That our parishioners may vote against the mass murderer of the unborn, we pray to the Lord

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Here's an excerpt from this week's parish bulletin message by Monsignor John J. Malloy, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in San Francisco (the Italian Cathedral of the West!):

The culture of Death is a clear and present danger to our American Society. The Holy Father is outspoken in his cries against it, but, unfortunately, too many of our Catholic population do not support his teachings. The result is: our role in forming godly ideas and ideals of American policy is torn by division. We are a divided America and a divided Catholic population. Unfortunately, the division impinges on the very foundations of our Church and our society. Our Catholics need to know the truth of these hot button issue and vote the truth.

"Now all eyes" as John Mallon wrote in Inside the Vatican "are on the U.S. presidential election and the outcome may well be the decisive factor in whether the Culture of Death or a civilization that cherishes life will prevail throughout the first half of the 21st century, Unfortunately, John Kerry, a Catholic, is the Culture of Death 's champion."

Now the issue of whether a champion for abortion, calling himself a Catholic, should or should not be admitted to Holy Communion is called into question. Does not the law of the Church require certain conditions for worthy reception of the Eucharist? Are politicians, or any Catholic, exempt from the law?

The church is portrayed as authoritarian, telling politicians (and Catholics) how to vote. Nothing could be farther from the truth, The church is authoritative and not authoritarian…. And abortion and single sex marriage is contrary to God's law, which is above church or state law…

Unfortunately, too many of our judges are taking the law in their own hands and, despite the will of the people, changing the constitutions by "fiat" (e.g. marriage laws). Voters beware, and, voters, use your right to uphold God's law. If Catholics stand together, we can sway a close vote on issues of life and death, truth and license. If all Catholics had voted to uphold life, for example, we would not have the horrors of abortion we suffer through today. If all Catholics vote a right conscience, we will stay the Culture of Death that threatens to engulf our land.

Rev. John J. Malloy, SDB

This is one priest in one church in a state Kerry is expected to win and a city where he's expected to get 105 percent of the vote. Nor do I have any sympathy for Kerry, who at this point must be wishing he'd hitched his deep-personal-faith wagon to the Presbyterian or Episcopal Church. But this document is an overt voters' guide that cites a candidate by name and very clearly instructs readers on how to vote with regard to that candidate. If, say, the Reason Foundation issued such a document, its tax-exempt status would be yanked. Where are McCain and Feingold? When Democrats work the black church circuit, Republicans complain, rightly, about pulpit politicking. Do they really want to get the priests involved in campaigning too?

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  1. Given his preference for style over substance, I do wonder how Live Shot *truly* feels about abortion.

  2. Well yes, they do want the Church involved. Hand over your parish directories now.

    Next question?

  3. Yet another reason to vote for Kerry; to piss off the religious right. 🙂

  4. Please note that the Pope has criticized the war in Iraq and come down firmly against capital punishment.

    I hope Fr. Malloy’s bulletin next week will, then, give equal time to that other “champion of death”.

  5. Actually I have heard about these voter guides in Roman catholic churches and I find them offensive. In general, I support the Church’s stance on abortion (but then I am a guy who won’t get pregnant…at least not in this lifetime). I have to ask myself what do I find so offensive? It is not so much the usual war cry of separation of church and state, but more pissed off feeling that the Catholic Church still has paternalistic attitude toward a highly educated laity that they have to take such a heavy handed measure. They act as though they are dealing with the illiterate peasants who just got of the boat from Europe. Catholics of any stripe know what the Church teaches on abortion….if they don’t, they’ve been living under a glacier in Antarctica. The Pope and bishops have become sort of a one note Charlie in regard to the abortion issue. Yes, they have put their money where their mouth is in certain dioceses insofar as providing shelter and aid for unwed mothers who want to keep their babies. Unfortunately, with all the scandals within the clergy they’d take a softer method in voicing their stance…..and because of this, my ears don’t automatically perk up with every ecclesiastical gastric eruption.

  6. Does not the church tell it’s constituancy how to vote anyway? Whethor or not they say specifically who, the fact that they have a stance on anything at all should raise the very same question.

    Tim,

    If a Satanist ran for office, the church wouldn’t need to be so blatant, but it’d essentially be saying the same thing. Perhaps the real problem is not what they say, but the tax status or the McCain-Feingold Law.

  7. The Pope’s a kook, just like anyone else who hears voices from the ‘Almighty’. Ignore him.

    jdog.

    Sorry, I’m genetic Catholic, that would be “Ignore Him”.

  8. Catholic leaders are a little late jumping on the religious politics bandwagon. This was tried ad nauseam starting in the 70s and 80s by Protestant Televangelists. (And Radiovangelists.) The movement became known as the Religious Right, and has largely been a failure, both in terms of US policy and public relations. The last poll I saw had sixty-seven percent of the US feeling unfavorable towards the Religious Right.

    I wonder if they’ve thought of the consequences of this ploy. The fractures it would cause in an already wounded US church would be enormous. If all your liberal parishioners leave — which might well be 50% or more — how do you make up for the loss in tithes and offerings? Stateside help? I hope to hell not!

    All the Catholics I know are liberal and vote Democrat. I’m on the West coast, so maybe my view of the situation is distorted by that. But my observation is that they’re more tied to the Democratic Party than the Catholic Church. Seems to me if you force them to choose, they’ll take the Dems.

    I can’t see any benefit to the Church from this, only drawbacks. The separation of Church and State is as much for protecting private religion as it is for keeping out Theocracies. If they want to play games with that freedom, I guess they can feel free, but they may not like the results.

  9. many parishes on long island which had run halfway houses for unwed mothers and their children have been shut down in the last three years because of money being required to pay off some extraordinary legal bills. yet another reason the laity should be pissed off.

  10. Oy vey, my ultra-Catholic father rambles on, and on, about Kerry and Communion, or anyone who’s cars he sees in the church parking lot before Mass bearing a Democratic bumper sticker: “Don’t they know that Bill Clinton/John Kerry/Herb Kohl/Russ Feingold support abortion! Since you can’t be a Catholic and support abortion, a Catholic can’t, in good conscience, be a Democrat!!!”

    Of course, what he fails to see is that while the liberal Catholic may personally abhor abortion, they realize that making it illegal would be constitutionally and ethically problematic (Which would you prefer? An aborted fetus, or a mother lying dead in a back ally?), so they put economic issues before protoplasm politics and vote Dems.

    I’d try to tell him this, but I want to keep my front teeth.

  11. “Yet another reason to vote for Kerry; to piss off the religious right. :)”

    I often wonder why the term ‘Religious Left’ never caught on. There’s certainly a bundle that fit this mold, including the likes of “Rev” Jesse Jackson, “Rev” Sharpton, and other members of various church organizations that crawl out of the woodwork for every march, boycott, and protest. And these guys are in many ways worse than their right-wing counterparts. Not only do you get the same preaching and condemning, but you get ultra-statist economics to boot.

  12. Well, if a Catholic is going to vote solely by the Church’s party line on life issues, capital punishment and war certainly come to mind. On capital punishment Kerry is better than Bush from the Church’s perspective. On abortion Bush is better. On war, well, the Church probably wouldn’t have much good to say about either of them.

    Yes, yes, I know, many would argue that Church is wrong on one or more of those issues. My only point is that even if one takes the Church’s perspective (yes, I know, most don’t) it still isn’t clear that one should side with Bush.

  13. Our loony Catholic letter-to-the-editor writers say that since without, you know, fetuses and whatnot, there can be no other form of life, the abortion issue trumps the death penalty and just war and all that other stuff.

  14. D.A.: Oh, I agree. I trust Jackson and Sharpton as much as I do Fawell and Robertson: Not at all. In a completely fair universe, anyone who claims that “God” commands them from on high tell the rest of how to live, be it abortion, taxation, gays, affirmative action, or welfare should be universally despised.

    But we don’t live in such a ‘Verse. The news cameras are all warm and snuggly with Jesse Jackson at a homeless shelter, slinging hash for the bums and spewing rhyming, politically correct, slogans that show the world how much he cares.

    However, when you get Fawell thows a fit about gays, or Robertson claiming that feminists are communist, lesbian witches (in the literal sense of the word) intent on killing their husbands and unborn children… It’s all in the packaging.

    The Religious Left may be just a crazy as the Religious Right, but they tend to at least appear kinder and more fuzzy than you’re average right-wing bible-beater.

  15. DHEX says,

    “many parishes on long island which had run halfway houses for unwed mothers and their children have been shut down in the last three years because of money being required to pay off some extraordinary legal bills. yet another reason the laity should be pissed off.”

    Huuh? The laity is just as irrational and guilty as the church and pope they finance, by definition. What don’t you get ?

    Jdog

  16. The church is portrayed as authoritarian, telling politicians (and Catholics) how to vote. Nothing could be farther from the truth, The church is authoritative and not authoritarian…. And abortion and single sex marriage is contrary to God’s law, which is above church or state law…

    I thought “church law” WAS God’s law. You mean to tell me that all of those “church laws” enacted over the centuries were a load of crap?

    I’ll make it real simple for Rev. Malloy… if he wants to get his church involved with politics, that’s fine. Just give up his tax-exempt status and pay his admission like the rest of us!

  17. The movement became known as the Religious Right, and has largely been a failure, both in terms of US policy and public relations.

    Really? It seems to me they’ve managed to take over the Republican party quite handily. They’ve helped to ensure that no politician can make it above the level of city councillor without digressing for hours about his religion. They’ve brought us very close to handing out tax dollars to religious organizations who preach. I’d say the Religious Right has been extremely successful.

  18. “I thought “church law” WAS God’s law. You mean to tell me that all of those “church laws” enacted over the centuries were a load of crap?”

    I don’t know, talk to the Giant Queen Spider and find out what she has to say.

  19. Patrick,

    It depends on your definition of success. Abortion is still legal, sodomy is now legal. They’ve never come close to their Theocratic goals. I grant you they’ve taken over the Republican Party, but they don’t have much to show for it in public policy.

    They couldn’t even muster their Majority party on the FMA. If I were a Fundie, I’d be asking what’s the point.

  20. The first JFK had difficulties during his campaign because so many Americans were afraid that if they elected a Catholic, he’d ignore the Constitution and take orders from the Vatican. Why is the Catholic Church doing its best to revive such fears?

  21. This is…a state Kerry is expected to win and a city where he’s expected to get 105 percent of the vote.

    Anyone not familiar with San Francisco politics might be surprised that Kerry is viewed as almost reactionarily right wing by the much of the local electorate. By comparison, our gay marriage pioneer Mayor, Gavin Newsom, is seen as simply right wing with now some good ideas.

    That, plus the fact that there’s no chance GWB will win CA would lead me to guess that Nader will easily get 10% of the vote in SF and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get 20%.

    Of course, GWB could possibly receive less than 10% in a few of our voting districts.

  22. I find it a little embarrassing that so many church leaders have such a poor understanding of the limits of government power, and the rights of individuals, in a democratic republic.

    You don’t create a culture of life at gunpoint.

  23. Also Patrick, I just realized it might depend on where you live. I live on the West Coast. I think the Religious Right has learned the hard way that bible-beating doesn’t work here. It’s helped elect many a Democrat.

    Since the Priest in question was in San Francisco, I guess I’m mostly talking about West Coast politics.

  24. Whatever happened to giving Ceasar what is Ceasar’s?

  25. First, the Bush campaign tried to get mostly- Protestant churches in Pennsylvania to swing the election with voting guides.

    But as we all know, the Protestant work ethic and their natural affinity for finance caused many of these churches to wonder about the threat to their tax-exempt status.

    It seems that the Catholic church was never worried about money: what with the priest-abuse lawsuits, and now the dance with the IRS lawyers. Oh yeah, and Tetzel selling indulgences; what was that all about?

    Hurrah for good intentions! Bankruptcy of several diocese would appear to lead the RCC toward money from politicians with the most to lose, and who may lose the most.

  26. Though as a follow-up, I think that members of the clergy should be able to say what they want, you know that whole blasted 1st Amendment thing. There is a major problem with CFR and a dumb letter from a dumb bishop doesn’t change that.

  27. Good question, Mo. What ever happened to “My kingdom is not of this earth?”

  28. REv Molloy SDB
    Thats SDB for Salesians of Don Bosco one of the orders most negligent for inaction over child/teen abusers within its ranks.
    Sounds like the Vatican is pushing these hard line religious order priests into liberal parishes instead of local diosecan priests

  29. Before I even begin, I hope someone will volunteer to translate me to thoreau.

    Mackeral snappers’ mass hysteria about abortion has its resonance in priests’ obsession with little boys.

    Ruthless folks such as I, are fond of saying, “Kill ’em all, and let God sort ’em out.”
    Haven’t they got it ass-backward?
    Shouldn’t God kill ’em all and let humankind sort ’em out?
    The point I’m trying to make in my tangential way is that humankind doesn’t have the faith in God they claim to have or it wouldn’t diss God that way: putting her on the level of a temp.

    Or is it that god deserves to be dissed–watch out thoreau and step n. fetchit–because she’s only an imaginary friend?
    She’s Raggedy Ann: able to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.

  30. In some ways the Catholic Church has gotten less progressive–a hundred years ago they were fine with abortion until the “quickening” (first fetal kick), then a few years ago they said that victims of rape camps in Kosovo should not be given the morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy. I confess, as an atheist who believes organized religion is more of a force for evil than good, I kind of enjoy watching religions tear themselves apart like this, but I feel sorry for the good-hearted believers suffering through needless moral dilemmas like this one.

  31. Thats SDB for Salesians of Don Bosco one of the orders most negligent for inaction over child/teen abusers within its ranks.
    Sounds like the Vatican is pushing these hard line religious order priests into liberal parishes instead of local diosecan priests

    Nah, the Salesians have been running SSP&P since the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. It’s a good back story, actually: The SDBs were known to be a “tough” or “urban” order, and were called into San Francisco because the North Beach Italians were notorious for beating the crap out of the priests the diocese had been sending out.

    Italian anti-clericalism is a forgotten chapter in American history, but it was very strong back in the day. It’s one of those movements that doesn’t fit neatly into anybody’s thumbnail version of the past.

    It’s true the Salesians have had a troubled history with young males. A few years back, one of the SDB priests at Corpus Christi church in the Excelsior got into a jam during a “job interview” with a comely 17-year-old hustler. If there have been any episodes at Sts. P&P, though, I don’t know about them.

    Ruthless, don’t be a bigot.

  32. Aren’t there at least three bands named “Culture of Death” just in Oakland alone? Maybe that was a concert poster?

  33. Catholics of any stripe know what the Church teaches on abortion….if they don’t, they’ve been living under a glacier in Antarctica

    So, when John Kerry voted against a ban on partial birth abortion (!), he had just returned from his igloo?

  34. “In some ways the Catholic Church has gotten less progressive–a hundred years ago they were fine with abortion until the ‘quickening’ (first fetal kick), then a few years ago they said that victims of rape camps in Kosovo should not be given the morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy.”

    If the Roman Catholics have repudiated the doctrine of abortion being OK prior to “quickening,” then that simply proves that they are willing to pay attention to the discoveries of science.

    As indicated by the very term “quickening,” this theory is based on the idea that an unborn child isn’t even alive until it moves in the womb. Sciencific discoveries have shown this to be false. The unborn child is alive from the moment of conception. If the Roman Catholics have availed themselves of the lights of modern science in order to renounce the medieval superstition of “quickening,” then more power to them!

    The position that abortion is OK in the early stages of pregnancy is not “progressive”-it is unscientific and silly. If you want to criticize anyone for their unscientific, superstitious views on fetal development, then look at the majority justices in *Roe v. Wade,* and the other geniuses who try to codify in law the principle of “a little bit pregnant.”

  35. Crimethink is doing a fine job of holding up the dogma against all comers, but the issue here (my issue, at any rate) is not abortion: It’s an increasing number of clergy engaging in open politicking, and the question of whether any organization doing this on such a large scale is an apolitical, tax-exempt group in any meaningful way.

    As the example of Cardinal McCarrick in D.C. demonstrates, the principle of subsidiarity is still in effect: Bishops and priests are all over the place on this business of withholding communion generally, and on the topic of Kerry specifically. Gaudium et Spes has its long (very long) discussion of participation in political life, but there is an equally voluminous, and even older, tradition of free will and individual conscience that created the don’t ask don’t tell policy for the eucharist: giving it freely and trusting in the good will of the communicant. It seems pretty foolish to overthrow that for the sake of a presidential campaign, and I couldn’t put it better than McCarrick did: “I’m not going to get into an altercation with somebody while I’m holding the body and blood of Christ in my hands.”

    Anyway, if the Catholic Church wants to do business in this way, that’s their business. My only interest here is as an American: In my capacity as an editor of Reason, I’m not allowed to tell people how to vote (whether they would actually do what I tell them does not matter; the point is that I’m not allowed under the tax code to tell them). Should a priest be allowed to do that and still claim a tax exemption? I don’t think so.

  36. Um, no, it’s not. The principle undergirding Catholic teachings on abortion is the personhood of the fertilized egg, blastocyst, embryo, and fetus. This is why victims of rape are enjoined from having an abortion just as much as other pregnant women.

    Gotta differ with you there, Joe. The principle is that all sexual relations must be “open to the possibility of procreation.” This is why birth control’s out as well as abortion. The rhythm method is a sort of soft shoe around this idea: I have never read a non-bullshit explanation of why it’s any more acceptable than any other method, and the nearest I can figure is that the rhythm method only lowers the chance, but doesn’t eliminate it. (Ironic given that in another context the church argues that condoms are so unreliable as to be useless.)

  37. Should a priest be allowed to do that and still claim a tax exemption? I don’t think so.

    fairly argued, tim, but we all know that organized religion (particularly venerated institutions thereof) traditionally hold a special status that no generalized tax-exempt can aspire to — as evidenced by language such as “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”, et al. i think that churches need not even file a 501(c)3 if they desire not to.

  38. joe,

    Can we agree, crimethink, that a blastocyst is a blob of cells?

    Yes, but so is a newborn baby, so are you, and so am I. The question is whether each of these blobs of cells constitute a human person — and it is on that that we would disagree.

    gaius,

    the actual postion is very clearly that any possible catholic birth is good, and any step taken in the other direction is bad — and this explains not only why children of rape cannot be aborted but also why birth control is a sin — and frankly why abstention among married couples is also a sin.

    Then how do you explain the Church’s fight against abortion and contraception in the developing world, the vast majority of which is not Catholic? That would seem to dilute the Catholic population of the world, wouldn’t it?

    crimethink, if too many “cultural Catholics” leave the Church, there may not be much of it left. I thought spreading the gospel was a Protestant mantra.

    No shit, kmw, I know there wouldn’t be a lot left. But it would no doubt be a leaner, meaner, and more effective Church without all the dead weight.

    And who do you think was spreading the gospel before the Reformation? 😉

  39. gaius and Tim, you both do a good job of identifying the beliefs that lead the Vatican in the direction of anti-abortion teachings, but your statements do not hold up as interpretations of official doctrine. Humanae Vitae, the most relevant teaching on the subject, translates as “Human Life,” and the teachings therein clearly ground Vatican teaching on abortion in the rights of the unborn person.

    Making the jump from teachings about contraception to teachings about abortion is a logical thing to do, Tim, but it is not the route taken by the Pope.

  40. Tim,

    The tradition of denying the Eucharist to public, unrepentant sinners is very, very, very old. For instance, St. Ambrose caused a stir when, as bishop of Milan, he denied communion to the Roman Emperor Theodosius in the early 400s, after the emperor brutally put down an uprising in Thessalonica. While the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy is the only practical way to handle it in most cases, giving the Eucharist to a person who publicly proclaims their disagreement with a basic teaching of the Church makes a joke out of the very idea of communion.

    As far as the tax-exemption issue, I would have to agree with you that this runs afoul of the IRS code. The Church usually gets around this by speaking about political issues rather than on particular candidates, but for whatever reasons, this priest chose to go further.

  41. joe,

    Actually, Humanae Vitae is the encyclical of Paul VI which mainly addresses contraception; I believe you’re referring to Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), written by the current pope, which covers abortion, contraception, and other life-death issues. It’s in this encyclical that he coins the phrases, “culture of life,” and “culture of death.” He attributes the modern acceptance of both abortion and contraception to a “contraceptive attitude,” that sees offspring as a danger to one’s own ambitions and welfare — an attitude that pervades not only pro-choice propaganda but also anti-teen-sex ads.

  42. That would seem to dilute the Catholic population of the world, wouldn’t it?

    lol — prospective converts? you’re right to note it. i think the catholic church has an ethical commitment to human life and its propagation as they see it, not just catholic life (even if that is the goal). but they act on that which they can.

    joe, fwiw, i think the vatican considers as doctrine the unborn person specifically because it is a hard-to-assail vehicle for encouraging procreation, which is the underlying desire.

  43. “joe, fwiw, i think the vatican considers as doctrine the unborn person specifically because it is a hard-to-assail vehicle for encouraging procreation, which is the underlying desire.”

    As do I. But a “you’re just saying that cuz…” argument, no matter how effective, still leaves the pretextual argument standing.

  44. Crimethink-

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_hist.htm

    Pope Innocent III started the “quickening” doctrine in the 12th century; Gregory XIV re-iterated it. It was rescinded in 1869. Forgive me for being 50 years off.

  45. The church can’t very well condemn either unequivocally, when: (a) in the Bible, God commanded the Israelites to execute criminals and start wars with their neighbors . . .

    God also commanded the Israelites to bash their neighbors’ babies heads against the rocks, so what exactly is the problem with abortion again? Or are we to believe that God condemns abortion but supports infanticide, as long as the infant belongs to the wrong ethnic group?

    And wasn’t inducing an abortion considered such a horrible thing among the Israelites that the penalty was, like, five bucks?

  46. I don’t quite understand how the idea that a single fertilized cell has a soul is more scientific than the idea of waiting for the quickening, either.

  47. Well, Jennifer, equally ludicrous is the absurd notion that suddenly, out of nowhere, something unliving became alive, ie, the egg and sperm fused and voila, life. Ridiculous in the extreme– the egg is alive, the sperm is alive.
    The problem with abortion and the vast majority of those who argue pro or con is that the very discussion is misconceived. When did life begin?
    Millions if not billions of years ago. End of story.
    The question for abortion is not even touched by the question of ‘when does life begin’ — it begins once, long long ago.
    The question that matter is — when do you have a new individual, a new person.
    And the answer to that is pretty clearly not at conception — the blastocyte is not meaningfully individuated as a human person.

    BTW, ever notice that the overwhelming percentage of anti-abortion folks are male? How very very odd…

    regards,
    Shirley Knott

  48. Jennifer,

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_hist.htm

    Considering that site doesn’t include footnotes for the documents of Aquinas, Innocent III, and Gregory XIV, supposedly advocating a tolerant approach to early abortion, and also has an obvious pro-choice bias, I’ll take their interpretation cum grano salis.

    I don’t quite understand how the idea that a single fertilized cell has a soul is more scientific than the idea of waiting for the quickening, either.

    Well, nothing involving a soul is going to be scientific, since it’s an inherently non-scientific concept. But embryology has shown that the embryo/fetus develops his/her vital systems (nervous, cardiovascular, etc) far earlier than had once been believed (ie in 1973). It certainly doesn’t offer any support whatsoever for the pro-choice mantra that the fetus is just a blob of cells.

  49. God also commanded the Israelites to bash their neighbors’ babies heads against the rocks, so what exactly is the problem with abortion again?

    “Blessed be those who dash [Babylon’s] babies against the rocks,” is in the Psalms, and a wish of the Israelites who’ve just been conquered by Babylon, not a command from God.

    Considerations of possible biblical inconsistency aside, the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church reasserts the right of the state to engage in warfare and practice capital punishment. It does insist that these actions are only just if there are no other options available, but since the determination of whether other options are available is not a matter of faith or morals, any anti-death penalty or anti-war stance proclaimed by the pope is not infallible, as the teaching on abortion is.

  50. Can we agree, crimethink, that a blastocyst is a blob of cells?

  51. “this endless argument is endless (in part) because one side argues a scientific question and the other a moral question.”-gaius marius

    Er, no, both sides are making a moral argument. The pro-life side is making the argument that an unborn child has a right to live based on its membership in the human race as an individual and bolsters that moral argument with a scientific one that an individual human is an individual human from conception. The pro-abortion rights side is making a moral argument that the mother’s right to control her body trumps the child’s right to live and attempts to eliminate the child’s rights by advancing a scientific argument (poorly reasoned) that the child is not really human enough to have any rights. Any argument that tries to establish rights or precedence within sets of competing rights is by definition a moral argument.

  52. a blastocyst is a blob of cells?

    this endless argument is endless (in part) because one side argues a scientific question and the other a moral question. what a blastocyst is defined as, or whether or not it can survive outside the womb is irrelevant.

    the moral principle that catholicism hangs its hat on is that procreation is your moral responsibility — and anything else is an amoral abdication of it. arguing the validity of that statement must be the central question.

  53. Ugh, where to begin….

    All the Catholics I know are liberal and vote Democrat. I’m on the West coast, so maybe my view of the situation is distorted by that. But my observation is that they’re more tied to the Democratic Party than the Catholic Church. Seems to me if you force them to choose, they’ll take the Dems.

    The ostensible purpose of the Catholic Church is not to put butts in the seats, but to spread the gospel. I suspect that this priest (and perhaps even the Pope) would rather have these “cultural Catholics” leave the Church and quit living a lie.

    Whatever happened to giving Ceasar what is Ceasar’s?

    That quote was about paying taxes. Jesus was certainly not saying that a Christian should just do whatever the govt told him; if so, what the hell were they getting thrown to lions and burned at the stake for? And certainly the Christian citizen of a democracy should have a more active role in government than a subject of Caesar would.

    Good question, Mo. What ever happened to “My kingdom is not of this earth?”

    “My kingdom is not from this earth” is a better translation in the context of Pilate’s question. Again, just because Jesus isn’t looking to establish an earthly kingdom, doesn’t mean that Christians should just sit idly by and allow innocent human beings to be killed.

    In some ways the Catholic Church has gotten less progressive–a hundred years ago they were fine with abortion until the “quickening” (first fetal kick), then a few years ago they said that victims of rape camps in Kosovo should not be given the morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy.

    Link for the Catholic Church’s being fine with abortion 100 years ago, please. In 1869, six years before scientists figured out that the process of conception was the fusion of sperm and egg, Pius XI ruled that any abortion, regardless of whether “ensoulment” had taken place, should receive the same penalty. And the first-century church document Didache forbids abortion unequivocally.

  54. “…the moral principle that catholicism hangs its hat on is that procreation is your moral responsibility — and anything else is an amoral abdication of it. ”

    From an individual standpoint, I would go out on a limb and say that a woman who terminates an unwated pregancy is far more responsible than the woman who bears a child that they don’t have the means or desire to raise. The former is eliminating a threat to her personal well being (her career, her financial situation, her psyche). Whereas the latter situation will most likely ruin two humans, mother and child.

    Responsibily may mean accepting that our actions have consequences, but it’s also about how we deal with consequences. However, the religious believe that every consequence of our acts has but ONE “acceptable” course of action. Responsibility to the Catholic (or conservative Christian) seems to mean that we should be stripped of any options or control we may have to deal with our lives and being saddled with a situation from which there is no correcting and could harm us and/or others.

  55. Mark S.,

    Unfortunately, the GOP establishment sees people like your dad coming a mile away. Most of their politicians just cynically use abortion and gay marriage as wedge issues, and figure the religious right is their captive constituency. The other day I heard Limbaugh saying the Democrats took blacks for granted because they were a captive constituency. The exact same thing is true of the religious right and the GOP.

    A lot of them probably laugh at the fundies in private, since they respond to abortion the way Pavlov’s dog responded to a bell.

    IMO, the relationship of the religious right to the Republican party is exactly analogous to that between organized labor and the Democrats. They get all the red meat rhetoric during election year, and then both parties settle down to serving their real constituency: the Fortune 500.

  56. “the moral principle that catholicism hangs its hat on is that procreation is your moral responsibility — and anything else is an amoral abdication of it.”

    Um, no, it’s not. The principle undergirding Catholic teachings on abortion is the personhood of the fertilized egg, blastocyst, embryo, and fetus. This is why victims of rape are enjoined from having an abortion just as much as other pregnant women.

    That’s the public line, at least. From what I’ve seen, using pregnancy and motherhood as a punishment for illicit sex, and using them as a means of keeping women too disabled and busy to fully participation in public life, are the real motivations behind the absurb pretext that a cell is a person.

  57. thoreau: Well, if a Catholic is going to vote solely by the Church’s party line on life issues, capital punishment and war certainly come to mind. On capital punishment Kerry is better than Bush from the Church’s perspective. On abortion Bush is better. On war, well, the Church probably wouldn’t have much good to say about either of them.

    The stance of the Church on capital punishment and war is actually quite complicated. The church can’t very well condemn either unequivocally, when: (a) in the Bible, God commanded the Israelites to execute criminals and start wars with their neighbors, and (b) the church itself has practiced CP and supported its own holy wars.

    The modern teaching has pretty much settled on war and CP being the last resort, to be used only when no other solution is possible. That’s totally different from the teaching on abortion, which has been pretty consistent for nearly 2000 years in saying that under no circumstances is it justifiable.

  58. Um, no, it’s not.

    um, it IS, joe. the actual postion is very clearly that any possible catholic birth is good, and any step taken in the other direction is bad — and this explains not only why children of rape cannot be aborted but also why birth control is a sin — and frankly why abstention among married couples is also a sin. (believe me, i took the vows for the sake of my wife’s family, and that’s what they made clear.) the church itself may parse that to absurdity, talking about stages and biology and whatnot for the sake of a scientific world that it hopes to engage, but that simple moral judgement is *exactly* what they mean.

  59. From an individual standpoint

    mark, from an Individual standpoint, i agree. and, in our hyperindividualist soceity, it’s no surprise then that the vast majority feels it to be a woman’s choice.

    but the catholic church takes a collectivist stand — a viewpoint long dead in most of the west — that cares little for the Emacipated Individual which the church surely views, in the grand scheme and correctly so, as a passing fancy that will fade in time. from the point of view of the church, your fealty is not due to yourself but your parish — and, though your individual road may be hard, your duty to god, church and tradition is to produce more catholics. for your suffering in teh name of the common good, you are rewarded (supposedly) after death.

    i’m perfectly aware that view has virtually no currency today in american society, but it is a very real thing to the vatican — and once was a way of life even here, centuries ago.

  60. Mr. Cavanaugh said: “I have never read a non-bullshit explanation of why it’s any more acceptable than any other method, and the nearest I can figure is that the rhythm method only lowers the chance, but doesn’t eliminate it.”

    speaking as a recent pre cana graduate (a rollicking good ethnography opportunity, at least) the term “rhythm method” fell out of favor a few years ago. it is no longer the rhythm method, but “natural family planning” – it is acceptable because it is natural, and involves no coercive technologies. i can’t explain why those are more or less acceptable than the less natural and more coercive methods (the coersion coming from the would be parents) nor can i explain why anyone would think it even a halfway reliable method.

    that discussion was one of the most interesting during my three days of pre-cana-ing, along with “i’m doing this to make my wife-elect happy, since she’s caught in some sort of cultural catholicism mindfuck pantheism thing that confuses the shit out of me” and “what is the opposite of love?”

    we were one of only three couples in the class, held at a private home. i’ve heard some actually do this over the course of a weekend…[shudder]

  61. dhex,

    NFP is not a euphemism for the rhythm method, but an entirely different technique. Whereas the rhythm method basically involved counting days since menstruation to determine the woman’s infertile period, NFP is based on biometrics such as subtle body temperature changes, which are now known to accompany different periods of the menstrual cycle. It is much, much more effective than rhythm was.

  62. mj, that’s certainly one valid way of seeing it. i tend to view the moral argument from the pro-choice side as being underpinned by a scientific question — no one wants to be a “baby-killer”, and if the pro-choice end could conclusively be said to “lose” the scientific question and zygotes were forever after definitively children, i’m sure very few would consider it an option.

    but that isn’t likely, of course — the scientific question most often posed regards external survivability — and regardless of where you split hairs there on the level of postnatal care, it seems to be farfetched that the first two trimesters produce what a current scientific observer would consider an independent life. that may change with time, of course.

  63. The pro-abortion rights side is making a moral argument that the mother’s right to control her body trumps the child’s right to live and attempts to eliminate the child’s rights by advancing a scientific argument

    to more directly address your point, most on the pro-choice side don’t see a child to assign rights to at least until third trimester.

  64. I went to the church bullitin itself in order to get a feel for the context of the article.

    Along with the Respect Life article the church printed up a Prayer for Our Soldiers – without a hint of irony.

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