dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

Catholic Commencement Controversy Season Commences

It's graduation season at the nation's colleges and universities, so it must be time for another round of Catholic Commencement Controversy. Here in New England this year, the most prominent entry thus far features the region's most prominent Catholic school and bishop: Boston College and Cardinal Sean O'Malley.Cardinal O'Malley released a statement over the weekend explaining he would not deliver his traditional benediction at BC's commencement because the university is conferring an honorary degree on Irish taoiseach Enda Kenny. Boston College is honoring Kenny in recognition of his commitment to social justice, most notably his "emotional apology in the Dil on behalf of the state to the Magdalene Laundry survivors". O'Malley's decision follows a campaign by the Catholic Action League (kind of a local version of William Donohue's Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights) against BC's decision to grant Kenny an honorary degree.O'Malley's reasons for boycotting Kenny are, in the cardinal's words, that "the Catholic Bishops of the United States have asked that Catholic institutions not honor government officials or politicians who promote abortion with their laws and policies", and that the prime minister "is aggressively promoting abortion legislation".(Side note: Kenny is from County Mayo, from whence comes the word "boycott", arising from an Irish Land League protest in 1880.)Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen speaks, I suspect, for a sizable faction of Boston-area Catholics in a long, scathing, as-much-in-sorrow-as-in-anger essay today. Since it's behind the Globe's paywall, I'll quote it at length after the jump, because it's a good summary of the exasperation many Catholics feel in these situations.

OMalley accused Kenny of aggressively promoting abortion legislation, which is an odd way to describe a democratically elected leader of a republic following the mandatory legal advice of the highest court in the land.I would be the first guy to defend the cardinals right to skip the BC graduation. But his reasoning is embarrassingly flawed and his selectivity in whom he deems worthy of his presence is breathtaking in its hypocrisy.Enda Kenny, as the duly elected prime minister of the Republic of Ireland, has a duty to respond to court decisions ordering his government to find an exception to Irelands strict prohibition against abortion so that doctors and other health care workers can take steps to save the life of a woman in a troubled pregnancy.Women in Ireland have died because there is no exception to the law. Most recently, it was a 31-year-old woman named Savita Halappanavar, a native of India who was working as a dentist in Ireland while her husband worked in Galway for the Natick-based firm Boston Scientific. When her husband learned the 17-week-old fetus his wife was carrying was nonviable, he begged the doctors to terminate the pregnancy to save his wife. The doctors pointed at the law, threw up their hands, and said there was nothing they could do.When Praveen Halappanavar expressed exasperation that no one was lifting a finger to save his dying wife, someone tried to explain it by saying, This is a Catholic country.An inquest last year found that Savita Halappanavar would most likely still be alive if the law in Ireland allowed for an abortion in that circumstance.I am sure Cardinal OMalley is sincere in his point of view that abortion is wrong, but Id like to see him try to convince Praveen Halappanavar that non-Catholics like the Halappanavars have to abide by the Catholic Churchs edicts even if it means the death of a mother carrying a fetus that had no chance at life.OK, enough of the Kafkaesque stuff. Lets get back to the hypocrisy stuff.

To read the rest, click here.

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

JIm P. ==I apologize for misinterpreting you post.

Ann - no need to apologize. I always enjoy our conversations :-)

Anne Evans,Great points. I find the actions of Cardinals and the Church in general to the overall issue of abortion and their protests, individually or collectively, to be both inconsistent and contradictory. Let me explain.1. In a rape case, many Cardinals and Archbishops will allow the administration of Plan B based on simple pregnancy test. This is hypocritical because the USCCB guidelines clearly require that a pregnancy must not be shown to exist or potentially exist (e.g., as with a positive ovulation test that demonstrates ovulation as a "sign" that fertility might have occurred). A pregnancy test can only detect pregnancy after implantation which occurs about 3 weeks after fertilization. Since in rape cases Plan B is administered within 72 hours of the rape, a negative pregnancy test tells is a shame and is contradictory of the USCCB guidelines (regardless if one agrees or not with such guidelines). This is double speak. 2. The Church does not "tolerate" any type of abortion including to save the life of the mother whose life is threatened with certainty by a non-viable fetus (e.g, the Phoenix case). Yet, other so-called intrinsically evil human acts are tolerated such as couples who practice contraception. In these cases, where 90% of Catholics practice it, very few priests will refuse to give Holy Communion to such Catholics. Every priest knows that most young couples who are standing in line each week to receive the Eucharist practice a form ob birth control condemned by the Magisterium, but you never hear "one word" from the pulpit about it. If divorce and remarried couples commit the sin of adultery, why does the Church not protest and lobby against civil divorce laws and the right to remarriage as they do for civil abortion laws?Interestingly, Benedict XVI pronounced that Catholics were not obligated morally to vote against a political candidate based on "one issue" since one issue does not define the candidate even if one of the issues goes against the Church's teachings. The rule of proportionality should be used, he said, since there are very few, if any, political candidates whose position on a host of issues are in complete alignment to all Church teachings. While Cardinal O'Malley can decide how to act in protest against BC for their honoring of Enda Kenny, it is the larger and broader issue that I have a major problem with, as exemplified in part by my comments above. Does anyone have an opinion about this broader issue?

Michael Barberi,As usual, your post is excellent. Thank you. Ditto, Anne Evans.

"Yet, other so-called intrinsically evil human acts are tolerated such as couples who practice contraception."Contraception usage is not intrinsically evil, even though, in many circumstances, it is evil, according to church moral teaching."Every priest knows that most young couples who are standing in line each week to receive the Eucharist practice a form ob birth control condemned by the Magisterium, but you never hear one word from the pulpit about it."It's quite possible that priests (and others who speak from the pulpit) hold the view that condemning such behavior from the pulpit is ineffective, even counterproductive. I believe there is a track record for such condemnations, going back 50-60 years, so there may be a basis in church experience for priests holding these views.That it isn't regularly condemned from the pulpit doesn't mean that the church is silent on the issue. I expect that church teaching on contraceptives is covered in marriage preparation sessions, in morality classes in Catholic schools and parish religious ed programs, and in other forums such as adult ed sessions and RCIA. Not to mention in a variety of Catholic publications ranging from the Catechism of the Catholic Church to periodicals.

"If divorce and remarried couples commit the sin of adultery, why does the Church not protest and lobby against civil divorce laws and the right to remarriage as they do for civil abortion laws?"Because the church does not view civil divorce as wrong in all cases, and it is the same with civil remarriage. Both are very common among Catholics, and many Catholics navigate them without falling afoul of church teaching.

Because the church does not view civil divorce as wrong in all cases, and it is the same with civil remarriage. Both are very common among Catholics, and many Catholics navigate them without falling afoul of church teaching.Concerning Catholics, the Catholic Church recognizes the civil marriages of non-Catholics. These marriages are valid. If the two spouses are baptized, the marriage is also sacramental and, after divorce, would require a decree of nullity before a Catholic remarriage can be considered. Catholics married civilly without a dispensation are indeed in an invalid marriage - in adultery.In short: Like for contraception, canon law is complex, muddled, and does not completely make sense to many of us. Like for contraception, most of us happily ignore it. But for the few who take it seriously, it's a disaster. I know someone who, after his civil marriage to someone divorced from a previous marriage, per his pastor's instructions, refrained from receiving communion for several years. He could not bear it. Eventually he found a sympathetic Jesuit priest who presented things in a different perspective. Now - married for two decades - every Sunday during the act of contrition he asks for forgiveness for "living in adultery" before coming up for communion in fear and trembling... When I think about the very real impact of bad laws on people's lives (paradoxically, on the ones who are most law-abiding), it makes me angry.

Claire - I'm sorry about your acquaintance's situation. Did he pursue an annulment from his previous marriage? That seems to be the most straightforward approach.

Jim: it's his spouse who ought to do that, not him, and the spouse is not up for it, at least not so far. So, there you go - 20 years of being in an impossible situation, and nothing he can do about it.

Claire - thanks, and sorry - I had misread your scenario. I agree it's a very difficult situation for him.

Jim Pauwels -- The term "contraception" refers to the usage of methods of birth control condemned by the Vatican as intrinsically evil. Humanae Vitae makes clear that any act, before, during or after the martial act that prevents the marital act from achieving its procreative consequences is immoral. Thus, no one must never separate the unitive and procreative aspects of martial act for this is a violation of natural and divine law. Taking the pill can be licit if it is for the pain of endometriosis. However, I was not referring to pill-taking, but contraception. Contraception is a "moral absolute" whereby under no circumstances can it be licit. This is the official teaching of the Church. Of course, as you know, very few Catholics and theologians agree with it. Many priests believe that Humanae Vitae should be responsibly reformed. This profound disagreement finds its way into what is called the "silent pulpit". No priest or bishop wants controversy and condemnation from Rome. Hence most priests keep silent except in private counsel sessions with parishioners. It is true the most priests don't speak from the pulpit about contraception, and most importantly, the requirements of receiving the Eucharist despite the USCCB guidelines. However, you missed my point. Many priests require a couple to attend NFP classes, but after that, the decision is up to them based on their informed conscience. This is in clear violation of the official teaching of the Church. Therefore when it comes to the teaching on contraception, we have inconsistency and contradiction. As for civil marriages and adultery, the issue I raised, perhaps not sufficiently clear, was that it is illicit for two baptized married Catholics, or one baptized Catholic and one baptized Christian, to divorce and remarry civilly (without an church annulment) because in the eyes of the Catholic Church they would be committing adultery. If the argument is that the Catholic Church does not lobby to overturn civil divorce and remarriages because other Christian religions permit divorce and remarriage civilly, then why does the Catholic Church lobby to overturn abortion laws regardless if other Christian religions do not have a problem with it under certain circumstances (e.g., to save the life of the mother)? IMO, this is also an example of being inconsistent and somewhat contradictory. The issue Claire raised about divorce and remarriage per the Catholic Church is an example of unnecessary suffering. Why should the innocent spouse, in the case where the husband commits adultery and forces a divorce, be required to live a life of celibacy without a husband until the husband dies? In many cases, an annulment is not possible. If the innocent spouse remarries she is prohibited from the sacrament of reconciliation and Eucharistic reception for she is committing adultery. As Claire points out, some priests permit divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion with an act of contrition. However, this is not the official teaching of the Church. This is another example of inconsistency and contradiction.

Thanks to all who've commented, and thanks to Grant for his editorial work clarifying this post. As happens so often, I learn more from the thread than from the original post.Just for the record, my own view is that Cardinal O'Malley is well within his rights to boycott Boston College's commencement exercises. My reading of his statement is that his decision came about, in part, because of his respect for the work of his brother bishops in the USCCB on this particular issue. Obviously O'Malley's statement is open to multiple interpretations as to its tone. To me it is typical of his tendency to speak and write simply and humbly, without casting aspersions on those with whom he disagrees.BC, on the other hand, is well within its rights to invite Prime Minister Kenny to be its commencement speaker. As was noted above, it's not the first time in recent years that there's been some controversy and debate about BC's commencement speaker, and it likely won't be the last.On balance, I take this perennial controversy as a sign of health within the American Catholic Church. It's when we *don't* care enough about each others' views to disagree publicly and honestly that it's time to worry.

" Contraception is a moral absolute whereby under no circumstances can it be licit. This is the official teaching of the Church. Of course, as you know, very few Catholics and theologians agree with it. "How, therefore, is this the official teaching of "the Church?" If the Church is the People of God (see CCC 782 for the characteristics thereof) then what we have in the case of contraception is the imposition of the opinions of a very few on the many, i.e., the People of God.The canonical doctrine of reception, broadly stated, asserts that for a law or rule to be an effective guide for the believing community it must be accepted by that community. See: http://www.arcc-catholic-rights.net/doctrine_of_reception.htm

Cardinal OMalley is well within his rights to boycott Boston Colleges commencement exercises...BC, on the other hand, is well within its rights to invite Prime Minister Kenny to be its commencement speaker.LukeI have trouble seeing any import to these statements. They sound rather milquetoast. We are within our rights to do many things that are quite wrong.

"Jim Pauwels The term contraception refers to the usage of methods of birth control condemned by the Vatican as intrinsically evil. Humanae Vitae makes clear that any act, before, during or after the martial act that prevents the marital act from achieving its procreative consequences is immoral. Thus, no one must never separate the unitive and procreative aspects of martial act for this is a violation of natural and divine law. Taking the pill can be licit if it is for the pain of endometriosis. However, I was not referring to pill-taking, but contraception. Contraception is a moral absolute whereby under no circumstances can it be licit. This is the official teaching of the Church."Michael - we may be in agreement on this; you say a few things in this passage with more absoluteness than I believe the teaching of Humanae Vitae calls for; but your statement "Taking the pill can be licit if it is for the pain of endometriosis" suggests that we may be more or less on the same page. If I may, let me highlight a couple of brief passages from HV. I'm doing this because I think it's important for Catholics (and others) to have a clear and accurate understanding of Catholic teaching. If this little exposition determines that we agree with one another - so much the better.The heart of the church's rule is found in HV paragraph 14: "Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreationwhether as an end or as a means."In this sentence, I want to call out the phrase "specifically intended" - intention is a crucial component of this teaching. In order to fall afoul of this teaching, at least two components or elements must be present: (1) the action must occur (contraceptives must be consumed); and (2) they must be consumed with the intention of preventing procreation. The importance of the spouses' intention becomes clear when we look at what is said in paragraph 15: "On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there fromprovided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever. (19)"As I know you know (you probably know it a lot better than me), some pharmaceutical products can be used to treat more than one medical condition, including treatments that its inventors didn't foresee, and there are a number of medical conditions for which contraceptive products are prescribed that have nothing to do with the intention to contracept. In these instances, the contraceptive effect of the medications would continue to take place - but because the intention of the person taking the contraceptives is not to contracept, but to treat a different medical condition, then utilizing contraceptives for these reasons is not against church law. Couples can use medications for these reasons with unintended contraceptives effects, with a clear conscience.It is because of such circumstances that I disagree with your assertion that utilizing contraception is intrinsically evil. That phrase "intrinsically evil" generally means, "evil in and of its own nature, regardless of circumstances." And HV itself identifies circumstances in which consuming contraceptive products is at least not illicit. I would argue that it's not evil.Another scenario that may help illustrate that contraception is not intrinsically evil: I don't believe that it is against church teaching to give a rape victim post-rape contraceptives to minimize the chance that she will be impregnated by her rapist. If contraception were intrinsically evil, then even this act of mercy would be contrary to church teaching - but I don't think it is against church teaching. As someone wrote once (paraphrasing this), 'The church doesn't require that the victim cooperate with her rapist to conceive.'

@Mark Proska (5/17, 9:00 pm) Thanks for the reply. It's not clear to me that either Cardinal O'Malley or Boston College did something "quite wrong" in this case. To the contrary, it seems each actor is holding onto or affirming a particular "good"---the Church's opposition to abortion, and the Church's opposition to child abuse.

LukeIm sure you did not see the contradiction in your last comment: The Churchs teaching is that a very young human being (a child of God) is very much abused when aborted. I think implicit in the Cardinals statement is that, with very little effort, BC could have chosen a speaker who was both pro-life AND anti-child abuse. I think there are a few out there.

Jim McCrea -- Unfortunately, doctrine is not determined by opinion polls of the many or most of the people of God. This is one of the issues in dispute that morality and teachings should be based on Scripture, Tradition, Human Experience (e.g., collectively) and Reason. Human experience is nor merely what is received but whether there is any truth in what is proclaimed as the truth in teaching. For example, when JP II asserts that Catholics that practice periodic continence (natural family planning) treat each other as loving subjects, while couples that use artificial birth control have a utilitarian attitude and a diabolical love grounded in concupiscence. There is no evidence whatsoever in human experience that attest to this absurd proclamation. Luke and Mark -- Both BC and Cardinal O'Malley were not doing something "immoral" in this case and it is true that a young fetus (child of God) is very much abused when aborted. The issue is the definition of "direct and indirect abortion" which is disputed. Clearly no one is claiming that direct abortion is licit under any circumstance. The issue rather is whether terminating a pregnancy of a "non-viable" fetus who is threatening the life of the mother with certainty is immoral? When we enter debate about abortion few clarify their argument. Emotions run high and so we have two camps: those who abide by the Church's teaching and those that believe that under certain circumstances terminating a pregnancy is both licit and responsible (e.g. the Phoenix case). We also have frequent inconsistency and contradiction between the word as in certain doctrines and pastoral practices.

Jim Pauwels -- HV 16 as you quoted is only one and not the primary philosophical and theological underlying principle that anchor the encyclical on birth control. Most theologians would argue that HV rests on 1 principle, HV 12, commonly called the inseparability principle. IMO, there are 4 principles that anchor the teaching: union and procreation No. 12 or the "inseparability principle"; HV 13 Faithfulness to God's Design; Nos. 16 and 14 together as Lawful and Unlawful Birth Control Methods; and No. 17, the Consequences of Artificial Birth Control Methods. However, let's stick with HV 12 that the Church commonly uses when deals with concrete cases involving birth control.HV 12 says:"This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act."NOTE: This is proclaimed to be God's procreative plan...another dispute because no one knows God's procreative plan with moral certainty so how can the Church proclaim it as moral absolute?As to the words "specifically intended" in HV 16, this is not the definition or interpretation you think it is. This is a very complex issue and this blog is not the place to go into all the details. However, there is a huge and significant debate and profound disagreement about the role of "intention-to-end" in the moral specification of voluntary human acts. If you want to go into detail, email me and I will share with you, confidentially, an essay under review that explains the impasse and origin of HV. Nevertheless, below is the official Church's position about two common cases that might shock you. These cases are based on a violation of "the inseparability principle" and the fact that semen must be placed in its proper place for procreation.1. A young married women with 3 children is told by her doctors that another pregnancy will be life-threatening with certainty. She cannot safeguard her life by choosing the most prudent and effective means available to avoid a pregnancy as a result of sexual intercourse, namely, sterilization or taking the anovulant pill for that would be immoral according to HV. She must either practice lifetime sexual abstinence (that would threaten her marriage, not to mention a profound burden and an impractical requirement) or periodic continence (e.g., highly risky and irresponsible under such circumstances). This is one of the best cases, among other important reasons, that demonstrate that HV should be responsibly reformed.2. A seropositve husband with HIV/AIDS cannot use a condom to protect his spouse from this deadly disease (or use a double condom for added protection) for that would be immoral according to HV. He must practice lifetime sexual abstinence. NOTE: The agent's intention in this case is similar to the intention of the women who takes the anovulant pill for the pain of endometriosis. The Church argues that taking the pill for pain does not involve the martial act. However, such a person can have sexual intercourse which is non-procreative. The Church says the effects of the pill was accidental and not directly intended. However, so is the effects of the pill for the seropositive husband. Yet, taking the pill for endometriosis is licit and using a condom to protect your spouse from a deadly disease while expressing your love for her is immoral.Your analysis and judgment in general about the role of "intention" in the moral specification of voluntary human acts places you on the side of most theologians that are commonly called "revisionists". You are also on the side of most informed Catholics who understand moral theology, as well as most informed Catholics that use their common sense and informed conscience in making moral decisions especially about birth control. However, your description and analysis of intention is not the Church's position.If you want to discuss this further, email me.

Jim -- a correction. "However, so is the effects of using a condom for the seropositive husband."

Jim --- the issue of rape as you described it is not correct. The Church says that Plan B can be administered ONLY after it is determined that fertilization or pregnancy has not occurred. This is based on HV (as absurd as you and I can agree). Many bishops in the US allow Plan B to be administered based on a negative pregnancy test. However, a pregnancy test can only detect pregnancy after implantation which occurs about 3 weeks after fertilization. In rape cases, Plan B is administered within 72 hours of a rape. Therefore, the requirement of a negative pregnancy test is a shame and in violation of the USCCB guidelines. This test will always be negative if fertilization occurred as a result of the rape and the test is administered within 3 weeks of the rape. This is a good case that demonstrates inconsistency and contradiction. NOTE: The church did require a negative ovulation test. While ovulation does not mean fertilization has occurred, this was better than a pregnancy test. However, this is no longer a requirement largely due to many state and federal laws. If a Catholic hospital violates this law, it can lose state and federal funds. Talk about bending Divine law (e.g., HV) to avoid an unpleasant financial outcome.Don't get me wrong, I believe that Plan B should be administered in a rape case because of the injustice and horrendous crime committed upon the innocent women.

Jim-- The reference to HV 16 should be HV 15. Lastly, when a spouse intends that the marital act to be non-procreative by deliberately and willfully plotting the measurement of basil temperature and cervical mucus on a calendar in order to determine infertile times so that sexual intercourse can be limited to those times, "how is this not a violation of HV 15 as you stated as well as HV 12"? Clearly, periodic continence, or NFP, separates the unitive and procreative dimensions of the marital act. The spouse is also performing intentional physical acts before the marital act to prevent the marital act from achieving procreation. Therefore, either both contraception and NFP violate HV or they do not.

I wish the bishops would read the most recent technical information about emergency contraception. There is now pretty conclusive evidence that Plan B is not an abortificient: it operates by preventing or delaying ovulation, and possibly also by interfering with sperm movement, but does not prevent implantation. (I have always suspected this, because the rapid drop off in Plan B effectiveness over the first 3-5 days aligns with the 3-5 day lifespan of sperm, but doesn't make sense for implantation which starts about day 8.) If Catholic hosptials are requiring a test that ovulation has not occured or that the patient is not pregnant this is harmless but useless; if the rape survivor has ovulated, or is pregnant, Plan B would have no effect anyway. As to church teaching on the ethics of contraception in the case of rape, I thought that part of the point of replacing traditional teaching about contraception with the Theology of the Body was that TOB permitted a rape survivor to use non-lethal contraception because in rape there is no unitive aspect to be violated. Am I missing something? Here's a couple of links regarding Plan B:http://alesrarus.funkydung.com/archives/tag/plan-bhttp://www.nytimes.com...

Anne Evans,I agree with the evidence but that is not yet the official Church's position which makes for inconsistency and contradiction to manifest itself. Below is a quote from an 2007 article about the decision of the Connecticut bishops regarding their decision about Plan B in rape cases. One of the issues is if ovulation has occurred (through a ovulation test) then there is a possibility of fertilization. If there is a possibility that Plan B is abortificient, then Plan B is problematic for the Church. However, an ovulation test is not required so there is a real problem because a pregnancy test will always be negative within a week of a rape. The full article can be found on www. tidm.org/.../ConnecticutBishopsAllowPlanBCatholicHospitalsFor..."The bishops are basing their decisions on an interpretation of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops document: Ethical and Religious Directives (E.R.D.) for Catholic Health Care Services which states at no. 36 with regard to a woman who has been raped: "If after appropriate testing,, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation the process by which spermatozoa in the ampullary portion of a uterine tube become capable of going through the acrosome reaction and fertilizing an oocyte." However, the document adds: "It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum." (see the document: http://www.usccb.org/bishops/directives.shtml )However, even if such tests could accurately determine that ovulation has not yet occurred another difficulty exists. A study by Dr. Chris Kahlenborn in 2003 found that the pill only works to halt ovulation half the time. Thus fertilization may occur even after the pill is administered, and an abortion would result since in addition to stopping ovulation the pills act to weaken the lining of the uterus making implantation unsustainable. See Dr. Kahlenborn's study here: http://www.polycarp.org/postfertilization_polycarp_1.htm&nbs...; Speaking with LifeSiteNews.com earlier this year, about the problem of bishops permitting the morning after pill in Catholic hospitals in cases of rape, Dr. Kahlenborn said bluntly, "The bishops who approve this are approving potential abortions."I am not aware of or have knowledge that the Theology of the Body asserted that non-lethal contraception was permitted in rape cases without qualification. In any case, the term "non-lethal" as it applies to Plan B or the anovulant pill is still an unresolved issue, in that the official teaching has not changed as I understand it.The real issue is whether a pregnancy test can determine if conception has already occurred or not in a rape case. Most experts would say a pregnancy test cannot and therefore, it does not satisfy the USCCB guideline if administered within in a week of a rape.

@Mark Proska (5/18, 8:04 am) Given that Kenny has been a member of and leader in Fine Gael throughout his political career, some might argue that he meets those criteria.

Luke--Some might argue that being a member of Fine Gael means one must be pro-life, even when one is aggressively promoting abortion legislation? Come again?

Mark --"Promoting abortion legislation" is a highly ambiguous phrase. There is a world of difference between 1) allowing abortion ONLY to save the life of the mother, 2) allowing abortion during the first few weeks of pregnancy, 3) allowing abortion up to several months into pregnancy (e.g. 22 weeks), and 4) allowing abortion on demand. The reason either 2 or 3 might be morally acceptable is because there is evidence that until a later stage of pregnancy the zygote/embryo/fetus is/are not yet a person. As I understand it, Kenny is promoting only the first sort of legislation, and he is within one strand of tradiitonal Catholic ethics in taking that position. The bishops, however, are acting as if there has been an infallible pronouncement on the matter. JP II tried to impose uniformity of teaching on the subject by calling his argument about the question "definitive". But obviously "definitive" is not the same word as "infallible".

Ann,Great points. The term "definitive" was put into play by JP II as a Motu Proprio during the 1990s, I think it was 1998 but I am not certain. It is highly disputed and means "irreformable". Any reasonable person finds this incomprehensible because there is not much difference between a teaching claimed to be irreformable and a teaching claimed to be infallible. It sounds like an oxymoron. The only teachings that the cover letter Ratzinger sent out regarding this Motu Propio gave only a few examples of the teachings that this so-called new classification pertained to, like abortion.However, there continues to be a profound disagreement over the terms "direct" and "indirect" abortion. Some of the most orthodox of theologians (e.g., Germain Grisez) believe that the procedure in the Phoenix Case was not direct abortion, but to not avail. The Bishop of Phoenix excommunicated the sister in charge of the ethics committee at St. Joseph's Hospital and took away their Catholic status. God have mercy on us.

"As to the words specifically intended in HV 16, this is not the definition or interpretation you think it is. This is a very complex issue and this blog is not the place to go into all the details. However, there is a huge and significant debate and profound disagreement about the role of intention-to-end in the moral specification of voluntary human acts."Michael, thanks for your detailed responses. There is much that could be discussed which I haven't time to pursue right now. However, regarding the snippet I've pasted above this paragraph, I just want to note that the translation of HV on the Vatican website doesn't use the term "specifically intended" but rather "directly intended". Here is the full sentence: "On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there fromprovided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever." I can only say that my interpretation of this passage seems the most straightforward one: there may be medical situations to which the principle of double effect may be applicable, in which the morally objectionable effect - contraception - may be offset or outweighed by a morally good effect (the treatment of a serious medical condition) which doesn't depend in any way on the contraceptive effect. In my opinion, for both of the examples you bring up - the HIV positive husband, and the woman whose life is at risk if she becomes pregnant - the principle of double effect wouldn't apply, because in both instances, the goods that would result from the scenarios are directly dependent on the contraceptive effect of the contraception.If you are calling out that the actor's subjective intention in consuming contraceptives may not be the same as the objective end of the contraceptive medication itself - the latter of which, it seems to me, is to contracept, even if the consumer intends it to do something quite different - then I would reply that it is an interesting point, but it seems to me that the paragraph in question refers to the consumer's subjective intention rather than the contraceptive's objective end.

Jim Pauwels- it seems to me that double effect does apply in the case of the HIV positive husband. The intended effect (protecting the wife's health) does not result from the contraceptive effect. After all, if the wife was 60 years old, or had both ovaries removed for medical reasons, the couple would be well advised to use a condom to prevent transmitting HIV, but there would be no contraceptive effect at all.Full disclosure- I'm a liberal Catholic and my conscience has always dissented from church teaching on contraception. (I do recognize an absolute obligation not to use contracetives that prevent implantation.)

Jim Pauwels,You have not understood the moral equation per Aquinas in arguing about the examples I have put forth. This blog is not the place for a heavy discussion, but I will provide one final comment and a suggestion.The agent's intention in both cases is not "subjective" but the agent's objective intention. In the first case of the mother whose life is threatened by another pregnancy, her end/goal and intention-to-end is to "safeguard her life" from another pregnancy. The agent deliberates based on her reason between all the ways to safeguard her life from another pregnancy: lifetime celibacy, periodic continence (PC), sterilization and the anovulant pill. PC is an irresponsible means and imprudently risky given the threat of death from a pregnancy. Lifetime celibacy for a young married mother will not only threaten her marriage, it is an extreme and unrealistic method that only the very few could achieve (e.g., many seminarians don't take their final vows because they have not been blessed by this gift that only God gives to the very few). The only realistic, prudent, and safest method is sterilization. Even the pill, while highly effective, can be argued not reasonably viable in this case.The effects of sterilization is not willfully intended but is outside the intention of the agent and is per accidens per Aquinas. The chosen means act, sterilization possesses due proportion to the good in the end.The case of the seropositive husband is the similar. His end/goal and intention is to protest his wife from a deadly disease. The effect of the pill, namely suspending ovulation, rendering the marital act non-procreative, is "per accidens" or outside the agent's intention.If you want to understand all of the issues regarding Humanae Vitae, email me and I will confidentially share an essay with you that is under review by a Catholic journal.

Sorry for an inadvertent error. The next to last sentence should read:"The effect of the condom, namely separating the unitive and procreative dimensions of the marital act and preventing procreation by depositing semen in a place not fitting for procreation, is "per accidens" or outside the agent's objective intention.

Pages