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Violent Pro-Lifers

September 10, 2009

Yes, this title is intended to provoke, but no, it is not about the kinds of zealots who kill abortion providers. I want to muse a little about a deeper problem, one I have been thinking about recently. The reason why abortion is such a heinous crime in the eyes of God is that is an act of violence (murder) against an innocent human being. As Catholics, we are supposed to detest violence, to consistently reject violence. We can accept war and the death penalty as absolute last resorts, but even here, we only accept with the heaviest of hearts, and we never claim that they are in any way “good” options.

But many of the loudest pro-lifers do not have this attitude. Indeed, when it comes to the Americans who rally under the banner of “conservatism” (a false and misleading banner), there are a number of fault lines in the ideology that seem to work directly against the Christian’s approach to violence.

First there is the extreme position on individualism and individual rights, the bedrock of this ideology. By this view, “freedom” means being king of one’s castle, and being unencumbered by any government attempt to impinge on freedom. In Catholic circles, this can easily morph into the error of subsidiarity without solidarity. Especially in its American incarnation, though, it also seems a given that this “freedom” should be defended with violence if necessary. This is almost noble. This peculiarity is, I think, the main reason why non-Americans cannot understand the American gun fetish. When they hear gun ownership defended as a means to safeguard “freedom” against tyrannical governments, they simply scratch their heads and wonder how such conspiratorial paranoia can be so mainstream. And yet it is. I think violence is the lubricant of this American strand of individualism. It flows through popular culture, in the glorification of guns, and in the founding myths of the country. Think of the archetypal Clint Eastwood-style images…

The cult of redemptive violence is also evident in the second great ideology of so-called “conservatism” — the notion that the United States of America has a special role in the modern world, to defend what is good, and to cleanse what is evil. This theological American exceptionalism – evident from Winthrop through manifest destiny through Wilson through Dulles through Bush — is, of course, based on a derivative Calvinism that views the world in dualistic fashion, with the United States on the side of light, and its enemies on the side of darkness. This means that the US cannot really err, and any who criticize its actions are anathematized. It also means that actions that would be evil in other hands are justified in US hands — acts like torture or the use of nuclear bombs in population centers. In other words, violence is not necessarily wrong when done by the United States. In fact, violence might be necessary. It might be noble. If your enemy is quite literally evil, you do not talk to him, you do not negotiate with him, you do not try to understand his grievances – you annihilate him. Of course, I am using hyperbolic language here, but I think the underlying point is correct.

And so, in both cases, we have American “conservatives” leaning on an ideology that can so easily be used to justify violence. I fail to see how such people can be truly pro-life. And yet, I have recently seen Catholic bloggers quote with approval the likes of Robert Stacy McCain, a man most famous for this statement:

“if they ever want a Gentile prime minister, my first order would be to deploy the IDF in a north-south line, facing east. My second order would be “forward march” and the order to halt would not be given until it was time for the troops to rinse their bayonets in the Jordan. After a brief rest halt, the order “about face” would be given, and the next halt would be at the Mediterranean coast. That’s my “Middle East peace plan,” and until it’s carried out, there will be no peace.” (For the record, the blogger was not praising this exact quote).

This is an extremist position, sure, one that would make many people who identify with the right wince in horror. But it shows the violence that underpins this Calvinist theology very well – and by the way, McCain self-identities as a “hard-shell Calvinist”, one who praises the genocide of Oliver Cromwell against the Catholics in Ireland. And yet this is the man who an American Catholic blogger, one who rails against the horrors of abortion, can reference with approval. It is hard to see how this constitutes being “pro-life” except in a superficial and politically convenient sense.

So, to sum up, the soft spot for violence stems from the need to defend their sense of individual liberty, and belief in the cult of American power. And aren’t the hateful and vicious (and rhetorically violent) attacks on Obama because his opponents believe he is violating these two core tenets of the ideology? Isn’t he a “socialist” attacking liberty at home, and isn’t he supporting “terrorists” abroad. Of course, many of the attacks on Obama are because of his position on abortion. As I’ve pointed out before, the attacks on Obama go well beyond the usual criticisms of the usual “pro-choice” public figures. No, Obama touches a nerve that goes well beyond abortion, and his critics are using his position on abortion to vocalize some of this discontent. It’s no surprise that both violent rhetoric and actual threats of violence are on the rise. Whether in healthcare or in any other area, it’s not really about abortion at all. It’s about something else. Something darker.

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51 Comments
  1. September 10, 2009 6:31 pm

    The whole of American culture has been so colored with Calvinism that I wonder if we can ever pull ourselves out of it. I think that this is part of the reason that the New Atheism is catching on even here in “God’s Country.”

  2. September 10, 2009 8:05 pm

    Obama lies about there being no abortion funding in the present bill, and Minion’s response to courageously defend the Church and the pro-life position…is to muse why pro-lifers are so prone to violence. Huh.

  3. M.Z. permalink
    September 10, 2009 10:22 pm

    There is no abortion funding in the bill. That doesn’t mean abortion is not a provisioned benefit under either private(exchange) or public plans to be funded exclusively under premiums of the insureds or by their State. You may not care about the distinction, but that doesn’t make the statement a lie.

  4. September 10, 2009 11:14 pm

    This is a great post, dead on. In particular, your basic statement at the start jumped out at me:

    The reason why abortion is such a heinous crime in the eyes of God is that is an act of violence (murder) against an innocent human being. As Catholics, we are supposed to detest violence, to consistently reject violence.

    You are exactly right that many many pro-lifers do not think of abortion in this way. They simply believe abortion is wrong without thinking very deeply about why abortion is wrong. That sounds ridiculous, but it simply MUST be true. It’s the only explanation for why many pro-life people simply cannot fathom the fact that abortion and other kinds of violence are related to one another, such that they will even violently deny that any other issue has a “connection” to abortion.

    This is why I have said from time to time that much of the pro-life movement is a “baby worshiping” movement. I know that rubs people the wrong way and I have been quoted out of context on this before. I don’t mean to belittle what is actually taking place when people have abortions. I believe a human life is being unjustly killed, a murder than can never be justified and there is no doubt in my mind about that. But most pro-lifers would not say that they believe having an abortion is wrong because killing people is wrong, or because violence is wrong. No, they just say abortion is wrong, or killing a baby is wrong.

    This setting-apart of pre-born human life as if it is something completely unlike any other human life often amounts to making the unborn child into the Holy of Holies, even god itself. In extreme forms, baby worship often takes the place of Christianity, such that most if not all of the other demands of Christian discipleship (e.g. “love your enemies,” “thou shalt not kill [anyone!]“) are downplayed, ignored, or even ridiculed.

    These pro-lifers will always get abortion wrong and will never succeed in their desire to end abortion if they continue to get Christian teaching on violence in general wrong.

  5. September 10, 2009 11:58 pm

    “First there is the extreme position on individualism and individual rights, the bedrock of this ideology. By this view, “freedom” means being king of one’s castle, and being unencumbered by any government attempt to impinge on freedom. In Catholic circles, this can easily morph into the error of subsidiarity without solidarity.”

    PRECISELY!

  6. Andy permalink
    September 11, 2009 6:01 am

    First there is the extreme position on individualism and individual rights, the bedrock of this ideology. By this view, “freedom” means being king of one’s castle, and being unencumbered by any government attempt to impinge on freedom.

    Are you sure this is the stance being taken by pro-lifers in the abortion debate? You pretty much just nailed the pro-choice position.

  7. standmickey permalink
    September 11, 2009 9:34 am

    Andy: you’re right, to a certain extent. The pro-choice position is rooted in exactly this kind of libertarianism, spiced with a good amount of consequentialism. That’s why we who are pro-life undermine ourselves when we buy into these false ideologies. After all, if human freedom is truly unlimited, if we truly should have the right to do whatever we want without considering our actions’ effects on others, and if the ends truly do justify the means (which is essentially the position of many pro-lifers on issues like torture and capital punishment), then there is no reason to oppose abortion. I think Minion’s point was that this type of hypocrisy really has no place in a genuine and consistent pro-life worldview.

  8. brettsalkeld permalink*
    September 11, 2009 9:35 am

    Michael Denton,
    I have been in a lot of conversations with pro-lifers (it kills me to say that as if I’m not one too; I simply don’t have the language to distinguish between their kind of pro-life and mine without using derogatory terms) lately and I am scandalized at the way the justify violence. When I say that I believe that we will not be heard in the public square unless we are consistent in our rejection of violence by, say, not condoning torture, I am simply called a liberal, as if that were enough to discount my position.

    And when I say we must not use the language and imagery of violence in trying to end abortion, I am simply reminded of how evil our enemies are, with the implication that, because I advocate peaceful tactics (including peaceful language), I simply do not take the issue seriously.

    This experience makes me fully sympathetic to MM’s response. It seems to me that as long as we condone the violence of language and imagery among the pro-life movement, we push the end of abortion into the ever-receding future. It is precisely my desire to end abortion that makes me critical of these tactics. I am convinced these pro-lifers are indirectly leading to the deaths of millions, by the way they perpetuate a culture war that can do nothing but maintain the status quo while surrounding it with ever hotter rhetoric.

    I cannot speak for MM, but for me, anyone who cares about the cause of life must work to end the language and imagery of violence in the pro-life movement. When we fight the world on the world’s terms, we lose before we have begun.

  9. September 11, 2009 9:56 am

    And yet this is the man who an American Catholic blogger, one who rails against the horrors of abortion, can reference with approval. It is hard to see how this constitutes being “pro-life” except in a superficial and politically convenient sense.

    While I’ve seen people cite RS McCain comments on various political topics, the only person I’ve ever heard quote his view on the Palestinians which you quote above, or his appreciation for Oliver Cromwell, is you, MM.

    Now, perhaps your point is that people should never cite or read someone who holds such repugnant views on other topics, but that’s a commitment which few seem to be willing to apply consistently. For instance, Barbara Ehrenreich has been cited positively on this blog several times, despite the fact that she’s famous for writing a column in which she brags about having had abortions in order to assure that she, her husband, and her other children could live in middle-class, American-style material comfort.

    Now, I’m sure that when progressive authors here cite Ehrenreich, they don’t mean to endorse her highly materialist, individualistic vision of society in which “solidarity” only exists to the extent of getting one the material comfort one desires, and lives are disposable in order to assure material well-being. And yet, that view is absolutely foundational to the worldviews of people and publications which, as progressives, these authors normally read and cite.

    Perhaps it’s more appropriate to take a view of things in which engagement with the wider world is not itself considered tainting (itself a highly dualistic approach — and an element of such “Calvinistic” dualism which often seems essential to your thought.) In that case, if you want to attack pro-lifers for using “violent” rhetoric, you’d want to cite the specific pro-lifers and violent rhetoric that you’re objecting to. Tarring everyone who is morally consistent enough to refuse to vote for pro-choice politicians as being violent is itself doing violence to the truth.

    This setting-apart of pre-born human life as if it is something completely unlike any other human life often amounts to making the unborn child into the Holy of Holies, even god itself. In extreme forms, baby worship often takes the place of Christianity, such that most if not all of the other demands of Christian discipleship (e.g. “love your enemies,” “thou shalt not kill [anyone!]“) are downplayed, ignored, or even ridiculed.

    This would be devestating if it had much relation to reality, but I’m not aware of anyone going around advocating the murder of the born while objecting to the murder of the unborn. The Church has always distinguished between the taking of life in just war, self defense, and capital punishment from murder — and it is by no means inconsistent of pro-lifers to follow the Church in this manner.

    Even if you decide to reject Church teaching in favor of absolute pacifism, it’s unclear to me why it’s baby-worshiping to support pro-life candidates who also support the Iraq War and capital punishment, but not convict-worshiping to support pro-choice, anti-war, anti-capital punishment candidates.

  10. September 11, 2009 10:06 am

    Brett:

    I agree that the pro-life movement needs reform and that this reform is necessary for holiness and for a true embrace of pro-life, pro-human America.

    My main problem with Minion’s approach is that he seems to believe that the main reason America is not pro-life is the pro-life movement. That’s just not the case, and to support it he willingly and consistently ignores the obvious attacks on human dignity done by Obama and others who are in favor of legalized abortion. Instead of taking the opportunity to criticize Obama last night for lying (and no MZ, I don’t really buy your distinction. The Democrats had the opportunity to prevent this from allowing funding abortion and they specifically voted it down after it had been approved), Minion changes the issue.

    If Minion were consistent, holding both Obama and the pro-life movement to the fire, I’d be fine with it. THe pro-life movement has very serious problems. But Minion is not, choosing instead to use this as cover for the pro-abortion (or whatever term you prefer) candidates he’s more sympathetic towards.

    As I’ve said before, if Minion or other liberals want to be taken seriously as being pro-life, they need to be consistent and that starts by calling out Obama for the intentionally misleading statements in his speech done to protect this bill’s desire to increase/allow funding for abortion

  11. September 11, 2009 10:24 am

    Michael:

    I think this is right. Remember Abp. Chaput’s comment (cited a lot by the right) about how a person who did not adopt the same abortion tactics as him would face the unborn in the afterlife. Of course, he never bothered to talk the million or so who died in Iraq, or those who die from lack of adequate healthcare. I other words, the right to life of the unborn seems somehow superior to the right to life of the born.

  12. September 11, 2009 10:27 am

    MM
    And some not all people have guns due to past experience with evil in rough parts of the world. Growing up, two of my friends were murdered near my house and all of us had to be ready to fight at any time on the NY harbor. Some of you have never been intimate with the physical evil of criminal men and that is good. But those who have been intimate with the physical evil of criminal men will be likely to have guns if they live presently proximate to the same problem. If you live in a very peaceful area of the US or Canada or Europe, you will not want a gun.
    I have a small shotgun for home defense only, on the NY harbor once again because crime is very possible here while it is less possible where some of you live.
    But I also donate for new borns financially monthly and my heirs must also…to a Catholic group which saves terminally sickly babies in Beijing from being killed clandestinely near birth (infanticide or abortion) by the parents so that the parents can have a healthy child. The group takes the children and cares for them til death though some do live.
    So I am pro life monthly but if someone breaks into our house and has a gun in his hand, I will kill him because that alone stops his trigger finger from killing or paralyzing me and others and in doing so I will be in line with the mind and will of probably 90% of Popes who ever lived and with 95% of Catholic moral theologians who ever lived as to self defense.

    In the early Church, many Christians were pacifist and now it is happening again and in both periods there is alienation from the secular governments of the world. Then in the ancient Church, it was alienation from a brutal Roman Empire. Pacifism faded among Christians as Romans 13:3-4 became canon and as Rome became Christian and the alienation was gone.

    When connected to Reagan for the sake of Poland with briefings from the US on troop movements of Russian forces near the Polish border, Pope John Paul II did not talk pacifistically then as he later did when Reagan (half Catholic) was gone and Protestants headed the US again. John Paul was a microcosm of the syndrome of violence versus pacifism being connected to the couplet of nearness to secular power versus alienation from secular power.

  13. September 11, 2009 10:28 am

    Andy–

    I agree with Mickey on this. I have long said that both dominant strands on political ideology in the United States stem from Enlightenment-era liberalism. One side argue for the individual right to “control their fertility” or marry whoever they wish, while the other side argues for the right to own guns, to enjoy the fruits of what they earn on the market without government interference.

  14. September 11, 2009 10:38 am

    Darwin:

    I thought somebody might raise this point. I’m the first one to argue that Catholics should make common cause with anybody to serve the common good. That is how the Church has interacted with the secular power since the beginning. One can work with “pro-choicers” to reduce abortions, and one can work with war-mongers to serve other ends.

    But I’m sorry, the violence that is evident in McCain’s thought suffuses everything he writes. It is his worldview. He is aggressive and hateful. He is an extreme advocate of the codpiece diplmacy and seems to motivate much of the right, an advocate of the macho fratboy approach to politics. In other word, violence. I just clicked on his site to see what would pop up this morning and I found call to deport Andrew Sullivan, an “AIDS-Infected British Dope Menace”. Ugh.

    • September 11, 2009 11:10 am

      While I think MM is right about John McCain, I think we can also understand why: he is a wounded person because of the torture he went through. He is a prime example of someone who I think really means well, but is incapable of doing what he could have done because of that torture. The destruction torture puts on the psyche is tremendous. We must respect John McCain for what he has gone through and how it has affected him; but this is also I think the best reason why he is not capable of being the President of the US and why many of his ideas were and continue to be based upon reaction to the torture he himself went through, for good (in work against torture) and ill (for the anger it has raised in his life).

  15. Pinky permalink
    September 11, 2009 11:44 am

    Bill – Very interesting comment.

  16. September 11, 2009 12:07 pm

    Henry,

    John McCain is not the personality being discussed here, and has never, to my knowledge, said anything as irresponsible as the quote MM presents above. The quote is from a blog written by a Robert Stacey McCain, whose blog is called “The Other McCain” or something like that.

    To my knowledge, RS McCain has never been tortured and never run for office, he’s just an opinionated political blogger.

    MM,

    But as I recall, Paul over at CrankyCon (who is pretty clearly who you’re going after with this post) doesn’t “make common cause” with RS McCain so much as cite his political reporting and comments every so often. I don’t see how that’s necessarily any different from when you cite Andrew Sullivan or someone over at The New Republic or when someone here links to The Huffington Post — all of whom are people/venues which frequently say things which are not only unhinged, but absolutely antithetical to a Catholic worldview.

    You’re certainly welcome to attack pro-lifers as using violent rhetoric, but I think if you want to do so you should cite people who are actually using violent rhetoric and criticize the rhetoric, not indulge in “how dare you read this person” guilt by association tactics.

    Now, if your point is “I’m fine with you reading things incompatible with Catholicism, but RS McCain is just too icky and I can’t stand it” you can say that, but you should be aware that you’re saying it from within a very, very partisan position. Be assured that many of the people you and your fellow bloggers read and find some value in are absolutely repulsive and without worth to those who have other partisan commitments (or indeed simply a lack of partisan commitments.)

  17. Excelsior permalink
    September 11, 2009 12:11 pm

    Question:

    Is there a reason why, in Catholic teaching, there is no such thing as a “Just Abortion Doctrine,” but there is such a thing as a “Just War Doctrine?”

    Likewise, there is no “Just Abortion Doctrine,” but there is such a thing “Justice In Government” (keeping in mind that the definition of “a government” is “the single organization in a society to which the governed delegate some of their God-given authority to use force to defend the rights of persons”).

    And likewise again, there is no “Just Abortion Doctrine” but there is such a thing as “justified use of force in self-defense, or in the defense of other innocent persons, by individuals.” In fact I should have mentioned that one first, since the justified use of force (or the threat thereof) by government (which is intrinsic to every act of governance) is an authority delegated to the government by the consent of the governed, and of course the prosecution of a just war is a subset of that authority.

    And likewise still again, there is even a Catholic teaching that capital punishment can be morally justified. There is a prudential teaching to which I submit, saying that the circumstances in the United States are such that either most or all instances of capital punishment therein are not justified, and that therefore prudence dictates the abolition or severe curtailment of capital punishment. But this is not the same thing as saying that capital punishment is intrinsically evil; the Church does not teach that. (Whereas she does teach exactly that with respect to abortion.)

    All of this is to say: We should expect, among Catholics who are faithful to Catholic teaching, for there to be ZERO variability in how they approach abortion, but far WIDER variability in how they approach (a.) the use of force by individuals for self-defense or defense of innocent others “in the gravest extreme” (e.g. a home intrusion); (b.) the use of force by government in the act of governance; (c.) the specific use of force by government called “capital punishment”; (d.) the specific use of force by government called war.

    And whereas the invective of faithful Catholics against abortion can reasonably be loud, persistent, and entirely condemnatory — for with respect to something that is intrinsically evil, there is no criticism of it that can overstate how uniformly wrong it is! — at the same time, the invective of those same faithful Catholics MUST be more measured, variable, and nuanced when criticizing the use of defensive force by individuals, or by governments in prosecuting lawbreakers generally, or by governments in executing criminals specifically, or by governments when making war.

    It must be more measured, because Catholic teaching tells us that there are some times when each is permitted, even morally required. In each of those spheres judgment calls are made; with abortion, no judgment call is needed.

    For this reason, I agree with your observations, but disagree with your hypothesis by which you attempt to explain those observations.

    You observe that Catholics who vilify abortion but do not equally excoriate other uses of force. You explain it by Calvinism — though a Calvinist would certainly not recognize his creed in your caricature of it, by-the-by — but it is also explicable by the mere realities of Catholic teaching.

    Given that we are talking about Catholics, not Calvinists, I know which of the two explanations seems more reasonable.

    And, given that judgments in favor of (limited) captial punishment and willingness to prosecute (defensive) wars amongst European Catholics pre-dates the advent of Calvinists, and exists today among Catholic immigrants to the United States from countries never touched by Calvinism — I have in mind Venezuelan immigrant friends and a Melkite family member — it seems that Calvinism is a too-facile label, an all-purpose bogeyman standing for “that with which I disagree among by Catholic brothers.”

    By analogy, I propose to you another bogeyman — I call it such because I acknowledge up-front that I think it unfair and over-simplified, but I think it exactly as fair as your use of “Calvinism” here.

    One of the great errors of the 20th century was the error of exaggerating the virtue of solidarity while neglecting subsidiarity, producing societies patterned less after the model of the healthy human community, and more like the “bloated spider” or the “hive mind.” Stalinism and Maoism and Nazism and Italian Fascism, and to a lesser degree the jingoism and progressivism of the West, all rank high among implementations of this Collectivist error, where what would otherwise be a virtue (Solidarity) is corrupted by excess until it no longer is recognizable as the original virtue, but is transformed into a mob mentality or crushes the dignity of the human individual nearly to extinction.

    Read Pope John Paul II and ask whether Socialism as he experienced it, for all that its apologists paraded it as solidarity par excellance, was really a strong implementation of that virtue! Was it not a corruption? Did not the Solidarity movement in Poland arise to contest and ultimately defeat this “pretender to the throne?”

    Now one of the oddities of some progressive or left-leaning Catholics is that they are entirely against the use of force in the form of plausibly just war, or in the form of capital punishment even for the most heinous of crimes, or in the form of persons owning and being trained in the use of the tools of self-defense.

    To judge from the words of these particular Catholics, one gets the impression that there is no such thing as a Just War, so that any argument for the justification of a particular war is therefore absurd on its face. One gets the impression that there is no such thing as a case justifying capital punishment, so that they rail without particular analysis against any arguments for using it in a particular case. One gets the impression that even when violent persons invade a family home or attack a man on the street, there is so little justification for using force to repel the attack that the tools for doing so should really never be held or used by anyone.

    So one gathers, listening to these particular Catholics, that their threshold for justifiable use of force must be very high.

    Yet, then, these same Catholics, oddly, are in favor of all kinds of government imposition upon the lives of families: High tax rates (or, at least, spending which requires them), high degrees of regulation, highly centralized, top-down, structured, non-voluntary impositions of order on the great mass of men and subordinate communities who’d rather live their lives in peace, providing for their families and giving voluntarily to others in amounts they themselves decide, and in the manner they see fit.

    The result is a forced homogenization of society, and the abolition of many traditional freedoms which in earlier eras permitted variations not only from one individual to the next, but from one town to the next, one county to the next, one metropolitan area to the next, and one state to the next.

    And it is a truly forced homogenization: One cannot opt-out voluntarily, because taxation and regulation are backed up by the use of force. If a man attempts to opt-out, he is locked up and shot if he tries to escape. What government outlaws or regulates, it outlaws by threatening or using force: That is the definition of government: Out of all organizations in society, it is the sole organization to which the governed delegate (some of) their authority to use force.

    There is nothing wrong with that! Government ought to legislate what it ought to legislate; that is, it ought to use force when it ought to use force.

    But some Catholics have a very high threshold for justifying the use of force: Very, very high.

    Which leads to the question: Why are these Catholics, so averse to the use of force by individuals in self-defense, or by the state against convicted criminals, or by the state against foreign powers, so enamored of the use or threat of force against citizens who’ve been convicted of no crime?

    Why this urge to homogenize, to regulate, to dictate, to centralize?

    It presumably is not because they think subsidiarity is without value, though the resulting society would have little or no subsidiarity. It is presumably not because they want to minimize human dignity, though a man is certainly less free to exercise creative use of his power of free-will when the government outlaws all but one of his options.

    But perhaps it is because these folks are too locked in to the common error of the 20th century (that century is over, but its errors linger). They are not Communists per se, or Maoists per se, but they are Hive-Minders. They don’t mean to be, but are so absorbed in the cultural errors of 20th century progressivism that they don’t recognize how it undermines subsidiarity without actually producing solidarity, and grinds away at human dignity.

    War is never justified even if an ally is invaded or terrorists are given sanctuary; capital punishment is never justified even in response to the most horrific crimes; self-defense is never justified or is so rare that it’s better to outlaw the tools which would make it possible…but pointing the government’s gun at your neighbor every minute of every waking moment to make sure he lives his life exactly the same way you think he ought: Apparently there’s nothing wrong with that!

    We can hope these Catholics will realize that their addiction to the Collectivism is an error, however unconscious, and anti-Catholic whenever it reduces subsidiarity and delegates to government those moral duties which are quite properly the un-delegatable moral duty of individuals, or which enforces on persons a moral duty which becomes valueless when it is not voluntary! These are truisms, axioms of certain moral duties, but folk too mired in the Hive Mind error cannot distinguish between moral duties of persons and moral duties of groups, nor between moral duties which can and can’t be delegated, nor between moral duties that we are morally obligated to enforce, moral duties that we are permitted to enforce under some circumstances, and moral duties which we have a moral duty to enforce (such as protecting innocent persons against force or fraud). Catholic teaching has always included these distinctions, but 20th-century Collectivism is blind to it.

    There. Another bogeyman like “Calvinism” (in this case “Collectivism” or “Hive Mind” or “Statism”) is raised, and Catholics who have a legitimate disagreement about how Catholic teaching is best implemented in civil society are lampooned as not being able to distinguish between Catholicism and the errors of their culture and their era.

    Absurd, huh? No less so than “Calvinism” as a bogeyman. If you contemptuously react and say, “This doofus is accusing me of thinking in ways I don’t really think; accusing me of failing to make distinctions which I easily make; accusing me of not knowing why I think what I think…” then you have truly just walked a mile in “conservative” Catholics’ moccasins.

  18. September 11, 2009 12:17 pm

    Oops, sorry, I did a read of comments not in relation to the post for my response. Did so quickly as engaging other things… my mistake.

  19. ben permalink
    September 11, 2009 12:24 pm

    This post is incendiary and hateful.

  20. September 11, 2009 12:31 pm

    Pinky
    Thank you. If the mentioned group’s mission touched you by the way, go to http://www.chinalittleflower.com

    Just had an email today from Sr. Gertrude Jin in Beijing.

  21. September 11, 2009 12:32 pm

    Pinky correction http://www.chinalittleflower.org

  22. standmickey permalink
    September 11, 2009 1:00 pm

    Ben: did you actually read it? It’s not “incendiary and hateful” to point out hypocrisy.

  23. Gabriel Austin permalink
    September 11, 2009 1:11 pm

    Morning’s Minion writes September 11, 2009 at 10:24 am
    “Michael:
    I think this is right. Remember Abp. Chaput’s comment (cited a lot by the right) about how a person who did not adopt the same abortion tactics as him would face the unborn in the afterlife. Of course, he never bothered to talk the million or so who died in Iraq, or those who die from lack of adequate healthcare. I other words, the right to life of the unborn seems somehow superior to the right to life of the born”.

    Among other misstatements which are common in your postings, this is typical. Firstly, there are the “million or so who died in Iraq”.

    Were these deaths the result of the U.S. intervention? The locals seem to have the capability of killing each other quite successfully. You will have heard of the Iraq – Iran war. Not to mention those thousands killed under Saddam H.

    Have you read all of Abp. Chaput’s sermons and writings? I realize that you may consider him a traitor for having begun as a Democrat and worked for Democratic candidates, until he was then abandoned by the Democratic Party leaders who lusted for the baby-killers’ approval and money.

  24. ben permalink
    September 11, 2009 1:12 pm

    The demonization of Pro-Lifers leads to things like this:

    http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2009/09/owosso_antiabortion_activists.html

  25. September 11, 2009 1:15 pm

    So, criticizing pro-lifers for winking at violence leads to…violence. Huh?

  26. September 11, 2009 1:27 pm

    MM is trying to state: if you want to be pro-life, be pro-life; don’t take on the mantle if you are not pro-life. The problem with the movement is it is being run, as a whole, by people who are not really pro-life; they might be against abortion, but they are into all kinds of violence and degradation of human life (torture, unjust wars, willingness to threaten others with violence for disagreement, etc). Those who are pro-abortion, obviously, are violent, since they use abortion, as with violence, as a means of tyranny.

    It is important for those are pro-life to be non-violent, because the whole pro-life movement is based upon the sanctity of life, not utility. Violence is about utility.

  27. Pinky permalink
    September 11, 2009 1:35 pm

    Excelsior – I’m curious about something, and I’d love to see answers from people with a wide range of opinions on the matter. You said that a strong government can enforce “a moral duty which becomes valueless when it is not voluntary”. Is that really the case? Government enforces laws against child abuse, but that doesn’t make child abuse any less wrong or good parenting any less noble. Also, when government compels donation to the poor, the result (the alleviation of suffering) is a good thing. On the other hand, it’s hard to see any moral value in compelling a person to good acts, or in doing them under compulsion.

  28. September 11, 2009 2:10 pm

    Henry,

    I think you’re partly right in diagnosing MM’s thinking here, but it’s probably important to look a little deeper. Consider the basic situation: MM follows the Church in believing that abortion is a grave offense against the human person, the killing of an innocent. However, he (and many other progressive Catholics who find themselves in the same position) is deeply, deeply committed to a political agenda, the vast majority of whose representatives are absolute supporters of the “right to abortion”. Meanwhile, those who oppose abortion in the public square mostly belong to a political party which MM finds it absolutely unimaginable to support. What to do?

    Clearly, one approach is to insist that those who oppose abortion are so corrupted in their thinking that they aren’t really pro-life, thus allowing one to tell oneself that there really is no pro-life movement. Since there is no pro-life movement, one need not feel bad about refusing to support it. (Even if most of the reasons one scorns it could equally well be pointed out in one’s own party of choice.)

    Frankly, I think this whole line of thinking is deeply problematic, and more a case of rationalizing than reasoning. But perhaps if one assumes the absolute moral necessity of being a progressive regardless of what other policies progressives support, it can be reached. Whether this is a good thing is very much open to question.

  29. September 11, 2009 2:17 pm

    It would help, Darwin, if those Catholics who supported “that party” for its position on abortion would do so IN SPITE OF its stance on other issues, especially those that tend toward violence. Why do I see so little of that?

  30. September 11, 2009 2:49 pm

    DarwinCatholic

    While Judie Brown comes on here and tells us torture is fine, something is amiss with the movement.

    http://vox-nova.com/2009/05/05/what-is-judie-brown-talking-about/

  31. September 11, 2009 2:58 pm

    It would help, Darwin, if those Catholics who supported “that party” for its position on abortion would do so IN SPITE OF its stance on other issues, especially those that tend toward violence. Why do I see so little of that?

    1) Differing judgment of issues — some issues which you see as being deeply violent (gun ownership, capital punishment) may legitimately not seem violent to other Catholics. On those examples, the vast, vast majority of gun owners only every use their guns for peaceful target shootings, and the Church has long held that capital punishment is acceptable when necessary to protect society. Reaching different conclusions isn’t hard.

    2) Viewer filtering — When you see me or Jay Anderson or some other conservative blogger write a post denouncing torture or supporting immigration or what have you, you probably think of that as an exception, while continuing to hold an overall impression of “conservative Catholics all support torture, support capital punishment, hate immigrants, etc.”

    3) Tribalism — People are often more hesitant to call out their own “side” on issues. Thus, conservatives who oppose capital punishment may well spend less time denouncing politicians who support capital punishment than they do denouncing politicians who support abortion. Similarly, writers here have spent much less time criticizing Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan and his decision to retain Guantanemo and rendition than they did denouncing Bush for the same policies — doubtless these writers detest the policies just as much, but they detest Obama much less than they detested Bush (because Obama is of their political tribe) and so they feel less like denouncing him.

    Priority-base selection — Few people can manage to remain wound up about everything at once, so people will tend to emphasize some issues more than others, and they will gravitate towards others who have similar priorities. So someone who is really, really wound up about health care and safety net programs but who is willing to be pretty quiet about his opposition to abortion and same sex marriage will tend to gravitate towards a progressive milieu, while someone who is loudly against abortion and same sex marriage, but willing to be more quiet about his opposition to capital punishment and support for wider immigration will gravitate towards the conservative movement.

    So while it’s certainly understandable why, given your personal commitments, you’d find yourself very much out of sympathy with the pro-life political movement and are shocked at the kind of company they keep — you’d probably do best to keep in mind that to people who do believe strongly in supporting legal protection for the unborn you will look virtually indistinguishable from a pro-choicer. Hopefully from that knowledge can come sympathy.

  32. Magdalena permalink
    September 11, 2009 2:59 pm

    Darwin is correct that posts like these are more or less posturing, basically giving us the opportunity to watch as a conscience does gymnastics to both soothe itself and shift blame to the “enemy” that is making it prick so uncomfortably. The Catholic right indulges in the same forms of rationalization but we are treated to the right-wing flavor of them less often in this space.

  33. September 11, 2009 3:02 pm

    The movement consists of one person, Henry?

    Well shoot, if selecting one prominent person who holds objectionable views is all it takes, I can demolish the health care movement, the anti-war movement and the anti-poverty movements in mere movements.

    By that theory, there is clearly something wrong with the health care movement when Senator Kennedy, who was one of its most vocal leaders, was a supporter of the slaughter which is abortion. Case closed. Why keep promoting health care on this blog when the movement in favor of universal health care is so clearly tainted by violence?

  34. September 11, 2009 3:08 pm

    Darwin

    Of course it is not merely one person, but I was giving one example. And she is a prominent leader who is speaking on behalf of the movement about what the movement finds acceptable many times when she speaks of this. Or you can have Joe, former VNer, and on TAC/EV. Look to his comments on the killing of Tiller. He presents the inner violence of many within the movement. Just as the peace movement in the US often was not about peace, but something else, we have to realize the political pro-life movement is often not about life, but something else. Reform is possible when we understand this.

    If you need more examples, just read through more of Mark Shea’s blog. There you will see many examples of people proclaiming themselves to be pro-life, but supporting all kinds of violence. And this within the Catholic sphere. Those who are pro-life, and not Catholic, would be even more likely to need reform, don’t you think? The movement needs to be reformed — it’s not better than the Church, and the Church is always needing reform.

  35. Pinky permalink
    September 11, 2009 3:08 pm

    Darwin, that seems like a bit of an ad hominem attack, or at minimum it’s psychoanalyzing (rather than analyzing) MM’s position. I don’t know; maybe the two of you have danced before, and you know each other’s thinking well enough to do so.

    To me, the biggest weakness in MM’s argument is my personal experience. I’ve met single-issue pro-lifers, but I’ve never met a single-issue pro-torturer or a double-issue pro-life pro-torturer. And I hope that MM doesn’t find every single item on the American conservative agenda as no more defensible than torture.

  36. Gabriel Austin permalink
    September 11, 2009 3:30 pm

    Michael J. Iafrate writes September 10, 2009 at 11:14
    “The reason why abortion is such a heinous crime in the eyes of God is that is an act of violence (murder) against an innocent human being. As Catholics, we are supposed to detest violence, to consistently reject violence.
    “You are exactly right that many many pro-lifers do not think of abortion in this way. They simply believe abortion is wrong without thinking very deeply about why abortion is wrong. That sounds ridiculous, but it simply MUST be true. It’s the only explanation for why many pro-life people simply cannot fathom the fact that abortion and other kinds of violence are related to one another, such that they will even violently deny that any other issue has a “connection” to abortion.
    “This is why I have said from time to time that much of the pro-life movement is a “baby worshiping” movement. I know that rubs people the wrong way and I have been quoted out of context on this before. I don’t mean to belittle what is actually taking place when people have abortions. I believe a human life is being unjustly killed, a murder than can never be justified and there is no doubt in my mind about that. But most pro-lifers would not say that they believe having an abortion is wrong because killing people is wrong, or because violence is wrong. No, they just say abortion is wrong, or killing a baby is wrong”.

    I believe you miss the point of the Church’s teaching. Murder – intentional killing – is wrong because it is a sin; it endangers the soul of the murderer.

    Death is not the final end of a human life. When death arrives, we are released from this world into the world for which we were created. But it is not for us to choose the moment of this release – for ourselves or for others.

    When a baby dies or is killed in a natural catastrophe [of which there are many], there is a sense of tragedy but no sense of fault. The question of war is subject to prudential considerations. But targeting a baby in the womb is not a prudential matter. It is quite simply an individual’s act of murder. The bay dead, the Church’s concern will be for the soul of the perpetrators. Suprema lex salus animarum.

  37. September 11, 2009 3:36 pm

    I believe you miss the point of the Church’s teaching. Murder – intentional killing – is wrong because it is a sin; it endangers the soul of the murderer.

    So… the Church teaches that murder is wrong because of what it does to the murderer, not what it does to the victim? No.

    When death arrives, we are released from this world into the world for which we were created.

    So… the Church teaches that we were created not for this world but for some other world? No.

  38. September 11, 2009 3:36 pm

    Pinky,

    Fair enough. As you discern, MM and I have water under the bridge — doubtless too much, which is why I had been maintaining the discipline of not commenting here for a while.

    And in typical inside baseball fashion, I’d taken this post as a pretty clear attack on a mutual acquintance blogger who had linked to political analysis by RS McCain a few times (which MM had criticized him for.)

    How silly the paper carrying of bloggers can sound when laid out in plain words… I’ve said my piece, and perhaps more. I’ll let it be.

  39. Frank Muennemann permalink
    September 11, 2009 4:06 pm

    At 12:11 pm Excelsior asked why there is no such a thing as a “Just Abortion Doctrine.” I think it is implicit for example in the position on ectopic pregnancy.

  40. September 11, 2009 4:41 pm

    I wouldn’t call it “water under the bridge”. We’ve had many arguments over the years, and I think you are hopelessly misguided on many issues, and no doubt you think I am too, but it’s not really a big deal.

  41. Mark DeFrancisis permalink
    September 11, 2009 5:22 pm

    When I read this post, I cannot help but think of that old GOP superstar, Rick Santorum.

    He could produce the motliest mixture of anti-government, pro-corporation, pro-death penalty, anti-abortion, pro-guns, pro-American exceptionalist, anti “Islamo-fascist” and pro-war slogans all in a few short,rousing paragraphs, to the cheers of his Catholic and non-Catholic followers alike.

    A worship of a perverted notion of individual liberty and American exceptionalism, both tied to the cult of violence.

  42. Excelsior permalink
    September 11, 2009 6:04 pm

    Frank Muennemann:

    In my observation that there’s no such thing as a “Just Abortion Doctrine,” I refer to the decision to intentionally engage in abortion per se.

    The position of the Church on ectopic pregnancy is that one can do whatever medical procedures will prevent the death of the mother; this includes procedures which will kill the child only when there is no option to conduct a procedure which will not kill the child.

    If, at a later state of our medical technology, we can cure ectopic pregnancy without killing the child, it becomes morally obligatory that we do so.

    Thus this is an example of the Double Effect principle in Natural Law: One may not do an evil thing that good may result, but one may do a good thing, knowing in advance that evil will result, if the intent is to do the good thing, and the evil thing is an unavoidable side-effect which is less morally reprehensible than neglecting to do the good thing would have been.

    Curing a the presence of a growing baby in the tube is the same procedure as the curing of a tumor in the tube or a bleed in the tube or an aneurysm or what-have-you. In so far as the action is a cure, not a kill, it is a good act. Death results if and only if the thing blocking the tube is a baby, not a tumor.

    Well, you get the idea.

    There is a “Just War Doctrine” which allows a person to prosecute war AS war; to shoot a violent home intruder AS shooting; to execute a convicted criminal AS execution. There is no doctrine permitting abortion AS abortion, though one can permit fallopian tube surgery AS surgery even if a death sadly and unintentionally (if predictably) results.

  43. Excelsior permalink
    September 11, 2009 10:34 pm

    Pinky –

    Thanks for your question. You queried,

    You said that a strong government can enforce “a moral duty which becomes valueless when it is not voluntary”. Is that really the case?

    I answer: Sometimes it is, and sometimes not.

    With respect to encouraging or forcing moral duties on one another, a given level of prompting (polite exhortation, loud exhortation, social shunning, and ultimately force…which itself can be divided into small fines, large fines, small prison terms, large prison terms, and execution) can either be:

    (a.) Morally prohibited under all circumstances;
    (b.) Morally allowed under limited circumstances;
    (c.) Morally allowed often or usually;
    (d.) Morally obligatory under limited circumstances;
    (e.) Usually morally obligatory;
    (f.) Always morally obligatory.

    In addition, when a particular way of “encouraging” others to act in a certain way is allowed but not required, it may or may not be wise; i.e., side effects may come into play.

    And, as a final addition the person being exhorted or forced to “do the right thing” gets progressively less moral credit for doing it the more force is applied.

    That is true for all moral acts; if you do the right thing not because you thought it was right but because you didn’t care much one way or the other, but someone held a gun to your head and forced you to do it, you get no moral credit (and some demerits, in fact, for not recognizing it was the right thing). And if you do something that’s right, but which you erroneously thought wrong, solely because someone held a gun to your head, then (a.) you get no moral credit for doing the right thing, (b.) you get demerits for not recognizing it was the right thing, and (c.) you get demerits for the moral cowardice of not obeying your conscience!

    Now what government legislates, it compels by force (sometimes minimal and indirect, sometimes overt and direct).

    In the case of assistance to the poor, it comes in two categories:

    (1.) That which is a poor man’s right, to which he is entitled, merely by being a human being, and to which he has in no way forfeited his right through criminal or immoral activity. Catholic Social Doctrine calls this level of assistance every man’s “due”; it is due him intrinsically because he is human.

    This falls under the heading of “equal protection under law,” and there’s no “extra credit” merit for giving the poor man his “due”; it is merely our duty.

    (2.) That to which the poor man has no direct right, so that denying it to him is no violation of his rights; it is not his due. This includes that which good persons give for the *betterment* of the poor, not because they are violating the poor man’s rights by giving it (they aren’t), but because they have extra, and this is an *opportunity* for them to give alms. God “blesses us to be a blessing to others”; he gives some of us extra so that we can give of our extra even though we deny no-one’s rights by not doing so.

    When a person with extra fails to give a poor man some of that extra (beyond the poor man’s due), it is not necessarily a sin. But it can be, when it comes from a “disordered attachment to goods,” or represents “poor stewardship.” So, motives matter.

    Now take a scenario in which Tom, Dick, and Harry live in community. Tom and Dick have extra; Harry is poor and about to starve. Tom and Dick are obligated to give in that emergency. It is Harry’s right to receive, and negligent if Tom and Dick don’t give.

    In extreme emergency, Tom may even use force to compel Dick to give when Dick doesn’t want to. This is because what is being given is Harry’s due; he has a right to it.

    (If anyone doubts this, consider what happens if I, with a Red Cross certificate, a life jacket, a rope, and a rowboat, spot a drowning man, and go ho-hum on my way doing nothing, and the man drowns. I am charged, quite rightly, with “depraved indifference” and “negligent homicide”: Rescue was the drowning man’s due, and I failed to give it.)

    And if Tom can’t compel Dick to do it himself, he can hire an employee to do the compulsion. That employee is called government; it only gets its just authority by delegation from those governed.

    So there is some just authority for giving a poor man his “due,” and this can fall under the category of things that either may be compelled (tho’ it may or may not be wise to do so) or *must* be compelled (whether it’s wise or not). I lean towards *must* myself because I believe the purpose of government is to defend the rights of the innocent…and we’re talking about Harry’s rights.

    HOWEVER,

    Once we get beyond what is Harry’s “due” — what it can be proven he needs because of an obvious emergency, for example — the equation changes.

    Let us say that Tom and Dick note Harry’s plight, but this time Harry is in no particular danger of starvation, and indeed really isn’t bothering to look for work, and spends the little cash he has on booze or lottery tickets.

    Tom decides to help Harry out; he gets him gift certificates for the grocery store; he signs him up for life-coaching and computer classes; he spends a lot of time and money on Harry. (Tom’s a swell guy.)

    Dick donates a little cash, but less than Tom.

    Now Tom comes to Dick and exhorts him to give more. (All very much okay.) Dick responds, “Sorry, Tom, but I’m tapped out; I’m sending my daughter to Vanderbilt in the fall and I’ve given as much as I can afford.”

    Then Tom pulls out a gun and says, “No, Dick, you’re GOING to give Harry more money, NOW.”

    Question: Is Tom morally justified in using force, in this instance?

    If you (like me) answer “No, he has no just moral authority to use force,” then here’s the follow-up question: How could he justly delegate authority to his employee (the government) that HE DOESN’T HAVE TO BEGIN WITH?

    He can’t.

    Therefore this represents a potential morally good act (Dick giving to Harry) which Tom may justifiably exhort Dick to do, but which neither Tom nor the government may legitimately force Dick to do.

    It would in fact be immoral for either Tom or the government to exert force on Dick in this manner.

    But let’s say they do so. And Dick, fearing for his life or liberty, complies. Has Dick just gained any moral benefit? No. “God looketh at the heart”: Dick was not being generous, he was possibly being a moral coward.

    “Well,” you say, “at least the money got to Harry.”

    Yes, but the Church teaches: “Thou shalt not do an evil thing, even in order that good come from it.”

    So this is an instance where government enforcement of a moral duty makes execution of that moral duty morally without value, even sinful.

    Make sense?

  44. Magdalena permalink
    September 11, 2009 11:43 pm

    For the record, the “superstar” Sen. Santorum was more than willing to work on forming his conscience when it came to the death penalty.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05081/475366.stm

    It’s a shame when such facts get in the way of shredding those with whom we disagree…

  45. Stephen permalink
    September 12, 2009 1:35 am

    The increasing irrelevance of this site is amusing to watch.

    The real issues of the day are ignored. Completely ignored. So, for example, in a post about “pro-life violence”, the murder of a pro-life advocate today goes unnoticed.

    Over the past day, Congressional Democrats and the administration have been turning quick somersaults to close loopholes regarding treatment of illegal immigrants in the healthcare legislation. This goes completely unmentioned here – a stance that is a clear violation of Catholic Social teaching is ignored, while Morning’s Minion picks one more obscure fight that no one cares about and few people even understand.

  46. Mark DeFrancisis permalink
    September 12, 2009 9:41 am

    magdalena,

    Oh, I am sorry. But I am sure he overcompensated with all of his dangerous, overblown Islamo-fascist rhetoric. He was war-mongering more than even Bush in this regard.

  47. Kurt permalink
    September 12, 2009 10:33 am

    If you can’t be pro-life and support a pro-choice candidate, then Mr. Santorum is not pro-life.

  48. Frank Muennemann permalink
    September 12, 2009 10:34 am

    Excelsior:

    I agree with most of your facts. However,…

    A child is not a tumor or an aneurysm. Salpingostomy, though it doesn’t involve putting a scalpel into the baby itself, is the premeditated and proximate cause of the child’s death. Unless the baby is already dead, this action kills him. We accept the gravity of this action when we accept the gravity of protecting the mother’s life.

    “Just War Doctrine” allows a nation to prosecute war only when there is no alternative. Other doctrines accept shooting a violent home intruder only when there is no less destructive alternative (such as letting him walk away with my possessions); executing a convicted criminal only when there is no other means of protecting society (such as imprisonment), ending a baby’s life only when there is no other way to protect the mother.

    Killing is killing, death is death. No doctrine can take away our responsibility for our intentions or the consequences of our actions.

  49. Gabriel Austin permalink
    September 12, 2009 3:23 pm

    Michael J. Iafrate writes September 11, 2009 at 3:36
    “I believe you miss the point of the Church’s teaching. Murder – intentional killing – is wrong because it is a sin; it endangers the soul of the murderer”.

    “So… the Church teaches that murder is wrong because of what it does to the murderer, not what it does to the victim? No.”

    Yes.

    “When death arrives, we are released from this world into the world for which we were created”.
    “So… the Church teaches that we were created not for this world but for some other world? No”.

    Yes.

    The first part of the Penny Catechism:
    “God made us to know Him, and to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and be happy with Him forever in the next”.

  50. Excelsior permalink
    September 12, 2009 9:22 pm

    Frank Muennemann:

    Of course I agree with everything you say there. (“A child is not a tumor or an aneurysm…the gravity of protecting the mother’s life.”)

    However, I don’t see that it clashes with or contradicts the earlier assertion that abortion qua abortion is never justified; that is, surgery or other positive action taken for the purpose of ending the child’s life.

    War qua war, by contrast, is sometimes justified (and, of course only as a last resort!). Same with self-defense and so on. But in those cases we are really talking about war qua war, or self-defense qua self-defense.

    Whether you’re dropping a bomb on a bunker or pulling the trigger on your .40 cal, these are not actions normally taken for other purposes, which in this case are effecting death as a side effect which, if you could have done, you would have avoided.

    You cannot argue that, in the first case, you’re actually conducting a controlled demolition on the building in preparation for building some nice condos there, and only incidentally destroying the enemy forces therein, which you would have avoided doing if you could!

    Or, in the second case, you can’t pretend you were intending to make a hole in the sheetrock to run a Cat-5 network cable, and only incidentally put a hole in a home intruder en route to the wall.

    These things are justifiable in a broader range of circumstances because there is sometimes real adequate reason to intend to shoot the bad guy. But there is never adequate reason to intend to shoot the baby.

    I am no expert on the Double Effect understanding in Natural Law, but from what I read, that distinction (the difference between death as primary intent, and death a secondary result which would have been avoided if possible) is a critical distinction. One may not do evil that good may come of it; i.e. evil is not made just by good intentions. But one may do a normally good-or-neutral action, knowing it will have an evil side-effect, provided that the intent is only to achieve the good primary effect, the goodness of the primary effect equals or outweighs the evil of the side-effect, and there are no other options. All these provisos exist in the ectopic pregnancy exception.

    That is all I intended to convey. I realize that folk who have never heard the term “Principle of Double Effect” will say, “Oh come on now, call it what you like, but it’s an abortion, because it kills the kid, whatever else it does, and whatever the intent.” And I have some sympathy with that feeling: When reading a triple- or quadruple-qualified and excepted and prefaced and footnoted observation about a particular moral topic in the writings of some ethicists, one begins to appreciate why the layman rolls his eyes and why a secondary definition for the word “jesuitical” is: “given to casuistry or excessively subtle reasoning intended to rationalize.”

    But this impatience or carelessness with the details of the act, if we all adopted it, would prevent us from making any sense of the Church teaching on the subject. The only reason the Church does permit this seeming exception to the rule against abortion is because they really do not see it as an exception to the rule against abortion, but rather as a commendation of an entirely different kind of act, which can sometimes have sad side-effects, for which the Double Effect principle happens to apply.

    Anyway, IF all this is to question my statement that we should expect far more variation and subtlety and grace between Catholics debating instances of war, self-defense, legislation, execution, or other uses of force, but that they should normally be both loud and unanimous about that use of force called “abortion,”…

    THEN, I think that conclusion would still hold, even if I ceded you the point that treatment of ectopic pregnancy was “really” an abortion, not merely in casual layman’s conversation, but in the serious ethical analysis of the Church.

    I could still argue to the same conclusion, on much the same basis; namely, the utter clarity of the teaching, the lack of gray area, the full capability of clergy to obtain sufficiently certain and complete data about any given instance of abortion-or-ectopic-pregnancy-treatment to confidently rule on which side of the moral line that instance fell. Contrast this with the vagueness of pre-war “intel” or the unforeseen impact of major legislation, in which any two experts will produce three different opinions!

    There are wars and laws and shootings and executions which were clearly unjust, of course, and I hope no one will misconstrue my words to suggest that all wars and laws and shootings and executions are so shrouded in mystery that we can’t ever decide ahead of time which are justified. That’s false.

    But there are some for which human wisdom and foresight and information gathering comes up short; when one can’t know in advance enough to confidently make the call.

    And I am arguing that this is not true of abortion (including treatment of ectopic pregnancy). You can get second opinions; you have the patient’s records and testimony of (usually) several qualified medical experts and (sometimes) videotape or other accompanying documentation, sufficient to establish whether this one condition — what a mercy it is that it’s only one, and a condition that can be diagnosed with such certainty! — is present or absent. After that is established, Catholic doctrine is hard as a rock: Ectopic pregnancy, one may save the life of the mother; otherwise, forbidden. No gray area, there.

    So the observation holds: Catholics can be loud, confident, firm, unanimous on abortion. On the others, one should expect differences of opinion whenever it’s a close call…and one needn’t look for alternate pathologies, Calvinist or otherwise, to explain them.

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