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"When does life begin?" Good question. But there are more...

For all the wilful disparaging of the MSM by the GOP and its allies on the Christian right, there is a good argument to be made that the "media" (whatever that is, today) is reading straight out of the McCain playbook. The latest evidence was Joe Biden's appearance on "Meet the Press" yesterday. Once again reprising Rick Warren's script from last month's Saddleback Forum, Tom Brokaw asked Biden (as he asked Nancy Pelosi two weeks earlier) when he thinks life begins. (Warren actually phrased it, "What point is a baby entitled to human rights?")Obama has acknowledged that his answer was "too flip"when he said it was "above my pay grade," thoughhardly moreso than thebumper sticker slogan McCain later gave as an answer. Here are further remarks on the topic, via Mark Silk's "Spiritual Politics," that Obama gave to ABC's George Stephanopoulos:

"What I intended to say is that, as a Christian, I have a lot of humility about understanding when does the soul enter into ... It's a pretty tough question. And so, all I meant to communicate was that I don't presume to be able to answer these kinds of theological questions."In the ABC interview, Obama goes on to give the answer he wishes he'd given: "What I do know is that abortion is a moral issue, that it's one that families struggle with all the time. And that in wrestling with those issues, I don't think that the government criminalizing the choices that families make is the best answer for reducing abortions."I think the better answer -- and this was reflected in the Democratic platform -- is to figure out, how do we make sure the young mothers, or women who have a pregnancy that's unexpected or difficult, have the kind of support they need to make a whole range of choices, including adoption and keeping the child.

Not that this would satisy those who it wouldn't satisfy. In responding to Brokaw yesterday (transcript here), Biden did better. He said:

BROKAW: If Senator Obama comes to you and says, "When does life begin? Help me out here, Joe," as a Roman Catholic, what would you say to him?

SEN. BIDEN: I'd say, "Look, I know when it begins for me." It's a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I'm prepared to accept the teachings of my church. But let me tell you. There are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths--Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others--who have a different view. They believe in God as strongly as I do. They're intensely as religious as I am religious. They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life--I'm prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society. And I know you get the push back, "Well, what about fascism?" Everybody, you know, you going to say fascism's all right? Fascism isn't a matter of faith. No decent religious person thinks fascism is a good idea.

MR. BROKAW: But if you, you believe that life begins at conception, and you've also voted for abortion rights...

SEN. BIDEN: No, what a voted against curtailing the right, criminalizing abortion. I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view that it's a moment of conception. There is a debate in our church, as Cardinal Egan would acknowledge, that's existed. Back in "Summa Theologia," when Thomas Aquinas wrote "Summa Theologia," he said there was no--it didn't occur until quickening, 40 days after conception. How am I going out and tell you, if you or anyone else that you must insist upon my view that is based on a matter of faith? And that's the reason I haven't. But then again, I also don't support a lot of other things. I don't support public, public funding. I don't, because that flips the burden. That's then telling me I have to accept a different view. This is a matter between a person's God, however they believe in God, their doctor and themselves in what is always a--and what we're going to be spending our time doing is making sure that we reduce considerably the amount of abortions that take place by providing the care, the assistance and the encouragement for people to be able to carry to term and to raise their children.

That's notsufficient or correctfor many Catholic leaders. Rocco Palmo notes that Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, WI, saw the interview then went to celebrate Mass, tossed aside his prepared homily, and proceeded to critique Biden with "money quotes all over the place." Bill Donohue "jumped on this today," his press release states: "By casting abortion as a matter of religion, Obama and Biden are seeking to take an issue which has universal significance and turn it into a parochial quarrel."The debate is likely to continue, and worsen, I suspect--with little light for all the heat. It seems they are mixing all sorts of fruit, not just apples and oranges, as there was a debate about ensoulment and when a human being becomes a human person, but debating that does not automatically connect with abortion, which remains morally wrong, and neither connect to Biden's point of how one legislatesreligious views in a pluralistic society. Or, indeed, what other policies could work to these same ends. All but forgotten in the debate over the Democratic platform language on abortion is the fact that the GOP platform actually deleted this sentence from the section on abortion:

We invite all persons of good will, whether across the political aisle or within our party, to work together to reduce the incidence of abortion;

Which raises somequestions of balance on this topic. For example, when will we see Sarah Palin interviewed on "Meet the Press"? ABC's Charles Gibson will be sitting down with her later this week in Alaska for her first interview as the nominee in the two weeks since she was picked.Not exactly "Meet the Press," but it's a start. Hopefully. Brokaw and everyone else is insisting on talking to her, but McCain's campaign seems to be controlling all access very tightly.In the coming weeks, it might be a good idea, it seems to me, if we could move beyond the "when life begins" question to asking McCain, for example, how that squares with his support for stem cell research. Or asking all the candidates, how their answer to the question plays out in terms of public policy, which is really what is at stake. It seems to be a dereliction of journalistic duty to stick only with a script written by Rick Warren and not to take the issue any further. Moreover, there seems to be a double-standard at work, as Catholics are held to a certain consistency while evangelicals or non-denominational Christians are allowed much greater leeway. Is that a function of religion? Or politics?For example, Sarah Palin is universally hailed as "pro-life." Yet during her 2006 gubernatorial capaign she said she wasn't interested in talking about abortionand wouldn't do much about it if elected:

"She would not seek out this issue. She feels like there are several other issues that are paramount to the future of the state," said Curtis Smith, spokesman for the Palin campaign...Smith said the important thing about Palin's abortion views is that she wouldn't be proposing new anti-abortion legislation, and that while her views on the subject are firm, she's not running for office to advocate for them. He accused the Knowles campaign of trying to politicize the issue. "Tony Knowles [her opponent, who she defeated] is working to divide Alaskans by making abortion an issue," Smith said.

Similarly, she has been touted as backing abstinence-only sex education--because of this exchange inan Eagle Forum questionnaire (the link to the full questionnaire hasapparently been removed):

EAGLE: "Will you support funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?"

PALIN: "Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support."Yet as commenter Stuart Buck pointed out in an earlier thread, a Saturday story in the LATimesshows thata few weeks later Palin was calling herself "pro-contraception" education for teens--at odds not only with her earlier statement, but also with John McCain's views: August of that year [2006], Palin was asked during a KTOO radio debate if "explicit" programs include those that discuss condoms. Palin said no and called discussions of condoms "relatively benign.""Explicit means explicit," she said. "No, I'm pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues. So I am not anti-contraception. But, yeah, abstinence is another alternative that should be discussed with kids. I don't have a problem with that. That doesn't scare me, so it's something I would support also."

Be good to explore these discrepancies as avidly as Catholics are being held to account for their views.Another point:When will we see McCain and/or Palin go before a crowd--say another Compassion Forum--that would like his views on the full range of social justice issues of concern to Christians? Obama went into the lion's den when he went to Saddleback. Be interesting if McCain could do likewise.

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



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I watched the Biden clip yesterday and cringed when he got to the bit about Aquinas. Why go down that road again? Perhaps he was trying to bail out Pelosi, but it opened him to concrete criticism and correction (e.g., "You are misstating the Church's teaching") instead of simply pro-life counterargument -- the latter, incidentally, exemplified by Cardinal Egan's response to Pelosi, which was the one Brokaw chose as representative of the others, though it was actually dramatically different.

As pro- life persons in talking/walking/raising and writing, we agree with San Francisco Archbishop Niederauer's response to our congresswoman, Speaker Pelosi on her statements about when life begins. However we find the admonishment less convincing because this response like others by some bishops across the country seem to be only directed at Democrats. Yes, we heard loud and clear the 'communion wars' approach addressed to Catholic pro choice Democrats e.g Kerry, Pelosi, Biden, Gov Sebelius [Kansas]. We have not heard these 'admonishments' directed toward Republican pro-choice Catholics e.g. Schwarzenneger, Pataki [NY], Gov Ridge [ Pa]. Thrice married, pro-choice Guiliani received communion at the last Papal Mass!Five Catholic Republican Supreme Court Justices [a majority] will not vote every year to even hear a case limiting abortion, no less overturn Roe v Wade. Political scientists know that the Justices hold the key to ruling against abortion; not Pelosi, she is only one [strong]voice of 435 votes in the House.Can anyone cite a hierarchal admonishment against the Catholic Justices?As parents/grandparents we are well aware that evenhandedness is a necessity in teaching. Partisan-ship in church or family is a breaker.Ed & Peg

David Gibson: Didn't Senator McCain go into the lion's den when he addressed the NAACP's 99th Annual Convention on July 16, 2008? I would make a proffer that the NAACP represents the demographic most hostile to Republicans.

This will continue to take up 90% of the time while affecting very little as to the decrease or increase in abortions. This is what is meant by a political football. It continues to amaze. Having said that I have seen no science which proves there is a human being before the fetus is born. The fact that there is human DNA is to be expected. What other kind would a potential human be?Meanwhile, things that we can do something about like bring basic food and medicine to prevent 5,000,000 children every year from reaching the age of five. We really can do something about this. But the effort is 5% of the energy that goes into the A issue. Speculation is the game. The wounded person in front of us is there because s/he brought this on herself.

That is to prevent the death of 5,000,000 children who will die before five years old because of lack of basic food and medicine.

DavidRespectfully, your post covers a tremendous amount of territory, which if covered in toto could result in dotCommonweals first 300-response thread. I think the pieces of the abortion puzzle have to be handled logically and systemically, much like the logic behind Euclids geometry (Axiom # 1: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line), and the first question is: Just what is the fertilized egg, and the clump of cells that follow hours later, that results from the union of the gametes of a human male and female? This is also the fundamental question, IMO, on the issue of embryonic stem cell research.Biochemically, the fertilized egg is indisputably human life. It is capable of all the attributes that biologists attribute to unicellular and multicellular lifee.g., growth, reproduction (by mitosis), assimilation of nutrients, excretion of wastes, etc. It is human because it contains the biological blueprint (genotype) that has been encoded in the 46 chromosomes of the species homo sapiens. Its not toad life, or lion life, or mushroom life; it is, and cant be otherwise, human life.But unlike other cells in the human bodye.g., blood cells, muscle cells, nerve cellsa fertilized egg has the inherent generative power, when bathed in the appropriate medium, to become a multi-trillion cell organism containing all of the specialized cells that constitute a human being. It also contains the intrinsic capability to form a sentient organism with the power to reason and to love. There is no reference to religion in this comment, nor need there be to demonstrate that a fertilized egg and an embryo and a fetus and a infant are all human life. It would be both bizarre and illogical to say otherwise, lest we conclude that each of us was non-human at some point in our biological continuum from nascence to senescence. And if the fertilized egg that each of us once was is not human, then what was it?When human life begins is not a moral issue, as Senator Obama says it is. It isn't a legal issue, and it isnt exclusively a religious issue, as Senator Biden says it is. In his bumper sticker response that human life begins at conception, Senator McCain got it exactly right. It can be answered as a purely scientific question, yet so many people refuse to see the obvious because they feel they are conceding ground on the next question: When, if it all, is it morally or legally acceptable to intentionally terminate such human life? Is it that recognition of a fertilized egg or an embryo as anything more than the euphemistic clump of cells would make the sterile evacuation of the pregnancy tissue in an abortion too difficult to bear? Ill leave that as a rhetorical question.

William Collier: You are perhaps overly respectful of my overlong post. The limitlessness of the web shall be my undoing. (And it pushes other good posts too far down...)A clarifier, for what it's worth: The thrust of the kitchen-sink post was about the media and communications, more than the theology of when life begins. I think politicians and prelates are talking past each other, or, rather, politicans are trying to find a commonality in two spheres that do not easily overlap, and are making a hash of it, if gamely, as Mollie noted. (And advocacy groups are trying to make church teaching and politics overlap perfectly.) The churchmen are far wiser, limiting themselves to explaining church teaching. (Well, most of them.) I just don't think the discussion is very enlightening, framed as it is. And that gets to the secondary point, which is the media approach to the abortion question--not balanced, not good--and the GOP ticket's media availability--also not good. Good questions could be asked of both sides, but are not being asked. And they would focus not on doctrinal truths, but on public policy ramifications. I'm just appalled at the level of discourse.

Not that this would satisy those who it wouldnt satisfy.Catholics, for example.And I wouldn't say Biden's answer is "not sufficient or correct for many Catholic leaders" so much as gravely evil.Odd, though, that the pastor asked the political question and the political journalist asked the theological question.

As I've said here before: I really respect (as opposed to some here) Bill Collier for his principlesd support of the seamless garment in all its fullness.Having said that, I am truly tired of the amount of energy given here (Commonweal blog) to the issue of abvortion,viz. does life (human life) begin at conception,etc?This only plays into one view!Far too little on human life!!!!I think Biden is right to the extent that lots of folks don't share the homocide view but really think abortion is terrible, painful and a societal prioblemm.They also think real live people are suffering painful terrible and avoidable problems if the one issue pople would stop screaming homicide and talk about living (startving, suffering, sick , etc)human beings.This is a major crux of divide in the church and society.The church unfortunately has done really little to close this gap in their own faithful. Lovers of Chaput, Myers, etc, take note:You are preaching to a choir who continues to just hold open wounds that need to be addessed.As in an earlier thread, we are polarized.One man's view, the center is shrinking, despite wonderful people, many in ministry, who hang on, despite the intransigennce of some who only see their view as what should dominate society !Bu now t the Church and society continue tearing apart while fools rejoice in a pit bull in lipstick.

Biden's idea that faith provides grounds for believing that human life begins at conception is mistaken. This has not been revealed. It is a question to be investigated by philosophical reasoning using the findings of biological science.

"Id say, Look, I know when it begins for me. Its a personal and private issue. For me, as a "Roman Catholic, Im prepared to accept the teachings of my church. But let me tell you:I'm so sorry to have to go through this Catholic magisterium thing again, but you know, I'm a Scranton altar boy. It's a part of me, Aquinas, holy water, church festivals, the whole seamless garment. Look, for me, my life began at conception. But it's just a personal and private thing. No larger meaning. Don't let it bother you. It's just me."

David Gibson:You wrote,

. [W]hen will we see Sarah Palin interviewed on Meet the Press? ABCs Charles Gibson will be sitting down with her later this week in Alaska for her first interview as the nominee in the two weeks since she was picked. Not exactly Meet the Press, but its a start.

Im wondering: is it really a start? Or is it, instead, an example of the press caving in, agreeing to terms which no journalist should accept? As you wrote, McCains campaign seems to be controlling all access very tightly. Right. Theyre saying, Youll do it our way, or you wont even get near her. Gibson is letting them have their way. Is that really wise? Wouldnt it be better for all journalists to say, Either we interview here in the same way, and with the same access, as with other candidates, or there will be no interviews at all. And when people ask us Why?, well tell them: its because you refused to allow standard, professional interviews.Heres what TalkingPointsMemo said:

.[]t's pretty clear this farce [the Gibson interview] is going to be close to unwatchable. The tell comes high up in the AP story by David Bauder. The second graf reads
Palin will sit down for multiple interviews with Gibson in Alaska over two days, most likely Thursday and Friday, said McCain adviser Mark Salter.

Political interviews are never done like this. Because it makes the questioning entirely at the discretion of the person being interviewed and their handlers. The interviewer has to be on their best behavior, at least until the last of the 'multiple interviews' because otherwise the subsequent sittings just won't happen. For a political journalist to agree to such terms amounts to a form of self-gelding. The only interviews that are done this way are lifestyle and celebrity interviews. And it's pretty clear that that is what this will be.

Whats your take on that, David? Do you find it persuasive, or flawed?

Some posters ask why does this abortion subject keep on rising up in Church and politics. It happens because as they say in sports... some know how to 'work the refs'.A/B Niederauer rightly says he was responding to 'the many letters and emails asking him to respond to Pelosi'. How many conservative Catholics and other right politicos do you think are in San Francisco to do all these write ins?About 88 and some are on life support!But just as MSNBC removed election anchors [Obermann and Matthews] the right know how and are motivated to 'work the refs'.. Maybe Lefties think writing in to 'work the refs' is immoral or Fox ignores complaints.Only 2 more months folks!'

Did anyone else hear the audio of Bishop Morlino's Sunday "homily" posted by David Gibson by linking to the "Whispers in the Loggia" site? The good bishop said that Biden, in the Meet the Press episode had violated the principle of separation of church and state because Biden was teaching people something about Catholic doctrine that was false.The entire "homily made me wonder who had sponsored this person for elevation to the episcopacy.

Direct quote from Christ ,to Jeremiah, as recorded in the Bible, for the benefit of everyone, Democrats and Republicans included:"Before I formed you in the Womb, I knew you." You refers to a person, not a "potential "person.

I just wrote this to the Commonweal discussion group. It was inspired by this discussion.This about sums my view up perfectly as I have already expressed. I was reading the post When does life beginat the dotCommonweal blog and just left in utter disbelieve. In an election, who gives a dam. That is not what an election should be about. Even as Catholics we should stop putting abortion above all other of our nations matters. Quite literally it is like fiddling while the nation is burning.But then there are some in the world that are happy and want to yell Burn Baby Burn. To see it being done by a Christian majority inside the country is depressing indeed.This article is NOT from some lefty newspaper. This is a right wing paper at least by Canadian standards.JohnbBaffled by American votersThe Ottawa Sun Tue 09 Sep 2008 Page: 14 Section: Editorial/Opinion Byline: BY PAUL BERTON Column: Editorial Canadians often make fun of Americans and their tenuous understanding of their neighbours to the north. We think we understand the U.S. better than Americans understand Canada, and maybe we do, but not by much. Just because we listen to their music and watch their television and eat their fast food doesn't mean we know Americans. We do not. America isn't necessarily reflected on Seinfeld or CSI or American Idol. Most Americans are not like Oprah or Bill Gates or Angelina Jolie. Some would say those you see on Sunday morning television at evangelical gatherings or at NASCAR races are more representative of the real America. At no time is this more obvious than during an American election. It's fair to say most Canadians cannot imagine their American neighbours electing a Republican. Eight years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have been mostly disastrous. Bush seems incapable of stringing together two sentences, let alone making a decision, and Cheney seems too nasty to care about real service to his country. Too many people in the administration have proved incompetent. Their national debt is soaring. Their nation is mired in Iraq when it should be more fully invested in Afghanistan and the real war on terror. It's spending too much on military hardware and not enough on domestic infrastructure. The administration refused until recently to even acknowledge a climate-change problem. So it's inconceivable to many Canadians that Americans could want any more of this. John McCain is an improvement over Bush, but it has been generations since anyone has seen the likes of a Barack Obama. But being young, articulate, intelligent, worldly, experienced (who can ever be experienced enough for that job?) and inspiring aren't necessarily prerequisites. Promising better health care, education, equality, peace and environmental protection may be what turns on Canadians, but in America, there are also issues of religion, immigration, firearms, gay marriage and, unfortunately, race. Obama has addressed those issues to the satisfaction of many Canadians. It remains to be seen if he's done the same for the majority of his compatriots. 2008 Sun Media Corporation. All rights reserved.

Of course Biden's response will not satisfy - it makes absolutely no common sense.Leaving aside Aquinas, ensoulment, and all the other obfuscation he and other pro-abortion pols lay on, what they claim is as follows:I personally accept the teaching of the Catholic Church - i.e. from the moment of conception must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to lifeOther disagree with meI have no right to impose my view on them because it is based on my FaithOK - What are his obligations? It seems his only moral obligation is to no get (impossible) or perform an abortion. Given his logic, he could make an appointment and pay for an abortion for someone else - who is he to impose his religious view.So, because some people think other people (remember - he says he agrees with the Church on this) aren't people, it is ok for those people to be destroyed.That, in a nutshell, is what he thinks - or says he thinks.

"I really respect (as opposed to some here) Bill Collier for his principlesd support of the seamless garment in all its fullness. "Amen!!!

"Im wondering: is it really a start? Or is it, instead, an example of the press caving in, agreeing to terms which no journalist should accept? As you wrote, McCains campaign seems to be controlling all access very tightly. Right. "It strikes me that this is right out of the Karl Rove playbook - the current President's access to the press, particularly in his first candidacy and early in his presidency, was infrequent, grudging and as tightly controlled as possible.

As for what Jim Pauwels wrote in the previous comment: Exactly. And heres more, from todays E.J. Dionne column in the Washington Post:

Pulling the Curtain on PalinBy E. J. Dionne Jr.Tuesday, September 9, 2008; A23John McCain's campaign acknowledged this weekend that Sarah Palin is unprepared to be vice president or president of the United States.Of course, McCain's people said no such thing. But their actions told you all you needed to know.McCain, Barack Obama and Joe Biden all subjected themselves to tough questioning on the regular Sunday news programs. Palin was the only no-show. And it's not just the Sunday interviews. She has not opened herself to any serious questioning since McCain picked her to be next in line for the presidency.McCain's advisers clearly don't trust Palin to answer questions about policy and don't want her to answer many of the questions that have been raised about her tenure as governor of Alaska.Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, gave the game away when he said on "Fox News Sunday" that she would not meet with reporters until they showed a willingness to treat her "with some level of respect and deference."Deference? That's a word used in monarchies or aristocracies. Democracies don't give "deference" to politicians. When have McCain, Obama, Biden or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton asked for deference?A few hours later came the announcement that Palin would grant an interview to ABC News's Charlie Gibson. Recall that Gibson was the co-host of an ABC News debate last April during which Obama faced a relentless pounding. Here's hoping that a sense of fairness will lead Gibson to be comparably tough on Palin this week. If he treats her more deferentially than he did Obama, we will know that McCain's war on the media is working.A week ago, Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times cited McCain sources questioning "how thoroughly Mr. McCain had examined her background before putting her on the Republican presidential ticket." .McCain's people trashed Bumiller, saying she had opted to "make up her own version of events." Steve Schmidt, McCain's chief strategist, said the Times had written "an absolute work of fiction" about the vetting process while Karl Rove told his Fox News viewers that the Times "got it wrong."It turned out that the McCain side misled journalists. Bumiller was right about the vetting. The lesson is that McCain's counselors are not interested in fair treatment, and they are certainly not interested in the truth.If the media cave to McCain's pressure, it will be the third time this decade that conservative attacks led reporters to tilt to the right.During the 2000 battle over Florida, Al Gore's perfectly defensible efforts to win a hand recount ran into a buzz saw of criticism from nonpartisan commentators, many of whom urged Gore to withdraw "gracefully." In the buildup to the Iraq war, the Bush administration and its supporters savaged the patriotism of many who raised questions about its strategy and its plans. Now, McCain hopes Palin will skate through the next two months without any real scrutiny or questioning..[W]hat matters is not Palin's personal life but whether she is prepared to assume the presidency if called upon. The actions of McCain's lieutenants suggest that they know the answer. And they are doing everything they can to keep the media from finding it.

The entire column is at

How quickly they forget. Just NewsGoogle "Obama" and "access" and "press" and you will be presented with scores of stories from the past year about reporters complaining about their limited access to Obama and his behavior when they do, actually, get to talk to him (remember how he left reporters hanging at a press conference, leaving after taking eight questions when the topic turned to Rezko?). MSNBC link for balance, btw.

Nice try, Mark. Obama is on O'Reilly this week. Where is Palin?

Grant,No one even knew Palin was going to be on the ticket until a week ago. If a month from now she is dodging, I will buy this "she hasn't been on Meet the Press" argument. Even then why should she contact the public only in the ways the annointed have determined are legit? Given they have already been caught sharpening their fangs - why should she?Obama has been dodging O'Reilly and others for more than a year. He avoided debating Clinton and now won't do town meetings with McCain. His press conferences - as discussed above - have been pathetic. He has been a master at limiting his exposure mostly to fora that favor him and his political strengths.

EJ Dionne is simply a disgruntled pundit whose advice is NOT being followed by the electorate. It was Dionne--or a similar colum,nbist--who also recently said that questions about Obama's ability to lead have already been answered ... by the fact that Obama won the Democratic nomination, which is about as pathetically invalid an asnwer as the Obama camp's own statement that Obama does indeed have "executive" experience because of all the people working on his campiagn ... leaving aside the utter nonsense that simply beating Hillary among the increasingly wacky-left that represents Democratic primary voters (who also tossed out Joe Lieberman, who then easily trounced the anbnointed anti-war Democrat), it is extremely unlikely that Obama is actually managing his staffers on a day-to-day basis, as a governor or mayor must do with public employees.Moreover, there is absolutely no constitutional requirement to appear before MEET THE PRESS or any other such TV news show. They are mostly watched by the inside-the-beltway crowd and political junkies across the nation--not exactly the GOP's natural constituents. But Sarah Palin is doing a great job without the help of the mainstream news media, thank you very muich. Indeed, McCaion/Palin has now taken a 10 pt lead among "likely" voters in a recent Gallup poll and a 12-point lead as well among white women, who somehow failed to realzie that the liberal pu8ndits had pronounced that they should be "insulted" by McCain's choice of Palin.If the Democrats and their media auxilliary ever force the issue, palin will appear--and probably wow the audience. Until then, if it ain't broke ...

I have no right to impose my view on them because it is based on my Faith . . . .Sean,Regarding abortion, Catholics and Jews have a somewhat similar position in many cases, but in case of danger to the life of the mother, Jews are permitted (some would say obligated) to put the life of the mother first. Yes, the number of abortions to save a mother's life are very small, but would you be willing to say that the law must prohibit Jewish women from having abortions when their religious tradition says they may or even must? I know you are going to say abortion is special, but what about the birth-control pill? Pro-life Catholics insist that the pill is an "abortifacient" and the prevention of implantation by a drug is just as serious as an abortion. So must Catholics insist the birth-control pill be withdrawn from the market (as well as the morning-after pill)? And (to rehash old arguments), the Catholic Church claims a great many of its moral teachings are based on "natural law." I believe I am quoting you correctly in saying that things aren't wrong because the Church says they are wrong. The Church says they are wrong because they are wrong. So if Catholics know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the moral teachings of the Church are facts based on natural law rather than religious beliefs, how in the world is it justifiable not to enact as much Catholic morality as you possibly can into civil law, since it is not really "Catholic morality," but something demonstrable by reason alone, and anybody who disagrees is just plain wrong.

Sean, the election is less than two months away. It's time for her to talk to the press.And Robert Reid: calling E. J. Dionne names isn't going to win any arguments for you. It's out of line.

Actually, David, the Catholic Church professess that all its moral teachings are based on Natural Law because Natural Law IS the Law of God. So the question is, do you believe the Deposit of Faith as revealed by Christ to His Church is the Truth or do you believe it is a lie?

My apologies if someone has posted this, but Archbishop Chaput has issued a written response to Sen. Biden's comments on "Meet the Press": issue of the Archbishop's responses to national politicians aside (and I know that is a big issue for some), and the issue also aside of whether the response should have been more pastoral than remonstrative, I think he makes several good points about the mistake of mixing theology and secular reasoning on the issue of abortion, and about the "pluralism" argument relied on by many Catholic politicians.

So the question is, do you believe the Deposit of Faith as revealed by Christ to His Church is the Truth or do you believe it is a lie?Nancy,Would you ask the same of every other religious faith? Would you ask if Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Judaism, or Islam is true or a lie? Is that the two categories you see the world in? Truth and lies?But that is most definitely not the question here. The question is, if American Catholics are certain they are right, and American Jews are certain they are right, and they disagree with each other, do the Catholics get to force their beliefs on the Jews, or do the Jews get to force their beliefs on the Catholics? If the Catholics know they are right about birth control, divorce and remarriage, and the morning-after pill, don't they have an obligation to see to it that everybody else behaves according to natural law and God's law?

To William Collier re Archbishop Chaput: Archbishop Chaput has not offered a complete proposal for public policy concerning abortion. Until he, or someone with whom he agrees tells us what he would have the civil law say and what penalties would be attached to such a law I cannot expect anyone, citizen or political leader simply to say in effect "Yes, Archbishop, I'll adopt the position you think that I as a Catholic should adopt.Nore generally, for my part, I do not think that anyone can rightly spell out in a set of propositions just what the Natural Law is AND what its implications are for all of those who seek to follow it. For example, I do believe that I cannot participate in the act of aborting. I do not think that I know from any formulation of Natural Law just how I should vote concerning any particular piece of legislation that deals with abortion.I do not fault Sen. Biden for not having all of these considerations at his fingertips and thus for calling his position one that is based on his faith. By the way, I also think that Matthew Broudway's recent posting on all this falls short of saying what alternative to present legislation concerning laws relevant to the abortion issue he would propose. Because what he says falls short in this way, he too does not have a full fledged public policy proposal.

Bernard--I wasn't indicating blanket approval of Abp. Chaput's methods or comments. As I mentioned, I thought he "made several good points," and I identified them.You're right that the Abp. "has not offered a complete proposal for public policy concerning abortion." But neither has any of the major party candidates for president or vice-president in this election cycle. For example, the Pregnant Women Support Act contains comprehensive steps for reducing the incidence of abortion in the U.S., yet none of the three Senators in the race has stepped up to the plate. Sure, the legislation may need tinkering and compromise, but none of the Senators has had the political courage to sign on to the legislation--Obama and Biden because it would likely bother many in their pro-choice constituency, and McCain because the statute would require a major infusion of funding that would alienate many fiscal conservatives. It's not a panacea, but it seems to me the PWSA is a good vehicle for hopefully fostering bipartisan support for the worthwhile goal of reducing abortions. The USCCB supports it; now we need to get more federal legislators to go on the record in support of it.

David, according to this website,: "The Commonweal is the oldest independent lay Catholic journal of opinion in the United States." oldest, independent, lay, refer to, Catholic journal. A journal that professes to be Catholic should be authentically Catholic.

P.S., Natural Law is universal.

David,If believe something is a moral precept, I should act in a way that is consistent with it. What is my moral obligation? How must I behave?In the case of things like contraception and extramarital sex, I have a definite obligation not to engage in the act, and an obligation to correct and teach others with Christian Charity. I don't have an obligation to force them to behave.In the case of abortion, however, my obligations are different. I have an obligation to refrain fromn the behavior, of course, but since the moral precept is based on the protection of innocent life, I have an obligation to protect that life.Equating the two cases, I believe, is deceptive.Grant,I will grant you that the timeline is different, more compressed, but I still think it is unfair to be accusing the woman of dodging after less than a week.

Does life "begin," or is life "transmitted?"It's all in the question.

If Natural Law is universal, then, by implication if not definition, it should be readily apparent to everyone. Way too many people don't even agree that Natural Law is anything other than a religious construct let alone universal in application .... or apparent.

Jimmy Mac, it was readily apparent to the founders of our Nation: "When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them..." -The Declaration of Independence ( which gave birth to The United States of America)

Equating the two cases, I believe, is deceptive.Sean,I anticipated your response, which is why I raised the question of contraceptive methods that may possibly prevent implantation--the birth-control pill, the morning-after pill, the IUD. The Catholic Church teaches that life begins at conception, and all of these methods possibly cause a life that has been conceived to be cut short. Are Catholics obligated to seek legislation to outlaw the birth-control pill?

Nancy D.Your questioning of the "authenticity" of Commonweal's Catholicism is pathetic. Your version of authentic is very narrow. Commonweal's concept of "authentic" has a very long and honourable tradition stretching all the way back to the differences of view between Peter and Paul.If only your view of authentic existed then this discussion group would not and could not exist because there would be nothing to discuss.

The foundsrs alse said that all men are created equal. But the good citizens of these United States didn't take that to heart for many years, denying the right to vote to both African Americans and women. Just because something is stated doesn't mean that the great unwashed masses buy into it. Ditto for what the magisterium of HM the Church says.

Nancy, I dare say many of the ruling, privileged class in Great Britain did not agree with our Founding Fathers about their use of the term 'Laws of Nature,' etc.

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