25 Responses to Social Doctrine is Ours… Let's Take it Back!

  • I support the complete dissolution of the CCHD. The money could be used to help save Catholic schools from closing instead of funding socialist and anti-Catholic organizations that promote class warfare and hate.

  • In other words you disagree completely, Tito? 🙂

    Seriously, though: I happen to think that *everything* is redeemable/reformable, even CCHD. And as I argue, the idea — seeking to address poverty in a systemic & structural manner — is worth fighting for.

  • It’s worth fighting for, through Catholic organizations.

    I don’t like giving our money to anti-Catholic organizations that in the end would persecute us if given the chance.

  • I don’t either, which is why I support reforming CCHD, including ditching the ban on giving to Catholic entities.

  • I don’t know enough about addressing poverty through a systemic and structural manner, but I do trust our faith in doing what is needed in this area.

    The CCHD is completely incompetent and irrelevant to this task as much as the USCCB is (but that’s for another day).

    Let’s scuttle them altogether and come back with a new plan under a new committee in executing this. The CCHD is infested with self-avowed communists (Ralph McCloud) and leftist bishops that could give a damn about our faith unless it promotes social revolution (I am speaking in regards to Bishop Morin).

    Kick the bums out.

  • …promote class warfare and hate.

    Tito – you nailed it.

  • leftist bishops that could give a damn about our faith unless it promotes social revolution (I am speaking in regards to Bishop Morin).

    What are you referring to, Tito?

  • Chris,

    Bishop Roger Morin.

    His continued defense of the indefensible.

    After mountains of evidence showing that some of the programs funded by CCHD are anti-Catholic, he continues to deny that they aren’t.

    He lies through his teeth.

  • People who donate to the CCHD do so willingly, and partly because they know the campaign is about “human development.” (The other part if obedience to the envelope in their box.)

    Catholic catechesis is another fine opportunity to offer one’s material resources. And if such donations are made to students who are primarily poor, then that would be in keeping with the principle.

    However, the failure of Catholic schools is not a problem that can be fixed necessarily with money.

    The problems, real or perceived, of CCHD are also not going to be fixed by a drumbeat of insult, however couched in fact-checking rhetoric. People will give to the CCHD this weekend, and some will give more knowing others are on the warpath against it.

    Talking louder and more often does not seem to be convincing either bishops or CCHD leadership. Indeed, many high-profile conservative bishops have spoken in favor of CCHD.

    Giving to CCHD or not is a prudential issue. But it has the support of a large number of bishops. It would seem that CCHD’s most vehement detractors are practicing a variation of cafeteria Catholicism here. It is one thing to investigate the CCHD and its beneficiaries. Another to withhold one’s own money. Another to urge others not to donate. And entirely another to call a bishop a liar.

    Is this line of criticism effective or realistic?

  • “addressing poverty at a systemic & structural level is both necessary and thoroughly Catholic, ”

    I know the answer is not simple, but what does this mean? Does this mean Catholics are morally obligated to argue for government to redistribute wealth and provide social services?

    Is Catholic Social teaching a set of moral principles to inform politics or is it more than that?

  • Todd,

    It shines a light on a depraved process inside a decrepit organization.

    Because our bishops are beholden to no one and when they ignore charitable approaches to resolving the issue, they leave no room for discussion.

    Hence why I posted about it.

    Believe me, if my bishop would have listened to what I had to say and taken action I wouldn’t have posted this at all.

    And yes, this line of criticism is effective.

    Just because it makes you and others uncomfortable doesn’t make donating money to the CCHD right.

  • It strikes me that one of the additional sources of controversy surrounding “addressing poverty at a systemic & structural level” is that those with progressive and conservative dispositions will probably see what that would mean in very different ways.

    Painting in very broad strokes, conservatives tend to think that if people are given an education, opportunity, and a strong work ethic, that they will generally be able to improve things on their own, and at most will need direct help when they run into misfortunes.

    Progressives, on the other hand, often seem to think that people are already doing everything they could themselves be doing, and that what’s needed in order to improve their condition is for someone to come in and raise awareness so that the government will give them things or ordain that they will be paid more for the same work, etc.

    This doubtless results in a lot of difference over what a structural program that would assist those in poverty would actually look like. It also probably accounts for the fact that conservatives index more heavily towards liking direct aid for people currently in desperate circumstances — because they assume that once people in poverty have received some help to get back on their feet, that they’ll go and improve their overall condition themselves. I’ve often heard progressives dismiss such direct help as enabling poverty to continue — which probably makes sense if you assume that people are fundamentally incapable of improving their own conditions no matter what they do.

  • Tito, I wouldn’t interpret my stance here as discomfort. I’m a critic, and an unconventional one at that.

  • Echoing part of Darwin’s comment, I’d note — perhaps responding at least in part to Zach’s question — that “addressing poverty at a systemic & structural level” is not synonymous with calling for help from the government, let alone the feds. *Can* it mean that? Sure. Does it *have* to mean that? No.

    I subscribe to the theory that politics is downstream from culture… while there is certainly a feedback loop, culture is primary. So when I speak of addressing poverty at a systemic & structural level, I’m thinking first about efforts to change the culture of the local community, at the level of the local community. Darwin’s strokes are a bit overly broad for me (and he acknowledged their breadth)… I think there it’s thoroughly conservative to try to address the cultural underpinnings of poverty, and that’s what I’d like to see the CCHD do.

    Tito, the fact that Bishop Morin appears somewhat obtuse with regard to what CCHD funds in no way makes him a leftist who promotes social revolution.

  • CCHD is not reformable. It is not a person. It is a half-baked socialist idea that infiltrated the Church along with a great deal of other smoke from Hell.

    Human Development is a big theme, maybe the biggest, in the Pope’s most recent encyclical and it does not mean anything close to what CCHD does. CCHD is a dehumanizing and government-promoting endeavor masked with Catholic-sounding words that are used in a socialist context.

    A Catholic organization that is under the direction of the Church must be concerned with the salvation of souls before any other mission including feeding the poor. As a lay Catholic I am called to take care of all I come in contact with as I would Christ. The Church is not called to that to the same degree – the Church is called to save souls first. I can’t save a soul but I can feed a poor person – and I should be a good Cahtolic witness while I am at it.

    CCHD does none of these things. Time for it to die.

  • How is CCHD’s mission socialist, Knight? Why is it irreformable?

    Listen, the whole point of the post was to talk about the idea of development, not the way in which one organization has failed to promote human development worthily.

    I’d challenge your ecclesiology in the 3rd ‘graph, Knight… you are a part of the Church, of course, and as laymen we have a particular responsibility to carry out the mission of the Church, in a great many variety of ways. To refer to the Church as an entity separate from us is problematic… it leads to conclusions such as your charitable work is not the Church’s.

    I can’t stand the errors of CCHD more than anyone else, but I think it’s too soon to be talking the nuclear option.

  • It was set up on the Saul Alinksy radical model to fund non-Catholic social(ist) organizations.

    Why bother reforming it? We have many other better models to delivery Charity and Truth and stay true to Church teaching.

    Chris, we are members of the body of Christ, so yes, we are Church; however, a bishop can celebrate Mass and I cannot; a priest can hear confessions and I cannot. We are one church but we have different functions. It is time for Bishops to stick with pastoral care, administration of the Sacraments and informing our consciences in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Leave the community organizing to the proper ilk that are predisposed to that sort of thing.

  • “addressing poverty at a systemic & structural level is both necessary and thoroughly Catholic”

    I know the answer is not simple, but what does this mean? Does this mean Catholics are morally obligated to argue for government to redistribute wealth and provide social services?–Zach (12:54 pm)

    I’m suspicious of the true agenda of those who spout Leftist code phrases such as the one Zach identified. The basic moral instruction the Church should be giving to one and all is most proper and most effective way to address virtually all genuine “systemic and structural” poverty there is in the United States today.

    Envy (the practical motive of any leveller) and enabling destructively immoral behavior aren’t part of “the Church’s social teaching.”

  • AK has been swallowing talking points from too many sources. In one breath, he complains about “government-promoting endeavor” and in another “Saul Alinksy radical model (of) social(ist) organizations.”

    Yet again, we have an emphasis on charity to the exclusion of justice. Not to mention a seeming ignorance of Matthew 25.

    I don’t see CCHD going away any time soon. What happens to the Catholic Right is they’re stuck with it? Just another seasonal Angry Event.

  • Todd,

    I appreciate the criticism. It certainly helps in forming ideas. Please help me a little more. It seems that you think that ‘government-promoting endeavor’ and ‘Alinsky radical model’ are incompatible. Am I right? If so, why? I see them as one and the same dehumanizing force – please help me clarify your thoughts. I am not suggesting that you are wrong but I can’t see a reason to agree with you.

    Charity and Justice are also not mutually exclusive. I hope I did not suggest that. Charity, properly understood is Love. Justice is also Love, love of God and in that love our neighbor. I owe God justice by observing the precepts and commandments of His religion. I owe justice to my fellow man by the same mechanism.

    Charity can be taking care of the acute needs of the poor and Justice can be helping them solve the reason for their poverty. I am confident that faithful Catholics agree on that. Where we may disagree is on the means of how to achieve those noble goals. The Church doesn’t tell us how, and if she did she would not be infallible becuase the method is not a matter of faith or morals – the goal is.

    I am not in disagreement with the stated intention of CCHD. I am in disagreement with the means to that stated intention and also the evidence that in practice CCHD as worked to achieve the opposite ends.

  • ok, Knight, I’ll bite.

    Are you saying that the CCHD’s problem includes government? I can’t say I’ve followed the list of organization grants carefully, but I didn’t see any government agency on the list in my diocese.

    Our government is much more beholden to the excesses of capitalism and Big Bidness than socialism.

    I agree with you there are many dehumanizing forces in the world. They are much more often due to extremism that the particulars of philosophy. By themselves, socialism, federalism, capitalism, or most any other philosophy has good points rooted in what some people think to be a better way to live. The problem is when the philosophy becomes the idol and God is set aside.

  • Todd,

    It was not a debating snare. No need to bite. I think we are coming closer to some agreement.

    I don’t think CCHD gave any government agency money directly; however, many of the groups that received CCHD money also recieve government money. Unlike USCCB, the money from the government doesn’t come without strings (to be clear I think Catholic money should come with strings – strings that require witness to the Gospel). This effectively places our material charity in organizations with a secular-government slant, which renders the material charity devoid of true Charity.

    We also agree that our government is beholden to Big Bidness; however, we disagree that it is beholden to the excess of capitalism (I take you to mean free market capitalism). Greed is not inherant in capitalism; greed is inherent in fallen humans. The problem is we are taught to look at capitalism and socialism as oppsities, when in fact they are twin sisters. Socialism approaches economic and eventually total control from the angle of ‘social justice’ and ‘class struggle’. Capitalism approaches from the ‘market’ perspective. Both are lies.

    Socialism seeks to use social influence from the masses by promoting envy and coveting to wrest control from the ‘merchant class’ and capitalism seeks to use corporate consolidation (monopoly, duopoly) to wrest control from the ‘merhcant class’. The means both systems use is government coercion and the ends will be the same: Absolutism, either oligarchy or dictatorship. Keep in mind Russia’s errors would not have been possible without support from wealthy Western industrialists.

    In that case their is no room for charity or justice.

    We need to begin to approach our ‘systemic’ concerns from the perspective of true, authentic Charity (Caritas, which is Love) at the most reduced level: person to person and from there up and out respecting subsidiarity. This keeps Charity on the level of each of us loving our neigbor in Truth and also subsidiarity is more likely to promote Justice than consolidated power and decision making do.

    Authentic Human Development as expressed by the Church and most recently Papa Bene is only possible on the human level where in the institutions are subject to the human person rather than the human cog subject to the institutional machine.

    Like I said, we can fall into the quagmire of partisan and ideological rhetoric (I am very guilty of that) or we can transend and find authentic ways to promote the general welfare, the common good properly understood in light of Truth, since we have the same ends in mind: The Kingdom of Heaven. What we must remember is that we cannot seperate the means from the ends. We need to use His means to seek His ends becuase fallen human means and fallen human ends are hellish.

  • I’m for the nuclear option.

    I refuse to wait until my grandchildren get a corrective on CCHD.

    By then we’ll probably be the United Socialist States of America and that isn’t going to happen until they pull my gun away from my dead hands!

  • Chris,

    Thank you for the response – very helpful for me.

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You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means.

Friday, November 6, AD 2009

Okay, that’s a heckuva long title for a blog post, but it also happens to be almost perfect for the subject of this particular entry at The American Catholic.

On Tuesday, the voters of the state of Maine — surprisingly — rejected same sex marriage (SSM) and reaffirmed that marriage in Maine is between a man and a woman. Naturally, SSM supporters were shocked and outraged (the Catholic Church appears to be the early target), while supporters of traditional marriage were overjoyed with the results; Maine, after all, isn’t exactly in the Bible Belt.

Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America (CWA), was typical of the latter: “Every time Americans vote on marriage, traditional marriage wins.” And she’s right: when it comes to ballot initiatives, SSM is 0-31.

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19 Responses to You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • Oleson makes a lot of sense, and my own feelings of despair over the current same-sex marriage debate (despite its repeated losses at the ballot box) have a lot to do with the uncomfortable notion that we’re fighting over the hollow shell of something. If we’re fighting for what everyone else calls “marriage” but is actually the personalist-emotivist vestige of that institution, then we’re doomed to lose the debate. That ship sailed long ago, and it had contraception, divorce, and the sexual revolution stoking its boilers!

    Oleson misses a few points, however, that can be employed in a rational argument for traditional marriage. In addition to the indissoluble and procreative nature of marriage, there are other social/cultural reasons for giving heterosexual marriage preferential treatment. I quite liked the analysis by Canadian professors Katherine Young and Paul Nathanson (neither Christian, one gay) seen here:

    http://catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/ho0064.html

    Based on their cross-cultural/historical analysis of marriage, they conclude that the culture surrounding marriage must accomplish several things:
    (1) the bonding between men and women to ensure cooperation for the common good
    (2) the procreative aspect (plus child-rearing at least until adulthood)
    (3) bonding between men and children
    (4) a healthy form of masculine identity apart from “provider” and “protector” which have been joined gradually by women
    (5) the transformation of adolescents into sexually responsible adults.

    One of the most important things a culture can do is socialize its males; marriage (traditionally understood, with all the duties it entails) is one of the best ways to do that. If the culture fails to support heterosexual marriage by taking away the unique, ritualistic way that it encourages men to “settle down” and “grow up”, we’re in for a lot more trouble than we realize. Yet again we see that marriage has a public/social character that is poorly understood by most Americans today.

  • I have long recognized that the word marriage as it is now being debated does not mean what it has traditionally meant. It certainly does not mean what the Catholic Church means when it says the word marriage. I have somethimes wondered if the suggestions to use the word marriage for heterosexual unions and the phrase “civil union” for homosexual unions might be better replaced among Catholics by a suggestion to abandon the word marriage altogether. It has already been hijacked by the broader culture and there really isn’t much we can do about that. Let the broader culture have the word marriage and let that word refer to heterosexual “marriages” and homosexual civil unions. We on the other hand would use the prhase “sacramental unions” and its meaning would be restricted only to what has traditionally been meant by marriage. I know this isn’t the best option – but in the end it might be the most we can salvage from the wreckage that seems to be coming upon us.

  • It seems to me, however, that the grassroots resistance towards same-sex marriage might stem from the recognition of what marriage really ought to be. Though the failure rate is so high for the real, most people still cling to and hope for the the ideal. That’s not a bad thing, when one considers the alternative is a mercenary cynicism.

  • I’d love to think that you are right, cminor, but I tend to think that the resistance is from a (correct) recognition of what marriage ought *not* be, rather than what it *ought* to be… I guess it’s good that they have that, but it’s still pretty paltry.

  • Stephen Leacock summed up the matter concisely: what was once a sacrament has become a contract.

    Which incidentally reduces all children to bastards, having no claim on the progenitors.

  • I think it is true that we are not in a fight to avoid the redefinition of marriage, but that we are in a fight about whether or not to include homosexual couples in an already redefined marriage. As you point out, that is a battle that can’t be won. I do not see how one can support artificial contraception and reject same-sex marriage without at least some hint of bigotry.

    One interesting question follows: will this logic have any purchase on the large number of Christians (Catholic and Protestant) that oppose same-sex marriage but have been using contraception for at least two generations?

  • What about a faithful Catholic couple who entered into marriage with the full knowledge of sterility? Should we not consider that marriage?

  • RR: “at a fundamental level, marriage is oriented and structured towards childbearing, even if pro-creation never in fact occurs” (emphasis added).

    The same thing applies to a couple that marries beyond the age of fertility… while they will never bear children, their relationship remains fundamentally ordered towards them.

  • Can you spell that out further for me? How is a marriage where procreation is a biological impossibility, fundamentally ordered towards childbearing? And where does that leave people like Caster Semenya who have genetic or hormonal abnormalities which make their gender ambiguous?

  • Because the factors which render the act of sexual love sterile are “outside” of the action itself, as well as outside the intentions of the couple (i.e. all things being equal, they wish they *could* bear children).

    I don’t see that the infinitesimal number of people with indeterminate sexuality have any bearing on this debate.

    What’s your larger objection, RR?

  • Thanks. I don’t have a larger objection, just had questions.

  • Gotcha. Just wanted to see if there was another question “lurking” behind these or not… feel free to follow-up or ask another.

  • RestrainedRadical,

    Excellent questions!

  • I think there is some misunderstanding about the question of procreation in a marriage. The text is in Genesis: “Increase and multiply”. As the footnote in my [old] Bible comments “This is not a precept. God addressed the same words to the birds and animals who cannot receive a precept. It is a blessing”.

    Further, we use the word “procreation”. In a sense husband and wife are responsible for the body of the child [confirmed by DNA]. But it is God who creates the soul.

    For the matter of couples beyond child bearing age, consider Abraham and Sarah.

    The point is not to interfere with the conjugal act.

    Contraception [most of which methods are abortifacient] is properly defined as mutual masturbation. It is degrading to both parties, but particularly to offensive to the woman.

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  • It is ironic that the net result is that couples who do not, and never will have children, can get married – but couples who do have children, or who want to have children, will be denied marriage.

    Very directly, the argument that same-sex couples can’t get married because marriage is all about having children, means that hundreds of thousands of children across the US are being denied married parents by people who claim that marriage ought to be all about protecting children.

    Hm.

  • Jesurgislac, if marriage means an institution which is intrinsically about sexual love leading to childbirth & childrearing, and which is intrinsically indissoluble, are you interested in said institution?

  • Jesurgislac, if marriage means an institution which is intrinsically about sexual love leading to childbirth & childrearing, and which is intrinsically indissoluble, are you interested in said institution?

    When I meet the right woman. 😉

    Same-sex couples are as likely to have that kind of marriage as mixed-sex couples.

    It would be possible to deny marriage to any couple who physically/biologically couldn’t have children together – but that would mean no woman past the menopause could be allowed to marry, no man with a vasectomy, no woman with a tubal ligation.

    It’s a question of whether you really believe married parents are beneficial to children. If so, there’s no excuse for denying the children of same-sex couples married parents – but that’s what opponents of same-sex marriage do – usually justifying it by claiming that as they believe the children of same-sex couples are already in sub-standard families, those children should be further discriminated against by being denied the benefits of married parents.

  • Jesurgislac:
    Maggie Gallagher, National Organization for Marriage has done a great job of outlining the custody issues if same-same unions take place. Also, tax disadvantages of marriage now. Interesting to note her stats on how few same-sex attracted pairs actually “marry.” In other words, she completely blows you ideas about how beneficial same-sex unions are just because they call them selves married.
    You might want to consider the marriage question from the civil rights perspective. In this country our rights are alienable because we are endowed with them by a Creator. Highly doubtful the Judaeo-Christian Creator our Founding Fathers had in mind is okay with a contractual arrangment between two adults of the same gender as marriage. Marriage between a man and a woman is first and foremost a covenantual relationship -the first unit of civilization. Family, cland, tribe, nation – follw OT history and you’ll see what I mean.

Let's find the fallacy!

Tuesday, October 13, AD 2009

Yesterday The Nation‘s John Nichols wrote a rather scathing piece about President Obama: the piece is entitled “Whiner-in-Chief” and the first line reads, “The Obama administration really needs to get over itself.”

Of course, I tend to agree with perspectives like that. 🙂  But near the end of the piece Nichols tries to argue that the country isn’t as divided as the White House thinks, and along the way, he makes a heckuva non sequitur:

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4 Responses to Let's find the fallacy!

A Public Option: the Left's Waterloo?

Wednesday, August 19, AD 2009

Blackadder has had a couple very interesting posts lately arguing that a public health insurance program wouldn’t sound the death-knell to private insurance companies (and hence competition for the consumer) which many have been arguing it would.

What I find interesting is the vehemence of the left regarding a public option… consider this quote from a WaPo story today:

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12 Responses to A Public Option: the Left's Waterloo?

  • One wonders how many of the people now loudly insisting that a public option is essential to health care reform had even heard of the idea a year ago.

  • Chris,

    At the same time, we find in the same article indications that the GOP’s strategy is yet again merely to try to take down ObamaCare without proposing a real alternative… Sen. Kyl from Arizona and Rep. Price from Georgia both offer comments critical of the co-op proposal, but offer nothing as an alternative strategy. Perhaps this is just the WaPo reporter leaving them out, but I have my doubts.

    You’re simply repeating the left’s talking point that the Republican’s don’t offer alternative reforms. The Republicans have offered numerous times reforms which have been defeated by Democrats at every turn.

    – tort reform!
    – allowing individuals to deduct their private health care premiums
    – allowing small businesses to pool across state lines to purchase health insurance for their employees

    John McCain’s health care proposal included eliminating the employer deduction in favor of an individual tax credit, this would eliminate the majority of “previous condition” issues because people would not lose their coverage if they lose their job.

    At the current time, due to Democrat majorities in both houses the Republicans can not bring any of these proposals to the floor, and the media is not cooperating in getting them out to the public.

  • Fair enough, Matt. I guess I’d like to see a more coordinated communications strategy on the part of the GOP, then, to get their word out. If the media isn’t cooperating… go around them. It’s not impossible.

  • Chris,

    Fair enough, Matt. I guess I’d like to see a more coordinated communications strategy on the part of the GOP, then, to get their word out. If the media isn’t cooperating… go around them. It’s not impossible.

    I agree, if we don’t figure out how to do this, we will fail, regardless of unfairness.

  • Obama appears to be stuck. He wants to jettison the public option portion of his health care plan out of (legitimate) concern that it could bring down the entire bill. It appears, however, that the more left-wing Democrats won’t vote for a bill without a public option.

    I’m not really in the business of helping Obama out. However, it might be interesting to see what sort of concessions he would be willing to make in order to garner Republican support for a public plan. Suppose, for example, that the health care bill kept a public option but was altered to include some or all of the reform items Matt mentioned above. Wouldn’t such a bill be preferable to the status quo?

  • BA,

    Wouldn’t such a bill be preferable to the status quo?

    I’d still be concerned by a lot of the other interventions in the existing bill. Also, it seems like the trade-off from a “public” option would be a “co-op” option, which is funded by the government and controlled by the government as a sort of trojan horse government option.

  • As a tangent. The “Death Panels” were supposed to be a figment of the right’s imagination. I wonder how that plays given this:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204683204574358590107981718.html

  • It’s certainly interesting to see how firmly the left has latched on to the fairly anemic public option in the current plan.

    I wonder if some of this is that the second half of the 20th century wasn’t exactly kind to collectivist-minded idealogues. The ideas of Smith turned out to be a lot better at creating liveable societies than those of Marx. But health care has, to many, remained the one area in which people can convince themselves “market bad, centralized planning good”. As such, having the government provide health care has an appeal to partisan Democrats out of proportion to the amount of good that a particular program is likely to do.

  • One thing that bothers me is that all the fuss over the public option has allowed the abortion provision in the bill to go unchallenged. As Catholics are we really more concerned about the economic implications of the bill vs its deadly intent to fund infanticide?

  • Fr. Charlie,

    I thunk you’re mistaken, the outrage over the government No private or blocked number calls please takeover is multifaceted and it include opposition to taxpayer funding of abortion, and coercive euthanasia. I don’t think there’s a shortage of vocal opposition to any of these aspects.

    All of these elements are a natural extension of the government takeover. Even if hey weren’t mentioned in the law they would become enshrined in practice. That’s part of the reason Catholics should oppose any government takeover.

  • er.. think.

  • I would like to think you are right Matt, but I don’t know. While the Ins. companies need some serious regulation, I am totally opposed to a govt. run health care system. But at the end of the day, I can live with almost anything except publically-funded abortion and euthanasia. The “death-panel” campaign may have protected us on the latter, but besides the US Bishops Conf, I hear almost nothing in the public debate about abortion. What I am saying is that some of the energy needs to go into exposing what this bill will do to the unborn.

The Loss of Limits… the End of Art

Sunday, August 16, AD 2009

A priest friend and I are reading through Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ posthumously-published work, American Babylon: Notes of a Christian Exile, and it’s been an enjoyable read thus far, even in the places where I disagree with the author.

For the purposes of this post, I wanted to share a citation which I found very intriguing regarding the impact on art of modernity’s flight from anything which might be remotely conceived of as limitation.

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One Response to The Loss of Limits… the End of Art

Tea Parties, Principles and their Application

Thursday, April 16, AD 2009

I’m a big fan of the personal finance speaker & author Dave Ramsey… when our oldest was born nearly five years ago and my wife prepared to stay home to take care of her and her siblings-to-come, I didn’t know how we were going to manage on my income alone; Ramsey’s book and radio show provided us with a straightforward, systematic approach to managing our finances, and for that, I am grateful… his is the talk radio show that I still listen to most.

But when it comes to politics, Dave is far too typical of many mainstream conservatives: he confuses principles for their application, just like Limbaugh, Hannity, et al.

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15 Responses to Tea Parties, Principles and their Application

  • or more on this — especially some concrete examples of such an application — I heartily recommend Grand New Party by Ross Douthat

    Sorry, but that was one of the most tedious bores of a read. The funny thing about that book was that I was actually prepared to disagree with many of the book’s arguments, but what disappointed me was not that their arguments were incorrect, but that they simply didn’t make many arguments. It was 150 pages of questionable history followed by about 50 pages of the most generalized policy prescriptions.

    Douthat and his ilk remind me of the underwear gnomes from South Park.
    Step one: appeal to the middle class.
    Step two: ?
    Step three: Win elections.

    What’s missing from step two is any suggestion about substantive policy that would actually address the middle class. It seems at times as though they’re content with an “I feel your pain” approach to politics that is bereft of any meaning. And when they do offer up specific policy, its manifestly unworkable. If you add up all the tax credits they suggest in the book I think the average American would wind up getting triple their annual salary back in refunds.

    Furthermore, while I would agree that tax cuts are not necessarily an inherent part of the conservative philosophy, resisting the urge to believe that government can solve most of the problems hat we face is. Therefore, opposition to ridiculous government spending is in fact part and parcel of conservatism in the sense that is the practical application of the anti-utopian current within the conservative philosophy. And while it may be true that many Americans want greater government intervention, the prescription should not be for conservatives to simply wave their hands and succumb to the bad policy, but rather we should redouble our efforts and inform and persuade the public as to why that course of action is a bad idea.

    After all, we’re Catholics. Aren’t we supposed to resist the urge to simply follow the whims of the crowd?

  • the prescription should not be for conservatives to simply wave their hands and succumb to the bad policy

    I think that’s the heart of this disagreement, Paul… I certainly agree that opposition to ridiculous government spending is a common application of conservative anti-utopianism, but that doesn’t mean that all government spending is utopian and therefore to be avoided… that’s libertarianism more than it is conservatism. The question is, exactly how ought the government play its appropriate role in support of the common good? I think too often conservatives reflexively presume that no such appropriate role exists, but that’s certainly not the Catholic position.

  • but that doesn’t mean that all government spending is utopian

    No, it is not, but certainly a huge chunk of what we do spend is. Is there any conservative justification for the bloated stimulus package that was just passed, or the even more bloated budget being debated?

    I think too often conservatives reflexively presume that no such appropriate role exists,

    That’s a bit of a straw man, and one that’s been debated here on this blog recently. Personally speaking, I am not an anarchist nor am I opposed to all government spending and/or activity.

  • Is there any conservative justification for the bloated stimulus package that was just passed, or the even more bloated budget being debated?

    No, but that wasn’t the point of my post (or of GNP, as you know). My reference to the tea parties and the focus of their ire (overspending) was merely a contemporary event I used to contextualize my larger point… as I noted, I agree with the sentiment of yesterday’s rallies. My concern is that “lower taxes, less spending” has become an ideological mantra.

    That’s a bit of a straw man, and one that’s been debated here on this blog recently. Personally speaking, I am not an anarchist nor am I opposed to all government spending and/or activity.

    Acknowledged. I didn’t mean to imply that *you* held that view… as I noted, I do that that too many of our fellow conservatives hold it, though. Or at least, that’s the implication of their rhetoric.

  • The tea parties are representative of the Joe The Plumber-ization of America. All the complaining about how the government spends money from people that pay little to no federal income tax. (If you are paying under $10,000 in federal income taxes, you aren’t paying much in my book. FTR, I don’t pay a federal income tax because I have children, and most people with children don’t pay a net tax.)

  • This posting was, indeed, one of the most tedious bores of a read. Don’t you have an editor? Don’t you have a wife?

  • Thanks for the comment, Gabriel… I appreciate your willingness to engage in a thoughtful conversation.

  • all the complaining about how the government spends money from people that pay little to no federal income tax.

    But that, in and of itself, is part of the issue. Nearly half of Americans pay no net income tax, and yet we’re spending trillions and trillions of dollars that will have to be paid back by someone. Well, I’m 32, so I sure as hell have something to worry about because I plan on living quite a while longer, and my 8-week daughter will sure as heck be straddled with paying this back.

    What people seem to be missing is that these protests are as much about spending as they are about taxes. These folks recognize that if we continue to spend as we are currently doing, then inevitably we’re going to be paying a lot more to Uncle Sam. It’s either that or declare nation-wide chapter 11.

  • MZ,

    All the complaining about how the government spends money from people that pay little to no federal income tax. (If you are paying under $10,000 in federal income taxes, you aren’t paying much in my book.

    Not to be combative, but doesn’t that essentially boil down to, “Shut up and enjoy the oligarchy, you plebs!”

    Extrapolating from the amount of taxes I pay now with four kids, I think I’d have to make around 150k in order to pay 10,000 in federal income taxes. Now, I wouldn’t object to making 150k, and it could certainly happen, but I’m not sure that we want to say that only the top 10% of families get to even discuss whether taxes and spending are too high. (And if we did, someone else would probably chime in that they’re too rich to be allowed to have an opinion on whether they should be taxed.)

    Chris,

    I’m not sure that if the general feeling right now is so much that more needs to be spent overall, or simply that more needs to be spent on “essential things”. But I would tend to say that the very basic, “lower taxes, less spending” cry is too simplistic to work very well for conservatives at this point. Or at least, it isn’t enough to rally more than 20-30% of the population.

    The problem to a great extent is probably that conservatives have been so successful in scaling back taxes since 1980 that for a majority of Americans the income tax is no longer all that real a burden. And while some people are willing to get worked up about taxation in general even if it doesn’t hit them very hard, a great many people are willing to sit back and say, “not my problem.”

  • The problem to a great extent is probably that conservatives have been so successful in scaling back taxes since 1980 that for a majority of Americans the income tax is no longer all that real a burden. And while some people are willing to get worked up about taxation in general even if it doesn’t hit them very hard, a great many people are willing to sit back and say, “not my problem.”

    Exactly, Darwin… I wonder how many people remember how much higher income tax rates were back then.

    I concur with your first point… I think of health care, for instance… many (most?) working families find the costs of medical care burdensome, and are looking for help (not necessarily handouts). I think it’s incumbent upon us as conservatives to try to address these real concerns, but from our principles, not a statist approach.

  • Not to be combative, but doesn’t that essentially boil down to, “Shut up and enjoy the oligarchy, you plebs!”

    Not really. The sentiment is more of “My masters fights aren’t mine.”

    I’m not sure that we want to say that only the top 10% of families get to even discuss whether taxes and spending are too high.

    Discuss away. It is akin to men discussing labor and delivery though. As I’m sure you are aware, the wealthy tended to vote for Obama and also tend not to think taxes are too high. The idea that we can’t afford this spending is a nonstarter though. It just isn’t the case that the income tax burden is high by any measure. Conservatives would do better to argue that the spending is imprudent. One can at least make a legitimate argument there.

    Nearly half of Americans pay no net income tax, and yet we’re spending trillions and trillions of dollars that will have to be paid back by someone.

    I don’t know about you, but I get about as much benefit from the feds as the taxes I pay. I don’t engage in interstate commerce. I don’t fly overseas. I don’t depend on our navy to defend my ships from pirates. I don’t think the argument that everyone benefits equally (or even proportionately as a percentage of income) actually holds.

  • It is akin to men discussing labor and delivery though.

    We all have a stake in the economy. Regardless of how much in taxes each individual pays, the general sentiment behind the tea parties is that the current levels of spending the resulting taxation will prove ruinous for all. It may be that a minority of the populace feels this way now, but Obama’s approval ratings are trending downward and movements like this have a way of taking off; witness the property tax revolt of the late ’70s and how it blossomed into the tax-cutting enthusiasm of the early ’80s.

  • It probably also has a great deal to do with where one chooses to define having a stake. The total federal income taxes I pay are well under $10,000, but they are slightly over my total takehome income for an average month. Needless to say, that’s a fair amount of money to me. (And that’s with four kids and a mortgage worth of deductions and tax credits.)

    So one can argue that it’s an argument for our “betters”, but while it’s true that “the rich” voted heavily for Obama, if only people who paid more than $1000 in income taxes the previous year had been allowed to vote, McCain would almost certainly have won.

    And while I agree that taxation does not currently rest that hard on modern “average Americans”, I _do_ think average Americans have reason to be concerned about the fiscal position that we seem to be getting ourselves into at the moment, because paying our way out of it (and the long term economic slowness that may be involved) will end up affecting a lot more than the top 20%.

  • Fiscal madness at the federal level obviously has a major impact on the economy. We cannot pile up the debt we are currently adding fecklessly without it eventually causing the economy to completely cease to grow. Unless the Federal government simply repudiates the debt, or pays the debt in vastly inflated currency through hyper-inflation, either alternative being an economic calamity for the average citizen, there is no way that this debt is not ultimately going to be paid largely by tax increases on not only the wealthy, but also the middle class.

    Of course none of this takes into consideration the fact that the tea bag protests also take aim at taxes and spending at the state and local level. I think many of our readers would be surprised at the high percentage of their income that goes for taxes. Looking at the state, federal and property taxes my wife and I pay adds up to 31% of our income for 2008. This does not include “hidden” taxes which include sales tax, tax on utilities, etc. Pointing to the federal income tax alone merely touches the tip of the tax iceberg for the typical American.

  • DarwinCatholic Says:
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 A.D. at 3:08 pm
    “It probably also has a great deal to do with where one chooses to define having a stake. The total federal income taxes I pay are well under $10,000, but they are slightly over my total takehome income for an average month. Needless to say, that’s a fair amount of money to me. (And that’s with four kids and a mortgage worth of deductions and tax credits.)”.

    Do you include in this the 15% that goes for Social Security? The wickedness of the 15% is that is a flat tax, especially hard on the poor. If you make say $20,000 a year, $3,000 goes out in Soc Sec taxes, half paid by you, half by the employer.

    In the discussions about taxes and the debt, the question might well be raised “where is the money to come from to pay the debt?”. Might it not make more sense to tie debt to particular taxes? The governments seem to be working on a charge card mentality.

4 Responses to Dignitas Personae

  • Thanks for the heads up, Chris. I’m a little lax in keeping track of new documents (be they Catholic or new papers in Computer Science), so I’m very grateful to everyone who brings my attention to these new releases!

  • Oddly enough, the BBC’s original treatment of the document looked relatively.. well.. fair and accurate with none of the usual snide commentary or slant.
    Very unusual for them

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7779559.stm

  • I just read it. I found it, generally, to be a good, clear read, specifically when dealing with the profoundly complicated issues brought about by in vitro fertilization. It frames its discussion with a solid grounding in natural moral law and a consistent reference to the dignity of the human person as well as the sacred nature of the sexual act, holy matrimony, and the complementarity of husband and wife.

    It also quotes Benedict extensively, “Natural law, which is at the root of the recognition of true equality between persons and peoples, deserves to be recognized as the source that inspires the relationship between the spouses in their responsibility for begetting new children. The transmission of life is inscribed in nature and its laws stand as an unwritten norm to which all must refer.”

    Now we must ensure that this instruction does not fall upon deaf ears.

  • La nueva instrucción Dignitas Personae elaborada por la Congregación para la Doctrina de la Fe y aprobada expresamente por SS Benedicto XVI indudablemente será motivo de comentarios de todo tipo, por la importancia y trascendencia del tema que trata.
    Si bien no nos corresponde evaluar su contenido debido a nuestro escaso nivel intelectual y teológico y la carencia de argumentación científica que pudiera justificar o denostar el tema de la fecundación asistida, no es menos cierto que de su lectura surgen elementos que nos mueven a reflexionar.
    Es de suponer que quienes acuden a estos métodos lo hacen impulsados por la necesidad y no por snobismo, y la posibilidad de desarrollarse como padres, cumpliendo el mandato de “creced y multiplicaos” cuesta entender que sea incompatible con la solución científica, cuando esta es una posibilidad para dar solución a problemas de infertilidad.
    Se dice que:
    El origen de la vida humana… tiene su auténtico contexto en el matrimonio y la familia, donde es generada por medio de un acto que expresa el amor recíproco entre el hombre y la mujer.
    Es irrebatible este concepto, aunque podría matizarse para hacerlo un poco más abarcativo y siendo tal cual se lo plantea,
    ¿Qué pasa con quienes dentro del matrimonio no cumplen con la castidad conyugal?
    Cuando los actos propios de los esposos, como muestra del amor recíproco no tienen el objetivo de la procreación, ya sea por cuestiones de determinación o por la utilización de cualquier medio que atente contra la fecundación, estaremos en la otra cara de la moneda del tema que estamos tratando.
    Con lo cual, si quienes utilicen o simplemente piensen en métodos no naturales para concebir, o métodos no naturales para no concebir quizás estén inmersos en situaciones similares a la de los católicos divorciados en nueva unión, cuya imposibilidad de acceder a la comunión (por citar sólo un ejemplo) es motivo de inquietud entre quienes viven todas estas problemáticas.
    La instrucción Dignitas Personae no es motivo de debate, pero indudablemente será motivo de más de una apreciación.
    Mundy
    [email protected]
    http://www.labarcaglobal.blogspot.com

Ross Douthat: Not Backing Down

Monday, November 10, AD 2008

Today, regarding Kmiec (et al.):

But to claim that a candidate who seems primed to begin disbursing taxpayer dollars in support of abortion and embryo-destructive research as soon as he enters the White House somehow represented the better choice for anti-abortion Americans on anti-abortion grounds is an argument that deserves to met, not with engagement, but with contempt.

He echoes my weekend frustration.

Continue reading...

5 Responses to Ross Douthat: Not Backing Down

16 Responses to Let's Get Started!

  • He didn’t support an executive order either… Obama is going to bypass the legislative branch to kill human life….

    yea, now I know I was misinformed about the ONE… no wolf in sheep clothing here.

  • i meant to say that the One is going to support an executive order.

  • Time to organize and fight back against this. Pro-lifers were beaten in a battle last Tuesday, but if the pro-aborts believe they have won the war they are deluded.

  • To use a phrase fron The One/That One, I’m fired up and ready to go!

  • Wow, you can hear crickets in the background.

    Where are Michael I., Mark DeFrancisisis, Radical Catholic Mom, and MZ Forrest now that their ‘pro-life’ candidate is ready to begin the wholesale mass slaughter of humans?

  • Did those who supported Obama somehow not think that things like this (and the Mexico City policy change) would happen, and happen virtually immediately? These are the consequences of an Obama presidency, and they were foreseen, at least by the pro-lifers who opposed Obama’s election.

  • The “Mexico City Policy” denying funding to NGO’s which perform / promote abortion will likely be reversed as well.

    This is hardly a suprise. It was instituted by Reagan, rescinded under Clinton, reaffirmed by Bush Jr., and now will likely be repealed, allowing for taxpayer promotion of abortion overseas.

  • Walter,

    Are you ready to get in their face… to use the language of That One.

  • And in addition to the slaughter, women being exploited as livestock for egg harvesting.

    Some champion of women’s rights.

  • I’m glad to see that our new president — who is ever conscious of a variety of positions, reflective, and inclusive — has mused over the “difficult” issue of embryonic stem cell research and has decided that the best course of “common ground” with pro-life Americans is to make them pay for it.

    We’re off to a very bipartisan start of 4 years of Unity……….

  • Pingback: Ross Douthat: not backing down « The American Catholic: Politics and Culture from a Catholic perspective
  • Okay – Obama is our next president, like it or not. Let’s stop whining about and pouting that we lost. Our marching orders are clear: Pray for Obama and our country, work with him where possible to achieve the common good, and fight like a Maccabee when he oversteps his bounds — all the while remembering that November 2010 and 2012 will be here quicker than we think. There is much we have to do.

    What about us supporting at a local level pro-life politicians (democrats and republicans) who are willing to take the abuse from the pro-abortion side? The reason we have few to no strong pro-life politicians on the national scene is because of the lack of local support. Maybe we should be encouraging people to support pro-life PACs to get these candidates some visibility and support. I would love to hear what catholics on doing to to courage pro-life politicans in the cities and states.

    What about praying and fasting for President-elect Obama to have a change of heart (maybe like St. Paul – it is the Year of St. Paul) and courage to stand up to his own party leaders on matters of the sanctity of life (abortion, ESCR, euthanasia and death penalty), of marriage, and of expanding the war in Afghanistan? If he is as reasonable and open to the views of pro-lifers as his Catholic proponents claim him to be, then I’m sure he will appreciate those prayers.

    Let us go into the world and make a difference in our own lives, families, and work. That is the leaven the first century Christians brought to the Roman Empire, with its debauchery and hedonism similar to our modern society, and that changed the world. They put their faith in the concrete reality of Christ’s promises and the example of his life not the promises of any man or the pleasures of the world. We need to do the same!!

  • Katerine,

    I love your enthusiasm.

    “Fight like a Macabee”.

    I’m all the way in on this revolution.

    Maybe we should start with our own churches and purge them of cafeteria Catholics?

  • Thank you, Tito. Yes – praying for and encouraging our priests and bishops to be strong and courageous and being good role models of what the “pro-life” movement can and should be in our own churches is key.

    There is too much to do to waste time being depressed or maudlin or self-righteous. I intended on living my life in obedience to God and each day is filled with choices, many of them having nothing to do with whoever was President.

    I believe our mission as Catholic hasn’t changed–and wouldn’t be any different if McCain had been elected. We have a lot of work ahead of us for the culture of death in all its forms has a strong foot hold in the United States.

  • I dont know why all of you rely on just ‘faith ‘ to decide what is right ffor the human race. i mean come on. if you think about it yeah the whole stem cell thing is sort of wrong but it could save alot of lives. all of those people who have terminal illnesses , think of how they feel. they had no hope whatsoever about living and now they know that they may still have a chance at life. everything happens for a reason and if you want to drag Christ into this then fine. He put us here and created our destiny so what has happened has hapened because He wanted it to. it was bound to happen one way or another.

3 Responses to The Case For Not Voting?

  • “So vote, or don’t, but either way, don’t agonize over it, don’t raise an eyebrow at your friends and neighbors if they stay home, and don’t worry if the other side wins.”

    Do you believe that, Chris? — “don’t worry if the other side wins”?

    Do you intend to vote? If so, why?

  • Sorry, Chris, I should’ve given more of my own commentary… I don’t agree with everything Suderman says, but there is an underlying sentiment which harmonizes with my own, which is summarized by the pithy little saying that “politics is downstream from culture”.

    Do I intend to vote? Absolutely, because it’s my responsibility at a faithful citizen. Will I be disappointed if Obama wins, as expected? Of course; I think his policies are worse, all in all, particularly on the life issues. But I don’t think it’ll spell the end of our country, as some of my conservative compatriots seem to think (or at least say).

    But I’m more concerned by the fact that we’re focusing almost exclusively on politics, to the point that everything hinges on what happens Tuesday every 2 or 4 years. Is there a feedback loop in the culture/politics relationship? Is the law a teacher in its own right? Yes to both. But I still think we need to rebalance our focus to ensure that we’re not neglecting the culture.

    That’s my sentiment, and as noted above, it harmonizes with aspects of Suderman’s piece, which I why I drew attention to it.

    Thoughts, Chris?

  • But I’m more concerned by the fact that we’re focusing almost exclusively on politics, to the point that everything hinges on what happens Tuesday every 2 or 4 years. Is there a feedback loop in the culture/politics relationship? Is the law a teacher in its own right? Yes to both. But I still think we need to rebalance our focus to ensure that we’re not neglecting the culture.

    I concur: I would say it’s our culture that shapes much of our behavior; the law’s chief function is a deterrent to our vices. With respect to the predominant issue of abortion, as the Bishops stress it’s a “both / and” — pro-life legislation must be pursued but is not the end-all; rather operating in conjunction with the building of a culture that values life (and, for instance, that won’t perceive a child as merely an impediment to individual ambitions: college, career, etc.).

    Culture shapes economics as well. You know my sympathy for Michael Novak’s observation that a healthy market economy is contingent on the health of a nation’s culture and its institutions. Witness the present crisis — one can blame the “predatory lending” of “Wall Street”;
    but one cannot overlook the inclination of many on “Main Street” to commit mortage fraud, falsifying their histories to obtain houses they couldn’t reasonably afford otherwise. Plenty of blame to go around. Case in point:

    BasePoint Analytics took a look at millions of subprime loans and found that in 70 percent of cases where mortgages go bad quickly (exactly the kinds of mortgages that account for a chunk of today’s rising default rates), there was some misrepresentation by the borrower, broker or appraiser, or some combination of the three

    The health of our economy is only so good as the moral virtue of its participants.

    Likewise, a culture that sees the solution to poverty as starting with one’s self and not governmetn handouts for forced “redistribution” from the rich. We can justifiably oppose the latter (remote, abstract attempts at charity) — but our protests are in vain if we neglect to take the local and most immediate route, beginning with ourselves.

    Quick thoughts but yes, I agree.

    My main criticism of Suderman is the dismissal “don’t worry if the other side wins” — there’s a good case that a Democratic majority in Congress coupled with a ready and willing presidential administration could do a lot of damage in four years, especially on the pro-life front, that would be irreversible.

13 Responses to What Blogs & Sites Will You Visit First on Nov. 5th?

29 Responses to Being Reasonable Doesn't Always Work

  • Arguing with folks like that is like trying to teach a pig to sing. All you do is waste your time and amuse the pig.

  • That is really funny…. I think I will use that.

  • Arguing with folks like that is like trying to teach a pig to sing. All you do is waste your time and amuse the pig.

    So…everyone who holds a principled, good-faith view that embryos aren’t as “human and alive” as you or I are pigs in search of amusement? You joke of course, but if that were Chris’s take then just ignore the rest of my post.

    To Chris’s point:

    I cannot get (at least one of) them to acknowledge that according to embryology a human being comes to exist at conception (whatever one’s definition of personhood).

    It’s obviously a necessary step, but you’re right that I do not classify embryos as “human beings”, any more than I classify monkey embryos as “monkeys”. I have what I think are good reasons for this, so I don’t figure sticking to this assessment makes me unreasonable.

    While I’ve been a bit impatient at times, my general tone is fairly calm, I think, and yet we are getting almost nowhere.

    And we aren’t likely to get anywhere in terms of changing each others minds about where life begins. I recognized this from the start. I’m not appalled at the prospect of reasonable disagreement. Are you?

    As I said, it’s a helpful reminder for me that — try as you might — some people just cannot be persuaded, at least in the short term, of what seems obvious and self-evident to me.

    I view it as a reminder that — try as you might — some people will continue to hold their beliefs so dearly that they think criminalizing the behavior of many people who reasonably disagree is the “core principle” of a properly secular conservatism.

    If the kind of conservatism you’re interested in is the Church’s — as seems to be the case with all these posts about Catholics for or against Obama and how genuinely pro-life Catholics would never cast such a vote — then you probably don’t care about the point I’m making. Keep on keepin’ on.

  • Gherald,

    Maybe you should put Lipstick on that Pig.

    I kid.. I kid… 🙂

    Except for the fact that Sarah Palin Rocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • “some people will continue to hold their beliefs so dearly that they think criminalizing the behavior of many people who reasonably disagree is the “core principle” of a properly secular conservatism.”

    Well, if the point of disagreement is about whether human beings in early stages of development are to be granted the legal protection, it seems to me the debate is both secular and conservative. After all, it was Roe that overturned the laws of 46 states while introducing a sweeping new abortion regime. You can argue it was correct, but it certainly wasn’t conservative.

    As to determining when human life is eligible for legal protection, that is as ‘secular’ a question as any. Catholics don’t oppose abortion for ‘religious reasons’, they oppose abortion because it is a human rights issue.

    You may hold idiosyncratic beliefs about when a human life begins, but they certainly are not scientific, insofar as an embryo is a completely unique genetic entity, with its own gender, and capacity like all human life for growth and development under the proper conditions. You can refuse to acknowledge an embryo deserves legal protection or that it has personhood, but it certainly is human life.

  • You can argue it was correct, but it certainly wasn’t conservative

    Yes and no. I’m ambivalent about whether it was rightly decided, because too many legal scholars disagree. But I do think that criminalizing abortions isn’t a “core principle” of conservatism, and that’s the position I’m arguing for.

    My personal beliefs were just offered as an example. I certainly don’t expect many Catholics to agree with me.

    I do however think that a Catholic who believes in secular government can be pro-life while at the same time not wanting to criminalize abortion. Just like how, for instance, a Catholic should believe adultery is wrong yet still not want to criminalize it.

    Hate the sin, not the sinner. Tell people you believe abortion is wrong, but don’t advocate criminalizing the (possible) actions of the vast group of people who don’t share that belief.

    an embryo is a completely unique genetic entity, with its own gender, and capacity like all human life for growth and development under the proper conditions

    Embryos are not necessarily unique, there are only so many possible combinations of the chromosome pairs of two parents. Granted, there may be some tiny mutations within chromosomes, but that’s just adding another layer of diversity. Identical twins, for instance, aren’t unique genetically. They may certainly develop into independent individuals, of course, with their own life experience in all its wonder.

    You can refuse to acknowledge an embryo deserves legal protection or that it has personhood, but it certainly is human life.

    Ah, this is a matter of defining our terms. “human life” may be shorthand for more specific things….

    I’ll happily concede that embryos are human life, but only in the sense that they are “biological life that is human genetically”. The same way as if, for instance, I were to isolate a live skin cell from my body. That’s would also be “human life” defined as “biological life that is human genetically”. Note that with sophisticated enough medical technology it is perfectly feasible to grow that ordinary skin cell into a biological clone of mine, thus creating a new person.

    (Just watch Jurassic Park, tee-hee)

    What I would not concede is that embryos or early-term fetuses are “human beings” like you or I and thus worthy of “protection”. Mr. Wehner called their protection a “core principle” of conservatism, and this I disagree with.

    I don’t believe they’ve passed a meaningful threshold that would deserve treatment as a developed individual. I don’t think mere brain activity is sufficient either — I think it requires a somewhat more developed sapience or sentience — something abstract like that. But since “brain activity” is a prerequisite for those things, close enough in the development chronology, and much more easily testable, I refer to brain activity in the context of abortion.

    HTH

  • -Hate the sin, not the sinner. Tell people you believe abortion is wrong, but don’t advocate criminalizing the (possible) actions of the vast group of people who don’t share that belief.-

    In all honesty I ask you, why couldn’t this be applied to various crimes in order to rationalize their legalization?

    e.g Tell people you believe jaywalking is wrong but don’t advocate criminalizing….

    And yet we have to have traffic laws.

  • Gherald,

    Embryos are not necessarily unique, there are only so many possible combinations of the chromosome pairs of two parents. Granted, there may be some tiny mutations within chromosomes, but that’s just adding another layer of diversity. Identical twins, for instance, aren’t unique genetically. They may certainly develop into independent individuals, of course, with their own life experience in all its wonder.

    Well, no, actually. You’re scientifically wrong on this. A naturally conceived embryo is invariably genetically different from either of its parents. No child has DNA identical to either of its parents. Just doesn’t and can’t happen.

    On the question of identical twins: It’s true that identical twins have the same DNA, however there’s never a question as to whether there is in fact at least one unique living human organism in existence post conception. Further, the splitting of identical twins happens so early that it is invariably before a conception would be detected and an abortion procured, so by the time period that we’re looking at abortion as an option there is simply no question as to the number of unique human organisms involved.

    Now, it’s true that you can, should you so choose, get all philosophical and come up with your own definitions of what exactly a “human being” is by some definition other than “human organism”, but I’m unclear as to why you think this would be a good basis for a secular conservatism in that this would invariably rely on people sharing your beliefs about when a human organism is or is not a human being. (After all, some people are outliers on that question — take Peter Singer.)

    It seems to me that a secular order is best served by using those criteria which are most objectively verifiable, and in that regard there is no dividing line more clear than existence.

  • Anyone who describes himself as “ambivalent” about whether Roe v. Wade was rightly decided is not a “conservative” in any sense of the word with which I’m familiar. Libertarian maybe, but NOT conservative.

    Put aside the fact that the case was about abortion. Striking down the laws of 40+ states and territories and the federal government (and thereby removing the issue forever from the political process of the democratically elected branches of government) on the basis of some undefined “right” that “emanates from penumbras” that are supposedly inherent within the Bill of Rights, but which can only be discovered and defined by 9 unelected and life-tenured jurists, is NOT conservative.

  • Well, no, actually. You’re scientifically wrong on this. A naturally conceived embryo is invariably genetically different from either of its parents. No child has DNA identical to either of its parents. Just doesn’t and can’t happen.

    Uhm, I never suggested children would be identical to their parents, only that they could be identical to other possible children. I was just objecting to the “completely unique genetic entity”, which was overstated. A minor objection really, but I don’t like letting hyperbole slide.

    I’ll address secularism over at c11 in response to fus’s other post…

  • I’ll happily concede that embryos are human life, but only in the sense that they are “biological life that is human genetically”. The same way as if, for instance, I were to isolate a live skin cell from my body. That’s would also be “human life” defined as “biological life that is human genetically”. Note that with sophisticated enough medical technology it is perfectly feasible to grow that ordinary skin cell into a biological clone of mine, thus creating a new person.

    Gherald, that’s a red herring. A human skin cell will not of its own accord develop into an adult human being… the transformation required for it to do so changes it from a skin cell into — wait for it — an embryonic human being, for it is only the human embryo that will — again, of its own accord — develop into an adult human being. The embryonic human is self-actualizing itself towards adulthood, something no other human cell can do.

    I don’t believe they’ve passed a meaningful threshold that would deserve treatment as a developed individual. I don’t think mere brain activity is sufficient either — I think it requires a somewhat more developed sapience or sentience — something abstract like that. But since “brain activity” is a prerequisite for those things, close enough in the development chronology, and much more easily testable, I refer to brain activity in the context of abortion.

    Why is sapience or sentience morally relevant, Gherald? What is so important about these things that having them endows one with rights? My position is this: it isn’t being *actually* sentient or sapient that grants one rights (what would that say about those in a coma?), but rather it is the innate *capacity* to do those things that is relevant, and the embryonic homo sapiens has that innate capacity, as do the neonate, infantile, prepubescent, adolescent an adult homo sapiens.

    I’d invite you to read the the following linked (short) essay for a strictly secular exposition of the position I hold:
    http://www.bioethics.gov/reports/cloningreport/appendix.html#george

  • Perhaps I was mis-interpreting your phrase:

    there are only so many possible combinations of the chromosome pairs of two parents

    But I took you to mean that it was possible that an embryo might end up identical in genetic makeup to either a parent or sibling because there were “only so many possible combinations”. This isn’t so. Identical twins are genetically the same, but only because a single embryo splits. One never has identical twins who are identical by “chance”.

    The key, as I pointed out, is that one may tell from the genetic uniqueness that the embryo is distinct from its parent (unlike some other “bit of tissue”) and one may tell from identity that an embryo is distinct from its twin. There’s really not any question going on here other than an introduced philosophical one which is not objectively observable or verifiable.

  • Anyone who describes himself as “ambivalent” about whether Roe v. Wade was rightly decided is not a “conservative” in any sense of the word with which I’m familiar. Libertarian maybe, but NOT conservative.

    Put aside the fact that the case was about abortion. Striking down the laws of 40+ states and territories and the federal government (and thereby removing the issue forever from the political process of the democratically elected branches of government) on the basis of some undefined “right” that “emanates from penumbras” that are supposedly inherent within the Bill of Rights, but which can only be discovered and defined by 9 unelected and life-tenured jurists, is NOT conservative.

    If Roe v. Wade was rightly decided — which many people disagree on — then there’s no argument about whether it was “conservative”. In such a case it was simply the correct constitutional ruling.

    If Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided — which may well be the case — then of course it’s not “conservative”, but it’s also not many other things (such as “right”, or “crunchy”)

    I don’t claim to know whether it was right or wrong, so the conservative thing to do admit: I don’t know, rather than pick the choice I like best.

    But I can tell you that today (2008, not 1973) if Roe were repealed you would not see 46 states with abortion totally outlawed. It would be split closer to 50-50, maybe 60-40. It would be a somewhat messy to reintroduce it as a federal issue, and I (conservatively) would rather avoid a new mess, especially since so many people disagree about Roe to begin with.

  • Gherald, the obvious parallel is slavery in the South. How — based on your argument — could a conservative possibly have supported abolition?

  • “If Roe v. Wade was rightly decided — which many people disagree on …”

    Not really. I couldn’t name you a single “conservative” legal scholar or jurist who believe Roe was “rightly decided”. And there are plenty of liberal legal scholars who – when they’re being honest – will tell you the consitutional basis on which it was decided is shaky at best, despite their support for legalized abortion.

    The argument today is not over whether Roe was rightly decided but rather over stare decisis … whether a precedent once set and once relied upon should be overturned. You may find a lot of people supporting the outcome of Roe and wanting to keep it in place, but you won’t find many defending the decision as constitutionally sound or “rightly decided”.

  • “… but you won’t find many defending the decision as constitutionally sound or “rightly decided”.

    And when you DO find such people, they’re certainly NOT “conservative” under any definition of the word.

  • “Yes and no. I’m ambivalent about whether it was rightly decided, because too many legal scholars disagree.”

    Right, because interpreting the phrase “…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” a procedural safeguard, as containing a substantive right to abortion is abusing the language of the text beyond recognition.

    “But I do think that criminalizing abortions isn’t a “core principle” of conservatism, and that’s the position I’m arguing for.”

    Overturning Roe is certainly a central part of judicial conservatism; indeed it has been the fault line in legal academia for the better part of thirty-five years. You are absolutely free to advance an alternative vision of conservatism, a la David Brooks or David Frum, but I think it’s important to remember that it wasn’t the pro-life movement that brought conservatives to this point. A combination of national greatness conservatism (cough, cough…Iraq/Frum/Brooks), fiscal incontinence, and a systemic misunderstanding of the housing market were the primary drivers there.

    “I do however think that a Catholic who believes in secular government can be pro-life while at the same time not wanting to criminalize abortion.”

    Well, the analogy is important here. The question is whether abortion is more like adultery or like other types of homicide and/or child neglect/abuse. If abortion is the taking of a human life (a point on which we are in disagreement, but seems consonant with every sonogram I’ve ever seen), then it may be an issue of greater importance than adultery. If the analogy is changed to slavery, it is hard to sympathize with the position that those in the North should have refrained from imposing their religious beliefs about the equal dignity of persons on others. In any case, it is more in keeping with a traditional understanding of conservatism, both in a Burkean traditional sense as well as with the principle of subsidiarity, to permit the states to work that out as they had historically.

    “Identical twins, for instance, aren’t unique genetically.”

    They may not be that unique from each other, but they are quite distinct from their parents, which was the point being made. An embryo can be a different gender than it’s mother, which strongly suggests it is a distinct genetic entity, unless we are to consider the mother a hermaphrodite.

    “if, for instance, I were to isolate a live skin cell from my body. That’s would also be “human life” defined as “biological life that is human genetically”…it is perfectly feasible to grow that ordinary skin cell into a biological clone of mine, thus creating a new person.”

    This strikes me as obtuse. The clone comment highlights the fallacy in the analogy. The embryo grows in a self-directed manner with nutrients, and it is genetically distinct from it’s parent; not once has a skin cell of mine shown similar initiative or distinction. If your skin cells behave differently, do tell. At a minimum skin cells, are not human life ‘in the same way’ that a skin cell is.

    “What I would not concede is that embryos or early-term fetuses are “human beings” like you or I and thus worthy of “protection”.”

    Fair enough. This is the real impasse. But it is not a matter of ‘theocratic fundamentalism’ as I believe you described it, to hold an alternative view. You have established your individual criteria for what constitutes a ‘developed human being,’ but your criteria are not any more ‘secular’ than mine is ‘religious’. You have a hierarchy of goods which prizes some sort of achieved actualization as the defining characteristic of humanity. I think that such a view, less objective and open to all sorts of reductio ad absurdem arguments, is an arbitrary and impoverished approach to defining human rights. Perhaps, I am a bit over-sensitive to this, because earlier today I saw a 10-week sonogram of my child (with it’s heart beat, arms, and legs), and it is an image that is far more convincing to me than arguments based on ‘meaningful thresholds that…deserve treatment as a developed individual.’

  • But, look, while I was typing the discussion progressed apace. ;-). Ah well, note to self, brevity is the soul of wit. Good night all.

  • I probably won’t have time to respond thoroughly to some of the above posts until tomorrow, but would like to point out one misconception:

    your criteria are not any more ’secular’ than mine is ‘religious’.

    Eh, I’m not arguing that my criteria is “secular”, nor that it is necessarily “correct”. It’s just what I believe, for reasons I’ve tried to explain. It’s one example. Others have different beliefs, and they aren’t objectively wrong.

    “Secular” comes into play in deciding whose beliefs the government should enforce. And the answer is basically: no one’s when too many people disagree.

    It’s not at all like traffic laws, which most people can agree there’s a practical need for (even if they resent a few).

    Now if you’d like to live somewhere where enough people fall on the side of criminalizing abortion, look at this map. It’s pretty obvious that the places with enough public support to outlaw it tend to be more theocratic, undeveloped, or both: Central and Latin America, Africa, Middle East, Ireland…

    I understand your sensitivity fus01 and that’s a beautiful thing. I would probably feel the same way about a 10-week old (probably not so much about a 6-week old). But you have to understand: not everyone thinks the way we do, and indeed we disagree going further back than 10 weeks, and trying to force a vast number of people to act in accordance with your beliefs is a futile effort. Certainly not a core principle of conservatism.

    Just oppose abortion the same way you oppose adultery.

    I’ll address this and the “obtuse” red herring tomorrow, if you still care…

    g’night folks

  • Gherald said, “I do however think that a Catholic who believes in secular government can be pro-life while at the same time not wanting to criminalize abortion. Just like how, for instance, a Catholic should believe adultery is wrong yet still not want to criminalize it.”

    Would you agree with this statement, Gherald? “I do however think that a Catholic who believes in secular government can be pro-chastity while at the same time not wanting to criminalize pedophilia.”

    There are sound public policy reasons for criminalizing adultery. Even someone who prefers “secular government” must admit that (even if she is not persuaded by those reasons.) One need not appeal to any sort of “God said so” claims in order to recognize that some choices should have a sanction against them in the criminal law.

  • Two quick notes for the sake of clarity in discourse:

    Others have different beliefs, and they aren’t objectively wrong.

    You need to think about this one a little, I think. Objective is generally taken to mean: From an outside vantage point at which all facts are known. Thus, when you say that others who hold beliefs contrary to your own on the question of human personhood are not “objectively wrong” you either say that you are wrong, or that no one is right — that there is nothing which it is possible to know because personhood doesn’t exist. The entire basis of logic is that both A and Not A cannot be true at the same time. So unless you don’t believe in either reality or logic, all but one opinion with regard to the start of personhood is wrong.

    Perhaps you mean that the question of which beliefs are true is indiscernable, at least by what you consider objective discernment?

    “Secular” comes into play in deciding whose beliefs the government should enforce. And the answer is basically: no one’s when too many people disagree.

    This falls into a basic fallacy of holding that topic on which enough disagreement develops is a topic on which a secular government could not rule. In 1800, wife beating was such a topic. In 1840, slavery was such a topic. In 1920, lynching was such a topic. Do you really hold that it’s impossible for a secular government or political movement to take a principled stand on such issues until after a consensus had developed independently?

    If you do, I fear many people would ask themselves, “Than what good is secular government?” and overall I’d consider that a bad thing.

    It’s pretty obvious that the places with enough public support to outlaw it tend to be more theocratic, undeveloped, or both: Central and Latin America, Africa, Middle East, Ireland…

    You don’t know a lot about modern Ireland, do you? It’s arguably one of the most advanced and free market economies in Europe now. Poland isn’t in bad shape either.

  • Gherald,

    I appreciate your taking the time to respond, and I think it exonerates you from the charge of being unreasonable. There are three questions in play here, I think.

    1) At what stage of development should human life be legally protected?

    We have different answers to this question, but I think in rough outline our positions are clear.

    2) Whose position should be reflected in the laws?.

    Here, I think your position is unreasonable, not because you would like the laws to reflect your position, but because you argue that establishing regulations to protect unborn human life is an impermissible ‘imposition of beliefs’ on others. One problem with this argument is that nearly all laws are an ‘imposition of beliefs’ on others. A second is that it does not take the pro-life argument seriously. If abortion is the taking of a human life, then it is a serious violation of human rights, and a rather lethal ‘imposition of beliefs’ on a whole class of persons. To ignore this imposition, while highlighting the imposition on other persons, as Darwin Catholic pointed out above speaks either to a fundamental agnosticism (it’s unknowable), or a failure to consider the principle of non-contradiction. Finally, it is essentially a tie-goes-to-my-side position. People disagree about whether and when fetal life should be protected, but as Ronald Reagan argued, why should we err on the side of no protection?

    3) Which position should the conservative movement support?

    As I said, you are free to advance your vision of conservatism, but excluding pro-lifers a priori from the debate by arguing that pro-lifers should not advocate legal protections for the unborn because it’s an ‘imposition of beliefs’ is not a promising start.

  • There’s a lot more I could say here (explaining the red herring and why I’m not being obtuse and such). We could go on for weeks really.

    Unless there’s some surprising interest in my continuing, I’ll just address fus’s points in parting…

    2) The first problem isn’t a problem because there is much wider consensus behind most laws (I believe traffic laws were mentioned, but murder might be a better comparison).

    Uhm, I’m taking the anti-abortion argument seriously….to what DarwinCatholic said:

    So unless you don’t believe in either reality or logic, all but one opinion with regard to the start of personhood is wrong.

    Perhaps you mean that the question of which beliefs are true is indiscernable, at least by what you consider objective discernmentThis is quite ridiculous. One opinion is not right because no opinion is right. It’s a matter of definition, not fact. Not reality. Outside of theology, there is no objective, ethical reality of what constitutes a human being or a person. A definition must be chosen. Embryos == people is one such definition, which I find ridiculous. 8.5 month old fetus == still not a person is another such definition, which I also find ridiculous. But there are people who hold both those views, and they are both tenable positions were everyone else in society to agree with them. But everyone doesn’t. And Roe is as close as we’ve been able to come to a pragmatic consensus, and will in all likelyhood stay that way (impossible to predict the future, but for my purposes I have a 95% confidence level). So the conservative thing to do, from my perspective, is to accept the status quo and find a workable agenda, e.g. doing what we can to keep abortions safe, legal, and rare.

    In summary: no belief is “discernible”, because no belief is “true” unless you believe in some external source of truth like a God. (and obviously that holds no sway in secular government, hence my anti-theocratic ravings)

    3) Which position should the conservative movement support?

    As I said, you are free to advance your vision of conservatism, but excluding pro-lifers a priori from the debate by arguing that pro-lifers should not advocate legal protections for the unborn because it’s an ‘imposition of beliefs’ is not a promising start.

    I am not excluding anyone a priori. Mr. Wehner was excluding many secular conservatives like myself by asserting (with different words) that criminalizing abortion is a “core principle” of conservatism.
    The “pro-life imposition of beliefs” would be workable if there were enough support for it. It’s worked out in Ireland for instance. Minority pro-choice people don’t like it, but that’s…life. However that’s not the society we live in here in America, and it won’t be: we’re trending away from it. For various reasons America, the western world, and really the world as a whole is becoming more accepting of abortion with time. From what I’ve gathered anecdotaly and from a few polls, this trend is likely to continue.

    You’re welcome to fight it outside of government, but e.g. basing your presidential politics on it will accomplish virtually nothing. So find other ways to pursue a tenable pro-life agenda like private adoption agreements, leaving the state out of the abortion issue and maybe looking into some real pro-life good the state can do, such as avoiding unnecessary wars and treating prisoners humanely.

  • Oops, first quote should be formatted like this:

    […] Perhaps you mean that the question of which beliefs are true is indiscernable, at least by what you consider objective discernment

    This is quite ridiculous […]

    sorry

  • “Embryos == people is one such definition, which I find ridiculous. 8.5 month old fetus == still not a person is another such definition, which I also find ridiculous.”

    All right, gol ding it! Where would you draw the line, and why?

    “And Roe is as close as we’ve been able to come to a pragmatic consensus”

    Paired with Doe v. Bolton, with the right to abort through nine months of gestation limited only by one’s ability to find a practitioner willing to do the deed? That’s consensus?

    “no belief is “true” unless you believe in some external source of truth like a God.”

    The authors of the following articles do not believe in God, but they apparently believe that objective truths can be determined by applying science and logic:

    http://www.l4l.org/library/notparas.html
    http://www.l4l.org/library/congrecord.html

    “some real pro-life good the state can do, such as avoiding unnecessary wars and treating prisoners humanely.”

    Based on the figures I’ve seen, I suspect the number of externally viable babies aborted every year would make the number of prisoners of Gitmo and Abu Ghraib who can claim inhumane treatment look paltry.

  • Outside of theology, there is no objective, ethical reality of what constitutes a human being or a person.

    If by person you mean an entity that has inherent dignity and rights, I’d agree: ultimately, dignity and concomitant rights depend upon God. But with regard to what constitutes a human being, we *do* have biological anthropology which can tell us what makes a particular animal human as opposed to bovine, canine, feline, etc. Our position is that every human being (in the biological sense) is a person, and it seems that the onus is on your side to explain why some human beings (in the biological sense) do not have the same rights & dignity as others.

  • This is quite ridiculous. One opinion is not right because no opinion is right. It’s a matter of definition, not fact. Not reality. Outside of theology, there is no objective, ethical reality of what constitutes a human being or a person.

    Say that we take it for the sake of argument that there is no objective ethical reality of what constitutes a human person. Might it not be a good idea to, if we’re to pick an arbitrary theshold, to pick one that covers all human organisms, rather than one based on arbitrary characteristics which we happen to value? Otherwise, we have no real argument to make against someone who thinks that African Americans are not human persons, or Armenians are not human persons, or the disabled are not human persons, or the elderly are not human persons, or Jews are not human persons. In each case, someone picks which characteristics they value as “human” and reach a cultural consensus which excludes a lot of other human organisms — thus justifying treating those “others” very badly.

    That’s why it seems to me that even at a totally secular level we are better off treating human personhood as a matter of identity than of characteristic and degree.

    However that’s not the society we live in here in America, and it won’t be: we’re trending away from it. For various reasons America, the western world, and really the world as a whole is becoming more accepting of abortion with time. From what I’ve gathered anecdotaly and from a few polls, this trend is likely to continue.

    You’re welcome to fight it outside of government, but e.g. basing your presidential politics on it will accomplish virtually nothing.

    This is the argument that secular conservatives/libertarians have been making to the GOP since social conservatism started to rise to prominance in the ’76 primaries. However, I think at a fundamental, pragmatic level, it’s simply not going to get you anywhere. The fact of the matter is that serious social conservatives make up at least 20% of the GOP alliance, and you’re unlikely to pick up enough secular voters to replace those social conservatives if you shove them out of the tent. Indeed, imagine a situation in which the GOP is split into two parties an explicitly secular Libertarian/Conservative party and an explicitly socially conservative Traditionalist/Conservative party. Which one would get more votes?

  • I’ve numbered my responses, for ease of reading.

    1) “And Roe is as close as we’ve been able to come to a pragmatic consensus, and will in all likelyhood stay that way…So the conservative thing to do, from my perspective, is to accept the status quo and find a workable agenda, e.g. doing what we can to keep abortions safe, legal, and rare.”

    Well, I would disagree that Roe represents a consensus, insofar as most polling data indicates the public would support substantially more restrictions than the current Roe/Casey regime. Granted, there is a disconnect between what people say if you ask them if they support Roe and what they say if you ask more specific questions, but both the U.S. polling data and the practices of other (more ‘secular’) western countries such as the UK and Germany suggest that a majority of the U.S. would support many more restrictions on abortion if the legislative process were permitted to operate.

    Polling data aside, Roe is certainly not a ‘conservative’ decision. It was a judicial debacle, as most legal scholars will admit even if they support the result. Essentially, the raison d etre of a significant portion of conservative legal scholarship has been to oppose Roe and similar judicial usurpation of the democratic process. I suppose the longer Roe is on the books, it may become the status quo, and in that sense be a tradition to conserve in some quarters. Nevertheless, there is good reason to believe there will be four anti-Roe votes on the Court even after a two-term Obama presidency (Roberts 53, Alito 58, Thomas 60, Scalia 72), and it was nearly overturned in 1991.

    For most pro-lifers, particularly in the legal community, the advice to get over Roe looks like an invitation to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But this is not a ‘victory’ for the sake of some sort of partisan point-scoring – the point is to save the lives of human beings, even if not everybody agrees when a human with a heartbeat, arms, legs, and distinct genetic features deserves legal protection. Even simply limiting abortions to the first trimester, would reduce abortions by about 8-10%, which would save hundreds of thousands of human lives (even if they are not ‘persons’ yet).

    2) “In summary: no belief is “discernible”, because no belief is “true” unless you believe in some external source of truth like a God. (and obviously that holds no sway in secular government, hence my anti-theocratic ravings)”

    I’m fascinated by this because law is often viewed as a moral enterprise – murder, theft, imbezzlement, prostitution, ensuring the public good through safety etc. Do you take a purely positivistic view of the law? I’m curious about your thoughts on infanticide, for instance, which has been widely practiced in some cultures or slavery, which was widely practiced in ours until recently, or even legalized racial discrimination, or the gay marriage debates. Is your view that the law has no relation to morality on the theory that morality is not secular?

    3) “we’re trending away from it. For various reasons America, the western world, and really the world as a whole is becoming more accepting of abortion with time. From what I’ve gathered anecdotaly and from a few polls, this trend is likely to continue.”

    I haven’t seen any evidence of this – do you have some poll numbers in mind? The data I have seen suggests support for abortion has either stayed the same or declined slightly over the past 20 years.

    4) “You’re welcome to fight it outside of government, but e.g. basing your presidential politics on it will accomplish virtually nothing.”

    Well, I think Darwin made a good point above about this line of argument; it’s not new, and I think the near-reversal of Roe in 1991 was a significant result, as are the appointments of Roberts and Alito. But aside from that, it seems like it would be a disaster to exclude the pro-lifers from the GOP’s base. As people like Ramesh Ponnuru have devoted reems of paper to demonstrating, the evidence suggests that the pro-life position of the GOP has been a significant benefit to the party. You may find pro-lifers to be personally distasteful (I might agree with you in many particular cases), but I think that you should examine the question empirically before suggesting that the Republican party become less friendly to the pro-life movement. Granted, being pro-life is not particularly popular in elite society, but it is very common in the rest of the country, particularly among the voters the GOP typically attracts.

    From your perspective, I understand that you wish the embarrassing theocrats would leave the party you support alone, or more accurately, provide votes without insisting on policies. But, keep in mind, parties are made up of diverse coalitions. Pro-lifers have provided a steady base of support for conservatism since 1980, and it seems to me that right now is not the time to alienate one of the most loyal conservative constituencies.

  • I saw a poll on the Confabulum recently that highlighted that 66%+ of the population would supports no change in Roe. I haven’t done recent research, it’s not a topic that interests me much.

    I’m mindful that single-issue pro-life voters have been a boon to the rightwardness of the GOP, and that this has kept our fiscal policies further to the right than such people would otherwise support if abortion were off the table. However, just because this would seem to benefit my economic ideology isn’t a reason for me to be happy about it….

    Democracy matters. I think the GOP would occupy a more center-right sphere without such single-issue votes, i.e. the whole party would move to the left for electoral purposes, and pick up the folks who are currently centrists. I think this would be a better party.

    I’m fascinated by this because law is often viewed as a moral enterprise – murder, theft, imbezzlement, prostitution, ensuring the public good through safety etc. Do you take a purely positivistic view of the law? I’m curious about your thoughts on infanticide, for instance, which has been widely practiced in some cultures or slavery, which was widely practiced in ours until recently, or even legalized racial discrimination, or the gay marriage debates. Is your view that the law has no relation to morality on the theory that morality is not secular?

    I’m not sure what you mean by “positivistic”. Secularism is amoral (as opposed to immoral). It’s only appropriate to “legislate morality” when a significant supermajority of people are for it. So e.g. 100 years ago the lack of gay marriage was appropriate, because the bulk of society rejected it. But today a significant portion of society has no problem with it, and the law should reflect that. (Even if, say, only 33% of the people in society supported gay marriage, that’d be enough because it’s a discrimination issue)

    I could say a lot more, but I’m not optimistic it’ll get us anywhere so I don’t want to spend too much time ranting in an oldish post : )

Sarah's Going Rogue

Sunday, October 26, AD 2008

See here and here.

I’m perfectly fine with that… maybe she’s not the hope for the future of populist conservatism that many believe she is or was, but I’d rather have her in the mix than not. And while she certainly bears some responsibility for some of her poor performances in interviews, an equal amount goes to the campaign for mishandling those aspects of her rollout.

(HT: Rod Dreher.)

Continue reading...

14 Responses to Sarah's Going Rogue

  • Sarah’s biggest problem is that she does not know how much of an amateur she is…and how much she does not know…

    And a reformer?

    Maybe in an artificial ‘reality-tv’ show…probably her next destination…if not Faux Noise…

  • Naturally I disagree, Mark. 🙂 I think Sarah is well aware of how much she doesn’t know… I just think the whole prep process for her rollout was bungled by the campaign.

  • What is her appeal…sexually-charged bigotry, demagoguery and anti-intelectualism?

    Oh..I know..she’s pro-life…as her trophy baby proves…

  • Mark, let’s focus on one thing: the charge of anti-intellectualism. Not being an intellectual isn’t the same as being anti-intellectual. Nor is disdain for *some* intellectuals the same as anti-intellectualism.

  • You know Obama is not such an intellectual. Have you ever seen him for something he hasn’t reheased for (the debates) or without a pre-written speech? He stutters for days, he can’t find words, and he really reminds me of George Bush.

  • Is it me or is it that ‘W’ doesn’t try nor care to work on his speech impediment(s)? It can get irritating sometimes… and I like the guy, but sheesh it does get irritating at times.

  • Mark needs to find another blog, more in tune with his thinking. Here’s one…

    http://brands.kraftfoods.com/koolaid/KoolSpace/

  • Mark,

    When this blog was started, you said, “I’m outta here!”

    Well, leave… I’m tired of your leftist-Koolaid drinking self.

  • Wingnut loons,

    So am I a socialist for believing in the progressive tax code we’ve had in this country over the past umpteen years?

  • So am I a socialist

    Wow, not only are you a vile partisan who makes disgusting comments about Palin, you obviously don’t have tremendous reading skills. No one actually called you a socialist.

  • No,

    it is your bigotry, demagoguery and anti-intelectualism that is not wanted here while you pretend to be Pro – Life.

  • Mark,

    You wouldn’t find random name calling with little relation to reality convincing if it was aimed at Senator Obama. Why do you think it woudl convince your opponents? Or are you just wanting to be unpleasant at the moment.

    You’re capable of reasonable discourse at time, but other times you just seem to want to cause trouble.

    And if you show up being offensive and trying to cause trouble, don’t get all surprised if you get rhetorically dogpiled.

  • To answer your question, Mark, yes you are “a socialist for believing in the progressive tax code…” Perhaps you’re not as committed a socialist true-believer as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles who made progressively punitive taxation of incomes a major demand of their Communist Manifesto (1848). Perhaps you’re a soft core socialist who lacks the courage to honestly admit and follow the convictions you proclaim. Still, you’ve announced that your allegiance is to the socialist program. To use a bit of the old time Marxist lingo, Mark you are objectively a socialist.

Measured Rhetoric Is More Effective

Friday, October 24, AD 2008

A good part of what I was trying to say in my Socialist post the other day concerned the relationship between precision in political rhetoric and its ability to persuade; in short, I think that “toned-down” rhetoric is more likely to convince an interlocutor (let alone an observer)  of at least the plausibilty of one’s position than is the “speaking truth to power” approach.

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22 Responses to Measured Rhetoric Is More Effective

  • Just so.

    I suppose it’s just an intellectual twitch of mine, but whenever I hear that someone is a person who “speaks truth to power”, I have the strong urge to walk rapidly in the opposite direction. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything worth hearing given that moniker.

    Much though I don’t want to see an Obama presidency, and eager as I will be to keep it to four years if it happens, I hope that the general conservative movement can hold itself back from an “Obama derangement syndrome” which is equivalent to the Clinton and Bush varieties suffered by the two respective parties. Aside from being unattractive, such obsessions make it harder to understand one’s opponent, and thus defeat him.

  • I hope that the general conservative movement can hold itself back from an “Obama derangement syndrome” which is equivalent to the Clinton and Bush varieties suffered by the two respective parties.

    Ditto. We can certainly push back against the administration, but I really don’t want to walk into Borders and see entire tables dedicated to books detailing the evils of the Obama administration written by unhinged conservatives or disenchanted leftists.

  • I really don’t want to walk into Borders and see entire tables dedicated to books detailing the evils of the Obama administration written by unhinged conservatives …”

    You’d never see that even if such books existed by the truckload. They’d be neatly hidden away outside of public view. That is, if Borders bothered to stock them at all.

    😉

  • Jay:

    Good point. But hopefully we won’t be seeing too much of that kind of stuff either way.

  • On this issue of measured rhetoric, why is it that there has been little (or no) measured critique of the Bush Administration by Senator McCain? It seems that he could have critiqued President Bush’s bloating of the federal government and budget in a decidedly un-conservative way.

    Or did he make those critiques and I missed them (likely story).

  • “Or did he make those critiques and I missed them (likely story).”

    There was little that the Bush administration did domestically that McCain did not attack at one time or another.

    Here is a link to a newspaper story from May 22, 2004 in which McCain attacked the budget of the Bush administration.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/republican-split-could-block-bush-budget-564277.html

    “Yesterday the budget hold-up drew fierce criticism of the Senate rebels by Republican leaders in the House of Representatives. But John McCain, the Arizona senator and one of the four, angrily shot back, accusing “some of those in our party” of abandoning the commitment of “real Republicans” to fiscal responsibility.”

  • Thank you Donald. I guess I mean to ask why this didn’t/doesn’t seem to be a prominent part of McCain’s campaign.

  • I don’t think McCain has done a very good job of that — partly, I imagine, because he doesn’t want to offend the 25% of voters (pretty much all Republicans I assume) who still say they approve of Bush’s performance. In that sense, someone with more conservative credentials would have probably been able to campaign better than McCain, criticizing Bush from the Right.

  • “I guess I mean to ask why this didn’t/doesn’t seem to be a prominent part of McCain’s campaign.”

    Good question Father. McCain is a true maverick and campaigns in the way he wishes to campaign whether it makes sense to others or not. Not stressing this difference with Bush doesn’t make much sense to me, since the Republican base is always in favor of the government spending less.

    One decision McCain made was to save most of his advertising money until the last two weeks. This gave Obama a four to one, in some states an eight to one advantage. Now they are making huge ad buys and Obama’s ad avantage is now down to 5-4 nationally. A very risky tactic, and we shall see how it works for McCain. I can understand why he did this however. If you can’t match your opponent dollar for dollar, do it when you know the voters will be paying attention.

  • So I’m supposed to pretend I think Obama means well when really I know better?

    I’ll just stick with the truth, thanks.

  • Steve, how is this any different than people say that Bush lied us into Iraq, because, well, they just *know* that he intentionally deceived us? There is *no way* I’d ever vote for Obama, but I don’t need to employ overblown rhetoric to make my case… as DC noted at the top, the whole “speaking truth to power approach” invariably turns people off. So if our goal is to actually *convince* people of the truth and rightness of our position, we ought to employ an approach which makes that more likely, not less.

  • Agreed, Chris. Measured rhetoric is more persuasive. Given that persuasion is a prerequisite for the maintaining of laws and policies in a democratic society, I’d say persuasive rhetoric should be the rule. Moreover, cases against Obama’s policies will better persuade if they are not undermined by hyperbolic or demeaning rhetoric.

  • Measured rhetoric seems to me the most optimum pathway towards bringing others into your own camp. It’s like a girl getting hit on at a bar, her defenses are up because she knows the environment she’s in. But at a grocery store she would be as aware of men’s advances.

    Yes I know the analogy is pretty simple, but it does state the case very well.

    What do they say? You’ll attract more with honey than with vinegar.

  • I don’t mean to be a jerk–seriously I don’t. But Obama wants to re-legalize a procedure of delivering babies up to their head, stabbing them in the back of the skull and sucking out their brains. That’s not overblown rhetoric; it’s the truth. It’s not hyperbolic; it’s an apt description.

    So what is the “measured rhetoric” for this? I guess it would be “choice”?? The culture of death already has the upper hand in a lot of ways, and now we’re willing to play on their home field by using their lexicon to define terms of debate?

    I think we run the risk of sanitizing some dramatically anti-human, anti-Christian ideologies–and in doing so, blind ourselves and our neighbors to the dangers of electing radicals like Obama.

  • It’s not hyperbolic; it’s an apt description. So what is the “measured rhetoric” for this?

    Steve, I agree with you: that is an apt description. No, “choice” is *not*, because it isn’t a description at all. But I’m not talking about how to describe the process of PBA or infanticide… I’m talking about this: how can we persuade people that PBA needs to be outlawed? What is the most effective way to convince them? Just as a matter of psychology, I don’t think calling them “baby killer” is likely to work. I can assure you, I’ve had the experience of employing language that is stark and explicit, and it inevitably fails as a matter of persuasion.

  • And I know you aren’t trying to be a jerk, Steve. 🙂

  • Definately not a jerk. The question needed to be asked. 🙂

  • -It’s like a girl getting hit on at a bar, her defenses are up because she knows the environment she’s in. But at a grocery store she would be as aware of men’s advances.-

    Man. Does this work? I’ve been married eleven years and now it’s too late to try it. Rats!

  • Well, thanks for the assumption of good faith, but when I re-read my first post in this thread, even I thought I was a jerk.

    Now, I do believe that persuasion can be greatly effective in certain circumstances. If you are debating the best way to create jobs or save social security, or any number of things, I think it is an effective tool.
    That said, I appreciate, and generally agree with your point. What troubles me, however, is that Obama’s words, associations, and voting record suggest to me that he does in fact have a radical leftist ideology.

    Now, how do you use measured rhetoric to combat this?

    Using the PBA example, if someone knows about PBA, how can we convince someone that it’s wrong? Isn’t it self-evident?

  • Steve:

    You raise a good question. I think we can be forceful without becoming unhinged. Just look at Egan’s wonderful article today. It was blunt, and even shocking to a degree, but he maintained an even tone that simply laid all the facts on the table. I think he gave us an example to be followed.

  • And I assumed most people know what article I am referencing, but if not, here it is.

  • Rob,

    Oh, it totally works. But all is not lost: You can always try hitting on your own wife while you’re at the grocery store together.

We're All Socialists Now

Monday, October 20, AD 2008

One of the things that quickly tires me is overblown political rhetoric; although it’s easy to give in to the temptation (I sure have a time or ninety), it simply serves no good purpose in advancing a civil and constructive political discourse. I’m all for making arguments for and against candidates (see the post below), but demonization is practically the standard, not the exception these days.

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21 Responses to We're All Socialists Now

  • Well,

    It does not help the argument that the Democratic Socialists of America endorsed him as did the Communist Party of United States. Plus that idea of Universal Heathcare does not help either.

    Hopefully, we will not get to see how much the government will own the means of production under his administration.

  • Maybe proto-socialists would be more accurate. Though Distributists do come to mind.

  • For an exploration of Obama’s ties to the socialist New Party, Stanley Kurtz has a good overview:

    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=OTc3NzZkZDYxODZiZjE2OTg5YWRmNDkzM2U0YTIwZGQ=&w=MA==

  • FDR ran as a fiscal conservative in 1932 believe it or not. If you want to see what a candidate will do after he wins, check his past and who he currently has around him in his inner circle of advisors.

  • Maybe it ain’t socialism … but whatever it is, it inserts the government more and more and more into our lives. Maybe, as spelled out by Jonah Goldberg in his book, it smacks more of Liberal Fascism.

  • I think one of the most key ways in which Obama’s agenda is not socialist is that his patchwork of political proposals lacks a coherent theory for the structure of society or the economy. Socialism, communism and even fascism have all had a certain kind of personal ascetic value in which the individual accepts owning less or controlling less for the glorification of the state. I suppose there’s a little bit of this in Obama’s early rhetoric, but it’s virtually disappeared since the convention.

    Instead, Obama seems to focus on a “what can the state do for you” approach for what he sees as the broad center of America. His tax proposals effectively establish government handouts for the middle class. His health care proposal involves a similar promise. And his other proposals ranging from subsidized daycare to subsidized college tuition amount to: “You shouldn’t have to pay for whatever it is that you think you need in order to achieve your lifestyle ambitions.”

    The thing is: previous attempts at collectivization have always been made in the context of lifting up a large working/peasant class while leveling the professional middle class and upper classes. Obama makes fairly little effort to level the upper classes (taxing those making over 250k about 3% more is a dumb idea in a recession, but it won’t ruin anyone’s social standing) and the “working families” he wants to help are clearly bourgeois by any historical standard. So his vision is much more consumerist than a socialist one.

    The best historical parallel I can think of is in the late Roman Republic (before the Roman mob of lower classes became a politically useful enough force to buy off) when leaders tried to buy themselves power by confiscating land and money from the largest land owners and build a political base through a combination of cash distributions to every Roman citizen and granting extra land to small farmers throughout Italy.

    It wasn’t a good idea then, and I’m quite sure it isn’t now either, but it’s something different, I think, from Socialism.

  • So his vision is much more consumerist than a socialist one.

    Precisely. But people don’t get fired up about a candidate who is “consumerist” like they do about an alleged “socialist”.

    Listen, I’m not going to deny that Obama is the most liberal Presidential nominee we’ve ever had in this country… that’s certainly true. But that doesn’t mean he’s a socialist… the word means something, and what it means doesn’t obtain in this instance. As Stanley Kurtz notes, we can just bracket the socialist issue and focus on the fact that he’s to the left of Ted Kennedy (the latter are my words, not Kurtz’s). I think it *hurts* our argument by making the socialist claim, because it reduces our credibility. Better to just emphasize what he actually *is*… it’s bad enough.

  • Chris Burgwald,

    You make an excellent point about hurting our argument.

    Emphasizing Obama’s tax & redistribute strategy can be emphasize through other rhetorical means. ‘Distributist’ or ‘Welfare State’ are words that come to mind.

    We don’t want to be hyperbolic and turn potential converts are those straddeling the fence away from a possible vote for a pro-life candidate or maybe a more socially-conscious capitalist.

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  • It is not distributist.

    Welfare spending is welfare spending, period.
    Taxation is taxation, period.

    Socialism is a scheme for the collective ownership of the means of production.
    Corporatism is a scheme for the control of the means of production by an elite. This is what we have in the States. Fascism is the authoritarian version of Corporatism.
    Distributism is a scheme whereby ownership is predominantly noted by use. There are variations, but the controlling idea is that capital cannot be independent from use.
    Capitalism is a scheme that seperates capital from use. It’s most common form is corporatism.
    Democratic Socialism is a scheme for placing the mutual aid provisions of society in control of government. This would invite a fairly long discussion, but the primary reason for the strength of democratic socialism is that democracy destablizes other institutions. For example, very few democratic countries give the Church the right to tax. Without the right to tax, providing mutual aid becomes impossible in the long run.

  • M.Z.,

    You are correct it’s not distributist. I did a little research on Chesterton and Belloc and it doesn’t cut the mustard.

    Distributism looks like a good idea on paper, I just need to learn more about it. I’m reading Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum a second time around to get a handle on it.

  • for what its worth: I live in Ireland, and I saw a sign this morning advertising a meeting of the socialists, and the topic was ‘Will Obama bring real social change?’ Evidently some socialists think its a possibility worth discussing–with the audacity of hope that he will, I suspect.

  • I would have to disagree.

    In the United States we have moved from a production economy, one where we take the raw materials from the land that is availiable to us and make things with it and sell it for a profit, to a service economy, where our skills and labor are the primary means of income. so when you talk of “means of production” what you are talking about is my labor, and since labor has no profit, what you put in is what you get out, then when you take my income ( in the forms of taxes for whatever reason) you take my labor… my only “means of production.”

    sounds like socialism to me.

  • I’d love it if someone feels they’ve got a strong enough grasp of what Chesterton and Belloc were going for with Distributism to present it cogently in a modern context on the site here — but I’ve got to admit that from what I’ve read of it (which is not nearly as much as some, I’m sure) Distributism does not strike me as something which can be taken seriously as an economic system, especially in a modern economy.

    I do think it draws from some very real ideals (localism, subsidiarity) which can and should be applied in the modern context, but I’ve yet to see anything that leads me to take Distributism seriously. Though as I say, if someone feels up to presenting it, I’d love to find that I’m wrong.

  • “I’d love it if someone feels they’ve got a strong enough grasp of what Chesterton and Belloc were going for with Distributism to present it cogently in a modern context on the site here”

    Perhaps a guest post from our former classmate, Mr. Powell? http://pennyjustice.com/about

    He is an entertaining and inventive writer, even when unpersuasive. And, as a practical proposal for economic reform, distributism is very unpersuasive.

  • Just because the specific proposals being advocated aren’t textbook socialism, it doesn’t mean that Obama and his friends aren’t socialist. It just means that those policies are merely a step on the way to socialism. Marx never advocated a one-step transition to socialism.

    Marx did, however, declare three obstacles to socialist utopia:

    1. Private property. Again, while Obama’s proposals aren’t strictly socialist, they would cause incalculable damange to an ownership society.
    2. Religion. Obama has done a great deal to bastardize Christ’s teachings. The second chapter of B16’s Jesus of Nazereth speaks of exactly what Obama is doing: using Christianity to advance a political agenda until Christianity consists of a political or social movement completely devoid of Christ.
    3. Family. We’re slowly seeing schools replace families as the foremost institution for socializing children. It’s nothing short of an effort to eliminate any pre-political societies until all you have left is the state.

    I understand what you’re saying here. But just as militaries have a tendency to “fight the last war,” it seems you’re trying to fight the last Cold War.

    And I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but this post sounds a lot like the elitist attacks on Sarah Palin. What sort of civil constructive discourse can there be when one candidate has pledged his support for killing the unborn, the born, the disabled, and even his own grandchildren. What, might I ask, is overblown about calling that demonic?!

  • Just because the specific proposals being advocated aren’t textbook socialism, it doesn’t mean that Obama and his friends aren’t socialist.

    So how else do we judge that he’s a socialist then by his policies & statements, Steve?

    But just as militaries have a tendency to “fight the last war,” it seems you’re trying to fight the last Cold War.

    Can you elaborate?

    And I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but this post sounds a lot like the elitist attacks on Sarah Palin.

    Another request for elaboration. 🙂

    What sort of civil constructive discourse can there be when one candidate has pledged his support for killing the unborn, the born, the disabled, and even his own grandchildren.

    Plenty of people have been convinced of the error of their ways with regard to abortion (cf. Nathanson, Bernard), and it’s often because someone persuaded them. I’ll always go back to the bees & honey vs. vinegar thing in terms of approach to those who are wrong.

    BTW, Steve, what about McCain’s position on ESCR? It certainly isn’t *as* bad as Obama’s, but I think it could be likewise considered demonic, agreed?

  • Fus01 & Brendan/Darwin,

    Yes, if someone is able to present distributism applicable to a modern economy I would also welcome a guest post.

  • Just because the specific proposals being advocated aren’t textbook socialism, it doesn’t mean that Obama and his friends aren’t socialist.

    So how else do we judge that he’s a socialist then by his policies & statements, Steve?

    I would say by the following:
    1. His proposals do seek to eliminate or at least make inroads to eliminating the three obstacles to socialism: Private property, family, religion (Bitterly clinging to religion sounds a lot to me like “opiate of the masses”).
    2. Unabashed support for hallmark causes of the socialist movement: socialized medicine, abortion, same-sex marriage
    3. His commitment to philosophical materialism
    4. Commitment to class warfare
    5. The company he kept before hitting the campaign trail

    Just a start

    But just as militaries have a tendency to “fight the last war,” it seems you’re trying to fight the last Cold War.

    Can you elaborate?

    I can concede this point, but it seemed to me as though you were indicating that because Obama policies weren’t identical to a Soviet 5-year plan, that he was automatically vindicated.

    And I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but this post sounds a lot like the elitist attacks on Sarah Palin.

    Another request for elaboration.

    There are a lot of valid reasons for harsh critiques on the Obama-Biden ticket. Valid reasons for “demonizing” the candidates. I wonder how one can overblow infanticide?

    What sort of civil constructive discourse can there be when one candidate has pledged his support for killing the unborn, the born, the disabled, and even his own grandchildren.

    Plenty of people have been convinced of the error of their ways with regard to abortion (cf. Nathanson, Bernard), and it’s often because someone persuaded them. I’ll always go back to the bees & honey vs. vinegar thing in terms of approach to those who are wrong.

    Point taken. I don’t dispute that at all. But too many of us are willing to administer honey without defending the truth. It’s trendy to take the middle ground or be a moderate or renounce ideology in favor of “pragmatism.” And that leaves us with the bunch of unprincipled Republicans we have in the Senate. I’m not saying you fit into this category, but whenever I hear pro-lifers criticized for not being nuanced enough or demonizing opponents, my red flags go up.

    BTW, Steve, what about McCain’s position on ESCR? It certainly isn’t *as* bad as Obama’s, but I think it could be likewise considered demonic, agreed?

    What about it? I am not here to defend McCain. I don’t even like McCain. That said, I’m voting for him because I believe that ESCR is less evil than ESCR, unrestricted abortion, execution of abortion survivors, same-sex “marriage,” execution of the disabled, etc.

    Would I characterize McCain’s stance on ESCR as demonic? Sure. But there’s a reason that I’m, perhaps, willing to give ESCR proponents the benefit of the doubt. We live in a materialistic culture. Without a decent working knowledge of philosophy and theology, it is difficult for people to see a petri dish of undifferentiated cells as human life. As such, I think it’s possible for pro-lifers like McCain to mistakenly, but in good faith, support ESCR. It is in no way possible to make a good faith endorsement of cutting off a baby’s head and sucking out her brains as Obama does.

    I’m not equivocating on ESCR–I simply think it’s less obvious to the lay man that it’s an evil act.

  • Evidently I used the wrong HTML tags here…sorry for the confusion.

    [NP… I fixed them for you.]

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The Dilemma of the PLCOS

Monday, October 20, AD 2008

It occurred to me recently that the typical Pro-Life Catholic Obama Supporter finds himself in a bit of a pickle… on the one hand, he obviously hopes (and prays?) that Senator Obama wins the presidential election; on the other hand, in order for his repeated assurances that there’s just no way that Obama’s abortion extremism will ever come to pass, he must similarly hope (and pray?) that the Illinois Senator’s party does not do as well as it appears it will, because if the Democrats do succeed in making substantial gains in the House and especially the Senate, then that abortion extremism has a very good chance of in fact becoming law.

So… go Obama, go GOP???

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10 Responses to The Dilemma of the PLCOS

  • If allegedly pro-life Obama supporters are in a pickle, it is solely the problem of justifying their vote for Obama without giving away the dishonesty of their claims to be pro-life.

  • Paul, why can’t we take them at their word, instead of employing a hermeneutic of suspicion? Whatever the faulty reasoning employed by, for example, Doug Kmiec, he *does* have a track record that establishes his pro-life bona fides. The idea that one might support a particular candidate *despite* their stance on issue X — not because of it — is well-established, practically, philosophically and theologically; I, for instance, will vote for McCain *despite* his views on research on frozen embryonic human beings… I see no reason to deny that the same is possible for a PLCOS. I want to be clear: I think their reasoning is faulty & muddied; but that doesn’t mean that I presume that they are not of good faith.

    I just don’t see what value or purpose there is in impugning the motives or intentions of PLCOSs… better to focus on the error of their thinking that accuse them of being in bad faith.

  • Best not to fall into that trap in the first place. Pro-Obama Catholics are more twisted than a boxload of Philadelphia pretzels. Sometimes they almost make sense, as in Douglas Benedict Arnold Kmiec. Sometimes they just babble, as in Joe Biden, Proud ‘Pope John XXII Catholic-‘ as one can determine one’s Catholicity by a fave Pontiff. These poor deluded souls are dropping into the same hole as our esteemed bishops since oh about 1968. Time after time our bishops issued letters and statements and stuff about solidarity with the poor and social justice and the rights of the downtrodden- all good and proper. Time after time the official Dems swatted them away. Comes Cardinal Bernadin with his ‘seamless garment.’ Same back of the hand. So now we have shepherds who got their croziers from the Twin Towers, Johannes Paulus Magnus and Benedictus Wonderfulness. With the admonition to wack a few noggins once in a while with them. Thus the wonderful gusher of recent statements about human life, abortion, citizenship, stuff like that there. Highlighted by the witness of our beloved Archbishop Chaput, The Bishop For Our Time, much like Dagger John Hughes in the mid 19th century and Blessed Fulton Sheen post WW II. The Pro-Obama Catholics will be seen ultimately as useful idiots- should their idol ascend to the throne of Washington Lincoln and Slick Willie- or doofuses if the Jet Jockey gets there. We will have a massive final for all the marbles rumble on abortion in our great nation in the next three to four years. Coinciding I believe with the increasing number of Baby Boomer women no longer able to conceive and bear children. Let us see how these useful idiots choose sides. I’ve made my choice- as has Don Mac, Chris B., Tito and Company.

  • Just read an article by E. J. Dionne entitled, “A Catholic Shift to Obama?” It says a Pew Research Center survey showed Obama leading John McCain among Catholics by a margin of 55 percent to 35 percent. This concerns me a lot.

  • Unfortunately, Cathy, I’m not surprised… concerned (like you) and disappointed, but not surprised. Most Catholics have traditionally gone Democrat, and they also traditionally go with the flow.

    A lot of work remains in evangelizing and catechizing our own.

  • I don’t know that it is necessarily the case that pro-life Catholics for Obama would be routing for the GOP to take control of Congress to stymie any abortion bill. I think the PLCOS would be for a Democratic majority so that Obama’s administration can start work its miracles. I think also it has to come down to fundamental assumptions.

    From the arguments I’ve read, the two things that make Obama attractive to Catholics is his economic policies (read social justice), and the War in Iraq. If the assumption is that abortions occur predominantly because of financial concerns, then fixing the economy–or at least offering huge entitlements–should fix the abortion problem. If we feel justified in “slaughtering innocents in Iraq”, we give scandal and teach that we can kill anyone in our way, and so shutting down the slaughterhouse would send the message that it isn’t okay to slaughter the innocents. Thus Obama, despite being hugely pro-choice, would actually lead to a decrease in abortions.

    Of course, if your fundamental assumption is that people predominantly have abortions because they can’t stand the inconvenience of a kid (while enjoying all the pleasures of sex), then the whole argument above falls apart.

    I wonder which assumption is correct?

  • Ryan, I agree that it’s extremely unlikely that a PLCOS would be rooting for the GOP, but how else can they maintain their position that a President Obama wouldn’t be able to achieve his agenda with regard to ESCR (clone & kill) and abortion? If a PLCOS both supports Obama *and* a stronger Dem majority in both houses (as presumably s/he would), the almost certain consequence is the federal funding of abortion and destructive ESCR.

    I agree with you on the question of assumptions.

  • The justification comes from, I think, the notion that if the motivation isn’t there, it doesn’t matter what is on the books. (Included might also be a misguided feeling that some abortions are okay, such as when it is either abort the baby or lose both the baby and the mother.) For example, here at UW, there’s still a law that says if we ride our horses onto campus and tether them in Prexy’s Pasture, the UW President has to feed and water them. Strangely, you don’t actually see any horses tethered in the pasture (though we have now filled it with all kinds of bizarre artwork). The law is on the books, but there’s no motivation to take advantage of it.

    The PLCOS feel that if the motivation to have abortions is not there, it doesn’t matter if abortion is legal or not–no one will have one. Just as how when alcohol is legal, no one ever binge drinks, and when controlled substances are legal the fascination with them dies out and no ever uses them.

  • Regarding Kmiec specifically, I think a strong argument could be made that he is now arguing in bad faith. See, for example, his recent article in the LA Times:

    “…when these differences are great and persistent, as they unfortunately have been on abortion, the common political ideal may consist only of that space. This does not, of course, leave the right to life undecided or unprotected. Nor for that matter does the reservation of space for individual determination usurp for Caesar the things that are God’s, or vice versa. Rather, it allows this sensitive moral decision to depend on religious freedom and the voice of God as articulated in each individual’s voluntary embrace of one of many faiths.”

    Notice in this article, 1) Kmiec mischaracterizes the debate about abortion as an issue of ‘religious freedom’, 2) he advocates the ‘personally opposed’ position. As he of all people is certainly aware that Catholics are against abortion as a human rights issue rather than a ‘religious’ issue, it’s hard to maintain that he is arguing in good faith. I think earlier this year Kmiec made a number of arguments that could be held in good faith, but it seems to me that his recent statements are following the well-worn ‘personally opposed’ path of many Democrats before him.

    Perhaps this is unfair, but it strikes me as rather opportunistic for him to try and cash in on the Catholic brand by writing an book-length apologia for Obama. The only reason that the book is important is because he’s using the Catholic label, and he, in fact, misrepresents some of Obama’s past positions in the book (always in ways that are more flattering to Obama).

  • Notice in this article, 1) Kmiec mischaracterizes the debate about abortion as an issue of ‘religious freedom’, 2) he advocates the ‘personally opposed’ position.

    If I didn’t know any better, I’d suspect Kmiec of taking his talking points directly from Gerald Campbell of Vox Nova.