Friday, September 26, 2008
Steve asks, "is it the Bishops’ position that the Constitution should be . . . amended . . . to embrace a constitutional right of the unborn not to be killed?" It is, in fact, the position of the American bishops (and not merely the position of a few renegade conservatives) that a pro-life strategy should include "passage of a constitutional amendment that will protect unborn children's right to life to the maximum degree possible". More here. (This is, in my view, the correct position, as opposed to the position that the Faith dictates what the Constitution's content in fact now is.)
He also asks, "[t]o what extent is the question of whether laws should be passed against abortion a prudential question?" My understanding is that it is the bishops' (and the recent Popes') position that the basic question whether unborn children should be protected by law is not a "prudential" one. See, e.g., EV par. 57 ("Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo"; par. 71 ("While public authority can sometimes choose not to put a stop to something which -- were it prohibited -- would cause more serious harm, it can never presume to legitimize as a right of individuals . . . an offence against other persons caused by the disregard of so fundamental a right as the right to life.")
Steve then suggests that there is a "pattern of specific criticism against Catholic Democratic politicians." In fact, Archbishop Egan (Rudy Giuliani's bishop) criticized the latter's pro-abortion-rights position. With respect to the abortion issue, I would think the reason that Democratic politicians are coming in for more criticism than Republican ones is that there are relatively few prominent Catholic Republicans who support abortion rights, while (pretty much) every prominent Catholic Democratic politician supports abortion rights.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Steve asks many important questions in his post. Near the end of the post, he says: "Finally, perhaps wrongly, I see a pattern of specific criticism against Catholic Democratic politicians."
My perception is that the recent criticisms of Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden were made for very specific reasons tied closely to public statements each of them made about the (their) Catholic faith and not to their general views on abortion. If memory serves, Nancy Pelosi publicly said that the Catholic Church had only recently (in the last 50 years or so) come to the belief that abortion was wrong. She was publicly corrected by bishops on her mistaken view of Church teaching and Church history. Joe Biden publicly stated that he accepted as a matter of faith (a private matter) that human life begins at conception because his Church tells him this. He was publicly corrected by bishops because the Church does not teach that life begins at conception as a matter of faith. Instead, the Church teaches that abortion is wrong because science teaches that human life begins at conception.
Steve says: "I would appreciate direction to places where the American Bishops have specifically criticized Republican politicians on abortion or other issues." If I am right about the recent criticism of Pelosi and Biden, I think the predicate question is: Are there recent instances where Catholic Republican politicians have publicly misrepresented or misunderstood Church teaching and then been criticized by bishops.
Although the Catholic faith wasn't - as for as I am aware - publicly misunderstood or misrepresented by Catholic politicians, The Archbishop of Oklahoma City and the Bishop of Tulsa were very outspoken against a harsh state immigration law sponsored by a non-Catholic Republican (see my February 2008 First Things essay on this topic). Our former republican governor (Frank Keating) is Catholic. Several years ago, while governor, he attempted to articulate why the Pope was wrong (a nice guy but wrong is what I think he said) on the death penalty. Our archbishop had every priest in the diocese read a letter at every mass on a particular weekend criticising - indeed condemning - the Governors statement.
Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I just received this urgent letter from Prof. Teresa Collett, whom most of us know and admire:
The US Dept. of Health and Human Services has announced a rule that would protect the ability of healthcare providers to refuse to participate in those things that they believe are immoral, such as abortion, the morning after pill, and emergency contraception. It is important that all citizens who support such protection contact DHHS in the next 48 hours and express that support. I have attached the announcement from DHHS. Page 2 of the announcement provides the following instructions:
1. Electronically. You may submit electronic comments on this regulation to http://www.Regulations.gov or via e-mail to [email protected]. To submit electronic comments to www.Regulations.gov, go to the Web site and click on the link "Comment or Submission" and enter the keywords "provider conscience". (Attachments should be in Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, or Excel; however, we prefer Microsoft Word.)
2. By regular mail. You may mail written comments (one original and two copies) to the following address only: Office of Public Health and Science, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: Brenda Destro, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Room 728E, Washington, DC, 20201.
3. By express or overnight mail. You may send written comments (one original and two copies) to the following address only: Office of Public Health and Science, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: Brenda Destro, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Room 728E, Washington, DC, 20201.
4. By hand or courier. If you prefer, you may deliver (by hand or courier) your written comments (one original and two copies) before the close of the comment period to the following address: Room 728E, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20201. (Because access to the interior of the Hubert H. Humphrey Building is not readily available to persons without Federal Government Identification, commenters are encouraged to leave their comments in the mail drop slots located in the main lobby of the building. A stamp-in clock is available for persons wishing to retain proof of filing by stamping in and retaining and extra copy of the documents being filed.)
Comments mailed to the addresses indicated as appropriate for hand or courier delivery may be delayed and received after the comment period.
Please write to HHS and ask your prolife contacts to do so as well.
Live in or near the District of Columbia? Interested in religion and government? Then you might want to check out this conference. Click here
for the agenda.
Live in or near the District of Columbia? Interested in religion and government? Then you might want to check out this conference. Click here for the agenda.
Washington College of Law
October 9-11, 2008
Sixth North American Baha’i Conference on Law
Exploring the Intersections of Religion and Governance:
Past, Present and Future
I'm delving more deeply into the concept of human dignity, exploring in particular the notion that human dignity is primarily of legal relevance to, and evidenced by, human relationships, rather than a stand-alone construct of the human person. In this regard, I came across an intriguing passage in Robert Kraynak's contribution to this volume, In Defense of Human Dignity. An excerpt (pp 90-91):
In the biblical view, dignity is hierarchical and comparative; in the modern, it is democratic and absolute. The Bible (both Old and New Testaments) promotes hierarchies because it understands reality in terms of the "image of God," which is a type of reflected glory -- a reflection of something more perfect. Hence, dignity exists in degrees of perfection rather than in abstractions that are absolutely uniform. Moreover, the dignity or glory possessed by something made in the image of a more perfect being carries moral claims of deference, reciprocal obligation, and duty rather than equality, freedom, and rights. Christ is bound to the dominion of the Father and Creator; man is bound to the dominion of Christ; woman is bound to the dominion of man; and, reciprocally, God is bound in love to Christ, Christ to man, man to woman.
Following the logic of reciprocal obligation, there is no contraction between the statements of the New Testament that require obedience to hierarchies -- whether the be divinely created, natural, or conventional -- and passages that speak of the spiritual dignity of all human beings.
There is an interesting article by Daniel Finn (Professor of Theology and Economics at St. John's MN) on the tension between secular libertarianism and Catholic moral theology called "Libertarian Heresy: The Fundamentalism of Free-Market Theology" in the most recent issue of Commonweal. Finn is particularly concerned with the argument that using law to compel a particular action deprives that action of its voluntariness, and thus of its moral significance.
[T]his is a thoroughly un-Catholic view of law and morality, directly contrary, for example, to longstanding Thomistic tradition. Aquinas taught that virtue entails a constant will to act rightly, and that those who don’t learn virtue from their parents need the “discipline of laws” to keep them “restrained from evil by force and fear.” Significantly, Thomas adds that unvirtuous men, “by being habituated in this way, might be brought to do willingly what hitherto they did from fear, and thus become virtuous.” If law can “habituate” even the unvirtuous to act out of virtue, then surely the virtuous individual can act voluntarily and virtuously in spite of a law that would constrain him if he needed it.
Thanks very much, Patrick, for the correction about George Will. I had thought for many years that he was Catholic.
An editorial in the September 26th issue of Commonweal will interest many MOJ readers. Here's how the editorial begins, followed by a link to the entire editorial:
Bishops & the Election
Correcting prochoice Catholic pols
It is hard to know what is more exasperating, the ill-informed statements of Catholic prochoice politicians about the church’s teaching on abortion, or the response of certain bishops, whose criticism of politicians sometimes seems designed to be exploited for partisan purposes.
Here's the entire editorial.
Pace what my friend Michael Perry asserts, George Will is not a Catholic and, in fact, recently said in an interview with Stephen Colbert that he is an agnostic, though he attended an Episcopal church in the DC area for a while many years ago. None of that, of course, goes to the merits of his criticism of Senator McCain in yesterday's column, one way or the other. One might add, though, that Will has long harbored deep antagonism toward McCain on account of Will's opposition to regulation of campaign spending.