Mark Shea has taken his agree-with-me-on-these-issues-or-you-are-not-really-pro-life routine to the pages of the Jesuit rag America:
But weirdly, when the topic is not the unborn, many allegedly pro-life people often forget their wisdom. Result: on many issues ranging from war to torture to refugees to the death penalty, it is extremely common to run into people who are anti-abortion, but not pro-life.
And so self-identified pro-life people, in a solid majority, favored the launch of the Iraq War, despite the fact that it failed to meet a single criterion of Just War teaching, was sternly denounced by Pope John Paul II, warned of by the world’s bishops, and dismissed as folly by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who famously remarked that the “concept of a ‘preventive war’ does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church” and who warned that it would result in catastrophe—as the destruction of the Chaldean Church, the deaths of at least 100,000 people and the transformation of Iraq into chaos eloquently attests.
Relatedly, self-identified pro-life Christians supported, in greater percentages than the general U.S. population, the use of torture against prisoners. Indeed, along with Evangelicals, self-identified pro-life Catholics may constitute the single most enthusiastic supporters of torture in American public life. This is despite the fact that the church describes torture as gravely and intrinsically immoral—exactly the same terms in which she describes abortion.
Similarly, the death penalty is sometimes treated as an issue in which the church’s guidance to inflict the punishment only if absolutely necessary is rejected on the theory that God “commands” rather than reluctantly permits the death penalty. Some even go so far as to declare the church, not merely entitled to an opinion from which they dissent, but actually “wrong” and work to execute as many victims as possible.
Finally, there is the strange spectacle of some Catholics opposing pre-natal help for low income women (thus increasing the likelihood of abortion for poor families who fear they cannot afford another child) and the even stranger spectacle of self-identified pro-life people brandishing guns and screaming for desperately poor refugee children from Central America to be sent back to the extreme dangers of rape, sex slavery and murder.
It seems, at the moment, like one of the best ways to start a fight among a bunch of serious Catholics is to start throwing around the term “prudential judgement”. However, for such a frequently used term, the concept is not often defined, and given all the contention around it, I think it would be helpful to try to write a fairly brief post defining it and examining why it seems to be the center of so much controversy.
Prudential judgement is the application of the virtue of Prudence to some given situation in making a judgement as to the virtuous course of action. The Catechism defines Prudence as follows:
1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.” “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.” Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid. [emphasis added]
So a prudential judgement is the application of moral principles to a particular case in order to achieve good and avoid evil. Thus, obviously, saying something is a matter of prudential judgement does not mean that “there is no right answer”. The process of making a prudential judgement is one of judging which is the virtuous action to take in a given circumstance. Prudential judgments are definitionally moral questions. “Is vanilla or chocolate ice cream more tasty?” is not a matter of prudential judgement, it’s a matter of personal taste.
Often “matters of prudential judgement” are contrasted with “intrinsic evils”, especially in matters of political discourse. This leads to a lot of angst in some quarters. What is the difference?
An action which is intrinsically evil is something which is always and everywhere wrong. To use one of the standard examples: Abortion is an intrinsic evil in that the act of abortion can never be a just action. The taking of human life is not an intrinsic evil because it is an action which is unjust in some circumstances (murder) but just in others (self defense, just war, times and places when the common good requires the use of capital punishment). (My goal is to be short here, so I’m not going to enter into discussion of double effect.) As this example shows, just because something is not intrinsically evil doesn’t mean that it isn’t worthy of very, very serious moral reflection. Clearly, one can’t say, “Killing another human being is not intrinsically evil, so reasonable people can feel free to differ on it.” The prudential judgement of “does this situation justify the taking of human life” is clearly a moral question of the very highest magnitude.
Why then this distinction between “intrinsic evils” and “prudential judgments” in political discussion among Catholics? I think reason is that some moral principles seem to have political applications so obvious that there can be little room for variance in judgement. For instance, abortion is often cited as an example of an intrinsic evil on which Catholics may not vary in their opinion in politics. It is a belief held by much of the political left in this country that there is a “right to choice” in regards to abortion, in other words that a woman has a fundamental human right (which the state must respect and protect) to choose to have an abortion if she so chooses. From a Catholic moral point of view, one may not have a right to do something which is evil. I cannot have a “right to choose to torture” or a “right to choose to murder”. As such, I think it’s legitimate to say that a Catholic may not hold that a person has a right to procure an abortion.
We’ve reached the point in the election where the press decides to mostly report on how the election is being perceived rather than on any particular events, and since the president is doing well in the polls this results in a lot of “desperate Republicans do foolish things” stories. The flavor of the week seems to be the media’s discovery that somewhere out there in the right-leaning internet, there are people who have made a hobby of “re-weighting” polls in order to reflect what the re-weighters think is a more likely partisan composition of the electorate come election day.
There is, yes, a certain sad desperation about this. Now that election reporting is often more about “the race” than about issues or events, being behind in the race is crippling and so people come up with way to try to explain it away. Those with long memories (eight years counts as long in our modern age) may recall that when Bush was so rude as to be ahead of Kerry in the 2004 race, Michael Moore and those like-minded rolled out a theory that all the polls were wrong because an army of voters who only used cell phones and not land lines (and thus couldn’t be polled) were out there ready to vote against Bush.
However, just as everyone’s getting ready to announce that Republicans, in their constant flight from the “reality based community” have decided they don’t believe in polling, we find out that the left has its own reality problem: They’re convinced that the economy has been getting better over the last couple months, despite the fact there’s little reason to believe this. Gallup and the Pew Research Center both have data out showing that Democrats’ opinions of the economy and the job market have suddenly started improving, despite almost universally bad news over the last several months.
As you can see, partisan affiliation wasn’t much of a dividing factor in assessments of the economy a year ago, but now that a bad economy might mean President Obama not being re-elected, Democrats obediently come to the conclusion that the economy really isn’t that bad. According to Pew, the same divide now exists on the job market, consumer prices, the financial market, real estate, and even gas prices. You would think that at least people could agree on what the level of gas prices is, but no, apparently not, though the gap is narrower there than elsewhere: 89% of Republicans say they hear mostly bad news about gas prices while 65% of Democrats do.
The trope goes that you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. However, as the political divide has become wider and more entrenched opposite sides increasingly do have their own facts, as reality become filtered through a partisan lens.
I’ve been listening to music via Pandora a lot recently (while writing) and the result is that although I’ve been hearing more than my usual share of political ads. (Since I don’t watch television or listen to commercial radio, I’m normally exempt from these despite living in Ohio.)
One thing that particularly struck me is the rampant dishonesty in regards to tax policy that’s going around, in part due to the both party’s bad habit of making tax breaks look more affordable by enacting them only for short terms, thus necessitating frequent renewal.
The first bone of contention is the “Bush tax cuts”. These tax cuts, which affected taxpayers all across the income spectrum, are estimated to have a “cost” of $3.3 Trillion over ten years (this “cost” is the combination of foregone theoretical tax revenues and the cost of servicing the debt resulting from federal spending not going down by a similar $3.3 Trillion.) Democrats like to refer to the “Bush tax cuts” as “tax cuts for the rich” and to quote the full “cost” of $3.3 Trillion as being the cost of those cuts. What this ignores is that two thirds of that $3.3T actually went to what President Obama refers to as the middle class (families making less than $250,000 per year.) So while it’s true that the “Bush tax cuts” had a “cost” of “over three trillion dollars”, the attacks against this ignore the fact that two thirds of that total is “tax cuts for the middle class” which Democrats support.
Just to make it even more confusing, Democrats like to call extending the Bush tax cuts “massive tax cuts for the rich”, despite the fact it is simply an extension of tax rates which have already been in place for some time. Republicans, on the other hand, like to refer the potential expiration of the tax cuts as a “massive tax increase.” This is accurate, to the extent that people would indeed experience their taxes going up, but it ignores the inconvenient fact that Republicans wrote the tax cut in such a way as to expire (in order to avoid having to make hard budget decisions to ‘pay for’ the tax cut.)
As if one set of expiring tax cuts that everyone talks about in different ways were not confusing enough, there’s also the Obama payroll tax cut: a cut of 2% in the payroll tax that pays for Social Security. This was never meant to be a permanent tax cut, but rather a short term economic stimulus. Social Security has financial problems to begin with, it doesn’t help to make a significant cut in its funding. (And that’s ignoring the fiction that the money you put into Social Security is the money you’re get out again.)
However, even though both parties have signaled that they’re essentially willing to let the temporary payroll tax cut expire at the end of this year (though both parties hope to see this done as part of a broader overhaul of taxes suited to their own priorities) that hasn’t stopped some commentators and advertisers from characterizing Republican support for letting the cut expire as “a tax increase on the middle class”.
I have to remind myself sometimes to refrain from immersion in current events, politics, and social issues because I swell up with machine-like resolve and start thinking of myself as a Sarah Connor, the fictional mom in the Terminator films who transformed from a timid victim to a hardened warrior on the verge of losing touch with her own humanity. She knew Judgement Day was coming, and her son would have to fight evil mightily. She knew she had to prepare and protect him.
I don’t think I’m the only mom that conjures up such an image. We lay awake at night wondering what kind of battles our children will face as adults. Will they lose faith? Will they be hurt? Will they be warriors? Will they be martyrs? Will they be ready? Are we doing enough to take a stand as Catholics? No kidding, there are nights when I feel compelled to rise and do chin-ups on the door frame to flex some muscle (though I’d faint after three).
I have learned, instead, to pray. As awful as I may think some current events are, this world still belongs to God. If I believe that Christ healed the sick, commanded demons, and died and rose for the salvation of souls, then in faith I need to guard against despair and overwhelming ferocity. Remember what the centurion in Capernaum said to Jesus when he wanted his servant to be healed? He had great faith. “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” He also had humility. That last part reminds me of St. Francis’ advice, “Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.”
Surely in some ways we do need to become a legend among the resistance, to warn that humanity is doomed to self-destruction if they don’t listen, and to store up a proverbial cache of weapons for our children if there is a rise of the machines; but mostly what we need to do is to accept the graces and abundances offered now in this time of our own lives. We do need to fight, but we can’t let ourselves become so steeled we forget we are human.
Even so, I wouldn’t mind having her deltoids, and I admit I rather like imagining myself standing strong with a steady gaze across the landscape as I prepare to defend and inspire my children, but without the cigarette and Commando rifle.
There’s an article forthcoming in the journal Economic Inquiry by Professors of Economics, Joseph Sabia and Daniel Rees, that shows parental notification or consent laws are associated with a 15 to 25 percent reduction in suicides committed by 15- through 17-year-old women. The researchers analyzed National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health data collected from 1987 to 2003 and found results that are consistent with the hypothesis that laws requiring parental involvement increase the “expected cost of having unprotected sex,” and, consequently, protect the well-being of young females. (Hey, they’re economists.)
Here’s the reasoning, taken from this paper by the same authors.
- Researchers have already found, using state-level data from 1981 through 1998, that parental involvement laws reduced teen gonorrhea rates 12 to 20 percent among teen females. (Klick and Strattman, 2008)
- Other recent studies provide evidence that female adolescents who become sexually active at an early age are more likely to suffer from the symptoms of depression. (Hallfors et al. 2004; Sabia and Rees 2008)
- Research has shown that multiple sex partners increased the likelihood of substance abuse. (Howard et al. 2004)
- It is also been found that adolescent females who had multiple sex partners were 10 times more likely to develop the symptoms of major depression than those who remained abstinent. (Hallfors et al. 2005)
- There was no evidence of a similar relationship between male multiple partners and adolescent depression. (Hallfors et al. 2005)
So the hypothesis is: If parental involvement laws discourage minors from risky lifestyles that affect their physical health, then they would promote emotional health of teenage females as well. Analyzing suicide rates will give an indication since there have been many studies that link depression and suicide. The national suicide data was analyzed and that’s exactly what they found – a supporting correlation. Parental involvement laws correlate with fewer suicides. Further in support, there was no evidence of a similar relationship among male adolescents, and no correlation between parental involvement laws and suicide for older women because, well, neither group would be affected by those laws.
Makes sense, right? You’re probably thinking, “Did we need to pass those laws, wait and see what happened, and then count suicides?” No, we didn’t, and there’d be at least some justice if the people opposing those laws would take notice.
You’d think someone who really cares about women would be able to take an objective view of this data and consider it as an appeal to our collective conscience. You’d think someone who parrots, “Trust Women!” would be consistent enough to also trust mothers who are raising teens. When the state comes between teens and their parents, it just follows that the adolescents will not be as close to their parents as they ought to be.
This only affirms what we already know. Parents of teen girls can be trusted – should be trusted for the psychological benefit of a daughter in crisis. The abortion advocate community doesn’t seem as concerned about young women, though, as they are about politics and agendas. They instead say that people just want to make it harder for teens to have abortions, and that teens have a “fear of abuse” from unrelenting parents. Oh, and they’ll say something about how correlation doesn’t equal causation, revealing that they either are ignorant of analytical methods or, even worse, knowledgeable of them but dishonest when the results don’t fit their predetermined conclusions. Some will even say that teen women should be trusted to make their own decisions even when the decision for these desperate young women is to end their own lives. Of course, we all know why Planned Parenthood doesn’t want the parents involved. Ac$e$$ to abortion.
So I have a little hypothesis of my own. I predict (but would love to be proven wrong) that not a single abortion advocate will come forward and honestly reassess parental consent laws even though there is no body of data to support their premise. Could they admit that maybe, just maybe, the default condition is not that most parents of teens are abusive. Imagine!
If they trust women, why can’t they trust mothers and fathers? Where does this automatic distrust of parents come from anyway? Perhaps there’s a cost associated with believing that a mother has the right to kill her own child in the womb, and that cost is faith in people to love their children unconditionally at any point in life, even during difficult times.
Image: Microsoft Powerpoint
I’ve had it suggested that I write about motherhood a bit; be careful what you ask for.
….Yeah, I’m posting on that. Some idiot talking head makes a slam at a grandmother with MS and everyone has to comment about it. I think I have something worth saying, though, rather than just talking about it because it’s big.
I’m a stay at home mom. A home-maker. A house wife.
I have worked outside the home, before I got married, in a very similar field—I was a Petty Officer in the Navy, specializing in calibration. (Making sure things that measure are accurate enough.) Before that, I was in another similar field, at least sort of—I was a ranch kid.
Perhaps some folks look at those things and are curious—what on earth is the connection between being a mother, working with cows and fixing stuff that’s used to fix planes and ships?
“Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. Therefore, take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day and to stand in all things perfect” Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesian 6: 11-13
Mr. Voris is exactly right. The American bishops are asking for a fight after having failed to feed, train and arm their military. There is no way a single letter, as well intentioned and necessary as it is, read from the pulpit on a single Sunday, urging us to call our elected representatives, is going to save our freedoms and protect our right to practice the faith that Christ handed to us. It will not help catechize the silly young woman mentioned in the Real Catholic video, nor will it educate the nation as to why the Church teaches abortion, artificial contraception and sterilization are evils.
I hate to say this but in many ways the bishops almost deserve to be ignored. Truth be told, they have lost an immense amount of respect among the devout laity (the non-devout obviously having no respect for them). This is not a loss of respect for the position, but for the men and the way they hold it; weak and timidly. The result is a wasteland of liberalism and heresy that is to be found in so many parishes across our nation. Now, after having the President of the US attempt to force them into committing mortal sin, they want the help of those few who actually believe, practice and uphold the faith to come to the rescue. Continue reading
For last night’s State of the Union Address, President Obama invited Warren Buffet’s secretary, Debbie Bosanek, to sit in the First Lady’s box during the speech and specifically promised in that speech to support tax changes in order to mend the injustice Buffet claims occurs allowing him to pay the lowest tax rate of anyone in his office, including his secretary. This line of attack is doubtless partly designed to pave the way millionaire Barrack Obama to make populist attacks on multi-millionaire Mitt Romney during the upcoming presidential campaign. Romney is, after all, very, very rich, and his income comes primarily from investments.
David Leonhardt at the NY Times asks both right-leaning economist Greg Mankiw and the left leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to comment on this alleged tax injustice. Mankiw makes a fairly reasonable case that the reason capital gains are lower is that investment income is based on corporate profits and corporate profits have already been taxed. Companies would have more profits to pass on to investors (either as dividends or in the form of being worth more) if they didn’t pay corporate taxes, and so the tax on investment income is set lower to avoid this “double taxation”. Chuck Marr of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities must know the facts aren’t on his side, because instead of answering the question he provides a canned response about income inequality and how tax rates are lower than in the ’70s. The column is worth a read.
However, there’s another issue here which I think is worth pointing out. Progressives writing on this issue usually act as if billionaire investors such as Warren Buffet are all paying right around 15% (the capital gains rate) in taxes — Buffet claims that he pays 17.4% — and that “middle class Americans” are paying the top marginal income tax rate of 35%. Continue reading
In the 2012 election, Ohio will once again be a key battleground state at the presidential level. This will be a new experience for me, now an Ohio resident, as I’ve spent my voting live up until now in California and Texas — two states so solidly in their opposite party’s columns that one at times wondered if it was worth the time to stand in line and vote.
The Ohio vote froom yesterday getting national and international headlines was the rejection of Issue 2, repealing a law which limitted collective bargaining for state employees including teachers, police and firemen. State employee unions poured huge amounts of money into the “No on 2” campaign and focused heavily on scare tactics. The most frequent claim was that if unions could not negotiate over staffing levels, that police or paramedics would not arrive when you needed them. “Vote no on Issue 2. It could save your life.”
The victory in the No on 2 campaign is being taken as a positive sign by Democrats nationally, but it is likely to be a bad sign for the actual state workers who campaigned so hard for their unions. In the same election, voters rejected a number of local tax levies (both new and renewals) which in combination with the striking down of Senate Bill 5 (via the No on 2 campaign) means that local government will be stuck with old, more expensive contracts and also come up far short on revenues. This means that voters are still very much in a low tax, low budget mood (probably a positive for Republicans come next year) and that unions just spent an unprecedented amount of money in order to get more of their members laid off. Oops.
In yet another state-wide referendum, voters, by a 2-to-1 margin, voted to ammend the state constitution to ban any form of health insurance mandate in Ohio. Given that state constitutions cannot override federal laws, this is mostly a symbolic gesture, however with the ammendment getting a majority in every single county, it underscores how unpopular some of the key ideas of ObamaCare remain with voters.
It remains to be seen which of the two statewide issue votes prove to be the more suggestive of how Ohio voters will lean in the 2012 election.
There have been worries expressed on both sides of the political spectrum about the use of drone killings against Al Qaeda, and more especially so as it’s come out that the Obama Administration has a secret “kill list” which even includes American citizens who are working with Al Qaeda overseas (as was the recently killed Anwar al-Awlaki).
It seems to be that there is a legitimate worry here. In a sense, drones are the modern American equivalent of pillars of the Victorian British Empire such as Charles “Chinese” Gordon — gallivanting about the world to put down disturbances wherever they occur. However, they’re also relative unobtrusive and cheap. Thus, I would imagine that there is more danger of them being used to embroil us in conflicts that we really don’t want to be in. (Which, come to that, is more or less what Gordon managed to do for the British Empire on an occasion or two.) While I think that US hegemonic power, like that of others such as the British and Romans in the past, is generally a positive force in the world, power is often a temptation to over reaching. Putting international intervention only a joystick away, without any need for congressional approval or oversight, seems to put just a bit too much power in the hands of an already imperial presidency.
A Pew/WaPo poll over the weekend asked people to give the one word they believed best described the then-still-ongoing debate in congress over the debt ceiling and budget cutting issue. The results are:
The disgust was shared by Democrats, Republicans and Independents, and people reported that their impressions of both Obama and the Republican congressional leadership had worsened (from their already low levels.)
That no one is impressed with the specter of a bunch grown men and women squabbling endlessly is probably unsurprising — if we saw what congress was up to more often we’d probably have this reaction frequently. However, it seems to me that there are two things which make this go-round particularly bad.
I wish I had a dollar for every time a wealthy liberal has declared he thinks he should pay more taxes. That list includes Warren Buffett, George Soros, Bill Gates Sr., Mark Zuckerberg and even Barack Obama, who now says that not only should rich people like him pay more taxes, they want to pay more. “I believe that most wealthy Americans would agree with me,” he said of his tax-hike plan. “They want to give back to the country that’s done so much for them.”
So why don’t they? There is a special fund at the Treasury Department for taxpayers who want to make “gift contributions to reduce debt held by the public.” But very few do. Last year that fund and others like it raised a grand total of $300 million. That’s a decimal place on Mr. Zuckerberg’s net worth and pays for less than two hours worth of federal borrowing.
I understand the basic satisfaction of saying, “Look, mister, if you really want to pay more taxes, no one is stopping you,” but I don’t think that it’s actually a very good argument. The reason why people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet advocate for higher taxes but don’t voluntarily pay higher taxes than the law requires is pretty obvious: Continue reading
Reading a rather cursory opinion piece this morning (calling for federal spending to be decreased) it occurred to me that there’s an interesting symmetry to what the more aggressive advocates of tax increases and spending cuts suggest:
The most passionate tax increase advocates frame their calls for tax increases in terms of some prior level of taxation: “We should roll back all the Bush tax cuts and return to the tax rates people payed under Clinton. We all remember the ’90’s; the world didn’t end when the top marginal tax rate was 39.6%” or “By golly, we should go back to the tax tables that were in force under that ‘socialist’ Eisenhower. 91% top marginal rate. That’ll teach those corporate fat cats to vote themselves bonuses.”
Similarly, when passionate spending cutters explain their plans, they tend to phrase it in terms of rolling back to a previous level of spending: “These ‘draconian’ cuts in fact only represent a return to 2006 spending levels. Did we starve in the streets then? Did the world end?” Continue reading