Civil Dialogue Between a Darwin Evolutionist and Natural Law Theorist

Monday, July 26, AD 2010

On Blogging Heads TV, Robert Wright discusses how we reason about the human good with Robert P. George of Princeton University, a leading scholar of modern natural law theory (with whom readers are no doubt familiar).

Subjects discussed:

  • Chapter 1: Natural law vs. utilitarianism (12:01)
  • Chapter 2: Why exactly is friendship good? (14:03)
  • Chapter 3: Euthanasia and human dignity (7:22)
  • Chapter 4: Natural law and conservativism (5:02)
  • Chapter 5: What can be done in the name of the greater good? (12:28)
  • Chapter 6: Just war theory (6:17)

Robert Wright is the author of The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, and The Evolution of God.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and a member of the Task Force on the Virtues of a Free Society of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His books include In Defense of Natural Law and Clash Of Orthodoxies: Law Religion & Morality In Crisis.

I’ve watched a few episodes of ‘BloggingHeads’ — video debates between leading bloggers/authors — but this was the first with Dr. George, who is very adept at getting right to the point and crystallizing the respective positions of each side. Likewise this may serve as a good introduction to viewers who aren’t generally accustomed to analyzing moral situations from a (Catholic) natural law perspective.

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"Is There a Common Ground on Life Issues?" — A discussion with Robert P. George and Doug Kmiec, moderated by Mary Ann Glendon

Friday, May 29, AD 2009

Robert P. George and Doug Kmiec engaged in a discussion of the topic, “The Obama Administration and the Sanctity of Human Life: Is There a Common Ground on Life Issues? What is the Right Response by ‘Pro-Life” Citizens?” at Washington, D.C.’s National Press Club, Thursday, May 28, 2009. The discussion was moderated by Mary Ann Glendon.

You can watch the video on CUA’s website here; or on C-Span here.

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8 Responses to "Is There a Common Ground on Life Issues?" — A discussion with Robert P. George and Doug Kmiec, moderated by Mary Ann Glendon

  • You can find the transcript of George’s opening remarks at Public Discourse: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/viewarticle.php?selectedarticle=2009.05.29.001.pdart

  • I’m into the first 20 minutes and Kmiec is clearly showing his true colors by believing in the farce of global warming and embracing the radical environmental agenda. He’s now belly-aching about being denied Communion.

  • Kmiec is complaining about Chaput and Burke and accusing them of not being Catholic. He’s sounding more and more like Deacon Kandra where he holds his conscious above that of the teachings of the Church.

  • 30 minutes into the “discussion” he is still belly-aching about being denied Communion.

    He finally stopped. He finished with pretty much saying he’s still a good Catholic.

    He doesn’t even believe his own lies.

  • Robert George just finished a very well articulated pro-life position for opposing Obama’s anti-life policies. Unlike Kmiec, he spoke confidently, he didn’t belly-ache, and he spoke with purpose.

    Kmiec on the other hand spoke as if he had the wind knocked out of him. You could plainly see the difference between the two in how they spoke and carried themselves. Kmiec has obviously felt the burden of supporting evil. Kmiec’s speech was that of “intent”, ie, his intentions are pro-life even if he supported Obama.

    George spoke with substance on where we can find common ground and where we differ. Completely different from Kmiec’s narcissistic diatribe.

  • Kmiec just denied that science supports that life begins at a very early stage. He’s clearly gone off the deep end. I believe he’s so vested with the most pro-abortion president that he has reconciled himself to his fate.

  • Kmiec fielded a question about why he calls denial of Communion “intimidation”. Kmiec basically belly-ached that he is pro-life and called those bishops that deny Communion and I quote, “wrong-headed”.

    What arrogance.

  • Wow. Kmiec has admitted that ESCR is ok. WOW! He is a regular Richie Rich. Kmiec is going against Church teaching. He rests his case on “intent” and “conscious”. Pretty sad.

    It was a pretty good panel discussion.

Bishop Joseph Martino: "No Social Issue Has Caused The Death Of 50 million People"

Wednesday, October 22, AD 2008

27 Responses to Bishop Joseph Martino: "No Social Issue Has Caused The Death Of 50 million People"

  • Do I detect a double standard?

    For some people, the Catholic Church and its Bishops are just a convenient tool to be used in support of their pre-existing political ideology.

  • It’s interesting that the USCCB had near universal approval, but many (61) bishops have come out to ‘clarify’ the document in their own dioceses. Do the bishops actually read what they approve?

    What is a particular issue with me is that sometimes the USCCB is treated as an alternate or parallel national ‘magisterium’. Nowhere in canon law, tradition, scripture, et al do we have a need or a proscription of an alternate magisterium.

    Is the USCCB a way that some (spine-deficient) bishops use as cover to not use their teaching position to express secularly touchy issues? I think it is used in this way by some.

  • Botean’s statement on Iraq was in continuity with the judgment of the Vatican and the USCCB, and he did not speak against the USCCB. As I said in the quote of mine you cited, what Botean did was to give pastoral weight to the view of the USCCB. Martino’s statement, on the other hand, is simply an explicit rejection of the USCCB. It’s hardly a double-standard. The two situations are entirely different.

    The real double-standard is the one I pointed to in my post on Martino.

  • What is a particular issue with me is that sometimes the USCCB is treated as an alternate or parallel national ‘magisterium’. Nowhere in canon law, tradition, scripture, et al do we have a need or a proscription of an alternate magisterium.

    The USCCB is not an “alternative” magisterium, but it is indeed part of the magisterium because it is comprised of bishops:

    “22. In dealing with new questions and in acting so that the message of Christ enlightens and guides people’s consciences in resolving new problems arising from changes in society, the Bishops assembled in the Episcopal Conference and jointly exercizing their teaching office are well aware of the limits of their pronouncements. While being official and authentic and in communion with the Apostolic See, these pronouncements do not have the characteristics of a universal magisterium. For this reason the Bishops are to be careful to avoid interfering with the doctrinal work of the Bishops of other territories, bearing in mind the wider, even world-wide, resonance which the means of social communication give to the events of a particular region.

    Taking into account that the authentic magisterium of the Bishops, namely what they teach insofar as they are invested with the authority of Christ, must always be in communion with the Head of the College and its members,(83) when the doctrinal declarations of Episcopal Conferences are approved unanimously, they may certainly be issued in the name of the Conferences themselves, and the faithful are obliged to adhere with a sense of religious respect to that authentic magisterium of their own Bishops.”

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/motu_proprio/documents/hf_jp-ii_motu-proprio_22071998_apostolos-suos_en.html

  • Michael I.,

    First of all congratulations on your newborn child. This has got to be a wonderful and momentous time in your life.

    Second of all, don’t you think you’re clouding the issue with your double-speak (double-standard). Clearly Botean went beyond the USCCB letter. He put his own opinion and conflated with Church teaching to push his particular agenda. He has every right to do so, but it is just the same still a double standard.

  • Oh man, my bad. I wasn’t paying close enough attention and thought this was another website (American Papist). Had I known it was American Catholic I would not have replied to this post. Do accept my apologies. Won’t happen again.

  • Michael I.,

    By saying that “it is PART of the Magisterium” is to lend it the same teaching authority of the Magisterium.

    If you read Pope JP2’s motu proprio carefully it says, “these pronouncements do not have the characteristics of a universal magisterium”.

    So any teaching document that comes out or approved by the USCCB is not part of the magisterium.

  • Second of all, don’t you think you’re clouding the issue with your double-speak (double-standard). Clearly Botean went beyond the USCCB letter. He put his own opinion and conflated with Church teaching to push his particular agenda.

    Yes, he went beyond it, but in continuity with it. What he did was to give specific pastoral guidance to his diocese based on 1) just war teaching and 2) the common view of the Vatican and the USCCB on the specifics of the Iraq War. His pastoral guidance was given in communion with the judgment of the Church. What Martino did was the direct opposite.

  • Good . . . your ideological pre-commitments often prevent any contribution to helpful or honest debate.

  • Michael I.,

    Thank you for your kind comments in comparison to American Papist.

  • By saying that “it is PART of the Magisterium” is to lend it the same teaching authority of the Magisterium.

    If you read Pope JP2’s motu proprio carefully it says, “these pronouncements do not have the characteristics of a universal magisterium”.

    So any teaching document that comes out or approved by the USCCB is not part of the magisterium.

    Tito, to say that the USCCB does not enjoy the authority of the “universal magisterium” means that its teaching is not applicable to the Church as a whole, but only to the Church in the region under discussion. This is obvious, because that is the entire purpose of bishops’ conferences, to teach authoritatively in a particular context. Not every USCCB teaching has the same weight, but USCCB teaching IS magisterial teaching in the context of the united states and “the faithful are obliged to adhere with a sense of religious respect to that authentic magisterium of their own Bishops.” Amazing that you can read the same words I copied there and still say that the USCCB is “not part of the magisterium.”

  • Michael I.,

    I agree that Botean’s letter is within Catholic teaching, but so did Bishop Martino’s extended comments on his particular letter did as well.

    I guess we just disagree on the semantics and/or rhetoric that was attached to the respective pronouncements.

  • Michael I.,

    Likewise. We both read the same motu proprio but come away with different understandings of the late Pope’s document.

    I think we just disagree on what the definition and the utility of what Magisterium is.

  • I agree that Botean’s letter is within Catholic teaching, but so did Bishop Martino’s extended comments on his particular letter did as well.

    Martino EXPLICITLY REJECTED the USCCB document in his comments at a parish session on Faithful Citizenship. Perhaps you missed that part.

    We both read the same motu proprio but come away with different understandings of the late Pope’s document.

    The motu proprio explicitly says that bishops’ conferences are part of the “authentic magisterium.”

    I think we just disagree on what the definition and the utility of what Magisterium is.

    I suggest you do further study on this. The magisterium is the teaching authority of the bishops in union with the Bishop of Rome. The definition is straightforward. It could even be said to be “non-negotiable,” to use language that you could understand.

  • I was just wondering. Are they going to show this video in Churches between now and November 4th?

    http://www.catholicvote.com/

    I stumbled upon this video it by accident and I doubt if most Catholics have seen it. Also, will there be a final “push” by priests in their homilies to vote for the “Culture of Life”?

  • Don’t have much time to discuss further, but I do believe Botean — as Michael Iafrate recognized in his original praise — went above and beyond the USCCB with respect to his statement on the war.

    Cardinal McCarrick, March 25 2003:

    Q: One-third of the U.S. soldiers are Catholic. For them, this war represents a moral dilemma.

    Cardinal McCarrick: Certainly. Because of this, as an episcopal conference we have been very careful not to classify their participation in the conflict as immoral, both because we are not up-to-date on all the facts that have led to the conflict, as well as because these young people do not have decision-making power.

    For Botean this was a clear certainty, and it follows — from his perspective — that the episcopal conference’s reluctance to declare participation on the part of US Catholics in the armed forces immoral was wrong.

    Botean didn’t explicitly challenge the USCCB’s statement, but he did go further.

  • I think it’s also important to be clear on Martino’s comments: Read in context (you approve of reading in context, do you not, Michael) he does not say that the USCCB document is wrong, but rather said forcefully that the USCCB document could not be used in order to undermine what he had said clearly and forcefully in his letter.

    I guess one can quibble with the way in which he chose to say that the USCCB document should not be used to undermine his teaching, but saying that he explicitly reject the document is wrong.

  • Michael I.,

    What Brendan/Darwin & Christopher said.

    Again, we can agree to disagree.

  • Cathy,

    We did post the video here on American Catholic.

    Go here:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2008/10/11/american-catholic-2008/

    In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,

    Tito

  • We may be seeing the beginning of the end of the USCCB. Both as a formal organization and as a means of our shepherds to speak with one voice. The events of this year are pulling it apart- the presidential election, the likelihood of a radical pro-abortion advocate to the presidency, Pope Benedict’s lectureat their gathering, the babblings of Senator Biden and Speaker Pelosi. If 61 bishops have felt it necessary to make their own statements about abortion, citizenship and the like; if certain stellar prelates like Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Martino have been much bolder than their peers, the usual okey-doke collegiality may now be a thing of the past. Good riddance. The USCCB format may not work in an atmosphere where there will be- not might, will be- direct opposition by Obama Administration officials against the U.S. Church on Issue Number One. Different wars call for different weapons. The usual nuanced USCCB statement might be a popgun when bigger, more powerful weapons are needed.

  • I am not particularly a fan of the USCCB. It has ‘some’ useful functions, but in my opinion it has been a joke for quite awhile.

    It will be interesting how much tap-dancing the USCCB will be displaying if an Obama presidency materializes. How much certain bishops will speak up for Obama and not against his anti-life policies.

    The USCCB needs to reform or face futher scrutiny. A post may be forthcoming.

  • I guess one can quibble with the way in which he chose to say that the USCCB document should not be used to undermine his teaching, but saying that he explicitly reject the document is wrong.

    Indeed I am a fan of reading things in context. The “context” was a meeting about Faithful Citizenship in which a variety of views on who to vote for were expressed. Martino said that the USCCB document is “irrelevant.” I don’t see how you can say that this is not an explicit rejection of FS. You seem to be abusing the idea of reading “in context.”

    Tito and Gerard, the USCCB is not going anywhere. Paul VI proclaimed the importance of bishops conferences and JPII affirmed it.

  • Michael I.,

    I agree with you. I just want the USCCB to clear and coherent on Church teaching. Not muddy the water and drive over 60 bishops to issue ‘clarifications’ on documents.

  • Michael,

    Context means looking at more than one word. That he used the word “irrelevant” does not mean that he was rejecting Faithful Citizenship as a document. He has presented it as his judgement that there are currently no proportional reasons for voting for a pro-choice candidate — and has done so in a way which is certainly not contradictory to the structure of reasoning laid out by Faithful Citizenship. (I would disagree with some of the commenters above that there is anything wrong with FC as a document — other than being a bit discursive as a result of being committee written.)

    But I can certainly understand his frustration with people trying to use the document which he himself had a part in writing and approving against what he considers to be the obviousl conclusion to draw from it. (Just as you’ve been known to get a little hot under the collar when those who disagree with you about the Iraq War explain their reasoning via just war doctrine.) And I don’t think his words were in appropriate in that context.

    On the question of the USCCB which some of brought up above — I certainly don’t see reason to expect some sort of “crack up” for it in the coming years. Though the centuries, local hierarchies have always been pulled into the political and cultural turmoils of the day, and I don’t think its surprising that we see similar turmoils in the USCCB as they grapple with how to bring the US back towards something more resembling a culture of life.

  • But I can certainly understand his frustration with people trying to use the document which he himself had a part in writing and approving against what he considers to be the obviousl conclusion to draw from it.

    Actually, from what I understand, Martino decided not to attend the meeting at which FS was voted on.

  • Moral issues and Voting issues do not mix.
    To argue Morality, then to cleanly slip into Politics is an enormous and wrenching step that the Bishop wants us to believe is simple and easy.

    To vote pro-life is no guarantee that the candidate actually believes in the religious and moral import of the notion, nor that he has any intention of acting according to his beliefs.
    The Bishop seems to think that the label of pro-life being attached to a candidate is enough for the voter.
    An entire life does not render a voter capable of comprehending the complexities of God’s world; not to know why evil exists, not to know why we suffer; just dumb brutes pulling voting machine levers.

    Not to vote if a sufficiently adequate pro life candidate is not in the race means running the risk of allowing worse policies to become law under the leadership of elected officials with no input from voters who reflect on moral law.

    The Bishop’s letter is the product of a wondeful mind, which yet is simple to the point of dangerously allowing candidates under the label of pro life to be elected and to quite possibly foster pernicious policies against the general welfare.

Robert George On Obama's Pro-Life Defenders

Wednesday, October 15, AD 2008

(via Pro Ecclesia) Over at Public Discourse, Prof. Robert George has an article entitled “Obama’s Abortion Extremism” which is very much worth reading:

I have examined the arguments advanced by Obama’s self-identified pro-life supporters, and they are spectacularly weak. It is nearly unfathomable to me that those advancing them can honestly believe what they are saying. But before proving my claims about Obama’s abortion extremism, let me explain why I have described Obama as ”pro-abortion” rather than ”pro-choice.”

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6 Responses to Robert George On Obama's Pro-Life Defenders

  • This article is devastating to the ‘Catholic’ case for Obama.

  • THere really *is* no “catholic case for Obama”. Those who support him based on his war position, or on his promises of economic benefits to “the least of these”, are just practicing another form of cafeteria Catholicism.

    As clergy, I would never tell anyone for whom they should vote; vote for whom you like. But please, please, please don’t try to call it anything other than what it is when you vote for the Democrats: it is a compromise with the devil. You might (emphasis on *might*) get what you think you want, but the millions of children who will die becuase abortion becomes enshrined in law even more than it is today willcertainly not get what *they* want: a chance to draw breath outside their mothers’ wombs.

  • I don’t know how Christian can claim to support Obama because of his war position. Obama has pledged to defeat the Taliban in northwestern Pakistan and in southern Afghanistan. Obama has several times he wants to send 10,000 extra U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Obama repeated his threat to hit at al-Qaida in neighboring Pakistan unilaterally. This sounds like the expansion of war in the world not reduction.

  • Something that seems to be missing in all the abortion arguments, and the one that I hope to cover tomorrow in a post, is the “inconvenience factor” that leads women to have abortions. When the primary reason to abort a child is because it is “inconvenient” to have a child at a particular time (due to career choices and financial matters and so on), how are economics going to solve that issue? Yes, I understand that poverty is often an excuse for abortion, as exemplified by the large number of abortions among low-income black women. But at the same time, many women have abortions not because of poverty, but because they’re on track for high-paying jobs (either going to school or working up the ladder in a business) and they don’t feel they can wreck their careers with a baby.

    Fixing the economy won’t end abortion. Having good foreign relations won’t end abortion. Having universal health care won’t end abortion. Raising our science and math scores won’t end abortion. Nothing will end abortion unless people realize why abortion is always, always, always a grave evil: because it puts self above all other considerations.

  • Nathan, you may be under-appreciating the subtle intelligence of the Catholic Democrat voter. Catholic Democrats know that Obama isn’t really serious when he says he will sign the FOCA, or fund embryonic stem-cell research on a large sale, or advocate irresponsible militaristic approaches foreign policy (that’s just election-year rhetoric).

    Conversely, they know what Obama is serious about – doing all of the good things with health care/education/ redistribution that they want him to. Obama is to be contrasted with McCain who hides how evil he really is (he wants to attack Iran!) with more moderate statements, and he doesn’t really intend to help anyone or appoint pro-life judges. It’s a level of subtlety that, I confess, I am not able to appreciate.

  • This article is an outstanding summation about the dangers of Obama’s clearly stated intentions and goals.

Kmiec on Korzen, Kelly and Chaput – A Matter of Priorities

Monday, October 13, AD 2008

“Catholic Answers: Two books for voters who take their faith seriously”– Doug Kmiec, who has lately become something of a poster-boy and spokesman for ‘Catholics for Obama’, reviews Archbishop Chaput’s Render unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life (Doubleday, 2008) and A Nation for All How the Catholic Vision of the Common Good Can Save America from the Politics of Division , by Chris Korzen and Alexia Kelley.

As to be expected, Kmiec finds a sympathetic ear in Korzen & Kelley, given their assertion that Catholics have become ‘preoccupied’ with abortion to the subordination of peace, the environment and welfare:

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5 Responses to Kmiec on Korzen, Kelly and Chaput – A Matter of Priorities

  • I cannot help but believe that these guys simply have no interest in abortion as an issue. I don’t believe their insistence that they are somehow pro-life, nor can I believe that they honestly think that Barack Obama will cure war and poverty in the same way that they criticize Republicans for not having ended abortion.

    At best, these guys may think that they’ll be pro-life later, when there ain’t-a gonna be no war no more, and when the poor are no longer with us. But I can’t help my suspicion that, even if they could achieve these things, they’d still want to uphold the “right” to an abortion.

    Their refusal to be taught by the bishops and the Holy Father on this issue is most telling. They are desperate to justify their vote for Obama and the new ardently pro-abortion regime he promises. Maybe they can sleep at night after spending their days giving such scandal, but I couldn’t.

  • I believe it is utter rationalization to vote for Democrats, who champion the culture of death in all its forms, because the Republicans haven’t eliminated abortion themselves. Congress operates on coalitions, and, Bush has only been able to get two Supremes through…both pro-life.

    Simply put, it is the ONLY issue this year…everything else pales next to the sacred duty of all Christians to uphold “personhood!” The Natural Law, upholds the dignity of each human life, but, for Christians, it is the Holy Trinity, ie., “three Divine Persons in communion,” which bestows ultimate dignity on human personhood. “Personhood” is the ultimate victim in every abortion.”

  • “Of course, voting for a “prolife” candidate does not guarantee that he will appoint Supreme Court justices who accept the church’s natural-law arguments against abortion. Nor does it mean that anti-Roe appointees will be approved by what is sure to be a Democratic Congress.”

    Is Kmiec trying to say that only “natural law” jurists will be anti-Roe?

    One of Kmiec’s arguments that really concerns me holds that we’ve been counting anti-Roe justices wrong.

    First, because the GOP is unwilling to make openly the case for overturning Roe, we have to judge anti-Roe justices by circumstantial evidence, like whether his wife is a strong pro-life woman.

    Even if a justice is putatively anti-Roe, he or she might not completely overturn Roe but only make minor piecemeal changes. The justice might be more committed to stare decisis or schools of jurisprudence that would mitigate his or her desire to fully overturn the decision.

    As for FOCA, I’d like to know if it has a realistic chance of passing even under a predominantly Democratic Congress.

  • But why is the GOP unwilling to openly make the case for overturning Roe?

    I think it is because this type of campaigning is easily misunderstood; people may misunderstand the Constitution and the law. It also might not be a very winning issue politically.

    I don’t think this is a good excuse, but it’s probably why they’re not doing it.

  • Kevin – FOCA has been attempted in the past. However, there is more support for it from members of Congress than ever more. The current legislation was introduced April 19, 2007. Planned Parenthood is actively campaigning for the bill. See: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/issues-action/courts-judiciary/support-foca-14393.htm

    Given our country’s political climate at this time in history, it would be imprudent for Catholics to assume the FOCA is too radical to ever be passed.

    The house bill has already more than 107 cosponsors (106 Democrats, one Republican). To view an always-current list of co-sponsors, arranged by state, click here for the current list: http://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/issues/bills/?bill=9653451&cs_party=all&cs_status=C&cs_state=ALL

    The senate version introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.), had more than 19 Democratic cosponsors, including presidential candidate Barack Obama (IL) plus Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY), and independent Joseph Lieberman (Ct.). To view an always-current list of co-sponsors, arranged by state, click http://www.capwiz.com/nrlc/issues/bills/?bill=9668701&cs_party=all&cs_status=C&cs_state=ALL.

    This bill is so dangerious that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Pro-Life Secretariat has urged clear, vigilant, and persistent advocacy against the “Freedom of Choice Act” (or FOCA). The Pro-Life Secretariat has expressed grave concern to state Catholic conferences that FOCA would, if enacted and signed into law, sweep away hundreds of pro-life laws and policies at the state and federal levels! Check out the USCCB-approved alert released September 24, 2008: http://www.nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=263

    For a careful legal analysis of FOCA by the USCCB’s Office of General Counsel, see: http://www.nchla.org/datasource/idocuments/pl-foca.pdf

    Cardinal Rigali recently warned “if enacted, would obliterate virtually all the gains of the past 35 years and cause the abortion rate to skyrocket.” See the September 30, 2008 press release from USCCB about FOCA: http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2008/08-141.shtml