“Beyond the Stalemate” is a very fine piece that Commonweal should be proud to have printed and Steinfels happy to have written. Its great strength is its clarity about the differences that separate: (1) taking a position to be true and important; (2) thinking that there are arguments that ought to convince everyone of its truth and importance; (3) thinking that the coercive force of positive law ought to be used against those who do not find the position true and important. On all sides of the debate these things get run together, even though it’s axiomatic for the Catholic intellectual tradition that we ought not attempt the writing of everything we take to be true and important into law. Deciding when to do that, and when not to, is a matter of prudence. I agree with Steinfels that abortion is the taking of human life, and that it is very important to think so and to act as if one thought so. I agree with him, too, that it is in the nature of the case that we should not expect everyone to think so. If we care about changing hearts as well as minds, about reweaving the fabric of our culture both within and without the church, and about reducing the number of abortions in this country, Steinfels’s way forward is the way to go.
Chapel Hill, N.C.
I applaud Peter Steinfels for his...