Odium Naturae: The Thread of Madness

In the 1980’s, at the height of his influence among American bishops, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, alluding to the robe of Jesus for which the Roman soldiers cast lots, proposed that Catholics treat a host of political issues as one.  The “seamless garment” of respect for human life, for the Cardinal, implied opposition to abortion and to capital punishment; opposition to the threat of using nuclear arms; suspicion of any belligerent stance taken by the United States against communist Russia and her satellites; and the support of a vast social welfare state, with no clear boundaries to protect people against its benevolence.  One wonders how different our history might have been had the Church since the time of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society maintained the same suspicion of warriors against nature, children, the family, the parish, the small school, and the local community, as some prelates came to have of warriors in uniform.

I will not suggest that Cardinal Bernardin, may he rest in peace, was insincere.  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.  He may not have intended to give cover to infanticides for two generations of Catholics.  He may not have wished to allow Catholic politicians to purchase absolution for more than a million children’s lives snuffed out every year, by parading their clemency for a serial killer, and their large-hearted championing, not of the unfortunate single mother here or there, but of the very “ideal” of single motherhood.  Let us grant that Cardinal Bernardin meant well.  Let us even grant, to clear the topic out of the way, that Catholics should oppose the death penalty.  Still, the Cardinal was badly mistaken.  He had the right idea but the wrong garment—as the least exercise of theological and historical analysis should have shown him.

For the Cardinal had allowed the issues of the day to collapse into vitalism.  To be in favor of “life” meant to be in favor that people should be alive, and should have sufficient means to enjoy their being alive.  But what kind of life that was (what it means to be a human being) and where that life was going (to heaven or to hell) were not discussed.  Planned Predators and their ilk rushed into the breach, maintaining, though they did not use the words, that vitalism is an absurd idol.  Nobody wants merely to breathe!  One must look at the quality of human life, and by quality they could only mean, since they were vitalists too but of a deadly sort, the things that a human being could do, or the narrowly defined utility to others that such a life could bring.  To hell, or to oblivion, with the feeble minded and the infirm.  To hell also, or to oblivion, with the unwanted.  These bore a double misery, first to be unloved, and then to be poisoned or dismembered for the crime of being unloved.  The electric chair would have been gentler.

The problem is one of equivocation.  When a Catholic uses the word “life,” he should be thinking—the Cardinal should have been thinking—about more than the continuance of physical functions.  It is not what the Greeks called bios that Christ promises us, but zoe, and that in abundance.  It is to “dwell in the house of the Lord,” as the psalmist puts it.  Human life is more than breathing, but not because man builds skyscrapers or visits the bathhouse or whatever is supposed to give pleasure or to be impressive.  Man, composite of body and soul, cannot be reduced to either.  When we have a wrong view of man, a reduced view, we then can have nothing sensible to say about man’s life, both what it is in itself, and towards what it aims.  In other words, we do violence to human nature.

As soon as I write those words, I see I must clear up another equivocation.  When modern man uses the word “nature,” lacking any deep theological or philosophical training, and ignorant of the poetry of his mother tongue, he means, vaguely, things that aren’t skyscrapers and bathhouses.  He means grass, trees, streams, oceans, birds, fish, snakes, lions, tigers, and bears.  If he’s a little more astute, he will mean the instincts he discovers in the beasts, recognizing that Rover likes to sniff the telephone pole because that is a male dog’s nature.  He will, however, and almost in one breath, deny that he himself has any supernatural aim, and deny that he is largely bound by limitations similar to Rover’s.  Thus he will say that a dog needs a pack to run with, and deny that a boy needs a pack to run with, and not be aware of the contradiction.  He avoids both the Church and the open field.  The Church says that he is a composite of soul and body.  Modern man approaches the madness of claiming that he has neither a soul nor a body.

“No one can be so mad as to make that claim!” you protest.  But hatred brings madness in its wake.  And the thread that runs through all of our modern diseases is odium naturae, the hatred of nature.  I do not mean hatred of grass and trees.  I mean hatred of what human life is and where it is going.  On some days this hatred appears as hatred of the body and its human meanings.  On other days it appears as hatred of the soul and its divine meanings.  Sometimes, when its object is the soul, the hatred casts the human being as just another beast, another fervid lump of mud.  Sometimes, when its object is the body, the hatred spurs man to deny that he is dust, and to take his own evolution in hand, going somewhere, progressing towards—nothing, because there is no aim; let us go forth boldly to anywhere but this miserable hole where we live now.

In a coming series of essays I’d like to examine this odium naturae in its various shapes, always holding forth for our wonder and affection the sweet and ordinary and natural, that which the Creator beheld in the beginning and declared to be good.  But since I have begun with the issue of abortion, it’s well to take a quick look at that now, to see why the garment that Cardinal Bernardin chose was the wrong one.

In an exercise of illogic and madness that can only come from an intellectual, the pro-abortion philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson asked us to imagine a woman waking up, attached to tubes and wires, her bodily functions supporting those of a concert violinist, a perfect stranger.  He needs her for nine months, and then she can go her way.  Surely no sane person would say that she must consent to have her body usurped?  Isn’t that what happens when a woman is compelled to bear an unwanted child to term?

Of course the analogy is absurd.  It is a vitalist nightmare.  There is nothing we do that magically brings full-grown concert violinists into the world, unknown to us and needing our organs.  Nor do our bodies sprout wires and tubes, to make connections with the next Paganini.  But this philosopher, hating human nature, sees the natural relation of a mother and her child in the womb as nothing better than a contraption of invasion, wholly artificial, extrinsic to the woman, and cruel.  To her, life means nothing more than to have one’s bios at one’s discretion, to go and do as you please.

Thus the most natural thing in the world comes to be seen as the most unnatural.  The same feminist who nods in approval of this bizarre analogy will go visit the Museum of Art on the morrow, to look at the paintings of Mary Cassatt—whose greatness consists in her devotion to womanly nature, painting women with their small children; and she will not see the contradiction, because her attachment to Cassatt is a gerry-rigged mass of political tubes and wires, and not a love of what the artist loved.  If Mary Cassatt were Martin Cassatt, and painted the very same paintings in the same way and with the same love, she would loathe him as sentimentalizing the oppression of women.

The next time you see a woman great with child, walking with her husband and a couple of children already born, consider that you are beholding something natural and holy.  Abortion is evil because it takes an innocent human life.  But abortion is heinous because it attacks those natural bonds at their roots.  Murder is sometimes a crime of passion.  Abortion is, in the individual case, not so culpable as murder; and yet its principle is wickeder.  The murderer kills a man.  The abortionist does that too—and murders human nature to do it.

(Photo Credit: Newscom/KRT/Ernie Cox; Cardinal Bernardin 1993)

Anthony Esolen


Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    We should always remember that the odium naturae is always an attack against God. It is the original sin committed over and over again. The moderns, being the stylish atheists that they are, would not acknowledge same but we know differently. While we ought to use our reason to disabuse them of their errors (even if they happen to be Cardinals of the Church) we need to concentrate our lives on serving God – the One for Whom we have been created.

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  • Alecto

    Anthony, you give Bernardin all the benefits of doubt you want. Infer all the best of intentions in him. Remember where that road leads.

    • Diego Fernando Ramos Flor

      Just to add to any discussion about the road it leads to: “Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to principles. Intolerance applies only to principles, but never to persons. We must be tolerant to persons because they are human; we must be intolerant about principles because they are divine. We must be tolerant to the erring, because ignorance may have led them astray; but we must be intolerant to the error, because Truth is not our making, but God’s. And hence the Church in her history, due reparation made, has always welcomed the heretic back into the treasury of her souls, but never his heresy into the treasury of her wisdom.” Bishop Fulton Sheen. So, I think Prof. Esolen has made this point clear: we tolerate Card. Bernardin, but we can’t tolerate his mistakes on doctrine issues.

      • Alecto

        No, Cardinal Bernardin cannot by nature of his title claim “ignorance” lest the entire hierarchy default whatever authority it has by extension. That defense is NEVER available to a Catholic cardinal who ought to know better or not accept the office. Indeed, ignorance ought to be a temporary state, not a perpetual excuse for failing to instill faith.

        I do not believe Jesus Christ tolerates error, and especially willful error from someone who is in a position of influence over very vulnerable souls, including those with vocations in seminaries and children in Catholic schools over which a cardinal has authority. All the more reason for popes to thoughtfully consider candidates for elevation to cardinal and refrain from whims based on political perceptions.

        • Facile1

          God cannot love us any less for our choices. God was the first to love us and has forgiven. God also is the only one who loves us always and will not forget.

          So your statement is incorrect. Jesus Christ more than tolerates error. He has forgiven (even the treachery of Judas.) Cardinal Bernardin’s treachery cannot compare.

          Thus, I agree with Mr. Flor. This sin is NOT Cardinal Bernardin’s alone. We all contributed — even if our only error was to be less than critical in our reading and our choice for entertainment.

  • This article includes an obvious fact that is, I would say, an immense problem for the Church. The Church was sent to teach and to preach Truth! And to be brief, the Church holds within her, teachers of falsity. This is an immense contradiction, confusion, and problem both for the hierarchy and for the people. What should the hierarchy DO to correct this, and how are the people to know whom to believe and whom to trust?

    You included this: “I will not suggest that Cardinal … was insincere. …. Still, the Cardinal was badly mistaken. He had the right idea but the wrong garment—as the least exercise of theological and historical analysis should have shown him.”

    If he were a deacon or a priest, surely his Bishop ought to correct him! If he were a “mere” bishop, surely our Pope ought to correct him! But an archbishop? A cardinal? Surely someone so public, so influential, given such a grand position – surely the Church would correct him, right? Surely the least exercise of magisterial and hierarchical knowledge, right formation, pastoral wisdom and divine authority would correct him if he were wrong, right?

    In the profound question in the “Lord of the Rings” film, as the cornered kingdom of men readied for the massive attack of the dark forces of evil, the King asked himself, “How did it come to this?” The Church might reflect for awhile on this question – at least those who realize what dark and very dangerous evil is gathering at the gates of our kingdom. The wall has been breached for a long while now, and among lukewarm teachers of truth we have clever, well-vested, perhaps sincere and well-meaning teachers of falsity.

    The Church needs men of conviction, truth and courage in positions of authority – true shepherds, good shepherds – not hired men, not careerists, not those loving the cocktail parties and the approval of the elite of this darkness. We need men of God, sent by God to teach the truth of God – men whom the people can trust. How, indeed, did it come to this?

    • NE-Catholic

      You express a sentiment that I believe is widely shared by many faithful Catholics struggling to practice and believe while so many of our ‘leaders’ starting at the highest levels utter banalities, well-worn assurances of commitment and ‘belief’ while letting the multiplicity of ‘sincere and well-meaning teachers’ of falsity spread their fatal disease. The hypocrisy and delusion displayed by the warm embrace of so many US Cardinals, Bishops, priests, active laity of a political party and leaders that embrace abortion as a sacrament , ‘sacred ground’ and call God’s blessing on Planned Parenthood’s abattoirs is staggering. Even when they raise a voice in ‘dissent’ it is quickly followed by a ‘but’ with grand protestations of confidence in the underlying ‘good intent’ of the perpetrators. The fact of the matter is that everything before the ‘but’ means nothing. Ss Sace

    • Ford Oxaal

      “How, indeed, did it come to this?” These times do test our cheerfulness! I am fond of St. Escriva’s saying that sadness is from the devil. If you want to stick one to the devil, remain cheerful, and pray with conviction. I also recommend the occasional cocktail hour.

    • Kinda Ridiculous

      I don’t think the Cardinal ever supported a pro-choice cause. He simply pointed out that murdering people outside the womb while they were healthy and not on their deathbed is also kinda a sin against the Fifth Commandment.

      • Hal Bowman

        “…murdering people outside the womb…”
        By definition murder is wrong. The question is which killing of a person or persons is wrong. Does killing someone in self-defense count, for example? The Church would say no.
        Don’t conflate all deliberate killing with murder.

        • Kinda Ridiculous

          Since, unlike you, the Cardinal was a bishop ordained in apostolic succession, I would say he has a more authoritative voice on what the Church considers murder than most of the anti-abortion movement that completely ignores the rest of the Church’s pro-life teaching. Also, yes, the Church would consider bombing funerals and rescue workers in an attempt to kill terrorists to be murder. The Church considers torture to be an offense against human life. She also considers the destruction of whole cities by nuclear weapons to be murder. You can find the last two in the Catechism, and the first example of attacking funerals is an offense against an act of mercy.

          • steve5656546346

            The simple fact is this: the Church has always and everywhere taught that capital punishment can be licit: and it still does today. (Pope John Paul II inserted the counter-factual observations about the abilities of prisons, but the teaching remained the same, because it comes from the Bible itself and can’t be changed.)

            The killing of innocent life in the womb is a primordial evil. The two are not equivalent.

            As to Hal not being a bishop, neither are you (I presume): if he has no standing to have an opinion, neither do you.

            • Kinda Ridiculous

              I was simply pointing out that it is a bit presumptuous for a non-bishop to criticize a prominent bishop ordained in Apostolic Succession in the exercise of his teaching office, when the Supreme Pontiff at the time decided not to do so. Ottaviani

              Also, you will note that all of my points were just war points, not the death penalty. One of the losses of Cardinal Ottaviani, hardly a pro-choice or progressive zealot, at Vatican II was that the Council did not condemn all forms of modern war. Vocal opposition to the horrors of war, especially unjust prosecution of war, is very much in line with Catholic tradition.

              • Adam__Baum

                I was simply pointing out that it is a bit presumptuous for a non-bishop to criticize a prominent bishop ordained in Apostolic Succession in the exercise of his teaching office,

                It might be presumptuous, but Bernardin is dead and no longer in office. Prominence has no bearing on authority.

            • Facile1

              We should NOT criminalize sin (Read John 8:1-11 A Woman Caught in Adultery). Capital punishment is always wrong.

          • Adam__Baum

            There were a lot of duly ordained Bishops in 16th century England who exhibited rather poor judgment in subordinating the King of Kings to their king. Should I accept their voice as authoritative, ex officio?

          • Gerard_Altermatt

            Individual bishops do not enjoy infallibility apart from the universal magisterium; nor are the faithful obligated to blindly accept an individual bishop’s opinion. In some situations, it is vitally important for the sake of the Church that we don’t. For some insight on this, read Cardinal Newman’s Historical Sketch on Arianism of the Fourth Century.

        • Facile1

          “The question is which killing of a person or persons is wrong.”

          We don’t really know, do we? Only GOD knows and this is the reason why we should NOT criminalize sin (Read John 8:1-11 A Woman Caught in Adultery). Capital punishment is always wrong.

      • I think – and I am not an expert on the late Cardinal’s teachings! But I think that the criticism of the “seamless garment” teaching is that it was used and interpreted so as to put the abortion issue in an equivalence relationship with all life issues not just morally, but practically. This seemed to make capital punishment for example (resulting in U.S. deaths ranging from zero per year to a maximum of 98 one year) an issue equivalent to abortion (U.S. deaths of approximately 1.2 million average per year). Abortion is not “merely” one more life issue – it is a holocaust of devastating proportion.

        The magnitude of the numbers of abortions in this country cannot be ignored, and demands particular and specific concern. The vast numbers of the killings alone forbids any sense of “equivalence” in the due response of the Catholic Church and of all Catholics.

      • Sean

        Yes, the article makes a lot of absurd and rather duplicitous suggestions. Cardinal Bernadin himself made it abundantly clear (in the quote Howard Kainz provides below) that he felt Catholics should be pro-life in all areas. He did not in any way denigrate abortion within that all-encompassing pro-life belief system. It’s really not that complicated, but his words are routinely misunderstood or deliberately distorted to undercut support for pro-life concerns other than abortion. These issues are not mutually exclusive. This is a disappointing piece. It falsifies what the good cardinal said and then wanders off into rather unseemly and muddled tirades against the author’s many objects of scorn, which appear to include intellectuals, feminists, and that object of utter contempt, “modern man.” Perhaps Esolen feels if he just gets his fog index high enough, he will be able to confound some of his readers into believing this is a deep and substantive piece. It isn’t. It’s just mean-spirited and fallacious.

        • Tony

          Do attempt to focus on the point of the article, which is that the Cardinal had the right idea, but the wrong garment. I will gladly march against the death penalty, if everybody who is opposed to the death penalty will march with me against abortion. It’s not going to happen.
          The point is, that abortion is much more closely related to moral issues involving hatred of nature, than it is to issues regarding under what circumstances a person may be put to death. The Catholic Church teaches pretty clearly that we may NEVER act deliberately so as to kill innocent people; that may never be our intention. We don’t disagree on that, you and I; so stop pretending that we do. I have no desire to judge Cardinal Bernardin’s soul. Surely I am permitted to judge his political acumen (which, if his aim was to combat abortion, was poor), and his reasoning.
          This is NOT an article about the death penalty. It is about hatred of nature. Perhaps that is what pinches the corns?

        • Gerard_Altermatt

          I’m sorry but the Cardinal, as many of our cardinals and bishops today, did not make himself abundantly clear. If he had, there would not be the confusion we have over his words from “Catholics” on both ends of the spectrum. If you need a point of reference of what abundantly clear is, read the Council of Trent documents. Nobody could be confused as to what they intended to say. We need shepherds today that are not afraid to speak the truth in ways that may be uncomfortable to some folks.

          And I don’t think we are in any danger in our society today of being overly contemptuous of modern man! Chesterton’s words still ring clear: “This is the only period in all human history when people are proud of being modern. For though today is always today and the moment is always modern, we are the only men in all history who fall back upon bragging about the mere fact that today is not yesterday. I fear that some one in the future will explain that we had precious little else to brag about. For whatever the medieval faults, they went with one merit. Medieval people never worried about being medieval; but modern people do worry horribly about being modern.”

    • Gerard_Altermatt

      Well said!

    • Facile1

      What are you talking about?

      God sent down His one and only begotten Son and we crucified Him.

      God raised His one and only begotten Son from the dead and we hid ourselves in the upper chambers and locked the door.

      God sent down His Paraclete and still we persecute His one and only begotten Son.

      Do you truly believe “men of conviction, truth and courage in positions of authority” will succeed where God has failed with you?

  • Howard Kainz

    In a June 12, 1988 interview with the National Catholic Register, Cardinal Bernardin deplored the interpretation that his “seamless garment” downplayed the evil of abortion. He said, “I feel very, very strongly about the right to life of the unborn, the weakest and most vulnerable of human beings. I don’t see how you can subscribe to the consistent ethic and then vote for someone who feels that abortion is a ‘basic right’ of the individual…. I know that some people on the left, if I may use that label, have used the consistent ethic to give the impression that the abortion issue is not all that important anymore, that you should be against abortion in a general way but that there are more important issues, so don’t hold anybody’s feet to the fire just on abortion. That’s a misuse of the consistent ethic, and I deplore it.”

  • JERD

    There seem to be so many attacks on our true nature as creatures of God: the nihilism found in art, music, popular entertainment, etc. is a constant barrage. Our schools, intellectual environments, and media are no better.

    But, we accept these attacks willingly, because they come by stealth – we partake of contemporary art and entertainment; we consider as authoritative the lessons taught in our schools and by intellectual elites. For the most part these attacks are subtle nudges – not sudden shoves.

    We are embedded in a culture, and we can’t avoid it. We are all formed by these influences. Some more so; some less so. Even those in high church office are not immune. The Cardinal was no exception.

  • Robert Homan

    Anthony if you get a chance please check out this piece by writer Heather King: http://shirtofflame.blogspot.com/2013/06/q-and-with-young-george-goss.html

    I’ve read her blog for a few years and I’ve found her to live the most authentically Catholic life of anyone I’ve come across. She has written with trenchant wisdom on abortion and its relation, of it being a failure to love, and the need for us to be consistent in our personal witness. Another of her pieces: http://shirtofflame.blogspot.com/2011/12/why-i-am-for-life-not-pro-life.html

    • Andrea

      “the most authentically Catholic life of anyone I’ve come across?”

      Good heavens. You need to get out more and read more. Off the top of my head I could ńame 200 people I know personally – priests, theologians, laymen, philosophers, scientists, rural development specialists – living authentically Catholic lives. Many of those people would be known to readers here because they also write, head institutes, or whatever. And I could name a huge number of OTHER bloggers, members of secular institutes, societies of apostolic life, etc. etc. etc.

      Sorry, she isn’t the 4th person of the Trinity.

  • Uuncle Max

    How many of you out there have been participating in the ‘Fortnight for Freedom’?

    Pray every day – set aside at least 30 minutes.

    We will get through this.

    Be not afraid.

    • Alecto

      Now there’s good advice in every situation everyday!

    • Gerard_Altermatt

      I’m waiting for the “Fortnight for Truth”

  • Florin S.

    July 1st: Perhaps this is why Cardinal Dolan and other Shepherds allow rabidly pro-death politicians like Pelosi, Biden and Cuomo to be considered Catholics in good standing with the Church despite the fact that they not only promote the mass murder of millions of unborn babies but Pelosi works to prevent any limits on this killing of humans in the womb; and they radically and publicly promote marriage between two men and two women – and Pelosi does so while stating she is a respectful Catholic…what does that even mean? It seems our Shepherds would allow satan himself to be considered a Catholic in good standing with the Church…in fact, since satan is behind the death agenda, the genocide of generations of humans in the womb, and has convinced Pelosi and Biden and Cuomo and others that this is ‘sacred’ to God…then in affirming the Catholicity of Pelosi, Biden, Cuomo, et al…satan and his works are being affirmed…this is frightening!

    • Adam__Baum

      and Pelosi does so while stating she is a respectful Catholic.
      I think she means she keeps her first Communion manilla in her sock drawer.

      • John200

        OK, I gotcha, Mrs. Pelosi is trying a little sleight-of-word — “respectful” is not the same as “faithful.” Nice distinction from a doubletalking lefty politician. You have to watch these professional sneaks. They play with the English language. Mrs. Pelosi surely knows the truth, or will find it out upon her departure from this vale of tears (Madame is 73 years old, and a weather-beaten 73 at that).

        I find myself wishing Mrs. Pelosi would shut off the BS gun and cease
        be-krapping herself, but faithful Catholics have a solemn obligation to pray sincerely for her. Yuk! I think electing her to public office is a gross injustice both to her and to the body politic. Hence a dilemma.

        Perhaps I can reconcile these difficulties by praying for her conversion to the Roman Catholic faith. Yes, that is what I will do. Starting pronto.

    • slainte

      On June 13, 2013, Father Frank Pavone, a good shepherd, wrote the following open letter to Mrs. Pelosi in response to her claim that abortion was sacred gound. He concludes the letter by requesting that she either renounce her position on abortion or her Catholic faith.
      He also requests that the faithful join him by signing the letter…..

      Dear Mrs. Pelosi,

      Last Thursday, June 13, you were asked a question in a press briefing that you declined to answer. The question was, “What is the moral difference between what Dr. Gosnell did to a baby born alive at 23 weeks and aborting her moments before birth?”

      Given the fact that the Gosnell case has been national news for months now, and that Congress, where you serve as House Democratic Leader, was about to have a vote on banning abortion after 20 weeks fetal age, this was a legitimate question.

      Instead of even attempting to answer the question, you resorted to judgmental ad hominem attacks on the reporter who asked it, saying, “You obviously have an agenda. You’re not interested in having an answer.”

      Mrs. Pelosi, the problem is that you’re not interested in giving an answer.

      Your refusal to answer this question is consistent with your failure to provide an answer to a similar question from me and the members of my Priests for Life staff. Several years ago, we visited your office with the diagrams of dismemberment abortion at 23 weeks, and asked the simple question, “When you say the word ‘abortion,’ is this what you mean?” In response, nothing but silence has emanated from your office.

      In what way is this refusal to address an issue of such national importance consistent with the leadership role you are supposed to be exercising? Public servants are supposed to be able to tell the difference between serving the public and killing the public. Apparently, you can’t. Otherwise, you would have been able to explain the difference between a legal medical procedure that kills a baby inside the womb and an act of murder — for which Dr. Gosnell is now serving life sentences — for killing the same baby outside the womb.

      Moreover, you stated at the press briefing on June 13, “As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this. I don’t think it should have anything to do with politics.”

      With this statement, you make a mockery of the Catholic faith and of the tens of millions of Americans who consider themselves “practicing and respectful Catholics” and who find the killing of children — whether inside or outside the womb — reprehensible.

      You speak here of Catholic faith as if it is supposed to hide us from reality instead of lead us to face reality, as if it is supposed to confuse basic moral truths instead of clarify them, and as if it is supposed to help us escape the hard moral questions of life rather than help us confront them.

      Whatever Catholic faith you claim to respect and practice, it is not the faith that the Catholic Church teaches. And I speak for countless Catholics when I say that it’s time for you to stop speaking as if it were.

      Abortion is not sacred ground; it is sacrilegious ground. To imagine God giving the slightest approval to an act that dismembers a child he created is offensive to both faith and reason.

      And to say that a question about the difference between a legal medical procedure and murder should not “have anything to do with politics” reveals a profound failure to understand your own political responsibilities, which start with the duty to secure the God-given right to life of every citizen.

      Mrs. Pelosi, for decades you have gotten away with betraying and misrepresenting the Catholic faith as well as the responsibilities of public office. We have had enough of it. Either exercise your duties as a public servant and a Catholic, or have the honesty to formally renounce them.


      Fr. Frank Pavone
      National Director, Priests for Life


      • Florin S.

        July 2- I saw Fr. Pavone’s letter Slainte and I was really glad – after I read it I felt that it would cause the Bishops to speak out – to agree with what Fr. Pavone had said – but there was only silence…why isn’t every Bishop and Pastor speaking out as Fr. Pavone did??? Is there someone or something to fear??? Honestly, I don’t understand…especially after the exposure of the Gosnell horrors, which are not rare…

        • slainte

          There is a great deal on the bishops’ plate and it is wise for them not to engage in reactionary politics.

          We are the faithful….we can respond to Father Pavone’s request by signing his letter. He is an extraordinarily brave priest who selflessly advocates for innocent human lives every single day. We are fortunate to have him as our shepherd.

  • Ikilope

    I believe that it is precisely the rejection of the Cardinal’s insight that sits at the root of the failure of the the pro-life movement. The movement is fractured, the church divided and the cohesion of a comprehensive understanding of Catholic Social teaching is lost to both liberal and conservative. What we have now is a movement that seems to lack compassion and appears rabid, fanatical and inconsistent.
    I believe that had the Cardinal’s insight taken root we would have made greater advancements in all areas.

    • steve5656546346

      It is the Cardinal’s distraction that caused the fractures which weakened the pro-life effort.

    • Alecto

      On the contrary, the pro-life movement is winning. All surveys, polls indicate more Americans reject abortion than ten years ago. They believe it should be eliminated or restricted. Eventually Roe v. Wade will be overturned. There is reason to rejoice thanks to the good work of Live Action and other individuals unselfishly giving time and money to the civil rights cause of this generation.

  • Kinda Ridiculous

    LOL. This is the most ridiculous article I have read in ages. To accuse the late Cardinal of giving cover to infanticide borders on calumny. “Seamless garment of life” means just what it says. From conception to natural death. So often many of the radical anti-abortion wing of the Church forget that the Church’s pro-life teaching includes, you know, not murdering children in Pakistan with drones, or aiding dictators in abducting people in Central America. This article is not pro-life. This article is anti-abortion., but it is certainly not pro-life. Opposition to abortion is a requirement of being Catholic, but so is opposition to the murder of civillians in our “War on Terror”. Respect for the dignity of human life does not just include opposition to abortion and euthanasia.

    • Tony

      And when you find me cheering drone warfare, come and talk. You have missed the point of my article. The killing of murderers by the state authorities is not the same thing as abortion, and it is not close. What is close? Other crimes against nature — and we can name a few, no? Cloning, for one. Cardinal Bernardin, let us give him the benefit of the doubt, actually thought that he could win over leftists or at least liberals to the pro-life cause. Well, that didn’t work out, did it?
      Abortion is also directly related to ALL the sexual issues. Our opponents know this, and that is why we could march for peace and against the death penalty and for the Welfare State all day long, and it won’t matter a damn ..

      • Kinda Ridiculous

        You accused the Cardinal of giving cover to abortion supporters, when he specifically condemned this mindset, as others have pointed out here. Your attack on him near the beginning borders on calumny against a deceased Prince of the Church exercising his teaching office as bishop.

        Also, you can make an argument that the active commission of war crimes by a government, instead of the toleration of murder by private individuals, has far more culpability on the part of the government, because instead of the government failing in its duties to protect the most innocent among us, it is ACTIVELY killing innocent life. I don’t see Obama going around with a gun to peoples head telling them to have an abortion. I do see him bombing funerals and rescue workers. The sin of the government in allowing abortion is certainly grave, but considering that every abortion requires an private citizen to make the choice, I think the active choice of the government to bomb a funeral has more culpability attached to it. Note I am not saying that war crimes are worse than individual abortions, just that the government is more responsible for each person wrongly killed by a drone, or by the nuclear blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or for each individual tortured by the CIA, than it is for the choice of a private citizen to kill her child.

        • Tony

          You’re going to make me wish I hadn’t given the man the benefit of the doubt. Cardinal Bernardin was around long enough to determine whether his strategy was bearing any fruit — and it was not. There were some Democrats who were pro-life when Henry Hyde pushed his amendment through. But ten years later, where were they? The years between the Hyde Amendment and the ascent of Bill Clinton to the throne — those years saw liberal pro-lifers drop off like flies: Clinton, Gore, Gephardt, Daschle, for starters. Cardinal Bernardin’s intent was not to give cover to people like Mario Cuomo — but that was the effect, and he SAW that it was the effect.
          Do try to focus on the point. The abortion regime murders the very principle of human dignity. It is like the difference between somebody who breaks what he acknowledges to be a moral law, either because he is ignorant, or selfish, or self-deceived, or ambitious, or whatever, and somebody who denies the very existence of that law. That is why I said that the abortion regime murders human nature.

          • Kinda Ridiculous

            I still think that you are being exceptionally disrespectful to a deceased Cardinal Archbishop in your rhetoric and your claim that he got his argument theologically wrong, when he was not condemned by Bl. John Paul II, shows little respect for the teaching office of a bishop ordained in Apostolic Succession.

            Any type of murder destroys the very nature of human dignity. Abortion is exceptionally heinous and the worst type of murder, yes. Bombing funerals where you know there are likely to be children isn’t much better. Does the unborn child suddenly lose his human nature when he leaves the womb? I honestly don’t see how killing a child of eleven at a funeral in Pakistan is not an attack on human dignity and human nature. How is leveling entire cities and knowingly killing tens of thousands of innocent lives with one blast not an attack on human nature? No one is denying that abortion is an attack on human nature here. The Cardinal and those who don’t twist his teaching are simply acknowledging that the Fifth Commandment covers more social sins than abortion, and that these sins also harm human nature and dignity.

            • thebigdog

              Your “feeling” of disrespect is noted — now try thinking objectively.

              • Kinda Ridiculous

                I am thinking objectively. Calling out a dead Cardinal for giving cover to pro-abortion groups, with lip service to giving him the benefit of the doubt, when he vehemently condemned this interpretation of his teaching, is extremely disrespectful. The author has made this even more clear in the comments where he refuses to even acknowledge that the Cardinal spoke out against people twisting the Church’s teaching on human life to support abortion, just as he spoke out against people focusing only on life inside the womb. “From life to natural death” includes everything in between. That is the gift that the Cardinal left the Catholic Church, a call to remember that human life can be vulnerable in places other than the womb or the death bed.

          • Adam__Baum

            Cardinal Bernardin was around long enough to determine whether his strategy was bearing any fruit — and it was not.

            Absolutely. In the military, if an officer continued to pursue a course that was ineffective, that individual would be charged with dereliction of duty.

          • Gerard_Altermatt

            For what it’s worth, I thought it was a very good article.

          • Robert Homan

            And drone strikes don’t? The killing of a child in Pakistan doesn’t murder human nature? Come on… You’re either for all life or you’re for none of it.

            • Me

              Says it all, Robert.

        • Susan

          The attack on Cardinal Bernadin is a calumny and is all too common among those with mindless partisan allegiances. The Cardinal, who may well have been a saint, transcended those allegiances. He wasn’t positing a political strategy but expressing a profound if self-evident theological truth. If there was any political fallout, it was to offer credibility to the pro-life movement. It saved the movement from being identified with the wackos who don’t care about any living creature unless it’s a fetus. The Cardinal won respect for his cause by promoting ALL life. Note how much abortion rates have dropped since the Cardinal advanced his consistent ethic of life.

          • Tony

            Let’s enumerate the ad hominems here. You have called the people here at this site, or the people who have done the most work to fight abortion, “mindless partisans” and “wackos.” Very kind of you. If I trolled the National Catholic Reporter website, I daresay I would not find anybody there so kind as to give a “conservative” Cardinal, let’s say Cardinal Burke, as much benefit of the doubt as I have given to Cardinal Bernardin here.
            Heck, Pope Benedict himself would dearly wish to be treated at NCR with a tenth of the forbearance I have exercised in deference to Cardinal Bernardin! The point of this article is not political, but philosophical and theological. It is to move the argument against abortion from vitalism, where it will languish, to nature – and I am doing this for Catholics, not for people in the political arena, who won’t even understand what a Catholic means by the word “nature.”

            As for the decline in abortion rates – we are to attribute that to Cardinal Bernardin, really? All of that, to Cardinal Bernardin? None to more natural causes, to wit, fewer women of childbearing age in the population, relative to the whole? Or to medical reasons, such as more efficient poisons to ingest? Or to the cultural shift, towards the normalization of heterosexual sodomy? Or how about giving a little credit to the mindless partisans and wackos, braving hostility (such as yours), and going to the abortuaries to pray, and giving of their time and their funds to operate crisis pregnancy centers? No credit to the people you despise?

            • Susan

              A very illogical and histrionic response. You are creating more straw men here than I can count. We all know the wackos who are pro-fetus and anti-life. You are demeaning the “people here at this site” if you assume they’re all that stupid. The Cardinal, bless his heart, was emphasizing the value of all life. That is all.

              • Tony

                You know them, do you? Like who? Which of the hundreds of thousands of marchers in Washington this January qualifies? “We” all know? Who exactly? I have never met such a person, though I have heard that calumny often enough from leftists, both Catholic and otherwise. Is Fr. Pavone such? Fr. Groeschel? Hadley Arkes? Who?

                • Susan P.

                  This does not make sense. Fred Phelps is one of the wackos we all know. He is anti abortion but wants the death penalty for homosexuals, and he thanked God for 9/11 and the 2004 Asian tsunami as “just retribution” for homosexuals. Clarifying how the’ views of people like Phelps are inconsistent with an ethic of life is not the same thing as slandering marchers in Washington. I shouldn’t have to break this down and explain it. It is obvious. Why don’t you figure out what you’re trying to pick a fight about and go from there?

                  • Glenn M. Ricketts

                    So: it’s either Cardinal Bernardin or Fred Phelps?

                    • Me

                      No. For Catholics it’s only Cardinal Bernadin. Not Fred Phelps. Please not Fred Phelps.

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      Perhaps I wasn’t clear.

                      My point was that the previous comment seems to say that those are the only options we have. Fred Phelps is indeed in an alternate universe – a “wacko” as the author likes to say – but are Michael Novak, Robert George or the author of this article as well? They also draw on the deposit of Catholic moral teaching, and reached different conclusions than Cardinal Bernardin did on some difficult policy questions where the best one can do is reflect and render a prudential judgment.

                      Several of the respondent here seem to have absolutized Bernardin’s views as if they were the only possible “Catholic” stance on nuclear war or social policy, and that’s why we’re having this exchange. I and many others here don’t think such certainty is possible in such areas. As a Catholic, you are obliged to seek the morally justifiable plateau, but it’ usually a lot more difficult too find your way.

                      With abortion, we do have certainty: both the intention of the woman who procures it and the result of that medical procedure that effects it are indisputable: the death of an unborn child. I believe that Aristotle refers to such circumstances as “contingent,” since the intention and result of a moral choice are knowable and almost always certain. The way to avoid the result is to refrain from the act.

                      It can’t be that way with the kinds of issues that Cardinal Bernardin was addressing, since there are to many factor involved beyond the range of individual moral choices. Whatever, he may have said subsequently, I don’t think that his initial pronouncements made these distinctions clear at all. I also think that it took far too long for him to respond, so that a lot of needless damage was done as a result.

                      Thus, one often had to endure lectures from secularists, who cheerfully cited the Cardinal, about the “inconsistency” of anti-abortion Catholics. How could they call themselves “pro life” and at the same time support the death penalty, welfare cuts, or the nuclear deployments of the 1980’s? Hadn’t they heard what Cardinal said about the “seamless garment?” Alas, yes we had.

          • Adam__Baum

            “The Cardinal, who may well have been a saint,”
            If he is, it will be in spite of his Episcopal record.
            Saints don’t pay for Marxists and future enemies of the Church to go to “training” connected to individuals who dedicate books to the devil.

        • Alecto

          “…the government is more responsible for nuclear blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki…”. On the continuum of just war, the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were justified. They saved thousands of lives by ending a war that would have dragged on for months, possibly years, and certainly killed many more thousands. My borther-in-law is from Nagasaki. We do not understand the Japanese attitude of those days, but he does. They never would have stopped fighting. The U.S. did not not start WWII, but we did win it. And by winning it, we ended it. The Germans were working on nukes and certainly would have used them on us. Given the brutality of the Japanese against others they conquered, (ask the Chinese) it was the ONLY moral choice. Twenty-five million people died in WWII. More than 400 million have been aborted in China alone. Let’s put competing evils in perspective.

          We lost thousands in the WTC, and at the Pentagon, which were attacks on the U.S. in which thousands of innocent people died, and died horribly, including a plane full of kindergarteners flown into the Pentagon by crazed muslim fanatics. Would I kill every one of them to save one American that day? Emphatically yes and I would be justified in doing so. I would stand with a clear conscience before God.

          Do you believe wars happen someplace else? Wanna see a battle field? Try the South Side, Cardinal Bernardin’s old stomping grounds, where hundreds, thousands of kids have been killed over the past few years by gang thugs who control the streets. I wonder if the term “war” can be appropriately applied where citizens aren’t allowed to defend themselves because moronic Catholic cardinals and city officials perpetually engage in disarming citizens? Yet Cardinal O’Malley and others talk about guns as though a law-abiding citizen defending herself with a gun is immoral. A pox on their house. Their philosophy is calumny.

          Wanna see a place where more people have died than Iraq and Afghanistan combined? Try south of the border, Mexico. Thousands of people have died there, brutally, to feed dissipated Americans’ appetite for drugs. A pox on us for that. Yes we are culpable for that, not our government which has spent trillions preventing drugs from entering the U.S. and prosecuting people. Every time someone does drugs in this country, he is an accessory to murder.

          I agree with you that war is bad. We should immediately stop funding and fighting this country’s war on poverty, war on terrorism, war on prosperity, war on religion, war on the family, war on marriage, and finally war on the Constitution.

          • Kinda Ridiculous

            CCC 2314 that is all I have to say in rebuttal. Fun fact: one of the atomic bombings (I forget which) used the Catholic Cathedral as the target for the bomb.

            • Alecto

              Fine. In response I offer that you ought to be more concerned with Obama’s attack on The Church, than a bomb dropped on a church to end a war decades ago.

              • Kinda Ridiculous

                Yes, I oppose contraception, Obama’s attack on religious liberty is atrocious. My point was that Bernadin’s opposition to nuclear war, etc. is a good thing.

                • Adam__Baum

                  Except Bernardin wasn’t merely opposed to nuclear war (who isn’t?) he clothed his opposition to securing the peace through the development and expansion of weaponry that was designed to deter a attack. He was in favor of disarmament treaties, which he and others disingenuously advertise as opposition to nuclear war.

                  • Alecto

                    Queue Nuns on a Bus in 3, 2, 1….

                • Glenn M. Rickettts

                  Is anyone here in arguing in favor of nuclear war? Is cardinal Bernardin’s position the only possible option for avoiding it?

                  The question is exactly HOW to prevent it, especially when one’s nuclear adversaries operate under very different rules. Perhaps the peace movement of the late 1930’s had the purest motives, but as we know from hindsight, the path they advocated – opposing any response to Hitler’s re-armament of Germany – contributed significantly to the very outcome they hoped to avoid.

                  Of course it’s true that weapons can kill people, lots of them. But do you mean to say that there’s no moral distinction between Hitler’s aims in arming to the teeth and those who armed to resist him?

                  Cardinal Bernardin’s standard unfortunately allows for very little distinction where one obviously needs to be made. .

        • Adam__Baum

          “government is more responsible for each person wrongly killed by a drone, or by the nuclear blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki,”

          Even if you blame Hiroshima on the U.S., (I do not, that die was cast December 7, 1941) Nagasaki was the Empire’s doing. Their refusal to surrender after Hiroshima only serves to lend credibility to the premise that the end of the war could otherwise be brought about by a protracted land invasion that would have involved more U.S. casualties and more loss of Japanese civilians.
          But of course, for the radical left “Catholic” or otherwise, there’s no charity for those faced with monumental uncertainties in ending war we didn’t choose.

    • Adam__Baum

      but so is opposition to the murder of civillians in our “War on Terror”
      I love the quotes, their placement always betrays the author’s sentiments. Murder requires a mens rea, a criminal mind. It is always present in abortion, not in war. You are very confused-of course-with the “catholic” left it’s always, either sign on to our radical anti-war (also known as preemptive surrender) or we’ll question your motives.

      • Kinda Ridiculous

        “Given the new weapons that make possible that go beyond combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a just war.”– Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

        The sentiment is not confined to the Catholic-left. I am actually fairly conservative. I just also believe that murder is murder after a child leaves the womb.

        • Tony

          Well, bully for you.
          So who around here does not believe that murder is still murder after a child leaves the womb? The point of this article is NOT to justify either capital punishment or modern war. It is about the close connection between the support for abortion and the support for other sins, which future essays will deal with, that evince the same animus against nature, against our created
          being. What you want to do is to get rid of the seamless garment to whose existence I wish to advert the readers, either by drawing the discussion away from the point, or by denying that there are sins that particularly attack the very idea that we possess a created nature. All sins harm our nature; it is not our
          nature to sin. But most sins do not attack the very principle of nature. If I drink too much, that is a sin, sure, but it is a sin of excess; it is not a sin of perversion, or a sin of blasphemy against the Creator. The sin of abortion is related most closely, I am arguing, not to sins against the just-war theory, or sins attendant upon an imprudent or unjust use of the state’s authority to put criminals to death, but rather to sins that spring from a denial that a created human nature exists, or from the desire to pervert that nature.

          • Kinda Ridiculous

            And I am saying that you are wrong. A regime that defines a teenage boy with no other suspicious activity as a terrorist simply because he lives in the mountain region of Pakistan, and is thus worthy of being murdered with a robot from the sky perverts our view of human nature too! They are either “terrorists” if they are above a certain age, or they are “collateral damage” if they are two young or are women. What happened to their being human? This combox shows how modern war has perverted the thinking of society when Catholics (not you) are unable to condemn drone warfare because they view human life as expendable for the greater good. When they defend the atomic bombings that destroyed entire cities, something directly condemned by the Catechism (CCC 2314). When the Catholics cheer on a man who supports torture in a presidential election “because he is the most Catholic”. All of these things show how war has perverted our sense of human dignity and the nature of the human person. The need to have soldiers to get shot at in our wars has actually been used as a justification for homosexual marriages, which I am assuming you are going to try to link abortion too. Finally, it seems you are claiming that sins against the Sixth Commandment are more related to the murder of an unborn child than sins against the Fifth Commandment: this is just plain counterintuitive.

            • Tony

              I don’t care if it is counterintuitive — it is true. Do stick to the point. I am not cheering for more meddling in Muslim states.

              Why does the statist Left make abortion into a veritable
              sacrament? Not because they enjoy killing babies. Not because they know that they’d have to rethink the President’s drone warfare, or every President’s military forays since the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. The statist Left knows that abortion is one
              of the linchpins of the sexual revolution, which was a revolution against nature and nature’s God. You can argue with them all day long about human life, and, except here and there, get
              absolutely nowhere. The root is not a despising of babies. It is not even a cheap view of human life, or not in the first instance. It is an entirely wrong view of human life, one divorced from nature as Thomas would have defined it. It is what gives us one abomination after another.

              • Kinda Ridiculous

                Again, I think you are just plain wrong. Basically you are trying to have a theoretical discussion about the relationship between different types of moral vices using empirical evidence rather than reason. Hume would be proud of that aspect of your approach. This sound more like sociology to me than philosophy or theology, and would probably make a good sociology article, but is hardly the grounds for a thinly veiled attack on a deceased Cardinal.

                Ignoring the fact that you are attempting to make a rational argument using empirical reasoning, what you are doing is simple conjecture that looks at mere correlation, which any high school student would tell you is a mistake. That, in combination with the fact that your claim runs in the face of moral intuition that killing is indeed most connected to killing, makes me not take your claims very seriously from a philosophical standpoint. Killing is most like killing. Sexual sin is most like sexual sin. Stealing is most like stealing. Moral theologians have refered to this as the “genus” of sin. Your point runs counter to intuition, reason, and the Catholic moral tradition.

                • Tony

                  Empirical? Not at all. I am saying that there is a connection which our opponents understand, because they have given themselves
                  over to it, between this sin (abortion) and the sexual sins, and between this sin and others against nature. You are going to give me a lecture on Catholic moral reasoning? Have you readThomas’ Summa Theologica? Have you had recourse to it, many times, over many years? Are you aware that Dante, prescinding from Thomas, drew a connection between blasphemy, sodomy, and usury? Do you remember the first chapter of Romans, when Saint Paul draws a connection between idolatry and sodomy? Are you aware that Catholic thinkers have long distinguished between those sins that arise because of an excess or a defect in what is in itself a good thing, and sins in which the will seizes upon the evil – sins of malice? Please tell me which Catholic moral thinkers (and I include the great poets) you have in mind. Thomas? Bernard of Clairvaux? Augustine? Dante? Chaucer? Tasso? Francis de Sales? Garrigou-Lagrange? Karl Adam? Edward Leen? Fulton Sheen?
                  Romano Guardini? Francois Mauriac? Gabriel Marcel? G. K. Chesterton? Pascal? Leo XIII? Racine? Hopkins? Joseph Pieper? Dietrich von Hildebrand? Edith Stein? Sigrid Undset? Thomas Aquinas saw the connection between fornication and theft. Was he stupid? Tasso and Chaucer saw the connection between lust and selfish insubordination. Mauriac and Pieper saw the connection between avarice and sloth. I am asking you to think – to go beneath the surface. Again: abortion is evil because it takes an innocent human life. But it is heinous because it is a mother taking the life of her child; and it is related therefore to other sins of hatred against nature.

                  • Kinda Ridiculous

                    I never said that it was not connected to other sins. All sin is an offense against God and thus connected somehow. I merely pointed out that your absurd claim that a sin against the Fifth Commandment is more closely linked to sins against the Sixth Commandment than to other sins against the Fifth is not in keeping with Catholic moral tradition. Read the old moral theology manuals. Read the old confession manuals. Go to a CCD class worth it’s muster or an old examination of conscience. Each of the commandments represent a genus of sin with species under it. This is why we must say in confession “I committed adultery” or “I masturbated” instead of “I sinned against the Sixth Commandment.” The Fifth Commandment prohibits unlawful killing, the Sixth prohibits inordinate sexual activity. Sins under the Fifth Commandment are more closely related to other sins against it. Sins against the Sixth are more closely related to sins against the Sixth. That is why they are divided that way…

        • Adam__Baum

          Nice quote, but it has nothing to do with the concept of murder. All murder is killing, all killing isn’t murder.

          By the way. Is your pseudonym a freudian slip?

          • Kinda Ridiculous

            Murder is much more concise than “grave and deliberate violations against the Fifth Commandment that are in clear violation of just war theory.” I guess I could say “war crimes” if you take issue with defining killing a thirteen year old with a drone because he was hanging out with other teenage males on the street as murder.

            The Ratzinger quote was in response to your assertion that it was the Catholic left alone that had a pacifist streak and was in favour of “preemptive surrender”.

            • Adam Baum

              And I note that quote is a general question, not a papal pronouncement. It’s pretty clear that he’s talking about indiscriminate and uncontainable weaponry, not drones. No weapon of war is without collateral damage, and if you think a pilot in a F-16 is somehow better than a drone, well…

              • Kinda Ridiculous

                Never claimed it was a papal prouncement. I was just pointing out that pacifist tendencies run in more conservative circles as well. Ottaviani wanted the Council to condemn all forms of modern war. The former head of the Holy Office was not known for his modernism or heresy. This is not saying that they are right, just pointing out that you don’t have to be a heretical liberal to be a de facto pacifist in the Catholic tradition.

                You will note that he was talking about war in general, not nuclear war…

                Also, drones are used in an indiscriminate manner. All it takes for a drone strike to occur is for a group of teenage males to be congregating in the street. These are called “signature strikes”. It is also reported that the US likes striking at the funerals of previous drone victims, because, you know, the only people who attend a terrorists funeral are terrorists. Not wives, mothers, children, or any innocent people…

  • John_O_Neill

    Years ago I read a book on the reformation of Henry VIII who supposedly ended one thousand years of robust Catholicism in England by an imperial fiat. The book is called the Great Betrayal and it points out the fact that the vast majority of English bishops acted like Bernadin and went along to get along; albeit there were a few martyrs St John Fisher et al but the majority accepted the new Church of political control. I see today the same rot in the American Church where the bishops refuse to stand up to the secular state on things moral and ethical; how can they ignore the subtle war being waged against the Church by such politicos as Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius and their god president and remain silent? silentia consentit.

    • Adam__Baum

      The other lesson of that period of history is that the Church must not get to chummy with temporal powers, oft-forgotten is that Henry was accorded the title of “Fidei Defensor” for putting his name to a defense of the seven Sacraments.

      • John_O_Neill

        obiter dicta; the Church and State were fused in the new Church of England which was founded in order to support the Tudor monarchy and all the monarchs after. Elizabeth II is the technical head of the Church of England; while becoming a political entity the Church of England eventually shed any doctrine that was left over from the Catholic past and became what it is today a great circus show for the ruling class of England.

        • Adam__Baum

          Worse, the effete impotence of Anglicanism is ceding the British Isles to Islam.

  • Pingback: Odium Naturae: The thread of madness... - Christian Forums()

  • Adam__Baum

    “I will not suggest that Cardinal Bernardin, may he rest in peace, was insincere. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. ”

    I largely agree with this essay, with the possible exception of the above. I’m
    not sure the Cardinal’s sincerity is in question and sincerity isn’t
    much a defense, since many malevolent actors are sincere.

    His prudence is another matter. He should have realized that insincere
    individuals would use a nebulous and vacuous phrase for intellectual

    I have no doubt that when he was bloviating on national
    defense or having one of his frequent fits of agoraphobia, he was
    sincere-but lacking any knowledge, he was reckless. He provided cover
    for the growth of the welfare state that now bites the hand that fed it.
    One cannot advocate an ever larger and more intrusive central
    government with violating the principle of subsidiarity. While he and
    others were busily preparing grandiloquent statements and while he was
    paying for one Barack Obama to go to “training” of dubious value (why
    pay for this? Obama wasn’t employee, he wasn’t Catholic and surely the
    “training wasn’t) , the flock was straying.

    Whatever the disposition of his soul, I hope his earthy life becomes a model for future Bishops, mostly on what not to do.

  • embarrassed

    An otherwise worthy article, with several reasoned arguments, that needlessly disparages a dead cardinal….shameless….

  • windjammer

    Professor Esolen is one of the great Catholic commentators/writers alive today. This is another informative article. As to Cardinal Bernardin? He is being exceedingly kind. It is undeniable that CB was (1) a liberal/modernist Bishop and a Cardinal Deardon protege; (2) He was extremely influential in Bishop/clergy appointments in the US Church for many years; (3) He held several offices in the USCCB or predecessors prior to being named it’s president; (4) He never corrected the “Seamless Garment” with the same energy it was promoted even though it was flat out heresy. No excuse for allowing the intrinsic evil of abortion to be put on a level with “social justice” issues in effect. No question it gave “Catholic” politicians cover…still does evidently; (5) Rumors of scandal surrounded his personal life; (6) The Gay Men’s Chorus of Chicago sang at his funeral by his invitation. Not aware of any similar invitation by any clergy/religious before or since. Indicative of poor judgment at best. (7) He and Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles were power centers in the US Church for many years. A very good case can be made that he is one of the main reasons for such poor leadership from Bishops in the Church. The results speak for themselves.

  • Bernonensis

    Puts me in mind of the old Billings hymn, “Africa”:

    Can a kind Woman e’er forget
    The suckling of her womb?
    Among a thousand tender thoughts
    Her suckling have no room?
    “Yet,” saith the Lord, “tho’ Nature change,
    And mothers monsters prove,
    Zion still dwells upon the heart
    Of everlasting Love.”
    From the monsters of our day, and from their abettors, O Lord, deliver us.

  • Susan Howard

    Brilliant. Thank you.

  • Kevin A. McGrath

    “And how can we fail to consider the violence against life done to millions of human beings, especially children, who are forced into poverty, malnutrition and hunger because of an unjust distribution of resources between peoples and between social classes? And what of the violence inherent not only in wars as such but in the scandalous arms trade, which spawns the many armed conflicts which stain our world with blood? What of the spreading of death caused by reckless tampering with the world’s ecological balance, by the criminal spread of drugs, or by the promotion of certain kinds of sexual activity which, besides being morally unacceptable, also involve grave risks to life? It is impossible to catalogue completely the vast array of threats to human life, so many are the forms, whether explicit or hidden, in which they appear today!”
    Which left-wing modernist ecclesiastical dupe said this?
    Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae, 10.
    The ‘seamless garment,’ however it may have been misused by some, is a no-brainer that simply highlights that the Church’s concern for human dignity, which begins in the womb, extends throughout the human life cycle. Our concern for the sick, the poor, the homeless, those unjustly deprived of freedom (and even those justly deprived of freedom), widows, orphans, an end to violence, is all ‘of a piece’ of our concern for the life of children in the womb and the dying. Rooted in that fundamental dignity of being created in the image and likeness of God. A dignity that is never ‘given up’ even by sin. Properly understood (as well as the doctrine of the Gospel of Life), the ‘seamless garment’ can be a useful metaphor to bring coherence the Church’s stance and to keep us from the label of being a ‘one issue’ Church. Human dignity, whenever and wherever it is threatened, is always and everywhere an ‘issue’ for Christians.

    • Glenn M. RIcketts

      At that level of generality, no one will argue with you. But it’s possible to espouse those general principles and also argue that cutting food stamps in some cases is justifiable, since it’s not good for anyone to become overly dependent on public assistance. Doing so doesn’t make you “anti-life,” just convinced that the program isn’t delivering as you had hoped it would.

      No similar options are possible where abortion is concerned, and this is where Cardinal Bernardin’s pronouncements, whatever his intentions, caused some very mischievous confusion.

  • J. Dempsey

    Nial Ferguson, George Weigel, and Anthony Esolen: experts in everything.

  • Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum!

    He was plain and simple an “evil” man and a shameful example of a priest.

  • Patsy Koenig

    Who cares whether Cardinal Bernadin’s INTENTIONS were good?…the road to Hell is paved with good intentions! I have always thought the “seemless garmant” analogy was out of place: abortion does NOT compare equally with the execution of a convicted murderer.

  • Tony

    AND now that I think of it – and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before – there actually was a prominent philosopher and theologian during those years who was urging Catholics to live out a consistent ethic of sexual purity and family integrity, arguing that that ethic was central to a genuine culture of life. What was his name? I believe it was Karol Wojtyla – Pope John Paul II. I believe he wrote a great deal about that, too. But who was Karol Wojtyla? Just some Polish rube who spoke and regularly read a dozen languages, had taught philosophy and theology at the University of Krakow, wrote plays for a group of anti-communist actors and poets, was steeped in the great phenomenologist and existentialist thinkers of the last 150 years, not to mention Scripture and the Church fathers and the great tradition of Catholic poets like Dante; who moreover witnessed firsthand the inhuman depredations of materialism in its Marxist form, and who braved the “authorities” and helped to bring the bastards down; yes, that Pope John Paul II, whom American bishops privately sneered at and disobeyed – who was he? Oh, he was popular, all right, and a good egg in his way, but he didn’t read the National Catholic Reporter and America, so who was he to tell us what to do?

    Why didn’t American bishops preach a consistent ethic of sexual purity and family integrity? Because that’s where the rubbers hit the road, man. Because that would mean daily commitment, daily submission of the will. That would mean sacrifice, man. Then you would have to live the culture of life. Your pro-life position would be a hell of a lot more than notional. It would not be a matter of distant wishing that someday America would come to her senses. It would be a matter of daily willing to follow the teachings
    of the Church against the madness of the times. You couldn’t say, if you were a liberal pretending to be a conservative, “I vote pro-life Republican, and that’s enough.” You couldn’t say, if you were a statist pretending to be a liberal, “I vote Democrat, I support the welfare state, and that’s enough.” Naw, the consistent ethic of sexual purity and family integrity would pinch everybody, man – no more dabbling in dirty movies, no more winking at fornication, no more pill-popping, no more shrugging at divorce, no more pretending that single parenthood is peachy, no more buying sleaze. That’s right, man, where the rubbers hit the road – and who was a rube of a Pole to bother us?

    • Kinda Ridiculous

      Hmm, so, because Bl. John Paul II’s Christian Personalism holds that sexual sin is still sin he therefore supports your silly idea that murder is more related to gay sex than it is to murder? His writings don’t actually support your outlandish claims, so please stop pretending that they do. Evangelium Vitae cites Guadium et Spes 27 in its opening paragraphs, and this connects poor working conditions closer to abortion than it does contraception, masturbation, fornication, or gay sex. It does mention prostitution, but the clear link here is that, you know, prostitution is equivalent to slavery in many parts of the world. Don’t claim John Paull II’s Personalism for your ideas. It doesn’t support it. It supports the intrinsic dignity of the human person, from conception to natural death, based on the idea that the human person is a good which cannot be used as a mere means. This means that it is opposed to sexual sin and murder– they both are wrong. It doesn’t confuse the two, however, and say that the murder of infants in the womb is more closely related to sins of the flesh than it is to the murder of children in a war zone. That is just plain wrong.

      • grzybowskib

        Ah, but JPII’s Theology of the Body and Evangelium Vitae are interconnected. Evangelium Vitae contains the message that when it is socially acceptable to arbitrarily choose who should live and who should die, anyone becomes a target for death. Theology has to do with when life begins, i.e. the relationship between a man and woman. Abortions happen most often (and thus unborn babies die the most often) because our lawmakers and much of the population have decided that men’s and women’s licenses to do as they please with each other should be worth more than an innocent baby’s chance to live. Hence, the connection. BOOM.

  • Andrew Mark McAlpin

    It certainly is an observable fact that the ‘seamless garment’ strategy is full of good will and true ideas, but it seems to be nothing much more than a holdover of a more liberal mindset of days gone by, and is not winning the war against abortion. That war is being won by a young bunch of upstarts like Lila Rose and others. None of which are pro-death penalty from what I have read. The issues are vastly different and I resent that they are spoken of in the same context. One is human sacrifice to the gods of convenience and the other is all-to-often human sacrifice to the gods of justice and revenge. For the believing Catholic, one is never acceptable and the other is conditional. If we do not understand these differences, we will fail to move forward in both issues.

    Bernardin’s seamless garment, while still used by many good folks, is quickly moving toward the irrelevance of the Catholic Common Ground Initiative, which was another good idea to try to unite the factions of the Church, but in the end really seemed to make no waves outside of a few insiders who liked the idea. In my experience, both are too close of a dance with error so profound it frightened good people away, thus they really became orphaned ideas.