Elections, Part 2: Against Obama advocacy

by SDG

in Government

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

SDG here (not Jimmy).

In my previous post I said "There are good reasons not to be thrilled with either of the two major candidates." I want to reiterate that. I don’t see the election this year as a holy crusade of Good Guys Against Bad Guys.

Specifically, I don’t see any Good Guys in this race, or even among the also-rans of the primaries. I’m skeptical of all the candidates — and of the judgment of anyone who isn’t. At this point, I believe any sensible person ought to be profoundly uneasy about all possible outcomes. I don’t begin to understand the much-mocked quasi-messianic euphoria on the one side, and on the other side, despite some energizing of the base after the VP pick, there is still plenty of room for misgivings.

The story of the hour, of course, is the historic financial crisis and the federal takeover of Fannie and Freddie. Fingers are pointing in all directions. Proposed narratives that lay all the blame on a single doorstep — the Administration or the GOP generally, the Congress or the Dems generally, Wall Street — strike me as dubious. Narratives that blame the abuse of money and power by all of the above, not necessarily in equal degree, seem much more plausible. I won’t muddy the waters with whatever ignorant notions I might have about how much guilt to assign where.

More to the point, it seems likely to me that there is no persuasive sense that either ticket necessarily represents the obviously right team to deal with the crisis. Any effort to cast the financial crisis as an obviously compelling reason to vote one way or the other would seem to suggest either extraordinary insight or else conjectural special pleading. Until I have reason to believe otherwise, my money (whatever that turns out to be worth next week) will be on the latter.

There are undoubtedly serious issues to be explored (and obfuscated) here. How much power does the executive branch actually need here? How much will they get? How may it be used or misused? How badly and unnecessarily may taxpayers be shafted, and what if anything can or will be done to minimize this? How egregiously have the rich and powerful abused their influence to their own advantage over the years, and what if anything can or will be done about that?

These are complex questions, and Catholic teaching, rooted in divine revelation, emphasizes that the enormity of the perennial abuse of the poor by the rich. There is also a long, sad track record suggesting that the practical answers are unlikely to approximate justice to any great extent. Rail against this by all means. Just don’t suppose that either ticket represents the white hats here to save us.

Other important problems loom. Ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq pose serious issues. Was it right to go to Iraq in the first place? How much unnecessary harm has been caused by bad or wrong decisions, including treatment of prisoners? What is the best course of action now? What approach to health care is best? How can we best care for the environment? What about other conflicts and crises around the globe? What about energy? And so on, and on.

With all these legitimate and pressing concerns, it may be understandable that some may look with fatigue at seemingly long-unchanging battle lines between well-entrenched sides in an issue like abortion, where too often candidates and politicians have offered lip service rather than leadership, and conclude that, in the absence of real hope for change on this subject, the political contest ought to be about other things.

After all — the style of thinking goes — has any pro-life candidate of either party at any level of government ever made enough of a difference on abortion to warrant hope that the outcome of this election might matter too? In this presidential election, how much will it really matter with regard to the unborn which party takes the White House? What about the argument of Catholics like Douglas Kmiec and Morning’s Minion who suggest that Obama’s overall agenda is either unlikely to affect abortion numbers, or might even help reduce abortion rates more than any pro-life action from McCain?

This style of thinking is understandable. It is also, I submit, fundamentally flawed and contrary to authentic Catholic principles.

Let’s review some basic considerations.

We all know that in Catholic moral and social thinking not all moral issues are of equal weight, nor do all involve moral absolutes. For example, in an oft-quoted passage from his 2004 memo to Cardinal McCarrick, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, contrasted the grave and intrinsic evils of abortion and euthanasia with the less black-and-white issues surrounding capital punishment and waging war:

Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not, however, with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

In this passage Ratzinger is addressing moral principles in the context of worthiness to receive communion, and while he excludes the possibility of a diversity of opinion on the morality of abortion and euthanasia, he does not specifically address the question of support for or opposition to laws legitimizing or proscribing abortion and euthanasia.

However, in his landmark encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), which develops the ideas of the "culture of life" and the "culture of death," Pope John Paul II argues that the right to life is "the fundamental right and source of all other rights," and that the "first and most immediate application" of the connection between civil law and moral law absolutely excludes "laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia":

Now the first and most immediate application of this teaching concerns a human law which disregards the fundamental right and source of all other rights which is the right to life, a right belonging to every individual. Consequently, laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual … In this way the State contributes to lessening respect for life and opens the door to ways of acting which are destructive of trust in relations between people. Laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are therefore radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good; as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity. (EV 72)

Because the right to life is the ground of all other rights, efforts to seek or pursue the "common good" while denying or undermining the right to life are fundamentally fraudulent:

It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized. Only respect for life can be the foundation and guarantee of the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and peace. (EV 101)

Again, from John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (The Lay Faithful):

The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights — for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture — is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination. (CL 38)

The US bishops pastoral statement Faithful Citizenship concurs:

There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society … A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, "abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others" (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed. (FC 22)

Faithful Citizenship concludes: "The direct and intentional destruction of human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed" (FC 28).

It is not enough, then, to hold that abortion and euthanasia are intrinsic evils. Catholics must also regard laws legitimizing them as intrinsic evils antithetical to the foundational principles of civil society and law. A culture in which intrinsically evil acts attacking life itself are claimed as basic human freedoms — a legal system in which such acts are protected (and even funded) as basic human rights — is corrupted and poisoned at the very root. It is a society "without foundations," a house built on sand. Such a society can only represent a culture of death.

This is the crucial flaw in Kmiec’s approach. Here is Kmiec’s pitch:

Obama does not advocate the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, and orthodox Catholics do. We do for the very clear reason given by [Cardinal Francis] George in a Sept. 2 letter — namely, "one cannot favor the legal status quo on abortion and also be working for the common good."

That’s exactly right, but what’s wrong is for Republican partisans to claim this to be Obama’s position. It’s not. Rather, Obama believes there are alternative ways to promote the "culture of life," even given the law’s sanction of abortion. …

Both reasonable extrapolations from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics and a recent Catholic in Alliance for the Common Good study find that improving the economic well-being of the average family in general, and of the women facing the abortion decision in particular, can save unborn lives.

In these brief sentences, Kmiec radically distorts both Obama’s agenda and Catholic teaching. Technically, it is true that Obama does not merely "favor the legal status quo on abortion." Rather, he is firmly committed to further solidifying and advancing the legal status of abortion by signing the Freedom of Choice Act, which would apparently eradicate various limitations on abortion allowed by post-Roe Supreme Court decisions. He would also expand public funding for abortion (e.g., rescinding the Mexico City policy), and would surely seek to liberalize access to abortion in other ways.

More fundamentally, though, talk of "alternative ways to promote the ‘culture of life’" while actively promoting abortion is rank contradiction. It is not enough merely "not to favor the legal status quo on abortion." As John Paul II wrote, "It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life." Kmiec’s argument seems downright disingenuous.

Even on a pragmatic level, the calculus of concluding that this pro-abortion candidate’s overall agenda might possibly impact abortion numbers more positively than that anti-abortion candidate’s overall agenda is dubious enough. Admittedly, if it were really true, and known to be true, it might be considered a knotty issue. Certainly the sheer scale of abortion numbers — millions of guiltless human lives legally snuffed out every year — dwarfs the enormity of other even other per se equally grave issues like euthanasia and ESCR, as well as serious issues of non-intrinsic evil such as the death penalty and the war in Iraq. Anything that reduces the incidence of abortion is obviously to that extent a good thing.

However, in the first place, the argument assumes what is at best unknowable, if not outright dubious. Who really knows what will happen to the abortion rate in the next four or eight years even regardless which party is in office, or what effect any particular administration’s policies will or won’t have on it? If we can’t even say for sure why abortion rates have behaved as they have in the recent past, how can we claim to plot varying trajectories going into the future? If it’s all about actual outcomes, who knows how a candidate’s stated agenda will affect his performance in office — or how successful he will be at implementing his agenda?

It may be true, as Kmiec argues, that "improving the economic well-being of the average family in general, and of the women facing the abortion decision in particular, can save unborn lives." Of course, it’s also true that the "economic well-being of the average family in general" rests at least significantly on factors beyond any president’s control, even assuming that Obama would pursue the right policies successfully while McCain would not.

More pointedly, actions like rescinding the Mexico City policy (which Obama would certainly do) and signing the Freedom of Choice Act (which he is determined to do, and which he may well have at least as much chance of succeeding at doing as "improving the economic well-being of the average family in general") would cost unborn lives. How exactly does Kmiec’s calculus account for that?

In the end, though, what makes Kmiec’s reasoning not just dubious but finally indefensible is that the root issue is not merely numbers, but the radical corruption of the first principle of justice in law. Even if, theoretically, a pro-choice candidate’s agenda were to reduce the incidence of abortion, it would be gains built on sand as long as the law continues to call evil good and good evil. It is the first and most fundamental responsibility of civil society to safeguard the right to life of every member of the community. The law must recognize this first and most fundamental duty before it can begin to fulfill it.

In our society today, the juridical fiat, functioning as law, that the right to end innocent human life is guaranteed in our nation’s foundational legal document subverts the whole basis of civil law and jurisprudence more critically than any other injustice we face. This is not to elevate abortion above other life issues in terms of moral gravity; it’s just that we are not (yet) burdened by a Supreme Court decision positing iron-clad constitutional warrant for, say, the right to "die with dignity." In American rule of law as we know it today, the fiction of the "right to choose" is the knife in the heart of justice. Or the scissors in the back of the skull.

Just as the culture of death is not simply a matter of numbers, it is also not simply a matter of existing pro-abortion legislation and jurisprudence. Political advocacy from candidates and politicians militating against the right to life, including advocacy of abortion, euthanasia, ESCR and therapeutic cloning, is also a taproot of the culture of death. Above and beyond the policies they implement, simply by espousing abortion and euthanasia as "rights" — by defining freedom in the public square in terms of "freedom" to end human life — candidates and politicians actively foster and advance the culture of death. Such advocacy is to political life what pro-abortion legislation and jurisprudence is in the legal sphere — a cancer at the root.

For reasons to be discussed later, we can’t write in stone that a politician who advocates an intrinsically immoral policy, even legalized abortion, must always be opposed by all Catholics. (If nothing else, I will argue that a pro-choice politician may always legitimately be supported over a more pro-choice politician, even if in particular cases other courses of action may be judged preferable. A less cancerous root is preferable to a more cancerous one.)

However, one cannot glibly reason that abortion numbers are likely to be unchanged or even improved by a candidate’s overall agenda, and so his pro-abortion advocacy doesn’t matter. It matters gravely. It is worse than having a hate-spewing racist or a pornographer in office. It is poisonous. A candidate who advocates legalized abortion, euthanasia, ESCR or human cloning gravely disqualifies himself for public service, not just for what he or she may do but for what he or she stands for.

Thus the Vatican’s Archbishop Raymond Burke, recently named Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (roughly the Vatican equivalent of the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice):

We cannot accept for ourselves a political leadership which does not safeguard the inviolable dignity of human life. Are there other issues? Of course there are, but the primary issue has to be the question of human life.

Does this mean that we should settle for lip service? Is it enough that candidates tell us what we want to hear once every four years and then go their merry way till the next election? For that matter, doesn’t McCain support ESCR?

No, we shouldn’t, and no, it isn’t, and yes, he does, or at least he has, though with qualifications, and there are signs that McCain may be shifting on ESCR (again, more later). I’m not now making the case for McCain, but the case against Obama (or any candidate with an Obama-like agenda). It is enough for now to note that while McCain’s qualified support of ESCR is a serious strike against him, Obama’s unqualified support is even more serious. On every issue touching directly on the most fundamental right and the source of all other rights, Obama’s stance is diametrically opposed to the foundations of the culture of life.

Very simply, Obama is the candidate of the culture of death. He’s probably the purest culture-of-death presidential candidate in American history.

Does that mean Catholics can or should support McCain simply because he’s not Obama? For now, let’s just say: It’s a start. I have more to say about this,  and will continue when I can.

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{ 141 comments }

CT September 25, 2008 at 1:14 am

There are two errors in your critique of Kmiec:
It may be true, as Kmiec argues, that “improving the economic well-being of the average family in general, and of the women facing the abortion decision in particular, can save unborn lives.” Of course, it’s also true that the “economic well-being of the average family in general” rests at least significantly on factors beyond any president’s control, even assuming that Obama would pursue the right policies successfully while McCain would not.
There are two errors you make here, one of which seems to run through the course of your post.
(1) It may be true that the course of the economy may be influenced negatively by factors beyond POTUS’ control. But that in itself is not relevant. If Obama’s policies would cushion such a negative turn more so than McCain’s, then the lower drop in “economic well being” would result in not as great a spike in abortions under Obama as there would be under McCain.
(2) Uncertainty is not a problem. An expected value calculus would take into account uncertainty. If one is risk averse in this area than a more complicated calculus may be needed, but a calculus can still be done. One pro-life person may like having a 2% chance that abortions will have over the course of the existence of the world, decreased by 1% under McCain versus Obama. Another may like having a 70% chance that they will have decreased over the course of the existence of the world, by 0.5% under Obama versus McCain.
Since economic development is cumulative and the relevant “economic well being” includes an absolute aspect, an Obama presidency could reduce abortions not only during his presidency and immediately afterwards, but have a trans-term influence that has about as much chance as having as dramatic an impact as a reversal of Roe v Wade would as would McCain’s presidency have a chance in being integral to the reversal of the same.

CT September 25, 2008 at 1:31 am

On your textual comments on magisterial sources
A law such as a judicial fiat that guarantees a right per se to abortion would contradict what you quoted from the previous pontiff in EV. However, the mere absence of laws criminalizing abortion, the mere absence of laws inflicting punishment on anyone involved in abortion do not contradict the previous pontiff. Indeed many argue that some should be excluded from such punishment; if all are excluded, whatever the demerits of that may be, it does not contradict the doctrine you cited against a law “authorizing” or “promoting” abortion. We have a complete absence of laws against telling white lies. But that fact does not mean that we have a law “authorizing” or “promoting” white lies.
On your cite of CL, it appears to me that contrary to American parlance, that Vatican parlance when speaking of “rights” is speaking of moral rights, not rights established or recognized in positive law, i.e. in secular law. The pontiff would argue that the right to life exists on some abstract or moral plane level whether it is recognized as such or not. But the state can “recognize” that the right to life exists — affirm that it is true that the right to life exists without “defending” it to the point of criminalizing abortion, punishing those involved in abortion. And one can “defend” the right to life, without respect to any push for a change in legal regime. For example, counseling women in compassionate ways and adopting children women do not wish to keep would be ways to “defend” the moral right to life. So I don’t find your cite of CL to serve your purpose.
On the bishops’ statement in FC, it would be correct that such a legal regime would be flawed from at the very least an intellectual perspective. However that is not the only alternative to a legal regime that criminalizes abortion. One alternative would be to simply not have the legal system address the matter of a woman’s right to choose at all — i.e. not claim that a woman has a right to abort, or even assert in a non-binding pre-amble to a law that a woman has no such right and that morally a fetus should be accorded life, that it has the moral right to life, and yet at the same time declare that no woman and no physician and no one else involved in a consensual abortion is subject to any legal penalty.
In any event, while Obama himself is not in conformity with Catholic teaching (and Kmiec never claimed that Obama was … who would say so in their right mind?), Kmiec clearly is. What is the best way to defend the right to life? Is it to push for a candidate who has a slim chance of contributing to a reversal of Roe or is it to push for a candidate who is committed to reducing the number of abortions as he said to his friend and evangelical pro-life Christian, Rick Warren?
One can also not be shortsighted in pursuit of a goal, ignoring what conditions may be necessary for that goal to be realized. For instance, let’s suppose that the pro-life position is the correct one. Then, presumably, greater education of the public would lead to greater realization among the public that it is the correct one (just as greater education has led to greater realization that evolution is true). So, then let’s suppose that overturning Roe and moreover making abortion rare and not recognized as a right of women is something that is unlikely to happen without greater education, perhaps an introduction of ethics classes in schools as some countries have in their schools. Let’s suppose that Obama is for this greater education whereas McCain is for cutting education or abolishing the Department of Education. Then, one may reasonably vote for Obama, regardless of Obama’s views — even if Obama wants to increase abortions — since an Obama candidacy will in the long run lead more to a more desirable outcome.
If Roe is the problem then in pursuit of the goal, what should be pursued is a lively debate among jurists and the legal community with engagement from the lay public. After all, there are pro-choice individuals who acknowledge that Roe was badly decided. But making Roe a pro-life litmus test for SCOTUS nominees prevents the lively debate that would be needed to overturn Roe. There’s no one in the US Senate who says that they have a pro-life litmus test for nominees and McCain doesn’t either. And he won’t be any different as POTUS. For when he named justices that he wouldn’t nominate to SCOTUS, he did not include Anthony Kennedy. Moreoever, he has been an ardent fan of Justice O’Connor, who cast some decisive votes favoring the pro-choice side while on SCOTUS.

Jeb Protestant September 25, 2008 at 4:11 am

CT,
Your position makes no sense. As Steve noted, Obama is for expanding the right to abortion. The fact that some states do have moderate restrictions on abortion (which Obama thinks should be invalidated) may reduce abortion and even send something of a message that abortion on demand isn’t desirable.
Also, please explain this:
______
Then, presumably, greater education of the public would lead to greater realization among the public that it is the correct one (just as greater education has led to greater realization that evolution is true). So, then let’s suppose that overturning Roe and moreover making abortion rare and not recognized as a right of women is something that is unlikely to happen without greater education, perhaps an introduction of ethics classes in schools as some countries have in their schools. Let’s suppose that Obama is for this greater education whereas McCain is for cutting education or abolishing the Department of Education. Then, one may reasonably vote for Obama, regardless of Obama’s views — even if Obama wants to increase abortions — since an Obama candidacy will in the long run lead more to a more desirable outcome.
_____
How is spending more money on education going to change people’s opinions on abortion? Given that Obama supported a bill that would have encouraged sex education for children in kindergarten, it is unlikely that an Obama style “ethics” class would teach anything about the immorality of abortion.

msb September 25, 2008 at 5:00 am

“More pointedly, actions like . . . signing the Freedom of Choice Act . . . would cost unborn lives. How exactly does Kmiec’s calculus account for that?”
More specifically, would cost at least 125,000 lives. A year. At minimum.
http://www.alliancealert.org/2008/09/23/125000-more-abortions-per-year-under-proposed-freedom-of-choice-act/
And the answer is, they don’t account for it. They ignore it.
It’s not plausible to say that parental involvement or informed consent laws don’t dissuade woman and girls from abortion, or that denial of government funding to poor women does not reduce abortion. Indeed, Kmiec’s whole point is that government funding to poor women will influence their choices.
But they cannot cite one single “pro-pregnancy” government fund that Obama would sign *and McCain would veto.* In addition, they ignore the fact that McCain’s platform explicitly calls for government assistance of pro-life pregnancy centers, who are the only people funding women to choose life. Meanwhile Obama’s controllers at Planned Parenthood are actively working to *outlaw* pro-life pregnancy centers.
Finally, even with poor republican records on Supreme Court justices, consider that Clinton appointed Ginsburg and Breyer. If Bush 1 had won and had appointed one good and one bad justice (which is the pathetic Republican average), the court’s vote margin would be completely different. This is what Obama will do in replacing Stevens and Ginsburg.
Some of them may also audaciously say that by voting for an enthusiastic pro-FOCA president and larger Democratic margins in Congress, FOCA won’t really pass. It’s like pointing a gun at my head and saying the bullet won’t really fire.
The idea that Obama and McCain = same number of abortions is patently absurd. Obama means hundreds of thousands of more abortions.
“Catholics must also regard laws legitimizing them as intrinsic evils antithetical to the foundational principles of civil society and law.”
Thank you–this is an outstanding point. Furthermore, there is no legitimate distinction, from the Catholic perspective, between “pro-choice” and pro-abortion. Stephen Douglas was pro-slavery.

SDG September 25, 2008 at 5:25 am

CT,
You are mistaken about the “errors” in question.
(1) is not an “error,” and you don’t argue that it is. You simply say it’s not “relevant,” but since I hadn’t specifically stated what the relevance is, you can’t show an error. But it is relevant: My point is that the economy is a big, complicated, confusing reality, and I am arguing for skepticism with regard to specific conclusions like “The economic benefits of this candidate’s policies over that candidate’s policies will have a greater downward effect on abortion numbers than the positive effect of this candidate’s pro-abortion policies versus that candidate’s anti-abortion policies.” That’s just nuts. Economics is not a differential equation that you solve for the right answer.
(2) Of course uncertainty is a “problem.” I don’t say it’s a fatal problem that excludes all calculus, but how can anyone deny that it’s a problem? It makes calculus more difficult and the answers more error-prone. It downgrades the relevance of claimed consequences. E.g., we were uncertain Saddam had WMDs. Wasn’t that a problem?

Scott W. September 25, 2008 at 5:49 am

As I’ve repeated many times, if we accept the erroneous position that abortion is not intrinsicly evil, then why bother reducing them? It is abundabtly clear that Obama and Joe “Personally Opposed” Biden believe that abortion is at worst, morally neutral. And this reveals both abortion-reducing and the personally-opposed doctrine as the smokescreens they are for the underlying world view: Truth is merely subjective and relative.

Pat September 25, 2008 at 5:55 am

CT,
God Bless You! Now, please stick to simple first principles. Tell us exactly how anything you are saying can get past this most basic Truth as stated by JPII- “It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop.”
It seems to me that you build your entire case (which is very well stated, by the way) on a separate foundation than the above Truth which must come first. I’m not buyin’ it at all.

msb September 25, 2008 at 6:30 am

CT: thank you for proving my point by ignoring FOCA and its six-figure abortion increase, and instead preferring to discuss only Roe and some fractions of a percent in expected value calculus.

Dave Mueller September 25, 2008 at 7:06 am

Thanks, Steven! That’s pretty much exactly the way I look at things – I’m glad you’re not as lazy as me, and took the time to write it all out in a much better way than I could have done myself!!

Dave Mueller September 25, 2008 at 7:26 am

I do, however, put MOST of the blame for this financial mess on the Dems. They were the ones pushing for the risky loans and blocking reform of Fannie & Freddie when it could have prevented things from getting to this point.
See: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601039&refer=columnist_hassett&sid=aSKSoiNbnQY0

decker2003 September 25, 2008 at 10:03 am

Effecting a change in law to restore protection for unborn life is itself an outcome (or effect) of the action under analysis — the vote for the candidate. If electing McCain is unlikely to lead to that outcome, and electing Obama is likely to greatly reduce the number of abortions, should we sacrifice the less important but achievable goal (reducing abortions) for the more important but unachievable goal (restoring protection for unborn life)? Or, better yet, what if people are more likely to support legal protection for unborn life when abortion has become significantly less common that it is now? It seems to me that we have to do more than just identify the candidate’s position on certain issues, we need to analyze how likely it is that electing that candidate will lead to the desired change.
On that score, one could observe that Republican presidential candidates have been ostensibly “pro-life” since Reagan campaigned in 1980 and the legal status of abortion has remained basically unchanged. One could conclude that, whatever McCain might promise on the campaign trail, the political obstacles to restoring legal protection for unborn life are unsurmountable at this time and for the foreseeable future. So, given that situation, let’s at least get the abortion rate down.
I admit it’s a risky strategy and one could dispute the factual premises. I’m not saying that it’s ultimately persuasive. Only that it is a plausible argument and is consistent with Church teaching and that those who make it may have reasoned incorrectly, but have not rejected any authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church.

Tim J. September 25, 2008 at 10:10 am

“one could dispute the factual premises.”
Yes. As Chesterton said, “That is what we call a powerful understatement.”.

irene September 25, 2008 at 10:21 am

The reducing abortions programs aimed at making life better for women is a bunch of hooey. Women have abortions because they don’t want the baby. It has very little to do with their financial circumstances. It is the way they rationalize what they are doing. If they wanted the child, they would figure out how to support it. They can always give the child to someone who is willing to raise the child. There are options and women refuse to look for them. They kill their child because that is the easy way out. If this sounds callous, it is time we open our eyes and stop making excuses for the killing of our children. No amount of money thrown out to these women will stop the abortions, only when we stop looking at a child as an incovenience and start looking at them as Gifts of God. The holocaust will end when we give the unborn personhood. To say that abortions will be fewer while promoting unlimited abortions is absurd.

Dave Mueller September 25, 2008 at 10:28 am

For those continuing to advance the argument that a pursuit of a “predicted” decline in abortions is an acceptable alternate goal to the illegalization of abortion, I think you have not read the post Steven crafted very closely.
Go back up, and read Steven’s quotations of EV 72 and EV 101.
The Pope’s statements utterly demolish that argument.

msb September 25, 2008 at 10:46 am

decker–Sometimes people make a contention that is not just factually wrong, it’s ridiculous. It’s so wrong that we cannot just say “well I disagree with that but this is a prudential judgment and it is within bounds of how a Catholic may think about this situation.” We can say that this kind of “reasoning” is outside of Catholic thought, because Catholic thought includes reasonableness as well as principle. *Not Every Idea Self-Identified As “Pro-Life” Is Compatible With Catholic Thought.*
This kind of ridiculousness is involved when someone says that the following will reduce abortions more than its opposite:
adding hundreds of thousands of abortions through the Freedom of Choice Act, striking down every state limit on abortion no matter how small and forcing states to fund abortion and to refuse conscience protection to pro-life doctors, nominating guaranteed radical pro-abortion justices who want to make things worse instead of possibly nominating a good one and a bad one or some who will maintain the status quo, funding abortion internationally, enthusiastically supporting Planned Parenthood’s entire agenda including at best not providing government assistance to pro-life pregnancy centers and at worst outlawing them, refusing to fund adult stem cell research instead of choosing to emphasize adult research enough that it could eventually flourish, legalizing partial birth abortion, and enshrining in policy an interpretation of Roe v Wade so broad that it is infringed even when born-alive infants are protected.

Tim J. September 25, 2008 at 11:21 am

But msb, all you have to do is postulate that;
A) The economy will be better under Obama than it will McCain (even if that is dubious, at best).
B) The poor will be much better off under this much better economy, and
C) Being better off economically, all these poor high-school and college girls will be *happy* to carry their unplanned pregnancies to term.
In addition, under Obama, there won’t BE any unplanned pregnancies, because we’ll be handing out condoms starting in kindergarten.

msb September 25, 2008 at 12:08 pm

and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain
just free and unfettered abortion for all

Chris-2-4 September 25, 2008 at 12:50 pm

I see 4 reasons to have an abortion.
Guilt, Fear, Blame, Shame.
Economics is not one of them, considering adoption is cheaper than abortion.

CT September 25, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Jeb wrote:
How is spending more money on education going to change people’s opinions on abortion? Given that Obama supported a bill that would have encouraged sex education for children in kindergarten, it is unlikely that an Obama style “ethics” class would teach anything about the immorality of abortion.
One need not be taught that abortion is immoral just as one need not be taught that evolution is true. A class which expounds upon the scientific method, the historical success of the same, etc., may without even touching on evolution lead students to on their own come to the conclusion that evolution is true. Education is not about indoctrinating people to a certain point of view, but about giving them the knowledge and skills necessary for them to come to their own conclusions. If abortion is manifestly wrong and the pro-life position manifestly correct, then education should lead people to see that truth.

Rotten Orange September 25, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Education is not about indoctrinating people to a certain point of view, but about giving them the knowledge and skills necessary for them to come to their own conclusions.

Man, you are very fortunate to live in a planet where children get that kind of education in schools. Here in the Earth, it’s another story.

CT September 25, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Chris, what you are saying entails only that economics alone is not a reason to have an abortion; it doesn’t exclude the possibility that economic concerns together with fear or shame with respect to giving the baby away is one. In any event, to say that ambient economic conditions lead to less abortions is not to say that economics necessarily is part of the psychological reason one has an abortion. It may just be that greater economic well being leads to greater purchase and use of appropriate family planning methods or that greater economic well being leads to a lesser incidence of cases of people losing their good sense and having sex without appropriate family planning methods — so the economics would have influence not after the fact of pregnancy but before the fact of a would be pregnancy, in this scenario.
decker has much more eloquently explained what I set out in a paragraph in my second comment above. (I would only add that contra SDG I don’t see much value in having a law that prohibits abortion if that state of law itself has no practical net benefit with respect to abortion count; I may be reading SDG wrong, but he seems to see intrinsic value in having both the rights of fetuses recognized in law and criminal nature of abortion established in law, prescinding from what practical effects such laws may have on the abortion count)

SDG September 25, 2008 at 1:11 pm

CT,
I agree … I think you’re reading me wrong.

Tim J. September 25, 2008 at 1:23 pm

“Education is not about indoctrinating people to a certain point of view…”
Well, that’s one point of view.

msb September 25, 2008 at 1:23 pm

I see
good economics reduces abortion
but offering free abortions and removing all obstacles to abortion, that does not increase abortion
so if you want to reduce abortion, just mandate state paid, state facilitated, unrestricted abortion, and vaguely assert that the economy will improve
a perfectly plausible Catholic position

CT September 25, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Tim wrote:
“Education is not about indoctrinating people to a certain point of view…”
Well, that’s one point of view.

Yes, it is. I was not claiming that points of view should not be employed when deciding how to educate the public. I was only claiming that the education process itself should not indoctrinate people to a certain point of view. So, to address your observation, the education process itself should not try to indoctrinate people to the point of view that the education process should not indoctrinate people to a certain point of view.
There is thus no inconsistency or tension.
@msb
IIRC, the Catholic Joe Biden is against federal funding of abortions; he said that would be “imposing” someone’s values on those who disagree with abortion just as pro-life laws would be, in his view, “imposing” someone’s values etc. Biden seems to me to be saying that were we living in a society where 100% or close to it believed in the immorality of abortion as the taking of a human life, that he would support making it illegal but that since our society is pluralistic, with different religions or atheisms with different views on the relevant issues and since the Catholic understanding of natural law is itself an understanding that is the subject of Catholic doctrine, a doctrine that non-Catholics may disagree with and some of some religions by virtue of their religions do disagree with (and even Aquinas says IIRC, that some findings of the natural law require a level of intellectual work that make them obscure to most people; in fact, it is a standard Catholic doctrine that revelation that repeats something true on natural law or natural theology is given for, among other reasons, making clear what may be obscured in the cloud of natural law/theology — Ludwig Ott states this for example in FoCD)

CT September 25, 2008 at 1:56 pm

Here’s some of Aquinas on natural law:
“But some propositions are self-evident only to the wise, who understand the meaning of the terms of such propositions: thus to one who understands that an angel is not a body, it is self-evident that an angel is not circumscriptively in a place: but this is not evident to the unlearned, for they cannot grasp it.”
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2094.htm
I think the proposition that a human person always underlies a human life may be argued to be one such proposition that if self-evident is so “only to the wise”

SDG September 25, 2008 at 2:09 pm

I think the proposition that a human person always underlies a human life may be argued to be one such proposition that if self-evident is so “only to the wise”

The founding fathers were “wise” enough to consider it “self-evident” that the inalienable “right to life” was the endowment of the Creator to “all men.”
“All men” here does not mean “all persons,” nor, whatever cultural blinders many may have had at the time, does it mean “all adult males.” Rightly understood, it means all mankind — all human beings.
Slavery was an abject compromise of this foundational ideal, perpetuated by men willing to divide humanity into moral haves and have-nots. So is abortion, and so, apparently, are your arguments about “human lives” vs. “human persons.”

CT September 25, 2008 at 2:57 pm

I am not a fan of Obama, but I would like to defend Obama against something suggested by someone above:
http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2008/09/sex-ed-for-kiddies-mccains-skewing-of-voting-records/
BTW, SDG, Scalia does not believe there is a right to life for fetuses under the U.S. Constitution. Scalia claims that asserting such a right would be as legally indefensible an opinion as the opinion in Roe. McCain also seems to likewise agree that there is no right to life for fetuses under the US Constitution.
On your allusion to the Declaration, if you want to say that all men, inclusive of the young unborn equally hold one of those enumerated rights, then I don’t see how you could say that that is not true also of older children with respect to “liberty” and the “pursuit of happiness.” Yet, IIRC, you maintained that such children do not have the same liberty or “pursuit of happiness” rights as adults, in some previous discussions we had on compulsory religious activity and unreasonable restriction of liberty in parentally imposed discipline (IIRC, you maintained that a parent should be free to ground a child for a whole year for saying a bad word)

SDG September 25, 2008 at 3:20 pm

BTW, SDG, Scalia does not believe there is a right to life for fetuses under the U.S. Constitution.

I didn’t say there was.

On your allusion to the Declaration, if you want to say that all men, inclusive of the young unborn equally hold one of those enumerated rights, then I don’t see how you could say that that is not true also of older children with respect to “liberty” and the “pursuit of happiness.” Yet, IIRC, you maintained that such children do not have the same liberty or “pursuit of happiness” rights as adults, in some previous discussions we had on compulsory religious activity and unreasonable restriction of liberty in parentally imposed discipline (IIRC, you maintained that a parent should be free to ground a child for a whole year for saying a bad word)

Good grief, CT. Sometimes I think the common sense gap is just too wide to permit fruitful conversation.
Yes, of course children are endowed with inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No, of course children are not at liberty to pursue happiness in ways contrary to their parents’ discretion, or in all ways their parents would be free to. That’s why kids can’t drive cars, or have credit cards.

(IIRC, you maintained that a parent should be free to ground a child for a whole year for saying a bad word)

That would depend on what you mean by “should be free.” A parent cannot fairly ground a child for a year for saying a bad word. No earthly authority has any right to overrule an unfair parental judgment.

CT September 25, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Yes, of course children are endowed with inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No, of course children are not at liberty to pursue happiness in ways contrary to their parents’ discretion, or in all ways their parents would be free to. That’s why kids can’t drive cars, or have credit cards.
So children do not hold those two rights to the degree that adults do. Then why couldn’t the same be true of children with respect to the right to life? Perhaps one could hold that fetuses do not hold the right to life in the way an adult does when the pregnancy entails an endangerment of the mother’s health. Obama supports banning partial birth abortion contrary to what some have said here. He just favors having a health exception — this is one example that contradicts your portrary of Obama and Kmiec as regards “legal status quo” (I’m not even sure what Kmiec is saying there or even if a Catholic should take every loose remark by every Cardinal as Gospel truth since that particular Cardinal himself has backtracked, for example, on remarks he has made on the Catholic sex abuse scandal — he backtracked or clarified if you prefer, in an appearance on Meet the Press …)

SDG September 25, 2008 at 5:20 pm

So children do not hold those two rights to the degree that adults do.

It is not a question of degree, merely of mode or manner of expression. Children lack the judgment to exercise liberty with adult discretion, which is why God gives them parents. He has not given parents discretion to murder their children.

Obama supports banning partial birth abortion contrary to what some have said here.

Evidence?

I’m not even sure what Kmiec is saying there or even if a Catholic should take every loose remark by every Cardinal as Gospel truth

Kmiec will have to answer for himself.

SDG September 25, 2008 at 5:33 pm

Obama supports banning partial birth abortion contrary to what some have said here.

Interesting that Obama has made such a priority of signing the Freedom of Choice Act, which was introduced the day after the Supreme Court upheld the federal partial-birth abortion ban and which supporters said is primarily intended to negate this ruling and legalize partial-birth abortion nationwide.
Thus Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities:

While some supporters have said FOCA would simply “codify” the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, their own statements disprove this assertion. FOCA was introduced the day after the Supreme Court’s decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortions within the bounds of Roe — with FOCA’s sponsors declaring that its primary purpose is to counteract this ruling and ensure that the grisly killing of partly-born children will once again be permitted nationwide. Sponsors also acknowledge that FOCA will require all Americans to support abortion with their state and federal tax dollars — despite a long line of Supreme Court decisions, consistent with Roe, upholding bans on public funding since 1975.

The National Organization for Women (NOW), in its materials supporting FOCA, has declared that it “would sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies” — laws and policies that are in effect today because they do not conflict with Roe. These include modest and widely supported state laws to protect women from unscrupulous and dangerous abortionists (including those who are not licensed physicians), ensure informed consent, protect parental rights in the case of minors undergoing abortions, and so on.

This is the legislation the signing of which Obama has included among various acts identified as “the first thing he’d do as president.”

msb September 25, 2008 at 5:56 pm

Thank you SDG. FOCA is the crux, and continues to be ignored by Obama apoligists.
What in the world does Biden have to do with this? FOCA will mandate funding of abortion. FOCA will legalize partial birth abortion. FOCA is Obama’s top priority, and that’s what he said to Planned Parenthood.
This abortion reduction argument is a pure and total sham.

msb September 25, 2008 at 5:59 pm

and anyone who talks about it as “just” a health exception is completely disconnected with the abortion situation in this country.

CT September 25, 2008 at 6:03 pm

SDG,
Why not use non-partisan sources for your information? Such as:
http://www.ontheissues.org/Social/Barack_Obama_Abortion.htm
On an issue like partial birth abortion, I strongly believe that the state can properly restrict late-term abortions. I have said so repeatedly. All I’ve said is we should have a provision to protect the health of the mother, and many of the bills that came before me didn’t have that.
Part of the reason they didn’t have it was purposeful, because those who are opposed to abortion have a moral calling to try to oppose what they think is immoral. Oftentimes what they were trying to do was to polarize the debate and make it more difficult for people, so that they could try to bring an end to abortions overall.
As president, my goal is to bring people together, to listen to them, and I don’t think that’s any Republican out there who I’ve worked with who would say that I don’t listen to them, I don’t respect their ideas, I don’t understand their perspective. And my goal is to get us out of this polarizing debate where we’re always trying to score cheap political points and actually get things done.
Source: Fox News Sunday: 2008 presidential race interview Apr 27, 2008
Q: The terms pro-choice and pro-life, do they encapsulate that reality in our 21st Century setting and can we find common ground?
A: I absolutely think we can find common ground. And it requires a couple of things. It requires us to acknowledge that..
1. There is a moral dimension to abortion, which I think that all too often those of us who are pro-choice have not talked about or tried to tamp down. I think that’s a mistake because I think all of us understand that it is a wrenching choice for anybody to think about.
2. People of good will can exist on both sides. That nobody wishes to be placed in a circumstance where they are even confronted with the choice of abortion. How we determine what’s right at that moment, I think, people of good will can differ.
And if we can acknowledge that much, then we can certainly agree on the fact that we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies that might even lead somebody to consider having an abortion.
Source: 2008 Democratic Compassion Forum at Messiah College Apr 13, 2008

Obama is committed to reducing abortions, perhaps even more so than McCain is. He just does not favor a few means of achieving that goal that McCain has some not so solid support for.

The Masked Chicken September 25, 2008 at 6:13 pm

One problem, here, may be (I throw this out for thought) is that there is no such thing as, “a little bit aborted,” whereas there can be degrees of economic misery. Because this is the case, Obama would be applying a relative economic solution to a problem of absolutes. Sure it may reduce abortions as long as the economy remains stable, but this is akin to treating alcoholism by keeping the alcoholic too busy to drink. Obama’s other mechanisms do not solve the problem. They merely postpone it or disguise it.
Even rich people have abortions. The reason they have fewer abortions is, for the most part, because they have fewer babies.
If Obama believes that reducing abortion by tackling an aspect of its upstream propagation (contraception) is anything other than making two dependencies instead of one, then he is mistaken. Now, one has to keep contraception going in order to keep the reduction in abortions going. Whereas there may be five controlling variables that may cause a person to have an abortion and stressing one of the five may reduce abortions, now one has, in addition another (say) five controlling variables for using contraception and thus, at most ten controlling variables in the problem where there were five, before. Granted, some of the variables may be linked, so that the total number is 5 < or = n < or = 10, still, how they play together is probably nonlinear. So, while Obama may, for a time reduce the number of abortions by an economic strategy, he does not control the outside world and there will always be situations beyond his control that could throw his grand scheme into chaos and wind up increasing the number of abortions.
His proposal simply demands too much control of events to be certain. I doubt that he has a magic understanding of the variables that will keep them reduced after he is out of office (if the trend continues even that long), in any event.
On the other hand, a law is a law is a law. Until it gets encrusted by exceptions, one generally knows how things should play out, if the law is clearly written (justly written and justly executed, is another story). The ten commandments are not the ten bribes. The commandment, thou shalt not steal did not have the rider - and I will see to it that you are rich so that you do not have to steal. That seems to be what Obama wants to do. Either something is right on intrinsic merits or it is wrong. If it is wrong, bribery, even if it stops the behavior, still does not make the behavior right. No matter how much Obama wants to use other means, if the end result is to cover-up the intrinsic evil of abortion by changing the venue to contraception, then he is still engaged in a cover-up. Making people well-off so they will use more contraception is not reducing abortion, it is, rather, increasing the number of people who see yet another evil act (contraception) as a good.
Obama wants to practice supply-side morality. He want to support an earlier evil so as to prevent a later evil. In the end, he is simply using an evil means to a good end. He wants to create a backfire of evil to stop a forest fire of evil, without realizing that the backfire and the forest fire have the same cause and he is not in control of either one.
It is true that pro-life mentality cannot be legislated. Neither can obesity be successfully outlawed. Appetites are hard-wired. On the other hand, it is the unique capacity of man to be able to overcome his appetites. Economics and laws may be supportive in this area, but in the end, it is a change of heart that is needed.
Education is not the answer. Many educated people have abortions. The number is less because educated people tend to have fewer babies (something recognized by the eugenics movement as early as the 1950's). What is needed is wisdom and that is something that only comes from not being in control. It comes from seeing. It comes from sad experience. People do not believe in experience, anymore, and so the storehouse of past human lessons get jettisoned, all in the name of progress. We have progressed in education. We have not progressed in recognizing the truth. One can be educated entirely by false statements (this only sounds like an oxymoron - education is a passing on of knowledge. That knowledge may be false). How would one know as long as those around one believe the same false things? Simply breaking the mold does not guarantee the finding of truth - it may simply lead to more falsehoods.
The main problem, in all of this, is that many people, today, seem to think that the truth resides in them. That is the crux of this whole matter and the major problem underlying what Obama is about. People have been "educated" to this point in the name of modernism, but it is still a lie.
McCain is not perfect, either, but he is less modern and that is a good thing. I know this will be controversial, but education does not lead to ethical behavior any more than practice makes perfect. One may practice the wrong way. Only perfect practice (or, more correctly the practice of the perfect) makes perfect; only perfect education (or, more correctly, education in the perfect) makes perfect. Perfect education is not the same thing as difficult education or advanced education. Perfect education is simply education in things that are true. How one knows the truth - that may be a problem - but this is the defect in using education as a means of solving social ills: education doesn't not have to be directed towards the truth. Most of the time, it is directed towards the reasonable, but this is usually not reason at all, it is simply letting people hear what they want to.
A recent piece was published by Jonathan Gitlin suggesting thet ideology trumps facts:
We like to think that people will be well informed before making important decisions, such as who to vote for, but the truth is that’s not always the case. Being uninformed is one thing, but having a population that’s actively misinformed presents problems when it comes to participating in the national debate, or the democratic process. If the findings of some political scientists are right, attempting to correct misinformation might do nothing more than reinforce the false belief.
Some thoughts on a Thursday night.
The Chicken

SDG September 25, 2008 at 7:57 pm

On an issue like partial birth abortion, I strongly believe that the state can properly restrict late-term abortions. I have said so repeatedly. All I’ve said is we should have a provision to protect the health of the mother, and many of the bills that came before me didn’t have that.

Four crucial problems.
1. “Restricting” (Obama’s word) ≠ “banning” (your word).
2. “Late-term abortion” (Obama’s words) ≠ partial-birth abortion (your words).
3. “Health of the mother” (as distinct from “life of the mother”) is code language effectively meaning “for any reason,” i.e., anxiety or depression = threats to mental health. Restrictions with a “health of the mother” exception are deliberate non-restrictions.
4. If you understand how intact dilation and extraction works, “health of the mother” is a complete farce and a red herring. To delay delivering the head until the skull can be punctured and collapsed would almost always be a greater health risk rather than a health necessity. A baby that is that far out wants to come out. It would be far safer, and more humane, to deliver the baby and then give it a lethal injection. But then the cat would be out of the bag and we couldn’t even pretend that it wasn’t infanticide.
Bottom line: Health concerns are not the reason for carrying out this procedure rather than delivering the baby. It is done to carry out a pretense that it is a medical procedure on the mother rather than execution of a human being.
I repeat: FOCA was introduced specifically as a response to the Supreme Court upholding federal restrictions on partial-birth abortion, the day after the verdict, for the purpose of overturning the verdict. Obama wants to sign it as his first act as President. How does that jive with wanting to restrict (let alone ban) partial-birth abortion?

CT September 25, 2008 at 9:26 pm

Obama refers to both “late term abortions” and to “partial birth abortion”; partial birth abortion is one form of late term abortion. Obama seems to be either using the terms interchangeably or expressing support for “properly restricting” not only “partial birth abortion” but all forms of “late term abortion.”
But you are missing the “bottom line.”
Let’s grant that I erred in saying “ban” and that Obama wishes to “restrict.” And let’s suppose that Obama is for restricting some form of late term abortion other than partial birth abortion even though he uses both terms in the same sentence. That still does not negate the fact that you erred in your misrepresentation of Obama’s position (and your corresponding attributing of disingenuousness to Kmiec) with respect to Obama not being for any change in the “legal status quo” of abortion in a direction that Kmiec would welcome as a pro-lifer. Whether Obama could support better legal reforms is irrelevant to the question of whether he supports any that would be as such better than the “status quo”

Pat September 25, 2008 at 9:26 pm

People, let’s not forget what the apostle of common sense had to say about changing the environment to make all things better. If we’re gonna walk down that dead end road of, “Change the environment- Change the person,” then we’re just gonna have to start over with all of our christian theology begining with, The Fall/Original Sin. For my part, I will stick with that old beaten-up wreck known as The Magisterium. Yes, it’s reeling;but erect.

CT September 25, 2008 at 9:56 pm

I would like to take the opportunity now to defend Obama on a charge in a previous discussion that I at the time chose not to defend him on since I felt it not really relevant to that discussion. Someone suggested that Obama as an Illinois state senator did not favor requiring medical care for babies already born in failed abortion attempts. That is false, especially since Illinois law already required such medical care. The Illinois State Medical Society opposed the same legislation that Obama declined to support. So does that Medical Society or for that matter the ACLU of Illinois then merit the same opprobrium heaped upon Obama?
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/20/us/politics/20checkpoint.html
But the Illinois proposal always had a companion bill. The accompanying legislation, called the Induced Infant Liability Act, would have allowed legal action “on the child’s behalf for damages, including costs of care to preserve and protect the life, health and safety of the child, punitive damages, and costs and attorney’s fees, against a hospital, health care facility or health care provider who harms or neglects the child or fails to provide medical care to the child after the child’s birth.”
Groups that favor abortion rights say that bill would have introduced the possibility that doctors could be sued for failing to take extraordinary measures to save the lives of pre-viable infants, those born so prematurely that they could not possibly survive. As a result, they argue, it is disingenuous of anti-abortion organizations to claim that Mr. Obama was moving to quash only a narrow and innocuous definitional bill identical to federal law.
“I can tell you the sponsors always wanted the entire package of bills, which were introduced together and analyzed together,” said Pam Sutherland, who was president of the Illinois branch of Planned Parenthood at the time and is now the group’s lobbyist. “They never wanted them separated, because they wanted to make sure that physicians would be chilled into not performing abortions for fear of going to jail.”
Another concern mentioned by opponents of the bill, including Mr. Obama when he was in the State Senate, was that the state legislation amounted to an illegal end run around Roe v. Wade.
“We do not object to a solely definitional bill,” like the one approved at the federal level, said Mary Dixon, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. “But when you take a definition comparable to the federal one and combine it with other provisions that attempt to give full personhood to a fetus that is pre-viable and try to put fear of criminal and civil liability in the minds of physicians, you have created a much different scenario.”
The Illinois State Medical Society, which also fought the legislation and was cited by Mr. Obama on Saturday in his defense of his position, said in a statement that it opposed the package of bills, first introduced in 2001, “because they interfered negatively with the physician-patient relationship, attempted to dictate the practice of medicine for neonatal care and greatly expanded civil liability for physicians.” (…)
A year later, after Mr. Obama had moved on to Washington, the Illinois legislature approved a “born alive” law. But that statute, as the result of a compromise meant to avoid the standoff that led Mr. Obama to oppose the 2003 version, added language specifically stating that it should not be construed “to affect existing federal or state law regarding abortion” or “to alter generally accepted medical standards.”

Since people keep on bringing up FOCA, the 2007 FOCA stated: “It is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child, to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, or to terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman” which is perfectly consistent with Obamas stated view to ban or if you prefer “properly restrict” partial birth abortion and other late term abortion procedures with exceptions for the life and health of the woman.
If certain pro-lifers were truly interested in compassion for the unborn, they would compromise and pass a ban on partial birth abortion with the health exception. Passing such a ban wouldn’t prevent them from in the future when they have the necessary votes to pass a ban without the health exception. The reason they refuse to compromise and do something that is undoubtedly from the pro-life view better than nothing, better than the “status quo”, is because they want the political convenience or righteous expediency in being able to paint the “partial birth abortion” tag on the other side or in some cases in galvanizing their base. I’m not saying all such are so, just many.

jeffr September 26, 2008 at 3:46 am

Has any one stated the America deserves a Candidate this is anti pro-life as a form of judgment from God?

msb September 26, 2008 at 5:10 am

CT: I am glad to have your commetary here so people can see that in the face of undisputed evidence that Obama will end all restrictions on abortion by means of FOCA and thereby increase abortions by six figures each year, you simply ignore that fact rather than deal with it, and instead you continue to repeat that “Obama is committed to reducing abortions” and other peripheral points, because you think that if you say it often enough people will just believe it and will join you in ignoring the facts. I see that Obi Wan Kmiec has taught you well.

SDG September 26, 2008 at 7:06 am

CT, you are still dodging points 3 and 4. “Restrictions” with a “health” exception = no restriction. Any abortionist can grant a “health” exception by stipulating that delivering the baby alive would cause anxiety and thus compromise the mother’s mental health. As long as Obama insists on “health” exceptions, he doesn’t favor restricting abortion in any meaningful sense.

Inocencio September 26, 2008 at 7:19 am

msb,
CT wants you to understand that the freedom to be immoral is a beautiful freedom. He definitely has the gift of the gab, it seems to be a sort of self-stimulation for him. He defends pornography and prostitution also.
He recently argued that even assuming abortion is wrong (he doesn’t seem to know it is wrong to kill an innocent child) immagration could be a greater moral wrong.
It seems as though CT’s poetic license blinds his common sense.
Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Brian Walden September 26, 2008 at 7:48 am

I hope this won’t completely throw the thread of topic, but as long as we’ve touched on the health of the mother what are some situations when it’s safer for the life of the mother to have a direct abortion rather than a c-section or some other procedure? Aren’t c-sections being used more often than ever before precisely because they’re so safe?

CT September 26, 2008 at 7:55 am

SDG,
Present a court case, or in particular a controlling opinion of SCOTUS that would interpret the language of “health” to include the anxiety of giving birth. When a bill speaks of “health”, it clearly would be speaking of serious, non-trivial, endangerments to health. Not anxiety. Not the physical pain of birth* for that matter. The fact that “health” can be interpreted to include “mental health” — as well it should especially for say rape victims — does not mean that it can be interpreted to include trivial mental health concerns anymore than it can be interpreted to include trivial physical health concerns. If there is a law that states that someone can postpone filing taxes for reasons of “health” with no qualifiers attached, it is understood that “health” while it may include serious, non-trivial mental health concerns and may include serious, non-trivial physical health concerns, would not include trivial issues like the anxiety of paying taxes or having a hang nail. Courts do not give legislative acts nonsensical interpretations. Whether “health” as a term used by activists is a “code word” is irrelevant. What is relevant is the actual language of the bill — i.e. the text of the law. Of secondary relevance is legislative history. Where in the legislative history did members of Congress who *supported* a health exception give it the interpretation that it included “anxiety” from giving birth? No where. The court will not look to what the *opponents* of the bill *claim* “health” means in their parsing of legislative history; the court will look to what the authors and supporters of the bill understood to be authoring and voting for in their parsing of legislative history.
In any event, at best your position is an opinion (in my view a ridiculous one). Kmiec’s legal credentials dwarf both mine and yours. I think frankly you and I should both defer to him in terms of judging the good faith of his views where whether it is in good faith or not turns on a legal judgment.
BTW, some medical authorities acknowledge that partial birth abortion can be necessary for the health of the mother in some rare circumstances. I think here too we should defer to these physicians in terms of judging the good faith of their opinions where the good faith nature turns on a medical judgment. A good example of this principle at work is Dr. Ron Paul, who though pro-life and though seemingly of the opinion IIRC that partial birth abortion is never “medically necessary”, since, due to I presume his lack of speciality in this area, he gives respectful deference to those physicians who may disagree with him by (at least when I heard him) qualifying his “opinion” by saying “as far as I know …” or “as far as I am aware…”.
I don’t understand why you would think mental health is somehow less important than physical health, you being a Catholic who sees the value of bodily things to be inferior to spiritual things or to have parity in value only in dependence on spiritual things. (I, OTOH, don’t view bodily things to have no overlap with spiritual things; some bodily things in their very constitution may be spiritual in nature — likewise some spiritual things in their very constitution may be bodily in nature … I am not even sure there exists any concrete objects which are not “bodily” i.e. which are not either able to have sensory experience or be, in principle, the object of sensory experience … but I do believe spiritual things exist: a musical performance for example is a spiritual thing yet its existence is wholly in “bodily” form)
*The pain though not part of physical well being, i.e. health, is “trivial” in the technical sense of it being something common to women who give birth. If health were changed to “physical health”, then by your logic this could still be an exception and all women could qualify — so your focus on “mental health” is something akin to a red herring. Yet clearly that is neither the intent of such proposed laws by legislators, nor is it the meaning of the proposed texts nor is it something that could be somehow read into the text based on would be legislative history.

Tim J. September 26, 2008 at 8:16 am

“I don’t understand why you would think mental health is somehow less important than physical health…”
“The health of the mother” is code for the gaping hole in PBA “restriction” laws through which proponents of Big Abortion plan to drive their Mac Truck.
In other words, a partial birth/late term abortion may be performed for any reason at all… or no reason.
A hole in the law. Yes. Just big enough for a pair of scissors.

CT September 26, 2008 at 8:17 am

Inocencio, I don’t think you understood my argument there. My argument was not that immigration policy could be a greater moral wrong but rather that its effects on the country could be a greater wrong suffered by the country versus the effects of abortion on country, due to how the country can always redeem itself from sin but that permanent changes in demographics corresponding to permanent changes in national character (suppose this was Italy and Italy was being flooded with atheist immigrants and that in 300 years Italy would be 99% atheist because these atheists tend to have 20 children per family and their children tend to be atheists, etc. — none of this is true of course, but suppose, just to give you an idea of how someone might view certain changes in national character as a wrong suffered by a country due to the character, be it historically grounded or otherwise, that the person gives it and ascribes value to.)
My argument rested on the shaky premise that when voting in federal elections one should only take into account wrongs suffered by the country as a whole as opposed to wrongs suffered by individuals as such (of course the latter is related to the former; abortion wrongs the country precisely because it involves wrongs suffered by individuals). So the wrongs suffered by individuals or local communities would only be taken into account insofar as they are incorporated into the wrongs suffered by the country as a whole (as abortion is but in an impermanent way as regards the country as a whole, as a distinct entity interpreted as more than an abstraction)
BTW, I have come to midway between theism and atheism — not agnosticism, however. That is a little cryptic and it is not the topic here but I wanted to mention it. Ironically, it was my reading a book by an atheist philosopher that has led to this evolution in my world view. I may blog on it one day, probably only after finishing the book.

Inocencio September 26, 2008 at 8:34 am

CT,
My point is still that it is common sense that the murder of unborn innocent children is the greatest moral evil that exists in our country today. And waxing poetically about made up possible but highly unlikely situations is ridiculous.
As for the medical necessity of partial birth abortion:

In September, 1996, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and other PHACT members (a group of over 600 physician-specialists mostly in obstetrics, perinatology, and related disciplines) said that “partial-birth abortion is never medically necessary to protect a mother’s health or her future fertility. On the contrary, this procedure can pose a significant threat to both.”

But hey what do they know…
Please correct me if I am wrong but unless you are a parent shouldn’t you defer to SDG’s opinion on parenting since he is actually raising children? Because obviously his parenting background dwarfs your own.
Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

CT September 26, 2008 at 8:43 am

Brian, just google it, but hypothetically even if it were true — which it isn’t — that a c-section is safer than abortion in all cases, I would not support forcing women to undergo a c section. A c section scars the woman’s body. A woman can choose to make that sacrifice, but she should not be forced to. Catholic and self-described “thomist” in world view Chris Matthews has made the point that when we force women to make the “right” decision in these cases then we can no longer praise the beautiful choice of say Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin can also no longer say that she is proud of her daughter’s choice to keep the baby. For when an action is forced, there is nothing beautiful in the actor for the actor is no more (instead the govt becomes the actor — so I guess you could say it was a beautiful choice of the govt) and there is also nothing that can be taken pride in by the actor or her parents (I guess also you can now take pride in the totalitarianism of the govt).
BTW, I’ve done some research on the subject of fetal pain. Apparently pain, if felt by fetuses at all, is likely felt only in the third trimester. Some researchers argue that it is not felt until after birth (for reasons btw which dovetail with something I was saying previously). So if Obama — I don’t know that he does, but if — opposes laws that require physicians to issue false statements regarding the subject of fetal pain, then he would have good reason to do so not only btw because such statements are false but b/c it corrupts the doctor-patient relationship. Informed consent should be something that is largely in the discretion of that relationship, not something crafted by politicians who with few exceptions are not doctors. Next thing you’ll know you’ll have people trying to require priests tell penitents that there is no medical evidence that certain sexual practices are harmful or that there is medical evidence that certain sexual practices are healthful (for example in reducing the risk for certain forms of cancer)

CT September 26, 2008 at 9:03 am

Inocencio, you didn’t understand my point about deference, probably b/c I used the word “defer” in a novel way. My point was not that anyone should defer to anyone’s opinion as to the fact of the matter. I despise such deference. My point was that people should for the purposes of judging whether someone else’s opinion x is reached in good faith and where that judgment turns on an opinion y in which that person has expertise that dwarfs one’s own, that one should take y to be true. One is still perfectly free to disagree with y, even to lambast y, as well as x. However, one should not judge x as an opinion of bad faith if whether or not it is in bad faith turns on whether y is true — one should assume y is true for the purpose of judging whether someone is acting in good faith in opining x. That doesn’t mean one should assume y or for that matter x is true. I have not judged the good faith of SDG’s opinions on compulsory religious activity or a parent’s freedom to ground a child for a year for saying a bad word, so the question of SDG’s parenting knowledge dwarfing my own does not come up — and even if I had questioned the good faith of SDG’s opinions here, I don’t foresee any situation where these particular issues would be such that whether SDG held an opinion in good faith on them would turn on his parenting knowledge.

Inocencio September 26, 2008 at 9:05 am

As for fetal pain during an abortion.
Again, common sense tells us that as a baby is ripped to shreds it feels pain.
Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Inocencio September 26, 2008 at 9:16 am

CT,
You are constantly telling people here that we don’t understand your arguments. You like to write a lot of words without really saying anything and then accuse other of misunderstanding you.
If you really believe that we don’t understand your arguments than the only person you are fooling is yourself.
Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Tim J. September 26, 2008 at 9:24 am

“Catholic and self-described “thomist” in world view Chris Matthews…”
Chris Matthews? Yeah, THAT is where I go to get real grade-A quality Catholic theology… Chris effing Matthews…

SwingCorey September 26, 2008 at 9:27 am

I understand that a bailout of the financial services industry, as distasteful as it is, is better than the alternative of letting them all go under. However, there need to be conditions on how this is done:
1) Taxpayers or the Treasury Dept need to get equity (shares) in the companies that participate in the bailout. This is needed in order to hold those corporations accountable. Also, when these companies are able to stand on their own again, it makes every taxpayer a shareholder in a profitable (and appreciating) corporation – in other words, we, the taxpayers, actually get something in return for having “invested” in these institutions being bailed out.
2) Right now, many ordinary Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. We do not have the cash on hand to inject private capital into these firms and banks, even given some tax incentives. (Tax cuts always take a while to have an impact, and this bailout is an immediate crisis.) Relying on private capital means that those that have cash on hand (i.e., “the rich”) will be able to pick these corporations up on fire sale, and when the market turns up again, they will own that much more of the American economic pie.
3) Any company that takes part in the bailout MUST NOT allow excessive CEO/Director/executive compensation. I’m not just talking about year-end bonuses or salaries. I’m also talking about options and other “non-cash assets” as compensation. I know there are executives that would rather take 1 million shares of stock as a bonus, rather than $1million when their share price is at $2/share – especially since, once this crisis is over, those shares will be worth $10, $20, or even $100/share again. This CANNOT be allowed to happen. Any excessive compensation (say, over 40x what their lowest paid full-time employee makes – I’m just using a random number) should go right back to the taxpayer who bailed them out in the first place.
4) Refinancing “bad mortgages” is, by itself, not fair to those of us who exercised due diligence in our own mortgages. There should be other factors involved, before judges are given carte blanche to rewrite all bad mortgages.
I recently found out (from Sen. Mel Martinez’s office) about a man who got a mortgage that started at $2400/month and ballooned up to $5600/month, and he was able to refinance back down to $2400/month. The way I figure it is this: that man got a mortgage for a $750,000 house with a 1% intro rate that eventually became 8.25%. I, on the other hand, got my $170,000 mortgage at 5.375% so that the principle and interest part of my mortgage was only $950/month ($1300/month with tax and insurance thrown in).
The way I see it, this man is being rewarded/pardoned with a $750,000 house when he could really only afford a $430,000 house (given the same fixed rate that I got). By that logic, if he is allowed to do that, then I should be allowed to trade in my current house for one that costs $300,000 AT NO ADDITIONAL COST! Either that, or refinance my current house at 1% interest too, so my payments go down to $545/month. I could use an extra $400 a month to fund my IRA, my wife’s IRA, and the Coverdell IRAs of my 2 daughters. Maybe this would really help the bailout after all.
While negotiating this bailout, our elected officials need to take into consideration that we, the law-abiding, fiscally responsible, hard-working taxpayers are going to be footing the bill for this. We want to know that we are getting something out of it, and not just the privilege of watching the opportunists and the privileged get money for nothing and their stocks and houses for free.

CT September 26, 2008 at 9:47 am

Um Inocencio, at least two persons here, both Catholics, admitted they didn’t understand some of my arguments. Anyway, if I am saying that your understanding of what I intended to communicate is wrong then I don’t see how you could reasonably disagree with that here. I know what I intended to communicate. In any event I have made it crystal clear in the newer post. Since you declined to comment on it I won’t assume you didn’t understand it.

SDG September 26, 2008 at 9:50 am

Apparently pain, if felt by fetuses at all, is likely felt only in the third trimester.

That is a tenuous conclusion, as you know very well. I have already linked to this NY Times story, which provides a more balanced look at the subject, including the very real possibility that fetuses may feel pain as early as 17–22 weeks — possibly more acutely than more developed babies.
On Obama’s purported openness to abortion restrictions: First of all, this appears to be something new for him. He seems to be trying to back away from long-held views in order not to seem like an extremist wacko.
In fact, for awhile it looked like he might even be backing away from a “mental health” exception. From the above link:

In a recent interview, Obama appears to back away from his long-stated positions on abortion (and a proposed federal abortion rights law he had co-sponsored), repudiate 35 years of accepted Supreme Court rulings on the issue and embrace a view on abortion restrictions that has been expressed on the Court only by Justices Thomas and Scalia.

… there’s no mistaking that Obama says he no longer will support what’s long been a cornerstone of the abortion rights debate: The Court’s insistence that laws banning abortions after the fetus is viable (now about 22 weeks) contain an exception to allow doctors to perform them if necessary to protect a pregnant woman’s mental health.

Not to worry, though. Obama retreated from this over-correction, and now explicitly wants a mental health exception.
Although Obama’s claims that such an exception “can be defined rigorously” didn’t open the door wide enough for everyone, it seems clear that a determination of “mental health” needs would always be up to the medical professionals, possibly the abortionist himself. Certainly it would be covered by medical privacy law, so it would be almost impossible to enforce the law or identify when the mental health exception was being abused.
Just look at what it has taken to get Kansas late-term abortionist George Tiller investigated: Concerned about allegations that Tiller has performed late-term abortions on the basis of his own findings of “temporary depression,” citizens of Kansas have for years lobbied lawmakers, regulators and prosecutors, and have finally resorted to a little-used law allowing citizens to gather signatures on a petition calling for a grand jury investigation.
How exactly would that work in another state without such laws, or where an abortionist went quietly about his work without causing all the ruckus Tiller the killer has caused?
And, again, there’s no REASON to collapse the baby’s skull when it is viable and nearly born. Just let the little sucker out in one piece to take his or her first breath. There’s no shortage of parents on long waiting lists to adopt babies.

CT September 26, 2008 at 9:50 am

Chris Matthews? Yeah, THAT is where I go to get real grade-A quality Catholic theology… Chris effing Matthews…
FWIW, his brother, also Catholic, and pro-life IIRC, and a delegate IIRC to the RNC, said he would “of course support” Chris MatthewS should he run for IIRC the Senate.
This leads me to an interesting question. Do you or other pro-lifers consider it legitimate for a pro-life person to support the candidacy of a pro-choice individual when that individual is a close friend or family member? I think loyalty should override one’s partisan passions in that case. If so, then this is another case when it may be legitimate for select individuals to vote for pro-choice candidates.

SDG September 26, 2008 at 9:59 am

I think loyalty should override one’s partisan passions in that case.

I feel quite certain this is a case where Jesus’ more shocking comments about family ties would come into play.

CT September 26, 2008 at 10:10 am

SDG,
You make a good point on the potential for it being abused but abuse of that nature is possible in a wide variety of areas. In Oregon, IIRC, the physician assisted dying law requires to physicians to sign on before physician assisted dying takes place. So that prevents potential abuse in that case. Something similar could work for abortion where if something easily “fudged” can be used an exception the law could require two physicians to sign on except in cases of medical urgency as judged by the attending physician (a rape victim would always involve a case of medical urgency).
I don’t think it is necessary though. Suppose an abortion recipient becomes pro-life and vindictive later in life and decides to turn on her physician. Then the law or a court could expose the medical records and make the physician liable under the law for whatever penalties the law may envision for such “fraud.”
Obama’s openness to abortion restrictions is not new. To take it to be new is unreasonable since Obama is per Senator Feingold a “constitutional scholar” and who in his legal career as student and graduate and law review editor and so forth would have expressed something contrary to that openness where he previously opposed to that openness (it’s not merely “openness” btw; it’s something he wants to do).
But let’s suppose it is new. Then isn’t that a good thing? It takes courage to evolve one’s thoughts or change one’s mind. This is a point that the Catholic Governor of California made relatively recently, saying it is wrong to make every change in opinion of a politician into a “flip flop”; that it is a good sign if a politician has the courage to change his mind.
I find it very interesting that pro-lifers embrace “Roe” when she converts to their cause and yet (many) of these same pro-lifers are suspicious of Mitt Romney when he converts to their cause. It is no wonder if some of these same (which you may not be among) are also suspicious of Barrack Obama when he expresses a pro-life view.

Brian Walden September 26, 2008 at 10:20 am

CT, I didn’t say it was true that c-sections are always safer than an abortion. I asked in which circumstances it would be? I have no medical training; I don’t claim to know the answers, just I’m curious. I googled “when is abortion safer than c-section” and the results were pretty much all pro-life sites – which I’d assume you wouldn’t recommend for their answers. It sounds like you’ve at least looked into this a little bit, do you know of an example or two where if X, Y, and Z then abortion is the best medical option?
I wish we all we had to be concerned about was giving people the greatest opportunity to exercise their freedom, but I think you know that the debate over abortion is not merely a philosophical exercise. Abortion is the killing of a living human being, it’s not so much about the choice of the mother as it is the direct effect their choice has on another person. If, for example, laws against murder are the only thing preventing the murder rate from being twice as high as it is, then that’s good enough for the people whose lives are saved. If it’s a law that keeps mothers from killing their babies and especially that keeps others from pressuring mothers into killing their babies, then that’s a good start.
Life and death situations are always tricky, and I would be very slow to judge anyone’s decision when both the lives of both mother and child are at stake. But at the same time, I can’t imagine a reason to kill one when it’s highly probable to save both. Preferring an abortion to the scarring of a c-section is no more a legitimate choice than preferring an abortion to the scarring of giving birth in a healthy pregnancy.
While fetal pain is an interesting subject, I don’t see how it pertains to whether or not abortion should be legal. It’s no more right to kill a human because they’re in the fetal stage of development and may not feel the pain, than it is to kill a human who is under anesthesia.

Inocencio September 26, 2008 at 10:20 am

Anyway, if I am saying that your understanding of what I intended to communicate is wrong then I don’t see how you could reasonably disagree with that here. I know what I intended to communicate.

umm that sounds a little like…

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

Which is what most of your comments sound like. Since your background in ridiculous arguments obviously dwarfs my own I will defer to your obvious mastery in saying nothing with the most words possible.
Enjoy yourself in the Looking Glass…
Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Brian Walden September 26, 2008 at 10:28 am

CT, I don’t have a definite opinion on “Roe” or Romney but a simple explanation for their different receptions among some pro-lifers is the Missourian principle: Show Me. I’d guess that in the minds of these people one has walked the walk and one hasn’t.

SDG September 26, 2008 at 10:34 am

Good grief, CT.
It’s easy, and right, to “embrace” a self-confessed penitent and convert who was used by unscupulous activists and is not running for public office.
It’s also reasonable and prudent to be suspicious of politicians who seem to shift in the prevailing wind, especially those who hold public views for long periods of time, presumably suggesting that some thought has gone into it, and then, without ever quite repudiating their old views, try to smooth over inconvenient details in their past and forge a new political identity for themselves.
If you’ll notice, the links above show that pro-choicers are also skeptical of potential shifts against their views from politicians like Obama (and McCain). That’s only common sense when someone wants your vote.
The attribution of anything resembling “a pro-life view” to Barack Obama, especially with no more justification than a vague willingness to “restrict late-term abortions” as long as there are mental health exceptions, is so outrageous that I can’t dignify it with a reply.

CT September 26, 2008 at 11:19 am

President Clinton recently declined to say that the election of McCain would be “bad for the country.” Is anyone here willing to say that the election of Obama, who would be the first African American President, would be bad for the country? IIRC, SDG has stated that Obama would not only be bad for they country but worse for the country than a “hate-spewing racist” due to what Obama “stands for” which is worse than I guess the hate that the “hate spewing racist” “stands for.” So according to SDG, it would be better for the country if hypothetically, a “hate spewing racist” were elected POTUS versus Obama, who would happen to be the first African American President.
This doesn’t show SDG’s position is wrong, but it reveals just how striking his view that abortions trumps everything in the political and legal sphere is.

Jordanes September 26, 2008 at 11:21 am

It’s no more right to kill a human because they’re in the fetal stage of development and may not feel the pain, than it is to kill a human who is under anesthesia.
Yes, but it makes pro-aborts feel better about killing unborn children if they can tell themselves, “They’re not feeling any pain.”
I may be reading SDG wrong, but he seems to see intrinsic value in having both the rights of fetuses recognized in law and criminal nature of abortion established in law, prescinding from what practical effects such laws may have on the abortion count.
The practical effect of a law banning abortion would be a LOT less abortion.

Jordanes September 26, 2008 at 11:24 am

Is anyone here willing to say that the election of Obama, who would be the first African American President, would be bad for the country?
Yes. The election of Obama would be a first-rate disaster for the country. The ethnicity and continental origin of his father would do nothing to change that.

SDG September 26, 2008 at 11:29 am

Is anyone here willing to say that the election of Obama, who would be the first African American President, would be bad for the country?

I thought I had been saying that as emphatically as I knew how.
Of course there would be good consequences of an Obama presidency, as well as bad. And the same is true of McCain. That is a trivial acknowledgement. It’s the degree of gravity and the ratios that makes the difference.

This doesn’t show SDG’s position is wrong, but it reveals just how striking his view that abortions trumps everything in the political and legal sphere is.

Yes. Racist hatred — or any other kind of hatred, including anti-religious or anti-Catholic hatred — is a great evil, but far less evil than abortion.
That is why I’ve always thought it misguided when anti-McCain activists have tried to stir up Catholic discontent against Palin by warning about the anti-Catholic connections of one of her past churches. As if serious Catholics could consider anti-Catholic bigotry to be on a par with scissoring baby skulls.

Jordanes September 26, 2008 at 11:29 am

P.S. In fact, Obama’s paternal racial origins would, if anything, make his election an even greater calamity: the first African-American President of the United States an ardent supporter of the slaughter of unborn children? The first African-American president should be a noble and virtuous man, a man of enlightened moral principles.

Brian Walden September 26, 2008 at 11:30 am

CT, yes if the only two possible choices are, for example, between someone who supports the legalized killing of millions of unborn babies and someone who supports legalized discrimination against a certain race or races, the hate spewing racist would be the better choice. Both candidates discriminate and dehumanize an entire class of people, only one murders them. Of course, if a real life situation like this happened I imagine many people would vote 3rd party or abstain.
If, in a similar example, I were forced to choose between between the most pro-Death presidential candidate in the history of our nation and a hate spewing anti-Catholic who wanted to do everything in his power to harm the Church but also vowed to end abortion, I’d choose the latter.

msb September 26, 2008 at 11:55 am

US Supreme Court in Doe v Bolton, 410 U.S. 179, 192 (1973), the companion case to Roe v. Wade:
“We agree with the District Court that the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors –physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the wellbeing of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.”
This also illustrates that Obama’s waffling on what mental health means is meaningless because he never says health does not include things like “familial” health and the woman’s age.
CT is continuing to dodge FOCA completely and instead raise meritless peripheral points.

Tim J. September 26, 2008 at 12:22 pm

“In Oregon, IIRC, the physician assisted dying law requires to physicians to sign on before physician assisted dying takes place. So that prevents potential abuse in that case…”
You keep telling yourself that and you may start to believe it.

Margarita September 26, 2008 at 1:35 pm

Very simply, Obama is the candidate of the culture of death. He’s probably the purest culture-of-death presidential candidate in American history.
Obama and McCain are running for the presidency, not the ministry of vice and virtue. Even if abortion is the single most important issue there is, it is still just that — a single issue among many other very important issues of government, including others with literal life-and-death implications.
As grave an issue as what evil the government passively allows may be, when it comes to voting it is also — and perhaps more directly — relevant to me what evil the government actively perpetrates, not to mention what positive good it can potentially accomplish.
We have a duty to exercise in good faith our best discernment and judgment in casting a vote (or not) between the imperfect choices presented to us, which I think you agree with. And we are acting morally when we do so even if we vote for Barack Obama, which I get the sense is where we part company.
If I am wrong in that inference, I would be happy to see some clarification and apologize for the misunderstanding.

bill912 September 26, 2008 at 1:41 pm

All other issues are irrelevant if you are not alive.

SDG September 26, 2008 at 1:54 pm

Even if abortion is the single most important issue there is, it is still just that — a single issue among many other very important issues of government, including others with literal life-and-death implications.

What other issue has hundreds of thousands of life-and-death implications every year?
Since you don’t actually interact with my line of reasoning, there is nothing more for me to say by way of defense. But I wonder if you would describe, say, support for slavery in the same relativistic terms.

And we are acting morally when we do so even if we vote for Barack Obama, which I get the sense is where we part company.

That depends on what you mean. I’m sure that Obama voters are subjectively acting morally, i.e., choosing what they believe are goods that are proportionate to what they believe are the possible attendant evils. Although I believe they are incorrect in this assessment, I make no judgment of their culpability.

Tim J. September 26, 2008 at 1:55 pm

“…a single issue among many other very important issues”
The bishops beg to differ;
“The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life … is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.”
In case you missed it, the USCCB instructs that abortion can NOT be considered just “one issue among many”.

Inocencio September 26, 2008 at 1:56 pm

Is anyone here willing to say that the election of Obama, who would be the first African American President, would be bad for the country?

It would be horrible for our country.

And we are acting morally when we do so even if we vote for Barack Obama, which I get the sense is where we part company.

A Catholic voting for Obama knowing his pro-abortion record and stance would be acting immorally. No other issue in this election is proportionate to abortion.
Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Margarita September 26, 2008 at 3:17 pm

That depends on what you mean.
I mean, are they morally culpable? And I hear you saying that you make no judgment in this regard. Thank you for that clarification.
You observed that I didn’t actually interact with your line of reasoning, which is correct, as I understand and respect your opinion and it wasn’t my intent to argue with it. My only confusion was on the specific matter that I raised.
You asked if I would describe support for slavery in the same relativistic terms. Hypothetically speaking, perhaps. I believe that a nineteenth-century voter could morally have calculated that voting for a non-abolitionist candidate (and then continuing to actively oppose slavery and to work toward its eventual end) was the most prudent course if the abolitionist candidate would almost certainly result in a disastrous civil war and the potential destruction of the nation itself without achieving the actual goal of abolishing slavery. I wonder if you agree.
In case you missed it, the USCCB instructs that abortion can NOT be considered just “one issue among many”.
You are referring to what the USCCB addressed as the first of two temptations in public life, “a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity.”

The second is the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity. Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act. These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed. Catholics are urged to seriously consider Church teaching on these issues. Although choices about how best to respond to these and other compelling threats to human life and dignity are matters for principled debate and decision, this does not make them optional concerns or permit Catholics to dismiss or ignore Church teaching on these important issues.

I confess that I called abortion “a single issue among many other very important issues of government,” which you might concede is literally true notwithstanding the figurative truth of the USCCB’s turn of phrase, which I acknowledged with my explicit premise that “abortion is the single most important issue there is.” I do not believe that premise can reasonably be confused with “a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity.”

CT September 26, 2008 at 4:04 pm

I didn’t “dodge” FOCA. I ignored it for I did not feel it apt to address it right away at those times. And then I did address it up above. You must have missed it. Press Ctrl-F and type in FOCA and then cycle through the results until you can read what I had to say about it above.
This also illustrates that Obama’s waffling on what mental health means is meaningless because he never says health does not include things like “familial” health and the woman’s age.
The court doesn’t speak of “familial health” any more than it spoke of “age health” it speaks of a factor that is named “familial” and a factor named “age” — I presume they are referring to risk factors based on family history just as a family history of heart disease may be one amongs many factors a physician uses to judge certain risks. But if they are referring to how the familial environment relates to any psychological evaluation done, then are you serious? Any psychological evaluation would take into account familial environment. There may be stress based on the familial environment — this doesn’t mean any degree of stress based on familial environment would justify a triggering of the health exception, it means only that it is one factor among many that in composite may justify it. As for “woman’s age” — that should be a factor. I don’t think you understood what the court is saying there. It is standard medical practice to consider a person’s age for a variety of things. For instance some pharmaceutical products are contradindicated for certain populations based on age — and also by the way based on sex or even race. So if the court had listed “race” as a factor there then you would be I presume trumpetting that as the court saying mere membership in a race would count as a health exception! Medical decisions are variant to each case possibly dependent on any number of variables. BTW, in case you didn’t know it is medically risk for very young women (who in these cases may be victims of rape or sexual abuse and manipulation) or for very old women (relative to the range of ages of women able to give birth of course) to give birth. In some cases the age alone may not trigger a health exception but the age in combination with some other factor such as past complication in pregnancy or child birth may trigger it.
My challenge on citing a controlling opinion of SCOTUS remains (btw, I already acknowledged above that “health” can be interpreted as to include mental health — I think that’s a good thing … I think mental well being is as important as physical well being and you being a Christian should agree with that)

CT September 26, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Here’s a concise redutio of the claim that reducing abortion account– let’s broaden it to “murder” account — trumps everything else.
Suppose candidate A wants to have abortion on demand and lead the move which we would with his charismatic skills do successfully to enshrine it via constitutional amendment as a right incorporated against the states, making it reasonable to suppose that over the course of the next 1,000 years the abortion count will be over 100 billion lives lost or “murders” perpetrated.
Suppose candidate B wants to self-nuke the United States, literally. This would result in 1/4 billion lives lost or murders perpetrated.
So electing A would result in an astronomically higher lives lost count/murder count whereas electing B would keep it within an upper bound that is miniscule in comparison.
The logic of some here would entail voting for B, yet I hope you can see that voting for A would be in this case the right choice. This is because focusing one’s political sights on a single thing — number of lives lost or murders — makes one fail to see the complexities involved and also the simplicity involved. Candidate A can be preferred to B by asking a single question: “Which candidate does less wrong against the United States as a country, as a real corporate entity, distinct from its members?” Since B favors the annihilation of the United States, A can be preferred.
Now, let’s make the example more realistic (making it realistic is not necessary for the above “reductio” btw, but it is necessary for doing a “reductio” on more reasonable claims which some may claim here or want to retreat to eventually).
Keep the situation the same as above except Candidate B favors not the self-nuking of the United States but the subsumation of the United States into a North American Union or the relinquishing of United States soveriegnty to a world court by a treaty that would make a world court the final arbiter of what is binding law in the United States with respect to its jurisdiction and the final arbiter of the scope of that jurisdiction (much as how SCOTUS treats btw the legislative and executive branches currently). The issue of SCOTUS being bound by an international court opinion came up recently in a SCOTUS case btw and the North American Union is according to a person admired by some here (Ron Paul), something that is a very real danger.
In any event suppose hypothetically that such where the case. Electing Candidate B would not then result in any lives lost. But it would still result in the erasure of the United States as a real corporate entity. For some perhaps a single life lost “trumps” that would be loss. For me it seems that a person can reasonably value the continued existence of the United States as a real corporate entity above the loss of a single life, or even of over the course of the years specified above, many billions.

msb September 26, 2008 at 4:41 pm

“Press Ctrl-F and type in FOCA and then cycle through the results until you can read what I had to say about it above.”
Result = Nothing

CT September 26, 2008 at 4:51 pm

msb, assuming your post isn’t a joke, it works for me, you’ll have to read through my posts then as I don’t think it proper to just cut and past something I already posted.

Inocencio September 26, 2008 at 5:05 pm

CT,
Just give msb time of your silly FOCA post. You should be thrilled somebody actually wants to read what you wrote.
Also, is it possible to discuss the issues without making up ridiculous situations that have nothing to do with the actual issues of this election? Or is that not possible in Wonderland?
For Catholics there is no proportionate issue to abortion in this election. period
Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

CT September 26, 2008 at 5:05 pm

msb, p.s. on certain browsers you may need to be a little tech savvy to get Ctrl-F to work as it may not cycle through all results but instead search from a location within a document to the end of the document. In that case you need to click on “previous” instead of “next” …. if your “focus” (that’s a tech term) is in something the part of the document that contains the text you are searching (even if sometimes on the same webpage), then it may not work either. Anyway, I can’t be of much help to you here. BTW, contrary to Inocencio’s characterization of my arguments, the Catholic philosopher Alexander Pruss — who is “bona fide” Catholic — had something quite positive to say about my initial post on Catholicism entailing that God could have been inherently different which had ironically caused Inocencio to characterize my blog as anti-Catholic. So if Inocencio understood my argument there as he claims to have my arguments up abovethen I guess he didn’t feel it as something that genuinenly “moves the discussion forward” as Pruss did. Pruss is an “orthodox” Catholic.

CT September 26, 2008 at 5:18 pm

The fact that there is no proportionate issue to abortion in this election does not make the arguments used to establish that fact immune from reductios that use situations not existent in this election when those arguments use principles that subject them so
So to use an illustration, if I say:
1. Investing in gold is the best decision at this time.
2. I believe this because the only thing we need to consider when determining what is the best investment decision is whether something is a precious metal that begins in English with g and ends with d.
Then even though 1 may happen to be true, the basis for the reasoning is false.
Likewise if someone says:
1. Abortion trumps all other issues or any combination of issues in this election.
2. I believe this because a count of lives lost to murder corresponds to a degree of evil that will always trump an evil that does not involve any lives lost or that involves a count of lives lost that is lesser, or that is dramatically lesser (and specify whatever “dramtically means”
I took some here to be saying precisely this. My reductios are not against 1. That’s not what reductios are about. Reductios are about proving an argument wrong, not proving a particular factual claim right or wrong.

CT September 26, 2008 at 5:42 pm

Let me clarify that one can of course do reductios on particular factual claims and indeed the reductios I did above involve precisely that. My meaning was that particular factual claims are in the course of discourse not just asserted but asserted with argumentation and so that in that context, reductios serve the purpose of proving those arguments wrong. If no argument is presented and a particular factual claim is simply rawly asserted then no reductio is needed since as JA has previously noted the “burden of proof” as he put it rests 100% with the person trying to persuade the interlocuter.

SDG September 26, 2008 at 7:41 pm

CT, While I would not myself argue 1 based on 2 in exactly the forms you’ve presented, I’m not sure how your reductio refutes 2, since self-nuking the US would seem to involve more loss of life than abortion.

CT September 26, 2008 at 7:52 pm

SDG, it involves less murder of life because assuming the continued existence of the U.S. over a sufficient length of time, the number of abortions will eventually accumulate to a total greater than the current population of the U.S. So for example if there are 100,000 abortions every year, and the current population of the U.S. is 300,000,000, then the abortion rate remains constant each year, then after 3,007 years, 700,000 more lives would have been lost to murder than if all 300,000,000 current individuals in the U.S. had been murdered in self-nuking.

CT September 26, 2008 at 8:08 pm

“then the abortion rate” should be “and the abortion rate” Of course one need not work with just these assumptions, a more generalized case can be made, but this serves as a good illustration.

SDG September 26, 2008 at 8:12 pm

SDG, it involves less murder of life because assuming the continued existence of the U.S. over a sufficient length of time, the number of abortions will eventually accumulate to a total greater than the current population of the U.S.

However, no president decides policy for 3000 years. One president favoring self-nuking can wipe out 300 million in one administration; no pro-abort president has anything like that power over life and death, even if the whole Supreme Court were killed on his last day in office and he got to stack the bench with nine 20-year-old Ginsbergs or Blackmuns. With abortion, in principle, there’s always the next election, and the next, and the next.
It may also be worth noting that, while this goes beyond actual loss of life, the enormity of wiping out an entire population and thus preventing the existence of all the future generations of that entire population is incalculable. Abortion might kill 300 million people over 3000 years, but it would also allow countless million to be born and live who would never even be conceived in the wake of self-nuking.

CT September 26, 2008 at 8:39 pm

In my scenario I made certain stipulations that addressed that, but that’s neither here nor there since you acknowledge that there can be concerns other than lives lost to murder that can have parity with it even when those concerns don’t have any impact (or any significant impact) on the number of lives lost to murder. So I think we are making progress here. You say:
but it would also allow countless million to be born and live who would never even be conceived in the wake of self-nuking.
So you are placing a positive value on the countless millions to be born and their lives lived in future generations that may *in principle* be a value that could be integral or critical in outweighing an issue such as abortion. More people in existence is more good in the world and that good may outweigh the evil of the increased murder. But are you claiming that the good of human life is such that no other good could be commensurate with it?
Suppose that space travel to a certain part of the universe involved zero practical benefit and would serve only to satisfy our curiousity and give us a glimpse of something beautiful and that this space travel would due to some inherent danger involve the sending of a crew of 1,000 with only 1 survivor coming back. 999 lives would be lost for the sake of the elective good of curiousity satisfied and physical beauty glimpsed. Your view that human life is incommensurate with any other good would mean you would evaluate that decision to pursue this space travel as morally problematic in this fundamental way.
And it’s not clear to me that more people is something that involves more good in the world. The existence of a cow is a good thing. Would that mean if cows existed on a massive scale in the universe in every corner of the galaxy that everything else being equal, that the universe would have more good? Humans like cows are in your view good in a finite way.
And how would your analysis deal with say a candidate that favored sterilizing everyone in the U.S? (some groups favor the voluntary self-extinction of the human race — suppose their movement gained more traction and that they favored coerced sterilization and their candidate was running against the pro-abort candidate in my earlier example) Or replace sterilization with indoctrination into a religious view that everyone should be celibate so that the candidate would effect the voluntary self-extinction of the American people through celibacy — just like how certain American religious movements in history that taught universal celibacy inevitably died out!

Inocencio September 26, 2008 at 10:21 pm

CT,

caused Inocencio to characterize my blog as anti-Catholic

Please refresh my memory, when did I characterize your blog as anti-catholic?
If you are referring to the Formal Defection post I was only repeating what I have always said about you specifically, not your blog post.

I think it is obvious that as long as the Church teaches that some acts are immoral you will feel the obligation to attack and undermine it’s teachings.
You desire license not freedom.

I would still hope that you would answer my question, on that thread, about your standing or relationship to the Church as a self-proclaimed “former Catholic”?
Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Sleeping Beastly September 26, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Decker2003,
You wrote:
It seems to me that we have to do more than just identify the candidate’s position on certain issues, we need to analyze how likely it is that electing that candidate will lead to the desired change.
That’s pretty much how I see it. What effects will my vote have, and how can I best use it? It’s not simple, and it involves a lot of guesswork. That’s why we have so many well-meaning and well-informed people with such a diversity of opinion.

Sleeping Beastly September 26, 2008 at 11:58 pm

CT,
You address many issues here, and I hope you’ll pardon me for responding to them all in a single comment.
I was not claiming that points of view should not be employed when deciding how to educate the public. I was only claiming that the education process itself should not indoctrinate people to a certain point of view.
Unless you’re using some novel definition of “indoctrinate” I fail to see how you can reconcile those two sentences.
Biden seems to me to be saying that were we living in a society where 100% or close to it believed in the immorality of abortion as the taking of a human life, that he would support making it illegal but that since our society is pluralistic, with different religions or atheisms with different views on the relevant issues and since the Catholic understanding of natural law is itself an understanding that is the subject of Catholic doctrine, a doctrine that non-Catholics may disagree with and some of some religions by virtue of their religions do disagree with (and even Aquinas says IIRC, that some findings of the natural law require a level of intellectual work that make them obscure to most people; in fact, it is a standard Catholic doctrine that revelation that repeats something true on natural law or natural theology is given for, among other reasons, making clear what may be obscured in the cloud of natural law/theology — Ludwig Ott states this for example in FoCD)
A friendly suggestion: Keeping your sentences short makes them easier to understand and easier to complete.
BTW, SDG, Scalia does not believe there is a right to life for fetuses under the U.S. Constitution. Scalia claims that asserting such a right would be as legally indefensible an opinion as the opinion in Roe. McCain also seems to likewise agree that there is no right to life for fetuses under the US Constitution.
I think it’s a snap to find such a right in the fifth amendment. Either Scalia and McCain are being disingenuous, or they don’t regard fetuses as people.
Kmiec’s legal credentials dwarf both mine and yours. I think frankly you and I should both defer to him in terms of judging the good faith of his views where whether it is in good faith or not turns on a legal judgment.
No one’s questioning his good faith here. Just his conclusion.
I don’t understand why you would think mental health is somehow less important than physical health, you being a Catholic who sees the value of bodily things to be inferior to spiritual things or to have parity in value only in dependence on spiritual things.
Better go back to the catechism: specifically paragraph 365. Perhaps you’re confusing Catholicism with Gnosticism?
(I, OTOH, don’t view bodily things to have no overlap with spiritual things; some bodily things in their very constitution may be spiritual in nature — likewise some spiritual things in their very constitution may be bodily in nature … I am not even sure there exists any concrete objects which are not “bodily” i.e. which are not either able to have sensory experience or be, in principle, the object of sensory experience … but I do believe spiritual things exist: a musical performance for example is a spiritual thing yet its existence is wholly in “bodily” form)
Perhaps there are no ‘concrete objects which are not “bodily”‘ (although I wonder what distinction you’re making between “concrete” and “bodily”) but surely you admit that there are immaterial realities? Your thoughts, for instance.
Catholic and self-described “thomist” in world view Chris Matthews has made the point that when we force women to make the “right” decision in these cases then we can no longer praise the beautiful choice of say Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin can also no longer say that she is proud of her daughter’s choice to keep the baby.
That is one of the worst arguments I have ever heard on any issue. By that logic, we ought to legalize rape as well, since it would allow nonrapists to feel good about themselves, and we could then admire and praise their heroic choices.
For when an action is forced, there is nothing beautiful in the actor for the actor is no more (instead the govt becomes the actor — so I guess you could say it was a beautiful choice of the govt) and there is also nothing that can be taken pride in by the actor or her parents (I guess also you can now take pride in the totalitarianism of the govt).
Utter nonsense. For one thing, human agency doesn’t disappear from the equation the moment the law is involved. Ideally, we can all take pride in our collective efforts to look after the weakest and most defenseless in our society by means of government regulations.
For another, there’s no reason to think that lowering the moral bar will increase the number of heroes in our society, or that raising it will decrease them. It’s not a stretch to believe that, when the bar is raised, people try harder and perform better, and when the bar is lowered, even the best among us get lazy. Matthews’ argument seems to me like an argument for relaxing academic standards so that we can give out more A’s.
Um Inocencio, at least two persons here, both Catholics, admitted they didn’t understand some of my arguments.
I don’t think that’s something to be proud of. It’s not so much a sign of your superior intellect as it is a sign of your inability to communicate effectively.
I find it very interesting that pro-lifers embrace “Roe” when she converts to their cause and yet (many) of these same pro-lifers are suspicious of Mitt Romney when he converts to their cause.
For one thing, there is no cost involved in embracing “Roe”. We’re not electing her to public office, so if her conversion turns out to be insincere, no one’s life will be lost as a result.
On top of that, “Roe” has been a penitent convert for many, many years, whereas Romney’s change of heart is more recent. “Roe” has very little to gain (materially) from her conversion; Romney had a real shot at the Republican nomination. Taking these two facts into account, we are not entirely convinced that his change of heart represents a real principled stand, rather than an actual ideological conversion.
SDG, it involves less murder of life because assuming the continued existence of the U.S. over a sufficient length of time, the number of abortions will eventually accumulate to a total greater than the current population of the U.S. So for example if there are 100,000 abortions every year, and the current population of the U.S. is 300,000,000, then the abortion rate remains constant each year, then after 3,007 years, 700,000 more lives would have been lost to murder than if all 300,000,000 current individuals in the U.S. had been murdered in self-nuking.
In your example, I’d still vote for the anti-self-nuking candidate. The issue isn’t one of numbers or of “the good of the country”, but of time. If I vote in a pro-self-nuking candidate, BOOM, that’s it, hundreds of millions dead all at once. If I vote in a pro-abortion candidate, there’s still time to change the course of the country.

CT September 27, 2008 at 4:32 am

I don’t think that’s something to be proud of. It’s not so much a sign of your superior intellect as it is a sign of your inability to communicate effectively.
Your sly insinuation that I claimed it was a sign of my superior intellect is disappointing. Just for the record previously I was in SDG’s words “excessively” cautious in not offending or causing people to misunderstand. I would among other things qualify statements that someone had not understood me correctly with the parenthetical remark that it was probably due in part or mostly due to my own fault — though I don’t see why anyone should care whose fault the misunderstanding is. Now that I have cut back on all that, you mischaracterize my remarks which were part of a fruitless argument I was having with another individual who seems intent on devolving discussions into insults against persons (I am glad that he has long dropped the claim that I am a customer of prostitutes).
I am not proud of my lack of clarity in writing, especially when I write off the cuff. Nor am I proud of my lack of ability to make things clear to those unfamiliar with the concepts I am working with. The only pride I expressed here was in the praise that a Catholic philosopher gave to part of my first blog post as a “genuine move forward” in the discussion, a blog post he evidently was able to parse through despite any deficiencies in clarity there. I expressed such pride not to show off any intellectual superiority but to rebut the claim that my blog was launched to bash Catholicism. In another thread I expressed such pride in the context of a followup to TMC who had expressed interest in that post and asked me to inform him of it.
You have a strange way of making yourself “friendly.” Your advice was accurate. Your remark however belies your claim that it is friendly and betrays your bad faith — I say this since you previously asked me to tell you if I ever thought you were acting in bad faith.
BTW, Tim J’s response to my response to an individual we later found out was Esau is rather telling. Esau was in my view trumpeting his own intelllectual superiority and engaged in explicit disparagement of my own intellect while making with explicit condescenion sprinkled throughout references to PubMed, medical and other jargon, and a pop quiz on a Latin phrase used in philosophy, and other things I don’t recall off hand. I then responded to this charade, to this smoke and mirrors by initially patiently refuting logically and with references when need be certain of his claims. Then at some point I transitioned into making more explicit how certain of his claims were unjustified based on the philosophy that would be needed, etc. Then finally, when his smoke and mirrors charade had reached its height, I thought that wisest thing to do at this point would be to resoundly show how he was in Tim J’s words with respect to me “talking out of his arse”. Then Tim J proceeded to (first to his credit he didn’t give any pretense of being “friendly” in his very valid criticism of my writing skills as more becoming of a graduate student than a professional), say how *I* was engaging in smoke and mirrors and talking out of *my* arse! lol.
My point here is not to be humorous or to disparage Tim J or Esau. My point rather is to suggest how partisanship can sometimes blind us to the truth, and also to the good which we must serve, which good is sometimes not primarily the good of some grand cause, but the seemingly mundane good of serving one single fellow human being, even veiled by internet communication. To me that is a beautiful act and one that is not something that can be said to be trumped by the service of any partisan cause, even the cause of Catholicism against arguments that it is false or even the cause of defending human lives against abortion. To not understand that, IMO, is a sign of not understanding, truly, why a human life is valuable in the first place.
BTW, one of my recent blog posts, with some modification would serve as another argument that lives unjustly lost (or for that matter anything that can be counted or ranked sequentially — with possibility of ties, but with no theoretical finite upper bound), can not be the ruling calculus here.
The man you seem to be a fan of (yet have not read his latest book I take it), has an interesting role to play in this news bio of Rachel Maddow. I invite you to read the brief article; if you do, I think you will be able to see why I so invited you.

SDG September 27, 2008 at 6:08 am

CT,
I do place a positive, though “incalculable,” value on future generations.
I do not claim that no other good can be commensurate with human life. Your spacefaring example is hard to evaluate because although you give a possible and dauntingly low survival rate (1 in 1000) you don’t mention the odds of this catastrophic outcome occurring or not occurring.
I would accept the legitimacy of such an expedition if there were a high likelihood or even a virtual certainty that a small number of deaths would occur, just as I accept the legitimacy of recreational rock climbing even though it is certain that a small percentage of rock climbers will die over time. I do not think I could rationalize an expedition, however fascinating, that was likely to kill nearly all of its members.
Christianity places a unique value on the human person. The human person is the only material creature that God desired for its own sake. All of creation is good, and that includes cows, but cows are good in a relative context, whereas the good of the human person is absolute.
Sterilization is also an intrinsic evil, though a lesser one than murder. However, sterilization on a population-wide scale could become more evil than murder on a more limited scale. Universal celibacy also would be an evil, though again less evil than universal sterilization, because celibacy itself is not intrinsically evil, but a serious proposal to enforce universal celibacy could be more evil than a program of limited murder.

Tim J. September 27, 2008 at 9:04 am

“My point here is not to be humorous or to disparage Tim J or Esau…”
Of course not…
“My point rather is to suggest how partisanship can sometimes blind us to the truth”
Yes, I don’t think that’s news.
“and also to the good which we must serve, which good is sometimes not primarily the good of some grand cause”
I don’t view the Catholic faith or the pursuit of truth as “partisan” at all. There is nothing outside the scope of the faith.
If I work to *truly* serve anyone at all, it is impossible that this act can be in conflict with any teaching of the Church.
So, for instance, when I affirm (with the Church) that homosexual marriage is a contradiction in terms, this does not mean that I am failing to act as a true servant to homosexual persons.
You seem to be of the opinion, CT, that all truths may be – or must be – established through reasoned argument. I do not. There are truths that simply are, that are in themselves the foundation and beginning of reason. One can hardly use reason to prove the reliability of reason, or by the accumulation of external data come to any solid conclusion regarding the fundamental reliability of the senses.
At times – perhaps most of the time – you seem more interested in arguments than in truth. “Thou shalt not murder” is not something that arises from or is built on a system of reasoned arguments. It is not something tentatively held until validated by reason. It is reason. To insist that belief in such moral realities be suspended until these realities can be justified in rigorous philosophical language is to miss the whole nature of truth.
If a man reasoned and worked out in a very orderly way that murder was, in fact, not a problem, my first and fundamental conclusion would be either that he was a madman who took up logical argument as a hobby or an obsession, or that he began sanely enough and his logic DROVE him mad. In either case, his conclusions are mad and his logic twisted. That is the salient fact… the truth. I’ll worry about deconstructing his arguments *later*, if that is a project even worth the time one might be required to give it. There is an infinity of possible wrong arguments, and one can’t spend one’s whole life swatting them individually. There are more productive things to do.
So, when I see someone bringing what appears to be ten new, wrongheaded arguments (sophisms) to the defense of one previous argument which was being discussed, I pretty quickly decide that there are more productive uses of my time. I’m no mathematician, but I know roughly how exponential growth works.
There are many, many truths that are arrived at through reason, but not all of them are. This may be where we differ.

Sleeping Beastly September 27, 2008 at 10:49 am

CT,
Your sly insinuation that I can and ought to be kinder when disagreeing with you is duly noted, and taken for the friendly advice that it is.

The Masked Chicken September 27, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Dear Tim J.,
You are right, in the main. Let’s distinguish between derived truths and axiomatic truths. As is well known, one cannot prove the validity of axiomatic truths from within the system. One can prove the validity by recourse to meta-statements related to the axiom, but the meta-statements, themselves, become open to the same argument that they cannot be proven within their own level, but must rely on meta-meta-statements to prove them.
The only time that this recursion breaks down is if there is an omega-level reached – a level beyond which there is nothing.
If there is no God, then there are many axiomatic moral systems that are consistent within themselves, perhaps, but the ability to prove the truth of every statement within each system may be impossible from within the system. What makes one such moral system superior to another becomes purely a personal choice. This is the singular personalist axiomatic systematization of morals (SPASM).
If there is a God, by his very nature, he must be an omega point. If he gives moral axioms, then they must be non-recursive and unappealable. We may call this a singular universal axiomatic system of morals (SUASM).
In either system, there are derivative moral conclusions that may be based on the axioms, but only in the case of SUASM can one claim that the system of axioms and their derivatives are universal and true.
A man may reason to the conclusion that one must not kill another or a man may reason to the conclusion that one must kill all. In either case, however, even if consistency could be proven, The axiom would depend solely on the reasoning of a single man. Unless all men reason the same (and in axiomatics, there is no reason to assume this), there is no reason for anyone else to arrive at the same conclusion, because his own axiom system might be different.
In order for morality to apply to all, it must be given by someone outside of the system. God is the universal moral axiom giver. Man is the one who derives from those axioms and not his own if moral chaos is not to ensue.
The chicken

msb September 27, 2008 at 2:42 pm

OK CT–I found your comment, posted on Sep 25, 2008 at 9:56:19 PM.
It is utterly unresponsive. FOCA will strike down all pro-life laws and force states to facilitate abortion. Everyone but you recognizes this fact. Those laws prevent tens of thousands of abortions yearly. It is the first priority of an Obama administration. It is incompatible with contending that Obama wants to reduce abortion.
You have done nothing to substantively respond to this, just as you have done nothing to substantively respond to the idea that by wanting a “health” of the mother exception Obama is somehow not an abortion extremist. Both FOCA and “health” mean unlimited abortion. Your only comment on them was to say irrelevant things about their language.
It is utterly inconsequential that you think the language of FOCA is “consistent” with what you think Obama’s moderate attitude towards abortion is, and it is likewise immaterial that you impose a convoluted, self-originated interpration of familial and age “health” from Doe v. Bolton that has no basis in other judicial authorty.
Fact: FOCA will ban all pro-life laws and mandate state facilitation of abortion, which will increase abortions by a lot, and Obama insists on passing it. You cannot still insist that he may reduce abortion.
Fact: Obama’s opinion is so extreme that even on partial birth abortion he insists on a “health” exception, which judges who share his mindset do not limit to physical health as normal people understand it, but which includes, and has always included since Roe and Doe, “I have too many children” or “I can’t handle a baby if I’m unmarried,” or “I’m too young to have a baby,” that is, familial, emotional, and the woman’s age.

The Masked Chicken September 27, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Rotten Orange has commented that people, here, never used to write dissertations in the combox, so let me be short. As Tim J. pointed out, a man may argue through a moral axiom, but he may not argue to a moral axiom.
In other words, once one decides that something is a moral axiom, one may use it to derive other things, but one cannot argue to a moral axiom per se, because the supposed moral axiom would be a conclusion of an argument based on other moral axioms, and hence would not be an axiom, itself, but a derived result. One cannot argue from one axiom to another axiom.
If a man were to argue to the conclusion that he should not kill, then one may, rightfully, ask on what basis he came to that conclusion. The conclusion, itself would not be a moral axiom. Whatever caused him to reach that conclusion, probably would be (or they would be higher-level derived conclusions).
It is entirely possible that a derived result might land on top of a axiom derived by an entirely different means. Thus, God may hold that a man may not kill as an axiom. If a man reasons to this, it will be based on other reasons. The result may be true, but the reasoning must be entirely different or even wrong, since to employ the reasons of God, one must be God.
Opps, sounding dissertation-like :)
The Chicken

Sleeping Beastly September 27, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Chicken,
You wrote:
In other words, once one decides that something is a moral axiom, one may use it to derive other things, but one cannot argue to a moral axiom per se, because the supposed moral axiom would be a conclusion of an argument based on other moral axioms, and hence would not be an axiom, itself, but a derived result. One cannot argue from one axiom to another axiom.
While it’s true (by definition) that an axiom cannot be proven, that doesn’t mean that axioms cannot be addressed and shown to be reasonable or unreasonable. If I can prove, logically, a patently untrue conclusion starting from a certain axiom, then I have shown that axiom to be unreasonable.
I also think that a lot of problems that seem to stem from disagreements over axioms can be addressed semantically, by getting people to agree on definitions of terms.

The Masked Chicken September 27, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Dear Sleeping Beastly,
You wrote:
If I can prove, logically, a patently untrue conclusion starting from a certain axiom, then I have shown that axiom to be unreasonable.
It is certainly possible to do this starting from derived axioms. This is simply using the contrapositive to prove something. This is done all of the time in mathematics – assume something to be true and show that it leads to a contradiction.
The problem comes when one uses axioms at the same level. It is true that if one assumes an axiom A and its negative, ~A to hold at the same time, i.e, violate the law of non-contradiction, one can prove anything. That’s a standard proof in any beginning logic class. However, the law of non-contradiction is a higher order axiom than A or ~A, so, again, some is proving a lower level axiomatic contradiction by using a higher level axiom.
In one got rid of the law of non-contradiction, by assuming another comparative axiom held, as is done in para-consistent logics, then, in fact, there does not have to be something wrong in the logic.
So, I agree that one can make consistency arguments up to the level of the ultimate axioms one assumes in the logic one holds, but change the ultimate axioms and one changes the outcome.
That having been said, I happen to agree with Chesterton, that there are certain patterns of thinking that God himself seems to hold and starting from his moral axioms (which are consistent and non-contradictory), one can test other lower level propositions.
In the famous detective story, The Blue Cross, he wrote:
The first he heard was the tail of one of Father Brown’s sentences,
which ended: “… what they really meant in the Middle Ages by the
heavens being incorruptible.”
The taller priest nodded his bowed head and said:
“Ah, yes, these modern infidels appeal to their reason; but who can
look at those millions of worlds and not feel that there may well be
wonderful universes above us where reason is utterly unreasonable?”
“No,” said the other priest; “reason is always reasonable, even in the
last limbo, in the lost borderland of things. I know that people charge
the Church with lowering reason, but it is just the other way. Alone
on earth, the Church makes reason really supreme. Alone on earth, the
Church affirms that God himself is bound by reason.”
The other priest raised his austere face to the spangled sky and said:
“Yet who knows if in that infinite universe–?”
“Only infinite physically,” said the little priest, turning sharply
in his seat, “not infinite in the sense of escaping from the laws of
truth.”
Valentin behind his tree was tearing his fingernails with silent fury.
He seemed almost to hear the sniggers of the English detectives whom
he had brought so far on a fantastic guess only to listen to the
metaphysical gossip of two mild old parsons. In his impatience he lost
the equally elaborate answer of the tall cleric, and when he listened
again it was again Father Brown who was speaking:
“Reason and justice grip the remotest and the loneliest star. Look
at those stars. Don’t they look as if they were single diamonds and
sapphires? Well, you can imagine any mad botany or geology you please.
Think of forests of adamant with leaves of brilliants. Think the moon
is a blue moon, a single elephantine sapphire. But don’t fancy that all
that frantic astronomy would make the smallest difference to the reason
and justice of conduct. On plains of opal, under cliffs cut out of
pearl, you would still find a notice-board, ‘Thou shalt not steal.’”

The Chicken

CT September 27, 2008 at 5:40 pm

TMC wrote:
You are right, in the main. Let’s distinguish between derived truths and axiomatic truths. As is well known, one cannot prove the validity of axiomatic truths from within the system. One can prove the validity by recourse to meta-statements related to the axiom, but the meta-statements, themselves, become open to the same argument that they cannot be proven within their own level, but must rely on meta-meta-statements to prove them.
The only time that this recursion breaks down is if there is an omega-level reached – a level beyond which there is nothing

There are a few observations I would like to make.
(1) The results of Godel apply to theories that meet certain conditions. For example one could construct some theories in some infinitary languages that would prevent a Godel numbering scheme to work. The results also don’t apply to theories that are not powerful enough in certain respects related to practical applications in mathematics (i.e. arithmetic).
(2) As you seem to allude to, if every theory you assent to is proved consistent by some other theory you assent to, then obviously equivalently there is no theory to which you assent that is not proved consistent in some theory or other. Whether that is epistemologically significant may depend on the informal justification one has for accepting the relevant theories.
(3) The results of Godel are dealing with notions of provability where provability is defined in terms of the mechanisms of a language on a given theory. He is dealing with in essence as you note, “derivability.” Whether A is derivable from B is distinct from whether A is logically entailed by B. Completeness results are true only of certain logics. So whether P is provable in a theory T can be a distinct question from whether the truth of P can be discovered as part of T “closed” under logical entailment as opposed to logical derivability. So P may not be part of T closed under logical derivability but still be part of T “closed” under logical entailment. This means, ISTM, that the truth of P, given T, can still be “discovered” — it will just be discovered outside the mechanistic rules of T and its corresponding language.
I don’t see a reason to suppose that ordinary mathematical English and ordinary mathematical reasoning has to be reducible to formalized systems of these natures. That no formal system (given certain conditions) can be constructed that is able to prove the truth of every arithmetic truth does not entail that there is some arithmetic truth that mathematicians cannot construct some formal system to prove the truth of, nor does it entail that there is some arithmetic truth that mathematicians cannot prove using ordinary mathematical English and reasoning without the use of a formal system. There be something in the mathematical structure of language, theory and semantics — the kinds under consideration — that do not fully capture the scope of ordinary English or ordinary mathematical reasoning. The effort to formalize, in various ways, mathematics is a “project”. In relation to ethics, I think my sentiments here all the more true or at least, relevant.

The Masked Chicken September 27, 2008 at 5:42 pm

That should read:
However, the law of non-contradiction is a higher order axiom than A or ~A, so, again, one is proving a lower level axiomatic contradiction by using a higher level axiom.
The Chicken

The Masked Chicken September 27, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Dear CT,
You wrote:
(2) As you seem to allude to, if every theory you assent to is proved consistent by some other theory you assent to, then obviously equivalently there is no theory to which you assent that is not proved consistent in some theory or other. Whether that is epistemologically significant may depend on the informal justification one has for accepting the relevant theories.
Actually, what I meant is better summarized by this Wikipedia quote:
There are some who hold that a statement that is unprovable within a deductive system may be quite provable in a metalanguage. And what cannot be proven in that metalanguage can likely be proven in a meta-metalanguage, recursively, ad infinitum, in principle. By invoking such a system of typed metalanguages, along with an axiom of Reducibility — which by an inductive assumption applies to the entire stack of languages — one may, for all practical purposes, overcome the obstacle of incompleteness.
I think you used the term,” informal justification,” in your statement to be equivalent to, “an inductive assumption,” in the wikipedia statement, no?
An interesting question, however, is, “who is making the inductive assumption?” A single observer may make an inductive assumption for an infinity of objects of a single level, but can a single observer make an inductive assumption for an infinite number objects within an infinity of meta-levels? Can he do it in a finite time?
You see where I am going, of course? There is one agent who can certainly do this – God. Thus, God can certainly make a consistent and complete moral system. Whether or not man can, on his own, I think is an open question (but one I am inclined to answer in the negative). The reason I say this is that, although there are some statements that can be proven from other consistent systems outside of it, one is still left, in the moral arena, of proving those from other systems. Thus, is is possible to close this? I do not think so because the system do defined must apply to all men, but this implies n number of different inductors or n number of people using different systems and this may still lead to moral chaos because of possibly more than one moral system.
The Chicken

Rotten Orange September 27, 2008 at 8:55 pm

Rotten Orange has commented that people, here, never used to write dissertations in the combox…

Dear TMC
I hope you remember that I wrote such a thing, as far as I remember, while defending you when you threatened to leave this blog for good.
As matter of fact, I loved the comment you wrote previously (You are right, in the main. Let’s distinguish between derived truths and axiomatic truths.), because, if I’m not mistaken, I recognized in it the unintelligible pedantry constant in CT’s comments.
TMC rocks!

CT September 27, 2008 at 9:23 pm

@RO, TMC was replying to Tim J there.

CT September 27, 2008 at 9:54 pm

@TMC
There are no technical difficulties that Godel’s results poses such that a moral realism of appropriate universality would require an appeal to God. The best that you could do is say that certain classes of moral theories formalized in certain ways cannot be consistent. “Complete” in this context means that the theory for any sentence expressible in the language of the theory proves either the sentence itself or its negation. So let me make some observations from that starting point:
(1) This has not much to do with whether a theory is able to of every activity say whether it is morally right or not morally right. Here’s one example of a theory that would not be “complete” but still say of every moral activity whether it is right or not:
Construct a theory that incorporates all of PA (Peano Arithmetic)
Add to that the axiom: “Every activity is morally right.”
Then it is trivial to show that such a theory for every object over which “every activity” would quantify over would be able to prove whether or not it is morally right. So the use of “complete” in Godel’s results and the importation of the same word when speaking here in its application to moral theories can be misleading. The “completeness” in Godel’s results (in his incompleteness theorems that is, his completeness theorem deals with a different kind of completeness), is referring to one involving every sentence expressible in the theory, not to whether every object of a certain class can be proven in the theory to be morally right or not as dictated by the theory.
The above theory would of course be consistent assuming the theory that incorporates just PA is consistent. So there’s no technical problem here beyond that which already existed before the introduction of an insertion of morality into the discussion.
Now the above theory (assuming it is consistent) is not complete but the “incompleteness” is all in the arithmetic side — in some sentences that speak of or quantify over some natural numbers (or the representations of them in the theory) not being provable in the theory. There’s no sentence of the form “x is an activity and x is morally right” where neither it nor its negation is not provable in the theory.
Now this assumes that all we want a moral theory to do is make statements about activities. BTW, if all we want is a moral theory and not some combination of this moral theory and PA, then we can just throw out the PA part of the theory and language and the resultant theory and language, if formulated appropriately can actually be consistent and complete but it wouldn’t meet Godel’s condition of being a theory powerful enough for the practical application of arithmetic.
You may object that this moral theory is implausible — and I agree it is implausible … but I could come up with actual plausible ones but I’m not sure what kind of moral theory you want here. One that is exhaustively able to evaluate based on the relevant facts whether an act is morally right?
Well I am not sure what your appeal to God does for you then. It would mean that God is in possession of such a theory but still no mortal would be and so what would be the use of that? If you mean that the use is in that a person in possession of such a theory is communicating morsels of it to us, then I see what you are saying but the atheist could say simply that an exhaustive theory exists in the abstract but no one knows it all but we do come to now these morsels of it … much like how all the truths of number theory are out there in the abstract and no one knows them all (their number must be a cardinality greater than the natural numbers for obvious reasons), but we nevertheless come to know morsels of it.
So if the atheist is willing to accept that abstract things can exist without anyone being aware of them, I don’t see any problem (unless you mean that the believer is justified more in his moral beliefs since he can rely on God’s knowledge communicated through revelation whereas the atheist can only rely on what mortals come up with on their own)
Sorry if I have made any typos or mistakes above.

Inocencio September 27, 2008 at 11:12 pm

CT,

(I am glad that he has long dropped the claim that I am a customer of prostitutes)

I have no idea if you are a customer of prostitutes. And to be clear I said that only you know why you feel it is so important to defend prostitution, pornography and abortion.
But if you are going to say things like “the freedom to be immoral is a beautiful freedom”, I can only shake my head and wonder…
You are and remain in my prayers. Lord, Have mercy on both our souls.
Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Jeremiah September 28, 2008 at 12:16 am

Maybe it’s time the url was changed to SDG.org :D

CT September 28, 2008 at 2:46 am

This is what you wrote Inocencio with the bold present in your original text:
Since the Church won’t change its teaching on prostitution and pornography, two subjects apparently very important to CT, he feels the need to try to undermine all it teachings.
As we know most objections to the Church are because of moral problems not theological.
Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

bill912 September 28, 2008 at 4:32 am

And from that he leaped to the conclusion that Inocencio was accusing him of being a customer of prostitutes? Irrational.

CT September 28, 2008 at 5:48 am

Tim, since you expressed above that you do not wish to engage in dialogue with me, I will respect your wish and not reply to your post except to say that you do not correctly understand my views and that almost nothing you ascribe to me above is true.

JohnA September 28, 2008 at 6:09 am

Of course quoting Faithful Citizenship #28 which is the first temptation in public life of distorting the Church’s defense of human life and dignity should also lead one to read FC #29 which describes the second temptation (FC #28):
“… The second is the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity. Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war,the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration olicy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act. These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed. Catholics are urged to seriously consider Church teaching on these issues. Although choices about how best to respond to these and other compelling threats to human life and dignity are matters for principled debate and decision, this does not make them optional concerns or permit Catholics to dismiss or ignore Church teaching on these important issues.
So one cannot make a prudential judgement alone on abortion and euthanasia – other issues must be examined as well.

CT September 28, 2008 at 7:20 am

bill,
I would also like inform you that Inocencio has in other comments explicitly stated that it is for reasons of a desire to continue to engage in particular sins which the church teaches is wrong that I reject the church and that this is what he meant by rejecting the church for moral reasons not theological ones. So there was no ambiguity regarding what he meant in that respect since he has explicitly stated what he meant there and elsewhere in that refrain repeated some 10-15 times.
I think I have indeed been irrational in failing to appreciate that discussions with persons who intend to talk “personalities” not “issues” would be a waste of time.

bill912 September 28, 2008 at 7:41 am

The “other issues”, of course, being relavant only to those who are alive.

Inocencio September 28, 2008 at 9:11 am

CT,
Yes, I have explicitly stated that you desire license not freedom. Why prostitution and pornography are important to you, again only you know.
You defend them and wax poetically about the freedom to be immoral. It is not a huge leap to believe that you practice what you preach.
It seems obvious, except to you of course, that your problems with the Church are moral not theological.
I have side-tracked the discussion enough. CT you may have the final thousand words about your obsessions. To everyone else I apologize for high-jacking the thread.
And now back to our regularly scheduled post…
Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Tim J. September 28, 2008 at 11:30 am

“Tim, since you expressed above that you do not wish to engage in dialogue with me, I will respect your wish and not reply to your post except to say that you do not correctly understand my views and that almost nothing you ascribe to me above is true.”
Okay. It’s not so much that I don’t wish to engage in dialogue… I do. But in order for dialogue to exist, there must be some agreed upon axioms and it helps a great deal if the interlocutors speak the same language. Could you please explain to me in plain English which bits of my statement do not apply to you? Please keep in mind, I have no idea who Godel is (or was), and your post of Sep 27, 2008 5:40:25 PM is nearly incomprehensible to me, and – I would venture to guess – to the vast majority of people. There is part of me that wonders if that is not your intent.
Not that I *couldn’t* understand it if I had been educated in that milieu or if I were of a mind to do so now… but I’m not. I’m an artist and I don’t have time to launch a second career at this stage.
I expect, though, that your statement “I don’t see a reason to suppose that ordinary mathematical English and ordinary mathematical reasoning has to be reducible to formalized systems of these natures” pretty well sums up the chasm of thought between us.
You seem to be saying “There is no proof that mathematics (or its linguistic equivalent) can’t explain everything, even if we can’t articulate how that works in every case right now”.
This seems to me to be a leap of faith.
Of course, I could have you pegged completely wrong, but my poor brain is craving short, crisp sentences. Have mercy.

Tim J. September 28, 2008 at 11:43 am

Oh, for the record, I agree that we ought not float unsubstantiated, suggestive comments about the personal habits of those participating in the discussions… or anyone else. Not good form.
If I have been short tempered with CT at times, I believe it was only to do with actual positions he has taken (or seemed to take, or seemed to defend) in the combox.

CT September 28, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Tim,
It was TMC who brought Godel into the discussion. He was using Godel’s results which he described as “well known” He just didn’t mention the name Godel. So maybe you should ask yourself why there is part of you that wonders about my intent but not part of you that wonders about TMC’s intent … given that it was TMC who introduced Godel here.
I’ve noticed a change in the tenor of your posts, Tim, and I regret a recent comment I made as it relates to you. I don’t know whether you are just being polite or what is going on but at one point you did tell me that initially you gave me the benefit of the doubt and assumed I was just obtuse but that now you believe I am dishonest. You don’t have to tell me whether that is still a belief of yours but from my perspective engaging in dialogue with someone who is not ready to give the benefit of the doubt as to honesty or good faith is not a fruitful enterprise.
I actually had written up a comment previously that explained very politely what I did in fact believe and not believe, as well as engaging you substantively, but when I ran across your comments towards the end of your comment to which I was replying I took you to be saying dialogue with me was a waste of time. I am not sure you have changed that opinion, so I am not sure it is wise for me to rewrite what I had written in response to your gracious request above. pax

Tim J. September 28, 2008 at 1:19 pm

“…but that now you believe I am dishonest.”
I don’t believe I said that. Your posts *have* seemed to me at times like simply an exercise in contrarianism, though. Like I said, there is an infinity of *possible* arguments one might make. Life is too short to deal with them all.
It isn’t references to Godel specifically that I have any problem with. I was only asking you to keep in mind that I have no idea what you (or TMC) are talking about when you venture into such technical territory. Whatever you and TMC want to bounce back and forth is fine, but
“I took you to be saying dialogue with me was a waste of time. I am not sure you have changed that opinion…”
I’m not sure I have, either.
It’s only that when pressed you seem to fall habitually into very long, convoluted and jargon-filled responses that seem more like elaborate non-answers than real attempts at clarification.
That, I’m pretty sure, is where my previous accusations of “blowing smoke” came from. It seems almost calculated to obscure rather than clarify. I’m not certain, in other words, that it is clarity you are after.
It may be that you and I are fundamentally working at cross purposes and no dialogue is possible.
“One who goes to work on a different strand destroys the whole fabric.”
- Confucious

Tim J. September 28, 2008 at 1:28 pm

I don’t know what happened to make part of my last post disappear.
I short, technical jargon is a very useful thing within the various disciplines, but if it can’t be translated into simpler language with any clarity I begin to doubt the reliability of its philosophical underpinnings.

Tim J. September 28, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Interestingly, Zippy Catholic has a post that I think relates to this in some ways, though it deals mainly with economics.
http://zippycatholic.blogspot.com/2008/09/there-is-no-economic-theory-of.html

JohnA September 28, 2008 at 11:06 pm

>> The “other issues”, of course, being relavant only to those who are alive. < <
And who may become quite dead... take a look at what Pope John Paul II thought life issues were in his Address to the Diplomatic Corps (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/2003/january/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20030113_diplomatic-corps_en.html)where he urges political leaders to say Yes to Life.

The Masked Chicken September 29, 2008 at 5:42 am

Dear Tim J.
I am sorry for bringing Godel into the discussion. I was trying to flesh out some points you made earlier and it seemed the best way. I usually post links so people can do background reading, but typepad sometimes goes crazy, so I have tried to avoid that.
I agree that posts should be accessible. I will have to work on that.
The Chicken

Tim J. September 29, 2008 at 6:35 am

Chicken and CT -
I have no problem at all with you or anyone else using technical language in discourse with one another or for the benefit of those familiar with it. I really don’t! Especially if you define your terms and thereby educate the rest of us poor schmoes.
But a simple question (the only kind I am capable of asking) needs to be answered as simply and clearly as possible.
I am very aware that simple questions often require answers that are not simple at all, but the general thrust of an argument ought to be expressible in the common speech.
I see also that CT’s post of Sep 27, 2008 5:40:25 PM was directed to TMC rather than to me, though it was a discussion of ideas I introduced. So, seeing as it was not a direct response to me, I APOLOGIZE for treating it as if it were.
For the record, though, I had no trouble understanding TMC’s posts regarding axiomatic and derived truths, meta-statements, etc…

Mike Petrik September 29, 2008 at 6:51 am

CT says:
“Here’s some of Aquinas on natural law:
‘But some propositions are self-evident only to the wise, who understand the meaning of the terms of such propositions: thus to one who understands that an angel is not a body, it is self-evident that an angel is not circumscriptively in a place: but this is not evident to the unlearned, for they cannot grasp it.’
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2094.htm
I think the proposition that a human person always underlies a human life may be argued to be one such proposition that if self-evident is so “only to the wise.’”
Interesting proposition. Then let me ask you this: How many 5 year-old children would think that the baby in Mommy’s tummy is not a human life and therefore ok to kill? The honest answer, of course, is few if any, so the rich irony is that it is the pro-choice position that is grounded in sophisticated (and that truly is the perfect word) intellectualization, not the pro life position. The idea that in this case natural law is not yet sufficiently accessable to contemporary American adults is absurd. The truth is that support for abortion is grounded in selfish rationalization — absolutely nothing more.

The Masked Chicken September 29, 2008 at 11:52 am

Perhaps part of the problem for Mark Shea is that the American system of voting places people in these situations. Here is an interesting article about that.
I know this doesn’t have anything to do with the topic of this post, directly, but I do have some questions on a related issue for anyone who likes to think about these things. In the following passage from the infant narrative: a) did Mary set out for Elizabeth, immediately after the Annunciation, b) does Elizabeth call Mary, “the mother of my Lord,” therefore (if yes to a) only a day or so after conception, c) if she is able to recognize Mary as mother a day after conception, then what does this say about the status of the conception? Can one becalled a mother without a baby?
Elizabeth did not say, “But who is it that she who will be the mother of my Lord,” but rather, “the mother of my Lord.”
Can any conclusions be drawn? If so, can any bible-believing Christian vote for abortion at any point?
I realize that this is an old apologetical argument, but it is worth revisiting on this Feast of the Archangels, since Gabriel talks about conception, but Elizabeth about motherhood.
The Chicken

The Masked Chicken September 29, 2008 at 11:56 am

Oop. I forgot to post the infancy narrative.
Luk 1:36 And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
Luk 1:37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Luk 1:38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luk 1:39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah,
Luk 1:40 and she entered the house of Zechari’ah and greeted Elizabeth.
Luk 1:41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
Luk 1:42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
Luk 1:43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

Mike Petrik September 29, 2008 at 12:55 pm

TMC,
Yes, but don’t you see that the meaning of that narrative is very difficult to fully understand in the Thomistic sense? It requires a level of intellectual work than makes it obscure to most people, especially the college-educated.
I do admire CT’s persistence, I really do. But the notion that the average joe can somehow comprehend the presumably obvious fiction that not all human beings qualify as proper “persons” but cannot be expected to appreciate the apparently subtle fact that unborn human are persons is, to put it charitably, really quite amusing.

CT September 29, 2008 at 7:16 pm

TMC,
The catholic Roman Catechism addresses the issue you brought up as well as the rhetoric of MP:
In this mystery we perceive that some things were done which transcend the order of nature, some by the power of nature. Thus, in believing that the body of Christ was formed from the most pure blood of His Virgin Mother we acknowledge the operation of human nature, this being a law common to the formation of all human bodies, that they should be formed from the blood of the mother.
But what surpasses the order of nature and human comprehension is, that as soon as the Blessed Virgin assented to the announcement of the Angel in these words, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word, the most sacred body of Christ was immediately formed, and to it was united a rational soul enjoying the use of reason; and thus in the same instant of time He was perfect God and perfect man. That this was the astonishing and admirable work of the Holy Ghost cannot be doubted; for according to the order of nature the rational soul is united to the body only after a certain lapse of time.
Again — and this should overwhelm us with astonishment — as soon as the soul of Christ was united to His body, the Divinity became united to both; and thus at the same time His body was formed and animated, and the Divinity united to body and soul.
Hence, at the same instant He was perfect God and perfect man, and the most Holy Virgin, having at the same moment conceived God and man, is truly and properly called Mother of God and man. This the Angel signified to her when he said: Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High. The event verified the prophecy of Isaias: Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son. Elizabeth also declared the same truth when” being filled with the Holy Ghost, she understood the Conception of the Son of God, and said: Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

http://www.cin.org/users/james/ebooks/master/trent/tcreed03.htm
I’d like to clarify to Tim J just one of the misconceptions he had of my views. I believe all beliefs must have something that grounds the rightness of holding them for it to be right to hold them — after all for something to be right, it would seem something must ground that rightness. However I do not believe that the source of that grounding need in all cases be “reasoned argument.” That fact however does not itself make one immune to challenges to belief.
Another point I’d like to clarify is that when one has a belief A and one discovers a basis to deny A, then the firmness with one retains in believing A should be affected in correspondence with the likelihood you envision that that basis or some other basis is indeed a basis to deny A versus the likelihood you envision that the basis you are aware for A and other bases for A you may be unaware of are in combination able to withstand whatever hold the basis to deny A. The notion that when presented with an argument for denying A, I would immediately deny A or suspend judgment as to A is, with affectionate respect, silly. I remember arguments that people presented when I was a little youngster for proving that 1+1=3 — I’m sure many of you have seen them. I may have on first glance seen the argument and was unable to see any flaw in it. That did not cause me to think that 1+1=3, but rather cause me to think that I failed to see its flaw. IF OTOH, if all the mathematicians in the world examine that argument and fail to see any flaw, then that would likely be a proof that the mathematics involved there is inconsistent. But even in that case I would not think 1+1=3, I would think rather that the mathematics applied there included inconsistent systems. If OTOH it were shown that PA entailed that 1+1=3, then that would involve the inconsistency of PA and that WOULD be a major problem and WOULD, rightly, cause me and others to have significant doubts about various things.
I’ll leave the other misconceptions you expressed unaddressed, but I would like to make one comment about your citation of Zippy. I don’t know what economic study Zippy has done, nor what you have done. I will however say that prescinding from that, it would be foolish to dismiss the concerns of economists who might disagree with a particular plan or class of plans. Some economists think a better approach would be to lend money rather than purchasing assets. And there is the issue of moral hazard — an issue which may indeed mean that a bail out is advantageous in the short term but is actually an excerbation of the problem in the long term. This issue of moral hazard is not something that can be said to be something that can be dealt with later after we “put out the fire”. Why? It is because the putting out of the fire in this manner of bailing out companies or individuals who took risks is precisely what creates moral hazard in the first place.
There are legitimate economic disagreements and philosophical disagreements. But painting economists opposed to the bail out as people who don’t have legitimate issues regarding the short, mid, and long term welfare of the economy and people of the United States is, IMO, at best nescience at work and at worst being unfair in the consideration of an opponent’s position, something Aquinas btw, rarely engaged in.

The Masked Chicken September 30, 2008 at 5:19 am

I do not think that the Catechism of Trent is binding, de fide, but I could be wrong about this.
In any case, I find the following point interesting:
As the body of Christ was formed of the pure blood of the immaculate Virgin without the aid of man, as we have already said, and by the sole operation of the Holy Ghost, so also, at the moment of His Conception, His soul was enriched with an overflowing fullness of the Spirit of God, and a superabundance of all graces. For God gave not to Him, as to others adorned with holiness and grace, His Spirit by measure, as St. John testifies but poured into His soul the plenitude of all graces so abundantly that of his fullness we all have received.
So, apparently, in 1560 (or so), this document posits that, at least for Christ, at the moment of conception, his soul was also given.
As I say, since the current opinion of the Church as to when ensoulment occurs is more circumspect, I have my doubts about the binding nature of the document. Any knowledgeable person want to clarify?
The Chicken

Tim J. September 30, 2008 at 6:08 am

“The notion that when presented with an argument for denying A, I would immediately deny A or suspend judgment as to A is, with affectionate respect, silly.”
Umm… did I imply this somewhere?

CT September 30, 2008 at 8:09 am

TMC,
In case you missed it, the Roman Catechism in what I quoted is saying that in the ordinary course of nature the rational soul is united to the body only after a “certain lapse of time”, but that in Jesus’ case due to a miracle, it was as you noted something that happened without such a lapse in time. I wonder btw what this would have meant for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Presumably, even though this doctrine was not dogmatized until later, it was a belief of Christians then. But yet this remark from the Catechism would seem to indicate that at that time, the magisterium itself was implicitly against the doctrine … which might be a problem for Catholic apologetics … unless it’s like how Cheney is implicitly exempt from a presidential order that only mentions the president as exempt ….
I agree with you that it is not binding today and I have no idea what binding character it may have had back then. I also agree with you that the current statements of the church are “more circumspect”, in particular affirming as much as possible with respect to the force with which the unborn must be treated with respect and dignity while stopping just short of “express philosophical committments” (cf. Donum Vitae … btw if not making express philosophical committments on this matter is of no consequence, then there is hardly reason for DV to mention that fact — so for DV to be reasonable there, this fact must be something of consequence — if not for practical morality, at least for the metaphysis that may be directly or indirectly or tangentially related to it)

The Masked Chicken September 30, 2008 at 12:14 pm

Dear CT,
You wrote:
I wonder btw what this would have meant for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Answer: nothing.
The doctrine states (Catholic Encyclopedia):
The subject of this immunity from original sin is the person of Mary at the moment of the creation of her soul and its infusion into her body.
“…in the first instance of her conception…”
The term conception does not mean the active or generative conception by her parents. Her body was formed in the womb of the mother, and the father had the usual share in its formation. The question does not concern the immaculateness of the generative activity of her parents. Neither does it concern the passive conception absolutely and simply (conceptio seminis carnis, inchoata), which, according to the order of nature, precedes the infusion of the rational soul. The person is truly conceived when the soul is created and infused into the body. Mary was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin at the first moment of her animation, and sanctifying grace was given to her before sin could have taken effect in her soul.

The Chicken

Chuck September 30, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Neither does it concern the passive conception absolutely and simply (conceptio seminis carnis, inchoata), which, according to the order of nature, precedes the infusion of the rational soul. The person is truly conceived when the soul is created and infused into the body.
If a person is not truly conceived at “conceptio seminis carnis, inchoata” but only later “when the soul is created and infused into the body”, then when the Church teaches that human life must be respected and protected “from the moment of conception”, is the Church saying that such respect and protection is not called for at “conceptio seminis carnis, inchoata” but only later?

The Masked Chicken September 30, 2008 at 5:15 pm

Dear Chuck,
The answer is, no. For instance, a dead body, which no longer has a soul is, still, nevertheless, worthy of respect, for the fact that it once housed a soul. Likewise, a body that will house a human soul is worthy of respect.
The Chicken

Chuck September 30, 2008 at 6:14 pm

Thanks TMC. In addition to dead bodies, it seems animals, property, hope and opinions are also generally considered worthy of respect and protection.

Leeta von Buelow October 23, 2008 at 9:47 pm

Everyone seems to forget that as one of his first acts as President, George Bush added unborn children as eligible for insurance under the S-CHIP Children’s Health Program. Thus, the prenatal visits and delivery of the child are covered for poor women. As soon as the Dems took control of the house 2 years ago, they decided to make changes to the S-CHIP program by among others deleting coverage for unborn children! And guess who voted with the Dem majority? None other than Barack. And who has saved many lives through his vetos of the Dem SCHIP bill-George Bush! A vote for Barack is a vote for certain death for many 1000s of children!

Rick Guthry December 16, 2008 at 2:24 pm

No matter what canidate we ever have, I hope they look into our over spending in every area. We should investigate all areas, for example mental health and really see exactly what we are paying for.
northern california alcohol treatment center

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