Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Sister Margaret is giving a lecture at Notre Dame tomorrow (Wednesday). Click here for details.
Then, on Thursday, she will discuss her new book--the one Rob referenced in his post--with an interdisciplinary group of Notre Dame faculty. If you would like informatioon about the Thursday gathering, please e-mail Cathy Kaveny (who studied under Margaret at Yale):
In his post below, Rob refers to Margaret Farley's new book. MOJ-readers may be interested to know that Margaret Farley , who holds an endowed position at Yale Divinity School, is Sister Margaret Farley: She is a member of the Sisters of Mercy--and a past president of the Society of Christian Ethics.
Your invocation of Dr. Kevorkian suggests to me that you may not grasp Rob Vischer's point.
Assume (1) that objective O is a morally worthy objective (e.g., saving the life of a pregnant woman with an ectopic pregnancy).
Assume (2) that under the doctrine of double effect it is it is morally permissible for me to take action A (e.g., surgically remove the fallopian tube) in order to achieve O even though A will result in the death of Z (e.g., the fetus).
Assume (3) that I can achieve O by killing Z intentionally--and that the advantage of this latter course of action over action A is that I can achieve something else that is morally worthy (e.g., preserving the woman's capacity to bear children).
Given that no matter which of the two paths I take Z is going to die, and given that it is morally permissible for me to take action A, why should we accept that it is morally impermissible for me to kill Z intentionally, thereby achieving something that is morally worthy at no cost to Z, who is going to die no matter which choice I make?
MOJ friend, John Breen, points us to an article by James Hitchcock entitled "The Strange Political Career of Fr. Drinan." The article suggests that in addition to being a darling of the pro-abortion lobby, Drinan (and his immediate provincial superiors) put a political agenda ahead of obedience to the Father General of the Society, Pedro Arrupe, leading them to employ various tactics, including delay, casuistry, obfuscation, and calculated deception, to achieve their objectives.
Here are two good sources on the issue of management of ectopic pregnancies: first, Bill May discusses this issue at some length in his book "Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life" beginning at page 182; second, Kelly Bowring published an article on this in the annual volume of University Faculty for Life. Both conclude, quoting May, that "the use of the drug methotrexate and the surgical procedure of salpingostomy [are immoral because they are judged] to be acts of abortion understood as the intentional killing of the innocent unborn." The reasoning supporting this conclusion, as Rob noted earlier, is that the principle of double effect doesn't apply because the act involved is viewed as a direct abortion that cannot be defended by resort to a good motive (protecting the mothers' future fertility). Rob views this as hair-splitting but I think it is quite reasonable to rely on the view that one shouldn't do evil to achieve some good end. We see this in the assisted suicide debate all the time. We don't allow Jack Kevorkian to intentionally kill just because he claims to have a good motive (relieving pain).
William Placher has written an interesting review of Margaret Farley's Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics:
According to Farley, the basic question of sexual ethics is, "With what kinds of motives, under what kinds of circumstances, in what forms of relationships, do we render our sexual selves to one another in ways that are good, true, right and just?" Just turns out to be the key word. Being just to others means giving them their due—respecting individual differences but treating each individual as of unconditional value.
In just relationships we do no unjust harm (a difficult challenge given how vulnerable people make themselves in sexual relations); we do nothing without the consent of our partner; and we establish relationships based on mutuality and equality. We love in ways that take into consideration the commitments we are making for the future. While not all sexual activity involves producing children, it should take place in a context of responsibility for future generations and a commitment not to harm third parties or forget our wider responsibilities to social justice. These principles provide a middle ground between the traditional rules and "anything goes."
. . . . The lasting effects of "sexual taboo morality," Farley writes, "might have to do with developing shame and guilt more than wisdom and prudence about human sexuality."
The key question, of course, is whether we lose more than "shame and guilt" when we lose the taboo. Placher takes note:
Sexual passion is powerful stuff. At least on some occasions an old-fashioned taboo may be a stronger controlling force than a principle of justice. In a society where sex is used to sell nearly everything, young people (and not-so-young people) find living a sexually responsible life really hard. Margaret Farley has the guts and the clarity of mind to give us a third alternative to "narrowly constituted moral systems and rules" on the one hand and sexual chaos on the other. Whether enough people in our society have the good sense and self-discipline to put such a proposal into practice is a harder question.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Aldous Huxley Veronique Munoz-Darde has posted her novel, Brave New World article, Rawls, Justice in the Family and Justice of the Family. Here is the abstract:
I contend that a form of contractualism more individualistic than Rawls' would do better at addressing concerns about justice and the family raised by feminist theorists, and that it would also compel us to be more egalitarian. Dissatisfactions expressed with Rawls's neglect of issues related to gender and the family can only be addressed if 'parties in the original position' are strictly defined as individuals. Thus defined, they are not only able to address questions of justice within families, but can also explore the less familiar question of justice of the family, namely whether the family should exist, from the point of view of justice. I conclude by exploring the question of whether the family should be abolished, in view of its leading to life chances unequal between individuals, and compare the family with a generalized, well resourced and well run orphanage.
In the paper itself, she concludes that "I am not sure on further scrutiny that the family scores better than the orphanage." I don't think she's kidding.
Notre Dame law prof Julian Velasco responds to my question about where to find the natural law if the dictates of our consciences tell us that it's morally permissible to remove an embryo when the mother's life is at stake:
It may well be true that "the vast majority of persons of faith who do value life, including pre-born life, would choose my course of action on this issue." But I suppose that it would also be true that the vast majority of person of faith who do value marriage, including chastity, would choose to engage in premarital sex. It is probably also true that, in many times and places, the vast majority of people of faith who did value life, including the lives of slaves, would also choose to have slaves. Consciences can be corrupted by culture. The "everybody would do it" defense, assuming its accuracy, may be a mitigating circumstance reducing the degree of an actor's culpability, but it has no bearing on the objective morality of the issue.
I think the problem is one of presumption. It's not so much that people believe that what they are doing is perfectly good in God's eyes, but rather that they feel comfortable that a loving and understanding God will forgive the offense. ("After all, I would forgive this, and God is much more forgiving than I am, so surely He will forgive it.") And well He might; but the issue is whether there is an offense, not whether there will be forgiveness.
Presumption becomes especially problematic when one moves from the truly difficult circumstance, e.g., an ectopic pregnancy, to the more general one, e.g., an unwanted pregnancy. If it is wrong to move from "abortion is wrong" to "no abortions, even in ectopic pregnancies," it is far more wrong to move from "abortion may be permissible in extreme circumstances" to "abortion may be permissible more generally."
I agree with Julian that Americans are easy prey for the "cheap grace" mindset. But at least on the question of the permissible means of ending an ectopic pregnancy, I think the issue is not whether I will be forgiven, but how I've given offense in the first place. Given the difficulty of articulating the moral claim at issue (you must remove the tube, not just the embryo) in a way that resonates with our core convictions, to what else do we appeal? This gets back to Steve's earlier observation that "If natural law is written on our hearts, the Catholic position should be capable of defense without resort to authority."
In the New York Review of Book, Garry Wills has a long essay criticizing the Bush Administration for what Wills regards as its excessive injection of religion into policymaking. It's overheated and unfair, in my view (e.g., "[t]he labyrinthine infiltration of the agencies was invisible to Americans outside the culture of the religious right"). In the end, I do not think it is a stretch to say that, in Wills's view, any argument or position that is (a) held by the Bush Administration and some Christians (b) with which Wills disagrees is a "faith based" position.
The piece is basically a bill of particulars. One charge, in the section called "faith-based justice," struck me as particularly unfounded:
Ashcroft's use of the Civil Rights Division for religious purposes was broader than his putting partial-birth abortion under its jurisdiction. Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, two critics of Republican policies, write in One Party Country:
In 2002, the department established within its Civil Rights Division a separate "religious rights" unit that added a significant new constituency to a division that had long focused on racial injustice. When the Salvation Army— which had been receiving millions of dollars in federal funds—was accused in a private lawsuit of violating federal antidiscrimination laws by requiring employees to embrace Jesus Christ to keep their jobs, the Civil Rights Division for the first time took the side of the alleged discriminators.
Surely, in a government constrained by our First Amendment, and dedicated to honoring our longstanding commitment to religious freedom, it is entirely appropriate for the "Department of Justice" to include in the "constituency" of the Civil Rights Division those who care not only about racial injustice but also discrimination against religion?