Saturday, October 30, 2004
Cathy Kaveny observed in her last post that Greg's rhetoric is not productive of discussion and suggests he does little more than tell her that Kerry is evil. I disagree.
I doubt that Greg's postings over the last two weeks will sway my vote on Tuesday. As I have told him in off-MOJ e-mail, I think four more years of Bush is too disasterous on too many grounds to contemplate. Thus, my only option is to vote for Kerry or not vote for President. I suspect I will be one of the hold-my-nose-and-vote-for-Kerry voters.
But I take an important part of what Greg is trying to do here is to make those who are going to take that option think a little about the consequences of what they are doing. Both Greg and William McGurn (in his powerful Casey lecture posted a couple of days ago) fairly suggest that the silence of Catholics who can be counted on to vote Democrat no matter what has helped contribute to a Democratic party that has completely silenced any pro-life sentiment. Perhaps it is not enough for those who are opposed to abortion on moral grounds to silently hold their noses and vote for Kerry. Doesn't some attempt have to be made by those who believe abortion is wrong, but who otherwise prefer the Democratic agenda to the Republican one, to demand that some anti-abortion sentiment be expressed within the Democratic party? (Or, do we just all bail and join Mark's Seamless Garment party).
Friday, October 29, 2004
This has to be my last guest-post. But I'd like to say, first, that I find the
tone taken by Russ Hittinger to be much more productive of discussion than the
rhetoric of Greg Sisk. But here goes:
1. I believe I said that I recognized the intersection of assessment of a
candidate's character and assessment of issues is intertwined. I grant that
Catholics have assessed character in terms of the candidate's stand on
abortion--but it seems almost exclusively in terms of a candidate's stand on
abortion--as Greg's response does almost exclusively. What I was pointing to
was the failure to address broader questions of character in terms of
possession of the political virtues, such as prudentia, and its subvirtues. I
frankly don't see how this wasn't apparent from reading my response, and its
invocation of Aquinas's Treatise on Prudence and Justice.
2. I agree Kerry's stand on abortion is extreme. But despite the difference
in Democratic and Republican platform positions on abortion, I don't think it
will make much difference in the legal structure anytime soon. As I think I
said, I don't believe that there is any chance that the Supreme Court will be
so constituted as to overrule Roe anytime soon. I think the only confirmable
people will be like O'Connor and Kennedy--both Republican nominees, and both
unwilling to overrule Roe. I think that on balance, in the reall world, a
Democratic administration is likely to result in fewer abortions.
3. I'm just not an apologist for Kerry as Greg Sisk describes me--I certainly
don't think my position --described as "holding my nose and voting for Kerry"
counts as apologetics.
4. I have to say that I'm a bit discouraged with this conversation--I thought
my post provided a) a moral analysis of the act of voting; b) a set of criteria
according to which candidates could be assessed, which partly drew upon the
Catholic tradition in virtue theory, as applied to the virtue of politics; c) a
way of morally accounting for a vote that will further, unintentionally but
foreseeably, unjust policies rooted in Catholic casuistry (i.e., the concept of
cooperaton), d) a defense of why I thought I had proportionate reason to vote
for Kerry here, given my beliefs about Bush and my background belief that I
have a moral obligation to vote; and e) a few reflections on the puzzling
question of what solidarity consists in. Greg didn't engage any of that. And
as I read his well, screed, it simply says to me, "YOU IDIOT DON'T YOU SEE THAT
KERRY IS EVIL EVIL EVIL ?"
So , honestly, I just don't see this conversation as having any future point.
I'm happy to talk with Russ off-line (on the meaning of solidarity), but I
guess I'll exit this discussion where I began: worrying about the state of
the rhetoric in the Church.
I meant by solidarity (as you correctly perceived) making the plight of
those excluded from the protection of law something “first” in one’s
public actions. I spoke of actions, not just symbols. I cannot
quarrel with your suggestion that “solidarity” with an excluded class
of human persons can be maintained at levels besides acts of voting,
legislating, and creating public laws and policies. Indeed, we have to
do this all of time, even with regard to persons who are not, strictly
speaking, excluded from the protections of law. Decent people reorder
their priorities and resources to succor needy neighbors, and they do
so without waiting for the state to act or even to recognize the
problem. Sometimes, these private acts of justice and social charity
turn out to be more efficacious than what can be furnished by law. But
I was trying to throw light on the public dimension, consisting of the
choices we make as citizens (by voting, legislating, etc.) – choices
that have a distinct kind of causality. At this level, the moral
question is not merely how to deploy forces to fix a problem, but
whether those who suffer the injustice have a claim upon the public
sphere. For me, this is not an abstract issue, although, to be sure,
it is tricky.
You and I agree that unborn human persons have a legitimate claim on us
at other levels. I am insisting that the deadly sin of the political
order is not merely its contingent inability or slowness in correcting
an injustice, but rather the use of law to rule out the claim of the
victims, to deny it access to public consideration and remedy, and to
cast the class of unprotected human persons into a status of being
merely private neighbors. Now, it could happen that once these persons
are thrown beyond the pale of law their lives will turn out okay. I am
dubious. Given all of the other things that warrant your dubiety (the
practical wisdom of the candidates, the war policies of the Bush
administration, the belligerent rationalism that overestimates what is
amenable to legal and political remedy), you should at least be dubious
about the prospect of justice when the equal protection principle is
set aside. I was disappointed that your Augustinian sensibilities,
which I share, seem to evaporate once we get to the problem of the
powerful consigning the weak to the contingencies of cultural
persuasion. On my view, this sounds too much like free-marketeers who
find every solution to distributive and legal justice in the
spontaneous hand of the market.
I contend that one ought not to vote for a candidate who, as a matter
of principle, would create or maintain the exclusion of unborn persons
from the protection of law; indeed who would go further, by using the
powers of his or her office not only to prevent a constitutional
solution, but to knock down ordinary legislation protecting some unborn
human persons. The net result of Kerry’s position is that there can be
no public prudence about this issue. It is the severity and totality
of the principle that alert us to the fact that we are not dealing with
tough issues of prudence. Rather, we are dealing with a canceling-out
of the principle that makes prudence possible, at least in this
particular case. I agree that there are other issues of justice that
demand our attention, including the torture and abuse of prisoners,
derogation from the international law of war, the poverty of families,
just for starters. The point that I am making is that these kinds of
injustice are not excluded from the common law of our society. Each
one can be addressed and remedied on the basis our corporate moral and
legal order. We might disagree about the facts, but no one believes
that we are not entitled to deliver judgment in these matters that
Perhaps you and I are considering two very different examples of how a
problem of justice gets opened-up or closed-off. You are worried about
the long-range pattern of social legislation, which, if prudently
framed and pursued would tend to ameliorate the situation of the weak
and vulnerable. As you can see, I have emphasized the use of the most
public of things, equal rights under law, to insure that rightful
claims can be heard and that public business can be conducted on the
matter. Anyone who holds the latter should hold the former.
International instruments and covenants of human rights hold both
principles. They belong together. In moral logic there is an order of
priority between the two. I won’t insist on this entailment right
here, because I am willing to admit that in working for certain good
consequences one can find himself implicitly affirming the suppressed
Yet, I keep waiting to hear from the party of long-term amelioration
some recognition (let it be highly coded, and let it be a velleity
aimed at the future) that the well-being of unborn persons is truly a
matter of public business – just for who they are, and not merely as
potential, if not anonymous, beneficiaries of social policy designed
for other people. After all, what it means to be in a community of
justice is not just bringing about good external consequences, but also
affirming the good of the persons to whom these other things accrue.
So, I look for the party of amelioration to make a more generous
gesture in the direction of the personal good of the unborn and their
equality before the law, and to show that the social policies are not
reinforcing the position that one class of human persons are only
incidentally factored into the justice of the city. Once the principle
is admitted, then we can debate time-tables and the plethora of issues
that legitimately fall to the order of prudence.
Concerning all of the other issues you raise about Bush versus Kerry, I
think you are right about some and not so right about others. But I am
not entirely sure.
With all due respect, I think Greg Sisk missed a fundamental issue in Cathy Kaveny's post. Even if one accepts everything he says about Kerry's record on abortion as true, that does not change the important point Cathy made (also well made by Michael Perry in his anaolgy to an election in the context of slavery) about the choice we face on Tuesday. Catholics must use their prudential judgment to decide whether the common good is better served by voting for Kerry or for Bush. I myself don't think trying to convince people what an awful person John Kerry is because of his pro-abortion positions is very helpful at this point. John Kerry's lack of judment on abortion is matched, if not exceeded, by George Bush's poor performance as the leader of the world's only superpower, particularly when it comes to the promotion and preservation of the global common good, and the protection of weak and defenseless persons both at home and abroad.
I have not yet read any post that makes a convincing argument that the Bush administration's pro-life postion should cause a voter to ignore all of the other evidence about the international havoc another Bush presidency will likely wreak, nor has anything been offered that counters the clear evidence of Bush's, as Cathy put it, "arrogance" and "Manichean world view." To have the leader of the world's most powerful nation pursue policies that could destroy the planet because of the simplistic (and completely irresponsible) "us/them; good/bad" terms Geroge Bush employs to justify American actions is a frightening prospect. It is just this kind of unthinking and dehumanizning dualism that helped slavery endure for so long in this nation and which then promoted such unyielding racism in the United States once slavery ended. No need to appreciate the complexities of human experience or dignify the struggles of the marginalized, people are black or white. Black is bad, white is good. It's just that simple.
Given that such dualistic thinking is completely legitimate in the Bush administration, and given the ugly historical consequences of such thinking in American culture, it seems to me completely reasonable that a pro-life Catholic might determine that the prospect of a less violent and more humane world is far more realistic under a Kerry administration. Many prominent former supporters of George Bush and his policies have come to the same conclusion. In yesterday's New York Times, Thomas Friedman wrote:
I have been struck by how many foreign dignitaries have begged me lately for news that Bush will lose. This Bush team has made itself so radioactive it glows in the dark. When the world liked Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, America had more power in the world. When much of the world detests George Bush, America has less power. People do not want to be seen standing next to us. It doesn't mean we should run our foreign policy as a popularity contest, but it does mean that leading is not just about making decisions - it's also the ability to communicate, follow through and persuade.
If the Bush team wins re-election, unless it undergoes a policy lobotomy and changes course and tone, the breach between America and the rest of the world will only get larger. But all Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney have told us during this campaign is that they have made no mistakes and see no reason to change.
Friedman's point goes directly to Cathy's assessment of Bush's lack of prudence, his arrogance, and his poor judgment in his choice of advisors. There has been no indication whatsoever that any of this will change in a second Bush term. It is, however, clear that John Kerry will inspire much greater confidence amongst most world leaders. As a global citizen, the United States has to rise to its responsibilities in community and solidarity with the other nations of the Earth, it cannot simply claim the raw privileges that come with power.
In reading Professor Kaveny’s latest posting, courtesy of Michael Perry, one curious and oddly misdirected allegation stands out for me: “But one of the most disturbing features of the way the Catholic discussion of the presidential election has gone, in [Professor Kaveny’s] view, has been the occlusion of questions of political character and judgment. We seem to be looking solely at campaign platforms, not at the men themselves who will be our leaders. Questions of leadership capacity are entirely folded into analysis of a politician's stand on key issues. In [Professor’s Kaveny’s] view, that is a fatal mistake.”
With all due respect, one wonders where Professor Kaveny has been? What she finds to be utterly lacking instead has been the very axis of the debate as it has unfolded here and elsewhere on the internet and in the media. The central thrust of my own postings to the Mirror of Justice has been that Catholic apologists for Senator Kerry too often frame the question as whether one could vote for a generic pro-choice candidate if the alternative political choice is unpalatable (i.e., “looking solely at campaign platforms”). In doing so, I've contended, they assiduously ignore Senator Kerry’s own ugly record (i.e., looking “not at the men themselves who will be our leaders”). They fail to mention, other than by offhand generalities, his explicit statements endorsing abortion on demand and villifying the cause of life, his legislative votes promoting wider availability and funding for abortion, his enthusiastic political and social collaboration with abortionists, his eager acceptance of campaign money from the abortion industry, etc.
And not to suggest that my own postings at this particular site demand anyone’s attention or are worthy of response, others too have made the same case – consistently and repeatedly. Catholics of conscience, so many have said, at least ought to be forthright in identifying the calamity and taking a hard and searching look at Senator Kerry’s miserable record of placing the pro-abortion agenda and fealty to its promoters at the center of his political career, from the day of his maiden Senate speech some 19 years ago, in which he elevated Roe v. Wade to sacred status, to the initiation of his presidential campaign last year by attending first to his pro-abortion allies.
Who has contributed to “the occlusion of questions of political character and judgment”? Where in any of Professor Kaveny’s presentations, or those of the other Catholic apologists for Kerry that have been cited and linked on this site, is the acknowledgment that Senator Kerry has pledged to make support for Roe v. Wade a litmus test for appointments to the Surpeme Court? Where have they confessed that Senator Kerry regards the pro-life movement as the “forces of intolerance” who ought to be prosecuted vigorously under RICO and other statutes? Where do they admit that Senator Kerry has called for abortion to be made part of the “mainstream of medical practice” (and one need hardly speculate as to what that means for Catholic hospitals and physicians who refuse to cooperate with abortion as a matter of conscience)? Where do they candidly address Senator Kerry’s long and warm embrace of the abortionists and their lobby as his political and social inner-circle? Where do they respond to Senator Kerry's praise of the most notorious pro-abortion organization as a civil rights group? Where do they evaluate his ready acceptance of blood-money from the abortionists to fund his political campaigns?
When at any point in his decades in public office has Senator Kerry ever demonstrated political courage on any issue, whether it be the right-to-life question or otherwise, in a manner that suggests “leadership capacity”? Where in this sorry saga do the Kerry apologists find evidence of “political character and judgment” deserving of reward by elevation to the nation’s highest office?
One week, and dozens of Mirror of Justice postings ago, I posed this question: "Can a Catholic with a well-formed conscience and respect for innocent human life look into the sepulchre of John Kerry’s putrified record of accommodating death, all the while claiming communion with the Church, and then turn away to pull the lever next to his name in the polling booth?" With all due respect, the Catholic apologists for Kerry still are not willing to look before they pull.
Readers might be interested to know that in an email, Mark Noll clarified that his thoughts on the election (see earlier post) could best be understood as a "Lament for not having a Christian Democrat tradition in the U.S." Perhaps another indication of the void to be filled by the Seamless Garment Party?
As Dean Mark Sargent has reported to the participants on the Mirror of Justice, we’re now receiving more than 2000 hits a day, and in light of the e-mails many of us receive and directions to re-postings of our words on other web sites (which is only to be encouraged), we’ve stuck a nerve in the ongoing public discussion.
The growth in correspondence also results in being directed to additional sources of information and internet resources. The more the information flows in, the more it is confirmed that Senator Kerry’s record as a self-proclaimed opponent of those attempting to protect innocent human life is even worse than I at least had originally understood. His own words confirm that he is directly at odds with any understanding of Catholic teaching on the sanctity of unborn human life.
Herewith just a few examples:
In January of last year as he opened his presidential campaign, Senator Kerry spoke to a National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) dinner. Beginning his campaign by touching base with his closest allies in the abortion industry was in itself sadly unremarkable, as Kerry has regularly lent his name and proudly pledged his loyalty to those advancing the war against the unborn. Still, the effusiveness of his words of praise for the abortion advocates and his expressions of contempt for those working to protect unborn human life are astounding. You can read the entire speech here. Below are a couple of excerpts:
With respect to John Kerry’s admiration for the pro-abortion movement: “NARAL is without question the front line defense in this struggle and when judgments are made, the judgment is inescapable that Kate Michelman is one of the most effective and important civil rights leaders in our time. Kate has saved more women's lives and liberated more women than almost anyone and taken on more tough fights than anyone else committed to this cause.”
As for the pro-life movement, while out of one side of his mouth Kerry said “nothing we say here diminishes or disrespects someone else's belief or morality,” he nonetheless blasted those who stand opposed to NARAL: “We need to take on this President and the forces of intolerance on the other side. We need to honestly and candidly take this cause to the country -- speak up and be proud of what we stand for.”
Late last year, at a forum on women’s issued for Democratic presidential candidates organized by, among others, Planned Parenthood (which operates the largest chain of abortion mills in the country), Senator Kerry again made clear his extreme views on abortion. The transcript of the entire forum can be found here. At that forum, Senator Kerry responded to a question about the President’s signing of the ban on partial-birth abortion by saying: “There's no such thing as a quote "partial birth." It is a late term abortion. They've done a very effective job of giving people a sense of fear about it and it's part of their assault on the rights of women in America. It is the first step in their effort – there's nothing partial, may I say, about their effort to undue Roe v. Wade. And I am the only candidate here who has said declaratively, I will support no person to the Supreme Court of the United States whose philosophy is to undue Roe v. Wade. They call it a litmus test; I call it protecting Constitutional rights in America. And we need a president who stands up and does that.”
Of course, none of this is a new direction for John Kerry, for whom the abortion cause has been the signal continuity of his political career. He often tells pro-abortion rallies of his pride that his maiden speech in the United States Senate in 1985 was to proclaim his unwavering support for Roe v. Wade.
In another speech to the Senate in 1994, Senator Kerry made clear that he is not merely pro-choice but approves of abortion: “The right thing to do is to treat abortions as exactly what they are -- a medical procedure that any doctor is free to provide and any pregnant woman free to obtain. Consequently, abortions should not have to be performed in tightly guarded clinics on the edge of town; they should be performed and obtained in the same locations as any other medical procedure.... [A]bortions need to be moved out of the fringes of medicine and into the mainstream of medical practice." More about his record, together with the suggestion that pro-life Democrats could swing the election to Bush in Pennsylvania, may be found in Professor Paul Kengor’s column.
In sum, the more we learn about John Kerry's record on the sanctity of life, the uglier and more despicable it appears. It is no wonder that John Kerry has proven unable to utter even a single word of condemnation of abortion or rebuke to the abortionists. He has never fully expressed any personal opposition to abortion because, well, his own words make clear that he has no genuine qualms about abortion, personally, legally, or politically.
[This morning, a reader of this blog sent me an e-mail messsage, the main part of which I have excerpetd below. The reader, self-described as a devout Catholic, asks an interesting question. Any thoughts?]
There is one issue ... that I'd appreciate your thoughts on. Last night a
campaign ad that I'd never seen before flashed across my television screen. It
showed a succession of photographs of aborted fetuses with a running commentary
indicting George Bush for failing the pro-life cause. It was an ad for a
third-party presidential candidate whose name and party escape me now--but
who declared himself the *real* pro-life candidate, significantly more pro-life
It occurred to me that until now, many conservative Catholics had justified
their full-throated (and, indeed, not a little smug) support for Bush by
claiming that even though he is not fully pro-life he is more pro-life than
Kerry. They claim that they are, then, not only permitted but obligated to
vote for him. So what happens when an obscure third-party candidate appears on
the ballot who is ostensibly more pro-life than the president? By this logic it
would seem that we are obligated to vote for him. Your thoughts would be
appreciated -- on the blog or otherwise.
Cathy Kaveny's Response to Russ Hittinger (and, Inferentially, to Greg Sisk, Gerry Bradley, Robert George, and Others)
Your question to me was how do I show solidarity with the unborn in voting for Kerry? I thought a while about the question, without coming up with an obvious answer. Then I realized that my problem is with the question itself. To explain why, I need to back up and provide a moral analysis of what it is I'm doing, from a moral perspective, when I'm voting.
When I'm voting in an election, my choice is far from unconstrained: I am choosing between a finite number of candidates. I respect, but do not in the end agree with, Alasdair MacIntyre on the desirability of not voting in cases such as this. I think there are other ways of making clear that both candidates are deeply dissatisfactory, and unacceptable. But in the privacy of the voting booth, I don't think I can fulfill my duty as a citizen by voting for neither viable canidate. One, after all, will be elected. I have to help choose the person who will lead us--the least worst alternative.
In analyzing the candidates, I look at two things: (1) character and leadership ability; and 2) positions on issues that matter to me. Obviously, these two are not entirely separable; my assessment of character is inevitably affected by someone's "bottom line" position on certain issues. But my assessment of character is also is affected by my sense of whether and to what degree they possess the virtue of political prudence. As you well know, Russ, in Aristotelian-Thomistic thought prudentia is not equated with a narrow form of consequentialist reasoning, but is right reason about all things to be done and to be avoided; it is centrally a virtue of the cognitive faculty, not of the will. Citing Isidore of Seville, Aquinas defines the prudent man as "one who sees as it were from afar, for his sight is keen and he foresees the event of uncertainties" (II-II.47.1). For anyone who has a copy of the Summa Theologia handy, and has a few hours to spare, it might be worth rereading what Aquinas has to say on prudence; not just in general, but on its component parts (II-II.49): memory, understanding and intelligence, docility, shrewdness, reason, foresight, circumspection, and caution. It would also be worth reading about the virtues connected to prudence, euboulia (disposition to take good counsel), gnome (ability to deal with exceptional factual situations) and synesis (right judgment about particular practical matters).
Now, mindful of Aquinas's position on the unity of the virtues, I don't believe that either Kerry or Bush can possess prudence simpliciter, or prudence in its fullest sense: both are too lacking, in my view, in the virtue of justice to do so. But for reasons big and small, largely having to do with revelations about how the decision to wage and conduct the war against Iraq were made, I have entirely lost confidence in Bush's possession of even a modicum of prudence necessary safely to lead the world's only superpower in these very dangerous times. I think he is both arrogant and subject to manipulation by his advisors, most of whom I distrust heartily. I think he operates on the global stage with a Manichean worldview that I think is very dangerous long-term. And I think he operates with a particularly dangerous strand of American exceptionalism, a belief in the "manifest destiny" of the United States, which I believe is to be viewed with extreme suspicion by anyone who has absorbed the basic lessons of Augustine's Civitatis Dei (written, after all, as the Vandals were about to lay waste to the Roman empire in the West, precipitating what we now know to be somewhat misleadingly named the"Dark Ages"): in particular, that no empire, theirs or ours is uniquely special. And frankly, I think Bush just isn't very smart; his cognitive faculties (and therefore his capacities for prudence) are compromised, in my view. Do I think Kerry is possessed of prudence in the full sense? Absolutely not. But I think he is likely to be at least somewhat better than Bush, in whom I have lost all confidence as a leader.
Could I be wrong about this? Of course. But one of the most disturbing features of the way the Catholic discussion of the presidential election has gone, in my view, has been the occlusion of questions of political character and judgment. We seem to be looking solely at campaign platforms, not at the men themselves who will be our leaders. Questions of leadership capacity are entirely folded into analysis of a politician's stand on key issues. In my view, that is a fatal mistake.
What about the issues? Well, in voting for either candidate, I will be voting for someone whom I know will advance policies with which I heartily disagree--and in some cases, whom I know will advance immoral policies. How do I grapple with the ethics of this situation in general? Here, I draw upon the Catholic tradition's concept of cooperation with evil. Cooperation deals with a situation in which one agent, A, contemplates an act that he or she knows will contribute to the wrongdoing of another agent, B. How does A decide whether to go ahead with the act? Well, what the tradition calls formal cooperation is never permissible: formal cooperation is defined as A's contributing to B's wrongful act with the intent of furthering it. Material cooperation, in contrast, is a situation in which A performs an action, foreseeing that it will contribute to B's wrongful act, but not intending to contribute to it. Material cooperation is sometimes permissible, sometimes impermissible, depending upon a number of factors. In lay terms, it's what lawyers call a facts and circumstances test. In technical terms, a vote for a candidate who supports morally bad policies, not taken in order to support those policies, but to achieve other ends important to the common good, probably qualifies as material mediate remote cooperation with evil--which the manualists believed, as Cardinal Ratzinger noted, was justifiable by proportionate reason. This is standard maualist moral theology.
What has to be justified by proportionate reason is the act of the material cooperator--i.e., my vote for Kerry, foreseeing but not intending his support of abortion. What goes into that justification, I believe, is the character issues discussed above, as well as the considerations on issues to which I now turn. Like Michael Perry, I think the web of law and policy that is likely to be put in place by the Democrats is more likely over the long term to protect the vulnerable--including the unborn, by maintaining a social safety net. And I do not believe that this Republican administration will be able to do much about the legal status of abortion: there simply isn't the underlying popular will to undo Roe. Even if Roe is undone, it will simply throw the matter to the states, many of which will not criminalize abortion. Women who want them will simply travel to get them. I think we need to concentrate more on providing women with the resources they need to bear their children rather than aborting them. The statistics show that countries with more ample social safety nets have lower abortion rates. I can't go into detail here, but I would strongly suggest people read Mary Ann Glendon's Abortion and Divorce in Western Law for a comparative law analysis of that topic.
My analysis of character and of issues, taken together with my judgment that not voting isn't a morally acceptable option, lead me to the hold my nose and vote for Kerry position. So my puzzle, Russ, is what exactly "expressing solidarity with the unborn" means in the context of a vote for president. Here are the options, as I see them.
1. One might argue that "expressing solidarity with the unborn" points to the fact that voting has an expressive function, a symbolic function. But I just don't believe that's true about voting. I vote privately, in a booth--I choose the person whom I think would be the least worst leader. I am not making a symbolic statement just by the act of voting.
2. One might argue that "expressing solidarity with the unborn" is a radical stance that places concern for this issue above all else. Here my response is lexically ordered.
First, assuming that this understanding of solidarity is correct, I just don't see why it requires a vote for Bush instead of Kerry. More specifically, I just don't see why this view of solidarity means that I have to consider the position on abortion outlined in the party platforms in the abstract, without factoring in my assessment of their likely success in achieving them. I just don't think the Republicans will succeed in making a real dent in the problem, and I think abortion rates may well be higher under them, if history is any indication. I will put it even more strongly: I think large segments of the Republican leadership are disingenuous about their desire to restrict abortion.
Second, I'm not sure this understanding of solidarity's requirements is correct. It seems to me to be an alternative and colorful way of requiring single issue voting. I simply think that's not required of Catholics, and that it is a deeply mistaken strategy, for two reasons: 1) it invites voters to ignore questions of political character; and 2) it minimizes the complicated and interrelated array of issues voters must consider to promote the common good.
Third, and relatedly, I think I am called primarily to solidarity with flesh-and-blood persons, not with classes of persons. How, then, should we take into account persons described in categories? In my view, it depends on what type of category you're talking about. Flesh-and-blood persons could not escape the categories of black, Jew, gypsy in the regimes that oppressed them. Furthermore, there was no possibility of changing categories--it depended on ethnic origin. But the category of "unborn" is not at all the same type of category. This category points to is a developmental phase through which all humans pass--and a phase at which all humans in the U.S. now are vulnerable to abortion, under Roe. So what: Well, suppose I am in solidarity with the 500 "unwanted" fetuses conceived on October 15; I am, in other words, in solidarity with a particular group of unborn human persons. Say 200 of them will be aborted--killed. But then 300 of them will be brought to term, and by definition will leave the category of the unborn. But at the same time, they are precisely the same human beings they were while in the womb. Am I now obliged to minimize concern for the welfare of these 300 human beings, now born, and prioritize concern for, say, those conceived on July 15, the day the members of the first group are born. That seems to me to give pride of place to abstract categories. 200 of these fetuses conceived on October 15 may not die in the womb, but they may die of abuse or neglect in the first years of their live, or go on to live severely compromised, painful lives. I think that this insight is what the "seamless garment" approach is meant to address. If we are really serious about the unborn being persons, vulnerable persons, who need our help, than how can we ignore their plight if they happen to make it through the unborn stage to birth?
So, in short, I just don't see what your notion of "solidarity" in this context legitimately requires of me, separate and apart from considering how to vote in the manner just described.
[This morning, a Muslim colleague and friend of mine, at Emory University, sent me the item below. Seems relevant to the ongoing discuission we have been having--and to the posting of Bishop Gumbleton's Op-Ed I made a few minutes ago. mp]
100,000 Iraqi Civilians Dead
By Sarah Boseley
29 October , 2004
About 100,000 Iraqi civilians - half of them women and children - have died in Iraq since the invasion, mostly as a result of airstrikes by coalition forces, according to the first reliable study of the death toll from Iraqi and US public health experts.
The study, which was carried out in 33 randomly-chosen neighbourhoods of Iraq representative of the entire population, shows that violence is now the leading cause of death in Iraq. Before the invasion, most people died of heart attacks, stroke and chronic illness. The risk of a violent death is now 58 times higher than it was before the invasion.
Last night the Lancet medical journal fast-tracked the survey to publication on its website after rapid, but extensive peer review and editing because, said Lancet editor Richard Horton, "of its importance to the evolving security situation in Iraq". But the findings raised important questions also for the governments of the United Sates and Britain who, said Dr Horton in a commentary, "must have considered the likely effects of their actions for civilians".
The research was led by Les Roberts of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. Five of the six Iraqi interviewers who went to the 988 households in the survey were doctors and all those involved in the research on the ground, says the paper, risked their lives to collect the data. Householders were asked about births and deaths in the 14.6 months before the March 2003 invasion, and births and deaths in the 17.8 months afterwards.
When death certificates were not available, there were good reasons, say the authors. "We think it is unlikely that deaths were falsely recorded. Interviewers also believed that in the Iraqi culture it was unlikely for respondents to fabricate deaths," they write.
They found an increase in infant mortality from 29 to 57 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is consistent with the pattern in wars, where women are unable or unwilling to get to hospital to deliver babies, they say. The other increase was in violent death, which was reported in 15 of the 33 clusters studied and which was mostly attributed to airstrikes.
"Despite widespread Iraqi casualties, household interview data do not show evidence of widespread wrongdoing on the part of individual soldiers on the ground," write the researchers. Only three of the 61 deaths involved coalition soldiers killing Iraqis with small arms fire. In one case, a 56-year-old man might have been a combatant, they say, in the second a 72-year-old man was shot at a checkpoint and in the third, an armed guard was mistaken for a combatant and shot during a skirmish. In the second two cases, American soldiers apologised to the families.
"The remaining 58 killings (all attributed to US forces by interviewees) were caused by helicopter gunships, rockets or other forms of aerial weaponry," they write.
The biggest death toll recorded by the researchers was in Falluja, which registered two-thirds of the violent deaths they found. "In Falluja, 23 households of 52 visited were either temporarily or permanently abandoned. Neighbours interviewed described widespread death in most of the abandoned houses but could not give adequate details for inclusion in the survey," they write.
The researchers criticise the failure of the coalition authorities to attempt to assess for themselves the scale of the civilian casualties.
"US General Tommy Franks is widely quoted as saying 'we don't do body counts'," they write, but occupying armies have responsibilities under the Geneva convention."This survey shows that with modest funds, four weeks and seven Iraqi team members willing to risk their lives, a useful measure of civilan deaths could be obtained."