Patrick Kennedy Will Not Run For Re-election

Friday, February 12, AD 2010

Patrick Kennedy, a Democrat Congressman from Rhode Island and a son of Teddy Kennedy, has announced that he will not run for re-election.  Kennedy in recent months has been engaged in a very public conflict with his Bishop Thomas J. Tobin over the issue of abortion as detailed in posts here, here and here.  I suspect that Kennedy is not running for a number of reasons, perhaps the most salient of them being that the electoral outlook for Democrats, even in Rhode Island, is the most challenging since 1994.  A recent poll indicated that Patrick Kennedy was probably going to face a difficult re-election race.

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6 Responses to Patrick Kennedy Will Not Run For Re-election

If You Want The Political Left To Run Governments, Look At What The Religious Left Has Done To Religion (Left It In Tatters)

Monday, January 25, AD 2010

There is a undercurrent in American society that somehow believes that if the mafia ran things, the country would be better off. There was one city (Newark, New Jersey) where the mafia once controlled much of the city. When their grip on power was done, the city was in tatters. The same could be said for liberals running religion.

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40 Responses to If You Want The Political Left To Run Governments, Look At What The Religious Left Has Done To Religion (Left It In Tatters)

Abortion, Capital Punishment and War, One of these things is not like the other

Friday, November 27, AD 2009

Ed Stoddard of Reuters’ religion blog Faithworld carries a roundup of the skirmish between Congressman Patrick Kennedy, the son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, has claimed that Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin.

In conclusion, Stoddard asks:

This leads to a question about the consistency of views in the U.S. Catholic Church leadership. The Church opposes abortion and therefore liberal politicians who support abortion rights risk being refused communion. The Church supports a healthcare overhaul that would make the system more equitable. So does a conservative Catholic politician who opposes this reform risk being denied communion for ignoring the Catholic social teaching that justifies it?

How about support for capital punishment, which the Vatican says is unjustified in almost all possible cases, or for war? In the build-up to the Iraq war, Pope John Paul was so opposed to the plan that he sent a personal envoy to Washington to argue against it. Did bishops threaten any measures against Catholic politicians who energetically supported that war despite Vatican opposition?

The author’s questions reveal an elementary ignorance concerning the moral issues in question and their relationship to varying levels of Church teaching. While I am disappointed by his answer (Faithworld is generally one of the better and more educational “religion blogs” in the secular media), it is understandable — as even many Catholics find themselves confused on this matter.

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33 Responses to Abortion, Capital Punishment and War, One of these things is not like the other

  • Thanks for this excellent clarification, Chris.

    It’s going on my facebook 🙂

  • What about Justice Scalia who not only disagrees with the prudential judgment of our bishops on capital punishment but rejects Church teaching on the matter entirely?

    Also, as pro-choicers like to point out, there’s a difference between supporting abortion and supporting abortion rights. Can’t one accept Church teaching on abortion and still believe that criminalization is bad? Isn’t the legal status of abortion a matter of prudential judgment? I realize that this still doesn’t apply to Rep. Kennedy who not only supports keeping abortion legal but also supports promotion through subsidies.

    And can’t some prudential judgments concerning capital punishment or war be so obviously correct no reasonable person can oppose it without supporting the underlying evil? For example, suppose Obama stated that we’re waging war against Canada to raid their natural resources.

  • “Also, as pro-choicers like to point out, there’s a difference between supporting abortion and supporting abortion rights. Can’t one accept Church teaching on abortion and still believe that criminalization is bad? Isn’t the legal status of abortion a matter of prudential judgment?”

    The distinction between supporting abortion and supporting abortion “rights” is completely fallacious. That is akin to attempting to argue a distinction between being pro-slavery and supporting the “right” to own a slave. As to criminalization of abortion Catholics are required by the Catechism to support that:

    “2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:
    ‘The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.'(79)

    ‘The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.’ (80)”

  • I understand what Restrainedradical means — sometimes it seems reasonable to concede the legal matter (abortion is legal) and work on the practical one (getting people to stop aborting, or to not get pregnant). But that’s where prudence comes in. That approach has not worked, any more than (per D. McClarey’s example) attempts to get slave owners to give up their slaves worked when slavery was legal. Concentrating on the practical matters only ensures (barring a widespread change in social mores) they will continue as they are.

    All those practical things should be done, of course, because that’s all that most people CAN do. But it is a fallacy to think that because a thing has been declared legal, it is therefore right. Unjust laws can and should be repealed. People who make and influence legislation have a different obligation than the rest of us when it comes to action. We can and should work on the practical matters that are in our power, but we should also demand the legislative action that is within the LEGISLATORS’ power, and they have a moral obligation to do something about it. If a law is unjust, and a legislator does nothing about it, then is that legislator not guilty of perpetuating injustice and, in the case of abortion, murder?

    If we were talking about apartheid, wouldn’t we agree that the legislators had an obligation to end it, even if it were difficult and unpopular?

  • Ditto and amen to Gail’s, Donald’s and Christopher’s points above. Much like the ridiculous, one-sided “debate” b/w Chris Matthews and Bishop Tobin, the entire specious argument of “should women who procure an abortion be put in jail?” betrays a logical fallacy in thought. Nobody who makes that argument would ever make a similar one against women’s right to vote, legalized slavery, etc. And the ones who don’t recognize the difference b/w an intrisic evil like abortion and Just War or even the judicious use of the death penalty would also never make such an argument “defending” those who make the decisions to apply the death penalty or to prosecute a Just War.

    For the amateur philosophers out there, what kind of logical fallacy is the one that such wishy-washy “pro-lifers” use, namely the one we’ve all mentioned here on this thread? I’m no logician, but even I recognize that such thinking must be the result of some logical fallacy!

  • I’d like to clarify that Justice Scalia doesn’t reject Church teaching on the death penalty, he rejects the recent stand– counter to, in his phrasing, the “2,000-year-old tradition of the church approving capital punishment”— where various members of the leadership claim that the death penalty isn’t needed to protect society.

    This is solidly inside of prudential judgment, although it has (of course) been very poorly reported. Ton o’info here, including a response from Justice Scalia and a defense of the Justice by Cardinal Avery Dulles. (who does not agree with him)

  • I’d like to clarify that Justice Scalia doesn’t reject Church teaching on the death penalty, he rejects the recent stand– counter to, in his phrasing, the “2,000-year-old tradition of the church approving capital punishment”– where various members of the leadership claim that the death penalty isn’t needed to protect society.

    Exactly. As Cardinal Dulles himself emphasized the prudential nature of the disagreement:

    As to the Pope’s assertion that the death penalty should today be rare, I would reaffirm, against Justice Scalia, that this is to be understood as an exercise of the Pope’s prudential judgment. “Prudential” has a technical theological meaning with which Justice Scalia seems not to be familiar. It refers to the application of Catholic doctrine to changing concrete circumstances. Since the Christian revelation tells us nothing about the particulars of contemporary society, the Pope and the bishops have to rely on their personal judgment as qualified spiritual leaders in making practical applications. Their prudential judgment, while it is to be respected, is not a matter of binding Catholic doctrine. To differ from such a judgment, therefore, is not to dissent from Church teaching.

    It is of course possible to hold, with Justice Scalia, that the Pope is imprudent. Catholics are not obliged by their faith to hold that their pastors are always prudent. I personally agree with the Pope that the death penalty should be very rarely, if ever, applied in the United States today. In saying this I do not rely only on “steady improvements in the organization of the penal system,” the motive mentioned by the Pope. I would add that limitations and deficiencies in the penal system create a danger of miscarriages of justice. In our society, moreover, the death penalty is often seen as an instrument of popular vindictiveness and retaliation rather than of divine justice, since the transcendent order of justice is not generally recognized. The practice of capital punishment also reinforces that disrespect for human life which is all too prevalent in our society. For these and other reasons, I would be reluctant to approve of the death penalty except in cases of rare and prudential judgment assisted by the wisdom of the duly appointed pastors of the Church.

    And agreed with Scalia, that John Paul II’s intention was not to overturn traditional Catholic teaching on the death penalty:

    Like Justice Scalia, I doubt that the older tradition is reversible, but even if it were, I contend any ecclesiastical authority reversing it would have to propose the new doctrine with great emphasis and show why the older position is no longer tenable. In fact, however, the Pope says nothing against the traditional doctrine.

  • In my view, the greatest penalties ought to be reserved for the abortionist himself and whatever propagandists or pushers he might have at his disposal.

    I also don’t think a woman should be punished for abortion until an investigation into the father of her child’s status is conducted, due to the high number of coerced abortions.

    Hysterical liberals like Chris Matthews and NARAL promote the fantasy that every abortion is some kind of feminist triumph over patriarchy. The reality is that many abortions are coerced – the father has threatened the mother with violence, or with abandonment. Or her own parents have done the same.

    In the end, someone must be held responsible. But I don’t believe it should always be the woman who gets the abortion. And this we must make absolutely clear. Too many women who end up in the abortion clinic are themselves victims.

  • Pingback: Abortion, capital punishment and war — One of these things is not like the other. » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog
  • Boo-Hoo for whomever is “responsible”, what we still have is A DEAD INNOCENT CHILD.

    With respect to the tradition of the Church on Capital punishment.

    There are serious fissures in the Catholic Church over traditions, that can be argued were “reversed” in Vatican II, so poo-poo on that Scalian argument, thus you have the discontinuity and continuity problems with many kinds of quasi-schismatic Catholics.

    Perhaps the Church needs a much more comprehensive revaluation than just what it is talking with the SSPX about. Perhaps Catholics in the United States need to see things in a BIGGER picture as well.

  • That is akin to attempting to argue a distinction between being pro-slavery and supporting the “right” to own a slave.

    Or being pro-war and supporting the right to wage war. There is a difference.

    As to criminalization of abortion Catholics are required by the Catechism to support that

    Thanks.

  • “Or being pro-war and supporting the right to wage war. There is a difference.”

    The analogy to war is telling restrainedradical. The Church acknowledges just war. The Church does not acknowledge a just abortion. It is also possible to support the right to wage war while being opposed to individual instances of war. Once someone is pro the “right” to have an abortion, the ability then to oppose instances of abortion goes out the window due to the support of a “right” to abortion.

  • Maybe a more fitting analogy would be “Or being pro-murder and supporting the right to murder. There is a difference.”

    Perhaps “Or being pro-rape and supporting the right to rape. There is a difference.”

  • This moral hierarchy you are discussing is imperceptible to most modern thinkers. One of the most unfortunate consequences of political liberalism and the democratic ethos is the overpowering influence of equality. Equality is the fundamental end of our moral thinking and our political life, even when it contradicts justice and charity.

  • Or being pro-obesity and supporting the right to be obese. Or being pro-smoking and supporting the right to smoke.

    A supporter of abortion rights wants abortion to be legal. A supporter of abortion wants to increase the number of abortions.

    Anyway, that’s the pro-choicer’s argument and it does make sense but I too use pro-abortion as shorthand for pro-abortion-rights just as I use pro-death-penalty to describe not only those who want to see more capital punishment but also those who think it should be allowed.

  • “A supporter of abortion rights wants abortion to be legal. A supporter of abortion wants to increase the number of abortions.”

    Not necessarily. Some pro-aborts do want to increase the number of abortions, usually for mercenary or ideological reasons. Others are merely content to have abortion remain legal. In both cases the key agreement is that neither would want any abortion to be prevented by the State, which is what makes them pro-aborts.

  • For this simile to work the thing substituted in has to be not just bad but immoral– war, the death penalty, being fat or being a smoker aren’t inherently immoral.

    Killing babies, committing murder or raping someone are inherently immoral.

  • Some war can potentially be inherently immoral – for example, Cheney’s 1% pre-emptive war doctrine. There may not be definitive pronouncement on it, but I would consider such a position to be very close to, if not actually, inherently immoral.

  • Pingback: Abortion, capital punishment and war — One of these things is not like the other. « the other side of silence
  • To clarify I am against abortion! But it seems to me the church in its teachings apriory sets a double standard in at least two ways:
    1) in cases of war and capital punishment the justification for respectful disagreement is in knowledge or presumed knowledge / interpretation of the facts
    In abortion this ” caveat” is denied since the beginning of human life if postulated without any further proof or facts proffered.
    could it be that the abortion is an individual decision and war and capital punishment is a system’s decision , made by the “king”
    according to your response …..“The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.”…..
    Hitler had the responsibility for the common good at least de facto therefor according to your thoughts the Germans really had no further responsibility but to say: The Fuehrer knows best…. ( Well most followed the churches advice? lead ? and said Sieg! Heil!)
    May be this is the foundation to Hochhuth’s novel The Deputy
    I think the Catholic Church should move away from its over reliance on legal maneuvers and learned logical reasoning and return to its roots which seem to me to require to make firm moral stands and demand firm moral comittments, especially where life and death questions are involved, regardless of the costs to itself or its members. Anything short of this, degrades it into a mere club
    Revelations come to mind: But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you… .(Rev3:16)

  • With regards to the determination of moral criteria, the Catechism maintains “The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.”

    to my knowledge throughout history there never was an unjust war in the eyes of those who started it and have been at the time “responsibility for the common good” as you call it.
    This makes the Just War Theory a practical sham , without any significance for the people. It also is insulting to our intelligence and smells of the discontinued practice of the “Index”

  • …You’re really not even trying to understand the arguments, are you?

    If you really are, please try to say what, exactly, you’re having trouble with– I’d be pleased to try to help you understand it.

  • I thought the argument is pretty clear.
    there seem to be two standards in taking a life. One is ( in the case of abortion) to be on the safe side and and postulate when life starts since it cannot start any earlier than with conception therefor that’s when its starts . We have no proof for it but rather err on the possibility that it might start there. Fair and good, i fully support this.
    In the other two cases – capital punishment, war a different standard is invoked. It seems to me this is clearly expressed in the phrase given earlier ( (paraphrased)….the Prosecuting attorney can respectfully disagree with the Church on individual case of capital punishment….
    In this case a life can be taken even if the judgment of the person involved turns out to be wrong.
    In case of war there are 2 points , to my humble opinion involved:
    1) again the parties involved respectfully agree to dis agree and this is morally justified … Well we are all humans and mistakes are made….
    since never in history the aggressor felt the war was not absolutely necessary the whole just war theory became a mute subject it est meaningless
    2) Your argument that the moral decision should be left to the proper authorities seems to me to patronize any believer who is not in power. this leads to my comments regarding Germany etc.
    what is important to the argument here however is the willingness to agree to respectfully disagree
    This in my opinion is a double standard and is probably based on political considerations as it can be demonstrated throughout much of history ( especially since Constantin)
    What I think the stand of the Church should and has to be is consistent. Since I think the stance of the church and beginning of life is the prudent decision the same principles should apply to the other two cases. Anything short of this smells of intellectual dishonesty.
    By the way, in arguing this case I don’t think the Catechism can be invoked since the argument is consistency in reasoning the cases and not what the cases actually say.
    I thank you for your interest in setting me straight.

  • Innocent life vs non-innocent life.

    There’s no justification for me walking into a mall and shooting someone; there is a justification for me shooting a guy who is trying to kill me.

    We have no proof for it but rather err on the possibility that it might start there.

    Scientifically speaking, conception is the start of life– an embryo is a unique organism from the mother, while an egg or sperm cell is not. We don’t know when that organism gets a soul— but then, we’re guessing that you or I have a soul, as well.

    since never in history the aggressor felt the war was not absolutely necessary the whole just war theory became a mute subject it est meaningless

    Highly improbable. Beyond that the just war theory doesn’t just say whoever starts it has to think it’s needful, even with my horrible history education I can think of wars that were started for advantage, not need. I seem to remember Bismarck was famous for them– he had a tactical goal, expansion/reuniting Germany, but that’s not absolute necessity.

    Your argument that the moral decision should be left to the proper authorities seems to me to patronize any believer who is not in power.

    1)”It’s patronizing” isn’t a refutation of an argument.
    2) Hitler did have a responsibility for the public good. He did not fulfill that responsibility, needless to say.

    In human interactions there will always be leaders and followers– that’s the only way there can be cooperation. If there are leaders, they have to be able to lead– especially in the case of large organizations, it’s not possible for everyone to have all the information and properly assimilate it, and get everything else done.

    Life is highly valuable. What, then, does your notion of consistency make of those lives who try to take lives?
    Should those who are innocent be slaughtered at will by those who are not, simply because we’re all valuable– or is killing, as a last resort of defense, acceptable?

    By the way, in arguing this case I don’t think the Catechism can be invoked since the argument is consistency in reasoning the cases and not what the cases actually say.

    I try not to quote the Catechism unless the topic is what the Church believes– even if what I end up saying is simply a rephrasing of what it says. If someone agrees, then there’s no argument– and if they don’t, why cite something they disagree with to try to change their mind?

  • You dodged the topic by starting your defense with innocent versus non innocent life this does not seem to me a serious attempt to set me straight. May be that is not your intent?
    patronizing is a remark that is used in my opinion to indicate that the argument lacks substance and is movind into areas of emotional domination not a good thing to do in an argument.
    The Hitler example does not focus on Hitler but on the obligation of the Germans as suggested by your argument.
    Actually the historic response by the Germans can by justified with your argument. And by extension the dire consequences

    Life is highly valuable. What, then, does your notion of consistency make of those lives who try to take lives?
    Should those who are innocent be slaughtered at will by those who are not, simply because we’re all valuable– or is killing, as a last resort of defense, acceptable?
    Again this is not the argument. The question is are we consistent in our moral judgement
    take the Iraq war; it was deemed and turned out to be an unjust war , however you claim a different mechanism for the individual , up to the pope himself, than for the decision of abortion or euthanasia. What i am arguing for is that the same methods and principles are applied. After that we can start to talk about innocent life versus not innocent life.
    This latter discussion might prove even thornier than the first, especially if one allows for biblical guidance.

    I try not to quote the Catechism unless the topic is what the Church believes– even if what I end up saying is simply a rephrasing of what it says. If someone agrees, then there’s no argument– and if they don’t, why cite something they disagree with to try to change their mind?
    It might be that I see inconsistencies in the catechism and I said I might not that I necessarily did.
    In that case it would be good to grapple with the passage instead quoting it as gospel which it is not.
    I guess I subscribe to the motto Schiller coined in his poem “Die Glocke” what you have inherited from your fathers earn it in order to own it.
    this – I suppose – means grapple intellectually with it in order to understand it. It does not have much value intellectual or moral if one just accepts it without an earnest attempt towards understanding to ones capabilities. I think this would be demeaning to the human dignity.
    I still hope you will take the time and effort in truly showing me the light, since despite of what I wrote I feel the topic is much deeper and important than we both touch upon this far.
    thank you in advance for your effort.

  • You dodged the topic by starting your defense with innocent versus non innocent life this does not seem to me a serious attempt to set me straight.

    You seem to be dodging the topic by not seeing a difference between killing without cause and killing in defense.

    That’s what just war and the death penalty boils down to– it’s a nation-sized case of self defense.

    If you support self defense by individuals, but not by leaders on behalf of those they have responsibilities towards– or, more so, if you support defense on behalf of one’s children, but not on behalf of one’s citizens– then the lack of consistency lies with you.

    Actually the historic response by the Germans can by justified with your argument.

    A bold claim; so justify it, using my arguments.

    In that case it would be good to grapple with the passage instead quoting it as gospel which it is not.

    You’re getting off topic, reindl. You stated that I should not “invoke” the CCC because you disagree with it, and I did not quote the CCC.

    ((On the side– you can make it easier to read what you’re replying to by using < brackets around I and /I to trigger italics.))

  • Thank you for the suggestion I will try to use it, but I do not quite understand your hints Do you mean:
    I will try this!

    We are arguing two different things
    I am NOT touching the subject Killing versus not Killing.
    the subject – as I see it – is the way killing is justified in principle.
    in abortion case it is easy to argue not to kill no problem!!
    In case of war there might be the justification to as you call it self defense etc. the problem arises to determine when it is Justified.
    You seem to say in this case it depends on all sorts of things completely beyond the capabilities of the lay person , because he or she is incompetent.
    (that is where the patronizing comes in by the way)
    if that is the case however it is the Church’s responsibility to educate and support the “flock of sheep” so they can make the right moral choice. If the church is incapable of doing so it should say so.
    That it is possible for lay persons to make the right choice can be seen in the case of Franz Jaegerstaetter who resisted serving Hitler and was beheaded for his pains. he did this against his bishops advice ( Bishop of Linz Austria)who used precisely the argument you are using and urged him to serve in Hitler’s army.
    I am certain you are aware that the Church has beatified F.Jaegerstaetter proving him justified or right and his bishop or your argument wrong.

    I also would like to remind you that you intended to explain things to me. I am only raising questions and from me perceived inconsistencies


    You misunderstood me, I did not mean to imply that you cannot use the ccc as you call it, what I meant was that you would have , or should argue the points from first principles. I apologize for the mis-understanding.

    I am still looking forward to your responses to my original arguments. The ” stuff” in between as far as I am concerned was an attempt on my part to clarify my side of the argument and to give you enough info to refute correct … it as you please and can.
    Let me point out that I am trying to argue a Moral/ethical point that could be perceived as being “to the right” of your position as I perceive it now (if it would be a political debate of course)
    As always thank you for your interest

  • I tried to quote a passage of yours but it did not work I am too ignorant in these and of course also other matters If you could give me some more detailed instructions I would appreciate it. Thank you.

  • Use I to start, and /i to end.

    In case of war there might be the justification to as you call it self defense etc. the problem arises to determine when it is Justified.

    If you agree that it is ever justified, then your complaint that allowing the death penalty is inconsistent, due to allowing killing, is invalid. It becomes a matter of you not agreeing where the line is drawn, rather than if the line should be drawn at all.

  • You are avoiding the argument. I like you to comment on the Jaegerstaetter example I gave , as it is pertinent to this discussion. The argument was not whether killing might be allowed or not the argument IS to determine within a morally consistent framework when killing is allowed and it expanded – the argument that is – to who is allowed or has to make these choices.
    Please use the Iraq example I gave the pope determined that the just war theorem indicate that the looming – at that time- war would be unjust. Yet after the war started there was no further comment that participating in a unjust war – according to the just war theorem – is tantamount to murder.
    It is at that point that moral inconsistencies arise
    because murder is murder if nothing else killing a conscious being adds torture to the act of murder which – if one has to /wants to categorize these things-. The torture part comes with the fear and realization that you have to die I presume , never had to do it myself-.
    I think the abortion/ war/ capital punishment/… debate goes much deeper since there are corollaries to all this. And it are these corollaries that , in a practical sense might be even less palatable to us as a society than the results of the Killing argument.
    In any event I think any relativism in arguing the case should be avoided otherwise anything goes and the result is strictly utilitarian devoid of any claim to
    morality. one has to be able to argue the case consistently and continuously starting with abortion if you like and ending with war if you like.
    I am sure you understand what I mean.
    You asked in the beginning whether I am serious. I think this is and has been the defining challenge for the Church in the last and undoubtedly this century.
    The Church seemed to have failed its test during WW1 and WW2 (as well as many other conflicts thereafter. (see Jaegerstaetter example consider it a case study)
    But this does not mean we cannot remedy our transgressions in the future.
    Splitting up the argument of killing or shall I say murder – which would be unjustified killing and which would equally apply to abortion and war – certain wars etc into separately compartments to my mind is a moral dodge and with it makes our whole stand immoral one acts morally or does not.
    A murderer does not always have to kill in order to create immense suffering. it enough if he does it only in one case and not the other.
    thanks for the info on writing . the following is just a test so please ignore it.
    i test test test /i

  • Your original argument was that by differentiating between murder and abortion on one hand, and war and capital punishment on the other, there is a “double standard” in place.

    You futher claimed that, due to war and capital punishment being decided by the “system” or a “king,” Hitler was somehow justified.

    If you cannot manage to hold to your own argument and feel the need to accuse those who do of dodging the topic, I have no further time for you.

  • Sorry you feel that way

    I do have to respond to your interpretation – insinuation that:

    You futher claimed that, due to war and capital punishment being decided by the “system” or a “king,” Hitler was somehow justified.

    I never claimed that . What i did say is:
    IF your interpretation that responsibility for moral decision is vested in those of proper authority THEN
    The Germans where justified to line up behind their Fuehrer I think quite a bit different from your interpretation
    Unfortunately as in many of these discussions it often turns out that folks are not really interested in finding out or letting others find out the “Truth” or their truth and try to explain it in logical and dispassionate ways.
    It seems they are more interested in formulas than arguments and convictions ( I don’t mean just adopted beliefs) they can be passionate enough to defend.
    It was not me who offered to set me straight remember.
    the task obvious became too difficult
    Thank you for your time

  • a bit different from your interpretation

    No, it isn’t. Your argument against there being a difference between war and abortion was exactly as I stated.

    Unfortunately as in many of these discussions it often turns out that folks are not really interested in finding out or letting others find out the “Truth” or their truth and try to explain it in logical and dispassionate ways.

    Exactly why I am not going to waste any further time, barring some sign of actual interest in information– as opposed to dancing from claim to claim, then accusing those responding to you of “avoiding the argument.”

    If you admit any instance where self defense, unto death, is admissible– then you commit the same “inconsistency” you accuse the Church of committing. You may draw the line in a different spot, but still admit the difference exists.

    It seems they are more interested in formulas than arguments and convictions ( I don’t mean just adopted beliefs) they can be passionate enough to defend.

    A logical argument is a formula.
    And there is no inherent exclusion of conviction in an adopted belief, let alone an exclusion of passion in adopted beliefs.

    It was not me who offered to set me straight remember.

    Amazingly, it was not I who offered to set you straight, either; I offered, if you were truly trying to understand, to attempt to aid you in understanding. The latter has happened, but the prior is in doubt.

8 Responses to Bishop Tobin On The Factor

  • “..state of Grace, you’ve heard that term.” It kills me how pathetically uneducated these folks like O’Reilly are on Catholic teaching. He doesn’t know the moral difference between abortion and the death penalty? Where is Alan Keyes when you need him?

  • What an excellent and charitable explanation the good bishop offered.

    I pray for more bishops like His Excellency that will finally execute their ecclesial duties and be our true shepherds!

  • I usually like Bill, except when he’s talking about the Church or economics – then he’s as misinformed as the idiots that watch Matthews.

  • [email protected]!

  • I’m not sure that O’Reilly’s question concerning the Dealth Penalty vs. Abortion was showing his uninformed perspective on the situation, but rather he was trying to be a bit journalistic. If he did not ask that question, for example, than those who would shout “Hypocrisy!” about those two issues regarding the Church would not know why they were incorrect.

  • Bishops Tobin comes across as quite fanatical.

  • Nope, he comes across as teaching precisely what the Church teaches on abortion.

  • “Bishop Tobin comes across as quite fanatical.”

    From the Spirit of Vatican II Dictionary:

    fanatic, n.

    Etymology: Latin “fanaticus” inspired by a deity, frenzied, from fanum temple, Date: 1550

    An articulate advocate for a cause or moral position uncongenial to the hearer.

    Antonym: prophet.

Patrick Kennedy Barred From Communion

Sunday, November 22, AD 2009

Patrick Kennedy, a son of Ted Kennedy and a Democrat Congressman from Rhode Island, has been engaging in a very public conflict with the Bishop of Providence Thomas J. Tobin.  Prior posts on this combative dialogue are here and here.  Kennedy has now revealed that he is barred from receiving communion. The Bishop has responded by releasing this letter:

I am disappointed and really surprised that Congressman Patrick Kennedy has chosen to reopen the public discussion about his practice of the faith and his reception of Holy Communion. This comes almost two weeks after the Congressman indicated to local media that he would no longer comment publicly on his faith or his relationship with the Catholic Church. The Congressman’s public comments require me to reply.

On February 21, 2007, I wrote to Congressman Kennedy stating: “In light of the Church’s clear teaching, and your consistent actions, therefore, I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving Holy Communion and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so.” My request came in light of the new statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that said, “If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definite teachings on moral issues, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the Church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.” (Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper, December, 2006)

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11 Responses to Patrick Kennedy Barred From Communion

  • Thanks for posting this, Donald… Kennedy’s actions are deeply “unfortunate,” to put it mildly… Bp. Tobin kept this private, Kennedy said he wasn’t going to discuss this publicly anymore, and then he does this.

    Kudos to Bp. Tobin for his strength and courage in this.

  • If only the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith could still use enhanced corrective measures to rehabilitate wayward Catholics.

    Thank God for Bishops that take the pastoral care of their flock seriously. Politics be damned. This idiot needs his soul saved and he chooses to attack his bishop. Sad really.

  • Hooray for Bp. Tobin!

  • Just for clarification, I believe Patrick is actually the late Swimmer’s son, not his nephew.

  • Thank you Jay! I have made the correction.

  • I remember the last public exchange between these two – it may have been reprinted on this site. Bishop Tobin came off testy. It’s good that we have the context now. It’s also very good to know that bishops are addressing wayward politicians behind the scenes.

  • May I ask, where does that leave the “Good Practicing Catholic, Nancy Pelosi?”

    Christ reminded us of only 20 rules that should assist us in the attainment of heaven The Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes and the Great Rules! Wish I had the money to post them on billboards across the country. No comment necessary,

  • I think it leaves her in need of a good bishop?

  • Why did the Church have a huge Catholic funeral for Ted ? Smell the coffee, please ! By the way, Mission Church in Roxbury, MA is a Redemptorist parish ! At the venerable shrine, there was pomp and splendour for Senator Kennedy. The order’s founder, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, would go ballistic if he knew that his spiritual sons condone such a ceremony. St. Alphonsus preached vehemently against mortal sin and made no apologies to no one. Why wasn’t Senator Kennedy told that he couldn’t receive Holy Communion ?

  • An excellent and brave move by Bishop Thomas.

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"Your position is unacceptable to the Church"

Tuesday, November 10, AD 2009

Bishop Tobin

Faithful readers of this blog will recall this post here  discussing the Bishop of Providence Thomas J. Tobin taking Patrick Kennedy, Teddy’s son, to task for attacking the Church over ObamaCare.  Now the Bishop has written the following letter to Congressman Kennedy:

Dear Congressman Kennedy:

“The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” (Congressman Patrick Kennedy)

Since our recent correspondence has been rather public, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few reflections about your practice of the faith in this public forum. I usually wouldn’t do that – that is speak about someone’s faith in a public setting – but in our well-documented exchange of letters about health care and abortion, it has emerged as an issue. I also share these words publicly with the thought that they might be instructive to other Catholics, including those in prominent positions of leadership.

For the moment I’d like to set aside the discussion of health care reform, as important and relevant as it is, and focus on one statement contained in your letter of October 29, 2009, in which you write, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” That sentence certainly caught my attention and deserves a public response, lest it go unchallenged and lead others to believe it’s true. And it raises an important question: What does it mean to be a Catholic?

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28 Responses to "Your position is unacceptable to the Church"

  • Wow- what an excellent thing to have a bishop respond so completely, so intellectually, armed with both truth and compassion. Any public Catholic worth his or her salt would welcome a critique of their politics by the Church’s Hierarchy- the obedience of faith.

  • Ditto, Tim! This is a great letter, in many ways.

  • If only those Bishops with whom Pelosi, Kerry, Biden, etal are attached to would send each this type of letter and ask them the same questions or ask them to quit stating they are faithful and practicing Catholics.

  • While this certainly pleases me and is encouraging, I wish that all bishops would do such things, in private, when there are situations where those who publically claim to be Catholic are flaunting their situations that are, based upon the very definition of it, scandalous.

    These bishops seen to think that they will not be held to account when they are fully aware of what is going on and choose to do nothing.

    Bravo, to Bishop Tobin. A hopeful sign, indeed. May your public act encourage your fellow bishops to see the value in public admonishment, and private too….

  • I wish this sort of response were more common. In fact, I wish it were the policy of all the bishops in the USCCB. I think we’d see a very different response from self-described Catholic politicians than was evident during the Stupak vote.

  • Your rejection of the Church’s teaching on abortion falls into a different category – it’s a deliberate and obstinate act of the will; a conscious decision that you’ve re-affirmed on many occasions. Sorry, you can’t chalk it up to an “imperfect humanity.” Your position is unacceptable to the Church and scandalous to many of our members. It absolutely diminishes your communion with the Church.

    Incredibly eloquent and to the point.

    I pray many more bishops will follow his example.

    Imagine if Cardinal Mahoney or Cardinal George were to follow this exemplary example!

    Deo gratias!

  • That was rather refreshing!

  • Wow…just wow!!!

    A 100 more like him, please.

  • Donald:

    It is right that you should applaud this bishop; however, how about the USCCB, too, for what they apparently did just recently as regarding abortion in the Health Bill?

    Kindly note from The Wall Street Journal:

    “We did not want this legislation to be a vehicle for expanding abortion or for changing federal policy on abortion in the wrong direction,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the secretariat of pro-life activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

    The abortion issue was at the center of last-minute wrangling in the House. A bloc of Democrats, *backed by the Catholic bishops*, threatened to scuttle the House health bill if leaders didn’t take up the antiabortion measure. In an unusual show of influence, Mr. Doerflinger and other representatives of the bishops on Friday met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to broker an agreement. Ms. Pelosi, who favors abortion rights, reluctantly agreed to bring the measure to the floor, and it became part of the broader bill that passed in the House late Saturday.”

  • A wonderful letter; as a Catholic seeking public office myself, this letter is like water in the desert.

    Is there a link to the original somewhere?

  • That letter was incredible. Thank you Bishop Thomas Tobin for speaking out against the scandal that these so called Catholic politicians inflict upon the Catholic name.

  • Thank God for Bishop Tobin. I am so weary of politicians trying to convince me that 2 plus 2 equals 5, that one can be a good Catholic and pro-abortion, that Hasan’s religion had absolutely nothing to do with the Ft. Hood shooting, that we can spend our way to prosperity and so on, that when an honest man with common sense speaks up I want to cheer. And then I want to cry, because there are so few of them.

  • Wonderful. We must keep praying for our bishops and the Holy Father. It is the pope’s leadership that strengthens the bishops and it is the sacrifice and prayers of all communicants that strenghten our leadership.

    The Holy Spirit is no cowardly spirit.

    This is one servant that is not lukewarm. We need more. Pray, pray, pray.

  • A direct, honest and hopeful letter. I would suggest that we all read this letter as though it were written to us personally. No, I’m not saying any of us are as confused on core issues as some of our politicians, but we can all use some personal reaffirming of what our faith entails. I could not help but examine my own failings as the Bishop reminded the congressman (and the rest of us) of some of what makes us Catholics. The exchange could seem like a rebuke of the congressman (and it was), but it also was an invitation to return. The congressman (and millions of others) have to RSVP.

    Bishop Tolan also showed a touch of humor by suggesting Patrick could be an authentic “profile in courage,” obviously a play on the title of Ted Sorenson’s book that Patrick’s uncle Jack got a Pulitzer for writing.

  • The current absolutist teaching of the Church on abortion is an innovation. The Roman Catholic hierarchy can try to paper over the Church’s history but they cannot succeed because the historical record is irrefutable.

    Under today’s rigid rules, they would have to refuse communion to some of the most imminent popes and doctors of the Chruch.

    The Church has always considered abortion to be inherently evil but has been divided on the degree of sin attached to it. It is always to be discouraged but punishment (if any) has, until the 20th century, depended on WHEN it is practiced.

    It is obvious that life (of some kind) begins at conception. The question for theologians has until very recently not been when life begins but when the embryo or fetus is endowed with HUMAN life, that is, with a human soul. And that question is difficult to answer.

    From the 5th to 16th Century AD, Christian philosophers took varying positions on abortion.

    St. Augustine wrote that an early abortion is not murder because the soul of a fetus at an early stage is not present.

    St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope Innocent III, and Pope Gregory XIV believed that a fetus does not have a soul until “quickening” or when the fetus begins to kick and move. Abortion before quickening was, therefore, discouraged but tolerated.

    Since quickening occurs at some indeterminate time after conception and according to some doctors of the Church, after the first trimester, it was assumed that ensoulment occurs at some unknown moment during that period. After the first trimester, abortion was homicide because it was (according to the theological consensus) a certainty that the fetus was by then endowed with a human soul.

    Prior to that time, there was no consensus. It was therefore common over the centuries for abortions in the first trimester to be tolerated in varying degrees.

    Indeed, this position was reflected in British and U.S. criminal law until the beginning of the 20th century. Until then, it was uncommon for a woman or her doctor to be charged with a crime if the abortion was induced during the first trimester.

    While the Church has ALWAYS OPPOSED abortion, the modern absolutist position that equates it with culpable homicide with no exceptions and as of the moment of conception is at odds with the Church’s earlier practice.

    The Church is certainly within its rights to adapt and refine its teachings. However it is false to claim that the position taken today has always been held.

    Today’s teaching does not rise to the standard of the Vincentian canon of catholicity; it has not been held everywhere, at all times, by all (quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est).

    If CIVIL and CANON laws allowed first trimester abortion (as did early Churchmen, the ancient Jews, the early Muslims and even Aristotle) and banned later abortions, there would be little or no conflict over this issue. That would be a lesser of evils solution that would spare many righteous-minded people from suffering.

    Tell me, do YOU know when a soul enters a human fetus or embryo? I don’t either, but I respect the opinions of the doctors of the Church and believe that greater good is achieved by following their teachings rather than the innovations of a very few modern theologians.

  • Benedictus:

    Your Pelosi-styled argument (not to mention, stupidity) is as risible and demonstrably deficient as hers. A refutation to such a deficient (as well as to say, twistedly perverted) presentation of history was already submitted by those more superior in both thought and epistemology than you seem to be:

    St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, held that the process of conception required forty days for boys and eighty for girls before the conceptus was ready for the infusion of the rational soul (Commentary on the Fourth Book of Sentences, d. 31 exp. text.). And that was the common view through the eighteenth century. Abortion prior to said infusion was not held by the Church to be the killing of a human person; it was condemned only as a particularly nasty form of contraception. What changed that, of course, was the development of the modern disciplines of obstetrics, gynecology, and above all genetics.

    As soon as it became clear to the Church that even the blastocyst, under normal conditions, was a genetically unique individual member of homo sapiens—twinning being a separate, still controversial case—Pope Pius IX included abortion at any stage of gestation as a form of homicide in his renewed list of offenses incurring excommunication (Apostolicae Sedis [1869]). And so the teaching and discipline remain today.

  • You mistate Church teaching on abortion BQ. From the earliest days the Church condemned abortion as a terrible sin. There was never any tolerance for abortion at any stage of pregnancy. There was a debate as to the penance to be performed for an abortion and whether it should be equivalent to that for homicide, due to the lack of knowledge of fetal development. However, this debate had nothing to do with toleration for abortion.

    “The Catholic Church has always condemned abortion as a grave evil. Christian writers from the first-century author of the Didache to Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”) have maintained that the Bible forbids abortion, just as it forbids murder. This tract will provide some examples of this consistent witness from the writings of the Fathers of the Church.

    As the early Christian writer Tertullian pointed out, the law of Moses ordered strict penalties for causing an abortion. We read, “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely [Hebrew: “so that her child comes out”], but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Ex. 21:22–24).

    This applies the lex talionis or “law of retribution” to abortion. The lex talionis establishes the just punishment for an injury (eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life, compared to the much greater retributions that had been common before, such as life for eye, life for tooth, lives of the offender’s family for one life).

    The lex talionis would already have been applied to a woman who was injured in a fight. The distinguishing point in this passage is that a pregnant woman is hurt “so that her child comes out”; the child is the focus of the lex talionis in this passage. Aborted babies must have justice, too.

    This is because they, like older children, have souls, even though marred by original sin. David tells us, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5, NIV). Since sinfulness is a spiritual rather than a physical condition, David must have had a spiritual nature from the time of conception.

    The same is shown in James 2:26, which tells us that “the body without the spirit is dead”: The soul is the life-principle of the human body. Since from the time of conception the child’s body is alive (as shown by the fact it is growing), the child’s body must already have its spirit.

    Thus, in 1995 Pope John Paul II declared that the Church’s teaching on abortion “is unchanged and unchangeable. Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his successors . . . I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium. No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church” (Evangelium Vitae 62).

    The early Church Fathers agreed. Fortunately, abortion, like all sins, is forgivable; and forgiveness is as close as the nearest confessional.

    The Didache

    “The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child” (Didache 2:1–2 [A.D. 70]).

    The Letter of Barnabas

    “The way of light, then, is as follows. If anyone desires to travel to the appointed place, he must be zealous in his works. The knowledge, therefore, which is given to us for the purpose of walking in this way, is the following. . . . Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born” (Letter of Barnabas 19 [A.D. 74]).

    The Apocalypse of Peter

    “And near that place I saw another strait place . . . and there sat women. . . . And over against them many children who were born to them out of due time sat crying. And there came forth from them rays of fire and smote the women in the eyes. And these were the accursed who conceived and caused abortion” (The Apocalypse of Peter 25 [A.D. 137]).

    Athenagoras

    “What man of sound mind, therefore, will affirm, while such is our character, that we are murderers?
    . . . [W]hen we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it” (A Plea for the Christians 35 [A.D. 177]).

    Tertullian

    “In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed” (Apology 9:8 [A.D. 197]).

    “Among surgeons’ tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs [of the child] within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fetus is extracted by a violent delivery.

    “There is also [another instrument in the shape of] a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: They give it, from its infanticide function, the name of embruosphaktes, [meaning] “the slayer of the infant,” which of course was alive. . . .

    “[The doctors who performed abortions] all knew well enough that a living being had been conceived, and [they] pitied this most luckless infant state, which had first to be put to death, to escape being tortured alive” (The Soul 25 [A.D. 210]).

    “Now we allow that life begins with conception because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does” (ibid., 27).

    “The law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion [Ex. 21:22–24]” (ibid., 37).

    Minucius Felix

    “There are some [pagan] women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels and thus commit a parricide before they bring forth. And these things assuredly come down from the teaching of your [false] gods. . . . To us [Christians] it is not lawful either to see or hear of homicide” (Octavius 30 [A.D. 226]).

    Hippolytus

    “Women who were reputed to be believers began to take drugs to render themselves sterile, and to bind themselves tightly so as to expel what was being conceived, since they would not, on account of relatives and excess wealth, want to have a child by a slave or by any insignificant person. See, then, into what great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by teaching adultery and murder at the same time!” (Refutation of All Heresies [A.D. 228]).

    Council of Ancyra

    “Concerning women who commit fornication, and destroy that which they have conceived, or who are employed in making drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them until the hour of death, and to this some have assented. Nevertheless, being desirous to use somewhat greater lenity, we have ordained that they fulfill ten years [of penance], according to the prescribed degrees” (canon 21 [A.D. 314]).

    Basil the Great

    “Let her that procures abortion undergo ten years’ penance, whether the embryo were perfectly formed, or not” (First Canonical Letter, canon 2 [A.D. 374]).

    “He that kills another with a sword, or hurls an axe at his own wife and kills her, is guilty of willful murder; not he who throws a stone at a dog, and unintentionally kills a man, or who corrects one with a rod, or scourge, in order to reform him, or who kills a man in his own defense, when he only designed to hurt him. But the man, or woman, is a murderer that gives a philtrum, if the man that takes it dies upon it; so are they who take medicines to procure abortion; and so are they who kill on the highway, and rapparees” (ibid., canon 8).

    John Chrysostom

    “Wherefore I beseech you, flee fornication. . . . Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit?—where there are many efforts at abortion?—where there is murder before the birth? For even the harlot you do not let continue a mere harlot, but make her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to prostitution, prostitution to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevents its being born. Why then do thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with his laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter? For with a view to drawing more money by being agreeable and an object of longing to her lovers, even this she is not backward to do, so heaping upon thy head a great pile of fire. For even if the daring deed be hers, yet the causing of it is thine” (Homilies on Romans 24 [A.D. 391]).

    Jerome

    “I cannot bring myself to speak of the many virgins who daily fall and are lost to the bosom of the Church, their mother. . . . Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception. Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when, as often happens, they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder” (Letters 22:13 [A.D. 396]).

    The Apostolic Constitutions

    “Thou shalt not use magic. Thou shalt not use witchcraft; for he says, ‘You shall not suffer a witch to live’ [Ex. 22:18]. Thou shall not slay thy child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten. . . . [I]f it be slain, [it] shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed” (Apostolic Constitutions 7:3 [A.D. 400]).”

  • Donald,

    That was great! Thank you so much.

    Did you really need to pull out the Howitzer to handle the little misguided relativist though? 😉

  • I appreciate the theological rebuttals to my original message (even if the gratuitous calumnies added by some are hardly Christ-like remarks).

    However, even the material adduced show that the question of when the product of conception, no doubt a living being, is a human being endowed with a soul. Some seem to confuse spiritus humana (ruach, psykhe) with anima humana (nephesh, pneuma).

    It is an incontrovertible fact that, despite the universally held view (among Catholics) that abortion was inherently evil and always to be condemned and opposed, the punishment to be applied varied. Furthermore the punishment depended on whether or not the product of conception was infantus inanimatus (soul-less enfant) or infantus animatus (ensouled enfant).

    Those today who pretend to call on science and argue that even a human blastocyte is endowed with a soul are perverting science (which does not deal with preternatural phenomena) and displaying arrogance by claiming in the absence of sure knowledge, to know something that only God knows for sure.

    The Universal Church did not begin rigorous Canon Law codification of what it considered to be “sexual sins” unitl the earth 7th century. At that time, abortion made the list, but in terms of punishment, abortion was well behind the sins of contraception, fellatio, and sodomy. In fact, the punishment for fellatio was at least 7 years of penance, while the punishment for abortion was a mere 120 days. At that time, the Church certainly did NOT consider all abortion to be culpable homicide.
    St. Augustine of Hippo argued that abortion before ensoulment was not infanticide. However, the time of ensoulment that he assumed was not the same as the time assumed by others.

    Pope Innocent III in the early 1200s, ruled that the fetus had no soul until it was “animated”, usually around the 24th week.

    At that time, in a salacious case of sexual disobedience, a monk was found NOT guilty of homicide for aborting his lover’s unborn child. In that case, it was ruled that at the time of the abortion, the fetus was an “infantus inanimatus” and thus it’s destruction was not culpable homicide.

    St. Jerome held a view not unlike the later view of Pope Innocent III. Jerome said, “The seed gradually takes shape in the uterus, and it [abortion] does not count as killing until the individual elements have acquired their external appearance and their limbs. (“Epistle” 121,4)

    Jerome certainly did not think the human blastocyte was an infantus animatus.

    In 1588, Pope Sixtus V in 1588 made all abortions illegal.

    In due course, Sixtus V was reversed by Pope Gregory XIV, who tolerated abortions up to 16 ½ weeks as not equivalent to the killing of a human being, as no soul was present.

    The toleration shown by Pope Gregory XIV remained the official teaching of the Church for the next three centuries, until 1869, when Pope Pius IX declared all abortion to be homicide.

    Furthermore, the declaration of Pope Pius IX (which is not explicitly claimed by theologians to be an ex cathedra pronouncement and thus is a papally imposed discipline not unlike the divergent opinions of some of his predecessors) was not the last word on the matter.

    It took more than a CENTURY after his pronouncement before all references to “foetus inanimatus” and “foetus animatus” were removed from Canon Law.

    A question that seldom is discussed is what the punishment for abortion should be today under secular criminal law. After all, many Catholics take a strong position on the secular illictness of abortion. They work tirelessly to suppport or oppose candidates of political office and office holders based on how those people view abortion as a matter of secular law. They favor state and federal laws against abortion.

    However, they seldom say what the civil punishment for abortion should be. Historically, the ecclesiastical punishment has generally been a period of penance, that has varied, in different eras, between 120 days and 10 years.

    However, if abortion is culpable murder then it must be punished just like any other culpable murder or least be considered a form of criminally negligent manslaughter. If a women is charged with procuring an abortion, what should her sentence be? To be consequent in their positions, Catholics who insist that abortion should be a crime under secular law must take a position on the sentence or range of sentences that would be appropriate for that crime.

    Since the Church discourages recourse to the death penalty, capital punishment would seem to be excluded. What then would the punishement be? Life in prison as for any other premeditated murder? A period of years (5, 10, 15), as is the case for most forms of non-premeditated murder or negligent homicide? Probation and a fine?

    I respect those who sincerely believe that all abortion is culpable homicide. They have serious grounds, historically speaking. However, those who decry abortion as evil, but would tolerate it in some circumstances during the first trimester are also in good company, historically speaking.

    What disturbs me is the distortion historical record by those who believe all abortion is culpable homicide. Stand up for the position that you sincerely believe is morally right but do not make the false claim that you are promoting a stance that has been taken always, everywhere and by all.

  • A good overview of the teaching of the Church on abortion:

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01046b.htm

    “However, those who decry abortion as evil, but would tolerate it in some circumstances during the first trimester are also in good company, historically speaking.”

    No, they are in atrocious company. The condemnation of abortion by the Church has been universal and unending, and there has never been any tolerance of abortion by the Catholic Church.

  • In the escalating fight between Thomas Tobin and Patrick Kennedy, it strikes me that a conflict of interest is involved in one of the parties being the umpire or mediator. It also strikes me that both parties are in a position to abuse their position to further the fight…under the rubric of a higher purpose. I recommend the following post: http://deligentia.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/so-the-last-will-be-first-and-the-first-will-be-last/

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The Flames of Dissent and Discord

Saturday, October 24, AD 2009

Patrick Kennedy

Politicians make asinine statements all the time, but sometimes there is one that stands out from the crowd for its sheer cluelessness, duplicity and perversity.  Patrick Kennedy, yep, one of Teddy Kennedy’s sons, a Democrat member of Congress from Rhode Island, lambasted the Church for not falling into line behind ObamaCare. Here is a statement that he made  to CNSNews.

“I can’t understand for the life of me how the Catholic Church could be against the biggest social justice issue of our time, where the very dignity of the human person is being respected by the fact that we’re caring and giving health care to the human person–that right now we have 50 million people who are uninsured,” Kennedy told CNSNews.com when asked about a letter the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) had sent to members of Congress stating the bishops’ position on abortion funding in the health-care bill.

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