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The New Anti-Catholicism: Occupy the Vatican Print E-mail
By Francis J. Beckwith   
Friday, 03 February 2012

The old anti-Catholicism found its expression in the mid-nineteenth century when the first large wave of Catholic immigrants arrived in the United States. Some of these immigrant groups had set up their own private religious schools. Many non-Catholic Americans, however, believed that Catholic schools indoctrinated students in superstitions that were inconsistent with the principles of American democracy. Therefore, in order to make sure that such schools would not receive government funding of any sort, federal and state legislation was proposed that forbade the use of public resources for “religious,” i.e. Catholic, purposes. 

The most ambitious attempt to enact this sentiment into law was the so-called Blaine Amendment, which was named after the Congressman who proposed it. Its text read: “No State shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; and no money raised by taxation in any State for the support of public schools, or derived from any public fund therefore, nor any public lands devoted thereto, shall ever be under the control of any religious sect, nor shall any money so raised or lands so devoted be divided between religious sects or denominations.”

Although it never became part of the Constitution, some individual states passed Blaine-type statutes or constitutional amendments that still remain on the books. The spirit of such laws, and the anti-Catholicism motivated by them, did not begin to dissipate significantly until after the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy, America’s first Catholic president.

In fact, one of the great figures in the history of my own university, J. M. Dawson (1879-1973), penned these words in his 1948 book, Separate Church and State Now:  “The Catholics. . .would abolish our public school system which is our greatest single factor in national unity and would substitute their old-world, medieval parochial schools, with their alien culture. Or else they make it plain that they wish to install facilities for teaching their religion in the public schools.” 

Because Dawson’s sentiment was widely shared, Kennedy was forced to confront it with a speech he delivered to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association during his campaign for the presidency.

The old anti-Catholicism, whatever its flaws and however it may have been driven by bigotry in some quarters, did not demand that the government force the Catholic Church to alter its practices and beliefs in the ways its various institutions served the wider American public. So, for example, it would have never occurred to an old anti-Catholic to suggest that the government levy a tax on, or otherwise penalize, Catholic hospitals, charitable organizations, and schools unless they engage in and/or pay for practices that the Church deems gravely immoral.

This is because the typical old anti-Catholic considered himself to be a custodian of the church-state separationist tradition advanced by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, best exemplified in these words authored by Jefferson:  “Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”


            Choose one.

Because the old anti-Catholic embraced this Jeffersonian principle, he respected the rights of Catholics to exercise their religious liberty and develop their various academic, medical, and charitable institutions in order to practice and propagate what they understood to be the teachings of Christ and His Church. As long as the Catholic did not demand that the government extract money from the old anti-Catholic to underwrite these institutions, the latter was content in extending true tolerance to the Catholic and His Church, even though the typical old anti-Catholic regarded Catholicism as a false and repugnant faith.

Although the days of the old anti-Catholicism are long gone, there is a new Anti-Catholicism, as it has been aptly named by my Baylor colleague, the esteemed historian Philip Jenkins. It finds expression in its hostility and deep loathing of many of the moral positions embraced by the Catholic Church. On abortion, euthanasia, homosexual conduct, same-sex “marriage,” women’s ordination, and contraception, the new Anti-Catholicism stands contra ecclesia.

But the new anti-Catholicism does not adopt the posture of a humble and teachable critic seeking to engage the Church on matters over which reasonable citizens from differing theological and secular moral traditions disagree. Rather, it seeks to employ the coercive power of the state to force the Church’s institutions to violate the Church’s own moral theology, and thus compromise, and make less accessible, the Church’s mission of charity and hope.

This is most evident in the recent refusal by the Department of Health and Human Service to amend its new regulations that would require all private health plans, including those offered by Catholic institutions, to provide contraception, sterilization, and some abortifacient pharmaceuticals without fee or co-payment. The religious exemption that exists in the regulations is so narrow that it does not prevent the government from coercing virtually every Catholic hospital, university, and charitable organization to cooperate materially in acts that the Church teaches are gravely immoral.

The new anti-Catholicism not only rejects the Jeffersonian principle; it turns it on its head. Rather than demanding that the Catholic Church leave him alone, as the old anti-Catholic preached, the new anti-Catholic will not leave the Catholic Church alone. The Old Anti-Catholic would have thought it unseemly, and downright un-American, to use state coercion to force the Catholic to support and pay for things that his conscience requires that he not support or pay for. The new anti-Catholic wants to lead an Occupy the Vatican Movement.


Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is one of four primary contributors to the forthcoming Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Anglicanism (Zondervan, 2012).

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Comments (65)Add Comment
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written by Joan, February 03, 2012
Why is ANYONE entitled to free contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients? For the Catholic institutions in our country, this is clearly a violation of the First Amendment, and we should fight it on those grounds first and foremost. However, many others have an interest in seeing this ridiculous law abolished. What about other non-profits, protestant or non-religious, that will bear the expensive cost of this type of health plan? What about Health Care Plans themselves (sometimes erroneously called "insurance")? Contraception is not a medical NEED, in almost every case it is a "personal lifestyle choice". This is why most health plans do not cover it now. Why should they diminish their profits, lower their ability to create jobs, and sacrifice other REAL health services so that every woman in the nation can go on "the pill"? No one should be paying for this except one person, the woman who chooses it. And what about men? Why does the HHS plan mandate the pill but not free condoms or vasectomies? Isn't that discriminating against men?

The totalitarianism of Jeffersonian ideas "turned on their head" must be opposed foremost on principle, as unconstitutional.

But once that battle is won, we need to ask does the government have even the lesser right to dictate to private companies and organizations, including health plans, what they will and will not pay for, especially a non-medical, cancer-causing, purely personal option?
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written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, February 03, 2012
No government can operate in a moral vacuum. The secular state inevitably becomes the ethical state and imposes its norms of public policy.

Separation of Church and State is only possible, if the state recognizes and respects the boundary between the public sphere of the state and civil society.
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written by teomatteo, February 03, 2012
The following is probably not a very good argument. But i have not heard it used as an example of conscience protection so here goes: What would happen if female circumcision was forced to be a free benefit under all health plans? Without an exception. Would there be a cry of righteous outrage? Would the question of 'dont force your morality on everyone' be heard? Hey some within our culture accept it. Ok, not a great example but in my mind there may be a little slice of similarity.
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written by Tony Esolen, February 03, 2012
In other words, Scotty, the Church must be coerced, must be brought to heel. That is exactly the point that Professor Beckwith was making.

A truly "liberal" society is devoted to liberty, and liberty extends not only to individuals but to private associations. What takes our breath away is the sheer aggressive pettiness of this ruling. It is as if a right-wing militarist government were to say to Quaker schools, "Since you do not serve only Quakers, and since you are the indirect beneficiaries of government actions, you must include military training courses in your curricula. Don't complain that we're forcing you to violate your consciences, since nobody enrolling in your school will be compelled to enroll in the courses."

Your statement that the law covers many very ordinary medical procedures is beside the point. The slaveowners of the old south did a lot of very ordinary and unobjectionable things, too. And Hitler built the Autobahn.

And then there's that all-knowing secular world -- a world increasingly without grace and beauty, a world wrapped up in lies. A contraceptive device or pill is not medical in nature. It does not remedy anything. It heals no wound, cures no disease, restores proper function to no limb or organ. What it "prevents" is instead the perfectly natural and predictable outcome of the natural function of one's reproductive organs. You don't want to make a baby? Don't, then. I do believe that baby-making involves some rather complicated and deliberate preliminaries.

The pill does not bring health, either; it is contributing to the rise of breast cancer; and abortion itself puts women at much higher risk of that cancer.

You know, we in the Church have seen all these arguments before. We've lived through two thousand years of variations on the argument, "Get with the times!" There's no quicker way to be out of date than to conform oneself to whatever stupidity happens to prevail in the world at the time. Check out the mainline Protestants for exhibits A through Z.
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written by Francis J. Beckwith, February 03, 2012
Scotty:

The Catholic Church's position is not based on "revelation." It is based on natural law. The arguments are detailed and sophisticated. You should avail yourself to them.

I am not sure what science has to do with this, since science can no more tell us what is moral than a hammer can instruct me as to whether or not I ought to bash your head in with it. In a secular "world" in which there are no oughts that can be derived from nature--as the secularists continually tell us--science is therefore entirely beside the point.

If, for example, it it could proven that a father masturbating to photos of his teenage daughter extends his life by two years, that would not be a moral argument for the act's goodness.

Secondly, the Catholic Church is not asking the government to ban contraception. Rather, it is asking that the government not require the Church to purchase it. The liberty of individuals is not obstructed by showing tolerance and respect for the Church's moral traditions. People, if they want to, can pick up a pack of condoms along with their cigarettes and latest copy of Playboy. However, the Church would not like its liquid assets confiscated so that it can underwrite that visit to the drug store.

If the Catholic can't take the secularist's property taxes to pay for his child's Catholic school education, the secularist can't take the Catholic's liquid assets to pay for his box of condoms.
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written by Joseph, February 03, 2012
Scotty... oh, Scotty? Where'd you go? I'd like you to answer Francis, please.
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written by justamom, February 03, 2012
This is a giveaway to the Pharmaceutical companies. The pfizer recall is going to cost them a fortune and they desperately need to expand their customer base.

IMHO, the pharmaceutical contraceptive segment of Big Pharma is in a real bind. The ever increasing number of wrongful death or permanent disability lawsuits and the settlements thereof are beginning to add up to some real money, since discovery is evidencing a pattern and practice of deception. In order to reduce these claims, the "hormone" levels have had to be reduced to the point where the pills cannot work in the more fertile segment of users. So now they are faced with "wrongful life" type claims. Pharma's answer to this dilemma=radically increase the customer base by increasing insurance coverage for services so doctors can be pressured to say to every woman, "why not, your insurance will cover it.".

They need to squeeze every last penny out of the oral contraceptive scam before their FDA approved racket is exposed for the fraud that it is.
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written by Other Joe, February 03, 2012
Mr. Beckwith, thank you for your response to Scotty. I follow history as a kind of hobby, and I always wondered how individuals come to terms with tyranny in its early stages before it becomes overwhelming. Scotty captures the mindset perfectly. He posits a complex weave of partial truths (as noted in your response) sophistry and unfounded assertions. He has no ear for other thoughts, which means it is likely he has no empathy for those who may disagree. This finds near perfect expression in his directive that the Church needs to revise itself to suit his conception of the meaning of the vocabulary of science in order to be taken seriously in the wider world - as serious perhaps as phrenology? Global Warming? Scientific Materialism? Eugenics? Behaviorism? Numerology? If the vocabulary of science has any meaning at all, that meaning must exist beyond science. That concept seems to elude Scotty. Perhaps he will thrive in a joyless, artless, and ultimately meaningless dystopia...at least for a time. Joy, art and meaning are not scientific terms. They, like truth, exist outside of the limited reach of secular science which concerns itself with matters empirical.
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written by charles woodbury , February 03, 2012
This decree by HHS has the positive effect of requiring catholics to think about the sin of contraception, and if we will continue to pick and choose the teachings of our church we will try to obey.
Nothing happens except what God causes or allows. It seems HE is allowing us to choose just how important our faith is to us, and what priority it has in our lives.
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written by Louise, February 03, 2012
What I find absolutely astounding in our times is how easily our representative republic, which, so many lives were given to preserve, could slip into a soft dictatorship that will soon enough, if unchecked, solidify into an unabashed, bold totalitarian system, and 300 million Americans will stand in their living rooms and in the public squares, mouths agape, heads shaking, asking, "How did it happen?", and the rest of us can take little pleasure in responding, "I told you so."

We all thought our Constitution would prevent such an calamity. How naive we have been. Just a clever twist here, a sly tug there, a little bravado and a "How dare you question my good intentions" there, and PUFF! it's gone, in the twinkling of an eye.
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written by Brad Minerl, February 03, 2012
@ Scotty: "religious beliefs cannot be the basis of legislation." Why? Belief systems are always the basis of laws. And "secular" is not a valueless point-of-view. In any case, why punish people of faith for applying their beliefs to law?
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written by Scotty Ellis, February 03, 2012
@Brad

"Belief systems are always the basis of laws."

I guess it depends on what you mean by "belief systems." You are certainly correct that for the vast majority of human histories, civil laws have been founded upon or side by side with some form of religion (usually a state religion), and that therefore the laws were founded on some form of belief in the supernatural. In many of these societies, from the state-imposed cults of ancient Sumer to the heretic-hunting monarchies of medieval Christendom, religious beliefs and practice were mandated by law, and contrary beliefs or practices were punished by law. However, you will note that I was speaking specifically of what might be called "secular liberal democracy," which as a rule abstains from any beliefs regarding what might be called higher or transcendent realities. In such a government, revelation or religious belief cannot be considered grounds for a public law, and law is restricted to the procedural distribution of primary goods. This does mean that religious groups may, as a matter of course, find certain limitations vis a vis the law which lead to less than ideal circumstances, but I believe this system far superior to a system in which religious difference might be less a matter of inconvenience and more a matter of direct execution by the state. If you know of a better method of peacefully governing a pluralistic society, do share!

"In any case, why punish people of faith for applying their beliefs to law?"

No one is being "punished." What people (or, more apropos to the conversation, organizations) are being asked to do is decide whether they will be a religious organization serving a religious niche, in which case they will be provided exemption from the mandate, or an organization serving the needs of a larger, broader, more varied clientele, in which case they must follow applicable laws.
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written by Ben, February 03, 2012
All part of the change you can believe in. I believed this change was coming about three years ago.
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written by Tom, February 03, 2012
One part of this argument that I’ve heard a lot of is that the Church and thereby, all we members are somehow hypocrites because “millions” of Catholics are utilizing these services and products. Hence, for our church to decry this decision is somehow not a valid position. This is sociobabble. (Yes, I just coined a brand new word).

By the same argument, no laws would ever pass the scrutiny of time, for eventually; enough people would violate them that they would similarly be deemed hypocritical and no longer relevant. Does anyone else see anything illogical about this approach? For instance, millions of people now commit burglary, armed robbery, assault, tax evasion, jay-walking, and myriad other crimes. Should the authorities suspend efforts to apprehend these criminals? Surely, the rules proscribing all manner of behavior cannot be valid since members of the very society for which they are enacted are regularly violating them. Otherwise, this society must surely be deemed hypocritical. Yet, the criminal justice system continues to go about its work protecting the population from its own vices. Because its job is to stand as arbiter of what the law dictates and intends. In the same way, the church stands as arbiter of what it deems to be morally correct, regardless of the actions of the congregation.

I will go so far as to admit that under this stricture, I would be a hypocrite in this argument if I were arguing this point as an individual. I have used, and have been complicit in the use by another of contraceptives. However, I am not arguing that I should not have to pay or participate in something. I am arguing that the Church, which has not violated its own moral principles in this, as I have, should not be made to participate. This is a very serious difference. I am not exactly proud of every action I’ve ever taken. But then, I do not act as the arbiter of moral principles. The Church does and should remain free to exercise its own moral determination of what it will and will not support. For the state to take that right away from it or any church is to impose the state’s interpretation of what is moral or righteous. This is surely the first step towards “Establishment” of religious principles which is clearly against the first amendment. From stuff such as this sprang the Church of England.
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written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., February 03, 2012
This whole matter has little to do with the immediate moral questions that seem so obviously involved. The powers that be are doing these things NOT because they care about the health of women or the rights of homosexuals. All those demographsic goups that this adminsitration and their ideological cohorts pretend to be caring about are only being used as instrutments to discredit Holy Mother Church. The Church's enemies must attack Her becuase only faith in God stands between mankind and the toaltitarian dreams of those minds that have been shaped by the dogmatically atheist academic and cultural authorities that control out univeristies and media. These hardened materilaists appointed nominal Catholics like Biden and Sibelious to high positions and the powers will tell the public that those schismatics and heretics are the Good Catholics who must be protected while those who fallaow the immutable Teachings of the Church are the Bad Catholics and must be driving underground. Thye cannot succeed? Just look at how far they have gotten!
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written by Brian, February 03, 2012
@Scotty Ellis, your cancer example doesn't work, and neither does your reduction of the definition of a human organism to simply something with a unique DNA sequence. There is a fundamental difference between the creation of a new genetic code and an organism with diploid cells from haploid precursors and the mutation of that already created code which leads to uncontrolled cell division. In the former, a new organism appears altogether. In the latter, a disease process within the new organism leads to its destruction.
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written by rachel, February 03, 2012
The incredible thing in watching this news play out in the media over the last coyple of weeks is that The New Anti-Catholic still employs the rhetoric of The Old Anti-Catholic. As she refuses to leave the Church alone, she complains that in resisting the new regulation the Church won't leave her alone! It truly is mind-boggling how the Church can still be seen as the aggressor in this situation ("get your rosaries off my ovaries!") when the opposite is true.
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written by Tony Esolen, February 03, 2012
I find Scotty's blithe agreement with my Quaker analogy simply astonishing. No, I did not assume that every student in the Quaker school would be required to take military training. The analogy requires that the Quakers must offer military training or effectively be driven from the public square -- limited to serving only Quakers, and thus prevented from exercising their freedom of religion, which extends to the service of all mankind, and the attainment of the common good.

What I don't understand is why on earth anyone would WANT a government to swagger about and decree just what private associations must do or must not do, if they are to enter the public square. It is exactly analogous, and exactly as petty and destructive and liberty-hating, to what the Philadelphia city council has been doing to drive the Boy Scouts from its midst. Why cannot the tolerance-preachers tolerate the Boy Scouts? Simply because they stand apart from one of the more obvious incoherences of the sexual revolution: they happen to think that it would be a bad idea to have male-attracted males in charge of young males, or set up as role models for young males.

On the Church's history: BALONEY. If that's all you can come up with, that is nothing. You are speaking to somebody here who actually knows a little bit about the history of the science in question. Copernicus' book caused hardly a stir -- and it met with the obvious objection that the system (which preserved epicycles, though reduced them in number) did not after all predict the motions of the heavenly bodies as accurately as the Ptolemaic system did. The whole issue was batted around for more than a century, and by people coming up with alternate systems to both that of Copernicus and that of Ptolemy: the Tychonic system, for instance; and there were additional variants. What the Church wanted was demonstrative proof, and Galileo didn't have it. In fact, he alleged the movement of the tides as evidence, and the papal astronomers duly ruled that one out of court as utterly mistaken (which it was). The Church was no slower to accept geocentrism than was pretty much everybody else. It was not a big deal. It only became a big deal much later, to people wishing to embellish the "flat earth" nonsense that medieval men were supposed to believe in, and did not.

The Church was ahead on slavery, ahead on the promotion of the equality of women, ahead on the promotion of full human rights for children, ahead on the curbing of certain methods of warfare, ahead on her suspicion of the nation state; and she'll be shown to be ahead on the proper use of money (eh, perhaps she ought to revisit the moral teachings that underpinned her condemnation of loansharking; she has not abrogated those, and they might have much to say in our current mess), and way ahead, prophetically so, on her refusal to go tamely along with the sexual revolution.

You see, I believe that that sexual revolution has been an unmitigated disaster. It's that revolution right there that is at issue.

One last point. Pregnancy is not a disease. Pregnancy is the healthy and predictable result when reproductive organs are used in a reproductive act. The Pill is NOT analogous to an inoculation. In an inoculation, the body is introduced to a disease in order to build up natural defenses to the disease. The Pill, however, is intended to thwart the perfectly natural action of the organs in question. To thwart what is natural and healthy is not to medicate. I say again: you don't want a baby, then don't do the baby-making thing.
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written by charles woodbury, February 03, 2012
re: Scotty Ellis- "No one is being punished," you said.
A good example is biblical, where the government of that time ordered the Israelites to eat pork, among other things, or die. Probably some did as were told, but many refused, and were tortured and murdered for their faith.
Your opinion is it's no big deal to deny our faith, no one is "punished" For catholics true to our faith, we will obey God, not men.
To give you an idea of what I'm trying to say, you should write a comment convincing muslims to eat pork, or serve it in their restaurants, a thing loathsome to them.
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written by Ye Olde Statistician, February 03, 2012
@Scotty
It [birth control] prevents pregnancy, which is potentially dangerous medically

TOS
Skiing is also "potentially dangerous medically." In fact, so is getting out of bed in the morning.
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written by David, February 03, 2012
re: Scotty - "it does not punish the church."
It most certainly does. Who is footing the insurance bill?
The Church is. Even though the use of contraceptives etc. may not be forced, it is nonetheless still paying for that service. Why then pay for something that will not be used?
Who says that the Church has to pay for the unused "benefit"? That, is not a prudent use of funds is it?
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written by Scotty Ellis, February 03, 2012
@Brian

As I noted, that was an intentionally crude example for no other purpose than to indicate that science does have ways of validating or invalidating moral claims. There are certainly more subtle ways to define "human organism" which would be more in keeping with scientific findings.

Of course, if we want to run with what you are saying, we still have problems with defining human organism. For example, a chimeric individual has two unique sets of DNA both of which originated from an otherwise normal pair of zygotes; thus, a chimeric individual, under your proposed definition, would count as two persons. Once again, the definition has unwanted consequences that suggests its incomplete status. Of course, this is all not the point of the article nor my comments.

@Tony

"The analogy requires that the Quakers must offer military training or effectively be driven from the public square -- limited to serving only Quakers, and thus prevented from exercising their freedom of religion, which extends to the service of all mankind, and the attainment of the common good."

The Quakers are performing a service, yes, but one that is regulated by law. Their religious exemption would only protect them from those regulations if they are serving those members of society that share the same beliefs and thus are covered by that exemption. Choosing to provide that service to a broader market means that they will be serving members who do not share those convictions and have a right to certain forms of education (which, in your analogy, would be the military training). Providing this training is part and parcel to providing service to the broader market. Now, to move from your analogy to the broader issue, when any institution chooses to offer its services to the general public, by doing so they must abide by those laws which govern that service. Their patients (and even their employees) may not share certain peculiar religious beliefs that would find certain forms of treatment immoral that are not considered immoral by the broader public, and as such they are protected by law in their access to those services. If an organization wishes exemption, it needs to serve those who share its peculiar beliefs, not those who do not and thus by law have a right to those services.

"On the Church's history: BALONEY..."

The Inquisition against Galileo explicitly states:

"That the earth is neither the center of the world nor motionless but moves even with diurnal motion is philosophically equally absurd and false, and theologically at least erroneous in the Faith."

I am familiar with the history of science as well. This statement sums up what was a theologically motivated belief in the immobility and centrality of the earth. I would hope you agree that this statement, which was passed with the authority of the Inquisition of the Church, has been adequately proven false; that is, the Church no longer would stand by this position. Ergo, change. The same could be said about the 19th century rejection of modernism versus the contemporary use, even by the Pope, of modernist concepts of rights and even Marxist language. So forth.

"One last point. Pregnancy is not a disease."

I never said it was. It is, however, a medical condition, and it does carry elevated risk for the mother's health. In fact, simply the state of being pregnant is such a medically important condition that a branch of medicine, neonatal care, is devoted to it. I never said it was an inoculation: I said it was preventative, in that it prevents the development of a potentially risky medical condition. If people do not want babies, they can either not have sex, or they can have sex with contraceptives, or they can have sex using NFP techniques. The first and last are permitted by Church teaching; the second, which has the same goal, is thrown out for no other reason than its artificiality, which has always seemed like prejudice to me. Not to mention that if we followed the logic of the position out to its natural consequences, we would have to forbid the artificial obstruction of natural processes in general, like antacids, some pain-killers, so on and so forth.

@Charles

"A good example is biblical, where the government of that time ordered the Israelites to eat pork, among other things, or die. Probably some did as were told, but many refused, and were tortured and murdered for their faith. "

Your example makes no sense in context: no one is being put to death. The only thing that is being done is that organizations that serve a diverse group are being required to respect the secular rights of that group to certain sorts of health services.

"Your opinion is it's no big deal to deny our faith, no one is "punished" For catholics true to our faith, we will obey God, not men. "

I am not denying the Catholic faith. I am simply pointing out the truth of the situation: no one is being required to deny any religious belief or to procure a service that they consider immoral. The extent of the "religious damage" is that certain individuals may have to pay more for their health care, money that indirectly will patronize services that they might consider immoral. This is no different, however, than purchasing items at Wal-Mart and voluntarily patronizing an organization that provides contraceptives and pornography. However, I have yet to hear any of my more scrupulous fellow Catholics condemn other Catholics for buying from Wal-Mart.

@Ye Olde

"Skiing is also "potentially dangerous medically." In fact, so is getting out of bed in the morning"

True, and individuals who participate in skiing, or in any activity, would be wise to take whatever safety precautions they can to minimize potential injuries. Contraceptives are a type of safety precaution to prevent a potentially risky condition.
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written by Scotty Ellis, February 03, 2012
@David

"It most certainly does. Who is footing the insurance bill? "

Whatever organizations decide that they will provide services to a religiously diverse body of individuals will need to provide for these health services, yes. Of course, Churches and religious organizations have an exemption if they serve primarily those who share their beliefs, which means that they will not foot the bill at all.

"Why then pay for something that will not be used?"

If an organization's membership or a health plan's clientele is uniformly not going to use contraceptive services, it is likely because they all share a religious belief, which means they are exempt from the law and will not have to pay it. If, on the other hand, the services are used, it is because the organization's clientele does not all share a religious belief, and it is diverse enough to fall under the provisions of the law.
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written by charles woodbury, February 03, 2012
I'm back again, Scotty.
Although no one is to be put to death, this decree is making catholic organizations deny their faith, and provide contraception, an act tantamount to telling muslim restaurants to serve pork.
For catholics, contraception is a sin and serious matter, and if done with full knowledge could damn the one who willfully commits it.
Why can't you grasp this?


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written by Scotty Ellis, February 03, 2012

There are some important differences. For one, health care is a matter that directly impacts the common public good; whereas a restaurant's serving or not serving pork has no immediate impact on the common public good, the regulation of health services has a more important impact on that good. Additionally, as I have noted multiple times, there is indeed an exemption that allows religious organizations, with certain qualifications, to not have to provide contraceptive services.

"For catholics, contraception is a sin and serious matter, and if done with full knowledge could damn the one who willfully commits it.
Why can't you grasp this?"

The question at hand is not "is contraception a sin." If you would like to have a discussion on that matter, I would be fine, except that it somewhat deviates from the question at hand. We are talking about a mandate that has the effect of law. The mandate would cause Catholics to pay for contraceptive coverage if they do not qualify for the exemption. And, yes, this means that their money would indirectly support the procurement of services that they might find sinful (it is of note that not all Catholics agree on this, especially in America). Regardless of this, my point has been simply that although the law is not ideal (I would rather see a more broadly defined exemption, personally), it is in no way proportionally flawed to the nearly colossal outpouring of bellyaching that I have read issuing forth from a certain segment of the Catholic blogsphere, for three reasons: 1) no one is actually being forced to personally procure one of these services for themselves, 2) there is an exemption, even if that exemption is not quite what I would like it to be, and 3) the situation it would put a Catholic in is no different than what that same Catholic does every time he, say, buys something at a corner drug store that sells condoms, patronizes the local gas station with its stand full of pornography, buys any good from a corporation that uses embryonic stem cells for research (like Pepsi Cola was discovered doing a while back, or Campbell's Soup, for that matter), buys a drug or picks up a prescription from a company that donates contraceptive pharmaceuticals to planned parenthood, so forth and so on. If this is the sort of thing that God plans to send us to Hell for, there's probably nary a Catholic in America, clergy or layman, who is not destined for the flames.
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written by Linus, February 03, 2012
Days will come when you shall not be able to buy or sell unless you have the mark of the Beast on your forehead (i.e you have been approved of by the Secular State or the Beast). Satan demands to be worship, isn't that exactly what the secular state demands!!
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written by Richard, February 03, 2012
Religious freedom is being destroyed, not only for Catholics, but for all Christians.

As you know, this HHS Mandate will create an immediate problem with health services and hospitals. 80% of the hospitals in the State of Colorado are Catholic hospitals both serving the insured public and providing needed care to people without health coverage via Catholic Charities. If you look, you will find this to be true to various degrees in your state.

More grave, it violates freedom of religion rights, both on an individual and communal basis. Certainly this becomes a serious and dangerous precedent. Our country was founded, in part, on the Puritan notion of Pietism, which in its form, viewed government as a ‘gift from God’. Certainly our colonial Catholic Church in the United States supported that view, and continued to do so until and during our great waves of immigration. Throughout our history Christians have not been afraid to direct the influences in our government. Now is not the time to be frightened, relinquish the responsibility, or be complacent.

Please get the word out regarding this Whitehouse.gov petition to the student body (via fliers, your student newspaper, emails, …and they can email their friends and family.)

Also – you may easily get an internet based auto-letter script that will deliver support to both Congressional bills negating the tyrannical mandate via the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website. It will automatically send your letter of support for these bills to your appropriate U.S. Representative and Senators. Check out the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website.
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written by Brian English, February 04, 2012
"If an organization's membership or a health plan's clientele is uniformly not going to use contraceptive services, it is likely because they all share a religious belief, which means they are exempt from the law and will not have to pay it. If, on the other hand, the services are used, it is because the organization's clientele does not all share a religious belief, and it is diverse enough to fall under the provisions of the law."

One thing I have noticed about many of the defenders of these indefensible regulations is that they don't understand what the regulations mean. Catholic colleges, charities and similar institutions do not qualify for the exenption. Period. That is what the fight is about. The regulations require those entities, not their employees, not their clientele, but the Church-affiliated entities, to pay for contraception and sterilization through insurance coverage provided to their employees. The government does not have the authority to do that. If you think the government should have the power to do that, you should move to a country that does not have the First Amendment.

"Of course, if we want to run with what you are saying, we still have problems with defining human organism. For example, a chimeric individual has two unique sets of DNA both of which originated from an otherwise normal pair of zygotes; thus, a chimeric individual, under your proposed definition, would count as two persons"

So then don't kill two persons in an abortion. I know from seeing you post this on other boards that you think this aberration somehow justifies 1.2 million abortions a year in this country. It doesn't, and your attempt at being clever is offensive. This isn't some game for your amusement.
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written by Brian English, February 04, 2012
"Here, it may be questioned whether there is real need for such an exemption, since no one is being "forced," as some commentators rage, to act contrary to his or her belief. In keeping with the law, those with conscientious objections to providing their employees with qualifying health plans may decline to provide their employees with any health plans and pay an assessment instead or, alternatively, provide their employees with health plans that do not qualify (e.g., ones without provisions they deem objectionable) and pay lower assessments."

But I thought you said no one was being forced to do anything? Government-imposed penalties are not coercion?

Look at it from a different perspective. What business does the federal government have dictating the terms of healthcare coverage? That should be a point for negotiation between enployer and employee. If you don't like the healthcare coverage offered, don't work there.


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written by Brian English, February 04, 2012
"it is in no way proportionally flawed to the nearly colossal outpouring of bellyaching that I have read issuing forth from a certain segment of the Catholic blogsphere,"

You mean like what we are hearing from foaming at the mouth Catholic Right Wingers like Cardinal Mahoney, Michael Sean Winters, and E.J. Dionne?

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written by Francis J. Beckwith, February 04, 2012
Scotty writes: "One thing I've found embarrassing about natural law is that it is a theory with observable implications, and yet it has never been the subject of empirical verification."

Two points. First, the claim that a belief must be empirically verifiable in order to be rationally held is itself not empirically verifiable. Thus, your claim is self refuting.

Second, there are variety of beliefs that are not empirically verifiable that are perfectly rational in holding: it is always everywhere wrong to torture babies for fun, rape is intrinsically wrong, I had breakfast yesterday (this is a memory belief; I do not believe it based on "verification"); the world was not created 5 minutes ago in such a way that we are led to believe it is far older; 2 + 2 = 4 is a necessary truth and thus true in every possible world; the shortest distance between two points is a straight line; triangularity is an essential property of three sided plane figures; when I think about the Super Bowl my mind's intentionality has an immaterial relation to its object, since my "thought" is not to the right or to the left of the Super Bowl or even in close or distant proximity (my immediate first person awareness of my intentionality is by its very nature not empirically verifiable in the modernist third-person way of looking at these things)

Third, and ironically, your suggestions presuppose a proper end to the human mind, and that that proper end provides warrant for you to issue judgments critical of those who don't exercise their minds to achieve that proper end. In other words, you avail yourself of the natural law in order to condemn it.
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written by Francis J. Beckwith, February 04, 2012
Scotty:

Your "human organism" example is a straw man. The prolife position is that the embryo, fetus, newborn is a human substance, an individual rational animal. Cancers, tumors, or even tattoos can be had by a human substance, but they are not themselves human substances, for they are not by nature rational animals. I can gain and lose my cancer and still remain the same being. A human cancer is no more a human being than is my right hand. A human substance with two genomes is still an individual human substance, just as a human substance with 11 fingers is a still an individual substance. Besides, in the case of two genomes each is functioning in concert with the other for the good of the whole, which means that we have one organism.

This is Sophisticated Prolife Argument 101. I've written several books on the subject, including and most recently, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007). If you don't have the time to read that long tome, you can avail yourself of some articles that can be found on my website--francisbeckwith.com--under "articles."
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written by Scotty Ellis, February 04, 2012
@Brian

"Catholic colleges, charities and similar institutions do not qualify for the exenption. Period"

This is because both the employee body and clientele of that organization is not uniformly Catholic; these non-Catholics have a right to certain forms of health care which may be considered sinful, and their employee health care plans (which they also pay for, and which they work for!) will cover these.

"The government does not have the authority to do that. If you think the government should have the power to do that, you should move to a country that does not have the First Amendment."

Actually, the government does have the authority, thanks to the necessary powers clause of the Constitution. Furthermore, the text of the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of religion (which this law clearly does not do) nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof. No one is being told not to practice their faith, believe something they do not believe, etc; that is, the exercise of their religion is not being forbidden. Nor is anyone being required to procure a service contrary to their beliefs.

"So then don't kill two persons in an abortion. I know from seeing you post this on other boards that you think this aberration somehow justifies 1.2 million abortions a year in this country. It doesn't, and your attempt at being clever is offensive. This isn't some game for your amusement."

You clearly misunderstood my argument. First, in the interest of disclosure, I am pro-life. My point is that the definition of a human organism that you provided produces an undesirable anomaly: a chimeric individual (they are rare, but they exist, and most are completely unaware that they are chimera) would be counted as two persons. In fact, to elaborate on the absurdity, if the chimeric cells in an individual were located in a specific spot - let's say, the arm - and the individual cut out those cells, he would be guilty of murder! This is not even to mention other anomalous results of conception that might render a zygote into something that you would not wish to grant the protection of the moral law. So, once again, we are left with uncertainty vis-a-vis how we define these ethical terms.

I would appreciate you not making unjustifiable conclusions about me.
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written by Francis J. Beckwith, February 04, 2012
Doug writes: "Here, it may be questioned whether there is real need for such an exemption, since no one is being "forced," as some commentators rage, to act contrary to his or her belief. In keeping with the law, those with conscientious objections to providing their employees with qualifying health plans may decline to provide their employees with any health plans and pay an assessment instead or, alternatively, provide their employees with health plans that do not qualify (e.g., ones without provisions they deem objectionable) and pay lower assessments."

Like Tony, I am astonished. Doug, what you have outlined in your antiseptic presentation, is precisely why the policy is unjust. It requires either that the Church (1) underwrite that which it believes it is gravely immoral, (2) not fulfill its duty as an employer to provide health coverage to its employees, or (3) fulfill its duty as an employer to provide health cover to its employees while paying the government an "assessment" to exercise that liberty. The third option is particularly ironic, given the nature of my essay above. As you may recall, President Jefferson wrote the Danbury Baptists a letter in which he expressed his solidarity with their situation in Connecticut, where Congregationalism was the established Church. In that state, everyone was free to practice their own religion, except that there was assessment on your property that provided financial support to the Congregationlists whether or not you were Congregationalist. This was the Danbury Baptists' complaint. It, of course, elicited one of the most well-known metaphors in American politics: "a wall separating church and state." So, and ironically, today's secularists, with the third option mentioned by Doug, are in the same position as Connecticut's Congregationalists: they are proposing to use assessments to punish dissenters and fund the practices from which they dissent. Doug, I think you have too many ironies in the fire.
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written by Brett Powers, February 04, 2012
"@Ye Olde

'Skiing is also "potentially dangerous medically." In fact, so is getting out of bed in the morning '

True, and individuals who participate in skiing, or in any activity, would be wise to take whatever safety precautions they can to minimize potential injuries. Contraceptives are a type of safety precaution to prevent a potentially risky condition."

But if I think skiing is inherently dangerous, why am I as a bibliophile being forced to pay for ski-brakes (a fictional item to illustrate a point) for people who insist upon skiing?

Yes, the analogy is far from perfect. But you ought to get the point.
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written by Scotty Ellis, February 04, 2012
@Dr. Beckwith:

"Two points. First, the claim that a belief must be empirically verifiable in order to be rationally held is itself not empirically verifiable. Thus, your claim is self refuting."

I appreciate your attempt to demolish empiricism through appeal to a fit of self-irony. However, I am not saying that any and all claims require empirical verification, which is absurd. I am only saying that claims that would have observable implications are subject to empirical verification (such as, "all objects fall at the same rate in a vacuum" or "all human cultures have had universal moral principles"), so your simplistic assault is ill-founded.

"Second, there are variety of beliefs that are not empirically verifiable that are perfectly rational in holding:"

True and perfectly admissible, if besides the point. Natural law makes a claim about the universality of certain moral principles. Such a claim would be the type that is subject to empirical scrutiny. Other claims about natural law may be of the type you mention; although, as I have noted before, it is the embarrassment of purely speculative philosophers that their ingenious systems are only as good as its harmonization with the world, a judgment that requires empirical methods.

"Third, and ironically, your suggestions presuppose a proper end to the human mind, and that that proper end provides warrant for you to issue judgments critical of those who don't exercise their minds to achieve that proper end. In other words, you avail yourself of the natural law in order to condemn it. "

Sad to say, I don't quite follow you. The only things my statements presuppose are the admittance of a few principles of logic and a few basic assumptions about a shared reality. While I personally hold certain presuppositions about the purpose of the human mind, my critiques of natural law are not contingent upon them. I could believe the human mind's final purpose is to count the grains of sand on the seashore, and my critique would remain equally valid.

"Your "human organism" example is a straw man. The prolife position is that the embryo, fetus, newborn is a human substance, an individual rational animal. Cancers, tumors, or even tattoos can be had by a human substance, but they are not themselves human substances, for they are not by nature rational animals. I can gain and lose my cancer and still remain the same being. A human cancer is no more a human being than is my right hand. A human substance with two genomes is still an individual human substance, just as a human substance with 11 fingers is a still an individual substance. Besides, in the case of two genomes each is functioning in concert with the other for the good of the whole, which means that we have one organism."

Your definition is still flawed, as much as you would wish to the contrary, because reality is far too messy to be pigeonholed in your narrow categories.

For example, your definition has a difficult time accounting for chimeras.

After conception, let us say that there are two zygotes. They are both fertilized, and both are viable and growing. According to your account, we have two "individual rational animals" (I will overlook the fact that a zygote is unfortunately not rational, having absolutely no rational faculties). Then, the two zygotes merge: each remains alive, the material substances of both remain individuated by their DNA. The result is a chimeric individual. What has happened to your two rational animals? Have the two become one, and if so how can you account for this? In reality, as far as their material histories go, they should remain two; but the two happen to look like a single individual. It seems, then, that your definition is a fancy version of "I know it when I see it" that fails to account for the vagaries of reality (which is not surprising, considering your apparent attachment to making statements without bothering with all that mucking about in real, empirical observations).

Furthermore, you don't even present a definition, just a list of things you want to include and things you don't want to include as "human substance," which even by the standards of classical philosophy is an indication that you don't have knowledge of what a "human substance" really is. To paraphrase Socrates: tell me what a human substance is, in itself and generally, not a list of particular human substances.

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written by Brian English, February 04, 2012
"these non-Catholics have a right to certain forms of health care which may be considered sinful, and their employee health care plans (which they also pay for, and which they work for!) will cover these."

Where does this extraordinary right come from? If you don't like the healthcare plan, don't work there. And the employer, the Church-affiliated institution, has to insure that contraception and sterilization are provided free of charge to the employee, so the employer is being compelled to use its funds.

" Actually, the government does have the authority, thanks to the necessary powers clause of the Constitution."

A word of advice: don't take your constitutional interpretation or your theology from Nancy Pelosi. The idea that the necessary powers clause entitles the government to do anything it thinks is a good idea is absurd. According to your theory, if the government decided that abortion clinics should be located on every college campus at the expense of the college, Catholic colleges would have no basis to reject that outrageous imposition.

"Nor is anyone being required to procure a service contrary to their beliefs."

You keep missing the point that the employer has to insure that the immoral services are provided free of charge. How is the employer not being compelled to act against its religious beliefs?

"You clearly misunderstood my argument. First, in the interest of disclosure, I am pro-life."

Then why are you parroting pro-abortion talking points?


"So, once again, we are left with uncertainty vis-a-vis how we define these ethical terms."

Actually, the Church clears away the uncertainty very easily -- don't kill anyone from the time they are conceived until the time they die a natural death. If it turns out a "zygote" cannot sustain life because of a defect in the development process, then life will cease naturally.

" I would appreciate you not making unjustifiable conclusions about me."

I think my conclusions are completely justified. I see nothing in your comments that would lead me to believe you are pro-life, other than your bald assertion that you are.

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written by Doug Indeap, February 04, 2012
Brian,

In the end, the law requires only that employers who do not provide qualifying health plans pay assessments to the government. Unless one supposes that the employers' religion forbids payments of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion), then the law's requirement to pay assessments DOES NOT compel those employers to act contrary to their beliefs.

The employers may not like paying the assessments or what the government will do with the money it receives. But that is not a moral dilemma of the sort supposed by some commentators and cynically claimed by the US Bishops Conference, but rather a garden-variety gripe common to most taxpayers--who don't much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action of the government. That is hardly call for a special "exemption" from the law. Should each of us feel free to deduct from our taxes the portion that we figure would be spent on those actions (e.g., wars, health care, whatever) each of us opposes? If someone has religious or moral objections to the teaching of evolution or to teaching black and white students in the same classroom, should we allow that person not to pay taxes used to support public schools?
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written by Francis J. Beckwith, February 04, 2012
Scotty writes: "Natural law makes a claim about the universality of certain moral principles. Such a claim would be the type that is subject to empirical scrutiny."

If I say, for example, that the proper end of my mind is to think well, there is only one sense in which "empirical scrutiny" is relevant: final causality. But I suspect that that is not what you are suggesting.

The universality of natural law, by the way, refers to the principles themselves, not whether they are universally embraced. Suppose, for example, I say, "Ignorance should be shunned, and wisdom embraced." If you, let's say in response, show me a person or group of persons who either rejects this principle or does not understand it, this "empirical evidence" would not count against the universality of the principle "ignorance should be shunned, and wisdom embraced."

Scotty writes: "I am only saying that claims that would have observable implications are subject to empirical verification (such as, "all objects fall at the same rate in a vacuum" or "all human cultures have had universal moral principles"), so your simplistic assault is ill-founded. "

But the veracity of the natural law does not depend on the observable implications you seek. It is not that sort of thing.

To continue this further, suppose I say, "It is part of the natural law that parents should not eat their infant children." But to respond, "But what's your empirical verification of that belief," would not make much sense, since it is not that sort of claim. (In other words, it does not stand or fall based on the existence of one-pro-cannibal parent). Natural law theorists do not claim that all cultures would have identical moral practices and beliefs if there was such a thing as the moral law. Rather, the view is that the natural law is accessible to all persons qua persons. IN fact, Aquinas addresses the question of differing moral practices by arguing that the differences arise from a variety of non-moral reasons. You should, if you have the time, read Alasdaire MacIntyre's wonderful account of this. MacIntyre's point is that Thomistic natural law's advantage over other views is precisely because it provides reasons why not everyone agrees on moral issues. Obviously, this venue is not adequate to articulate this argument. But it is there, and well worth reading.

The self-refuting charge stands, and here's why: your criterion is offered as a universal standard for all claims that claim to be universal standards. Because I and others reject your standard, it is not universally embraced and thus, according to your understanding of universality, has not been empirically verified. On the other hand, if you treat it as universal in the sense in which natural law theorists think of natural law's universality, you escape this charge. But in that case, you cannot use that sense of universality against natural law.

Scotty writes, "Your definition is still flawed, as much as you would wish to the contrary, because reality is far too messy to be pigeonholed in your narrow categories." Sort of like trying squeeze all round claims of universality into a nominalist square hole? :-)

I write: "Third, and ironically, your suggestions presuppose a proper end to the human mind, and that that proper end provides warrant for you to issue judgments critical of those who don't exercise their minds to achieve that proper end. In other words, you avail yourself of the natural law in order to condemn it. "

Scotty responds: "Sad to say, I don't quite follow you. The only things my statements presuppose are the admittance of a few principles of logic and a few basic assumptions about a shared reality. While I personally hold certain presuppositions about the purpose of the human mind, my critiques of natural law are not contingent upon them. I could believe the human mind's final purpose is to count the grains of sand on the seashore, and my critique would remain equally valid."

I disagree. You've spent a considerable amount of time and space correcting me, thinking apparently that I have erred in some way. But in what way have I erred? Something about the nature of things? (In one place you say that I am wrong to say that an embryo is a rational animal. So, I'm not using my cognitive powers in a virtuous fashion, which is precisely what the natural law theorist would say). DId my mind fail to grasp an important truth? And if so, supposing I continued in my errant ways, willfully rejecting your correction because, according to me, the purpose of my mind is to will what I want, sort of like believing that "the human mind's final purpose is to count the grains of sand on the seashore."

Back to the embryo. When I say a human substance is a rational animal I am saying something about its nature and not about its current presently exercisable abilities. So, if I say an essential property of a human being is to see, it does not count against that view by trotting out blind person. In fact, his blindness is testimony that he is a "seeing being" even though he cannot exercise the power of sight.

This is why it would be immoral to intentionally create brainless children, as I write in Defending Life:

What would be wrong in a developmental biologist manipulating the development of an early embryo-clone in such a way that what results is an infant without higher brain functions, but whose healthy organs can be used for ordinary transplant purposes or for spare parts for the person from which the embryo was cloned? Given the dominant accounts of moral personhood—views that claim that a being’s possession of intrinsic value is contingent upon some presently held property or immediately exercisable mental capacity to function in a certain way—it is not clear how intentionally creating such deformed beings for a morally good purpose is morally wrong. I suppose one could argue that it is morally wrong because the unborn is entitled to her higher brain functions. But as abortion-choice propoent Dan Brock argues, “this body clone” could not arguably be harmed because of its “lack of capacity for consciousness.” Yet, he concedes that “most people would likely find” the practice of purposely creating permanently non-sentient human beings “appalling and immoral, in part because here the cloned later twin’s capacity for conscious life is destroyed solely as a means to benefit another.” This, however, only makes sense if the cloned twin is entitled to his higher brain functions. But acording to the view embraced by most [bioethicists], one cannot have rights (including entitlements) unless one has interests (and interests presuppose desires), and the pre-sentient fetus has no interests (because she has no desires). So, the entitlement account does not do the trick.... It seems to me that the substance view is the account of human personhood that best explains the moral repugnance that one feels when one first appreciates the propect of these activities becoming common place in our society under the rubric of reproductive rights: it is prima facie wrong to destroy the physical structure necessary for the realization of a human being’s basic, natural capacity for the exercisability of a function that is a perfection of its nature. Although this provides moral warrant for the legal prohibition of intentionally producing deformed human beings for an apparently good purpose, it also grounds significant legal restrictions on abortion, a procedure that destroys the physical structure necessary for the realization of a human being’s basic, natural capacity for the exercisability of a function that is a perfection of its nature.

One critic of this argument--Dean Stretton--has responded to me. I recently responded to Professor Stretton in the book: Persons, Moral Worth, and Embryos: A Critical Analysis of Pro-Choice Arguments. Edited by Stephen Napier. (Dordrecht: Springer, 2011). My chapter is accessible via my website under "articles."

I am in California with family for my niece's baptism. My wife and I are her godparents. So, I have to cease my participation in this interesting interaction.

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written by Francis J. Beckwith, February 04, 2012
Oops, one more thing. I forgot to say this in my prior post. Scotty, I address both twinning and recombination in great detail in Defending Life as well as a piece I published 7 years ago in the journal, Christian Bioethics: "The Explanatory View of the Substance View of Person," which can be accessed under "articles" on my website.

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written by Scotty Ellis, February 04, 2012
@Brian

"Where does this extraordinary right come from? If you don't like the healthcare plan, don't work there."

For better or for worse, liberal secular governments tend to privilege the rights of the individual above the rights of an institution (this is only a general tendency, however, and admits of many exceptions). However, by opening its doors to the broad public for its staffing needs and by serving a general clientele, the institution is placing itself under the reigning laws.

"A word of advice: don't take your constitutional interpretation or your theology from Nancy Pelosi."

The warning is unnecessary, as I do neither.

"How is the employer not being compelled to act against its religious beliefs? "

The employer has a choice, and the administration has granted an entire year for the employer to make it: it needs to either become a truly and fully religious institution, hiring mostly religious and providing service primarily to those who share its beliefs and thus being rendered exempt to the requirements, or it needs to accept the burden (and, yes, I agree it is a burden) of providing for the needs of its diverse employees and clientele. That is the choice; no one is being required to choose one over the other. If the institution feels that providing for the needs of employees of different or no faith is too great a burden or too heavy on their conscience, then they may need to rethink their hiring and other policies.

However, I readily admit that I think the exemption clause is too narrow; a little more breadth for religious organizations would be appreciated. I will not be surprised if this becomes a supreme court issue.

"Then why are you parroting pro-abortion talking points?"

Brian, I don't call an argument good just because it happens to go along with what I believe. I call it good because it is truly, philosophically, rationally sound. Unfortunately, most of the arguments that the pro-life movement has used are unsound pieces of rhetoric. The pro-choice movement, in general, suffers from its own difficulties, but they have one advantage: quite frankly, the notion of a "soul" as an invisible entity separate to but somehow related to the body has very little going for it outside of the content of revelation. Because of this, pro-choice arguments tend to focus on more readily observable criteria for personhood, which gives it a ready advantage in the public sphere. If the pro-life movement wants to regain broader credibility, it needs to switch tactics: fewer nasty pictures of aborted fetuses, fewer special pleading that "I just know that a zygote is a person," and more philosophically and scientifically sound defenses of why abortion is immoral.

"Actually, the Church clears away the uncertainty very easily"

In a sense, yes, although again this would be completely dependent upon an acceptance of Church teaching, which clearly cannot be used as the basis for public policy in a pluralistic society. In another sense, however, the Church is in the same trouble, and I will turn again to chimeras, mostly because they are one of the most fascinating and unusual outcomes of human reproduction: the organisms that were the two zygotes still exist, their DNA remains distinct. If you call a chimera one human organism (which I think is a sound prospect for the purposes of establishing moral principles), then whatever else you say you cannot simply define a human organism as "the organism that results from conception," because there are two of those there. You will have to be more subtle.

"I think my conclusions are completely justified. I see nothing in your comments that would lead me to believe you are pro-life, other than your bald assertion that you are."

I am sorry you think that, but if you are an experienced internet user you should realize the absolute fallacy of making conclusions about someone based solely upon comments they make on an article. You do not know me; I do not know you. It makes no difference to me, and I would make no attempts to guess, whether you are Catholic, Protestant, agnostic, or just some kid who decided that he would impersonate a pro-lifer for kicks or grins. Your arguments, whatever they may be, are separable from you as a person, and as I cannot possibly hope to know the latter from these posts I will stick to addressing solely the former. I would appreciate, whatever feelings you may have on the matter, if you would refrain from making judgments or guesses about my character from these comments as well. If you feel you must do so, fine; I will simply ignore them.

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written by Scotty Ellis, February 04, 2012
@Dr. Beckwith

I have no idea whether you will read this, or if your other obligations will prevent it; but I will respond in any case.

What is intended by the claim, "there are universal ethical principles?" If you simply mean, "there are some principles I think everyone should follow," fine. I suspect this is not the case, as the traditional proponents of natural law make a very different claim: they claim that there are indelible principles which guide human beings. I will let St. Thomas do my speaking on the matter:

"Consequently we must say that the natural law, as to general principles, is the same for all, both as to rectitude and as to knowledge. But as to certain matters of detail, which are conclusions, as it were, of those general principles, it is the same for all in the majority of cases, both as to rectitude and as to knowledge; and yet in some few cases it may fail, both as to rectitude, by reason of certain obstacles (just as natures subject to generation and corruption fail in some few cases on account of some obstacle), and as to knowledge, since in some the reason is perverted by passion, or evil habit, or an evil disposition of nature; thus formerly, theft, although it is expressly contrary to the natural law, was not considered wrong among the Germans, as Julius Caesar relates."

This notion, repeated by other natural law proponents, is key to the entire theory: there are actually indelible principles that are proper to man simply by virtue of his rationality. There are also secondary principles which can indeed be lost through any number of reasons, as you mention, but there must be primary, indelible moral principles, or the entire idea of natural law - that we all have some universal notion of right and wrong - collapses.

Now, if you accept that there are universal notions of right and wrong, it follows that those principles will be universally present; after all, if these principles are mutable, subject to loss and change through time for just about any reason, there is absolutely no reason for you to expect others to accept your arguments from natural law beyond the accidental degree to which you and they have not lost a similar set of these principles. So, then, they are universally present: but here is the rub. If they are present in such a way, then they should actually be observable to some degree. Neither I nor most natural law proponents would believe that the same exact moral law would be in place across time and culture, but there must be some commonalities or the entire idea is nothing but speculation, in the worst sense of the word.

Here is where the empirical critique comes in: the more specifically you define one of these principles, the more one finds that there are entire segments of humanity who have lived their lives quite well without it - or, to put it in another way, the more evidence one gets that said principle is quite capable of loss and thus does not qualify as one of the all-important primary indelible principles. One has to make the principle more vague to include more of the actual, embodied cultures that make up real, rather than imaginary-speculative, humanity. And here, my point is hypothetical, because I have not done the necessary empirical research either, but my hypothesis is that in order to arrive at general principles universal enough to qualify as one of these "primary principles," you will end up with a nice little meaningless tautology like "good should be pursued and evil avoided-" a neat trick, sense we commonly define good as that which we should pursue and evil as that which we avoid (we being a very specific segment of humanity - even our terminology and language is specific to our culture and heritage!).

So, then, unless you mean something vapid like "I sit at my desk and dream up a set of principles I imagine everyone knows about" (which I seriously doubt you do), it seems that in order to accept one of the primary tenants of natural law - the indelibility of some of its principles - you must also accept the potential that it is subject to empirical scrutiny.

"The self-refuting charge stands, and here's why: your criterion is offered as a universal standard for all claims that claim to be universal standards."

I think you've completely misunderstood my claim yet again. My criterion is that all claims that are subject to empirical verification may be falsified by empirical observation (and, yeah, I'll stop you from another annoying charge of self-contradiction by noting that this statement is not subject to empirical verification: I hope that its validity is obvious, since it is quite nearly a tautology (to think I must defend a tautology!). Here it is, quite simply: the truth or falsity of your claim would have implications in the real, observable world. If it doesn't have implications in the real, observable world, if we are speaking about the universal principles of a purely abstract or imaginary, rather than embodied and extant, human species, then so be it - we can make up whatever we want about them. But if you (and other proponents of natural law) are making a claim about the creature man that we see around us, whose behaviors, mores, and morality are open to empirical scrutiny, and more specifically if your are making the claim that there are universal moral principles that cannot be lost, then you must accept that the claim can be validated or falsified by reason of empirical study.

Interestingly enough, you still haven't explained to me what this "human substance" is. You know it when you see it, I suppose? You give me a long, somewhat convoluted argument about the morality of destroying one of these substances, which quite frankly is somewhat unhelpful in the broader debate since at the heart of the debate is "what counts as a human substance?" Is the zygote a human substance, or is it merely the "physical structure necessary....?" And what if, as is clearly the case, most of the secular world doesn't accept your assumption that "it is prima facie wrong to destroy the physical structure necessary for the realization of a human being’s basic, natural capacity for the exercisability of a function that is a perfection of its nature." After all, this argument is basically: it is wrong to destroy something on account of its potential to be something more. Really? The flipside of something being potentially something else (potentially an exercisable function) is that, at the moment, it is not actually that thing. The zygote may very well be potentially conscious, but one thing is clear: it is not actually conscious. Without the acceptance of your "it is immoral to destroy something that is potentially something other than what it actually is now" assertion (which I think has several nasty, unintended, even absurd consequences), your argument as presented collapses.

I hope the baptism goes well!
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written by Charles Frith, February 04, 2012
Typical Vatican whining in riches while looking on the poor.
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written by Randall Peaslee, February 05, 2012
May I bring up one issue that is indirectly related to the topic of Mr Beckwith's article and the resulting comments? Is the Catholic Church and various Catholic institutions making a serious mistake by receiving goverment funding for any of her activities? For example, Catholic charities that provide adoption services are now often threatened to allow homosexuals to adopt children or risk losing government funding. Catholic universities and hospitals also receive government funding. By doing so, have these institutions in effect exposed themselves to government coercion?
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written by Brian English, February 05, 2012
"but rather a garden-variety gripe common to most taxpayers--who don't much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action of the government."

The government taxes individuals and entities based upon their income. It does not, until now, tax them based on their religious beliefs.

You are basically defending a glorified protection racket. The Obama Administration is saying to Church-related entities, "Nice moral position you have there. It would be a shame if something happened to it. Tell, you what, you keep paying us the money we shake you down for and you can keep your moral position."
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written by Therese, February 05, 2012
Until secular humanism and it's relativistic morals are recognized as yet another system of beliefs that ought not be thrust upon the conscience of another, we will not be able to restore a healthy balance between Church and State nor guarantee freedom of conscience for all. The encroachment of the state into more and more areas of our lives, will eventually allow these militant secularists to restrict the free exercise of religion to the space between our ears if not checked. What area of our life cannot be argued to be supported directly or indirectly through government funds? How many city governments seek to use zoning, land taxes, and other fees to restrict where religious interests may build or own land? When will people make the argument that because roads are public rights of way paid by government dollars that bumper stickers supporting religion should be outlawed? That religious expression visible from the highway should be outlawed. Sounds crazy but the way the militant secularists are going, it may very well come to pass. We must make the case that secularism, humanism, and atheism are in themselves religions and cannot be thrust upon the consciences of others by the state. If this case can be made, then we can return to the balance intended by the framers of the constitution that did permit the free expression of faith by individuals and institutions and such expression was evident in the open expressions of faith or lack thereof of many of the founders.

Similarly, people of faith need to attack agressively the idea that a citizen looses their rights if their positions on an issue is based partly or in whole on their faith. The reason why a person holds position X outght not affect his right to hold position X. If I were to believe that abortion ought to be outlawed based on my Christian, Muslim, atheist, pagan, secularist, Jewish or other beliefs, I should not be disqualifed from public office (the litmus tests being applied to more and more public service positions) nor from supporting that position in any way I see fit including political. The only time it should be an church/state issue is when the issue is framed in such a way that belief in the tenets of a religion are explicitly required. So for instance, if I believe abortion should be outlawed, the reason why I belive this is immaterial and should not result in any curtailment of any of my rights. If, on the other hand, if I hold that the law ought to require others to explictly believe in my belief system as well as uphold my position on the issue, then there is an obvious problem. The current standard that allows arguments for implicit imposition of a belief system is one that will eventually result in the removal of all belief systems except athestic, secularist, and humanist from the ever expanding public arena.
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written by Therese, February 05, 2012
Scotty,
The fact of the matter regarding Copernicus is that the best scientists of the time disagreed with him; he was on the cutting edge and he was also wrong in his own conclusions regarding the position of the sun in the universe. The Ptolemic theory, as Tony noted, more correctly predicted the movement of the heavens. Indeed, even today, one can use it to guide a ship, but GPS is so much better. Science is not Truth. It is but a model of the truth and it too changes over time! It refines with further observation. It is truly analagous to art through time. The earliest artists made stick figures, then came 2 dimensional figures, sculptures, perspective paintings creating the illusion of 3 dimensions, more and more colors to create highly realistic perspective drawings, photographs and in modern times, holographs. All of these methods model the thing observed, but they are not the thing observed. The same is true of science. We create a model, test it against observations. It appears to work so we declare it true. Newtonian physics was the cat's meow. Scientists from the 1800's were quite pleased with how it predicted the motion of bodies -- convientiently ignoring the motions it did not predict so well - like the double pendulum. The one day along comes Einstein and kapow! The model of mechanics we had only works to a point. The same was true with respect to Copernicus. The scientists of his day had a model that worked so well. They weren't ready to part with it. The Church listened to them. The fact that the Ptolemic description also naturally fit the descriptions in the bible of the natural world also helped but as your quote points out, it was the philosophical consideration that held weight, the theological is almost parenthetical. The Church was more than willing when sufficent evidence became availabe to accept that the theology was correct from a terra-centric viewpoint (the heavens appear to us to move around the earth) but with additional data it was obvious that another referential frame put things in the correct perspective.

With respect to human life, a human exists when there is a cell with a set of chromosomes in a cell capable of division and differentiation. All that cell requries to grow and develop is that same that all humans require -- chemicals and energy. A human life exists when this cell is created (regardless of how it's created). A human exists. Whether one wishes to accord that human the right to continue to exist is the question. All the outrages of mankind have been the result of one group deciding that another group ought not exist or are sub-human based on arbitrary criteria -- race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, etc. We are only continuing that outrage by adding economic viability and functionality along with potential negative effect on another's health or economic viability to the list of arbitrary criteria that justifies denial of existence to a segment of humanity. The reality is that either all humans have the right to exist or in fact none of us do. We are all subject to the arbitrary criteria of the day.

If you consider the current criteria -- economic viability, functionality, and negative effect on another's life -- as applied to humans in the womb and, now, at the end of life; one begins to see an insidious vision of humanity. A humanity whereby economic viability determines whether or not humans in and out of the womb have the right to the stuff of life. A humanity that justifies reallocating funds from one segment of humanity to another while hypocritically justifying exterminating another segment based on the economic burden they place on another. If we don't have to sacrifice for our young in the womb or our family members who have become an economic burden, why should anyone sacrifice their wealth for a neighbor they don't know? If a women can claim that the presence of a life in her is an undue risk (despite the fact that she knew the risk when she created that life), why can't others claim that the presence of people with HIV and other chronic communicable diseases which endanger the lives of others, are an undue risk? Can't you see the danger of the long term ramifications of these arguments. We are already seeing their application to end-of-life decisions. Again, I maintain, that either all humans have intrinsic value or none of us do.

Interesting, how you left out in your historical summary the Godless communist and atheist purges of the past few centuries which far, far eclipsed both in percentage of the population and total numbers of people killed anything that happened in religious persecutions. Modern studies of the Inquistion, done by scholars from a variety of backgrounds have proven that while outrages occurred they were not on the scale fabricated by Protestant reformers and later repeated non-believing anti-clerical movements in Europe. In fact, in many towns, common criminals would beg to be tried by the Inquisition as there was a due process. Evidence had to be brought forth and in the vast majority of cases, the punishments were so much less severe in the civil courts where one could be killed for stealing food or without any sort of due process. Modern atheist secular states, unchecked by any kind of moral consideration, resulted in mass extermination, oppression, and terrorization on a scale never before scene by mankind. It's ironic that as this country seeks to remove religious expression from the public sphere, that Russia is introducing religion in into it's public schools.

Regarding contraceptives, the abortificant nature of many contraceptives is not being addressed. It is heinous to require that Catholic Institutions be forced to provide the means to terminate a human's existence.

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written by Brian English, February 06, 2012
"Is the Catholic Church and various Catholic institutions making a serious mistake by receiving goverment funding for any of her activities? For example, Catholic charities that provide adoption services are now often threatened to allow homosexuals to adopt children or risk losing government funding. Catholic universities and hospitals also receive government funding. By doing so, have these institutions in effect exposed themselves to government coercion?"

The Church is providing a public service, so why shouldn't it receive public funds? I know some think the Church should reject government money, but that would impair the Church's ability to serve the less fortunate. The answer is to elect public officials who don't see the Church as an enemy.
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written by Scotty Ellis, February 06, 2012
@Therese

"Science is not Truth. It is but a model of the truth and it too changes over time! It refines with further observation."

I completely agree. Your other comments about Copernicus and your brief summary of scientific development, as interesting and true as they may be, have nothing to little to do with my claim that the Church (or, at least, officials acting with Her authority) at one time claimed that it was a truth of faith that the earth is immobile and the center of the universe and now does not. You must realize that the Church did not simply teach that its position was founded on science: quite simply, it took the position that it was a matter of faith. Now, as you note, the Church reversed its decision on this matter as more and more scientific data undermined its statements: it is a nice semantic game to retroactively say that its then-espoused theology was correct from a terracentric point of view, and that, in a sense, the Inquisition was not mistaken, except for the difficulty that this is a post hoc addition to their claims that seems to be made solely so that the Inquisition against Galileo can save face.

There are other post hoc defenses that have been used as well, such as the notion that relativity manages to save the Inquisition, since in the end any frame of reference can be validly chosen, and a geocentric frame of reference ultimately has the same validity as a heliocentric (or any other) frame of reference. This, too, is quaint and anachronistic; the Inquisition against Galileo was not making these claims.

"With respect to human life, a human exists when there is a cell with a set of chromosomes in a cell capable of division and differentiation. All that cell requries to grow and develop is that same that all humans require -- chemicals and energy. A human life exists when this cell is created (regardless of how it's created). A human exists."

So, you would count a chimeric individual as two human beings? I assume this means that if his hand, primarily composed of tissue with one set of DNA, scraped off some of the tissue from another part of his body originating from the other zygote and with a different set of DNA, you would call this assault? And, by your definition, I assume you mean the removal of a parasitic twin or a fetus in fetu is murder, since the fetus in fetu is comprised of a "cell[s] with a set of chromosomes in a cell capable of division and differentiation?" Again, the problem with these simplistic, straightforward definition is that actually applying them to reality results in moral absurdities; we cannot treat them as valid descriptions of the necessary and sufficient characteristics of a human person.

"If you consider the current criteria -- economic viability, functionality, and negative effect on another's life -- as applied to humans in the womb and, now, at the end of life; one begins to see an insidious vision of humanity."

Actually, the main question at hand is not the economic viability, functionality, and negative effect on another's life. The main question is whether the zygote, embryo, or fetus is a human person. If it were shown that these are human persons, they would be protected by the moral injunction against killing human persons, and no amount of economic hardship or inconvenience would justify the act. I believe that pro-life's best course is to develop a coherent definition of human personhood. The rest of this paragraph suffers from your false assumption that wider secular society shares your belief that zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are persons; without that shared assumption, most of your arguments collapse.

"Interesting, how you left out in your historical summary the Godless communist and atheist purges of the past few centuries which far, far eclipsed both in percentage of the population and total numbers of people killed anything that happened in religious persecutions."

I did not intentionally omit this, it just has no bearing on my argument. I am as much an opponent of those non-liberal forms of secular government as I am of non-liberal religious governments. I would be no happier with heretics being condemned to die than political prisoners or ethnic minorities being condemned to die: all of it is indicative of a failure of the state, whose primary mission (to take Augustine's word for it!) is to secure an earthly peace and order. Or, in other words, not all atheist secular states are created equal, and it is an historical and categorical failure to collapse them all together just as it is a historical and categorical mistake to collapse all religious regimes together; there have been, after all, more or less liberal religious regimes in the past.

"Regarding contraceptives, the abortificant nature of many contraceptives is not being addressed. It is heinous to require that Catholic Institutions be forced to provide the means to terminate a human's existence."

Again, that is the question at stake in the public abortion debate: is this a human person protected by moral principles? While you and I may share our common belief in the Church's revelation that even a unicellular zygote has a soul and is a protected human life, wider secular culture does not share this belief and has an alternate set of criteria (itself open for criticism) about what counts as a protected human life.
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written by Cris, February 06, 2012
"superstitions that were inconsistent with the principles of American democracy."

No need for superstition just read the syllabus of errors by Pius IX for all the anti-Americanism you could ever find in a religion.
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written by Randall Peaslee, February 07, 2012
@Brian "The Church is providing a public service, so why shouldn't it receive public funds? I know some think the Church should reject government money, but that would impair the Church's ability to serve the less fortunate. The answer is to elect public officials who don't see the Church as an enemy."

Brian, I don't agree. The Church has been doing great charitable work for 2,000 years and most of that history was long before big government welfare programs. I'm still not convinced it's in the Church's interest to receive money from the government. I'd rather there weren't "strings attached" to any of the money the Church has at her disposal.

Also, I think it would be a better witness to the world if the Church performed good works only with money voluntarily provided by her members than with any tax payer money (which is not voluntarily given regardless of the individual tax payer's attitude toward paying taxes).

I do agree with you on electing politicians who are not enemies of the Church. Even if the Church were only using her own financial resources and not receiving government money, an aggressively atheistic government would still find grounds to interfere with the Church's mission.
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written by Achilles, February 07, 2012
Dear Scotty Ellis-

I was unable to read all your posts, they were too reminiscent of that spectacular Madonna halftime extravaganza. I did however get the gist of your statements about the prolife movement. If you will permit me the observation, sophistry would seem to be your stock and trade and you are obviously very convincing, at least to yourself. Your position reminds me of something I heard Gilson say “many a man, subjectively with utter sincerity, has rejected a conclusion which he nevertheless affirms in principle””

Our duty as Catholics is to teach all nations. This says nothing of compelling the free will of others to learn the Truths we propagate. Your take on things seems to suggest that us “pro-lifers” must ‘calculate’ in order to get “pro-abortion” people on board. You have it just backwards sir. We are to speak the Truth on principle. Calculation is a tool of Satan and only serves to erode our position in the eyes of God. The Truth doesn’t necessarily meet us where we are if we are steeped in error. We must go to the Truth. Our best foot forward as witnesses is in living in the Truth and on principle by calling abortion what it is, murder. Anything else is calculation. You have used a lot of words to subvert the plain and simple truth.
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written by Scotty Ellis, February 07, 2012
@Achilles

"I was unable to read all your posts, they were too reminiscent of that spectacular Madonna halftime extravaganza."

I didn't watch the Superbowl.

"If you will permit me the observation, sophistry would seem to be your stock and trade and you are obviously very convincing, at least to yourself. Your position reminds me of something I heard Gilson say “many a man, subjectively with utter sincerity, has rejected a conclusion which he nevertheless affirms in principle””

I would appreciate discussion, rather than quasi-ad hominem bare assertions about my arguments. I suppose to return in kind I would merely point out that many a man, subjectively with utter sincerity, has accepted an otherwise lousy argument just because it comes out with an agreeable conclusion. In order to find out which situation we are currently facing would require actual discussion of the topic at hand, rather than empty banter and accusations.

"Our duty as Catholics is to teach all nations."

We must first be sure of the truth ourselves; we must then learn the languages of the nations; we must prove ourselves to be as good at listening as we are at preaching.

"Your take on things seems to suggest that us “pro-lifers” must ‘calculate’ in order to get “pro-abortion” people on board."

No. I said that we must use better arguments to present the pro-life position, and these arguments must use the language, philosophy, and science of those we wish to convert; we must, like St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa, synthesize the best of secular knowledge and use it to better express the faith.

"You have it just backwards sir. We are to speak the Truth on principle. Calculation is a tool of Satan and only serves to erode our position in the eyes of God."

The last time I checked, being Catholic doesn't mean you check your rationality at the door. We are to use our rationality to serve God; God is not honored by lousy arguments, and we only serve, as Augustine notes in his Commentary on Genesis, to make the faith look ridiculous in the eyes of the world when we (however sincerely) badly misconstrue the reality of the natural world which even pagans can know something about.

"The Truth doesn’t necessarily meet us where we are if we are steeped in error. "

If that were true, we'd all be lost.

"We must go to the Truth. Our best foot forward as witnesses is in living in the Truth and on principle by calling abortion what it is, murder."

There are other ways to dialogue with non-believers and members of other faiths than simply shouting what we believe to be the truth in their faces (typically, a fruitless endeavor that engenders bitterness rather than understanding). One of these ways is to understand the language, the rationality, the arguments, and the assumptions of the world around you; just as Christ condescended to take on humanity to bring light to the world, so too we are charged with understanding and using the language of the world. It is like St. Augustine said in On Christian Doctrine: we must take the arguments of the world like the Israelites took the Egyptian gold and turn them to the service of God.

"You have used a lot of words to subvert the plain and simple truth. "

Sic et non. The truth is not simple, especially when you mean to teach it. And no matter how many times you shout "abortion is murder" or hold up signs or show off nasty pictures of aborted fetuses, it is all really bluster if all it does is engender bitterness rather than understanding.
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written by Achilles, February 08, 2012
Dear Scotty, is that your attempt to teach me?



Jesus spoke to us in parables, many of them were agricultural in nature- We are to plant the seeds of truth, to cultivate the soil, pull the weeds etc... to be good farmers. The fruit that grows is out of our control and depends on the seeds we plant.

"We must first be sure of the truth ourselves; we must then learn the languages of the nations; we must prove ourselves to be as good at listening as we are at preaching."

This sentence is as good as any to illustrate your concern with manipulating the fruit rather than plant the right seeds. Augustine, amongst others, said "I beleive it in order that I may understand." I maintain that you have it backwards.

You drew silly conclusions from my plain spoken words, as only a good sophist can, like "checking your reason at the door" ???? Really? you got from my words that I plea for irrationality? Are you a college professor?

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written by Scotty Ellis, February 08, 2012
"Dear Scotty, is that your attempt to teach me?"

Isn't it true that there is only one Teacher, Christ? But that Augustinian insight aside, no. I was just replying to some of the points you had made.

"Augustine, amongst others, said "I beleive it in order that I may understand." I maintain that you have it backwards."

That famous formulation belongs to Anselm, but yes, it is Augustinian in spirit. Nevertheless, that maxim has another corrolary, which is that one cannot believe what one does not understand: or, rather, that if one does not really know what one believes, one's beliefs must, by definition, remain vague or indistinct nothings - or, at worst, dogma in the pejorative sense, taken to mean a set of otherwise obscure (perhaps ridiculous) proposition one affirms to oneself before breakfast each day. But I believe we both think the Christian faith to be more than this: and, to do so, we must remember that "faith and reason are like two wings of the dove by which the spirit rises" to the contemplation of truth. I will not accept a faulty argument just because it aligns with the faith; that would be to mar both faith and reason. And although the early Church seems to have had the fortune of spreading through miraculous interventions, we today must plod the more ordinary human way: by speaking in human terms and using human arguments. If you have some special divine language or argument that dashes all else, please do share.

"Really? you got from my words that I plea for irrationality? Are you a college professor? "

I was responding to your assertion that calculation is of Satan. Calculation (by which I think we mean the analysis of situations in purely practical terms - at least, that's what I meant) is a function of rationality. So, it seems, you meant to disparage one function of rationality - or do you recant? Either way, I did not meant to insinuate that you reject all rationality, and I apologize and recant anything I said that tended towards that interpretation. I am not a college professor. I am currently a student of engineering with a bachelor's of arts focusing on theology and philosophy.
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written by Achilles, February 08, 2012
Dear Scotty, Just what do they teach you kids today?

You are a very eager and I can see a very kind soul. I don't know about your corrolary or your misunderstanding of dogma or the idea that you conflate calculation with practical wisdom. Prudence is a very different thing than calculation. I contend that operating on principle properly requires far more rational coherance, grammar, logic and rhetoic than does calculation.

You said:
"I will not accept a faulty argument just because it aligns with the faith;"

Scotty, there are no faulty arguements that align with the Faith.

Yes as Augustine said "there is only one teacher" and he instructs in many ways including the infused virtues.


"the Truth is not consensus, but the convergence of the mind and reality" (JPII Fides et Ratio)

Perhaps a seach for the limits of reason might do you some good.

Best wishes to you Scotty- Achilles
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written by Scotty Ellis, February 09, 2012
@Achilles,

Thank you. I appreciate the rather cordial end to this conversation. I wish only to reply to one statement that you made:


"Scotty, there are no faulty arguements that align with the Faith."

I hope you are aware that the truth or falsity of an argument's conclusion has no bearing on the soundness of an argument. For example, the syllogism:

All things that type on computers are human beings.
I am typing on a computer.
Ergo, I am a human being.

Now, this syllogism is valid in its logic, and as far as I can tell its conclusion is true. Yet it is clearly faulty: it is unsound. We know at the very least the monkeys have been known to type on computers, probably cats as well. One of its assertions does not correspond with reality.

One could imagine, indeed, countless such arguments that have conclusions that align with the faith but whose logic is flawed or whose assertions do not correspond with reality. To accept these arguments is foolish: it is both an error of reason as well as a disparagement of the faith.
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written by Achilles, February 09, 2012
Monkeys and cats do not type.
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written by Scotty Ellis, February 09, 2012
@Achilles

Yes, they do. I'd paste a photograph if I had one. I did not say they typed well, or typed in English, I simply said "typed." But even if you refuse to acknowledge this simply fact, my point can be affirmed in this syllogism:

All beings who eat bananas are human
I eat bananas
I am human

And so forth.
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written by Achilles, February 10, 2012
Scotty,

They are completely different. When we say eat a banana, we mean eat a banana with all the details and artifacts that entails- so sure an ape a human, same thing. When we say type, for you to be correct, you have to reduce typing to merely the physical act of pushing down a key on a keyboard, such as in the case of a cat. This reductionism is not only typical of modern thinking, but it may be the root of your confusion- See Aristotle’s 4 causes- If you eliminate the telos or end of typing you eliminate almost everything about typing that is its reason d’etre. What on earth is this thing you call typing by a cat or monkey, but an accident of time, space, and contrived circumstance where when a human speaks about typing it is a purposeful act, not an accident with the end of communicating much as is expressed by St. Augustine in De Magistro. A picture is a silly example of proof in this case.

Your narrow definition of typing makes that syllogism faulty- but it is a serious mistake to call your definition of typing a “simple truth” when in fact it is merely an oversimplification and a false representation of reality designed to prove your pedantic syllogism faulty. Other than your reductionist thinking, there is no real similarity between your two syllogisms.

The most truthful thing I have seen you write is that line from De Magistro “there is only one teacher.” The rest depends on how we choose to cultivate ourselves as learners and the assent of the will is the key component.

My dear Scotty, you have demonstrated that for you the final arbiter of truth is you yourself. I think most on here go to a different source. You reduced Fr. Shcall and those with his mindset as being a “Catholic Ghetto”. If that is how you characterize Christ, the Church Doctors, Saints, the great Popes and the world’s greatest known thinkers you may have again made another faulty reduction. If you are correct, may God help us all. If you are in error, might I suggest Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ and a major paradigm shift from the cave to reality. I will accost you no longer, but I wish all good things for you.

May Christ’s peace be with you Scotty.
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written by Joey Ayoub, February 19, 2012
Opposition to the Catholic church has nothing to do with anti-catholic sentiments. You're playing the anti-catholic card the way Israel plays the anti-semitic card and it clearly works. We are standing against Money laundering, child rape and abuse, misappropriations of world-wide donations, repression of women, homosexuals, meddling in international politics.. but no, that's not as important. Propaganda, hate and brainwash have become the church's specialty over the past centuries, shame on you for defending them.
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written by Nameless, May 04, 2013
The fact that the United States has a law that allows for religious institutions to be tax exempt is respecting a religious institution. Therefore it is unconstitutional.

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