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.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cardinal Bernadin

Much has been made, in the post-Obama-at-ND commentary, of his (shrewd) invocation of Joseph Cardinal Bernadin.  (See, for example, this piece, at the wonderful site, The Immanent Frame.)  (Cardinal Bernadin, I remember, filed a powerful amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court, as he was dying, arguing against the constitutionalization of a right to assisted-suicide.)

It strikes me as important to remember, though, that, for Bernadin, the “consistent ethic” idea was never intended to minimize the importance of the abortion question or to excuse opposition to legal protections for unborn children. He said, for example, in 1988, “I don’t see how you can subscribe to the consistent ethic and then vote for someone who feels that abortion is a ‘basic right’ of the individual.” And, in the same interview, he noted that “some people on the left, if I may use that label, have used the consistent ethic to give the impression that the abortion issue is not all that important anymore, that you should be against abortion in a general way but that there are more important issues, so don’t hold anybody’s feet to the fire just on abortion. That’s a misuse of the consistent ethic, and I deplore it.”

The “consistent ethic” is a call to do *better* than contemporary politicians tend to do, it is not an excuse for doing worse than they should.

UPDATE:  Cardinal Bernadin also testified, in 1976, in favor of the Human Life Amendment to the Constitution.  Clearly, his dedication to finding "common ground" did not stop him from believing that the law should protect unborn children. 


Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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