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Benedict in France

The Pope has arrived in Paris for the start of his first visit to the "elder daughter" of the Church since his election. Later today (5:30 local time) he will address seven hundred representatives of the world of culture at the Collge des Bernardins in a talk that will be closely parsed.The prestigious daily Le Monde has been offering some detailed reflections in anticipation of the Pope's arrival. Yesterday it published an article by one of the world's best known philosophers, the Catholic Jean-Luc Marion. Here is Marion's conclusion:

Or, et c'est une constante de tous ses crits, tant de thologien que de pape, Benot XVI souligne que la foi des chrtiens, ds les premiers sicles, par exemple chez saint Justin et saint Augustin, a prtendu la vrit et la rationalit ; que, par la suite, elle a revendiqu de ne pas discuter avec les religions de l'Antiquit, rcuses comme dcidment infrarationnelles, mais avec les philosophes - donc avec les Grecs ou les hellniss.La question devient ds lors de savoir si, aujourd'hui encore, la Rvlation chrtienne, en particulier dans le discours des catholiques, peut contribuer l'exercice de la raison. Cette prtention parat comme toujours folle et mme un peu plus aujourd'hui, alors qu'on va rptant, avec un fin sourire : "Qu'est-ce que la vrit ?" Apprtons-nous pourtant entendre quelqu'un qui va oser dire que cette question admet une rponse. Et mme si tous ne veulent pas de la rponse qu'il va proposer (c'est leur droit le plus strict), tous gagneraient entendre calmement poser la question.

Marion suggests that a constant of Benedict's reflection (drawing upon the tradition of Justin Martyr and Augustine) is that Christian faith claims to be consonant with reason and to espouse truth. The challenge today is whether Christian revelation, as reflected in the speech of Christians, can foster the exercise of reason.Such a claim can appear folly to those who ask, with a knowing smile, "what is truth?" But all can gain by allowing themselves to hear a calm raising of the question and to consider the response the Pope offers.As usual, John Allen is on the scene.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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I worry, greatly, about abstractions about reason and truth, particularly in ethics The Church proclaims its own reasonableness-its own insight into the natural moral law. It insists that the positions it holds are consonant with reason. Ultimately, however, the test of reasonableness isn't what you say about yourself--it's what other people say about you--believers and unbelievers. To put the point quite sharply, there are many people in mental institutions who regularly proclaim their own reasonablenss and rationality. So what you say about yourself can't be decisive, in principle.If the line of argument is "You must accept by faith not only the truth of what I say, but also that what I say is reasonable, and not only reasonable but the ONLY reasonable view," then you're not actually running a reason-based argument; you're running a faith-based argument, with reason as a rhetorical weapon.Reasonable is as reasonable does. So the question is, how do reasonable people act What do they do when confronted by counterarguments?

Marion suggests that the great blessing that Ratzinger has provided as both thinker and pope, is not so much providing definitive answers -- far less coercing assent, as Prof Kaveny seems to suggest but in the difficult questions he poses. Marion writes that Ratzinger has the dangerous talent of seeing difficulties that one would prefer to ignore, of posing diagnoses of sicknesses that one denies having. The inquiries Ratzinger makes are uncomfortable but necessary (une benediction") because they subvert the purported definitive answers proposed in, for example, the political field to what are actually badly posed questions.Pope as socratic gadfly takes some getting used to.

Cathy: I don't know how you can say that "Ultimately,... the test of reasonableness isnt what you say about yourselfits what other people say about youbelievers and unbelievers." How is what other people say any more an ultimate test than what you say about yourself? If I can be wrong in thinking myself irational, cannot others be wrong in thinking themselvs rational and me irrational? I could be right about my reasonableness, and others could be right about my unreasonableness; I could be right about their unreasonableness, and they could be wrong about my unreasonableness. If you are saying that reasonableness is more likely to emerge out of a conversation with others than out of solipsistic introspection, one could agree with that, but even that is not an "ultimate test". In any case, it can hardly be said that Ratzinger/Benedict XVI does not engage in conversation with great minds, both past and present.

I didn't know about what had happened to Catholic adoption agencies in England. I live in San Francisco, California. Years ago this city passed a domestic partners act. This meant that non-profits like Catholic Charities could not receive any kind of funding from the City if they did not provide domestic partners the ability to be able to obtain health insurance through their partners employer's group plan. The Archdiocese of San Francisco almost lost any type of funding because they were going to refuse to provide these benefits for domestic partners . Eventually what was discovered at the time was that the Franciscans had been offering anybody who lived with their employees the opportunity to purchase health insurance through their health insurance plan. The Franciscans didn't care if their employee's roommate was a partner, a mother, a friend, an enemy, or whatever. The Franciscans in San Francisco operate San Anthony's Foundation which is a very large non-profit that employees many people. This is what the Archdiocese does. Fortunately the Franciscans helped Archbishop William Levada to think out of the box. Levada is now Cardinal Levada and head of the The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). In time the Catholic Church might lose its current tax status and any funding from any governmental agency because of its message about gay people and their lives. Gay people pay taxes and probably with the years will be less inclined to be tolerant toward the Catholic Church. I think financially the Catholic Church will be in a very vulnerable place in the future. I hope the Catholic Church changes its teachings about homosexuality or starts to think outside of the box.I know for a fact that Pope Benedict XVI can be very wrong about things. I am a gay, Catholic man who has been in a relationship with my partner Joe for 42 years. My relationship with Joe is not intrinsically evil. It has been a great gift from God. In time I hope the Catholic Church learns more about love.

Joe, I'm working with the distinction that some philosophers of knowledge use between aleitheology (theory of truth) and epistemology (theory of justified belief or knowledge). While I accept the argument of post-Wittgensteinian philosophers that there is no reason to posit an unbridgeable gulf between the two there is a distinction. So, I think truth means correspondence to reality, while knowledge or reasonableness means broadly and rigorously justified belief. While our best marker of truth, normally is justified belief, the two are not identical. So. . . someone who just wildly speculated that the earth revolved around the sun in the days before Copernicus would be speaking the truth--but they would not be reasonable in making the assertion (i.e., they would not have sound, dialectically justified beliefs for thinking so). Conversely, those who though that the homunculus was a little man and that the woman simply allowed it to grow quite possibly were reasonable before 1860 and the discovery of egg and sperm; they were also making a false claim. In philosophy and in law, reasonableness points to the process of justifying a belief dialectically and on the basis of moving from sound premises to sound conclusion. Knowledge is not simply an individual matter, it is both produced and tested in community. One may assert one's own connection to the truth; I don't think one can conclusively aassert one's own reasonableness. What happens with the person on the three day hold is that they're asked to demonstrate their reasoning process. If they fail the test, they are unreasonable --although they might still be correct.So whether the Pope can claim to be reasonable --as opposed simply to speaking the truth--depends upon the process by which he engages thinkers, not merely the degree to which it challenges others, but the way it responds to challenges made by others.

Cathleen is certainly more than capable of speaking for herself. But let me say that I do think that she has an important point. In my own voice, may I add the following. So far as I can see, all exercises of reason outside of mathematical matters ( and even here I'd want to make some clarifications) are in principle fallible, whoever is doing the reasoning. I agree that, in matters of faith, it is proper to talk in terms of infallibility (again, with the need for qualifying elaboration). But I don't see the defensibility of saying that, by exercising reason, any of us ever arrives at the point that the propositions that we utter are beyond all reasonable contestation. There is no way to know that a contestation is reasonable or not except by considering it. If it proves to be incoherent or irrelevant, then it no longer deserves further consideration. If not, then the discussion, if it is reasonable, ought to continue.Finally, let me mention one of the Heideggerian claims that I consider terribly important. At least in his early works he talks about truth in terms of "Alethia" or the alpha-privative notion of uncovering or dis-closing. Such disclosures can deserve to be held to be non-relativistic without beling held to be the "last [true] word" about any topic. May I suggest that theological reasoning can rightly claim no more than to dis-close some of the truth about its topics without being able to claim to have dis-close all that deserves to be said about it.

Sorry, Cathleen, I was composing my own response and did not see your latest until I posted my own. To what extent we are in agreement here is something I'll have to think about later today.

Cathy: If truth is correspondence with reality, how can you say that those who thought that the sun revolves around the earth were speaking the truth. I think that they were being reasonable, that is, doing their best to be reasonable, but did not have enough data or couldnt understand it or were impatient in their reflection, and so didnt reach a knowledge of what is the case, so that their judgment was wrong. You write: In philosophy and in law, reasonableness points to the process of justifying a belief dialectically and on the basis of moving from sound premises to sound conclusion. Knowledge is not simply an individual matter, it is both produced and tested in community.The second of these sentences is not entailed by the first, but I agree that no one reaches knowledge utterly alone. If ones claim to have knowledge on a particular point must be tested in community, it remains, of course, that the testing will be carried out by individuals: there is no communal to do the testing.You write: One may assert ones own connection to the truth; I dont think one can conclusively assert ones own reasonableness....I see that the adverb conclusively appears only in the second sentence, and wonder what its absence from the first means. In any case, I believe I am in connection with what is the case in judging that posts sent to this blog by someone named Cathy come from a professor at Notre Dame named Kaveny. I believe that I may also claim to be reasonable in this judgment. I would find it very odd for a person, even a pope, to claim that he is speaking the truth while leaving in suspense whether he is being reasonable. It is by being reasonable that one reaches a knowledge of what is the case: that is, by being attentive to all the data that must be taken into account, by proffering a hypothesis that brings the data into intelligible relation to one another, and by verifying ones hypothesis (which can include responding to objections to it), a point reached when the conditions for the truth of the hypothesis are seen to be verified and no further relevant questions arise and one can proceed to a judgment without being rash or slow. As for the need to respond to objections, this is, of course, prominent in our Catholic intellectual tradition; one need think only of Augustines several volumes with Quaestiones in the titles, or of Aquinas Summae, or of Newmans statement, which I think Ive quoted here before: That is no intellectual triumph of any truth of Religion, which has not been preceded by a full statement of what can be said against it. Of course, in this little dialectic, we are testing one anothers notion of reasonableness, arent we?

Brad,I doubt Marion or the pope would disagree with your point. Another paragraph in Marion's Le Monde article gives the reader a better idea of what he means by reason:La crise la plus profonde, quoiqu'en un sens la plus secrte de notre poque, tient en effet la dilution, l'vanescence ou peut-tre mme la disparition d'une rationalit apte clairer les questions qui dpassent la gestion et la production des objets, mais qui dcident de notre manire de vivre et de mourir. Rarement la philosophie (et la "science") n'a pu en dire moins qu'aujourd'hui sur notre condition - ce que nous sommes, ce que nous pouvons savoir, ce que nous devons faire et ce qu'il nous est permis d'esprer. Ce dsert assch de rationalit se nomme le nihilisme. Ce n'est pas une hypothse en l'air, facultative, mais un fait. Notre tragdie.[Very rough translation: "The most profound crisis, albeit the most secret kind of crisis in our time, tends toward the dilution, evanescence and maybe even the disappearance of a rationality able to clarify the questions which go beyond the management and production of objects but which decide how we live and die. Rarely has philosophy (and "science") had less to say than today about our condition -- about who we are, what we can know, what we ought to do, and what we are permitted to hope for. This parched desert of rationality is called nihilism. This is not an abstract hypothesis but a fact. Our tragedy."]The distinction between aleitheology and epistemology is sometimes a useful one, but it is not the distinction Marion is concerned with here. His distinction is between a "parched rationality," whose only strength is the rigor of its dialectic, and reason, which, according to his understanding (and the pope's) involves dialectic but is not reducible to dialectic. His main point seems to be about the connection between metaphysics, ethics, and political philosophy; and he doesn't say that Catholic metaphysics has a monopoly on reason or reasonableness.

I have a fancy-schmancy new laptop, and it's erasing my posts. Arbitrarily and unreasonably. So this is a lot shorter, cuz I have to go to the airport.Joe, the whole point of my argument is that one can be correct (make a true statement) and unreasonable in making it, and I also agree that one can make a false statement and be reasonable in making it. Reasonableness points to the process, truth points to the result. But i do think that our processes for obtaining knowledge are generally reliable. I really like your thick description of what reasonableness means. And that's what I think we need to focus on. We can't simply say we or the pope or the Church s reasonable, we need to responsibly engage the process of being reasonable. So my question is, what does the Church need to do -how does the pope and the bishops and the papal academies need to behave in order to demonstrate their reasonableness. Here's my suggestion: It would be nice, if at least at one convention by a papal academy, they had a couple of speakers whose views differed from the church's teaching on a controversial point in the society. For responsible engagement. It would be nice, also, if they didn't write up the conference conclusions before they actually held the conference. It's hard to think reason matters when you know the result of inquiry before you actually inquire.

Apart from the truth discussion here, I thought it interesting (in Allen's report) of the 5 areas where Church and State should work togther in BXVI's view.This may work toward a better relationship in value issues between Vatican and EU pragmatically.It would be interesting to extrapolate his views to our good old USA.

Mr Dauenhauer: I agree with the main point of your first paragraph. As for the second, I do not believe that a claim to have reached the truth about a matter always or necessarily means claiming that one has come to know everything about the matter or to have spoken the last word about it. This is true in all areas of knowledge, and it is particularly true in matters having to do with God. Si comprehendis, non est Deus, Augustine said in a statement often quoted by Pope Benedict: If youve grasped it, its not God that youve grasped. Your last sentence echoes the statement of the First Vatican Council, often dismissed for being overly intellectualistic or even rationalistic:"Now reason, enlightened by faith, when it seeks persistently, piously and soberly, does indeed achieve by Gods gift some understanding, and that most profitable, of the mysteries, whether by analogy from what it knows naturally, or from the connection of these mysteries with one another and with the final end of humanity; but reason is never rendered capable of penetrating these mysteries in the way in which it penetrates the truths that form its proper object. For the divine mysteries, by their very nature, so far surpass the created understanding that, even when a revelation has been given and accepted by faith, they remain covered by the veil of that same faith and enveloped, as it were, in a kind of fog, as long as in this mortal life, we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, and not by sight (2 Cor 5:6-7) "

If I may interject, I agree that it is possible for someone to believe a proposition that is true but not have good reasons for believing it. But I doubt that it is possible to have good reasons for believing a false proposition, only apparently good reasons. Thus most people before the seventeenth century believed that the earth does not move and they had reasons that appeared to be good, but turned out to be not so good. Are there any general criteria for goodness of reason? I doubt it.

For some reason I was reminded, in reading the comments, of a book I read long ago at Yale (a few years before Cathy arrived there): Dorothy Emmet's "The Nature of Metaphysics."If I remember Ms Emmet's book correctly, it leads me to make two observations:1. Are we sometimes in danger of considering "faith" and "reason" as hermetically sealed areas of human engagement with reality? Whereas any articulation of "faith" draws upon reason (not the "parched rationality" to which Matthew calls attention); and is there a rational undertaking that is devoid of "faith?"2. Does that suggest, further, that both terms need to be considered analogically. As does "reasonableness." What may be reasonable criteria in one area of investigation, need not be the same in another.I certainly concur with Joseph Komonchak in advocating the long tradition of dialogue exemplified in the "videtur quod non...sed contra."

So break it down for us. Does this mean that we respect healthy secularism but not disagreement with Dominus Jesus. The secularists are healthy but it is wrong for Christians to eat at the same table because they believe slightly differently. Are Catholics who think unreasonable but Catholics who give blind obedience to the Magisterium reasonable. What is to prevent one from concluding that like, John Paul II, Benedict has one set of rules for those outside the church and another for those inside? Or that when Rome chooses to dialogue it is alright. But if a parish decides to it is not. Etc.

Fr. Imbelli --Thanks very much for the Marion quotation. I don't know him at all, but he sounds quite interesting. A quick check of Wikipedia and some review of some of his books at Amazon, tell me (perhas quite wrongly), that he rejects\medieval metaphysics because it is only about "being". What nonsense. All of the medievals had a great deal to say about the other transcendentals, including goodness and beauty and, a fortiori, love. But be that at it may Marion does seem to be venturing into that most mysterious of metaphysical areas, viz., Transcendentals Land. Sounds very interesting.I'm also particularly interested in his epistemological notion of "saturated phenomena", Whatever it means exactly, I'd like to know more.Can you, or anybody else, recommend a particiular book of his to someone (me) who needs an introduction to his work? The big work about "giveness" sounds much to the point, but also sounds like more than I want at this point..

Ann,The Dominicans roasted him for misinterpreting St. Thomas; and, as I recall, he made a generous "retractatio." His latest in English is "The Erotic Phenomenon." I haven't read it, but Commonweal reviewed it. Grant could get us the link, but here is what Amazon reports:Marion's avowed topic is the erotic phenomenon, and his method is phenomenology. He is a master of that method, and the result is an analysis of erotic love of unparalleled precision and depth. The depiction he gives of the erotic phenomenon is fundamentally convincing, and readers will find their own loves illuminated and questioned.Commonweal

Ann,Here's the link for Paul Griffiths' review of The Erotic Phenomenon, which appeared in the March 9, 2007 issue of Commonweal:

Re Fr. Komonchak's 11:06 am post of today: I've been reading Jaroslav Pelikan's "Christianity and Classical Culture." In it he discusses the Greek Fathers of the Church known as the Cappadocians. What Fr. Komonchak says in his post meshes with what is called the apophatic theology of the Cappadocians (St.Basil, his brother St. Gregory of Nyssa, their sister Macrina, and St. Gregory Nazienzen). They talked extensively about the relation of "Natural theology," which is developed by reason without any claim to have divine revelation and the Christian revelation as expressed in the Bible and in the Tradition of the Church. I'mnot sure that I have their position clearly in my head, but it is important to know that there is this apparent congruence between the Greek Christian East and the Latin West. And, for what's it's worth, the Cappadocians denouned abortion on grounds of natural theology.For an amateur like me, I find all this fascinating. By contrast, I find the pronouncements of people like Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Morlino barely endurable.

About rationality in ethics, I think the most helpful source is Alasdair MacIntyre's Whose Justice? Which Rationality? --which talks about tradition as an argument about the goods that constitute that tradition, the practices that carry it forward. Again, I think we need to move beyond generalities. It's not enough for the Church to pat itself on the back--to insist on its own rationality. Or to turn to faith to overcome gaps in logical argument or practical reasoning. What practices of inquiry, concretely, should the Church engage in that demonstrates a real commitment to practical reasoning--not simply their use of it as a shield?

Ann:The best general introduction to his work in English is Jean-Luc Marion: An Introduction by Robyn Horner which provides a nice overview of both his earlier theological works and his later phenomenological works. I think the best essay to go to is Kevin Hart's fine introductory essay in Counter Experiences: Reading Jean-Luc Marion which is a collected volume which includes essays by David Tracy, John Milbank, Cyril O'Regan, etc. on Marion's philosophy and theology. Finally, if you are interested in reading primary texts I would point you to Visible and Revealed which a recent collection of his more theologically oriented articles. There is still a discussion of the saturated phenomena and as always his theology is highly philosophical, but this collection is among the more accessible. In Excess: Studies in the Saturated Phenomenon, particularly the last "theological" essay whcih is a confrontation with Derrida: In the Name: How to Avoid Speaking of It. I would turn you away from the Erotic Phenomena until you have waded through Reduction and Givenness and Being and Given, because Erotic is a extension of the phenomenological analyses of these works into the realm of love. With respect to the question of the medievals, he has always been particularly fond of Dionysius the Areopigate whose strategy for naming God is one that figures God in excess of Being in Platonic fashion as the "Good beyond Being." His problem with Being, of course, is that it has traditionally (at least since a certain interpretation of Parmenides) been correlated with thought and therefore comprehension. Thus, Marion's earlier tracks in theology have provocative titles like "God without Being" in which he attempts to construct a theology of revelation that escapes the reduction of God's transcendence to concepts. Marion is a decidely post-Heideggerian and post-Levinasian thinker and in this vein is committed to purging metaphysics from theological discourse insofar as metaphysical theologies have compromised the transcendence of God by treating God as a being and therefore something to be understood, comprehended, etc. Think of the traditional definition of theology as "faith seeking understanding." Marion would revise this to be "faith seeking charity" or "faith seeking a non-metaphysical understanding of praise and worship."In any case, it is in God withoutu Being that he argues Aquinas succumbs to the metaphysical tradition by placing Being as the first name of God. As Imbelli points out, he later retracts this and this retraction has been published in an edited volume on mysticism and contemporary thought: Mystics: Presence and Aporia. The article is entitled, "Thomas Aquinas and Onto-theology." In this and other articles (Phenomenology: A Relief for Metaphysics) he revises his genealogy of metaphysics from scholasticism to Nietzsche to Suarez to Nietzsche. This is significant, of course, because he has now lifted the cloud from Thomas.Anyhow, I highly recommend Marion, although it can be tough going if you aren't familiar with Heidegger and Husserl. Check out the Hart essay and from there see if you want to dive in further!

"What practices of inquiry, concretely, should the Church engage in that demonstrates a real commitment to practical reasoningnot simply their use of it as a shield?"Exactly. Another question that comes to mind is that it is generally agreed that reason was introduced to the church by Thomas. The "I understand therefore I believe." Some say he paved the way for the enlightenment. Augustine and Justin martyr talk of reason only in conjunction with revelation and seem to thereby devalue it. "I believe therefore I understand."Both axioms are true. It is the manipulation that is the problem.

Have forgotten most of my undergraduate philosophy degree education but your thoughts remind me of a few other recent parallel threads:a) the challenge of what the church and theologians call - "Reception" - seems connected to your thoughts. Authority can speak and teach but there must be reception by the sensus fidelium; your arguments may be reasonable but are they received?b) here is an extract from B16's talk at Notre Dame: "To put it yet another way: there are dimensions of meaning in the word (Scripture) and in words which only come to light within the living community of this history-generating word. Through the growing realization of the different layers of meaning, the word is not devalued, but in fact appears in its full grandeur and dignity. Therefore the Catechism of the Catholic Church can rightly say that Christianity does not simply represent a religion of the book in the classical sense (cf. par. 108). It perceives in the words the word, the Logos itself, which spreads its mystery through this multiplicity. This particular structure of the Bible issues a constantly new challenge to every generation. It excludes by its nature everything that today is known as fundamentalism. In effect, the word of God can never simply be equated with the letter of the text. To attain to it involves a transcending and a process of understanding, led by the inner movement of the whole and hence it also has to become a process of living. Only within the dynamic unity of the whole are the many books one book. Gods word and action in the world are only revealed in the word and history of human beings;c) Earlier quote from a lecture series in Rome by Goyret: ""Well, it's true, What I cannot do is, 'I say I have the truth, and you have to agree with me.' I cannot say that. So my job is to find arguments to persuade you."Not sure this adds anything to your discussion but for what it is worth?

Another observation on the relation between reason, science, and faith. Nothing that I say here implies that I doubt that deliberately inducing an abortion is objectively a serious moral wrong.Another passage from Pelikan re the Cappadocian Fathers. According to Pelikan, Gregory of Nyssa says: "Whoever searches the whole of revelation will find thee no doctrine of the divine nature at all, nor indeed a doctrine of anything else that has a substantial existence, so that we live our lives in ignorance of much, being ignorant first of all of ourselves as human beings,and then of all other things besides...." Then Pelikan adds,"including the soul and its relation to the body." I assume that Pelikan's addition faithfully reflects Gregory's position.Consider the following:1. Neither modern biology nor any modern physical science has anything at all to say about a human soul. S, science has nothing to say about when a fertilized human egg is "ensouled."2. To those who raise the issue of all the fertilized eggs that are spontaneously aborted, I ask: Why ought I believe that all these eggs have been endowed with a whatever it is that is a human soul? Surely God in his foreknowledge could leave these eggs "unsouled." We do not want to say that God has to ensoul every fertilized human egg, do we?3. But in our ignorance, would we not be presumptious to claim that we can be confident that there is a period of time after fertilization during which we could deliberately induce an abortion and claim that there was no human soul present when we did so.4. The upshot of these remarks is that we ought not to induce an abortion, but if we do so, there are striking differences between aborting a fertilized egg in the earliest stages o its life and murdering a fetus that has reached viablilty.If I've gone astray, I'll be glad to be corrected. In any case, I hope that the American bishops would take the trouble to be precise when they address any of the complex issues concerning the relation between reason and faith . What a number of them have said thys far about the issue of abortion falls well short of the precision that the seriousness of the matter calls for.

Thank you for your most recent post, Bernard. I am with you completely as to ## 1, 2, and 3, but in the spirit of your comment about the need for "precision that the seriousness of the matter calls for"--I am with you wholeheartedly as to this comment, too--would you mind elaborating on the phrase "striking differences" in # 4? I'm not trying to be argumentative, just more clear about the thrust of your argument. Thanks.

Thanks, William. Let me try to give you a sensible answer.I take it that these is a spectrum of conditions that run between the moment of egg fertilization and the achievement of viability. I have no ability to make fine discriminations within this spectrum, but I think I can say something about the two poles.As I see it, there is no reasonable argument to be made that denies that, once viability is achieved, the child is entitled to all the moral and legal rights that any of the rest of us are. This is not a religious claim. It is based solely on reason and observation.The case of the fertilized egg is different in some important respects. First, it appears that if one has to rely only on reason and observation, then there is room for reasonable disagreement about the status of the fertilized egg. We as Catholics have the guidance of Church teaching and Tradition to consider aborting any human entity, even a newly fertilized egg, as objectively seriously sinful. But I think we have to acknowledge that some people, not blessed with faith, can have defensible reasons for disagreeing with us.As individual citizens, we Catholics have a duty to "believe, teach, and confess" that we regard all deliberately induced abortions to be wrong.If I were an elected official representing both believers and non-believers, then it seems to me that I have to work for laws that all the people that I represent can find habitable. That search is never over and done with. It is always a work in progress. To me, it makes some sense for the Church to oppose having clergymen serve as elected officials in a secular government. Faced with the hard work of representing all their constituents, they would have a very hard time helping Catholics that, in their work of representing, they were not acting contrary to Church teaching in some cases. Lay people do not have the same problem to the same degree.What i see as the disservice committed by Archbishop Chaput, Cardinal Egan and others in their criticisms of Biden (Pelosi is another matter) is that they have not helped their congregations understand this complex issue.Of course, if I'm wrong about all this,then my objections to their remarks are idle.I'm going to be away from home, and blogging, for a number of days, William, so this will be my last posting for a while. I hope I've clarified my thinking as you asked me to do.Best.Wishes

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