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Mitt Romney’s Pro-Choice Ad

October 19, 2012

As someone who tries to follow closely the intersections of religion and politics, I am intrigued by Romney’s recent television ad (embedded below) in which he essentially takes a limited pro-choice philosophical position. The spot features a disappointed former Obama supporter who does a little of the ol’ Google thing and learns that Mitt Romney “doesn’t oppose contraception at all” and “thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother’s life.” The availability of contraceptives and abortion are important to her, she tells us, but she’s more concerned with the crushing debt, and so she’ll be supporting Mitt Romney.

There’s enough difference between Romney and Obama on abortion policy that pro-life voters, particularly those for whom outlawing abortion is their single, decisive issue, will be lining up for the Republican candidate in a few weeks. This ad may irk these voters, but it probably won’t lose Romney many votes from among them. Nonetheless, it is kind of a raised middle finger flaunted in their general direction.

Prominent religious leaders, including some Roman Catholic bishops, had given Romney moral support by declaring loudly and publicly that a Catholic could not in good conscious vote for a candidate who supports abortion, considered the “gravest of intrinsic evils.” Romney is now on record approving of the messages that 1) innocent human life is not in fact inviolable because abortion should in some cases be an option and 2) the national debt is of graver importance than abortion. With this ad, Romney has upended the pillars some big name religious pro-life leaders had erected for him. This won’t matter electorally, but it nicely captures the contempt the Romney campaign has for his ardent pro-life supporters.



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  1. October 19, 2012 12:18 pm

    If there are exceptions, it follows that no abortion can be murder. You cannot legally murder your rapist, unless you can kill while he’s in the act, in which case it’s not murder. Ditto your incestuous family member. So why should you be allowed to murder the unborn son or daughter of either of them?

    • October 19, 2012 1:07 pm

      Once you in principle recognize exceptions to making abortion illegal, you’ve basically conceded the pro-choice position: there are circumstances in which a woman should have a legal right to choose abortion. You also rule out the inviolability of life argument for the pro-life stance.

      • October 19, 2012 3:25 pm

        Yes. Exactly. Except, as I say elsewhere, for the life of the mother exception, which can be construed as self-defense. The problem with this is obviously that “life of the mother” can be so loosely defined as to make a mockery of the self-defense aspect. That would need to be stringently reviewed and regulated. Which most likely wouldn’t happen.

    • October 19, 2012 1:56 pm

      Morally, you are correct.

      However, if murder were currently legal, and one wanted to make it illegal, it would be the height of imprudence to commence the criminalization of murder by targeting those who kill their rapists or incestuous family members.

      In a world where murder is illegal, the idea of it being illegal to murder a rapist is absurd. Once murdering for profit is illegal, then it might be conceivable.

      • Kurt permalink
        October 19, 2012 6:57 pm

        John, you are right in such as situation it would seems to be the height of imprudent judgment. We all need to use our best prudent judgment to for the cause of the unborn.

  2. October 19, 2012 12:21 pm

    “Life of the mother” we can call self-defense. So that should be the only exception, if we insist on calling abortion murder.

    • October 19, 2012 1:53 pm

      Personally, I’m not fond of calling abortion “murder,” and prefer the less loaded term “killing.”

      Like the killing of adults, abortions may have different levels of moral and, in a post-Roe world, legal culpability. Most homicides are not first degree murders. We go down the line from first degree murder to different degrees of man slaughter to accidents to self defense.

      There is no reason why abortion restrictions cannot show the same recognition of this as our current criminal laws on homicide do.

      • October 19, 2012 3:18 pm

        Abortion on demand could only be classified as “murder in the first degree” if it is to be classified as criminal. It would be the premeditated, cold-blooded killing of a defenseless victim. How could it be anything other than murder in the first degree?

  3. October 19, 2012 1:50 pm

    I understand this is tiresome (and I’m not going to vote for either candidates), but I think it is also worth noting that President Obama’s current ads are scaring pro-choice voters about what Romney would do to abortion as president.

    This should be a betrayal to some of his Catholic supporters, who often maintain (on this site, among other places) that his position on abortion should not be a significant barrier to supporting him, since the president has little power over abortion policy.

    • October 19, 2012 3:20 pm

      @johnmcg —

      How does running that ad change any of that? I don’t follow your reasoning.

      • October 19, 2012 4:32 pm

        Catholic Obama supporter: “Vote for Obama!”
        Catholic Obama oppposer: “What about the terrible evil of abortion?”
        Catholic Obama supporter: “Doesn’t matter (too much)! Presidents have little power over abortion!”
        Obama ad: “Pro-choice people better voter for me, or else Mitt Romney will ban all abortions!”

        There are a couple possible explanations for this:

        1. The Obama supporter is wrong, and it actually does matter whether the president supports abortion.

        2. The ad is wrong (Shock! A political ad is misleading!) And Romeny won’t do much to change abortion law.

        My bet is some combination of the above, mixed with a heaping cup of Romney doesn’t have the political will to actually push for any real change.

        • October 19, 2012 5:32 pm

          The man elected POTUS this year will likely have the opportunity to make at least two supreme court appointments. Those could well decide whether Roe v. Wade stands or falls. That remains the maximum power of the presidency with regard to the abortion issue. Secondary is the bully pulpit.

        • Thales permalink
          October 20, 2012 6:53 am

          That remains the maximum power of the presidency with regard to the abortion issue.

          True, the president doesn’t have a lot of influence on abortion policy in this nation (the best way to change the abortion culture is to change the hearts and minds of our neighbors). But in the “abortion issue” category that a president can have influence on, I see more than Supreme Court appointments (which are a big deal). I see also the Mexico City policy; the HHS mandate; federal funding re: embryonic stem cell research; federal funding for PP; supporting/vetoing abortion conscience clause legislation; and supporting/vetoing federal abortion restriction legislation in general (eg, partial-birth abortion, a few years ago).

        • Kurt permalink
          October 20, 2012 7:27 pm

          True, the president doesn’t have a lot of influence on abortion policy in this nation (the best way to change the abortion culture is to change the hearts and minds of our neighbors).

          Hence, Catholics should use their prudential judgment on various issues, considering the ability and chances for changes policy in a positive directions. Catholics should also be concerned about if the RTL Movement is presenting itself in a way that is likely to change hearts and minds or is coming off as a bunch a partisan hacks.

      • Mark VA permalink
        October 19, 2012 6:09 pm


        I think Johnmcg is very clear – one side wants to have its cake and eat it too. It should not be a barrier when voting for the President, but all of a sudden it is a barrier when voting for the challenger? It’s that, or it’s a case of schadenfreude – let’s see the conservatives hold their nose when voting for their guy. Or it’s something else still, maybe a fermented nuance affecting the thinking.

        Anyway, Rodak, I find your line of questioning rather ambiguous. A lot of prodding, dancing around, creating an impression that you’re looking for some kind of opening.

        I think it would clear the air of any mis-perceptions if you stated what moral logic you yourself are operating within, on the issue of abortion.

  4. October 19, 2012 2:09 pm

    Yeah, I am rather baffled that this post is occurring on Vox Nova.

    Firstly, because it was Vox Nova which in this post a year or two ago ( first alerted me to the convincing moral analysis which would say that “life of the mother” situations, by their very nature, NEVER constitute “direct abortion” morally speaking, because the death is not being chosen as an ends or a means (rather, it is the removal which may be necessary, but presumably if the technology existed, like an artificial womb, they’d save it IF they could). So I think life of the mother shouldn’t be considered “abortion” either legally or morally. It’s always a double effect situation (whether the fetus is acted on directly PHYSICALLY being irrelevant; the “direct” referred to in morality is directness of the human choice, not material directness).

    Second, because I’d think that Vox Nova would recognize (based on the general atmosphere/tenor here) that a passive decriminalization is NOT necessarily the same as actively “supporting” something or making it a legal “right.”

    Yes, abortion is murder EVEN in the case of rape. But that doesn’t mean as a matter of political policy that criminalizing it in that case is the most prudent thing to do. It is certainly dogma that abortion is evil. It is not a dogma that it must be criminalized in all cases. That’s a question of political policy; not all evil, even murder, can be criminalized. The State has limited resources and cannot stop all evil everywhere.

    A good argument can be made that decriminalization in the case of rape is currently a tragic political necessity, given that the idea of punishing people in that very tragic and emotional situation strikes most people as cruel. Even among some who do think it is ultimately wrong and murder, many can admit that there is significant duress in such a case, and thus after-the-fact punishment of any sort is not necessarily best.

    Of course, if you concede these things about a Republican, you also should concede them for Democrats. That whether criminalization is the best way to minimize abortion is a prudential judgment about policy.

    • October 19, 2012 7:49 pm

      @ Mark VA —
      I have stated my opinions on abortion many times but I’ll do so again. It is my belief that the doctrine that life begins at conception, by which is really meant *personhood* begins at conception, is a religious doctrine. It is based on ensoulment. As such, it should be the basis of behavior for all persons believing the tenets of those religions which teach that doctrine. It should not, however, be codified as secular statute law, as this would be unconstitutional.
      I believe that aborting 3rd trimester pregnancies that would be viable outside of the womb should be illegal, except in cases where the pregnancy seriously threatens the life of the woman.
      I don’t think that abortion should be a political issue, since I don’t think that it should be a matter of secular law. I think that persons should follow their own conscience with regard to abortion and that politicians should leave it alone.

      • October 19, 2012 11:58 pm

        Isn’t the recognition of personhood for adults a “religious doctrine” too??

        • October 20, 2012 11:20 am

          No. There is universal agreement that every human who has survived birth is a person endowed with human rights. Atheists agree with that as much as religious people.

        • Thales permalink
          October 21, 2012 4:16 am

          There is universal agreement that every human who has survived birth is a person endowed with human rights.

          Not exactly. Peter Singer doesn’t think so. And you should be careful — I think you might be insulting the many non-religious atheists who believe personhood begins at conception.

      • Mark VA permalink
        October 20, 2012 6:28 am

        Thank you Rodak, for your frank reply – it clears the air.

        A follow up rhetorical question may be this: by discussing this subject in a Catholic forum, are you looking for a challenge to your beliefs, are you trying to examine the consistency of the Catholic logic and its sincerity, are you examining all this, yours and ours, for any discontinuities and voids?

        Quo vadis, Rodak?

        • October 20, 2012 10:58 am

          @ Mark VA —

          Since Catholics (and others) have made this a political issue, I feel it’s quite proper and justifiable to examine all constituent points in this forum as in any other where politics is being discussed. As a political issue, it becomes my issue. If it had remained within the Church and off the street, I would be laying out on the topic.

      • Mark VA permalink
        October 20, 2012 6:04 pm


        What are the criteria that you propose to help decide what is, and what is not, a political issue?

        So that we don’t get lost in esoteric or highly technical points, could you put your answer in the context of the American civil rights struggle of the sixties of the twentieth century?

        Was this struggle in its nature political, or religious?

        • October 21, 2012 11:15 am

          @ Mark VA —

          I call it political when there is collective action directed at changing existing law with regard to the thing in question. I call it political if there is a call from the pulpit for the faithful to vote for particular candidates who profess to support the type of legislation that the Church (or other religious institution) want to see passed.
          Of course the civil rights movement was political. That it was organized in part by churches does not change that.
          I don’t find the analogy particularly apt, however, since there was no argument with regard to the civil rights movement that it was the rights of persons that were being disputed. With abortion there is not that universal agreement.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      October 20, 2012 10:29 am

      For the record (and about the 1000th time) there is no “Vox Nova” in the sense of a univocal editorial position. Vox Nova, at least as presently conceived, is a platform for several bloggers with their own points of view, and whose contributions are offered without the prior approval or editorial control of others.

      • October 20, 2012 11:08 am

        That doesn’t mean there’s isn’t an ethos. And I’m pretty sure that ethos is AGAINST the “non-negotiable” idea some conservatives try to push regarding whether we must vote for “pro-life” (ie, pro-criminalization) candidates.

        • Mark Gordon permalink
          October 20, 2012 12:14 pm

          We offer a platform where that view, and others, can be expressed. The “ethos” is therefore formal, not substantive, which is what your comment implied.

        • October 20, 2012 12:30 pm

          All I said was that I’m rather baffled. And even that may be more rhetorical. In reality, I know that lots of people here are NOT absolutely against voting for Obama (and neither am I) merely on account of his views on abortion. Therefore, I suspect this post is less about saying Mitt Romney’s position is actually evil (decriminalization in some cases may be the best we can do) and more to point out the hypocrisy of the “non-negotiable” crowd.

  5. Dante Aligheri permalink
    October 19, 2012 3:32 pm

    If Romney continues to betray the Christian/Catholic conscience and President Obama has also assaulted the Catholic conscience, what can be done? I never trusted Romney and understood him to be a political opportunist of the most slippery sort. However, I figured he would be the lesser evil.

    At the same time, a vote for a third party candidate for abstaining from the vote facilitates the victory of both candidates.

    What is a responsible, Christian citizen to do?

    • October 19, 2012 4:32 pm

      At the same time, a vote for a third party candidate for abstaining from the vote facilitates the victory of both candidates.

      How do you figure?

  6. October 19, 2012 4:25 pm

    I am afraid the assessment is right, Romney is spitting on the face of Christian voters yet most “Christian” voters will always vote Republican because they fear political boogymen more and don’t trust God enough to end the Republican/Democrat monopoly of our government. Dan 3:16-18

  7. crystal permalink
    October 19, 2012 4:44 pm

    I think most people who decide to get an abortion don’t internally debate the details of double effect, but simply don’t see an early fetus as a person, so all that is moot.

  8. Kurt permalink
    October 19, 2012 9:38 pm

    I still think you can make a good argument that Romney is the better candidate on the abortion issue. But it’s an argument. With this campaign ad, let’s put to rest the “non-negotiable” BS.

  9. October 20, 2012 12:30 am

    I understand and respect the terrible moral dilemma that Obama’s support for “abortion on demand” poses to you Catholic theological conservatives writing at Vox Nova. However,as someone living outside of the United States for long periods of time, and looking at the nation’s culture through the reflective lenses of other cultures, and other belief systems, I perceive that most of you do not understand that “abortion on demand” is a DONE DEAL for a society of the intellectual and theological underpinnings of modern America. It’s not going to change, and any attempt to criminalize abortion would cause social strife of Civil War dimensions there. Meanwhile, you have a supposedly “conservative” candidate whose Presidency, he flatly guarantees, will bring renewed war to the Middle East, and, from there, considering the dire needs of other nations like the one I presently live in, to the rest of the world. In voting for Mitt Romney, you will be voting not just for the candidate who waffles on abortion, but also the candidate who has pledged war upon Iran in order to secure and make permanent the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Many presently birthed children, like the children of Syria who are already caught up in the initial stages of this war, are going to die as a consequence of the policy Romney has sworn to. Obama is almost, but not quite as bad, and, in this matter, is actually the candidate of peace, despite the drones.

    • October 20, 2012 4:59 pm

      @ Digby — I find your take on it to be definitive.

    • Mark VA permalink
      October 20, 2012 9:03 pm


      In some sense I understand why you wrote “…I perceive that most of you do not understand that “abortion on demand” is a DONE DEAL for a society of the intellectual and theological underpinnings of modern America.”

      In another sense, I’ve lived long enough to not only understand, but to fundamentally distrust such sentiments. Trust me Digby, at one time the permanence of Marxist totalitarianisms did not only seem like a done deal, it was the epitome of naivete to even think that this evil would ever be shaken.

      To paraphrase Darth Vader a bit, our lack of faith in the Higher Power is disturbing.

      • trellis smith permalink
        October 21, 2012 1:51 pm

        Ironic Mark VA, that you invoke the demise of Marxian state totalitarianism to advance an equally grave if not greater totalitarian interference by the state on the question of abortion.

        • Mark VA permalink
          October 22, 2012 8:48 pm

          Trellis Smith:

          That’s a pretty yeasty fen-sucked whey of a comment. Here’s something else for yer swag-bellied amusement:

        • trellis smith permalink
          October 24, 2012 4:41 am

          The more typical admission is “touché” but I’ll acknowledge the retort as stated.

      • Dante Aligheri permalink
        October 21, 2012 2:09 pm

        Mark VA

        I agree. I understand Digby’s point and mourn that American politics has come to this. Truth is, I agree with the Democrats on most everything from the economy to ecology to education except for their social policy. However, I find it impossible to sacrifice our ideals and simply resign ourselves to the fact a particular and fundamental evil will continue without any ability to change it. To turn a blind eye to something one knows to be a moral outrage seems inadmissable.

        At the same time, I firmly believe politics will never overturn Roe v. Wade due to the way democracy works. Only a change in culture will correct this wrong…or at least until our political system changes to admit more parties than two having a fair shot.

        Parliamentary system, perhaps?

    • Kimberley permalink
      October 21, 2012 9:09 am


      So we should always follow society, because of course “socierty” is always right. It was a DONE DEAL in 1820 that slavery would always be part of the US. And a DONE DEAL in the Roman empire that exposing infants would always be acceptable.

      No, science and reason and Christ our Savior will win the abortion fight.

      • October 22, 2012 6:46 am

        Yes, perhaps, Kimberley, but not in your or my lifetime, and, meanwhile, Romney will collaborate more with the Zionists in the butchering and ethnic cleansing of more and more ARAB infants and their mothers. Have you read what the mainline Protestant Christian churches, plus the Catholic communities of religious men put out about this yesterday?

  10. October 20, 2012 3:36 pm

    Nonetheless, it is kind of a raised middle finger flaunted in their general direction.

    Romney’s position on abortion is entirely consistent with the Mormon Church’s position on abortion.

    Church leaders have said that some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. But even these circumstances do not automatically justify an abortion. Those who face such circumstances should consider abortion only after consulting with their local Church leaders and receiving a confirmation through earnest prayer.

    Is Mormonism (or Judaism) “a raised middle finger” to Catholicism? Is Romney to be scorned for believing what his own Church teaches on abortion rather than what the Catholic Church teaches?

    How many people who call themselves “pro-life” actually oppose abortion under all circumstances, including abortion to save the life of the mother?

    Isn’t it a little arrogant for Catholics (and others who take the absolutist position on abortion) to consider themselves the only true pro-lifers? If Catholic pro-lifers had their way, would they really feel comfortable about prohibiting a pregnant Mormon or Jewish woman from having a lifesaving abortion, which they would be permitted to do according to their own religions?

    • Mark VA permalink
      October 21, 2012 6:34 am


      To vent one’s animus toward “absolutist positions”, “only true pro-lifers” etc. is one thing, to understand this issue in all its aspects is another.

      You are reasoning about a very difficult and extreme situation – the life of the unborn baby, and the mother’s, are at an immediate physical risk, due to an internal and independent factor. I encourage you to talk with your Bishop to get the right answers to your concerns.

      • October 21, 2012 10:37 am

        I encourage you to talk with your Bishop to get the right answers to your concerns.

        Mark VA,

        Oh, well, I live in Manhattan, so I’ll see if Cardinal Dolan would like to chat with me about abortion. :)

        Actually, I fully understand the position of the Catholic Church on abortion. What I am really commenting on is democracy in America or any other pluralistic society. The Catholic Church considers its position on abortion to be the only acceptable position on abortion. Consequently, Catholic politicians (and voters) in pluralistic democracies are obliged to use the Catholic position to make law.

        Now, the odds of Catholic politicians and voters in the United States actually succeeding in imposing a total ban on all abortions, including those to save the lives of mothers with life-threatening pregnancies, are probably so close to zero that it makes no practical difference. But the fact is that the Catholic Church expects Catholics in pluralistic democracies to prevent women of other religions from having access to lifesaving abortions when those women’s own religions permit them to do so.

        Why should Catholic politicians try to prevent Jewish or Mormon women from having lifesaving abortions? It is, in essence, a declaration that Jews and Mormons are so wrong on the issue of abortion that positive law can deny them to the option to save their lives.

        Somebody is certain to make the point that abortions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother are a tiny fraction of abortions in the United States. That is absolutely true. But it would be of little comfort to a woman with a life-threatening pregnancy in which all abortions were illegal.

        • October 21, 2012 6:19 pm

          I wouldn’t say “We’re obliged to make the Catholic position law.” I’d say we’re obliged to vote in whatever way we judge will maximize lives saved (or however you want to define the metric), pragmatically speaking. Pursuing criminalization may not always be the best way. In an “ideal” world, sure, the law would totally coincide. But in an ideal world there would be no rape, unwanted pregnancy, life-threatening illness. And everyone would be Catholic. So…that doesn’t tell us much about how we should vote HERE in the real world.

        • Kurt permalink
          October 21, 2012 6:32 pm

          Let is be clear. While churchmen speak of “instrinsic evils” the Church has not and does not teach that democracy is an “intrinsic virtue.” We know that when elected government doesn’t go the way the Church wants….well, Spain 1936 is an example. Fascist coup.

        • Mark VA permalink
          October 21, 2012 8:05 pm


          We’re talking past each other.

          Don’t give up so easy – submit a “dubia” to Dolan.

        • David Nickol permalink
          October 22, 2012 9:50 am

          Don’t give up so easy – submit a “dubia” to Dolan.

          Mark VA,

          I can’t figure out whether it would be odder if you’re pulling my leg or being serious, but I think it’s the latter.

        • Kurt permalink
          October 22, 2012 6:36 pm


          Watcha shoulda done is bought a ticket to the Al Smith Dinner, put on your white tie and tails and used the only opportunity to directly hob-knob with His Grace.

    • October 26, 2012 3:56 pm

      It seems to me your position is, “If you have a position in the minority, you better shut up, and never dream of making your positions a political reality; otherwise you are arrogant and imposing your views on those who disagree.”

      I’ll take being arrogant and right over being respectful and wrong.

  11. trellis smith permalink
    October 21, 2012 1:42 pm

    On the contrary, consult your conscience for the right answer on an often bifurcated, moral and political option.

  12. David Nickol permalink
    October 22, 2012 10:31 am

    I wouldn’t say “We’re obliged to make the Catholic position law.”

    A Sinner,

    Your position seems to me to be different from Catholic pro-lifers and indeed the Catholic Church. I hope someone will correct me if I am wrong. It seems to me that Catholic position on abortion is that it is that legalized abortion is so egregiously wrong that it cannot be tolerated. “A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed” (Faithful Citizenship). It is the duty of Catholic lawmakers and Catholic voters to resist any expansion of abortion “rights” and to do whatever they can to make abortion illegal, including abortion in the case of rape, incest, fetal anomaly, and threat to the life of the mother. If Catholics somehow gained the power, they would be obliged to ban all abortions, including those considered permissible by people of other religions, such as Jews and Mormons.

    As I understand it, Catholics who say that outlawing abortion is not the answer, could be counterproductive, and other methods would be more effective in lowering the number of abortions are in dissent. Abortion must be against the law.

    • dominic1955 permalink
      October 22, 2012 3:55 pm

      Yes, abortion would have to be taken off the list of sacred cow untouchable “rights” but one does not have to maximalize the penality, i.e. every abortionist, mother, and accomplices do not have to be made to swing for it. One need not even ban it to the nth degree-witness people’s stupid self-destructive tendencies to want banned and taboo things more when they are forbidden them no matter how bad they are. It would seem to suffice that the official statement of the State would be something to the effect that abortion is a grave moral evil, something we do not countenance and something that is not protected by the law of the land. A Catholic State can not countenance abortion as a “right” falsely so-called, but no government is bound to punish to the fullest extend allowed by the Divine Law. In our current situation, we can work for the pragmatic end to abortion knowing that it is highly unrealistic that there will be a Catholic Emperor ruling over America in a couple weeks.

      Back to the Catholic State, since error has no rights anyway, there is no reason to allow someone access to something fundamentally immoral because their false sect thinks it is moral/amoral in certain situations. Plus, the boogey man of necessary abortion to save the life of the mother (which, in my reading, has shown itself a will o’ the wisp) is just a heart string tugger-a typical bleedin’ heart ploy to justify something immoral by making it look like the ones who know it to be evil in principle are big meanies.

      • October 23, 2012 6:12 am

        I would like all to please notice something:

        since error has no rights anyway, there is no reason to allow someone access to something fundamentally immoral because their false sect thinks it is moral/amoral in certain situations.

        Here, in referring to Judaism as a “false sect,” dominic1955 is doing something that I insist is true of all modern American Catholic Fundamentalists (who, in religious temper and culture, are actually more Protestant than Catholic): he is actually proving himself to be a HERETIC. “Supercessionism” is actually defined to be a “heresy” by the Magisterium of the Church nowadays, who have proclaimed, loudly and clearly, that the Old Testament Covenant with the Jewish people is not “broken,” and that they are NOT a “false sect.”

        • October 24, 2012 6:21 pm

          Not true, digby. While there must needs be nuance regarding the Jews, given that their eschatological place in the cosmos is different than other false sects or religions, Modern Judaism is not the fullness of truth, and they don’t have some sort of “parallel covenant.” This is all dominic meant, I assume.

        • October 26, 2012 9:39 am

          Sinner knows what was clearly stated at the Second Vatican Council, and so he knows that he’s dissembling the truth. This is typical behaviour among Fundamentalists–even Catholic Fundamentalists.

    • October 22, 2012 4:03 pm

      As an ideal point, yes, abortion must be against the law. The State has a duty to defend all lives. But the State also has limited resources; though, the idea of a legally protected “right” to abortion, or of EXPANDING decriminalization, would seem insupportable.

      But that’s different from how voting works. Voting is a “strategic” act. When an individual voter votes, we vote for a candidate, not a policy. Therefore, as Kurt said above, when we vote for a candidate we should do so “considering the ability and chances for changes policy in a positive directions.” If I vote for a pro-choice garbage commissioner…he’s not going to affect anything.

      Is it worth voting for a candidate who has a 5% chance of slightly expanding abortion restrictions (let alone the question of enforcing those restrictions) when that candidate also comes with an 80% chance of war or terrible economic policies?? These are the sorts of strategic questions and weighing of probabilities Catholic voters must take into account. And this is a prudential judgment that is beyond the scope of the bishops to dictate. They can tell us the principles and relative values we must prioritize, but they can’t judge the specific casuistic applications.

      Furthermore, as the CDF document on this very question about a decade ago said, there is a difference between the first proposal that occurs in a country to decriminalization, and later proposals AFTER it has already been decriminalized. “Putting the cat back in the bag” is more difficult, and certainly a vote for policy that moves in the direction of total limitation need not be total itself. Any step in the right direction helps.

      But, furthermore, once the cat is out of the bag, it may be that maintaining decriminalization in certain cases (say, rape) is POLITICALLY necessary to build a consensus about limitation in OTHER cases. The perfect need NOT be enemy of the good.

      Likewise, politicians may feel that, while personally against abortion, their political will and energy is better spent fighting for better economic conditions to reduce abortions than in a futile battle for hard-to-enforce criminalization. What if the passage of a bill is a “done deal” and voting against it will accomplish nothing except you will lose the next election in your district and thus can no longer keep fighting for other good things? These are the sorts of strategic questions Catholic politicians must consider. Taking an ideological stand with no practical effect may just be a waste.

      No, the politicized conservative hierarchs in the US (and elsewhere) like to make it sound like you must vote a certain way, but the issue is actually (even according to an analysis under Catholic doctrine) INCREDIBLY complex, exactly because a vote for a candidate is NOT the same as a vote for a policy, and even a politician’s vote for a policy regarding State action towards abortion is NOT the same as directly affecting abortion itself (because, besides the fact that an individual vote may not be decisive and may uselessly spend political capital, what actually happens in practice regarding abortion is a step removed from what policies are theoretically in place.)

      Voting is a pragmatic/strategic act, not an “idealistic” act. When making our vote (whether as a voter for candidates or a politician for policies), we must consider that the unborn child is a human being, whose life has the same irreducible value as any other, and MUST count their lives as absolutely equivalent to all other human lives in our final “calculus” regarding what actions we take we think will contribute to good being maximized and lives-lost being minimized.

      But it is not at all clear that “ideologically pure” voting actually, as a practical matter, always contributes in the way we want. Often, it might be counterproductive.

    • Thales permalink
      October 22, 2012 5:42 pm

      I wouldn’t say “Catholics are obliged to make the Catholic position law”; I’d say that “Catholics are obliged to advance the common good in law.” Encompassed in this is the understanding that the common good is not advanced by legally prohibiting every immoral act or legally requiring every moral act. Obviously, there are difficult particular exceptions (like abortion to save the life of the mother) which probably shouldn’t be prohibited by law.

      As for the point that other religions might think that act X should be permissible, while the Catholic faith might think that act X should not be permissible, this is not a principle that should be always honored based on some notion of respect for religion. To illustrate, consider honor killings. The fact that certain people of Islamic faith believe that their religion permits (or even requires) honor killings shouldn’t stop me or my voting community or my elected representatives from thinking that honor killings are contrary to the common good and should be legally prohibited, and from enacting that into law.

  13. Mark VA permalink
    October 22, 2012 8:17 pm


    You guessed right. Put Cardinal Dolan’s office dwellers to a little test. You have a serious question about a serious matter, and it deserves a serious answer – bread not stones.

    Here are the folks who teach the teachers:

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