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Jan 21, 2006


Michael Liccione

Most of this is sheer sophistry.

It's pretty powerful rhetoric, and reveals the monolithic, totalitarian impulse within Roman Catholicism. It first removes legitimacy from its opponents. It renders the opposing church "evil" which permits the obvious: death

Powerful image, that: "monolithic, totalitarian," like the now-defunct Soviet Union. One is led to suppose that John Paul II was Sovietesque for supporting NATO intervention in Serbia to thwart and undermine a dictator who had been encouraging and abetting the slaughter of Bosnian Muslims. The Serbian Orthodox Church, on the other hand, was only "permitting the obvious" by opposing such intervention. Right?

Death is inevitable and nobody pretends, idly, to forbid it. Mass murder is not inevitable, and it's no more totalitarian to oppose it than it is Christian to believe it should be permitted.

Although it seems that the issue is about babies, it is more properly about the church's relationship to the state; and secondly about the church's relationship to its own body. Can Christians accept a government that permits people, of different religions, to have abortions?

Al maintains, in keeping with the papacy and the U.S. Catholic episcopate, that laws permitting direct abortion are morally illegitimate. He draws that claim from the premises of Catholic moral teaching, and he is being logical to do so. You're assuming, however, that he can make that claim only on Catholic premises. Even in this country, that assumption is false.

Protestant evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims of every stripe also oppose laws permitting most abortions. You can find non-believers who do too. I've read one: Nat Hentoff; I personally know another: John Dolan, professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota. So the issue isn't about "separation of church and state." It's about what is and is not a human person thus endowed with inalienable rights. Religion can and should help people answer that question, but it is not logically necessary for doing so. Nor is it thus necessary for any question of the natural law.

In ECUSA, laity and clergy have far more theological authority. The justification has been based upon pragmatic, pastoral considerations, [or the bogeyman of "experience"] and less upon natural law. We are less willing to live with the hypocrisy that characterizes the Roman experience. And, contra Al, it seems a thorougly Christian viewpoint to reject institutional hypocrisy.

There are two ways to reduce hypocrisy: change behavior to conform with the precepts, or change the precepts to conform with the behavior. Rome is always calling for the former, but only a minority listen; such have things always been since the first days of the people of Israel. ECUSA, on the other hand, just changes the precepts to conform with the behavior. This is called "respecting the experience" of the laity. Nice words. What they cover up is the fact that hypocrisy has been successfully reduced at the price of apostasy. It's silly as well as self-serving to fault Rome for refusing to pay that price.

There are other arguments in your post, legal and sociological, that are also sophistical. But this will do for now in defense of Al Kimel.

John Wilkins

Michael, by "Sophistry," you mean, not willing to argue on your terms. My rhetoric is no more severe than Al's.

If he made the argument on secular grounds, Michael, this would be a different post. In fact, I probably wouldn't post. The point is that he is arguing that I am not part of a Christian Church. Clearly, you do not think so either. I have never shown and equivalent lack of charity towards those who disagree with me by insiunating that either of you are not Christian, which is what he very clearly implies.


"It's pretty powerful rhetoric ... "
I fear that is not rhetoric; on the contrary it's rather very practical.
Saying that a thing is evil implies that you must do watever you can to avoid it ! That's the contrary of theory ...
In the case of abortion it's not only catholicism who reject it, but also the entire christiandom since the very early church fathers, and the Bible at first.
As christians we have to follow the truth, even if we can't understand clearly why such thing is good or such thing isn't, don't you think?

Phil Snyder


Would you accept that a church that preaches that the poor should be left to fend for themselves or be outright killed is Christian?

Would you accept that a Church that preaches that CEOs should cheat and steal and abuse their employees because God blesses the stronger is Christian?

Would you accept that a Church that teaches that ethnic minorities are really degenerate forms of humanity and not deserving of life and exsit to serve the "normal" people, is Christian?

Jesus Christ is LIFE itself. To chose death is to chose for that which is not life. We can argue and debate on when the fetus becomes a person, but you cannot prove it is not a person at any point.

Having said that, we do live in a country where laws are determined by elected representatives (and by judges, but that's a different argument). Were the Supreme Court to overturn Roe and the associated cases and find that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to abortion, then the issue would fall to the US Congress to decide. Of course, we could use the 10th Amendment and the Ennumerated Powers of Congress and find that Abortion Law is not among them, so it would fall to the 50 states. I suspect that a compromise would come out that 1st trimester abortions would remain legal, 2nd trimester abortions would be highly restricted and 3rd trimester abortions would be illegal.

I wouldn't like it and would work to change the law, but I could live with that.

Regardless of what the law says, the moral option is almost never for an abortion. My wife and I waited 3 years to adopt our son and he is alive only because his birth mother's choice was life for her son. It was a tough choice, but I am glad she made it.

Phil Snyder

John Wilkins

This is the issue for me: can ECUSA join such a group that advocates a law that acknowledges that the moral locus is on the woman, and not the state? To me, that is simply what it is saying - nothing more.

I think the proper Christian response to the law is not to render it illegal, but to set up more adoption clinics.

A couple examples: I support a medicalization of all drugs and decriminalized prostitution. Do I think Christians should become active drug users and prostitutes? Absolutely not. Would I be upset if executive council supported policies or groups that would do either? Not really, because I sincerely think that society is harmed less by controlling and restricting such behavior rather than criminalizing them.

Lets say a woman enters a building called "moral choice." One one side is myself or "general priest" is the door of keeping the child. On the otherside is the door of terminating the unintended pregnancy.

What ECUSA is saying is that there is such a building where the woman makes a moral choice. What we encourage in the building is one thing. I may, as a rule, encourage people to keep the child. But the building stands.

The alternative is to simply say one must burn that building down. Women thus, have no choice in the matter.

The problem is that some women will make such a choice. And the fundamental issue - which is the final one, for me, is do we say that women must risk their own lives in making the choice? To this, the anti-choice position implies a diminishing value of the woman's life.

I don't think a fetus is a human begin until it can live on its own; but I think there are deeper cultural issues in the "culture of death" of which abortion is simply one. Try our treatment of animals, for example. I think that we would decrease the number of abortions if the state gave economic incentives for having them. I'll bet you that universal health care would have the unintended effect of decreasing the number of abortions.

Phil Snyder

"This is the issue for me: can ECUSA join such a group that advocates a law that acknowledges that the moral locus is on the woman, and not the state?"

Does this apply to anti-racism laws? How about laws declaring slavery illegal? Murder? Discrimination?

The moral locus is not on any woman or any individual, but on the civis - the citizens. We as citizens decide what the laws are in our society.

Having said that, law does not equate to morality. In Jesus Christ, we are freed so that we can become righteous people. We are made righteous as a gift from God - justified by faith.

Regardless of what the civil law states is good or evil, God's law defines good and evil. Does this mean that abortion is always evil? Yes. There are very few times when abortion is the less evil option. Because the pregnancy is inconvient for me is not one of them.

Choosing to kill something that is human is an action that leads away from the Lord of Life.
Phil Snyder

John Wilkins

Phil - Not much disagreement about the law being the consensus of society. The consensus is pretty clear that women bear the responsibility and accountability for unexpected pregnancies, and this is how it is, and should be.

You state that abortion is always evil. But I simply don't know. I know that many women don't want to have abortions, and it is a personal tragedy. Of course, what you fail to address, is the consequence of criminalization, which will mean, also, that women's lives will be more at risk.

Of course, if we came to some consensus about where humanity began, we might agree. But the problem, since we don't, is to find a place where we both have some room. Al's point is that there isn't any. My view is that makes him a bad citizen, because it means he cannot agree that there is a plurality of views.

Catholic churches and all organizations who are anti-choice, can operate institutions that create disincentives for women to have abortion. They should exist.

Michael argues that some people who are not religious are against abortion. The paucity, however, is interesting in itself. I think there are religious reasons to be against abortion, but they will have to be made, I suspect, on the economy of the sacramental and symbolic life [what does, for example, millions of abortions tell us about our views towards sex and convenience?], and not on natural law. He did not, however, address my central concern about the role of the church in the state, nor was he particularly interested in my explanation.

Michael first misrepresents me. I argue that by calling the Episcopal church evil, Al opens up the history of Catholic violence against its opponents. He is fortunate that this country is a pluralist country. Its unfortunate rhetoric, but he chooses it.

Michael says that US laws are illegiimate according to Catholic teaching, but that this is only one way. Fortunately, the law allows Catholics to have and live by their rules within their country. He is right that some non-religious persons agree, and points out two thinkers. The problem is that the issue is not settled. I try to acknowledge that natural law is where most Catholics begin. Michael then shifts his argument and says that this is not necessary.

Nonetheless, he begins with settled catholic teaching. I begin with the unsettled American consensus. I'm noting different starting points.

Michael then posits an interesting dilemma: hypocrisy vs. apostasy. Since Michael has accused me of sophistry [and Mike - I'm quite familiar with philosophical circles so I'm aware that the word "sophistry" is quite severe], I'll try to disern a couple important differences.

he uses the word "apostasy" which I take it means we've left original church teaching. I don't think ECUSA is apostate. In order for the issue to become clear, Al and Michael have to actually explain what this term means. My easy answer is that we consider church differently, so we would use the word "apostate" differently. How do we determine if some church is objectively apostate? Every protestant church? Or is believing that the state should obey the moral consensus of most Americans - is that apostate? He uses the term, as a kind of name-calling, but it makes little sense.

And I've never heard the word "sophistical."

your aspirant

legal, illegal, moral, immoral, choice, Christian, not Christian, all very interesting points of view. I cannot wade safely into the discussion because I am one of those people who thanks God daily that my mother didn't have an abortion...or I wouldn't be here to watch the arguing!


Given your support for the Iraq war and the man who started it and is responsible for the tens of thousands of deaths it has caused, none of your arguments regarding the sacredness of human life hold any weight whatsoever.

Phil Snyder

Of course, the 100s of thousands taht died under Saddams tyranny are nothing. Nor are the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands that would die if Saddam had constructed a Nuke and set it off in NYC or DC or Boston or in your home town.

Remember that the reports found small quantities of WMD and found supporting documentation that Saddam was trying to reconstitute his WMD programs. He had enough yellowcake to make one or two nuclear weapons or to make several radiological ones.

The respnsibility for the deaths due to Operation Iraqi Freedom lies, not with the US, but with Saddam Hussein. It was his refusal to disarm and to prove that he had disarmed that caused the conflict. It was his refusal to abide by the cease fire he signed that cause the restart of armed hostilities. If you doubt me on this moral point, ask yourself who is responsible for the death of an innocent during the commission of a felony? If a police officer, in an attempt to apprehend or even kill the perpetrator of a felony accidently kills an innocent bystander, the perpetrator (not the police officer) is charged with murder.

Of course, I could respond that because you support killing innocent children, "none of your arguments regarding the sacredness of human life hold any weight whatsoever"

Phil Snyder

Prior Aelred

from Garry Wills' NY Review of Book on Jimmy Carter's latest:

'The result of a rigid fundamentalism combined with poverty and ignorance can be seen where the law forbids abortion:

In some predominantly Roman Catholic countries where all abortions are illegal and few social services are available, such as Peru, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia, the abortion rate is fifty per thousand. According to the World Health Organization, this is the highest ratio of unsafe abortions [in the world].
A New York Times article that came out after Carter's book appeared further confirms what he is saying: "Four million abortions, most of them illegal, take place in Latin America annually, the United Nations reports, and up to 5,000 women are believed to die each year from complications from abortions." This takes place in countries where churches and schools teach abstinence as the only form of contraception—demonstrating conclusively the ineffectiveness of that kind of program.

By contrast, in the United States, where abortion is legal and sex education is broader, the abortion rate reached a twenty-four-year low during the 1990s. Yet the ironically named "pro-life" movement would return the United States to the condition of Chile or Colombia. And not only that, the fundamentalists try to impose the anti-life program in other countries by refusing foreign aid to programs that teach family planning, safe sex, and contraceptive knowledge. They also oppose life-saving advances through the use of stem cell research. With friends like these, "life" is in thrall to death. Carter finds these results neither loving (in religious terms) nor just (in political terms).'


Thanks Aelred...I'm going to use that, although I'm taking a rather different stand on this topic.

In regards to Al, well, Al will always be Al. Swimming the Tiber does not appear to have had any effect on his rhetorical style.

Phil, is there any of W's propaganda that you have not swallowed whole? Trying chewing on it...that foul taste is of something that is rotten to the core.

Phil Snyder

You all misunderstand me. I want abortion to be decided by the states or by the US congress and not to be decided by the Supreme Court. I also hold that it is immoral and sinful to perform one or to obtain one. (except in the rarest of circumstances) The legality should be decided by the citizens, not by five political appointees.

As for propaganda - is there any of George Soros' or or the DNC's propaganda that you all have not swollowed whole? "Trying chewing on it...that foul taste is of something that is rotten to the core."

More people are alive today because of Saddam's overthrow. Iraq is on its way to the closest thing a muslim country can be to a stable democracy. The Sunni insergents are now fighting the Al Queda terrorists in Iraq. The Sunnis are part of the government and, while the Iraqis do want the US troops gone, they don't want them gone until their job is finished. Has the war been run perfectly? Not by a long shot! Is it the debacle that and the DNC and the MSM say it is? Not by a long shot! The truth is somewhere in between.

Phil Snyder


You don't know that I support "killing innocent children" but I know that you do--innocent Iraqi children. Saddam HAD disarmed or don't you read the news. The Iraq war is an atrocity--an atrocity perpretrated by the US on people who did nothing to deserve the destruction of their homes and the death of their friends and neighbors, sons and daughters.

And because Saddam killed his own people that somehow justifies it when we kill those people? What kind of reasoning is that? Those few Americans like you who still support Bush must content themselves by arguing that as far as homocidal dictators go, he's not the worst that's ever been.

You're not my "Brother in Christ" Phil, not as long as you pick and choose which innocent children are worth caring about and which are not.

Phil Snyder

The comments have gotten off topic.
If Fr. Salty wants another thread on Iraq, then he can post for one.

Is abortion a moral good? If so, why is the destruction of, what is arguably human good?

I submit that abortion is immoral and sinful because it destroys life. What is destroyed has it own unique human DNA. Can you make the case that the fetus is not human? Can you prove that it is not a person while at the same time proving that it is a person some time after birth?

Phil Snyder


It's not really off the subject Phil. I submit that you (and most "pro-lifers") do NOT in fact find abortion to be immoral and sinful because it destroys life. There must be some other reason. (I'm with Fr. Gawain--it has to do with freedom and property most likely) Otherwise you would find war, environmental degradation, the death penalty and welfare reform immoral and sinful too. But you don't.

Phil Snyder

I find war, and environmental degradation sinful. I also find excessive control by government so that people lose jobs and income sinful. I find the death penalty to be something allowed for in Scripture and contemplated by our government, but applied too often and with not enough controls. I support welfare reform because I find dependence on government sinful and I find government wasteful and ineffective when dealing with the poor - government creates more problems than it solves when it tries to care for the poor.

I find war sinful, but I find the wanton killing of women and children and the training and use of terrorists and the use of WMD to be more sinful. I believe that the war in Iraq was the least worst option open to the USA at the time. I also find that the US armed forces are perhaps one of the greatest and most effective forces for good in the world today. Who responded first with massive aid to Indonesia and Pakistan? The US Armed Forces. Who saved Europe from Facism and from Communism? The US Armed Forces. Who keeps the sea lanes of commerce from being overrun by pirates? The US Navy.

Perhaps you should not assign motives to my beliefs without first considering that I have good and valid reasons for believing the way that I do. Perhaps you should not assume that I support the killing of Iraqi children when I want to see their liberation and to see them living in peace and freedom like I live in peace and freedom.

Of course, I could assume that you want the poor to be concentrated into dismal housing that is rampant with crime and to see children raised in crack houses with several generations of families dependent on government largesse that is actually designed to enslave them and produce an entire class that offers political support to one party. I could say that you support tyrants like Saddam, Castro, Mao, Pol Pot, and the old leaders of the Soviet Union who are responsible for over 50 million deaths in the last 50 years.

I do not think that of you. I choose to believe that you are honorable, if mistaken, in your beliefs. I choose to believe that you try to follow Jesus Christ as best you know and come to your beliefs in honest wrestling with the facts known to you.

Let me tell you one quick story about myself that may explain something. My father was a US Air Force Officer and pilot. I don't know if he supported the war in SE Asia, but he was ordered to go, so he went. He flew helicopters during that war. One day, while he was in SE Asia, I answered the phone. I was 9 years old and the caller asked if this was Major Snyder's home. I replied it was, but Maj. Snyder was not available at the moment. Could I take a message? The caller replied that since my father was killing innocent women and children, that someone should come over an kill me, my mom, sister and brother. As you can imagine, that call had a great impact on me. It has forever clouded my view of any "peace" movement - the current one included.

When you accuse me of supporting the killing of innocent women and children, my first reaction is to place you in the same group as the "pacifist" calling me when I was 9.

Phil Snyder


Comment threads on abortion issues do seem to go like this one. Mine recently devolved similarly.

I think political intervention by the Roman Catholic Church sets it up for an anti-clerical backlash, but I could be wrong. Maybe the Enlightenment is over.


Too bad that that one phone call was able to turn you away from the entire peace movement. Rather like one obscene phone call turning you off sex for life. Strangely, your own reasoning is much closer to that of that long ago mystery caller than you realize. I do not believe that because somebody kills, that they should in turn be killed. But Bush does and his entire ideology is based on an "eye for an eye" premise. (But a strange one, since it was not the Iraqis who attacked the US on 9/11 anyway)

I am glad to hear that you find environmental degradation sinful. I disagree wholly with your assessment of the sinfulness of welfare reform. Jesus never said "God helps those who help themselves." He said feed the poor. Period. We aren't to withold aid from poor people because it engenders dependence (a debatable point anyway) We are to feed them. We are to provide clothing and medical care for them. And we are to love them. That is Jesus' most consistent gospel message. The old "government creates more problems than it solves" line is bs. If you're hungry, you need food and if you're too sick, debilatated, tired or, yes, even too lazy to find work in order to feed yourself, then those of us who are none of those things must provide for you.

The Iraq war was purely optional. It was planned long before 9/11 and it was justified not by bad intelligence but by intelligence that was twisted to fit a plan. Iraq has become a magnet for terrorism and extremism in a way that it wasn't before we invaded. "Shock and Awe" was by no means our only option. It was a choice--an evil one.

Bush is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of truth and the wrong side of morality. He is not a promoter of life, for all his professed interest in the human fetus. He is a bringer of death and destruction.


Otherwise you would find war, environmental degradation, the death penalty and welfare reform immoral and sinful too. But you don't

Actually, you have just outlined the official positions of the Roman Catholic Church. Against abortion, against environmental degradation, against the death penalty, all framed within the idea of a preferential option for the poor that would oppose the current welfare reform. It is called a consistent ethic with regard to life....and for all I disagree with in Roman theology, on this I think they have it nailed.

Phil Snyder

Kathy, if you want to support the poor, please send me half of your salary and I will make sure that 50% of what you send me will get to the poor.

You can trace the disintegration of the African-american family almost directly to the anti-poverty programs of the 60s. Now, the vast majority of African-American children are born out of wedlock. Being born with only one parent is the highest indicator of childhood poverty that there is. I could argue that the poverty programs of the 60s created more poverty than they solved.

We are to feed the poor, house the homeless, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and those in prison. Jesus said nothing about our government doing it for us. There are two reasons for charity (=love). The first is because the recipient needs it. The second is because it is good for the soul of the person giving and receiving it. Government has no soul.

As for the WMD Intelligence, Bush simply used the Intelligence that the Clinton Administration had. Intelligence that then entire world accepted to be true - Germany, France, England, and Russia all agreed that Iraq probably had WMD. Bush has liberated more people than any other president before him, with the exception of FDR. Because of Bush's actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 50 million people do longer live under despotism, Libya has renounced its WMD program, Georgia has held free elections. Syria is out of Lebanon (well, almost), Israel has withdrawn from the West Bank. Saudi Arabia even held local elections!

You cannot see that those who differ from you are persons much like yourself with different views that they may come by honestly. You see President Bush, not as a man who is doing his best (however mistaken) but as a "bringer of death and destruction" who revels in that death. You don't see me as a person who respects and honors freedom and self-determination and supports freedom and life over tyranny and death. You see me as a person who desires control over women and to see them as property. Your hatred for anyone that does not conform to your worldview is evident and I will debate with you no more.

Go in peace.


I don't think we can defend a strict anti-abortion stance, nor a firm belief in the "life begins at conception" stance, from Scripture. I was just reminded by Father Jake that -- according to Exodus 21:22-24: For causing a miscarriage, the penalty is a fine; for killing the woman, the penalty is a life for a life. This would suggest that God didn't see a fetus as fully human.

I'm not arguing that settles the question. But I do think it weakens the argument that the "plain meaning of Scripture" is univocally against abortion.

John Wilkins

I want to note that rhetoric is important, which was the main reason I wrote my complaint about Al.

I think the general complaint about a pro-life position is how consistent is it, and what are we willing to pay for it? For me, a pro life position would also look at the amount of resources we spend on people, rather than on, for example, weapons. it might include how much we pay for medical care, disease, and the like. It would look - not only at our decisions as individuals - but in our shared vision.

But let's keep the rhetoric specific and clear, and define our terms accurately.

J. C. Fisher

The moral locus is not on any woman or any individual, but on the civis - the citizens. We as citizens decide what the laws are in our society.

Not on/in my body, bub! >:-(

The condemnation of the Papists/Wingnuts practically amounts to the closest thing to a Heavenly Imprimatur, in this day and age (irony intended). "They will hate you, because they hate me..." God bless ECUSA! :-)


Look the Phils of the world do not allow for the differnece of opinion. He thinks a ball of cells is a human. I do not. A potential human? Yes. but fundamentally different than a post-term child, or a poor kid getting blown to hell in Iraq. I do think that a delivered baby, a child (even in a welfare family) IS a life worth saving.

Funny how comfortable the Phils of the world are with death penalties and war.

But some of them will kill people to save blastocysts.

Go figure.

Meanwhile, me? I would prefer to keep abortion safe, legal and rare. Because while that blastocyst isn't a complete person yet, it could be.

So can we PLEASE agree that putting women in control of their fertility, empowering them so that every child is wanted, is something we can all agree upon?

Pro choice isn't pro abortion. It's pro CHOICE. It's, let the woman make the decision, not the state. See what I don't get is how many anti-choice peole are also against contraception

But it comes down to this. I DECIDE THE MORALITY OF MY BODY. Keep your theocracy off it.


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