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US Catholic bishops and abortion - part 2
continued from:
choicers give more weight to the mother's right to decide; the bishops
claim that the fetus' right to life trumps, and tha...
presented teaching. Do you really believe most Catholics are that tuned
in to what you list as inconsistent arguments, err...
In the old days, both our social justice and sexual morality teachings relied on
approaches based in classicism, natural l...
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Us catholic bishops and abortion part 2


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Us catholic bishops and abortion part 2

  1. 1. US Catholic bishops and abortion - part 2 continued from: quote: Originally posted by Phil: Oh, I surely do recall Charles Curran's visit to LSU and the controversy around all that. It was the beginning of the end of our campus ministry team. I remember when his critique of the bishops approach you linked to came out a couple of years ago. That, too, stirred things up quite a bit. I think we might have discussed it here. All in all, I find it a good summary, but I find a few things to quibble about. E.g., quote: Recently the bishops have made the argument that since abortion is an intrinsic moral evil, it thus differs from all other legal issues such as immigration, death penalty, human rights, or the first use of nuclear weapons. This is a faulty argument. The primary problem is that intrinsic evil is a moral term and not a legal term. The fact that something is an intrinsic moral evil has nothing to do with law or legality. Aquinas himself following Augustine was willing to accept no law against prostitution, which according to Catholic teaching is a morally intrinsic evil. Many states in our country do not have criminal laws against adultery, but Catholic teaching insists that adultery is an intrinsic moral evil. No Catholic bishops have campaigned to have criminal laws against adultery. Thus the very fact that something is an intrinsic moral evil does not mean there should always be a law against it. That point seems disingenuous, insofar as the intrinsic evil is more akin to murder than anything else, and no country approves of the intentional destruction of innocent human life, which the bishops maintain a fetus is. And they are correct on this point; a fetus is indisputably a human life, and an individual human genome, at that, after the 3rd week of life, for sure. Questions about ensoulment, personhood, etc. are another matter, and I think you and Curran are correct in pointing out that excessive reliance on essentialistic approaches to establishing such status are as weak (and as strong) as the philosophical approach. Without rehashing old discussions, here, I don't think they need to go down that road; biological individuality is a strong enough point to build an argument on, imo, and they're on completely safe ground there. All that's left to discuss is the right of that biological individual genome to its proper future versus a woman's right to carry such life (or not) to term. Pro-
  2. 2. choicers give more weight to the mother's right to decide; the bishops claim that the fetus' right to life trumps, and that to terminate such a life is an intrinsically evil act more akin to murder, which every society loathes and punishes. If one follows the links at the bottom of those NCR pages, there was some give and take between Curran and other responders that clarifies this matter. Curran was stipulating to the magisterium's position regarding the moral reality of abortion, merely pointing out that being an intrinsic evil, alone, would not be a sufficient reason to criminalize an act (over against some poorly nuanced statements by bishops). That point, when coupled with the speculative doubt regarding personhood, could contribute to a reasonable argument against criminalization and precisely because nothing tantamount to murder is in play, consistent with the observation that most societies, in fact, do not criminalize abortion. I suspect Curran described such doubt as speculative in order to distinguish it from empirical doubt, the former being a doubt of law , where probabilistic systems may apply, the latter, a doubt of fact , where probabilism would not apply if human life and justice are at stake, although there is some evidence in church tradition that this is not always the case. quote: Originally posted by Phil:Shasha's post #5 from the top expresses the precise sentiments I think the bishops hope that Catholics will hold to, and I strongly empathize with this. I can even go along with Rev. Jay Scott's statement quoted above (minus the threat of mortal sin and damnation), that Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil. That's really true! Of course, one must define what is meant by "plausible pro-life alternative." What gets lost in the conversation is prudential judgment, which strategies will probably work the best to achieve the consensus goal of reducing abortions, the pro-life goal of eliminating them. A plausible pro-life alternative must be based on results not rhetoric. Even the who, what, when, where and how of criminalization is subject to prudential judgment. They seem to ignore such common sense calculus as weighing, for example, the likelihood of abortion law being changed by one POTUS candidate against the likelihood of an imprudent war being waged by another. quote: Originally posted by Phil: Johnboy, you seem convinced that the gap between the bishops' teaching and Catholic voting behavior has less to do with what you called "an unreceptive audience" than with poorly reasoned or
  3. 3. presented teaching. Do you really believe most Catholics are that tuned in to what you list as inconsistent arguments, erroneous presuppositions, flawed metaphysics, poor epistemology? I only wish they were that tuned in and reflective about this matter. You also find hope for a more effective pedagogy on this and related issues in our social teachings. Maybe you could say more about that sometime. We can distinguish between being epistemologically competent and being schooled in epistemology. The former combines common sense and love in a wisdom experienced in one's bones. People are indeed tuned in to what I list because such a tuning is moreso intuitive, experiential, existential, aesthetic, moral and practical, what I have often distinguished as arising from our participatory imaginations rather than merely our conceptual map-making. People "know" through the way they live and move and have their being that the procreative dimension to marriage is more than an isolated physical act, that the unitive dimension of conjugal love is important. They don't have to jump through metaphysical hoops to figure out that masturbation and murder are not equally grave. They "know" that distributing condoms to prevent AIDS in Africa is a no-brainer that doesn't require a panel of bio-ethicists to deliberate. They "know" that the procreative values to be realized in a marriage are not threatened by the use of contraception because openness to generativity is a disposition oriented toward the lifetime of the relationship more than any individual act. They "know" that the sacerdotal roles of a priest are not inextricably tied to her gender. They "know" that, given an unfortunate choice, it is infinitely more morally compelling to rescue a single baby from a fire at a preschool than hundreds of frozen embryos in the cryobank next door. Of course, every value-realization involves an axiological holon of epistemic warrant, normative justification, evaluative eco-rationality and interpretive impetus, in other words, including both our participatory imagination and conceptual-mapmaking, our reason and intuition, our rational, pre-rational, nonrational and supra-rational dispositions. But human deliberations are far more informal than formal. A casuistry immersed in metaphysical abstractions and deductive rationalism apart from concrete lived experience loses its relevance to the faithful, who sniff out such a flawed metaphysics and poor epistemology as true philosophers, who are people who have simply lived life well. The erroneous presuppositions needn't be articulated formally, as they can be dismissed reductio ad absurdum for what they are, patently absurd. All it takes to spot an inconsistent argument is, well, inconsistency, a reality about which the magisterium is hypersensitive, so often disingenuously maintaining that thus and such has been the so-called constant tradition. This is one reason given for not changing the teaching on contraception: What about all the faithful we've already sent to hell? or The faithful would be scandalized if we changed our position!
  4. 4. In the old days, both our social justice and sexual morality teachings relied on approaches based in classicism, natural law and legalism. Nowadays, our social justice theory employs three new methodologies, respectively, historical consciousness, personalism and relationality-responsibility. Modern Catholic social justice teachings enjoy widespread credibility due to these updated methodologies, which are eminently transparent to human reason. Catholic Ethics in Tension: Sexuality and Social Justice by Rev. Charles Curran All that said, the magisterium has been decidedly on the side of all that is true, beautiful, good and unitive, even if often fallibly making its way in walking alongside and ministering to the pilgrim people of God. It, among other ecclesial magisteria, is an indispensable witness to revelation and deserving of deference and engagement in one's conscience formation. Regarding the moral reality of abortion, because I find the arguments compelling that both probabilism and prudential judgment are in play, it seems to me that people of both large intelligence and profound goodwill can disagree regarding - not only the legal and political dimensions, but - its morality, making vilification, demonization and ad hominem characterizations (eg you therefore, definitionally and necessarily, have a poorly-formed conscience) of others totally off limits. It also means that I believe that - not only can one vote for a pro-choice candidate, but - one can be Catholic and pro-choice, if sufficiently nuanced. Even those who are quite confident that ensoulment is variously delayed should take into account both their own and others' moral sensibilities, feelings and aesthetics playing an important role in moral evaluations, and couple those with an appreciation for other probable (authoritative) opinions as exist in probabilistic systems, along with some speculative self-critical doubt, and concede that no human life or being, person or not metaphysically, lacks moral significance, even if that significance is less than absolute, and that, therefore, no decision to abort should be made casually or cavalierly, that no gift should be returned dismissively or without consideration.