Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » May 2004 » Interesting position on Catholicism and choice

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05/01/2004: Interesting position on Catholicism and choice

Matt at The Village Gate points us to a letter purportedly written by a friend of his to Senator Kerry and the Kerry for President campaign: Catholicism and Abortion: An Owner's Manual The letter makes some interesting points:

I am a Catholic and a yellow-dog Democrat and I fear that you will not prevail this fall unless you pick up a higher percentage of the Catholic vote than Al Gore got in 2000. I very much doubt you will do that, despite your faith, unless you can achieve some kind of breakthrough on the abortion issue. I was moved to write to you because of a van I saw parked in our church parking lot. It belongs to a woman who is devout and active in the Church and it had two bumper stickers on it:

If You Want Peace, Work For Justice
Protect Unborn Life

There is no one in either party who is speaking to people like this; I expect there are millions of us, and I think you need them in order to win.


Catholics want to believe that personal values, including the values of politicians, arise out of faith values. We get this drummed into our heads every Sunday. Catholics who despise the current anti-poor, pro-death penalty gang would love to hear some new thinking on this issue. With that, let me be so bold as to suggest the following:
  • Stop saying "pro-choice." To a Catholic, this phrase trivializes the whole thing. "Oh, I chose this pink dress, and now Iím going to choose to end a human life." Instead you should always refer to it as "opposing re-criminalization of abortion." Itís a mouthful, but you want people to think about their daughter in a cell block.
  • You have to demonstrate that recriminalizing abortion will not stop abortion at all, but simply place the provision of abortion into the hands of the same people who now dispense illicit dope. In nations that do prohibit abortions, like Poland and Ireland, women abort at the same rate as they do in Germany and the UK respectively. The industrialized nation with the very lowest abortion rate is the Netherlands, where abortion has been free and legal since forever. The point is that the "pro-life" movement, in that it works for recriminalization, is futile, as futile as the movement to end drunkenness by banning alcohol was.
  • You have to once and for all teach the American people the difference between a sin and a crime. If youíre a Catholic, you have to believe that abortion is a sin, and you should come out and say it. Iím a Catholic, life begins at conception, the Church teaches itís a sin, end of story. The only real question therefore is, as a matter of public policy, what do you do with a belief like that, when you live in a nation where sixty-odd per cent of the people donít believe it? They donít believe itís a baby. You have to clearly say that it is as un-American to use the power of the state to coerce this belief as it would be to coerce the belief in the divinity of Christ. Atheism and polytheism are sins that the Constitution protects.
  • The advantage of this position over the typical liberal positionóthat this is a private matter between a woman and her physicianóis that it is aggressive rather than defensive and that it stands not on ďprivacyĒ which is very nearly code for sordid things that will not stand the light of day, but on religious freedom, something virtually all Americans agree upon. The Christian right has had this field to itself for far too long. Do Baptists really want Catholics legislating about how they are to attain eternal life? Are they saying that the life of a fetus requires coerced belief, but eternal life does not? Think about it.

Obviously there are a few things that I don't agree with in this analysis--there is, IMHO, no such thing as "sin" in the moral theological sense of the term, so atheism and polytheism can hardly be sins. But it's a reasoned and reasonable position that could serve to co-opt the moral high ground from Kerry's opponents.

Len on 05.01.04 @ 08:18 PM CST


Replies: 2 comments

on Saturday, May 1st, 2004 at 8:25 PM CST, bryan@dumka.com">Bryan said

OT: A whole lot easier to read than the white on black.

on Saturday, May 1st, 2004 at 8:30 PM CST, Len Cleavelin said

I suppose that comment would be on topic if it were appended to the "Self absorbed blog maintenance post" of a while back, but I'm not going to stand on formality. I'm probably going to leave the Blogger archives in the old format, but I suppose I can be convinced to leave this black on white if there appears to be a strong feelign either way.

I think I'm going to tweak the stylesheet to make the font a bit bigger (my tired old middle-aged eyes will probably thank me for that), but other than that I can see sticking with this a while.

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