Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Elections and the shocking objective truth

Those who ask whether a Republican administration makes a difference for life or reason should read the left-hand front-page column in today’s (Oct. 29) NY Times, expressing deep concern that Bush’s judges have moved the federal appeals courts to the right. The lead evidence offered by the Times is this: "This past June, the full United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit voted 7 to 4 … that it is objectively true that human life begins at conception, and that the state can force doctors to say so. Mr. Bush had appointed six of the seven judges in the conservative majority."

To recognize this objective truth regarding the nature of abortion is highly important -- not only for the future protection of human equality and dignity, but for public reason itself.

If the most fundamental of all issues—who belongs to the human community—is to be settled by Roe’s unreasoned doubt that actual human life exists before birth, it’s no wonder people stop talking to each other about lesser matters. If we can’t agree that a child of human parents who is active in the womb is human and alive and a member of our community, how can we trust each other’s good faith concerning less obvious and important truths?

In line with Roe v. Wade, many today aver that factual as well as value judgments are just stipulations and so need not be checked against reality. This is an excuse for indifference to others’ views. As a result, conversation comes to seem hopeless. Many become discouraged with logical, clarifying discourse and lapse into apathy. If Roe has not by itself caused this breakdown of public reason, it certainly has contributed mightily to the decline of civil debate in our nation—and not just on abortion. Our Catholic tradition, to the contrary, insists upon reason as an essential foundation for the rule of law.


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