DERNBACH: Catholicism in politics

The Catholic Church increasingly finds itself on the wrong side of history. Gone is the age when ecclesiastical authority reigned across the Western world. Gone is the age when emperors would kneel in the snow for days on end, praying for the pope to rescind excommunication. Gone is the age when men thought that obedience to the Church was necessary for living and leading in this world.

This presidential election is unprecedented in at least one respect: There is a Catholic on each ticket. However, if we look to the issues — abortion, for example — one candidate is more Catholic than the other. Vice President Joe Biden self-identifies as Catholic. Yet, he is publicly pro-choice, a position which he maintains in direct opposition to the Church’s teachings. If we take the long view of history (from the first to the 19th century), public “Catholic” figures like Biden would be excommunicated.

But Rep. Paul Ryan, too, is not as Catholic now as he was before the presidential race began. To agree with Romney’s platform, he has compromised his views on abortion, saying it should be legal in cases of rape and incest. This is not in line with the Church’s teachings, but should Ryan also be excommunicated? The fact is that Ryan’s newly found views represent the Church’s greatest opportunity to see its teachings put into, albeit restrained, practice. And the fact that Catholics have to make vast moral compromises in order to get even a shadow of their beliefs enacted into law should worry everyone in the Church.

To be clear, you can be a pro-choice Catholic, but you cannot be both pro-choice and a good Catholic. For, to be pro-Choice means either to oppose willfully the Church’s teachings or to be ignorant of the Church’s teachings.

Of course, everyone who is baptized Catholic is technically Catholic for life. But, it is nonsensical to be Catholic and also dispense fundamental Church teachings. Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski recently said, “the Church — clergy and laity — while agreeing to disagree on other matters of prudential judgment cannot but oppose the evils of abortion … In [this area], there can be no other legitimate Catholic position.” Meaning, there are some issues on which members of the Church can disagree; there are some on which members cannot. The latter are definite and clear Church teachings, values Catholics cannot disavow.

This year’s election is evidence of the fact that Catholic values as the Church teaches them are politically toxic. Consequently, Catholics must support Catholic candidates who have compromised on Catholic values (i.e. Ryan), or face a situation in which the winning candidate does not support Catholic values at all (i.e. Biden). The Church, too, does not risk excommunicating its members because the media fallout would be too great; it is already hemorrhaging members, and it does not want to lose any more. It would appear that in this political and cultural climate, the Church is simply trying to hang on for dear life.

For the past fifty years, approximately a quarter of the U.S. population has self-identified as Catholic. Additionally, the largest religious group in America is non-practicing Catholics. Catholics as a voting bloc have the political power to leverage Church teachings into federal law. So why don’t they?

That is not to say that Catholics should bully lawmakers to make everyone get baptized and follow the precepts of the Church. It means this: Enough Americans support abortion, for example, that any politician who wants to be elected has to be pro-choice to some degree. So too, there are enough Catholics, if they act as one body, to effectively lobby lawmakers and make it politically untenable for them to enact pro-choice laws and support pro-choice institutions.

If we inform and rededicate ourselves to Church teachings — uniting as one political power — there is every reason to believe that we can elect a candidate who supports Catholic values in their entirety.

Matthew Dernbach is a senior in Trumbull College. Contact him at matthew.dernbach@yale.edu .

Comments

  • The Anti-Yale

    Yale Divinity School Professor for 40 years, Sister Margaret Farley, is censured by the Vatican for her book, **JUST LOVE: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics.**

  • SAK7

    Despite Mr. Dernbach’s clear and simple teaching on the faith, to be clear, you can no more be a pro-choice Catholic than a vegan Zombie. The terms are mutually exclusive.

  • s2010

    Mr. Dernbach, the problem with your last statement is that many of us who are born and raised Catholics do not agree with some of the church’s teachings and so have no interest in “rededicating” ourselves to those teachings and voting as a group for a candidate who does. I still identify as Catholic, but I AM pro choice–not because I believe abortion is a good solution, but because I believe it needs to be available, because birth control is not nearly as widely available as it should be and teaching abstinence does not work.

    I’d like to remain a part of the Catholic church, but it seems like you don’t want me and others like me to do so. But the thing is, there may be as many or more of us in our generation of Catholics as there are of you, so if we go, there might not be all that many people left.

    • ldffly

      The point of your second paragraph leads me to believe that you would prefer a church with some sort of congregational polity. (Which I myself prefer.) Is that the case? If so, I doubt whether Roman Catholicism will ever head in that direction.

      • s2010

        You know, I’m not sure. Maybe! Or at least a church open to reform. I’m also for gay marriage, which another area where my beliefs don’t line up with the church’s teachings, so I guess I’m looking for the church to be more open-minded and loving. It’d be nice if it could get there, but it never will if people like me feel completely pushed out.

        • xfxjuice

          It’s called “atheism.”

          • LtwLimulus90

            Nope.

          • ldffly

            It could also be called Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Lutheran, etc.

        • SAK7

          S2010… do remember when your parent’s yelled at you for playing with matches, or running across the street without looking first? I’m sure at the time you felt angry at them for being so mean not understanding your inner pyro needs no matter how damaging. To infer Catholic Church is a less loving church than others who allow different behaviors is an immature view of the faith.

          • s2010

            I disagree (though I guess you probably knew that based on my previous comments). It’s a view that all communities and institutions do sometimes need to reform themselves, and that just because something has been taught in the past doesn’t make it true—or in line with other important teachings of the church. As Catholics, and as Christians, we’re meant to be compassionate and loving, and to deny consenting adults the right to marry–since it’s clear doing so does not hurt anyone–does not make sense. With abortion, I believe the church could still be pro life and work to make this a world where abortion isn’t necessary—without making abortion illegal or villifying women who are in a desperate situation.

            Also—I think comparing thinking gay marriage is okay and wanting a woman to be able to make choices about her body and her health with being a pyro is a little extreme—lighting things on fire for fun is reckless and hurtful to others. I don’t think anyone gets married or has an abortion to hurt someone or for the heck of it.

          • RexMottram08

            What is marriage? The Church has spent 2000 years thinking and praying about it. Take some time, and come back to me.

          • s2010

            It’s a commitment between two people who love each other to spend their lives together and take care of each other. It does not have to be for procreation, because there are plenty of marriages that are childless and that doesn’t make them valid.

            If the church (or any church) wants to continue to define it as being between a man and a woman, that’s the church’s business—I and many others may not agree with it, but for now that’s that. But pushing to block civil marriage for loving couples who happen to be homosexual is not right.

          • s2010

            *doesn’t make them invalid.

          • CrazyBus

            Certainly the Catholic church is not infallible. Never have they made mistakes in the past.

            What about the apologies its made? I guess they must have been insincere.

  • CharlieWalls

    A great comment, s2012. Mr. Dernbach pretty well said everything worth writing in his first paragraph. I wonder what Yale class he might be a part of — 1492?

    • LtwLimulus90

      That wasn’t clever.

  • joematcha

    What the Church teaches and what people believe should be government policy do not have to be the same for someone to be Catholic. It is entirely possible to be a pro-choice Catholic who privately follows the Church’s teachings.

    Besides, you are simplifying politics to a ridiculous point. The Church has many views on what the government should be doing for the poor, for example, and in general politicians in the US who are anti-abortion do not advocate for those policies. Thus, Catholics have to decide what is more important to them when voting – their beliefs and the Church’s stance regarding aid to the poor or their belief and the Church’s stance on when life begins. And there are many, many more policy considerations than that.

    • River_Tam

      > It is entirely possible to be a pro-choice Catholic who privately follows the Church’s teachings.

      It’s entirely possible to be anti-murder but still respect the rights of others to commit murder?

      • s2010

        It’s possible to be a Catholic who is pro the life of the mother and to recognize that the choices I would make for my body in a situation are not necessarily the choices that someone else needs to make in the situation she is in.

        The best answer, in my opinion, is to create an educational system and a health care system where everyone who is having sex and does not want children has access to and uses birth control, so that abortion is only necessary in cases of rape or where the pregnancy threatens the mother’s health, but we’re not there.

        • LtwLimulus90

          Your first paragraph is just some artful sidestepping of the issue that all pro-choicers use to make themselves feel better about their position. River_Tam’s appraisal of the issue is correct. How would you answer her question?

          • s2010

            I don’t think being compassionate is sidestepping—if I got pregnant accidentally I hope I would be strong enough to have the baby, but if I were raped? I don’t think I would be. Would you be? And how do you feel about my second paragraph? Are you okay with extending birth control for everyone?

            With regards to River’s question… I guess I would have to step away from the Catholic view and say no, life does not begin at conception. Having an abortion is not murder. I am so not qualified to decide where life begins (I am against late in term abortions, unless carrying to term would kill the mother), but I cannot class ending a pregnancy as near to the start as possible in the same category as killing a five-year-old, or even a newborn.

          • River_Tam

            > I guess I would have to step away from the Catholic view and say no, life does not begin at conception.

            So then, you’re NOT both following Catholic doctrine and being pro-choice, correct?

          • s2010

            Yes, I’m not following Catholic doctrine, and I am pro-choice except in cases of late term abortion.

          • River_Tam

            > Yes, I’m not following Catholic doctrine, and I am pro-choice except in cases of late term abortion.

            So why did you respond to my post, which was specifically responding to the claim that it was possible to be pro-choice while ‘following the Church’s teachings’?

          • s2010

            I suppose I responded because the original statement was about *privately * following the Church’s teachings (i.e. being against abortion as a choice for one’s self). If I were to become pregnant accidentally, I hope I’d be strong enough to follow the Church’s teaching, because I do believe that abortion is a terrible thing. But believing that it’s terrible doesn’t keep me from seeing that making it illegal won’t make the problem of unwanted pregnancies magically go away, or from believing that this is an issue where each woman (and her doctor) needs to make the decision for herself and her unborn child.

          • CrazyBus

            So are you claiming that one must adhere strictly to every piece of the church’s teachings in order to consider herself as a follower of the church?

          • LtwLimulus90

            I am definitely Ok with people using birth control, as long as we’re not forcing people who believe birth control is wrong to pay for it.

            I agree that plans you suggest in your second paragraph sound good. I wonder, however, what affect the availability and ubiquity of abortion have on our recklessness when we have sex, especially when we’re teenagers.

            I think you need to figure out, since you don’t know when *life* beings (and here we mean “valuable” human life or perhaps even the development of a soul, because technically, the life of the fetus does begin at conception-he/she/it IS alive), WHY you don’t believe “life” begins at conception, where you think it does, and why, if you can’t figure that out, it’s ok to go about doing things that might be murder, but also might not.

          • s2010

            I think the “forcing people who believe birth control is wrong to pay for it” is difficult to support—should I not have to pay taxes that support public schooling because I don’t have children, or not pay into my insurance plan because it pays for someone else’s Viagara? I understand that it gets complicated when it’s an employer who doesn’t want to pay, but I think someone’s health care should be between the person and his or her doctor, and pregnancy and the prevention thereof is a health issue.

            I would hope no one about to have sex thinks, “Well, if something happens, I can just have an abortion.” If they do (and maybe I’m just naive), we have even more of an education problem, but I don’t think it’s one that making abortion illegal will solve. I’d rather not have desperate women having illegal abortions in alleys and dying have to be a cautionary tale for teenagers thinking about having sex.

            I’ll think about your last paragraph, because you have some good points. I do wish that there could be more understanding between pro choice and pro lifers—I feel that sometimes those of us who are pro choice are looked at as being pro abortion. I wish we lived in a world where no one who didn’t want to be pregnant became pregnant (and for that matter, where no one who wanted to have children was unable to). But unfortunately that’s not the point.

          • RexMottram08

            should I not have to pay taxes that support public schooling because I don’t have children, or not pay into my insurance plan because it pays for someone else’s Viagara?

            I support 100% private education, and total de-regulation of health care. So the answer is: No. You should not have to pay into those institutions.

          • s2010

            Okay, but keep extending it. I don’t drive a car or take buses–why should my taxes pay for roads or stoplights? (Or—if I do drive a car, should my taxes be used to subsidize public transportation?) I’ve never committed a crime–should I have to pay for police officers? Or if I hate nature, should my taxes go to maintaining parks?

            Yes, they should, because taxes are the price we pay for living in a community. If you want to go live on a private island, grow your own food, supply your own power, and live inside a bubble that no one can penetrate, go for it—but most of us don’t live like that. We can’t pick and choose where our taxes go, and we shouldn’t be able to deny people the healthcare they need because we don’t want to “pay for it”.

            And I’m sorry, but 100% private education is unacceptable. My parents are both highly educated people, but sending me to private school would have been a huge (and probably impossible) burden. And we are a middle class family. You cannot tell someone that the education they deserve is only what they can afford.

        • SAK7

          You can’t be a big “C” Catholic unless you are in communion with the teachings of the Catholic church. You can be a little “c” catholic if you want to self identify with many of the teachings, but reject significant others. Abortion and birth control are both seen as intrinsically evil and to cooperate with evil is a mortal sin. Mortal sin removes you from the communion with the Church. There is much theology behind the position you reject… I suggest a dive into JPII’s Theology of the Body teachings to better understand the holistic view of the Body and it’s relevance to salvation.

          • s2010

            The thing is, diving into the theology won’t change my mind. I don’t see birth control as evil because I see pregnancy as, among everything else, a women’s health issue, and no women should become pregnant unless she wants to be. Period. And as I said in another comment, abstinence only education does not work. People have pre-marital sex, even when they are raised in a culture that forbids it. My Catholic parents told me to use birth control if I started having sex. I’m sure they aren’t the only ones.

            Also, where does being little “c” catholic leave me? Am I not allowed to take Communion, despite being a full, confirmed member of the church? Until the Church decides to excommunicate all us heretics who were raised in it but don’t agree with all the teachings, I’ll continue to attend.

          • LtwLimulus90

            Where does your moral code come from, I wonder?

          • s2010

            From my own understanding a loving God, from my parents who raised me (but who don’t agree with me on absolutely everything), from my reason, and from my belief in the value of life.

            That last one does make me being pro-choice problematic, and I accept that. I’ve never been one to value one life over another (American lives aren’t more valuable than lives of people abroad), but I do in the case of a mother’s life over the life of an unborn child. That seems inconsistent, I know, but it’s not a black and white issue.

        • River_Tam

          > It’s possible to be a Catholic who is pro the life of the mother and to recognize that the choices I would make for my body

          You’re already framing it in an un-Catholic way by presenting it as a “choice for YOUR body” rather than a choice for your body AND your unborn child’s body. THAT is why you can’t be pro-Choice and actually follow the Church’s teachings.

          • s2010

            True, I didn’t express that well—of course the life of the unborn child needs to be considered. The quality of life the child will have is important. But unwanted pregnancies don’t always result in a good quality of life. Until we can guarantee that we will help to take care of mothers and the children they did not want to bear, I don’t think we have the right to force someone to carry a baby to term. We can’t deny someone access to affordable birth control, deny her an abortion when she wants one, and then refuse to give her and her newborn child financial support. Unless we want to say that no one should have non-procreative sex, ever, and since many, many Catholics do have non-procreative sex… I don’t think we can say that. I suppose you could argue that no one should have sex who can’t afford a baby if an accident happens, but that also seems like a poor line of reasoning.

            I think that I can see myself as Catholic without following all of the church’s teachings. The Church (and others within it) may very well not agree with it. Eventually this might mean that I leave the church (and I won’t be the only one). Which, considering it’s been an important part of my life, makes me sad.

          • CrazyBus

            s2010, you are the most reasonable person on this board.

            Everything you say is on point. I think the quality of life the unwanted pregnancy would be born into is too often neglected.

            Also, doesn’t the Catholic Church teach against birth control?

          • s2010

            Thanks CrazyBus, I try to be! I don’t usually comment on articles but this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and if nothing else it was a good exercise in figuring out how to express my thoughts.

            And yup, the Catholic Church does teach against birth control, but as my mom pointed out, how many Catholic families these days do you see with 5+ children? They use birth control for family planning. My parents told me to use birth control if I decided to have sex, and I learned about the ABCs at Youth Group: Abstinence, Birth Control, and Condoms.

  • BijanAboutorabi

    With all due respect, Joematcha, it is you are simplifying politics. The Church understands that political choices involve many factors and considerations, but then distinguishes between those principles that cannot be compromised and what are called matters of prudence, where people of good faith can disagree. The sanctity of life is in the former group, as is the duty to help the poor; but how government can help the poor is a prudential matter. (For instance, is it really in the poor’s best interest that we stick with unsustainable entitlement programs that will bankrupt our country?) But—this is a fact—no Catholic is free to believe that abortion is anything other than homicide. No Catholic is free to believe that the 4000 or so abortions that take place every day in this country are not so many murders. And it’s really hard to see why abortion should be legal given that premise.

    • SY13

      Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ. You’re conflating civic structure with religious structure in a nonsensical way. Using your logic wrt welfare, it’s the case that legalized abortion is also a prudential matter, because people without access to safe pregnancy termination procedures could kill themselves via infections gotten from back-alley abortions. Do you *really* want to give the state, one that still has the death penalty on the table in a lot of places, the ability to enforce a controversial and definitely not majority definition of what murder is?

      • BijanAboutorabi

        Nice Greek. The protection of innocent life against violent homicide is not a prudential matter but a first principle of justice. The state already enforces a controversial (and wrong) definition by omitting to forbid abortion. The only way to avoid enforcing a definition of murder would be to abolish murder laws. So yes, I want the state to enforce a definition of murder, and the right one; whether it is controversial depends on whether people insist on making controversy about it.

        • SY

          Bijan, though I agree with you generally, calling abortion murder is not helpful argument–you are trying to persuade. The Caltholic Church does not call women who have abortions murderers (sinners). About 35 million American women have had about 50 million abortions (some more than once), and as many men are involved. Some regret that choice, but calling them murderers does not enlist them to support different choices ever. It also makes them one issue voters, when they vote, which loses them for all other decent causes.

          • RexMottram08

            The Catholic Church doesn’t regard abortion as a sin?!?!

            No, you couldn’t possibly have meant what you typed.

      • River_Tam

        > Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ

        I don’t even read Greek and I knew what you were saying. I think that’s pretty cool.

    • Aparent

      With all due respect, Bijam, it’s really not that difficult. See, we have this tradition in the United States called “separation of church and state.” It means that what I believe cannot dictate what you are to believe or the laws you must live by. It means that the Catholic ideas regarding “sanctity of life” (and contraception) cannot dictate United States law. Until there is irrefutable scientific evidence that “life” (as the Catholic Church defines it) begins at conception, abortion must remain legal.

      • BijanAboutorabi

        Let me distinguish between two positions.

        1) There are reasonable arguments for protecting human life in the womb which all citizens, Catholics or not, can access and should accept.
        2) Catholic doctrine requires, without exception or extenuation, that all Catholics accept the sanctity of innocent human life, including human life in the womb, and work to enshrine that in law.

        My comment was meant primarily to advance the second proposition. There is no excuse for Catholics not being (and voting) pro-life. This point matters for people who are Catholic but not for people (like yourself, unless I misunderstand you) who are not.

        But the first proposition is also true. This is a common misconception; the pro-life position, while a dogma of the Church, is not a supernatural fact knowable only through revelation. All that it takes to know that abortion is wrong is conscience and reason diligently applied. Your last sentence supplies the reason why. The Catholic Church doesn’t have a special definition of “life.” When we say the unborn child is alive, we mean that in the most literal, prosaic sense of the word. From the moment of conception an unborn child is a living organism of the human species: it takes in nourishment, it grows, it develops endogenously, it possesses its own unique genetic sequence. It is, objectively, a human being. There is no reasonable scientific definition of life which it does not satisfy. The special pleading about this question is all on the pro-choice side.

        • Aparent

          Regarding how Catholics vote, I believe that any responsible Catholic should evaluate ALL issues, not just one (abortion), when choosing who to vote for. It is highly unlikely that any single candidate will satisfy all the religious requirements of any single religion. My personal opinion is that the threat to human life (indeed, to human civilization) posed by global warming far exceeds the threat posed by legal abortion. Regarding the definition of “life,” a zygote does indeed possess life, but so did last night’s dinner. A zygote is a POTENTIAL human being, but is not “objectively” a human being until it can survive outside the womb. The anti-choice argument relies on the idea of a human “soul,” of which there is no scientific evidence.

          • LtwLimulus90

            What is your definition of human being? Because a zygote is certainly a member of the species. And also, there is a near CERTAINTY that the zygote will become a living and functioning human being outside the womb, at least in the United States.

          • Aparent

            “a man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.” – Oxford Dictionaries
            (no zygotes)

        • FCCG

          The current archbishop of Philly, once said something like, “Abortion is not wrong because the Catholic Church opposes it, rather the Church opposes it because it is wrong.” There are even atheists out there who are pro-life.

          Also to echo what others say…it makes no sense to say that you accept the Church’s teaching on abortion privately while remaining politically pro-choice, unless you also question the very need for murder laws. I suppose someone might advocate justice be handled privately, blood-feud style, but otherwise there is a big disconnect.

          • joematcha

            I think saying there is a big disconnect is really disingenuous. The reason anyone cares about abortion being legal at all is because women should have control over their reproductive systems. There is a direct conflict between the right of the woman over her body and any possible rights a fetus could be granted. There is no such conflict between a murderer and their victim, except when someone is killed in self-defense, for which we have other laws.

          • CrazyBus

            Exactly.

          • CrazyBus

            >There are even atheists out there who are pro-life.

            There are even Catholics who are pro-choice.

            Except, evidently, there are other Catholics who are disowning pro-choice Catholics.

        • Aparent
        • Aparent
        • wellobviously

          > The Catholic Church doesn’t have a special definition of “life.”

          You’re wrong, Bijan. Judaism, for instance, does not share Catholicism’s definition of life in utero. No rabbinic scholar would classify as a three-week old fetus (much less a recently fertilized zygote) as a human being. The rabbis have ruled that a fetus is not alive until it breathes and that it must be able to survive outside of the mother’s womb for at least a day to be considered a truly viable life.

          Just because your views seem intuitive and obvious to you does not, in fact, indicate that they are objective truths. Your totalizing assertions overlook whole traditions’ worth of debate on this particular question. These traditions–both secular and religious–offer competing and compelling answers.

          The simple fact of your convictions does not actually make them incontestable, universal realities.

      • LtwLimulus90

        You are so out of your league here, Aparent. And your patronizing tone is hilariously ironic.

      • LtwLimulus90

        All laws reflect a moral system and a morally-directed restriction on behavior that is ENFORCED on others.

        • Aparent

          Shared morals exist in both the presence and absence of religion and do not require a belief in the supernatural. It is these shared morals upon which we base our laws.

          • LtwLimulus90

            Being pro-life does not depend on belief in the supernatural either.

          • LtwLimulus90

            Do you think everyone agrees with every law? If not, wouldn’t that moral ethic be enforced on those who disagree?

    • mrmike527

      I don’t understand why it’s just taken as a given that a practicing Catholic must consider an unborn child/fetus to be a living thing.

      Genesis 2:7: And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

      God gives life through breath, suggesting that life does not exist until breath. Of course we can pick and choose different bible verses to redefine life–my point is less that the bible dictates life begins at breath, and more that the bible has conflicting messages about life. Why is a Catholic not free to agree with the passage found in Genesis, or to choose a different part of the bible to define the beginning of life?

      Again, I am not arguing for a definition of life, but for ambiguity in the religious definition. The debate is not over the sanctity of life, but the definition of life, and I certainly don’t think the bible settles that debate.

      • SAK7

        Things that don’t breath are not alive? Curious comment. As for defining things, sometimes it’s important to remember a duck is a duck.

        • CrazyBus

          Yes, indeed, the bible does make that curious comment.

  • ldffly

    Disclosure: Protestant Infidel.

    Question: Does current Church teaching on politics countenance the covenant (contract) theory of the state? If not, then is the government of the USA illegitimate in the Church’s eyes? Or does the Church have an alternative view as to the grounding principles of the USA?

    • SY

      Yes, U.S. Catholics are part of a constitutional government. They can vote and persuade, but accept law.

      This article implies that abortion is a presidential issue. It is not. It is decided by the S.Ct. (2nd or 4th amendment?–quartering soldiers, privacy) or state law (10th amendment). Most people think that overturning Roe v. Wade would make abortions illegal. It would not. That would merely return the issue to the states. Then, only Utah would make abortions illegal (and Mormons appear to support exceptions for rape, incest and life of mother if Romney’s statement is Mormon belief). CA, NY and IL, and some other states, would have no limits at all on abortion, and anyone could drive to those states for any abortion. Though I don’t like abortions, that would end the culture war. Catholics and others would accept majority rule. Ginsburg has said that Roe v. Wade was harmful because the states were already passing and sorting out the issue when the S.Ct. took it from them. Reagan had signed a very liberal abortion law in CA, which he thought would be used rarely. A lesson may be that the S.Ct. should let states approve gay marriage/unions, rather than impose it under the anti-slavery 14th amendment for “equal protection”, to avoid the backlash and political/culture war in the abortion argument.

      • ldffly

        My experience with Catholic thinkers and reading Catholic theory of the state (admittedly, back in the 70s and 80s) tells me that there is underlying scepticism at best towards the idea of contract being at the ground of the state. In discussion, some were explicit that they saw covenant theory as having its roots in Calvinist theology and for that reason alone they were sceptical and saw it as either non Catholic or anti Catholic. Hobbes especially, but also Locke, were their villains in political theory.

        That contract theory has relevance to the abortion issue appears to me to come down to whether anybody gives up to the government the right to defend their life. I don’t think anyone does give up that right to a government formed out of consent to a covenant. I can’t see any basis for the government to tell a woman that she must bear a child to term if conception was the result of rape. I also don’t see the government having the authority to tell a woman she must bear a child if that pregnancy would threaten her life. Surely, there are prudential/practical issues involved in writing regulation along these lines, but those don’t undo the basic principle at stake.

        That being said I believe the bottom line on abortion is that it does involve the taking of a human life. The rape, life of the mother situations are exceptions to the fact that a pregnancy generates a human being and that life deserves protection from abortion. That’s why I’m an opponent of Roe.

  • The Anti-Yale

    In the absence of a culturally agreed upon definition of when life begins there is no way to prove that all abortions ARE homicide.

    There is no way to prove that they AREN’T either.

    Aye, there’s the rub.

    My position is that eventually the culture will have an ‘emotional collapse’ over the uncertainty attendant on 54, million of these acts which have been performed since Roe v.Wade was handed down, That’s almost ten times the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

    Sooner or later we will begin to mutter, I’m not comfortable with all this.

    PK

    MDIV80MAmed

    PS

    My paper, “Sex and Abortion” , for Outka’s Religious Ethics course, speaks to this in heavy, ethical jargon. [http://sexandabortion.blogspot.com/][1]

    [1]: http://sexandabortion.blogspot.com/

    • Aparent

      I think a lot of us are already uncomfortable with this. That is why we are working to make contraception freely available to any woman who desires to use it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful it all pregnancies (and children) were wanted?

      • LtwLimulus90

        How can you be uncomfortable with it if you don’t believe it is murder in some form? What about abortion makes so many liberals and pro-choicers uncomfortable? It’s not a REAL human being after all, right? Women have a RIGHT to choose what to do with THEIR bodies! What’s the issue?

        • Aparent

          Easy. For starters, it causes many women to be subjected to hateful comments from complete strangers, it’s difficult for many women to obtain, it’s not a particularly pleasant experience to undergo, and it should be unnecessary! Given a choice between having an abortion and not needing one in the first place, I’m pretty sure most women would chose the latter.

          • LtwLimulus90

            Ok I can see that. I interpreted your response to Mr. Keane’s moral argument as a defense on the same grounds. But were abortion painless and free, you would have no issue with millions of abortions taking place every year in all three terms of pregnancy?

  • yalemarxist

    >The Catholic Church increasingly finds itself on the wrong side of history

    All religion is alienation from one’s self and from one’s species-being, and is by definition on the wrong side of history. Once, the Catholic Church devoted itself to convincing slaves around the Mediterranean that they could be liberated, yet it could not promise liberation in this world and on this earth. The revolutionary has superseded Catholicism, for the proletariat now knows that that liberation can come now.

  • morse_14

    Catholicism is more about culture than religion. From that standpoint, this article is nonsensical. (Of course, my premise is probably going to be eviscerated by somebody on these comment boards, but that notwithstanding, I truly believe it.)

    • The Anti-Yale

      Well, I’m a protestant and I would be mightily impoverished if our world did not have Gregorian chants and stained glass windows, and the Baldaccino and the Sistine Chapel.

      However, the RCC does not think of itself as culture, it thinks of itself as incontrovertible Truth, a dangerous proposition in any religion.

      • CrazyBus

        In this, I agree with you

    • ldffly

      “Of course, my premise is probably going to be eviscerated by somebody on these comment boards . . . . ”

      Doesn’t that happen in class anymore?

    • SAK7

      It’s a poverty to close your mind so.

      • morse_14

        I’m not closed-minded; I think that this is a perfectly valid argument, given the premise. I just think that the premise is wrong, and I’d be happy to talk about it with the author in person. Lord knows I’ve defended it plenty of times before in conversations after Mass.

  • CharlieWalls

    Why so much about a difficult (for some) interpretation: Is a zygote an “unborn child”? Adults condemned to death are unquestionably human lives. Yet relatively no concern is preached in this country against capital punishment. So called pro-lifers will actually turn their backs to you if asked about capital punishment.

    • CBKM

      I know plenty of conservative Catholics and traditionalist Christians who are ardently against the death penalty.

      http://old.usccb.org/deathpenalty/

      I can’t speak for Protestants, but what you’ve said is not true of the Catholics and Orthodox Christians I’ve known and whose works I’ve read.

  • wellobviously

    More conservative whining. You can’t get people to vote your candidate into office on politics alone, so now you’re trying to guilt them into it by calling their faith into question. Keepin’ it classy!

    • LtwLimulus90

      Meg, who let you back in the house?

  • The Anti-Yale

    [Term "Spirit" translates the Hebrew word ruah
    "The term "Spirit" translates the Hebrew word ruah, which, in its primary sense, means breath, air, wind. Jesus indeed uses the sensory image of the wind to suggest to Nicodemus the transcendent newness of him who is personally God's breath, the divine Spirit."][1]

    Breath (ruah) is Hebrew for spirit probably seen ex p[ost facto in the pre-medical ancient world as divine magic, when ruah left the body.

    Just more theological gobbleygook.

    There is no culturally accepted definition of when life begins.

    That makes 54 million abortions acts which we do not know for certain are NOT homicide, a completely unacceptable ambiguity given that 54 million is nearly six times the number of Jews killed in Hitler's ovens and death camps.
    http://sexandabortion.blogspot.com

    [1]: http://www.adishakti.org/_/term_spirit_translates_the_hebrew.htm

    • SAK7

      Your line of argument suggests some sort of value premise which is very uncomfortable. How many abortions equals does it take to equal one “legitimate” murder? The path suggests some life is more valued than others. Should we parse mentally challenged lives into a separate spreadsheet? How about other means to measure… Is there an appropriate ratio for Jews? Shinto? Blacks? Very uncomfortable with this apparent line of reasoning. Very.

      • ldffly

        Am I missing something here? Mr. Keane opposes abortion because the uncertainty of whether it’s murder is sufficient reason to make it illegal. That seems to be all that was at work in his post. He compares the quantity of abortions in this country to the quantity of killing in the Holocaust to make the point that this, too, could be considered a second Holocaust, at least in regard to its magnitude. I’m not sure you really have a disagreement. Or did I misunderstand?

        • LtwLimulus90

          You didn’t. SAK7 misunderstood

        • SAK7

          I support Mr Keane’s ultimate conclusion,but not the path he follows to reach it. The premise that a ratio of 6 fetus to 1 live birth as being the threshold upon which having been crossed it’s time to take action is arbitrary and slippery. Build your argument on solid rock, not gravel on a hillside.

  • The Anti-Yale

    http://sexandabortion.blogspot.com

    [If you read my paper][1] “Sex and Aborrtion” (which I admit is full of deadly dull ethical jargon), my point is not that abortion should be illegal or that abortion is murder, but that the culture will sooner or later collapse under the subconscious guilt of accumulating acts which we do not know are NOT murder.

    The Holocaust allusion was not to valorize certain lives over others, but to certify that if we, as a culture feel shame and guilt over our silence at the genocide of six million Jews, then ten times that number of acts which we do not know are NOT slaughter, will certainly produce greater guilt and shame.

    My issue is the commission, in the face of “uncertainty,” of what might ultimately be found to be sin .

    I believe the last line of my paper says “In the meantime we wait, trapped in the wasteland of ethical stalemate.” That was 36 years and 50,000,000 abortions ago.

    [1]: http://sexandabortion.blogspot.com

    • SAK7

      I agree with your premise that the moral gravity will catch up with the culture. We may point to the slave trade as an historical example. Perhaps one day our culture will realize that modern transportation has allowed us to outsource slavery to Asia as goods are shipped in to support an unethical lifestyle. What I object to is the apparent dodge of the hard argument and for not planting a flag in the ground and saying “Here I stand. This is my ground. I defend this place.” As noted above, what appears to be a value ratio to 6:1 is an untenable approach.

      • RexMottram08

        Econ FAIL. See: Comparative advantage.

        The Developing world cannot develop without trading with the Developed world.

        • CrazyBus

          How did the developed world develop before any part of the world developed?

  • The Anti-Yale

    > As noted above, what appears to be a value ratio to 6:1 is an untenable approach.

    It is not a “value ratio”.

    It is IMKAGERY designed to put flesh and blood on statistics, since some people claim that a fetus is not flesh and blood.

    I fear there is an attempt to contrive an unnecessary ethical argument here.

    • ldffly

      That’s exactly the way I understood you. Imagery. I believe that what you point out stands as a rationale for undoing Roe.

      Anyway, I believe SAK7 is looking for a point of argument where there is none.

  • The Anti-Yale

    IMAGERY

  • The Anti-Yale

    @ ldffly:

    I am talking about subconscious societal angst, not Supreme Court decisions or their undoing.