Monday, December 12, 2005

Is the Catholic Church Pro-Strife?

Yesterday I stumbled upon a provocative column in Acadiana Catholic, the local diocesan newsletter. In the column, entitled "War, Peace and Catholicism, (Part I)," Father Mitchell Guidry makes the case for Catholic support of war. Though I'm not at all surprised in this day and age to see religious leaders attempt to reconcile the views of Jesus with those of our "morally steadfast" president, seeing it in this context particularly alerted me to a potential rift in Catholicism.

Father Mitchell begins the column with a recollection of a conference that he recently attended. One speaker particularly outraged him, because they alleged that the Christian view on war and peace had strayed over time:

The first speaker of the day...openly dissented from Church teaching charging that the theory of a just war as outlined by Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas (both Doctors of the Church) and taught by the Church was "baloney" and was puzzled as to why for the first three centuries of the Church her teachers were writing against Christian participation in war and all forms of violence then all of a sudden, She becomes a warrior Church...One could have left thinking the Church took up arms to placate kings and subjugate nations to become an institution of power and wealth despising the poor and weak. But what does the Catholic Church really believe about war and peace?

Mitchell initially answers the question by citing the typical Biblical passages extolling Jesus as a beacon of peace and purity (the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7; Matthew 26:52). But then Mitchell cites a very interesting chapter, Matthew 24, in which Jesus tells the apostles that wars mark the beginning of the glorious end. This leads to a very loaded conclusion on Mitchell's part:

Wars are terrible and awful occurrences, and Jesus acknowledges that. He does not condone war; he preaches that we are to strive for peace, to work for it, to be peaceful ourselves, but as a result of man's weakness due to original sin, wars are inevitable....

We may not be able to prevent war, but we are not obliged to participate in them. The Church teaches that all citizens and governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war and to do everything reasonably possible to avoid it. Although war is not good in and of itself, it can, although rarely, be a vehicle for peace when it is able to restore order with limited harm.

While war is a result of sin, we cannot say it is always sinful. In certain grave situations, under strict conditions and the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good, war can be justified. Public authorities have the right and duty to protect the good of those they serve by providing means of national defense against unjust aggression, but the Church's magisterium along has the right to declare what is moral and immoral.

All right, so let me get this straight: war is undesirable and wicked, and yet it happens anyway due to the fallibility of man, so we might as well tolerate extreme situations where circumstances deem it necessary. Does that not sound like another certain issue in which the Catholic Church takes the polar opposite stance?

As long as the Catholic Church bends over this far to accept war as a fact of life, they might as well stop speaking out against abortion, because clearly "pro-life" no longer applies. At least then, the view would be consistent because all you would have to do is substitute "abortion" for "war." This has nothing to do with my personal views on abortion and war; instead, I just wish to ask the Church (and all other institutions like it) a simple question: how can you justify bloodshed while claiming to support life?


Michael said...

Go back and read the parts you bolded, Ian: they give you your answer.

The Church teaches that wars are not inevitable, and that Catholics are indeed supposed to oppose them as a matter of principle until and unless it can be demonstrated that the evil they represent is outweighed by the good they are expected to produce. Should the world not have gone to war against Hitler? Should we not have gone to war against Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait?

Not every war is justified (or justifiable: Georgie's Big Iraqi Adventure being but the most recent case in point). But it does not follow from that fact that no wars are (or can be).

Nick said...

Abortion is the killing (or ending for liberal views) of an innocent human life. Justified wars are fought because there is a threat and the enemy is not innocent. Hitler killed millions of people. That leader out of Bosnia was killing thousands of people. Saddam killed thousands of people. Innocent killings will happen in war due to crossfire, bombings, etc. But it is not an intentional ending of an innocent life. That is why wars have to be weighed morally. Would the Iraq War be justified if Saddam had WMDs or the intelligence strongly suggested so? I say yes. Is the war justified if we go because Saddam is an evil dictator? I don't know. I know I'm not a fan of nation building. We can't free every nation from evil leaders.

But in answer to the question, how can you justify bloodshed while claiming to support life? The bloodshed of a ruthless and murderous dictator and his party that carries out his orders can be justified. You're killing them in an attempt to save innocent lives. Abortion does not kill an evil person. Abortion ends a human life that is completely innocent of anything.

The Goblin Slayer said...

Thanks for smashing Ian with the clue bat, Nick, but you are trying to explain deductive logic to someone who simply "chooses" not to hear it.

Flamingo Jones said...

I know that when my father applied for C.O. status in Vietnam,based on his religious beliefs, he had a lot of religious leaders try to convince him that his going to war was the good Christian thing to do. That's always troubled me.

I did think that the Catholic Church was an exception in that regard, so it's sad to see this faction emerging.

If you can find the book "Pro-Life, Pro-Peace" by Lowell Erdahl, it's an interesting read. I recommend it. sure seems like the typically accepted version of "Pro-Life" ends at the cutting of the umbilical cord, does it not? Otherwise, wouldn't there be an equally strong outcry for comprehensive health care for ALL children (medical care, dental care, eye care, etc.) equal rights for all citizens (you KNOW some of those babies are going to be minorities, women or gay, right?), livable minimum wages and daycare so that mothers can work and be sure that their children are cared for, quality education for ALL children, etc etc? Those should all be "Pro-LIFE" issues. But they aren't. Hmmm.

Phillip said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phillip said...

the bible is full of contradictions. personally i think it's an intentional test of a person's character as to which ones they emphasize and remember for application in life. there may be one or two passages about homosexuality, but does anyone believe god would frown on love shared by two people?

you can parse the scripture to justify war if you really want to, but again, do you really think god would condone violence?

there's a utilitarian argument for war -- that deaths resulting from this or that war are far outweighed by the deaths that would result from no war (the holocaust, ex.). whether or not that's good enough for christians to justify killing... is not my call.

i would think, though, that if war were an acceptable means of justice the bible would explicitly say so, much as i believe that our progenitors would have explicitly said whether our country was to be a christian one in the constitution had they intended it to be. having to microscopically scrutinize, parse, and read between the lines to prove a point doesn't seem viable to me, but is done so quite often these days. the abortion thing: for life to be ended you have to acknowledge when it begins, a subject upon which there is currently no consensus (except among christians). so saying that "abortion is murder" is only an opinion, and in america we don't force others to believe what we believe. not yet.

Ian McGibboney said...

Michael, I'm not saying some wars weren't justifed in the past; as I said in the post, this isn't about what I believe. This is about the moral consistency of a supposedly peace-based institution that considers itself on the front lines (sorry) of the "battle for life" (sorry again). I agree with Flamingo that a lot of Catholic leaders seem more concerned with live babies than live living people.

Nick, what does going to war do aside from killing more people, many of whom are innocent? If all life is scared, as the church teaches, then why would they selectively accept the killing of one group?

Gob, I'm just going to ignore your ironic insult.

Flamingo, exactly. George Carlin probably said it best: "Conservatives want live babies so they can raise dead soldiers." I know that isn't true of all of them; but as far as politics go, anyway, it seems to held for quite some time.

Phillip, I like how you separated the utilitarian from the religious. My personal opinion is that the Catholic Church would be stronger as an institution if it didn't condone any war or killing. It wouldn't turn me on to Catholicism, but I doubt it would turn anyone off to it either.

Nick said...


War does kill innocent people. That is unfortunate and why the Church is very reluctant to support any war. Why do you think the Church didn't lift a finger and condemn Hitler. Pope John Paul II had recently given a grave apology for that before his death. In supporting a war, you have to take into account the overall effect for the world. Innocent people were obviously killed in the war in Bosnia. However, the population of people there were better off with the removal of Sarajevo. We saved thousands of lives.


Yes, there is debate about when life starts. The Catholic Church states that life begins immediately after conception. That can't be proven scientifically. However, what reasonable person can't see that a 7 month old fetus on a live sonar screen is a human life? It ain't a cat. It ain't a peach. It's a human life. That's why, though I'm against any abortion, I don't like the idea of abortion within the first week made illegal from a constitutional/legal aspect. God will have to judge that later. However, I think all abortion in the last 2-3 months of pregnancy should be illegal. NEVER should the process of partial birth abortion be performed. That procedure is nothing different from Hitler's concentration camps.


Many pro-lifers do help out current living people. Why do you think churches run various charities and programs for poor people? I myself, and sadly I'm too lazy to do more, have volunteered at St. Joseph's diner, Christmas in July, and Adopt-a-Family. I'm sure you don't like Pat Robertson, and I agree that he is a loon. However, once a year he has a jet flown to poor countries in Africa loaded with food, water, medicine, doctors, and denists. That sounds to me like he's not even discriminating due to color or nationality.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, late-term abortion is legal only to save the life of the mother. It has never been allowed for any other reason, as far as I know.

I myself have volunteered for the Red Cross, Salvation Army and St. Joseph's Diner, among others. I only wish that these organizations were able to cover every child that is born into unfortunate circumstances. Perhaps a sacrament of foster care is needed?

Oh, and about Pat Robertson's planes to Africa: wasn't he caught using those illegally for his own interests?

Nick said...

Using partial birth abortion to save a mother's life is crap. Why would the mother die, from hemoraging? Well, that's probably going to happen anyway because the baby still has to pass through the birth canal. Also, doesn't common sense dictate that the procedure would actually cause MORE truama to the mother? The abortionist has to make sure that the baby does not come out head first, thereby possibly having to turn the baby around while in the birth canal. Sounds like rather than do all that, you might as well just have the baby.

In regards to Pat Robertson using those planes illegally, I don't know anything about it because I don't care. I'm sure he far from a saint. However, I was only giving an example of a religious leader who uses his own time, money, and assets to help unfortunate children across the ocean. I'm giving examples of great deeds, not giving examples of saints.

Flamingo Jones said...

Nick, charity is one thing, for sure. But the pro-life crowd is all about pushing LEGISLATION when it comes to ending abortion. Why not do the same for social programs that might actually do some serious good? If charity is all they're willing to do to fix poverty, than an avenue of optional counseling and adoption services is all they should push for abortion.

Nick said...

You're missing my point, which we'd probably disagree on. However, abortion is the intentional ending of an innocent human life. That's why people are so hung up on it.

Phillip said...

keep in mind that's just your opinion nick.

The Goblin Slayer said...

Really phillip? WHich part is opinion, the part that abortion kills the fetus or that the unborn child is innocent?


Ian McGibboney said...

Gob, the opinion comes in as to where life starts. Contrary to what "pro-lifers" would have people believe, most abortions occur at an embryonic stage, not at the point where brains are being vacuumed out. In fact, so-called "partial-birth abortion" is a fabricated procedure used by "lifers" to overblow the procedure at a stage where it is almost entirely illegal anyway.

Could you argue that life begins at conception? Perhaps. I wouldn't though, because at that point, all you have is a fresh fusion of two gametes. And humans eject ova and sperm all the time. That's life too! Where would the classification end? It's a slippery slope. Which is why people like me would prefer that someone be born before we treat them as another person. Simply because that's a point where everyone can agree that a human is a self-sufficient, sentient being.

In any case, as I said before, conservatives might make a better case for life the moment they show interest in it after it hits the incubator.

Phillip said...

gob, let's say my religion believes that life begins at penetration. i'm going to lobby my representatives to declare any sex that doesn't result in babies an abortion. i think eveyone should have to abide by MY faith.

is that my opinion?

it's okay, i know you can't tell. you wouldn't recognize a fact these days if one came up behind you and said that 2+2=4.

prove to me when life begins, THEN you can call terminating that life a murder. i'll gladly agree. until then it's your opinion.

Flamingo Jones said...

Gob, if you make the argument that babies (even unborn) are pure and innocent, you don't know your Christian doctrine very well.

The Goblin Slayer said...

Well, Flamingo, please "educate" me on the Christian doctrine that I seem to be missing...

Ian and Phillip - You are entitled to your opinions as much as I am. Just a few questions for you, though, if you don't mind?

Will those two gametes just stay as two gametes? If not, please state why.

What do you call the process of cells multiplying to form a complex organism?

Given that no natural disaster occurs, will the fetus eventually become a human and be born?

most abortions occur at an embryonic stage, not at the point where brains are being vacuumed out. In fact, so-called "partial-birth abortion" is a fabricated procedure used by "lifers"

Such allegations and vital statistics would be more believable if you could provide a source for them.

Phillip said...

"Given that no natural disaster occurs, will the fetus eventually become a human and be born?"

your hypothetical is ridiculous. if no natural disaster occurs? what about murder? disease? miscarrieage? falling down stairs? there are an infinite number of variables involved in the process of creating life -- also see "chaos theory".

and if ian gives you myriad sources of statistics showing that supposed partial-birth abortion is rare, would you even believe it? would it matter if the facts showed you were wrong? would you ever change your mind?

The Goblin Slayer said...

variables involved in the process of creating life

Falling down stairs and murder create life?! What the fuck are you talking about?

I don't know about you, but I never heard of anyone creating life from falling down the stairs or from disease.

Of course I would believe Ian if he showed me the sources. Why shouldn't I?

I just answered your question, perhaps you are man enough to answer mine.

Phillip said...

murder and falling down stairs prevent life the same way your natural disasters do, lab partner.

you mentioned natural disasters preventing life, correct? i'm assuming you didn't mean that they help create it... i said that plenty of things, an infinite amount in fact, could prevent those cells from becoming "life", which is why it's a stupid question.

so yes, i guess i'm man enough to answer your question. in fact, i'm so "man enough" that i actually did create life by tumbling down the stairs with my ex-girlfriend. i'm that potent.

Ian McGibboney said...

Gob, the point of this debate isn't really where life begins in the first place; it's where the state must draw the line regarding what can be considered as such. As it stands now, the law states that life can be protected after a certain stage of development, generally birth. The law is based on the idea that a born human being is its own entity and thus entitled to protection. Health conditions and personal circumstances are also taken into consideration. I do think it is wrong and unfair to equate so-called "partial-birth abortion" with, say, the RU-486 pill. But that is what happens when beliefs are accounted in legislation; you get this arbitrary and ridiculous interpretation of the law. It makes me sick to hear people chant, "Life! Life! Life!" every time someone gets pregnant, completely irrespective of whether or not having a child will ruin everyone involved. Children should be wanted, and I think "safe, legal and rare" is a very good standard. No one's forcing anyone to do anything. If theological aspects seep into the law, however, we would set dangerous precedents that even their advocates would nitpick and fight over for decades. And it wouldn't make a single child any more loved.

Nick said...

Stat on partial birth abortion:

"Only 1 percent of the more than one million abortions performed each year in the United States take place in the late-second or third trimester, when this procedure can be used."--

Icon was right, of course this is the first source I pulled up. I didn't check for bias right or left because it backed up what Icon stated. However, lets just make it an even 1 million. That leaves 10,000 too many being killed in the name of "partial birth abortion" (killing/murder). Why were the abortions not performed before then? There's enough technology these days so that this procedure is not used. I'm not going to argue for life to start from conception legally, because I can't. I believe it does, but that's my belief. HOWEVER, I still don't see how a reasonable person can look on a sonar screen during the 7th month and say that's not a human life.

Though this site supported the info. Icon gave us, I did find this interesting and quite disturbing:

"Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, admitted that he lied when he'd said that partial-birth abortions were rare and performed primarily to save the lives and preserve the health of women with badly deformed fetuses. In other interviews, he said he had parroted the pro-choice line and "lied through my teeth." The procedure, he said, was far more common than the abortion-rights movement had acknowledged and was used routinely by some doctors to abort the healthy fetuses of healthy women."

That just gives me a sick feeling in my gut.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, why not cite the very next sentence of your first citation? Maybe that would answer your question regarding the reasons behind late-term abortions:

"And virtually every abortion done at the latest stages of a pregnancy takes place because the fetus suffers from a fatal birth defect. Even the divided Supreme Court came to see a proposed ban on partial-birth abortions as a constitutional infringement upon the medical rights of American women."

The article also backs up my allegation that "partial-borth abortion" is a misnomer:

"There is no such thing as partial-birth abortion," says Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation. "It wasn't a procedure defined in any medical textbook. We didn't really know what exactly they were referring to, and the language in the bill could encompass more than one abortion procedure."

On another note, I have surfed numerous sites and have found several instances of abortion doctors quoted by anti-abortion sites who seem to have a bloodlust for the procedure. But I can only wonder how far they had to dig for those people, and I can imagine they were committed to doing so.

But even Fitzsimmons says in the article that he regretted the remark, because while not necessarily untrue, he said he had not intended it as an indictment of the practice as a whole:

"Today, Ron Fitzsimmons says that his interview with the Times--and other public comments, particularly the 'I lied through my teeth' remark--'was one of the stupidest things I have ever done .... It became a warped sound bite.' But after spending the past 20 years working to protect a woman's right to abortion, he still feels he was right in stating the truth as he knew it.

'In my heart, having talked to many doctors, I knew that the procedure was being used in the late second trimester, but I did not volunteer the information. That bothered me greatly,' he explains. 'We should not be apologizing for this. The apologetic tone stigmatizes abortion, creates guilt for women, and leads to people killing our doctors.'"

Sounds more like he's worried about retaliation from vengeance-minded "pro-lifers" than trying to make himself look better.

Flamingo Jones said...

Goblin...according to Christian doctrine, even unborn babies are vile sinful creatures just like the rest of us. Nothing innocent about 'em. "Oooh...don't murder sweet little innocent babies" is a better bumper sticker PR angle than "Babies go to hell too, you know," although a less theologically sound one.

25 comments and counting. Damn. You gotta love this cultural divide. Viva la revolucion!

The Goblin Slayer said...

Ahh, nothing like an abortion thread to help ease tensions.

I just don't get how libs can defend the life of a cold-blooded killer saying that it deserves a second or third chance at life and on the other hand have no problem if some slut doesn't give her unborn child that same chance.

Phillip said...

again, it depends on a person's opinion of what constitutes "life".

Flamingo Jones said...

and I don't understand how Cons can preach at us about the sanctity of life and still support unjust wars and the death penalty. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.

However, your statement about "sluts" is probably the most offensive thing I've read in a while. And in using that argument, you betray the true Conservative agenda re: abortion rights. It's not about babies, it's about controlling the rights of women, plain and simple. Misogyny at its finest. Takes two to tango, bucko.

The Goblin Slayer said...

Good point, Flamingo. I should have said, "the sluts and their dog-ass irresponsible boyfriends".

Thanks for bringing to attention guys who think with just their cock and then aren't man enough to father the child because "it takes two to tango, bucko" couldn't ring more true.

And yup, we will have to agree to disagree.

Ian McGibboney said...

Goblin, the problem with so many conservative policies is that they reserve judgment for the people who are affected by them. Viz, abortion and welfare. Instead of seeing these as available services for people whose unfortunate circumstances have brought them to that point, we're taught that those sluts and those lazy racial epithets don't deserve the help. All people deserve any help they seek regarding legal services, regardless of what some right-winger has to say about their lifestyle choices. We're a nation of laws, not of time-out.

Jester said...

The problem we conservatives have is not in giving help, but in helping those who abuse the system. Abortion was never meant as a way to keep one's life convenient; and welfare was never intended to be endless and ever-increasing support for those that refuse to support themselves. Yet both become more and more so every day.

Ian McGibboney said...

No, Jester. Your conservative-politician counterparts are constantly calling for an end to any and all social programs. They claim it's about "abuse," but as we saw in the Reagan era, those abuses were rare and extreme examples ("results not typical," as they say these days) when they weren't being blatantly made up.

Indeed, conservatives have resisted every social progression of the past hundred years, from labor laws to minimum wage to civil rights to any social responsibility, unless it involves camera mugging and religious grandstanding. Any statement otherwise is rationalization.