Why Abortion and the Iraq War Are Not Equivalent

The intricacies of Catholic moral theology have never been my strong suit. Rather than use the law to nitpick and condemn people, I’m far too inclined to be on the side of the sinner and give people the benefit of the doubt. For those who quibble over the morality of a particular action, I’m too inclined to skip the detail work and look at the big picture.
But it doesn’t take a Jesuitical moral theologian to figure out a recent moral conundrum that has taken the fancy of some American Catholics. In this presidential race they are faced with the choice of one party that is in favor of abortion and another party that is in favor of a war that many believe to be unjust. Some Catholics who wish to vote Democratic justify their choice by saying, “We’re going to have the killing of innocent people one way or another. With Democrats, innocent people will die through abortion. With Republicans, innocent lives are lost through war. There will be terrible deaths both ways. Let’s focus on immigration and the economy.”
The unnecessary suffering and death of any human being at the hand of another is to be decried, and while all human life is equally precious, not all killing is of the same moral seriousness. The rape and murder of an innocent ten-year-old girl is more horrific and wicked than the death by lethal injection of the man who did the crime. Likewise, the deaths caused by abortion are not to be equated with the lives lost in war. This is not to minimize the horror of war, or argue that a particular war is just or unjust. It is simply to make the simple moral argument that the war in Iraq is not of the same moral order as abortion — and here’s why.
First we have the question of proportionality of both numbers and time. How many people have been killed through abortion, and how many people are being killed in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan? There have been around 4,000 military deaths in Iraq and about 1,000 in Afghanistan, and there have been around 90,000 deaths caused by internecine violence in Iraq. The war has been going on for five years. In comparison, deaths from abortion in the United States have been going on for 35 years, and abortions worldwide number about 42 million per year. The sheer number deaths over time involved in these two issues are not morally equivalent.
Second, it’s argued that, in both abortion and war, innocent lives are lost, but we must consider the “innocence” of the deaths. In abortion, a totally innocent and vulnerable unborn child who is incapable of self defense is killed. This is more morally outrageous than the killing of an armed opponent in war. An opposing combatant has chosen (at least partially) to take up arms and be involved in killing, and is therefore not innocent. The armed combatant also has the possibility of defending himself.
To be sure, there are also civilian casualties in war, and these — especially the children — are innocent of wrong doing. That they are injured or harmed is a terrible injustice, but is even this morally equivalent of abortion? I think not, because of several other considerations. Nearly 90,000 have been killed by fellow Iraqis, not by American soldiers. Along with this we must consider the intention of the American forces. While the American invasion of Iraq may have opened the door to the internecine atrocities, the Americans never intended for civilians to be killed, and have made huge sacrifices to eliminate the terrorists and end the atrocities and anarchy by bringing law and order.
Which brings us to the third point: In judging the morality of any action we not only consider the objective act itself, but we also consider the intention. A general who plans to go into battle does not consider first and foremost how he can best kill enemy combatants. His first goal is something else, like the liberation of a city or the elimination of a military threat or a strategic facility of the enemy. He accepts that he may have to kill enemy soldiers, but that is not his first objective. Even when a soldier goes into combat he may be trained to kill, but he is also trained to kill only as a last resort. He is first trained to avoid killing and to take the enemy prisoner if at all possible, and he is supposed to treat the prisoner humanely. It is true that in war this does not always happen, but we are considering here the intention, not the ultimate outcome.
In contrast, the abortionist or one who procures an abortion sets out to kill as the first intention. They may have an ulterior motive that seems good, but the primary intention of their action is to take an innocent life. Politicians who support abortion therefore enable those who wish to kill innocent and defenseless children. Even if the particular war is unjust, the soldiers and politicians who instigated the war were doing so (even if in a debased way) not to promote killing, but to promote an ultimate goal of justice and peace.
Abortion and the war in Iraq are not the only issues in this election. Each voter has the responsibility to weigh all the moral concerns our country faces, but they must do so intelligently, prayerfully, and sympathetically. People of good conscience may be opposed to a war they consider unjust. They may also be opposed to abortion, but to pretend the two are of equal moral culpability in order to justify their support of one particular candidate is irresponsible, untrue, and unjust.

Rev. Dwight Longenecker

By

Rev. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, South Carolina. His latest book is The Romance of Religion published by Thomas Nelson. Check out his website and blog at www.dwightlongenecker.com.

  • Todd

    One way they are not equivalent is the way in which the government is involved. In Iraq, the US executive branch is an active participant, and our elected officials are morally involved in a direct chain of command in practice and policy. If we exercise the value of prudence, we might come to a conclusion about the virtue or vice of that.

    Abortion, like it or not, is the law of the land. Unlike China, the US government does not have a broad forced abortion policy. Abortion remains a free choice for hundreds of thousands of Americans. It’s a tragic, horrific, and lamentable choice.

    As far as the choice in the US presidential election, a Catholic in good conscience can weigh that an immoral Iraq War must be stopped. Electing an anti-abortion leaning president is no guarantee of movement on either a legislative or judicial level.

    Ideally, we would have a candidate who would abjure both the Iraq War and abortion. That candidate would get my vote. Lacking that, pretty much every choice is a hold your nose and hope for the best dilemma.

  • Jim

    You made your choice known on your blog. You were for Sarah Palin before you even knew what she stood for. Don’t pretty it up now by providing a “justification” for the Republican Party.

  • RK

    Republicans = maintain status quo re: war; claim to want to end abortion but won’t

    Democrats = maintain status quo re: abortion; claim to want to end war but won’t

    What’s the difference?

  • Dan

    We have 4 pro life judges. They all have been appointed by Republican Presidents. We have no Federal funding of abortions or abortions in the military, thanks to Repub presidents. We have no partial birth abortions, thanks to President Bush 2 US Suptreme Court appointments. We WILL have a pro abortion President and there will be many many more abortions if Obama is elected. The best way to reduce as many abortions AS POSSIBLE is to go McCain, which I will do.

  • Adriana

    Eight years ago we elected

    a) a Republican President

    b) a Republican Senate

    c) a Republican House of Representatives.

    Eight years later, abortion remains unchanged.

    What they did do was play with the economy according to radical free market theories.

    Now we are facing a financial meltdown, wiht a trillion of our tax money going to try to fix the mess, unless we want a truly devastating catastrophe.

    And abortion goes on.

    If we vote McCain we will still get abortion, and the economy will deteriorate further to the point that the terrorists will just sit down and watch us destroy ourselves.

    Sorry, since abortion will not change, I am going with the Party who has a chance to fix this mess.

    And don’t you dare make me feel bad about it, because it was your advice eight years ago that gave us this catastrophic administration. You got a lot of explaining to do, Reverend.

  • Patrick

    You write: “Rather than use the law to nitpick and condemn people, I’m far too inclined to be on the side of the sinner and give people the benefit of the doubt. For those who quibble over the morality of a particular action, I’m too inclined to skip the detail work and look at the big picture.”

    As a priest, Fr. Longenecker, part of your job is to present the teaching of the Church to the “sinner,” not just to give the benefit of the doubt. There really are some principles involved, not just the warm fuzzies.

  • EricG

    Adriana:

    Yes, abortion is the law of the land, but we are closer than ever to overturning Roe v Wade, precisely because of the past eight years of governance by a Republican administration.

    It’s dishonest to suggest that we’ve made no progress.

  • stephen

    Very good article by Chuck Baldwin, pastor and running under the Constituion Party…makes you think really who is the real pro-life candidate among all the 5 candidates.

    http://tinyurl.com/635rv6

    JOHN McCAIN PRO LIFE? WHAT A JOKE

    By Chuck Baldwin
    August 22, 2008
    NewsWithViews.com

    Once again, “pro-life” Christians are doing back flips to try and justify their compromise of the life issue by trying to convince everyone (including themselves) that John McCain is truly pro-life. However, these same people know in their hearts that John McCain shares no fidelity to the life issue in any significant or meaningful way. Like many in the Republican Party, McCain’s commitment to life is about as deep as a mud puddle.

    Dare I remind everyone that the “pro-life” GOP controlled the entire federal government from 2000 to 2006 and nothing was done to overturn Roe v. Wade or end legal abortion-on-demand? When George W. Bush took the oath of office in January of 2001, over one million innocent unborn babies were being murdered in the wombs of their mothers every year via legal abortions in this country. And when George W. Bush leaves office in January of 2009, over one million innocent unborn babies would still be murdered in the wombs of their mothers every year via legal abortions in this country. Eight years of a “pro-life” President and six years of the “pro-life” GOP in charge of the entire federal government and not one unborn baby’s life has been saved. Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land, and abortion-on-demand is still legal in America.

    Had John McCain and his fellow Republicans truly wanted to end legal abortion, they could have passed Congressman Ron Paul’s Sanctity of Life Act. Year after year, Dr. Paul introduced this bill, and year after year, it sat and collected dust in the document room on Capitol Hill.

    What would Congressman Paul’s bill do? It would do two things: 1) It would define life as beginning at conception and, thus, declare the personhood of every pre-born child. 2) Under Article. III. Section. 2. of the U.S. Constitution, it would remove abortion from the jurisdiction of the Court. In practical terms, Dr. Paul’s bill would overturn Roe v. Wade and end legal abortion-on-demand. So, where was John McCain? Why did he not support Ron Paul’s bill and introduce a companion bill in the U.S. Senate?

    How can John McCain, and his fellow Republicans in Washington, D.C., look pro-life Christians and conservatives in the eye in 2008 and expect that we take them seriously when they say that they are “pro-life”? If the GOP had truly wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade and end legal abortion-on-demand, they could have already done it. They controlled the White House, the U.S. Senate, and the House of Representatives for six long years, for goodness sake. The reason they did not do it is because they did not want to do it. They merely want to use “pro-life” rhetoric as a campaign tool to dupe gullible Christian voters every election year. And the disgusting thing about it is–it works.

    check the link for the rest of the article…..
    http://tinyurl.com/635rv6

  • Miguel Miramon

    One of our young, female Iraq War veterans undergoing treatment for post traumatic stress syndrome tells the story of her convoy travelling at a high rate of speed through an Iraqi town. Because of insurgent activity, the convoy was ordered not to stop or slow down under any circumstances as they sped through the town.
    As the convoy sped through, the American soldier saw a ten year old Iraqi boy in the street. She could not slow down or stop because of orders. The convoy ran over the innocent ten year old boy.
    Now give me some more of your rationalizing sophisms for support of the neocon warmongers running for office.

  • EricG

    Miguel:

    Manifestly unjust conduct in war, which is far from official policy, is to be differentiated from prudential judgments on whether there is just cause for war, or whether a stabilizing occupation is just.

    Idiotic activity during a war does not an unjust war make.

  • Adriana

    Thanks stephen for making my point for me. I am sick and tired of all the people who say “vote Republican to end abortion” and then keep insisting that there is light at the end of a tunnel.

    Sometimes the light at the end of a tunnel is an incoming train. And what an incoming train we have seen this past week!

    Face it, people who want to get government out of people’s lives,who hate the word “regulation” and insist everything would be better without it will never be the ones to end abortion. Because to end it they have to regulate and get goverment into people’s lives.

    And we keep voting for them, over and over, and now it is going to cost us a trillion dollars, if we are lucky.

  • Jim

    The GOP always gives “lip service” to anti-abortion voters, but does nothing to bring it about. And Fr. Longenecker falls right in line with the GOP.

    Face it, folks: the GOP is not an arm of the Catholic Church. It will do nothing to further a Catholic understanding of the common good. For Fr. Longenecker to parse the difference between the Iraq War and abortion is nothing if not disingenuous, when what he’s really doing is shilling for the Republican Party.

  • Deacon Ed

    Since Roe v Wade there have been 48,000,000 pre-born children (that’s 48 million) who have been killed – and that’s just in the US. I can’t imagine how many hundreds of millions of children have been aborted world-wide.

    I would say you have a better chance of surviving in Iraq in 2008 than if you’re a fetus in the United States. I will go with the party that at least has the moral integrity to say that abortion is an evil that must be eliminated.

  • Discouraged Voter

    Thanks to all the commentators who have spoken the truth about the Republican Party and how it uses the issue of abortion for political gain…and then forgets about it. Actions speak louder than words. The Republicans have done NOTHING to save the unborn.

    And, for those who STILL believe those empty and deceptive Republican pro-life claims and promises, there’s a “Bridge to Nowhere” I can sell you.

  • Deacon Ed

    What about the appointment to the Supreme Court of pro-life Catholic judges who have ruled against late term abortion? None of them would have been apointed by “Catholic” John Kerry nor Algore. And please be assured that no more will be appointed by Obama.

    Can you begin to estimate how many full term babies would have had their brains sucked from their skulls if not for this ruling? As I said, I’d rather take my chances as a civilian in Iraq than as a pre-born baby in the womb of any woman in the US in 2008 thank you.

  • EricG

    The ignorance on here of the accomplishments of the Republican administration vis-a-vis abortion is astounding. Well, maybe not, given the mainstream media bias.

    It simply is not true that the GOP has done NOTHING to end or mitigate abortion. To wit:

    1) The appointment of conservative, pro-life Catholic John Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States

    2) The appointment of conservative, pro-life Catholic Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court to replace the liberal Sandra Day O’Connor (who was an upholder of Roe)

    3) The appointment of numerous federal judges who would see Roe v Wade overturned and the Constitution respected.

    4) The passage by Congress of a law banning partial-birth abortion

    5) The passage by Congress of a bill ordering doctors to save the lives of babies who survive abortions.

    6) The passage by Congress of a bill recognizing the unborn child as a person for the purpose of double-murder charges when a pregnant woman is murdered

    7) Numerous limitations on taxpayer funding of abortions

    To this we can add what numerous Republican-led states have done to chip away at abortion, such as parental notification and/or consent laws.

    This is better that nothing, folks. We are one supreme court justice away from reversing Roe v Wade, after which abortion will once again become a states issue, and will be more easily tackled on a state level.

  • George

    Wow…some of these anti-Republican comments are appalling. You people are just throwing out completely unfounded ideas.

    As both Dan and Deacon Ed have stated above, what about the Supreme Court appointees who have ensured no more partial birth abortion? And no federal funding for abortion? How can you possibly say that the Republicans have done nothing to end abortion? None of us would claim to believe that all of the sudden a pro-life president would snap his fingers and it would all end just like that. Major steps have been made in the effort to end abortion in this country and as EricG points out, we are closer than ever to achieving that goal.

    And another thing – some of you are just flat out blaming Republicans for the financial crisis? That too makes no sense. It is a very complicated situation and there are many factors to point to in seeing how we got here. But just blindly blaming “radical free market ideas” is just plain nonsense.

  • Warren

    Folks, the storm clouds are gathering. The huge meltdown of the banking industry, political degradation and corruption, barbarians at the gates (terrorists), barbarians within the gates (the pro death camp, abortion on demand resulting in the loss of millions of children and countless spiritually damaged women). “Wesa dyin’ here. Monsters out dare. Leak’n in here. All sink’n and no power? Whena yousa tinkin wesa in trouble?” (Jar Jar Binks). Choose wisely your next president.

  • Lori Pieper

    Father, your points were all excellent and well-stated. But there is one evil connected with abortion that should frighten everyone more than all the others.

    In war (at least in this war), everyone admits that the ones who are killed are actual human beings. In abortion, the evil is so patent and obvious that the ones who do or advocate the killing strongly tend to deny that what is being killed is a human being. This puts abortion in a class with racism, genocide, the Nazi Holocaust and other situations where the humanity of a whole class of people is denied or reduced for the sake of the killing.

    We’ve largely gotten over the attempts of de-humanization of the enemy in wartime, and if anyone attempts it, the error is immediately pointed out. But not in the case of abortion. Abortion is indeed genocide.

    We MUST stop it!

  • Sue

    in one sense, you’re correct. At least, they’ve paid their respects to the notion of the sacredness of life. I guess we’re being brought up short by the fact that we’re less powerful than we thought we were. If Catholics and evangelicals really were a lobby of consequence, and if the politicians that evangelicals thought they’d bought and paid for really did what they said they would, then Roe vs. Wade would have been overturned.

    Guess we’ve been had.

  • EricG

    Sue:

    If Catholics and evangelicals really were a lobby of consequence, and if the politicians that evangelicals thought they’d bought and paid for really did what they said they would, then Roe vs. Wade would have been overturned.

    Short of assassinating one of the four liberal justice/activists on the Supreme Court, there’s not a damn thing we could have done to overturn Roe v Wade.

    Well, possibly one. As a Juris Doctor candidate, I can tell you mine is a minority opinion, but I do not believe that the Supreme Court actually does have the final say-so on constitutional interpretation. I believe this prerogative belongs to the legislature. If I were President, I would effectively annul Roev Wade, declare it non-binding, and thus remand this issue to the states. I would tell the Court, a la Andrew Jackson: “You decided Roe v Wade? Go ahead: enforce it!”

    But again, my constitutional theory is a minority view, although one with a long historical pedigree. It’s not realistic to expect the Congress to be that ballsy.

  • Steve Skojec

    Eric, and others,

    Something I’d like to know is what real difference, statistically, the measures you list have made.

    Do we know the number of partial birth abortions not performed, or how often the born alive act applies?

    Do we know with certitude what Alito and Roberts will do if Roe is challenged before them, or do we assume we know? Do we know that McCain, member of the Gang of 14, who voted to confirm Ginsburg and Breyer, who has been reported by Robert Novak, friend of Inside Catholic, to have opposed Alito’s appointment to the bench, will suddenly exhibit a change of conscience while in office simply because he says he will?

    If he is pro-life, why did Senator John McCain not push to help get Ron Paul’s Sanctity of Life act passed into law? Why can we not see that politicians who nominally support the pro-life cause without ever doing anything truly substantive to initiate legislative change (other than voting for whatever fringe measure looks good on your pro-life rating without changing the status quo) are not the answer?

    I wish it was this easy. I really do. But I am tired of hearing the arguments of, “If we just vote for this guy, the SCOTUS will change, and we’ll finally win.”

    35 years after Roe, consider me unconvinced.

  • Steve Skojec

    Short of assassinating one of the four liberal justice/activists on the Supreme Court, there’s not a damn thing we could have done to overturn Roe v Wade.

    What about the fact that two of these justices were GOP appointees, and three of them were confirmed by McCain?

  • RK

    Short of assassinating one of the four liberal justice/activists on the Supreme Court, there’s not a damn thing we could have done to overturn Roe v Wade.

    What about the fact that two of these justices were GOP appointees, and three of them were confirmed by McCain?

    WOW! Is this true about McCain’s voting record? If it is and if past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior then McCain will be no more a friend of life than Obama would be.

  • Sue

    I find all the excuses about the coulda, shoulda, woulda unconvincing. There always seems to be a reason why …. abortion is still legal. All the protestations notwithstanding, tell me why I should listen when a bunch of holier-than-thou evangelicals whine yet again about abortion or when Fr. Longenecker pontificates about the difference between the Iraq war and abortion?

    Here is why abortion is still legal: evangelicals aren’t nearly the players they think they are. Catholics never were (for a lot of historical reasons). Just saying “Sarah Palin” 5 million times doesn’t make a difference.

  • Claire

    Thanks Eric,

    I thought I was the only one who thought the Supreme Court doesn’t have the final word in these matters. I guess I remember my junior high social studies classes better than I thought.

    As I understand, Roe v Wade is questionably constitutional at best. It tramples the right of the states to decide these issues on their own. It was forced through by activist judges who deliberately went against the laws that the American people had voted for. It is the job of the court to overturn unconstitutional laws, not find imaginary evidence in the Constitution for their own laws. They are not supposed to make laws.

    There are checks and balances for the judicial branch. Congress can do as Eric suggested, as can the President. They can even amend the Constitution, although that is a very difficult thing to do. McCain’s answer to the marriage amendment during the Saddleback Forum shows that he at least understands how and why that would become an option (he said it is when the Court makes a ruling that forces some states to follow the ruling of other states – like Roe v Wade)

    However, the main check of the executive branch over the judicial branch is the appointment of judges. John McCain is a federalist, and the judges he would appoint would be conservative, not just in the pro-life sense, but also in the sense that they would base their decisions on the constitution, which is written to keep as much power as close to the people as possible.

  • Big Tex

    Well, possibly one. As a Juris Doctor candidate, I can tell you mine is a minority opinion, but I do not believe that the Supreme Court actually does have the final say-so on constitutional interpretation. I believe this prerogative belongs to the legislature. If I were President, I would effectively annul Roe v Wade, declare it non-binding, and thus remand this issue to the states. I would tell the Court, a la Andrew Jackson: “You decided Roe v Wade? Go ahead: enforce it!”

    But again, my constitutional theory is a minority view, although one with a long historical pedigree. It’s not realistic to expect the Congress to be that ballsy.

    I’ve often wondered what recourse the executive and legislative branches have in light of the so-called checks and balances we all learned about in government and social studies classes. Of course, the executive appoints and the legislative confirms, but there has got to be something more once they are seated on the bench.

  • William

    INSIDE CATHOLIC had been invaded by the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy! Good Catholic people who visit here, have none of their orchestrated heresy. Abortion is the ultimate evil in this country and the Democrat Party is the ultimate purveyor of that evil. Reject them and their scurrilous politicians. A vote for Berak Obama would be an act of complicity in grave immorality and soul damning sin.

  • Steve Skojec

    As I understand, Roe v Wade is questionably constitutional at best.

    I wouldn’t even give it that much credibility. The 14th amendment makes no provision for what the court found with Roe, or upheld with Casey.

    That makes abortion a 10th amendment issue – meaning it should go back to the states.

  • Lori Pieper

    Father, your points were all excellent and well-stated. But there is one evil connected with abortion that should frighten everyone more than all the others.

    In war (at least in this war), everyone admits that the ones who are killed are actual human beings. In abortion, the evil is so patent and obvious that the ones who do or advocate the killing strongly tend to deny that what is being killed is a human being. This puts abortion in a class with racism, genocide, the Nazi Holocaust and other situations where the humanity of a whole class of people is denied or reduced for the sake of the killing.

    We’ve largely gotten over the attempts of de-humanization of the enemy in wartime, and if anyone attempts it, the error is immediately pointed out. But not in the case of abortion. Abortion is indeed genocide.

    We MUST stop it!

  • Todd

    As long as we’re piling on the R’s today, let’s also keep in mind it was a Republican-packed court that ruled on Roe v Wade in the first place. It was a tenet of the party in the 60’s to decriminalize abortion so a new avenue of business could be paved.

    The law would be irrelevant if the pro-life movement convinced the rest of the US abortion is a needless and irrelevant idea. Unlike China, you can actually have abortion in this country and not have anybody show up. It’s my view the political wing of the anti-abortion movement is filled with a lot of wussies who can’t handle the hard way and want the politicians and police to do for society what they can’t do for themselves.

  • David L Alexander

    “Sorry, since abortion will not change, I am going with the Party who has a chance to fix this mess.”

    Assuming “abortion will not change,” infanticide would become more common. Obama has promised this in pledging to past the Freedom of Choice Act on this first day in office. What we would have, then, is an even bigger mess.

    This should not be confused with endorsing McCain. Your position, on the other hand, could be confused with endorsing Obama, and by extension…

  • Adriana

    Since this mess was caused by letting Republicans run the country unimpeded for six years, I have no confidence whatsoever that they can fix it.

    The only credible alternative is the Democratic Party. Deal with it. They are better than Curly, Larry, and Moe, for sure. And I would trust Curly, Larry, and Moe to fix this mess rather than the Republicans.

  • R.C.

    I apologize in advance, I know this will come out sounding grumpy.

    But this has been going on and on.

    People keep complaining that the Republicans don’t do enough to stop abortion; that they were in power for all this long period of time; that their pro-life credentials are all hat and no cattle.

    Taking a deep breath so that this doesn’t come out sounding too frustrated, I ask:

    How can the President, or the Congress, order an end to legal abortion so long as the Supreme Court judges abortion to be a constitutional right of individuals?

    They can’t. Bush could have had 100% pro-life Republicans in Congress for all eight years of his term, instead of the razor-thin majority buttressed by RINOs that he actually had, and it still wouldn’t have mattered a bit.

    Let us say that a House bill banning abortion throughout the U.S. were passed, and likewise a Senate bill, and they were reconciled in conference without losing the ban, and sent to the President, and he signed it. What would happen?

    Easy: The judicial restraining order, pending court review, would be signed by a Federal judge within less than sixty seconds after the President signed his bill.

    At that point, the case would be taken through various courts, and ultimately to the Supreme Court, where, with 5 pro-choice justices currently sitting, the law would be struck down.

    Here, then, are the facts:

    1. The only way to get legislation passed defending the innocent lives of the unborn is for there to be a pro-life majority on SCOTUS, first! Until then, one can elect pro-lifers to the Senate and House as much as one likes, but it won’t produce restrictions on abortion. All it will do is allow you the votes needed to stave off passage of any other bad legislation (e.g. funding for embryonic stem cell research).

    2. One cannot be certain that a new Justice will be pro-life, but one can comb the candidates looking for signs that they will be. Apart from using the “bully pulpit”, this selectivity about judges is the only thing in his power that a President can do to end abortion. Period!

    3. Therefore, one can accuse a President of being wishy-washy on pro-life matters only if (a.) he neglects the bully pulpit, or (b.) when there are vacancies, he neglects to use the opportunity to appoint justices who’re likely to be pro-life.

    So let’s judge. How wishy-washy has G.W.Bush been?

    Well, with the bully pulpit, he’s been vocal enough to be commended about it by two popes.

    That counts for something, but what about vacancies? He’s had two. He filled them with…anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

    John Roberts (pro-life Catholic) and Samuel Alito (pro-life Catholic).

    What about other Republicans? Well, Reagan gave us Kennedy (swing-vote Catholic who was originally expected to be more reliably pro-life) and Scalia (pro-life Catholic). G.H.W. Bush gave us (Souter, who surprised everyone; he was expected to at least reliably conservative. Ooops!) and Thomas (pro-life Catholic).

    So I don’t see this alleged lack of pro-life ardor by the G.O.P. What they could do, they did. What they didn’t do, they couldn’t do. And if anything, they seem to adore not just pro-lifers, but Catholic pro-lifers.

    Obama has verbally declared his intent to nominate more Ginsbergs. McCain has verbally declared his intent to nominate Justices in the mold of Thomas or Scalia. Whatever his other flaws (and they are legion), McCain

    Whence, then, comes this outlandish idea that they’re “six of one, half-dozen of the other?” It’s a fantasy!

  • R.C.

    Sorry, I accidentally deleted some text in my last post.

    I meant to say, “Whatever his other flaws (and they are legion), McCain has a quite good pro-life voting record in the Senate, and can probably be trusted to select judges that’re at least as good as those selected by G.W.B. and his father. (And anyone can select better justices than those Obama prefers.)”

    Once again, I find myself wondering why we don’t have the ability to edit our posts, or preview them before posting. I’ve coded this ability into sites I’ve built, myself; it’s not prohibitively difficult. *sigh*

  • Rick

    I find it funny that people actually believe that either the Democrats or the Republicans will get us out of the current messes that we find ourselves in. Both parties helped to create the current financial and foreign policy problems. Neither Party will solve the problems we face. That, my friends, is depressing.

    PS — How any Catholic could vote for Obama is amazing to me. The man is militantly pro abortion. I fail to see an argument for voting for him. (And that is not an endorsement of McCain either!)

  • EricG

    I think we need to avoid the temptation to “scientism” and empiricism, the idea that the beneficial effects of a given law, or group of laws, can necessarily be quantified. There are so many factors that go into the choice to have an abortion that it’s nearly impossible to gauge what role a particular law had to do with one choosing not to have one.

    Suffice it to say that the civil authority has an objective obligation to protect innocent human life. Period. Anything which serves that end is to be employed. Period. If nothing else, these kinds of restrictions have symbolic value, reinforcing a value system which respects the rights of the innocent to their lives.

    As for McCain’s confirmation of Ginsburg, Souter, and Breyer . . . I’m not saying I’m crazy about this, but we need to take some historical perspective and keep in mind that, until relatively recently, ideology has not played an overt role in the confirmation of justices. It was expected that it was the President’s job to nominate, and the Senate’s to confirm as long as the potential Justice had the necessary qualifications, sans ideology.

    Also, one thing a Senator must consider is whether a particular president is likely to give us a better Justice than what he did. The Senate is usually loathe to keep the Supreme Court vacant, and so for instance a nominee like Ginsburg is traditionally unlikely to face that much opposition, since chances are Clinton would not have given any better. Clinton’s know Regan, and even Regan made some errors in this regard . . .

    The point is, while McCain-Palin is by no means the perfect ticket, they’re much closer to Catholic social teaching (particularly the non-negotiable issues) than Obama-Biden. The record and the platform are what they are.

  • RK

    Pro lifers have been rationalizing tepid Republican support for decades. I remember going to the March for Life during the Reagan presidency. If he gave a three minute speech everyone was perfectly gleeful; if he didn’t give a speech it was because [insert enabling justification here]. The point is, when will pro lifers stop settling for the crumbs of pandering politicians? Until they stop settling abortion will continue to be the political football the two dominant parties toss to one another both knowing they’re better off doing nothing.

    Voices of people like Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin continue to be ignored and ridiculed by short-sighted pro lifers when they’re positions offer the only legitimate political hope for saving the pre-born. Why would anyone believe this year’s “lesser of two evils” save any more lives than the “lesser than…..’s of every other election since 1973?

  • Lou G

    The law would be irrelevant if the pro-life movement convinced the rest of the US abortion is a needless and irrelevant idea.

    …It’s my view the political wing of the anti-abortion movement is filled with a lot of wussies who can’t handle the hard way and want the politicians and police to do for society what they can’t do for themselves.

    Abortion is not an idea… it is an action. There’s a big difference. It is an action that produces results
    LIKE THIS! Go ahead, I dare you to view this photo. This is an aborted baby at 10 weeks… 1st trimester. I don’t care what anybody says, that’s a person. Sure no bigger than a couple of inches, but it’s all there plain as day. Go ahead… look at it. That’s not an idea, that is an action, a very violent and disturbing action.

    If it makes me a wussy because I try to change the law to stop this kind of thing, then count me in.

  • Lou G

    This message board didn’t accept my html code, so here’s that web address again, a little clearer:

    http://tinyurl.com/3mbqjo

    This is no joke. And as I said… it’s definitely not an idea.

  • R.C.

    RK, just one quick observation:

    If the president and vice-president for the last eight years had been Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin (either way), they would not have (because they could not have) done anything more for the pro-life cause than G.W.Bush did in the same period.

    Because, again, the president has exactly two powers in this matter:

    1. Bully Pulpit
    2. Nominate pro-life judges

    Now, about the former, G.W. has done a sufficiently good job to be commended for it by two popes.

    And as for the latter? I know that you’ve expressed before that pro-life Catholics like John Roberts, Sam Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia aren’t pro-life enough for you…but I’ve yet to see you name any other jurist of Supreme Court caliber who’s any better.

    And outside that, there’s nothing more a president can do.

    Meanwhile, in Congress, you need bills to pass both houses. And even when the G.O.P. was in titular control of the Senate, there was never a pro-life majority. Because, of course, that G.O.P. “majority” required the inclusion of “RINOs” like Lincoln Chafee, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter, et cetera. A slim one-or-two vote Republican majority becomes a minority when you remove the Republicans that were pro-choice.

    And as I observed before, no bill limiting (let alone outlawing) abortion would have had a hope of implementation, even if it were passed and signed by the President. For of course the moment Bush’s pen left the page, a judge’s pen would touch down to sign a restraining order barring the law’s implementation until it passed judicial review. And of course, with a 5-4 pro-choice court, any such law would be struck down.

    So, I say again: A Baldwin-Paul (or Paul-Baldwin) administration would, in its effects, look just like what you’ve seen for eight years now. I like third parties, too, but the grass ain’t always greener.

  • EricG

    The only possible way Thomas, Alito, Roberts, and Scalia could be more pro-life than they already are would be if they adopted the crack-pot jurisprudence of one like Alan Keyes and read into the Constitution a right to life for the unborn.

    In other words, only if they were to adopt the same activistic jurisprudence that got us into this mess in the first place.

    The Catholic justices (sans Kennedy) are orthodox and believe in natural law. However, given our constitutional system, they are judicial positivists who know their place in that system. And we have the Republicans to thank for them.

    By the way, I am not a Republican. I’m a conservative independent with no party affiliation, though I probably will end up in the GOP eventually . . .

  • JohnR

    Obama has promised to, if I am not mistaken:

    Rescind the Mexico City Policy, allowing us, the taxpayers, to once again pay for abortions abroad.

    Sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act, which will NO DOUBT be presented by a reliably pro abortion Democrat senate, thus rendering ALL state level restrictions/bans on abortion AT ANY TIME to be illegal.

    Appoint judges in the mold of Ginsberg, who judge with their heart, and pay attention to current mores, as opposed to actually reading the law. Thus by inference, I would expect any number of interesting rulings as re: cloning, gay marriage, ESCR, etc., based on the jurist’s judgement of the prevailing winds of society.

    Finally, on another note, from what I read from Priest’s For Life, there are a few non-negotiables when regarding our votes. Abortion, Euthanasia, ESCR, Cloning and, if I recall correctly, homosexual marriage. Of those five, the evil war monger McCain is weak on ESCR. Obama heartily favors all five.

    And don’t even get me started on BAIP.

    Frankly, by coming out in support of the so-called Freedom of Choice Act, Obama has removed all doubt. This is no longer about someone who MIGHT appoint a judge that MIGHT tip the balance of judicial power to abortion side. This is about someone who will ACTIVELY sign into law a measure than bans EVERYTHING the pro-life side of this debate has managed to get passed over the past decades.

  • James D

    Okay, Ive read from all of the experts here.

    Conclusions:

    Republican Pary = “Stinks”
    Democratic Party = “No beter than GOP” (if not worse)
    Other Parties = No candidates who have any change of winning to vote for.

    But the Church says it’s are duty to vote.

    For Whom?

  • Anon

    “Conclusions:

    Republican Pary = “Stinks”
    Democratic Party = “No beter than GOP” (if not worse)
    Other Parties = No candidates who have any change of winning to vote for.

    But the Church says it’s are duty to vote.

    For Whom?”

    [smiley=laugh]

    Leave it to a man to be confused about whether the Church is ambiguous about a dictator who says he will promote decapitating and burning infants unto death.

    Would there be confusion if he were a member of the Klu Klux Klan?

    Time to pray and have faith in the Lord.

  • RK

    I’m sure it’s true that the conservative judges aren’t radical by personality or judicial temperment. There are some who believe this trait would also prevent them from overturning Roe vs. Wade. In order to do what they should they would need to act against their fundamental inclination. Nobody really knows if they would.

    Ron Paul was not a third party candidate, although his humble contrarian views were so marginalized that he may as well have been. The point, though, is that his Sanctity of Life Act is genuinely pro life! A Paul presidency for the last eight years would have been profoundly different than what we’ve been subjected to. From the “bully pulpit” he very likely would have: influenced Congress to pass his bill or something like it; made damn sure we didn’t become involved in interventionist wars that did as much to lay waste to our economy as any predatory lending; directed our economy prudently.

    I’m under no illusion that someone like Ron Paul (or Chuck Baldwin) can get elected in our oligarchical system. But their dissenting voices, though virtually drowned out by the sectarian babble, are critical. We should recognize that our elected officials are selling us up the river.

    It doesn’t matter if you vote (in fact, you may be doing your country a greater service if you abstain), but if you think you must vote, vote in protest of a two-party system that doesn’t care about abortion or any other value we hold dear. It only cares about perpetuating itself.

  • Steve Skojec

    Worth noting here is a key to the Sanctity of Life Act – it would amend the federal judicial code to (according to Wikipedia for quick reference):

    “…remove Supreme Court and district court jurisdiction to review cases arising out of any statute, ordinance, rule, regulation, or practice, or any act interpreting such a measure, on the grounds that such measure: (1) protects the rights of human persons between conception and birth; or (2) prohibits, limits, or regulates the performance of abortions or the provision of public funds, facilities, personnel, or other assistance for abortions.[1]”

    So the Supreme Court couldn’t strike it down. That’s the beauty of it. There are ways around the SCOTUS and they don’t involve gambling on crappy presidents so that we can have the life-time implementation of justices who MIGHT be on our side.

  • EricG

    It’s not exactly true that the Church says we have a duty to vote. We have a moral obligation to participate in civil affairs, but there is such a thing as principled nonvoting. While I personally do not find this prudent in most circumstances, and the bishops would probably concur on that judgment, it is ultimately a matter of prudential judgment.

    What’s important to note is that there is a moral difference between principled nonvoting and not voting out of negligence of one’s civil duty.

    Theoretically, a nonvote can sometimes be a sort of vote.

  • Zoe

    RK, I enjoyed reading your comment above but very much disagree that it doesn’t matter if one votes.

    I consider voting to be the responsibility – actually, the obligation – of all citizens. Too many have all but forgotten the importance of participating in civic life and our system of government. It’s a right and a privilege — and we need to be grateful for it.

    Abstaining is not a worthy protest – it is passive. Many people seem to think there are only two options: Vote for one of the two major party candidates or stay home. This is a flawed approach. If more citizens were willing to vote third party or write in other candidates, we might eventually see some change. And our political process would be strengthened by individual citizens’ participation.

  • R.C.

    Steve and RK:

    Let’s say that the “Sanctity of Life Act” was introduced identically in both houses, and that President Bush (or Baldwin or Paul) were going to sign it, and that every last pro-life Republican voted for it.

    You’d still be shy of the votes needed to pass it. Indeed, even prior to 2006, when the Republicans were in charge of Congress, you’d still be shy of the votes needed, because of the presence of pro-choice Republicans. (Back then, you’d have had the votes in the House, but you’d have come up about 52-58 in the Senate.)

    Now, if you could sway some moderate Democrats in the Senate, you could get to 50-50 with a Vice Presidential tiebreaker, and achieve passage.

    But to do that, the Act itself would have to be worded in a fashion acceptable to a “moderate.” (Which it isn’t.)

    So it’s a dead letter.

    Which is why I reiterate: G.W.Bush did all he could possibly do for the pro-life movement; what he did not do, he couldn’t do. And Ron Paul or Chuck Baldwin, in his place, could not have done more.

  • R.C.

    Okay, okay, obviously what I meant to say was, “52-48 in the Senate,” not “52-58.”

    (Wishing, yet again, for the ability to edit posts….)

  • RK

    There are states where one can’t cast write-in votes. In that case, and assuming none of the candidates, third-party or otherwise, passed muster for certain voters, wouldn’t those voters be in perfectly entitled to abstaining? It seems the right thing to do under such a scenario.

    Zoe, I agree with you that we have a responsibility to engage ourselves in the civic life of our country and our community. Increasingly, though, many Americans are coming to the conclusion that their input is of little consequence on the federal level. It may be different on the local levels.

    One of the problems with the imperative to vote is that the choices are, de facto, limited to whomever the two major parties have been able to foist upon the electorate. Granted, this is done with some measure of the electorate’s compliance, but nevertheless, it’s kind of like organized crime. You’re free to vote, but you’ll vote for whoever we pick. I have a hard time being on board with those kinds of rights and privileges.

  • Carlos Echevarria

    “There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    Cardinal Ratzinger, 2004

    “In the past few months leading up to what may prove to be the most crucial presidential election in this country’s history, it is outright frightening how many Catholics think they can vote for a pro-abortion candidate. As many of our good bishops have pointed out, under the current circumstances this is not possible. Abortion is the overridingly most important moral issue of our times, all others being important, but rendered irrelevant if the preeminent right

  • Zoe

    Father, thanks for the article. I do agree war and abortion are two different matters.

    However, I think we have to be very careful with proportionality. Is the value of one life really less than that of two or ten or a hundred? No.

    The better argument, in my view, is the one you raise about intent. Abortion is a direct intent to kill an innocent, which is why, when saving the life of a pregnant mother, it’s not considered an evil if the fetus dies as a result. That’s very different than the direct intentional killing of the fetus.

    War is grave, however, and I think there are many Catholics and people of good will who are tired of hearing it justified or excused. We needn’t make abortion and war equal moral matters in order to be strong voices against war and its terrible consequences.

  • R.C.

    I’d like some clarification, if you don’t mind…?

    You say,

    War is grave, however, and I think there are many Catholics and people of good will who are tired of hearing it justified or excused. We needn’t make abortion and war equal moral matters in order to be strong voices against war and its terrible consequences.

    I agree with that entire statement unreservedly…except for one part, and I only have reservations about that part because I’m uncertain what you mean by it. Or, whom you mean to condemn by it.

    The phrase in question is: “Catholics and people of good will …are tired of hearing [war] justified or excused.”

    Now, I myself was in favor of the “troop surge” because I thought, under the circumstances, that it would save far more lives and defend far more innocents to win the war than to pull out in ignominy and leave the country to the tender mercies of AQI and Sadr’s Qods-backed militia. (And I think that analysis has been borne out.)

    Do you regard me as “justifying and excusing war,” for taking that position? Or do you only apply that description to those who originally supported the resumption of hostilities in 2003?

    As a related question: Don’t you assume that many of those who originally supported the 2003 invasion thought (however erroneously, but through no fault of their own) that it was justified? It’s hard, at this point, to recall how much we “knew” then that turned out to be false. But one can only make decisions with the information one has at the time. Do you, then, condemn folks who supported the invasion generally? …or only some subset of them who ought to have known better?

    Sincerely, R.C.

  • Mike

    To me, it is absolutely and logically clear that no issue is as important as abortion. The war in Iraq has already been decided, launched and fought, and there is no way around it, no matter how America votes in November. It is clear to both parties that the war was a mistake and nobody will have the intention of repeating this gross mistake in the future.

    However, if democrats start sniffing that catholics are leaving them because of the abortion issue, they will be more than willing to change their policy.

    Not only whom you choose for president, but senators and other national and state representatives are very important as well.

    Roe v. Wade was a political fad; a turning tide can overturn it. We just need serious commitment on the part of every single American.

    We just need coherent, logical catholics, and people of goodwill of every creed, to end this genocide.

  • Zoe

    Now, I myself was in favor of the “troop surge” because I thought, under the circumstances, that it would save far more lives and defend far more innocents to win the war…
    Do you regard me as “justifying and excusing war,” for taking that position? Or do you only apply that description to those who originally supported the resumption of hostilities in 2003?

    Hi R.C.,

    No, I don’t regard your position as “justifying or excusing war.” I think it’s perfectly reasonable to take positions about the war that maximize better outcomes. Once you make a mess, you don’t throw your hands up and leave others to clean it up.

    As a general observation, I think many faithful Catholics bought the neo-conservative argument for the Iraq war and have never admitted they were wrong. Not only that, I don’t think Catholics – in many of the circles I know, anyway – are deeply against war. They don’t voice it, anyway. And they give the impression that abortion and gay marriage are the only issues they really care about. I know they’re interested in far more than that (obviously) but I don’t think it comes across. Speaking out against war has become the territory of “the left,” when it should be, generally speaking, the Christian position.

    As a related question: Don’t you assume that many of those who originally supported the 2003 invasion thought (however erroneously, but through no fault of their own) that it was justified?

    Yes, I do. But I also think many Catholics were more inclined to follow political leaders and not listen to the Church’s thought or concerns. I think, too, there were enough unanswered questions even then to warrant uncertainty or disagreement as to whether we should go.

    Do you, then, condemn folks who supported the invasion generally? …or only some subset of them who ought to have known better?

    First, I hope I’m not condemning anyone. I criticize myself first: I believed at the time there was not enough evidence to support a Just War but I doubted myself because most people in my immediate circles were in support of the decision. I hope to never do that again.

  • James Degnan

    Leave it to a man to be confused about whether the Church is ambiguous about a dictator who says he will promote decapitating and burning infants unto death.

    Would there be confusion if he were a member of the Klu Klux Klan?

    Nope, I’m not confused as to the Churches stance on such a candidate as this.

    But, I am a little puzzled at to why they seem to want to steer me toward a candidate who says he opposes abortion yet wants to create human embryo’s and then destroy them for “research” using my tax dollars? Isn’t this abortion also?

  • L.B.

    But, I am a little puzzled at to why they seem to want to steer me toward a candidate who says he opposes abortion yet wants to create human embryo’s and then destroy them for “research” using my tax dollars? Isn’t this abortion also?

    James,
    Yes, it is an evil. Both Obama and McCain support stem cell research. The similarity ends there – the differences begin there. Obama will have support from his party on this issue whereas McCain will meet resistance from his party on this issue. The party platforms seem pretty clear to me.

    Platform of Decmocratic Party

  • Rebecca Ramirez

    James,

    You have a very valid point about saying that using and destroying embryo’s for research regardless of whether it was created just for research or not is abortion. I would say that yes, it is a form of abortion. This is intrinsic evil. I’m not sure if McCain supports this…I looked at his website in the issues section and it seemed pretty clear that he does not, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that he does support this issue of embryonic stem cell research. Well, so does Obama. Look carefully at all candidates’ stances on the life, marriage and sexuality issues. Look at their records. The two main candidates’ stances are not perfect, definitely. So what now? Well, in the case that no candidate is 100% pro-life on all the issues, then you have to choose which candidate will do less harm, less evil. There are some or many who believe that abortion and war are always equally evil. I would have to disagree with that and I think that Fr. Longenecker does too and explains why in the article.

    Please James, do your research on the candidates. Also if you haven’t done so already research what the church has to say about your duty as a citizen to vote and how to vote with a faithful conscience. Most importantly, pray for guidance and for an open heart and mind on this most important decision.

    PriestForLife has good information.
    Faithfulcitizenship.org is also very good.

    Hope this helps. By the way, thanks Father for the thoughtful article.

  • R.C.

    Zoe,

    Thank you for your well-thought out response. I am justly and graciously answered, and I appreciate you taking the time.

    If you’re still monitoring this thread, I have one follow-up question: Do you think you represent the mainstream of the “anti-war” sentiment among Catholics? Are anti-war Catholics, by-and-large, reasoned opponents of unnecessary wars, rather than (as I sometimes fear) unreasoned opponents of military muscle generally?

    I ask, because Todd, up there in the earlier part of the thread, seems to think that the right thing to do is to drop everything and bug out of Iraq as fast as possible, every last soldier. That looks to me like “Code Pink” territory, and his tone doesn’t convince me otherwise.

    My own inclination is that the surge worked above expectations and has stabilized the situation, allowing a relatively normal life to return, but that the draw-down should proceed in slow stages, evaluating whether things are remaining stable at each new level. And I wouldn’t be bothered if it remained, in the end, a South Korea-like affair: 25,000 troops and advisors in a stable situation, not being shot at.

    So when you state,

    I think it’s perfectly reasonable to take positions about the war that maximize better outcomes. Once you make a mess, you don’t throw your hands up and leave others to clean it up.

    …it makes me worry less, because it shows me an anti-war Catholic view which strikes me as reasoned.

    But then you also say,

    Speaking out against war has become the territory of “the left,” when it should be, generally speaking, the Christian position.

    …and that makes me raise my guard again. Do you really mean, “war,” without qualification, there? Or do you mean, “unjust war?”

    My hope, as you might imagine, is that we learn the lessons both of the 2003 invasion and “the surge”: Sometimes committing to a conflict is unwise and avoiding it is wise; other times, committing to it is wise and avoiding it is unwise.

    My concern is that we might instead say, “All war is bad…therefore all war is worse than any other alternative…therefore any increase in commitment to a conflict should be protested under the assumption that anything involving soldiers is necessarily evil.”

    I know you can really only speak for yourself. But any assurances you can give me about Catholic opposition to “war”/”unjust war” in general would be…well, comforting.

  • Zoe

    Hi R.C.,

    You ask:

    Do you think you represent the mainstream of the “anti-war” sentiment among Catholics?

    Probably not.

    Are anti-war Catholics, by-and-large, reasoned opponents of unnecessary wars, rather than (as I sometimes fear) unreasoned opponents of military muscle generally?

    If you’re asking whether anti-war Catholics, by and large, are pacifists, I’m not sure how the numbers would break down. I know plenty of Catholics who describe themselves as “anti-war” but who are not pacifists or against a strong military.

    I think it’s important to remember the long tradition of pacifism in Christianity. Some very holy people have been pacifists. I think of Dorothy Day, whose cause has been opened, and who was fiercely pro-life as well.

    The Catechism, in #2346, under the Section on the Fifth Commandment, commends those who choose to renounce violence and bloodshed, saying that in doing so they “bear witness of evangelical charity… and to the gravity of the physical and moral risks to the recourse to violence.”

    At the same time, the Church allows for Just War, with its very specific criteria. But the Catechism does say that all citizens and governments must work to avoid war. It speaks of war as “bondage” and grounds its teaching in the Fifth Commandment which forbids the intentional destruction of human life.

    I ask, because Todd, up there in the earlier part of the thread, seems to think that the right thing to do is to drop everything and bug out of Iraq as fast as possible, every last soldier. That looks to me like “Code Pink” territory, and his tone doesn’t convince me otherwise.

    I understand the thinking that says “this war was unjust and unwise so it should be stopped now.” I understand that, but I don’t agree. I go back to my earlier comment that you don’t go in, make a mess, and then say, “oops, we were wrong, sorry, see you later, you deal with it.” Whether it was right or wrong, we need to take responsibility for what we did and now try to work for the best outcomes. That doesn’t mean staying forever, but it does mean wise and thoughtful withdrawal, as you say.

    But then you also say: “Speaking out against war has become the territory of “the left,” when it should be, generally speaking, the Christian position.”

    …and that makes me raise my guard again. Do you really mean, “war,” without qualification, there? Or do you mean, “unjust war?”

    Well, I think all Christians should be against war as a general attitude, period. They should work against war. They should be peacemakers and advocates of peace. They should mourn all war and violence and hold their government accountable for the decisions it makes. A Just War is still regrettable, and rare.

    I know you can really only speak for yourself. But any assurances you can give me about Catholic opposition to “war”/”unjust war” in general would be…well, comforting.

    There is a Just War tradition in the Church’s teaching, but it is rooted in the teachings on the dignity of human life and the necessity of working for peace as Christ’s followers. One can accept the Church’s allowance for a Just War and be against war and violence. In fact, I would argue that should be the sentiment of every Christian.

  • R.C.

    Zoe,

    Once again, well and thoroughly answered. I thank and salute you, ma’am.

    Sincerely,

    R.C.

  • Ioannes

    Can someone tell me who exactly we are at war with in Iraq? I know the media still calls it the Iraq War, but who is our enemy? And for those propogating the Republicans are for war, Democrats are opposed please spare the rhetoric. There were many Democrats including Bill and Hilary who were very vocal about what we needed to do with Saddam. The Democrats were also the ones who got us into war with Korea, Vietnam and the Balkans only a few years ago. Candidate Obama is planning to keep troops in Afghanistan and one of his biggest complaints about Iraq is that we are sending troops there when we are shorthanded in Afghanistan. So again spare me the nonsense. The main reason so many of the Democrats are opposed to the situation in Iraq is political. They see it as an opportunity with the American people to get rid of the Republicans in office and IMHO this has prolonged the situation in Iraq because our terrorist enemies there, who we are really fighting, are on the wait it out plan.

    Do not forget that when Hussein was in power there were hundreds of thousands of innocents people being killed and tortured there. While that may not justify our actions in getting involved it is a lie to suggest that our presence has somehow brought violence to an otherwise peaceful country.

  • R.C.

    Ioannes:

    I’ll respond as best as I can.

    Once Saddam’s horrifying government fell, the U.S. could either leave it to Iraqis to set up a replacement on their own, or try to help them set one up. We chose the latter because, absent strong just-government traditions (a term I use instead of “democratic traditions” because democratic republicanism is a technique in service of getting and keeping just government, not an end in itself) it was certain that Iraq would turn into a chaotic wasteland of sectarian and racial strife.

    Now that Iraq has a civil government which, while ugly by our standards, is superior to every other in the Middle East save Israel’s and improving daily, we could leave today…except that the civil government’s ability to maintain the status quo is unproven, so we want to be tentative and gradual about withdrawing our forces. If something begins suddenly to go sour, we want to have enough forces still in theater to deal with it.

    This much you know.

    But the question is, with whom are we at war?

    The answer is: Some of the same forces that would have caused sectarian and racial strife to begin with. But in order from most important to least, they are:

    Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)
    Iranian-backed (publicly acknowledged) militias & clerics
    Iranian-backed (secret) terror groups
    The few remaining Sunni Arab or Sunni Kurd militias
    Organized Crime

    Indeed most of these are subdued at this point, but were we to pull our troops out entirely and the Iraqi government’s ability to keep order were to falter, these would be the “problem groups” which would arise and start making problems, and are arranged in rough order from “nastiest” to “least nasty.”

    For more information, I recommend engram-backtalk.blogspot.com, and the “Iraq the Model” website.

  • john

    Neither of the two parties should be supported by real Catholics. I am appalled to see some priests and religious supporting McCain or Obama. Both are anti-life.

    You are not pro-life if you support abortion. You are not pro-life if you support an unjustified war which has claimed over a hundred thousand civilian lives. You are not pro-life if you support the death penalty. You are not pro-life if you are pro-gun. There is no way to justify all these (of course, the reaction you read this post will be to rationalize why you are supporting McCain or Obama—go ahead, fool yourself. You can’t fool God).

  • ioannes

    Neither of the two parties should be supported by real Catholics. I am appalled to see some priests and religious supporting McCain or Obama. Both are anti-life.

    You are not pro-life if you support abortion. You are not pro-life if you support an unjustified war which has claimed over a hundred thousand civilian lives. You are not pro-life if you support the death penalty. You are not pro-life if you are pro-gun. There is no way to justify all these (of course, the reaction you read this post will be to rationalize why you are supporting McCain or Obama—go ahead, fool yourself. You can’t fool God).

    John,

    Go re-read your Catholic catechism and stop giving us your personal opinion.

  • R.C.

    Well, I don’t think I’ll bother specifically dismissing all of the shoddy thinking in your post.

    (I don’t intend disrespect…but that’s what it is. I have been guilty of it myself, and hope that others will do me the charitable service of correcting me when I need correction.)

    But it’s particularly easy to disprove two items you list.

    You are not pro-life if you support the death penalty. You are not pro-life if you are pro-gun.

    First, regarding the death penalty. Consider a person who believes that the death penalty should (a.) be legal, but (b.) be applied consistently, (d.) require an especially great burden of proof and lenient appeals process, and (e.) involve not merely adequate but exceptionally good legal representation for the defendant.

    Would that person be, in your view, “supporting” the death penalty and therefore not “pro life?”

    If so, then look to your soul sir, for it’s the Church you’ve just accused. For the Church does not teach that the death penalty should be abolished, but that it should be avoided for all but the most heinous crimes and be applied justly and with ample opportunity for an excellent defense.

    Moving on, what about “pro-gun?”

    I assume that a person who owns and carries (or keeps in his home) a personal weapon (excluding non-lethal ones; e.g. pepper spray) for self defense is “pro-gun” in your view, and therefore not “pro-life?”

    If so, feel free to excommunicate Jesus, St. Peter (ask that one-eared fellow, there amongst the olive trees), the majority of Christian laity in most places and times….

    For of course a “gun” is just the latest technological innovation in a series of tools for self-defense. Swords (“he who has not a sword, buy one”) and polearms (ever look closely at the Swiss Guard?) and such have served both private and professional defensive uses since “before Abraham was.”

    The technological advantage of the firearm, of course, is that it allows little old ladies a chance at self-defense; the broadsword may only be used by six-foot heavily muscled men.

    Which is of course the point: A society in which no person may use tools for self-defense is a society in which the strong may terrorize the weak with impunity.

    Normally the view that all wars are unjust (a view contradicted by Church teaching) or that all lethal tools for self-defense are evil (a view contradicted by Church teaching applied through common sense) comes from one of two places:

    1. A well-meaning but ill-reasoned understanding of Jesus’ famous words “turn the other cheek”;

    2. The observation that, when on mission or in certain clerical offices, Jesus’ followers traditionally go weaponless, or restrict their weaponry (e.g. “no edged tool”).

    In the first case, pacifists like the early Quakers extended “turn the other cheek” into a teaching of inviolate nonviolence. But this is an example of prooftexting from a single verse instead of considering the whole of Scripture. See C.S.Lewis’ essay “Why I Am Not A Pacifist” for further information: It is entirely in accord with Church teaching.

    In the second case, it is often preferable that a missionary go unarmed and thereby gain a more favorable hearing with an unconverted tribe — but risk being cannibalized — than go armed and be certainly slain as an enemy. But, again, this is not a rule for all times and peoples, any more than monastical celibacy is a rule for all times and peoples.

    For more information on the Church’s actual teaching, please see: http://tinyurl.com/4vfxg7

    Sincerely,

    R.C.

  • john

    I think it is both of you that have to review your Catholic catechism.

  • R.C.

    Look, friend, for heaven’s sake. I apologize if this is too blunt, but…is that all you’ve got?!

    You asserted something pretty confidently. In reply I said you were wrong, and cited Church teachings, Scripture, the voice of Christian history throughout the ages, and pretty well-reasoned argument to support myself. It wasn’t my strongest argument ever, but it was more than enough to call into question whether your original assertion was contradictory to Church teaching. And all you say in reply is that I should read my Catechism more?

    I just cited Church documents at you; the Catechism is just a summary of those. I “see” your Catechism and “raise” you the entirety of Church teaching and history on which it’s based.

    Your bet! In or out?

    I don’t mean to be rude. If you have something to say, by all means, say it. But say it with intellectual vigor. You felt like making a point; very well, if the point is important to you, defend it!

    Let me break this down a bit. (Seriously, I’m trying to help.)

    You posted some assertions.

    A couple of us replied, debunking your assertions in several ways:
    (1.) By logical argument;
    (2.) By direct reference to Church teachings;
    (3.) By logical inference from Church teachings;
    (4.) By reference to a popular Christian author (C.S.Lewis) who is regarded as in accord with Church teachings on most points.

    Now, to win this argument, or even stay in the game, your next move must do the following:
    (1.) Show where our logic is flawed;
    (2.) Show where directly referenced Church teachings are being misinterpreted or misrepresented;
    (3.) Demonstrate that the conclusions reached by that C.S.Lewis re: pacifism are either not applicable, or are one of the rare things in his writings with which the Church disagrees.

    You really do have an opening here; why don’t you give serious, structured argument a try! I mean, when I posted my reply, I wasn’t even very careful to cite exactly where in Church teachings I got my ideas. It all seemed pretty self-evident to me, so I just threw it out there. Call me on it!

    If you let one of these drop without even a token response, it indicates either (a.) inability to comprehend the arguments, or (b.) an embarrassed inability to answer the arguments.

    Either way, you lose. Not only will I not be convinced, but neither will anyone else reading the thread.

    So give it a try. What’ve you got to lose?

  • ioannes

    Thanks R.C. for your link to Engram above. Valuable info and insight. Thanks also for taking the time to respond to John’s inane statements about the death penalty, guns, etc.

  • R.C.

    Ioannes, you’re most welcome.

  • john

    R.C.,

    My apologies for the late reply.

    Here are the references. I hope it will enlighten you and hopefully correct any wrong impressions that you and any of the readers here might have gotten regarding the two issues.

    On the death penalty:
    Check From Paragraph 56 of the encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), regarding the various threats to human life which Pope John Paul II issued on March 25, 1995. It is self-explanatory.

    I quote:
    “56. This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God’s plan for man and society. The primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is “to redress the disorder caused by the offence”.46 Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfils the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people’s safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated. 47

    It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

    In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: “If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person”.48″

    On the use of guns: Check out the report : Handgun Violence: A Threat to Life made by the Committee on Social Development
    and World Peace of the United States Catholic Conference on
    September 11, 1975. The title speaks for itself, handgun violence: a threat to life. You may look it up at the nccbuscc website, http://nccbuscc.org

    The spirit of the report goes for a preferential ban on the use of guns. However, due to the second amendment, the bishops had to respect the hunters and sportsmen. They had pointed out the frequent argument of individuals wanting to have guns for self-defense. They pointed out that this for self-defense handguns have resulted in the deaths of six times as many family members, friends and neighbors as intruders or assailants.

  • R.C.

    John:

    An excellent reply!

    On handguns, the problem is the missing half of the story.

    It is true that privately-possessed firearms are more often used on oneself (in a suicide) and on family-members (say, by a battered wife in self-defense) and on people one knows personally (say, a fellow gangbanger with whom one gets in a fight) than on persons one doesn’t even know.

    However, that inequity reverses when you limit it to legally owned/purchased firearms, especially in conjunction with those who have permits to carry. Or, one even gets a radically different statistic if one rules out homes where one person has an arrest record.

    Which is to say: If you’re a law-abiding gun owner, you usually use your weapon more lawfully than if you’re a law-breaking firearms possessor.

    Also not taken into account is another factoids:

    Privately owned firearms are used by lawful owners to interrupt or deter violent criminal attack hundreds of thousands of times annually in the U.S. That’s the conservative estimate; the Kleck/Gertz estimate is more like 2 million, but is likely an overestimation.

    Still, the number of times a lawfully carried weapon is used for self-defense vastly outweighs the number of times a lawfully carried weapon is used for criminal activity. (Instances of that annually may be counted on one hand.)

    (Source: FBI Uniform Crime Report, 2000; also NIJ Research in Brief, 1997)

    So, the report would be correct were those making the report in possession of all relevant facts. They weren’t, and came to a faulty conclusion.

  • Jim For Peace

    Reverend:

    What you don’t talk about is how many innocent civilians have been killed in Iraq! Do the innocent civilians fall into your break-down of relative morality as well? Is an American death more important than that of an Iraqi?

    The Catholic church is against war, the death penalty and abortion, not JUST abortion. There is nothing Catholic whatsoever about condoning war and the death penalty. There is nothing in the teachings of Jesus that would advocate for this unjust war or for the practice of the death penalty. Morally, if we know that one candidate (ie. McCain, and Bush before him) plans to support war, the death penalty, and inevitably not support the needs of the poorest ranks of our society (the very people Jesus would have NEVER overlooked), as Catholics, what do we gain by being overly simplistic in our voting and by going against the overarching philosophy of the church?

    Before Roe V. Wade the Catholic church predominantly advocated for liberal causes because being tolerant, helping the underprivileged, and advocating peace and love for all people, are an integral part of Catholic ideology. Excommunicating someone who understands the complexity of what “Pro-life” means, and who advocates for the sanctity of ALL life, blatantly goes against foundational principles of the Church.

  • Dwight Longenecker

    Jim for Peace, did you read the article? Paragraphs 4-6 deal with the deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians. Take a deep breath and read the whole article, the try again.

  • Texas Tom

    Jim for Peace,

    Some actions are intrinsically evil and therefore non-negotiable. Other issues are matters of prudential judgement. This concept seems to be beyond not only most laity but far too many clergy. (When was the last time you heard a teaching from the pulpit on intrinsic evil?)

    Create a table for yourself and on the left side, put a title of “prudential judgement”. In that column put the Iraq war, illegal immigration, capital punishment, the economy, healthcare, education, concern and care for the poor. There can be reasonable debate among Catholics on how best to approach and solve them.

    On the right side, put a title of “intrinsic evil”. In that column, put abortion, human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, promotion of same-sex “unions”, repression of religious liberty, racial discrimination. These can never be morally justified nor cooperated with the implementation in any way under any circumstance.

    Because of the sheer volume of abortions, this is a defining moral issue for the last 35 years. It disqualifies a candidate from receiving consideration from informed Catholics and makes the voting process extremely straightforward for most elections. One party’s platform stands for the violation of the defining moral issue and one party’s platform stands for defending the innocent from those who would do lethal violence.

  • Clinton

    Folks, this is a spiritual battle! Don’t be accusing each other and putting each other down. From all the comments here, it looks like you care less about Christ and His Body and more about which political party you belong to. Its a shame that some of you are even accusing Fr. Longnecker for being Christ’s servant and preaching that abortion is evil and wicked.

    That said, people are confusing too many issues around. You can’t blame just President Bush or the Republican party for the economic crisis we are in. Lets face the fact. We are a greedy, consumerist, materialist society. Why are we looking to government to pave the way for us? Is it supposed to be the example. Shouldn’t we, Christians be the ones, taking up Jesus’s cross and like St. Francis denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following Him. We are all to blame for the mess – us with 5 cell phones and 10 credit cards in a family, our leaders (both Democrats and Republicans), Wall Street and the government. Plus to say its just Republicans is to pass the blame. We all know the Democrats controlled Congress for the last 2 yrs and nothing ever gets done in government because these 2 are always fighting each other.

    As for abortion,what are we expecting? something miraculous? Just saying nothing happened in the last 8 yrs is ridiculous – we fought for so long – we have good conservative Supreme court justices, and just when we are so close to victory, we want to accept failure and elect the most pro-abortion candidate in U.S. history. This man is so far-left that its not even a joke.

    Lets keep things in perspective here. Iraq is stabilizing and God-willing the war in Iraq will soon come to an end. But Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, gay rights groups and moral breakdown in our society is only getting stronger and stronger. At this time to elect the most partisan, far-left, inexperienced candidate is the biggest blunder we Christians could make. Yes, with electing McCain, we may not expect to overturn Roe v Wade. We may get one more Supreme court justice, but at least we won’t be promoting abortion even more. At least we’ll have a moderate who knows how to work with both parties. And an experienced leader who knows how to deal with the Middle East.

    On the other hand, with Obama, we have someone with no experience, someone who may be willing to talk with Iran and tolerate its rhetoric against Israel, making the Middle East only more volatile. And we’ll get a candidate who is an unabashed supporter of groups such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. What good does that do us as Christians and for the moral values of our nation?

    Saying that one is going to reduce abortions is only a way of evading the issue and attracting Catholics and Evangelicals – especially for one whose record is the complete opposite. Imagine, if the U.S. and Europe’s leaders said in 1941, “We don’t need to fight Hitlet. lets try to reduce the torture and human experiments in concentration camps” We would all be speaking German and saying Heil Hitler today.

    Let’s remember we are Christ’s Body; our first allegiance is to Him and not either candidate and lets be wise and do what’s best for Christ, His Kingdom and then our country.

    Thy will be done Father, thy Kingdom come!

  • Heather

    I could write 2000 words about why I think you’re wrong. But what it comes down to is that all murder is wrong. Period. There are no levels of wrong. Jesus never said murder was ok, “except…”. America is not the kingdom of God, you cannot justify murder in war. We are to love all of our enemies, no questions asked. It’s easy to say that we aren’t to judge people, but it’s so much harder to do when it comes to people we see as evil. But, alas, our job is still just to love. Maybe that doesn’t sound realistic, but do you think that matters to Jesus? How you vote means nothing to him. You don’t get any extra points on the last day because you voted for a candidate whose party states that they are anti abortion (yet they did nothing about it during the 6 years in which they controlled the presidency, the congress, and added 2 supreme court justices). Screaming about being pro life, yet doing nothing about abortion and starting 2 wars, is not only an insult to the intelligence of the American people, but to God himself.

  • Sol Spliffman

    I don’t know why any Iraq War Veteran would expect any help
    or comfort from today’s American Catholics.

  • G Grady Little of FREE GRACE REV

    the religious is the only right available. No democrat will ever pass a pro life law. I don’t even know if one ever has. You can go for independents like paul or others however allan keyes for example is a perfect candidate that is actually truly prolife, and patriotic and also republican. &I think he’s a catholic. The point is you can vote for a person that has no value at all accept money…the democrat. Or you can vote for people that (as hypocritical as they are) actually have value. You can fix the car or you can ride the bike. You might as well fix the car, you already own. Thats what I feel about reforming the republican side versus trying to reform the democrat side. It’s apples and oranges different.

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