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In “Beyond the Stalemate” (subscription), Peter Steinfels looks at where we are forty years after Roe:

That Americans and American Catholics remain divided over abortion is, in important ways, to our credit. But some divisions are more necessary, compelling, or expedient than others. Some are well considered and executed, others are not. Some are paralyzing and self-destructive, others point toward fruitful resolution. Forty years after Roe, it is incumbent on Catholics to reexamine their stance toward abortion and its legalization.

There is natural resistance to any such reexamination. This is a topic associated with too much pain—and often hidden pain—along with too much hypocrisy, illusion, and male betrayal. Many Catholics who are angry at church leaders or prolife activists for their harsh rhetoric, political absolutism, moral righteousness, or general attitudes toward women and sexuality simply refuse to think about the topic further. Prolife leaders, on the other hand, boost morale by seizing on any uptick in public opinion, any success in a state legislature, and every fresh summons from religious authorities as confirmation that their present course, no matter how inadequate or counterproductive, is unassailable. …

My own reexamination of the Catholic stance on abortion begins with two simple statements and then attempts to determine what conclusions and practical proposals might flow from them.

First statement: From the very earliest stages of its life, the unborn offspring of human beings constitutes an individual member of the human species deserving the same protections from harm and destruction owed to born humans.

Second statement: This conviction, taught by the Catholic Church and shared by many people, religious and non-religious, is nowhere near as obvious as many of us who hold it suppose.

David Rieff sees trouble in the calls for “humanitarian war” in Syria: 

If the conditions on the ground in Syria today, after two years of unbridled civil war, were more akin to those in Libya at the time French president Nicolas Sarkozy persuaded his NATO partners to act, or to those in Mali at the time of the recent French military intervention than they are to the conditions in Iraq or Afghanistan, then the ardor of the liberal hawks and the neoconservatives for intervention there would not seem so reckless. After all, the interventions in Libya and Mali both seemed to recapitulate the so-called humanitarian interventions of the 1990s, where the core of the debate was never whether a U.S. or NATO intervention would be successful—this, probably rightly, was taken for granted—but only whether there was really a will in Washington, Brussels, London, or Paris to intervene in a Bosnia, Rwanda, or Kosovo. But even most of those who think the United States must act in Syria concede that not only is an effective military intervention there likely to prove far more difficult than in Iraq, let alone in Mali or Kosovo; it is also by no means sure that any political result that is now imaginable will be much of an improvement over a continuation of the Assad dictatorship.

Also, Richard Alleva reviews The Great Gatsby, and E. J. Dionne Jr. remembers Fr. Andrew Greeley, the “loving pugilist.” 

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From Peter's essay: re: this misstep : ""the thoroughgoing integration of the prolife cause into the culture-wars agenda and the hard-nosed politics of the Religious Right and its conservative allies in the Republican Party" -- Perhaps that was a misstep; but my understanding of the history of Catholic pro-life advocacy's relationship with the Democratic Party is that it is not the case that former voluntarily walked out on the latter.  

Inasmuch as abortion is a legal and political issue, pro-life advocates need to recruit political allies where they're able to find them and who are willing to work with them.  For the last 30 years, that place has been the GOP.  It would be a very good thing for the pro-life cause and for the Catholic Church for pro-life advocates to foster more bipartisan alliances, but it is scarcely an exaggeration to note that interest among Democratic Party policy-setters in building such alliances is zero.  My own view is that the Democratic Party already pays an electoral price for this intransigence - it may well be one of the chief reasons that the GOP has controlled the House for the last two election cycles and has been able to stymie a more expansive Obama Administration agenda.

As a practical matter, the best way to unyoke Catholic pro-life advocacy from its problematic alliances in the GOP would seem to be for the Democratic Party to articulate a pro-life advocacy that is more aligned with core Democratic Party values.  There remains a sort of rump group of Catholic Democrats that advocates for pro-life positions within the Democratic Party, but its influence is marginal at best.  Catholic liberals' capitulation to Democratic Party orthodoxy regarding abortion is Catholic liberalism's great failure of our time.  

 

JP - you say:  "My own view is that the Democratic Party already pays an electoral price for this intransigence - it may well be one of the chief reasons that the GOP has controlled the House for the last two election cycles and has been able to stymie a more expansive Obama Administration agenda."

This is a *huge* stretch and opinion with very little to support it.  Any analysis of House districts by state and voting patterns will show that redistricting over the last 20 years has pushed the US House to this point - it has little to do with prolife issues.  And this same redistricing pattern has led to only continued divisiveness and partisonship.

Would agree that the Democratic *center* has capitulated on prolife but wonder if that has more to do with much of what Mr. Steinfels outlines in this article.

 

 

"Catholic liberals' capitulation to Democratic Party orthodoxy regarding abortion is Catholic liberalism's great failure of our time.

You are absolutely correct, Mr. Pauwels. 

Here is a sad news item about Gov. Cuomo's proposed bill to extend abortion rights.

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/06/03/cuomo-to-propose-bill-allowing-fo...

Jim Pauwels is correct.  For a long time, the price formerly pro-life Democrats have paid in order to advance to national importance in the Democratic Party has been the renunciation of opposition to abortion.  Pro-life Democrats who became "pro-choice" in order to pursue national political office inlcude Jesse Jackson, Dick Gephardt, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, and Dennis Kucinich. 

Bill - I agree that redistricting is huge.  But Democrats recaptured the House in 2006 and held it the 2008 elections.  There was no redistricting before each of those elections; the same districts were in effect as had elected a GOP majority in the three previous Congressional elections.   Then, in 2010 elections, with the same districts still in effect (i.e. the redistricting in the wake of the 2010 census hadn't yet taken effect), the House swung back to the GOP again.  Redistricting can't explain those swings.  I believe it's a pretty conventional explanation that Democratic success in the first half of the decade, leading to their winning the House in 2006, followed from a strategy of running relatively conservative candidates in swing districts.

Frank and Thorin, I agree that there is a roll call of shame among Democratic elected leaders.  But the failure goes much deeper than that.  Unless pro-life Catholics who are staunch Democrats call their leaders and their party to account, nothing will change.

Count me as a skeptic there is any deep GOP desire to change the abortion stalemate. They started the push for abortion in the 60's, and keeping the Dems on their heels over it plays into their agenda.

That said, a number of Catholic liberals have left both parties over the matter, and we find it fine to direct our votes and political activity in truly pro-life ways, and not how either the GOP or the GOP political pro-life mainstream wishes to dictate to us.

Also, I want to point out that scientifically, there is no permanent individuation until several days after conception. Twins (or more) may fuse and multiple siblings develop long after the union of sperm and egg.

Part of the problem for pro-life Democrats, as Peter Steinfels' article notes, is that they aren't supported by national pro-life groups. Why should "pro-life" concerns be taken seriously by Democrats if pro-life groups aren't anything more than an arm of the Republican party?

The larger problem is that "pro-life" isn't seen by others as meaning anything beyond "anti-abortion". For instance, Peter brings up in his piece the obstacle posed by the pro-life movement's "lack of highly visible solidarity with women's struggles for equality". But this would require the pro-life movement to go beyond being just anti-abortion.

Or take this beautiful article that's been shared several times today by female friends on Facebook: "Why Finnish Babies Sleep in Cardboard Boxes". Is this truly pro-life? Yes! Can I imagine this happening soon in the U.S.? No!

I join Todd Flowerday in skepticism of the GOP's desire to change anything on abortion. When they have had the chance to do something about abortion, they distracted themselves with taxes to cut. But it makes a nice issue with their base, so I expect them to keep not doing anything about abortion so they can keep opposing it.

When I left the Democratic Party, mainly because it is brain dead, I couldn't find a Republican I could vote for. I hope Catholic liberals' inability align themselves with phony GOP wedge issues won't be their second "great failure of our times," but the possibility seems to be there.

Qui cum canibus concumbant cum pulicibus surgent. 

This was supposed to connect to Jim P's very first comment ....

Who's the dog in this analogy?

 <i><b>Catholic liberals' capitulation to Democratic Party orthodoxy regarding abortion is Catholic liberalism's great failure of our time.</b></i> 

I get down on my knees in thanksgiving that someone at this blog finally bites the bullet and speaks truth to the commonweal aristocracy. 

I was wondering if html tags would still work in the new version. Thanks for finding out for us.

Count me as a skeptic there is any deep GOP desire to change the abortion stalemate.

Todd (and Tom), I disagree that the GOP is do-nothing about abortion, particularly if we look at what happens at the state level; for example, there is a pretty long track record of Republican-controlled states passing laws that restrict or attempt to outlaw abortions.  There is also a long track record at all levels of government of Republicans attempting to restrict government funding of abortions (cf the Hyde Amendment); of Republican leaders nominating and approving judges who are perceived to have pro-life views; etc.  It seems inarguable that since the current party alignments took effect, sometime around President Reagan's first election, the GOP is far, far better (or, if you wish, far less bad) than the Democratic Party at pursuing concrete measures to attenuate or roll back the effects of Roe v Wade and its successor rulings.

BUT - to the extent that your suspicions are justified, isn't that another compelling reason to cultivate a Democratic Party that is more receptive to pro-life concerns?

 

Jim McCrea - I'm not very good at Latin; something about marijuana and police sergeants? :-)

The larger problem is that "pro-life" isn't seen by others as meaning anything beyond "anti-abortion". For instance, Peter brings up in his piece the obstacle posed by the pro-life movement's "lack of highly visible solidarity with women's struggles for equality".

 

I'm sure that that anti-abortion advocates could broaden their view of what constitutes "pro-life".  But Peter's article isn't about some expansive, squishy notion - it's about abortion.  And abortion is a pro-life issue; it is, by a country mile, the single most important pro-life issue.  Anti-abortion advocates needn't apologize for not expending equal energy on a dozen other things.  Other people who are energized by other injustices can and should work on those things.  And there is no reason I know of that they couldn't build coalitions and alliances with anti-abortion advocates - including within the Democratic Party.

Inasmuch as we're contemplating Catholic pro-life advocacy: what should the church do to exhibit "highly visible solidarity with women's struggles for equality" that she isn't already doing?  I'm asking this in all sincerity, as one who believes that, for example, the church could do much more than she does to exhibit highly visible solidarity with LGBTQ struggles for equality.  Naturally, the church can't reverse her doctrinal views as they effect policy on abortion and contraception (and marriage).  I hope that "highly visible solidarity with struggles for equality" doesn't reduce to an insistence that the church changes her views on abortion and contraception.   There should be a wide field of possibilities beyond those two issues; what are some concrete things that the church should do?

 

Jim Pauwels, Surely you jest (8:43 a.m.). Yes, Republican lawmakers and governors have been amassing an impressive (if it is the sort of thing that impresses you) record of passing laws  limiting abortions and having them (this is the impressive part) thrown out by the courts. One of the Dakotas has the legal abortion period down to six weeks. That is a constitutional right it is trying to limit through salami tactics.

Abortion will remain a constitutional right until five of the six Catholics of the Supreme Court -- none of whom I've seen turned back in the Communion procession -- decide to un-make it a constitutional right. I really wish the Democrats could open their hearts on this issue. But the headstands conservative Catholics do to deny that all they are getting from the GOP is chin music show how unlikely it is that there is any political gain to be had if the Democratic Party has a change of heart.

Peter S makes a huge blunder in my opinion when he writes: "First statement: From the very earliest stages of its life, the unborn offspring of human beings constitutes an individual member of the human species deserving the same protections from harm and destruction owed to born humans.

Second statement: This conviction, taught by the Catholic Church and shared by many people, religious and non-religious, is nowhere near as obvious as many of us who hold it suppose."

I don't think this is obvious to those who "hold it" either. The unborn fetus does have human dna. But that in no way proves that it is a person. There is just no science to support it. Other than the dna is human. While we must always cherish all that God has given us we must not make dogma where there is none. 

But here we go again with the comments showing more passion about the unborn than the born.

Bill M, Peter S didn't get hung up on the concept of persons. He said the unborn fetus constitutes an individual member of the human species. Try this thought experiment: Suppose a disease nearly wiped out the milk-giving species on earth (give the chemical companies a few years...). There are only a handful of milk cows, yaks and goats left. And here we have a pregnant cow. Would we consider the cow's fetus eliminatable since it isn't yet milk-yielding? Or would we have a team of scientists trying to bring it to term? Yeah, we'd have the team. So I'd say it is obviously a cow.

"Naturally, the church can't reverse her doctrinal views as they effect policy on abortion and contraception (and marriage)."

Jim P. =

Discussion of this idea would not be highly relevant at this point on this particular thread, but, it seems to me, that it is an unresolved issue that underlies much of the Catholic discussions on the issues you mention (espcially abortion).  I'm talking about the principle which seems to be foundational for conservatives Catholics, including especially the Vatican:  "Dogma cannot change" is itself an unchangeable principle.  

This principle is fundamental in the SSPXers objections to VII, but it also seems to br  fundamental in your  arguments about abortion.

My question to you is:  how do conservatives *know* that this principle is true?  What makes you so sure that dogma cannot be changed ever?  Or, if you think that some teachings can be changed, how do you tell which ones they are?

I realize that part of this problem has to do with the ambiguity of "dogma/teaching".  And we really need 20 threads on this problem, but we need to think about it explicitly sometime.  What I really would like to know now is where your thinking begins on this issue.  What is your ground for this view?  What fact(s) tells you that the principle is true?

(Yes, it's a matter of theological epistemology.)

 

 

"He who lies with dogs will rise with fleas."

Is it in every case that  "...the church can't reverse her doctrinal views..." without betraying God's revealed truth? Or is it that  "...the church can't reverse her doctrinal views..." without suffering embarrassment and loss of credibility?

The easy answer and maybe the only correct one is "both."  But I suspect there's often more weight in one pan of the scale than the other. And sometimes—impious as I am!—I think it's on the self-regarding side.

<i><b>http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/30/on-abortion-and-defining... .</b></i>

On Abortion and Defining a ‘Person’

 

“The traditional argument for the Church’s teaching that there is never any justification for abortion; direct killing of the innocent is always and everywhere a sin. During the Second World War, the American, British and German air forces deliberately bombed cities with the intention of killing civilians. There was no pretense that these deaths were the consequence of the victims living close to military targets. The use of atomic weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki also had the intention of killing civilians. Even if it were argued that the civilian populations contained war workers who were not “innocent” in the context of war, their deaths would not justify the killing of the children and fetuses in these populations. Nor can the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki be justified on the score that what was being done was to end the war and the deaths of the inhabitants were side effects. Double effect can be invoked only when the act is in itself morally legitimate, even though in the particular circumstances it will have foreseeable evil side effects. Nothing can be a side effect if it is the means by which the objective of the act is realized. In any case, the prime purpose of bombing whole cities was not to kill workers but to break civilian morale, and/or to bring the war to an early close. To the best of my knowledge, neither the Catholic hierarchies in the countries concerned, nor the Pope, condemned these bombings. And no Catholic participating in them was excommunicated.”  

(Letter to The Tablet, April 4, 2009)

My question to you is:  how do conservatives *know* that this principle is true?  What makes you so sure that dogma cannot be changed ever?

 

I hope that the referees don't rule this branch of conversation to be off-topic, because I think it's both interesting and germane to Peter's article. 

I don't claim that doctrines and dogmas can't change - in fact, I believe they can and do develop (development being a form of change), and as they develop, they may lead the community of believers to change their policies and positions, as we've noted many times on dotCom: with regard to slavery, and the charging of interest rates, and so on.  

At the same time, the game is somewhat rigged against  bald doctrinal reversals, in that the Catholic view of doctrines is that their source is a deposit of faith that the church itself didn't write or create, but rather received as divine revelation.  Only the Source of that revelation can tell the church that up is now down, or black is now white.  

(If you or anyone is interested, this is laid out in this section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, cf #72-100).

At the risk of worrying my friends who praised my first comment on this thread, let me just add this: I don't think there is a doctrine, per se, about contraception.  But I do think that the church's teaching on contraception within marriage, as laid out in Humanae Vitae, depends on doctrines as interpreted and taught by the church's magisterium.  The teaching in Humanae Vitae is an application of the church's doctrinal foundation.  Some of the hard cases regarding contraception or abortion that we're presented with here on dotCom from time to time may spur theologians and other thinkers to go back and revisit the doctrinal foundations of  those teachings.  I expect that this is the sort of thing that motivates the development of doctrine.  It seems to me to be possible that the doctrines that underpin the teaching in Humanae Vitae could develop to the point that HV's teaching would need to be qualified in some way - the church's teaching would develop, perhaps to accommodate some of the hard cases in a way that corresponds more closely to our moral intuitions.  There are people who hang out here who can talk about the nuts and bolts of how this occurs more expertly than I'm able to.  But it would seem to require that theological work can lead to new and fresh thinking on the part of those with teaching authority.  

 

The claim that the Church cannot change its teachings on abortion, divorce and remarriage and contraception lacks sufficient explanation and is misleading.

The Church has changed its doctrines and those teachings claimed to be the truth. Usury was immoral for centuries. The negative injunction or prohibition against usury was pronounced as truth and divine law (e.g., written in scripture) by 3 ecumenical councils and 2 papal bulls. Yet, the Church found a way to reform it. 

For centuries there was no such thing as "freedom of religion" and the torture of heritics was licit and common (e.g., the inquistion). Today, torture is immoral and you are not considered a heretic if you are not a Roman Catholic.

The Church can "bind and loose" for good reasons as it deems it appropriate and fitting. This means that responsible reform cannot cause scandal or be in contradiction with tradition. However, the Church has always found ways to justifiy the evolution of a teaching. This does not mean that it is "ipso facto" contradictory or inconsistent with scripture or tradition.

 

 

If doctrine can develop in such a way that what is now declared to be illicit and sinful may at some point become licit and acceptable, would it not behoove those who formulate and promulgate it to be somewhat less assertive about its changeless and compelling truth at any one time? Or are we to understand that sinners of today may be judged (and condemned or excluded) by a standard that is later seen to be incomplete, misunderstood, or perhaps plain wrong? And whatever else it may be, is not the doctrine of development of doctrine all too sly a way to avoid saying, "After forcing hundreds of millions of the faithful to conform to teachings that made their lives measurably more difficult, we now acknowledge that we were wrong, we hope we have learned from that experience, and we're going to try to be more cautious from now on"?

If my memory isn't completely shot, it was Cardinal Pericle Felici who said, "The Church is never in doubt. It moves serenely from certainty to certainty."

" --- are we to understand that sinners of today may be judged (and condemned or excluded) by a standard that is later seen to be incomplete, misunderstood, or perhaps plain wrong? "

In my day it was a major sin to knowlingly and deliberately eat meat on Friday.  How many sinners were consigned to the netherworld because of that?

And there is the famous Patty Crowley comment, albeit in another context:

"During the 1966 Papal Birth Control Commission, at which Chicago Catholics and co-directors of the Christian Family Movement Patty Crowley & her husband Pat were members, a heated discussion about how the church could save face if it were to allow couples to decide how to limit offspring, Marcelino Zalba, a Spanish Jesuit member of the commission, asked, “What then with the millions we have sent to hell” if the rules are relaxed? Patty immediately responded in what became perhaps her most memorable quote. “Fr. Zalba,” she said, “do you really believe God has carried out all your orders?”"

http://www.natcath.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2005d/120905/120905o.php

What Michael , John   and Jim wrote. This is why I maintain that Peter is phrasing the question incorrectly. This is why he and similar authors have gotten nowhere in 50 years. It is positing some fairness in a side that gave 250 million to settle claims against the Vatican bank, builds spiraling edifices for hundreds of millions and sends Cardinal Law on a million dollar, honorable sabbatical. And keeps bishops who are arrested for fleeing scenes of accidents and continues to cover-up and send pedophile priests to mingle with children. 26,000 people in the armed forces were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 in 2010. And we may have had one or two blogs on it

As far as the bloggers here, it is usually men who are strident on the issue alla George Bush who would have let his daughter get an abortion. Not that some women don't agree. But the passion is telling.  

Republican lawmakers and governors have been amassing an impressive (if it is the sort of thing that impresses you) record of passing laws  limiting abortions and having them (this is the impressive part) thrown out by the courts. ... But the headstands conservative Catholics do to deny that all they are getting from the GOP is chin music show how unlikely it is that there is any political gain to be had if the Democratic Party has a change of heart.

Tom, check out this exhibit *(.pdf) from the Guttmacher institute.  It summarizes, state by state, the various restrictions on abortion that states have managed to enact.   It tracks these categories of restrictions:

 

  • Must be peformed by a licensed physician
  • Must be performed in a hospital if at (certain conditions such as gestational age or development milestone)
  • 2nd physician must participate if at (certain conditions such as gestational age development milestone)
  • Partial-birth abortion prohibitions
  • Public funding restrictions
  • Private insurance coverage limitations
  • Conscience protections for individuals and institutions
  • Mandated counseling
  • Waiting period after counseling
  • Parental consent or notice

There is no category tracked for ultrasound requirements.

Is there any doubt that GOP politicians, working in conjunction with pro-life advocates, have driven the enactment of most of these restrictions?  Or that in many cases they were enacted despite well-funded, well-coordinated opposition from Democratic politicians, working in conjunction with pro-abortion adovcates?

I take the whole point of Peter's statement, which initiated this conversation, to be that it is not good for the pro-life movement, and the church, to be allied with a single political party, and specifically with the GOP.  The question which I've put on the table is, how does one work for pro-life legislation and be allied with the Democratic Party?  

I don't scoff at these statewide measures.  This is not "chin music".  These measures are real and concrete.  Within the legal regime of Roe v Wade and its successor rulings, this is what is possible, today.  Perhaps some of these restrictions won't survive court challenges but many of them have.  Do they save any lives?  Almost certainly.

 

 

Jim P. ==

I agree with you that dogma can be changed in the sense of developed.  That is not a problem.

Unfortunately, I didn't make my question clear.  When I asked,  "What makes you so sure that dogma cannot be changed ever?" I was asking about *reversals* of dogmas.  So now I ask, what makes you so sure that dogma cannot be reversed ever?  That position is also dependent on the principle that "Dogma cannot be reversed".  My question is: what fact(s) lead you to think that dogma cannot be reversed?  What are the facts presented by the Vatican/Popes/whoever which make you accept this principle as true?  In other words, what is the evidence for its truth?  Surely you don't think that the Catechism's or the Vatican's merely *saying* it is so makes it so.

Others on this thread and I myself in other threads have pointed out that there is overwhelming evidence that there have been instances of reversals of dogma (e.g., the reversal of the usury dogma that John Prior point to).  Do you deny all this evidence?  Or what? 

Jim P (10:04 p.m.), If you let your eye skip over the regulations marked with the triangle (for "permanently enjoined") on the Guttmacher list, it gets a lot smaller.

You need also to cast a dim eye on rules and regulations that are in effect but unchallenged. Some are waiting for an enforcement action as a prelude to filing the lawsuit. Republican administrations are perfectly capable of passing laws, taking bows for them and then not enforcing them.

This is the problem: Abortion remains a constitutional right as long as five of the six Catholic justices on the Supreme Court don't say otherwise. Lawmakers and governors may harass people for exercising their right, but they can't take away the right; only the Supreme Court or a constitutional amendment can. The governors and lawmakers are acting as their predecessors did when they denied African-Americans rights the 13th and 14th Amendments gave them. (But not as effectively.) That parallel is not lost on critics of the right-to-life movement; that is a tactical consideration but beside my main point.

I don't deny the sincerity of some of the Republicans who pass these laws. I have interviewed them. Unfortunately, their knowledge of the state and its laws have not always matched their fervor for abortion reform. We elected one who was unable to come within three digits of guessing the size of the state budget he was going to Tallahassee to help write. Am I required by my church to vote for such clowns?

 

Ann - I don't think the teaching (now superseded), "Lenders must not charge interest" is a dogma.  Nor do I think the teaching in its current form (something along the lines of, "lenders must not exploit the poor by charging exorbitant interest rates") constitutes a reversal of that teaching - rather, it constitutes a development of that teaching. (Wouldn't a reversal be more along the lines of, "lenders must charge interest"?)

What is the doctrinal underpinning of this teaching regarding the charging of interest? The Law, the Prophets, the wisdom literature, and the teachings of Jesus, as interpreted by those with teaching authority.  And yes, I do accept the say-so of scriptural and magisterial authority on this matter - at least on one level.  I try.  I can't stop my internal questioner who asks, "wait a minute - does this make sense?"  In this case, I think it does make sense - it conforms with my sense of what is morally right.  And so I accept it.

Tom - no, don't vote for clowns.  If you vote in Democratic primaries, then find some Democrat non-clownish candidates who are pro-life, and vote for them.  

 

 

A non-clownish Democrat who is pro-life? Hmm. Well, I just got word that a South American Variegated Flycatcher was just spotted for the first time in Florida. So I suppose there could be an example of the  species around. But there is still the problem that the selected voters under gerrymandering guarantee the election of one party or the other, clown or not.

I agree with Jim Pauwels about the development of a teaching claimed to be the truth. However, usery was claimed to be "divine law" because it was written in scripture. By the 16th century this teaching was confirmed by 3 ecumenical councils and 2 papal bulls issued by 2 popes. When it was reformed (and even today), no one could explain how something declared as "divine law" could be reformed.

As a result of the so-called Council of Jerselum, regarding the "sign of circumcision", that set apart the people of God, the advice given to the gentiles was "we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write them, telling them to astain from blood polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." That was it, the sum total of what was left over from the 613 stiupulations of Hebrew law that were to be "imposed" on the converts. Thus, the Church can bind and loose as it sees it to be appropriate and fitting.

Today, we know there is Biblical exegesis and many scriptural texts are interpreted differently by Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths. One example is the meaning in Matt 5:27-32 where Jesus said "But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchasity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery". Some Christian religions use this as a reason to allow, in certain circumstances, divorce and remarriage.

Abortion is another disputed issue because while every major religion believes that direct abortion for any reason is immoral, there are exceptions because of the meaning of certain concepts such as direct/indirect, viable/non-viable, and personhood/human life. 

The distinction being made between Democrats and Republicans fail to emphasis the fact that both policial parties (and many individual politicians) favor exceptions to abortion that the RCC condemns. What has not been discussed in this blog is Cardinal Ratzinger's use of proportionality when voting for political candidates. No candidate holds positions that are in complete agreement with all RCC teachings and no one issue defines a candidate. Thus, one must use the concept of proportionality in making voting decisions.

Having said this, Cuomo's proposed legisllation does not make sense and is against common morality. I cannot envision any reason why it would be morally licit to abort (kill) a viable fetus after 24 weeks (or less) when the fetus could be delivered alive and survive. That would be unjustly killing a viable human being.

 

 

"Development of Dogma" , as I see it , is a euphemism for "the church was wrong but let's say it developed"  It is a product of the "Church of Dogma." About ten years ago on one of these groups, now graduated to blogs, I mentioned that the notion of infallibility was tainted and that neither the church nor the pope is infallible. Several liberals in the group protested. The exact words of one was telling: "Belief in infallibility" is part of my identification as a Catholic." Nowadays many are hardly miffed about the pope or church not being infallible. And how about sex!

I will say it for the umpteenth time that abortion is more than a political football. It is a fraud issue. Yet many still define being Catholic with it. Talking about helping the poor, most would consider it socialism if we mandating that everyone should be helped with having the necessities. Yet no one balks at government interference when opportune legislators , introduce laws night and day on abortion. 

Jesus equated anger with murder. Yet the religious right condemn everyone night and day with unconscionable anger. The late Henry Hyde, the protoype for politicizing abortion, responding when criticized for living with a woman, not his wife, for 20 years termed it a "youthful discretion."

Ditto for the hypocritical bishops who resent pedophiles to ravage children. And they punished priests like Tom Doyle for telling the truth. Yet it took graphic uncontestable evidence to get across the fact that this was happening. Whereas, abortion anger has been going on daily for over 50 years without success mind you. 

Save us from this hypocrisy. 

JIM P. ==

JIm P. ==

How do the Popes/Council/Popes with Councils define "dogma"?  Sometimes the official Church seems to mean simply "teaching", sometimes "official teaching", and sometimes "infallible teaching by a pope or a pope with a council who make it clear that they are speaking in their official, not-possibly-wrong capacity".

So what kind of "dogma" is it that cannot be reversed -- a teaching, an official teaching, an infallible teaching?  Or what???  To oversimplify:  what does the Church mean when it says that Catholic dogma cannot be reversed?

JIm P. =

I have been using the word "reversal" as meaning a contradiction.  Apparently you don't see all reversals as contradictions -- you think that when you take part of a statement away (such as "never") and add something else to the statement, then the result is a development, not a contradiction. For instance, suppose that you tell your little girl on Tuesday, "No swimming in neighbor Brown's pool this week", but then Wednesday you change your mind, and you tell her, "No swimming in neighbor Brown's pool unless Mrs. Brown is outside", you would not consider that a reversal but a development?  

The Church said in the 13th century, "Lenders may never charge interest" and in the 20th it says, ""lenders must not exploit the poor by charging exorbitant interest rates".  You seem to be implying that because the Church has dropped the "never" part and added the part about exorbitant interest  that the new statement is a matter of development which involves no contradiction.

But how in the world can the statement "charging interest is never OK" ever be consistent with the statement "charging interest  is sometimes OK"?  And why call it a "development"?  

So what kind of "dogma" is it that cannot be reversed -- a teaching, an official teaching, an infallible teaching?  Or what???  To oversimplify:  what does the Church mean when it says that Catholic dogma cannot be reversed?

Ann - dogmas are part of the deposit of faith, which has been divinely revealed, i.e. it is revelation.  Revelation can't be reversed or added to or rewritten because the church doesn't have the authority to do so.  The church is only the guardian and teacher of the deposit of faith that has been divinely entrusted to it.

The way by which those with teaching authority teach what is doctrinal is described in Lumen Gentium 25.

It may be worth noting that paragraph 25 of that conciliar document states that the bishops " bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old".  We shouldn't assume that everything contained in the deposit of faith has already been articulated and fully elaborated.  There could well be additional things that need to be "unpacked".  

Perhaps the teaching that marriage must be between a man and a woman would be an example of a "new" thing.  I don't believe that particular item was included in the sacramental catechesis I received as a schoolboy, because in those days, it wasn't thought that the church needed to be "vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock"by teaching that particular thing.  But nowadays, the church does perceive that need.  The teaching itself is not brand new, but the church's articulation of it seems new to me.

I'm guessing that this is not a completely satisfying explanation of how the church stewards the deposit of faith.  We like things that are already fully explained, fully understood, already fully organized and systemetized.  We like processes to be completely explicable and codified.  And we like the ability to change whatever doesn't conform to our desires.  Teaching from the deposit of faith may not lend itself very well to those expectations.  Perhaps the process by which the Supreme Court determines the meaning of the Constitution would be a rough analogy: the Court doesn't write the Constitution, but it is the steward of the Constitution.  It attempts to preserve the integrity of the Constitution in the face of new developments and unforeseen events.  And sometimes that requires that previously-unconsidered aspects or implications of the Constitution are brought forth to meet a particular situation.

 

 

For instance, suppose that you tell your little girl on Tuesday, "No swimming in neighbor Brown's pool this week", but then Wednesday you change your mind, and you tell her, "No swimming in neighbor Brown's pool unless Mrs. Brown is outside", you would not consider that a reversal but a development?  

Good analogy.  Yes, I would consider that a development, and the new rule doesn't out-and-out contradict the old rule.  There is some essential content about risk and safety and responsibility for one's children that underlies both of those rules, and neither of those rules represents a change of that essence.  

Why might the rule have changed?  Perhaps because circumstances have changed; the first rule might have been prudent when my little girl was a pre-schooler.  Perhaps she is older now and has learned to swim.  

It may even be that preserving the old rule in the face of those changed circumstances runs the risk of distorting how the underlying essence is perceived; my daughter might erroneously conclude that going into the water is a grave danger that must be avoided at all costs, even to save another's life.

The Church said in the 13th century, "Lenders may never charge interest" and in the 20th it says, ""lenders must not exploit the poor by charging exorbitant interest rates".  You seem to be implying that because the Church has dropped the "never" part and added the part about exorbitant interest  that the new statement is a matter of development which involves no contradiction

Right.  I'm arguing that there is something essential that underlies both of those rules, and that essence hasn't changed.  To do a deeper dive on that, we might inquire about the scriptural basis for both rules, and about whether the circumstances of economic activity and wealth creation has changed drastically between the 13th century and today.

 

 

 

Jim Pauwels -- I don't think the Church, Roman Curia, would completely agree with your interpretation of "development".

For example, consider the teaching on contraception where the unitive and procreative aspects of marital intercourse must never be separated under any circumstances. The only liict means permitted for birth control is periodic continence (PC) or natural family planning. Yet, PC involves the physical acts of meausuring temperature and cervial mucus and plotting them on a calandar to ensure that sexual intercourse will be infertile and non-procreative. How is this NOT separating the unitive and procreative aspects of marital intercourse? Most theologians and Catholics think this is a contradiction in principle.

What if, in the future, the Church said: artifiical contraception is licit under the following conditions:

> the marriage is open to procreation

> the spouses have chiildren and want no more for good reasons (e.., Pius XII's 1951 address to the midwives)

> the spouses want children but want to space births in accordance with their family obligations and objectives in a secure and predicatable manner.

> if a child is conceived by accident, the spouses will accept the child into their family with unconditional love (e.g., they do not have a contra-life attitude or motivation)

> the spouses have been educated appropriately about all means of birth control, weighted all the factors and decided that PC was not sufficiently secure, would not work for them and their decision was not in conflect with virtue (e.g., the female spouse has irregular mentrual cycles or her physical and emotional condition and informed conscience/judgment opted for articial birth control, and her reasons were prudent, just and charitable). 

Would this, in your opinon, be a "development" of doctrine or a "contradiction"?

 

 

Michael, that sounds like an interesting discussion to have - some other time. We've already got abortion in flight in these comments, isn't that enough? :-). Fear not, contraception will come around again, probably pretty soon!

Jim, as in most articles the discussion morphs into side issues. The one in question was about development versus irreformable when it comes to doctrine and dogma. I could have easily gave an example of abortion to save the life of the mother when the fetus cannot survive (e.g., is not viable), under any circumstances (e.g., the Phoenix case). In this case, the issue boils down to allowing both the mother and fetus to die with certainty or to save the mother life. Would this example have been more acceptable to you? If so, would this be a development or a contradiction? 

 

 

"It may be worth noting that paragraph 25 of that conciliar document states that the bishops " bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old".  We shouldn't assume that everything contained in the deposit of faith has already been articulated and fully elaborated.  There could well be additional things that need to be "unpacked". "

Jim P. -- 

It seems to me that what we're discussing as a "development" includes a dogmatic deductive system, one with revealed statements as axiomatic and the derived statements as theorems or added dogma. 

My problem with this as stated is that when the theologians derive "new" truths from the axioms they include some principles that are not to be found within the axioms.  I mean those cases when, in trying to interpret Scripture, they bring in purportedly historical facts that are not themselves part of Scripture, and they also presuppose principles of interpretation which are not themselves to be found in Scripture but are to e found in various philosophical and linguistic authorities.  I conclude that in fact there are not very many  "new" truths that are "developed" exclusively from Scripture/Revelation because the interpreters regularly include non-Scriptural facts and principles.This, of course, cannot be avoided, and the hybrid conclusions can be valuable, but I don't see how they can be said to be certainly faultless.

True, there are some new developments which are derived exclusively from what is explicitly said in Scripture.  An example: 'Christ was born of Mary, therefore Mary was Christ's mother.'  That is known by the definition of the terms "born of" and "mother" and doesn't require any wandering from the deposit of faith.  I think your example of 'Marriage is between one man and one woman' is another example of such a truth. It merely analyses out what is already there in the old definition of "marriage".  Another example:  All Jews were bound by the laws of God.  David was a Jew.  So he was bound by the laws of God.  

But other "developments" are not examples of logical inference.  They are more like artistic intuitions than reasoning.  Consider the theological understanding of the Persons of the Trinity as relations.  Nowhere in Scripture is it said  explicitly that what each person of the Trinity is is a relation.  Scripture might suggest this, but it seems to me (based on my ignorance, of course :-) that    that statement cannot be strictly inferred from what Scripture actually says.   That teaching is really just an unproven theory which seems quite consistent with what Scripture says, and it certainly seems to deepen our understanding of what the Trinity might (!) be or even probably is.  But strictly speaking it cannot be said of that theory that it is a sure as, say, the view that God is unlimited love.  In other words, it is an unproven but useful hypotheses which we have strong reason to think might be true, or is probably true, or is something in some important way *like* or analogous to the truth, and therefore helps explain other statements which we know to be surely true.. 

What I'm saying is that it appears that much of the development of theology is a matter of aesthetic intuition, not scientific necessity.  It "makes sense", though it can't be proven.  As such it has a contingency about it that is not found in the cut and dry derivations of certain dogmas that are derived completely from Scripture, whether from explicit statements or from implied conclusions. 

It seems to me that when Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would always be with the Church to guide it, He was largely referring to those contingent, aesthetic intuitions.  He was promising that the Holy Spirit will help us with those sorts of intuitions which are beyond our poor powers of reasoning.  He was promising that the Holy Spirit will incline us towards accepting our true or analogous intuitions which we can't be entirely sure of.   I'm thinking of such teachings as "the Bishop of Rome is central in Church administration" and "Mary the Mother of Jesus did not suffer original sin".  They are the best available answers to important questions for which we do not have any certain answers.  To speak metaphorically, they sort of fill in the theological blanks that need filling in, or they complete a jig-saw puzzle that has no certain pieces to complete it.

 

"Ann - dogmas are part of the deposit of faith, which has been divinely revealed, i.e. it is revelation"

Jim P. --

But aren't there other teachings which are called "dogmas" which are neither explicitly in Scripture nor derived from Scripture using reason?  I mean such teachings as "the bishops as a group have teaching authority which they do not possess as individuals" and "After her death Mary's body was assumed into Heaven". 

Aren't matters of Tradition (with a capital "T", whatever that means) considered dogma?  And isn't the statemet "Tradition is dogma" itself not in Scripture, but isn't it too considered to be "dogma"?

(All of my questions would need a solid theological epistemology to answer well.  Sigh.)

"Ann - dogmas are part of the deposit of faith, which has been divinely revealed, i.e. it is revelation"

Jim P. --

But aren't there other teachings which are called "dogmas" which are neither explicitly in Scripture nor derived from Scripture using reason?  I mean such teachings as "the bishops as a group have teaching authority which they do not possess as individuals" and "After her death Mary's body was assumed into Heaven". 

Aren't matters of Tradition (with a capital "T", whatever that means) considered dogma?  And isn't the statemet "Tradition is dogma" itself not in Scripture, but isn't it too considered to be "dogma"?

(All of my questions would need a solid theological epistemology to answer well.  Sigh.)

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