has allowed thousands of Catholics to support torture with a clear conscience.

    And it will get worse: we have just seen where an anti-abortion stance was used more or less as a cover for unjust war. We are gearing up to see a anti-abortion stance used to torpedo Health Care Reform.

    The danger to the Church at this moment in history is that its defense of abortion is used to shoot down every other aspect of Catholic social teaching.

  • brettsalkeld

    No one anywhere has any questions about the Church’s stance on abortion. But, as recent polls have shown, very many Catholics are unclear about the Church’s stance on torture.

    I permit myself to point out that in this thread there are questions about the Church’s stance on abortion.

    Furthermore, if it is any consolation, I am just as scandalized by hackneyed defenses of torture as I am by suggestions that Catholics can support the status quo on abortion.

  • brettsalkeld

    Pro-lifers very glibly talk about the “Sacrament of Abortion” as if pro-choicers actively seek to increase the number of abortions because they hate life. This basic slander animates much of the discussion in this area.

    That should probably stop.

    Agreed. I am always against vilifying the opposition. First because it is uncharitable, second because it is untrue, and third because it is counter productive. As a Catholic I tend to think things that are uncharitable and untrue have bad consequences long term.

  • brettsalkeld

    The danger to the Church at this moment in history is that its defense of abortion is used to shoot down every other aspect of Catholic social teaching.

    Agreed again. However we draw different conclusions from this premise. I think it means we should stop using abortion to undercut other issues of concern for Catholics. As far as I can tell, you conclude that it means we should keep quiet about abortion. I agree with you that our rhetoric needs to change. I disagree that it has to stop.

  • phosphorious

    I permit myself to point out that in this thread there are questions about the Church’s stance on abortion.

    No, everyone here is clear that the Church is against legalized abortion, and that to be pro-choice is to stand in opposition to the stated position of the Church. Also, I assume we all agree that abortion is immoral.

    What recent polls have shown is that many Catholics seem to support torture and are quite unaware that doing so puts them in opposition to Rome. I believe that the statistic was that torture is most popular among frequent church-goers.

  • Pro-lifers very glibly talk about the “Sacrament of Abortion” as if pro-choicers actively seek to increase the number of abortions because they hate life. This basic slander animates much of the discussion in this area.

    Yes, that kind of language seems anything but constructive, at least in the way that it is generally used.

    The only sense in which we could talk about abortion as a “sacrament” is in the sense that it is a concrete expression of a deeply rooted culture of violence. In that sense, abortion, unjust war, the death penalty, are all “sacraments” or better “anti-sacraments” of the god of death. So, in a sense, “sacrament” language could in fact be put to good use precisely as a way to show the interconnectedness of all life issues rather than to suggest a kind of willing embrace of a ritualistic view of abortion, as the right-wing pro-life rhetoric goes. In this way, “abortion as sacrament” language could in fact be used to undermine the idea on the Catholic right that abortion is completely unlike any other life issue and is set apart from the rest of Catholic social teaching, etc. “Sacramentality” language, understood properly, would cut right through that mistaken view quite easily.

    Of course, such language is easily misunderstood as the run-of-the-mill “abortion is the sacrament of the Democratic party” nonsense. So any talk of abortion as a “sacrament” of the culture of death, in the understanding that I described above, is probably better used in in-house discussion rather than used in “public.”

  • brettsalkeld

    I agree that many Catholics don’t know that supporting torture puts them in opposition to Rome. Nevertheless, there are other Catholic torture supporters who know that Rome is against torture but who make arguments in forums like this for why it needs to be permitted in some cases. Those arguments look, to me, a lot like the arguments for the status quo on abortion, including those in this thread.

  • Wj

    Res ipsa loquitur

  • phosphorious

    As far as I can tell, you conclude that it means we should keep quiet about abortion.

    I was going to say something like “No, I only think that the rhetoric needs to change. . . ”

    But let me, for argument’s sake, defend the extremer point: Yes. Given that abortion is used as a talking point by politicians on the left, many of whom (most even?) are NOT catholic, and do not converge with Catholic teaching except on this one point, and who otherwise are in flagrant opposition to Catholic teaching, then I see little hope of “improving the rhetoric”.

    A certain kind of politician has decided that “pro-life” is the magic word to gain power. When we speak of it, it aids his cause, and does NOT stop abortion. If we remain silent, no one will miss our voices in the noise and commotion, and we can better spend our energies elsewhere.

    So yes: all of our anti-abortion talk will only advance the cause of evil. Silence is perhaps what is needed.

    A bit extreme, as I say, but wait until Health Care Reform passes before judging: if reasonable reform gets shot down because it is seen in some tangential way to “promote abortion”, then I will kick myself for not having been extreme enough.

  • phosphorious

    “Given that abortion is used as a talking point by politicians on the left,

    That should read “Given that abortion is used as a talking point by politicians on the RIGHT”

  • phosphorious

    Wj,

    I agree, the thing speaks for itself. . . but which thing are you talking about?

  • brettsalkeld

    I am happier, and will have more time for my kids tonight, if we just agree about changing the rhetoric. 😉

  • Mark Gordon

    How can we expect them [women] to see an unknown and unseen child in their womb as a gift if we continue to create a world in which we use and kill their children for tribal or personal gain.

    Ronald, women are independent moral agents every bit as capable of assuming responsibility for their acts as men. This statement infantilizes and belittles women, and is objectively quite sexist.

  • phosphorious

    Well. . . if it’s for the kids. . .

    Very well.

  • David Nickol

    Ronald, women are independent moral agents every bit as capable of assuming responsibility for their acts as men. This statement infantilizes and belittles women, and is objectively quite sexist.

    Mark,

    And yet most pro-lifers don’t want criminal penalties for women who procure abortions, claiming that they are “victims.” Aren’t women who procure abortions independent moral agents every bit as capable of assuming responsibility for their acts as the abortionists whom they seek out?

  • phosphorious

    Ronald, women are independent moral agents every bit as capable of assuming responsibility for their acts as men. This statement infantilizes and belittles women, and is objectively quite sexist.

    I think this misses Ronald’s point, if I am understanding him correctly.

    His claim seems to be that, given the state of the world, it might reasonably occur to some women that abortion is the least bad of the available options. Why have children if they will simply be sent off to war?

    Merely outlawing abortion doesn’t address this deeper concern.

    (forgive me if I have misconstrued the arguments here; it’s sometimes difficult to figure out who is on what side of the debate!)

  • Ronald King

    Phosphorious, You have correctly understood my basic point. Violence, fear of violence, poverty, isolation, competition for goods, competition for resources, competition for power, ignorance of human development as it relates to interpersonal neurobiology and gene expression, social conditioning and the mirror neuron system’s influence on the hardwiring of the brain, MTHFR Polymorphism and the inability to convert folic acid into l-methylfolate resulting in deficiencies in the synthesis of neurotransmitters creating increased sensitivity to dysfunctional human relationships, lack of empathy in males resulting in a fear response in women and children, rigidity in beliefs creating fear in those who are different, amygdala dominance resulting in those who are different are potential threats and we must defend ourselves against them, etc., results in the culture of death and the fear of bringing life into the world because the woman is not seen as a gift of love from God, but, is seen as a free moral agent who has the power to choose life in a world in which males dominate with the aggression that is so dangerous to women and their potential for life.
    Also, quantum physics reveals that violence or love in one area of the world will affect another in a different part of the world.
    The culture of death existed long before abortion and ending abortion will only result from exhibiting love for those we now use in other countries to support our gluttony, ending poverty here and abroad and showing people that we will sacrifice our comfort for their well-being.
    Just a sketch of what women in pain have taught me.

  • Mark Gordon

    David,

    You are correct. Most pro-lifers infantilize women when they take the position that they shouldn’t be held legally responsible (and I often wonder why those same people want to prosecute the mothers of born children who kill their children).

    I believe my position on women who procure abortion, though difficult, is morally and legally consistent, upholds the dignity of women as independent moral agents, and yet strikes the right balance between mercy and justice. I would offer leniency in the first instance, prosecution in all subsequent instances. And that same standard would apply to the men who aid or abet women in procuring abortions.

  • Dcn. Brian Carroll

    A vital factor in my decision would be: is the anti-abortion candidate able or even willing to deliver on his promise. If there is not some uncertainty around this factor then the question of which candidate to support is not even hypothetical it is meaningless.

  • Jim

    I would vote for neither candidate. I would never submit to such a sick choice. The brute force of the state will never usher in or encourage a widespread respect for human life.

    Reading through the blog entry and the comments I am saddened to see this silly right-left paradigm perpetuated. A diminishing and end to the sin of abortion will come through the changing of individual hearts and minds through conversation, prayer, and outreach. A diminishing and end to war and genocide will come from massively shrinking governments such that they have neither the funds nor the legal authority to go off on escapades around the world.