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Giuliani and the Bishops

Interesting story from tomorrow's NY Times.  Here's the nut graf:

[C]hurch leaders say they are frustrated by prominent Catholic politicians like Mr. Giuliani who argue that while they are personally opposed to abortion, they do not want to impose their beliefs on others.


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What the bishops and others who may be contemplating criticizing Giuliani (I have to see it to believe it) know is that Giuliani is not Kerry nor Gore. They know that for every arrow they shoot at Rudy he has several to return. You can bet if there is anything to be known about any of them, Rudy knows it.Rudy is extraordinary. He is resourceful, creative, resilient and resolute. The bishops are not match for him. Precisely because Rudy knows where he is going. I doubt if the bishops know where they are going.Not even close.

Inconsistent, politicized position. If you really think abortion is the equivalent of murdering a human being, the only really consistent "prolifers" are those who are shrill or even violent over this issue.But I think most people can tell the difference between a mutlicellular cluster with the potential to become a person and a person. That's why plenty of "prolifers" don't get all that excited about the widespread "baby killng" cited in antiabortion rhetoric.

Paul Maurice Martin:Although I'm sure that the pro-choice crowd would love it if every pro-life person was "shrill" and "violent" over the issue--since that's certainly how they portray us--the reality is that even people who are strongly pro-life can distinguish what is possible and practical from what is impossible (for instance, most pro-life supporters do not go out and get themselves arrested for blocking abortion clinics because that is not a very effective approach--indeed it can be quite counter productive). Regarding Giuliani, the key thing to remember is that he will not be facing off against a Democrat who is even remotely pro-life. Moreover, Giuliani has made statements about what sort of judges he would appoint that certainly sound resonable to my pro-life ears. Thus, while he is not my first choice in the Republican primaries, I will certainly vote for him as president if he is the GOP nominee.

In a side issue unrelated to this topic, I did want to alert Margaret Steinfels to a creeping use of reviewing in reference to books mentioned on this site (see the post by Gene O'Grady under the June 22 Summer Reading thread ...)Just thought Ms. Steinfels ought to be aware that it is spreading!

Mr. Martin, at least you've lived (and lived long enough) to give voice to your opinion. How many other human offspring have not so lived and opined --- because they were not allowed to live in their maternal wombs --- because they were not "wanted?"You mix biology ("mutlicellular [sic] cluster") and legality ("person"). Fact and value. Your own multicellular cluster began with union of sperm and egg produced by your father and mother. From then on, it was implantation (granted, not guaranteed for all biological unions), further development --- in your mom's belly, and still further development after birth. This prolifer no longer gets "excited" by the rampant abortion in our country. Really, it's like dog poop. I would like to see more people begin to acknowledge the humanity of our unborn offspring --- just as I would like to see more people begin to "pick up" after their dogs poop. When people care about something (like not stepping on dog poop), they get laws passed. Perhaps some day, more folks will care about the inherent right to life of our unborn human offspring, too. Laws don't guarantee compliance, of course. But look at it this way: we can fine someone for not cleaning up after their dog poops on a public sidewalk. And yet we allow a physician to get away with killing an unborn human offspring. A (clean) shoe takes precedence over a kid. Go figure!

Somehow politics seems to prevail over belief. One should vote for the other party on the national level every once in awhile just for the sake of objectivity. Also, doesn't it make sense to hear frequently from Christians about the Sermon on the Mount just for identity purposes? And make a law that this week a liberal should wash a conservative's feet and vice versa next week. You know, think outside the abortion box.

For anyone wishing to explore the pros and cons of the Democratic pro-choice position, I recommend the following exchange between law professors Jack Balkin and Sandy Levinson on the web site of the Legal Affairs Debate Club: ( both are Democrats, Professor Levin asserts that support for Roe has become an albatross that the party should be rid of. He takes the position that the party should make a strategic retreat, contending that even if Roe were overturned, abortion would remain legal in some states.Professor Balkin believes that, although Roe was not decided on the best legal grounds. the party needs to hold the line anyway. In his view, besides the harm to women, overturning Roe would have other undesirable consequences, such as jeaopardizing the standing of precedents like Griswold, Eisenstadt, Carey, and Lawrence v. Texas as well as opening the door to the nomination of more extremist right-wing judges.In Balkin's view, any safe havens for abortion at the state level would then be preempted by federal legislation or executive fiat.

Our bishop out here in God' s country (I mean Newark not his native Peoria) is quoted in NYT story on Rudy's 'illogical' position: "We don't think it's a matter of church teaching," saith Abp. Myers, 'but a matter of the way God made the world, and it applies to everyone.' I've done my best in recent years to acquire just a rudimentary understanding of natural law tradition, but isn't there an issue of 'logic' here as well? If a conviction on the 'way God made the world' is not a function of 'church teaching' then what is? Is that conviction truly applicable to 'everyone.'? Now that it appears conceivable this 35 year war may be tilting toward prolife forces, is it not a good idea to stress intellectual honesty lest the karma play out another 35 years?

One man's view: there has been an overrehashing of the issue of poltics/abortion in latest threads here with a lot of repitition of views.Personally, I'll be guided. as best I can, by "Faithfuk Citizenship" when the time comes.But it's still so early...As to Rudy, also unmentioned, is the widely publicized support of Msgr. Placa. noted in abuse cases in the Suffolk Co. Grand Jury report, as continuing in Guilani;s firm. Another arrow in the Rudy approach to loyalty.There was some interesting stuff in the church last week - including the VOTF call for a revies of celibacy -an issue i have a few ideas about - but even if the Times thinks its worth a main section article...

It is fascinating to me how everyone fixates on Giuliani's stance on abortion and ignores his deplorable public "witness" on marriage and fidelity. I lived in New York, just outside NYC, at the time that he announced at AT A PRESS CONFERENCE that he was divorcing his SECOND wife (before telling her of his decision). At the time, I was amazed that the archbishop of New York didn't see fit to tell Hizzoner that he was no longer welcome at Sunday Mass (or at least to receive communion as a "public sinner"). The New York Times struggled mightily to find the words to describe his "partner', "girlfriend", "companion". etc. Judith Nathan. I wrote to the Times suggesting that they might call her a "whore" or "slut" and him the same. (They had no problem calling Bill Clinton similar names.)Giuliani's position on abortion is the least of his problems. His stellar performance on and after 9/11 is treasured only because the President of the United States spent the day flying around the U.S. without ANY public comment and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York remained silent on about the atrocity until three weeks later, when he was interviewed by the NYT at a luxury hotel in Rome, sipping a glass of wine, as he stated that the Holy Father had called him to Rome to assist in leading in the Synod of Bishops and, of course, his primary loyalty was to the the pope, not his mournful flock in NY. John O'Connor would have beaten Rudy to ground zero if he had lived long enough...

This is a very interesting discussion about basic human dignity, and both Catholic and secular definitions thereof. I think some points ought to be more clearly defined: 1st, As to what the bishop said about Church teaching, we have to understand that the truth of all humans being equal in dignity from conception to natural death supercedes the Church by the mere fact that it is a truth of our creation. A truth that applies to all humans as much as our redemption by Jesus Christ does, whether Christian or not. So the Church can teach nothing else in this regard. 2nd, as concerns the Sermon on the Mount and politics, we must realize that Jesus is speaking primarily to each of us as individuals, knowing that if we all lived the beatitudes we would not be having this discussion. Also, to love ones enemy does not imply to allow that enemy to commit wonton crimes against the innocent. Instead it implies that we are to show the same compassion and love towards them as we do the innocent. That we are to do all we can, in Christ like love, to correct them and help them into salvation. This love implies self sacrifice and a willingness to endure even the barbs of poorly catechized Catholic family members. (By the way, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, not his enemies, at the Last Supper not the Sermon on the Mount.)

Mark: like the bishops you use the very language of Catholic teaching to claim this teaching 'supercedes the church.' Would it not be more effective--and intellectually honest-- to simply acknowledge this IS what the church teaches rather than exclude from the conversation all those of good will that do not agree as to what constitutes 'a truth of creation.'? I know I'm several decades remiss in entering this debate, but one does notice recently a certain rigidity if not arrogance in way church figures are asserting their claims. A particular view of the "way God made the world" now applies to "everyone."? Sounds like time to revisit glories of pluralism-in-democracy.

Mark,Conservatives are not my enemies. Having said that what is wrong with washing the feet of your enemies? Since we never know when we are entertaining angels, our light must shine everywhere.

About the Church's position on the morality of abortion -- I have been told by a theologian that in spite of the commmon assumption that the Vatican teaches that there is no person present when sperm and egg unite, this is not in fact what the Vatican teaches. According to the theologian, it is the position of the Vatican that the entity (or entities) called "blastocytes" and "embryos" is not a person at those states. Nevertheless, the entity has the right to life of a human person. I have searched the Vatican site for the official reasoning, including relevant biological evidence, on the matter, but found nothing.If indeed the Church's official position is that the embryonic non-person has the right to life, I would ask: how can a non-person have a person's right to life?ISTM that there has never been a public debate on the morality of abortion. The salient questions (what is a human person? how can you tell one when you find one? which, if any, has a right-to-life and why?) have never been argued in depth. In fact, I have not seen the questions raised outside of philosophy journals. It's high time both the pro-lifers and the pro-choicers face the fundamental questions. (Sorry, I won't be able to respond to any responses to this, if there should be any. But I did want to raise some questions.)

James; I can appreciate your open mindedness with regard to the views of others. When the bishops, and we who act through them to educate the faithful, use the language that you find offensive, it is not to shut out any other ideas, it is a statement of how the church understands its roll as shepherd, when it is teaching about the dogmas of our faith. From the earliest writings of the Fathers one can see an acknowledgement that the church just doesnt have the right to define some things beyond the definition God has given. It has no right to define the human being other than the way it is defined by God. It seems to me that you may be asking the Bishops to admit that what they teach on this matter is somehow subject to popular vote. That would be like saying that the math establishment is being intellectually dishonest because they wont allow differing opinions as to the sum of 1+1. Yes, I will agree that this all is the teachings of the Church, what I am saying is that the church doesnt see them as something that was invented or can change. One place where you may be getting hung up is in your American view of the world. Not that it is wrong in anyway, rather in that it may actually be narrower than you can admit, whereas the church must minister to every culture on Earth and must be sensitive to everyones spiritual needs, while not straying from the ancient and unchanged truths of the faith. James, I hope that you will take the time to read at least some of the patristic writers (if you have, please forgive my presumption) and anything written by Dr. Peter Kreeft also, I know that one who seeks the truth however it is defined, will find it. I too am always searching.

Oops, that should have been:. . . the common assumption that the Vatican teaches there there IS a person present when sperm and egg unite. . .

Mark,Your general statements may need specific backing. What do you do when there is disagreement among the Fathers of the Church. And differ they did. So who proclaimed the dogma then? Infallibility is not known in the church until the 12th century and Rome had virtually nothing to do with Nicea. There are so many other examples to show that the Church is its living practitioners rather than its dogmatic glorifiers.

Biology is not the problem. Underlying beliefs and values constitute the problem.The pro-choice and pro-life movements acknowledged this reality years ago in avoiding referring to themselves as 'pro-abortion' and 'anti-abortion' (which, of course, doesn't stop the followers from calling the "other" pro- or anti-abortion, as the case may be).The power of language!!!


About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the John P. Wilson Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.