Thursday, December 10, 2009

Moral Distinction Between Abortion and Other Issues

I have run across a number of articles and editorials lately that have been critical of the US Bishops on a number of issues, including the attempt to get abortion out of health care and Bishop Tobin denying Communion to Representative Patrick Kennedy for his pro-abortion stance.  What has marked each of these critical items is a failure to make the proper distinctions between issues.  A few examples will shed light on the problem.

Joseph Califano writes:
In recent years, the bishops have heavily criticized Catholic politicians who support federal funding for abortion. The attack is understandable, but the denial of the Eucharist seems to me a sort of nuclear option. Is it only aimed at politicians who vote for federal funds for abortion? What about Catholic legislators who vote for the death penalty or to fund the Iraq war, which the Vatican condemned as immoral? Should they be denied the Eucharist?

As Catholics and as citizens, we have a right to assert our convictions on public issues clearly and vigorously -- to hope and to work that they should prevail.

But to have convictions of conscience and be guided by them is not a license to impose such convictions indiscriminately on others.
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend writes:
As Catholics, are we so laser focused on the issue of abortion that we are willing to join tea partiers and the like to bring down the health care reform bill? And at the enormous expense of millions of Americans who suffer every day because they can’t afford to get checkups, because they must choose bankruptcy in order to save the life of their loved one?

Not this Catholic. As someone who was raised by a family absolutely committed to public service and to making sure that our nation provides health care to the least among us, I am devastated that the bishops are using their influence to try not to increase access to health care for the millions of people who don’t have insurance. Where is their passion for the families who need health care?
One more. Sam Sperry writes:
There is no moral righteousness in denying affordable health-care coverage to the millions of uninsured and underinsured citizens for the sake of further restricting coverage for a woman's reproductive health.

But the Catholic bishops are willing to abort health-care reform because they insist Congress disallow any publicly funded or subsidized private health-insurance plan that may help finance a woman's decision to choose an abortion.

His article then completely goes off the deep end when he then starts to try and explain Catholic morality to the Bishops. His logic is so bad I can only hope it is because he failed his 1st Communion Religious Eduction class.

My response:
1 - Abortion is not one issue among many.  Abortion is THE issue.  Without life, there are no other rights that matter.  To kill an innocent human being intentionally is always and everywhere murder.  There is no situation that justifies taking the life of a baby in a mother's womb.  The moral equivalence issue is therefore bunk. Abortion is not morally equivalent to the things listed in these articles (e.g. death penalty,  unjust war, etc).  A Catholic can never support abortion and be in full communion with the Church.  But, a Catholic can support applications of the death penalty and argue for war in certain circumstances and not suffer in their communion with the Church.

Furthermore, abortion isn't just a "Catholic" issue.  It is a universal human issue.  Even without Christian revelation, we would have to oppose abortion because it attacks the most basic and primal of all human rights - the right to life.

Here is what the US Bishops teach about the issue, basing their teaching on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion. [They are clear and unambiguous - not every action is morally equivalent. We cannot lump all political policies into one bunch] In our nation, “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others” (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.
2 - The Bishops have every right to impose disciplinary measures on the members of their flocks.  This does not therefore mean that they are interfering in political matters.  They are dealing with internal issues, not external ones.  Also, every US citizen has the right to express their opinion about public policy decisions, including the Bishops.

On the flip side, a US citizen, Catholic or not, is free to disagree with the Catholic Church. If you call yourself Catholic and decide to exercise this freedom through doctrinal dissent, you should not complain if you don't have the full freedom to practice the faith within the Church when you publicly cause scandal by dissenting.
From a Vatican document on political life:
By its interventions in this area, the Church’s Magisterium does not wish to exercise political power or eliminate the freedom of opinion of Catholics regarding contingent questions. Instead, it intends – as is its proper function – to instruct and illuminate the consciences of the faithful, particularly those involved in political life, so that their actions may always serve the integral promotion of the human person and the common good.
3 - It is not the US Bishops trying to deny health care coverage for the poor.  This is a smoke screen and a silly argument.  The pro-abortion members are willing to sacrifice health care for the purpose of widening the use of public money being used to pay for abortions.  Don't blame the Bishops.  Look in the mirror.  The US Bishops have been some of the strongest proponents of overhauling the health care system.

Why would any rational person expect the Catholic Bishops to cave on the issue of abortion?  They don't really, rather they are trying to pull a slight of hand and lay the blame at the Bishops' feet.  Don't let it work.
I end these thoughts with words from the US Bishops:
As Catholics, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group. When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that we neglect or deny fundamental moral truths.

1 comment:

Gert said...

It may just be possible that the bishops are wrong on their attempt to encourage a nationalized health care system. While the goal of bringing good health care to all is vital, it can be argued that nationalized programs do not succeed very well at that.

That best way to bring health care to all may be through charity. Many years ago the Church was at the forefront of this but for many reasons has bowed out. Perhaps it is time for the Church to renew this mission. Of course it is more difficult than saying the government should do it.