Home / Culture and Society / Spirituality / Senator Biden Favors Liberal Abortion Rights, and Governor Palin Would Make All Abortions Illegal?

Senator Biden Favors Liberal Abortion Rights, and Governor Palin Would Make All Abortions Illegal?

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For reasons I don't understand, the issue of abortion rights is a hot button issue in the Presidential campaign. There is little, if anything, the President can do either to criminalize or further to legalize abortion, as I pointed out in an article here last month. Sure, he (or she) can nominate Supreme Court justices, and some may be nominated during the next four years. However, that doesn't count for much, even if the President were successful in getting seated a Supreme Court justice whose views on abortion reflected his own,

Supreme Court justices sometimes do not behave as either the President or the Senate contemplated that they would. They tend, in most cases, to look to the unique facts, the procedural context of the case, and the U.S. Constitution to make up their minds; when they don't, they should. That is their job.

Their job is not to impose their own religious, political or even moral views on the rest of us. Nevertheless, abortion is a hot button issue.

I am an Agnostic/Atheist; Senator Biden purports to be a staunch Roman Catholic; Governor Palin is a conservative Christian. I favor abortion rights, pretty much as set out in Roe v. Wade, as does Senator Obama. Senator Biden's church teaches that abortion is a very bad sin, yet Senator Biden supports liberal abortion rights. Governor Palin's religious convictions have led her to the conclusion that abortion is a very bad sin, and she opposes it; she has demonstrated the sincerity of her convictions on this point in her public statements as well as in her personal life, and has been criticized for doing so.

Senator Obama has several attributes which I admire; Senator Biden, fewer. Senator McCain has several attributes which I admire; Governor Palin substantially more. In the interest of disclosing my personal predilections, It is my intention to vote for Senator McCain and Governor Palin. One of Governor Palin's attributes which I much admire is her tendency to guide her personal life and her public statements in accordance with her beliefs, be they considered religious or moral. She has other attributes which, to me, are very important as well. Unlike any of the other three, she is not of the establishment Democratic Party or Republican Party, which in recent years has seemed Hell-bent on sending the country down the toilet. However, that is not really within the scope of this article.

Let's look at Senator Biden. He advocates liberal abortion rights, which his church vigorously opposes. During an interview on Meet the Press, he said

Look, I'm a practicing Catholic, and it is the biggest dilemma for me in terms of comporting my religious and cultural views with my political responsibility. . . . I am prepared to accept my church's view. I think it's a tough one. I have to accept that on faith.

Yet, he continues to advocate liberal abortion rights and to receive communion, even though it has been strongly affirmed by many bishops and others higher in the Roman Catholic Church that he should not.

Archbishop Raymond Burke, who just left his see in Saint Louis to take over the Apostolic Signatura, the highest Vatican court in Rome, said last week that not only should pro-choice politicians abstain from Communion but those in charge of the sacrament have a duty to refuse it.

"If a person who has been admonished persists in public mortal sin and attempts to receive Communion, the minister of the Eucharist has the obligation to deny it to him," Archbishop Burke told the magazine Radici Christiane. "Why? Above all, for the salvation of that person, preventing him from committing a sacrilege."

Presumably, the Roman Catholic Church would also prefer that other Roman Catholics not be led astray.

What is the point of all of this? Senator Biden, a professed Roman Catholic, supports liberal abortion rights, contrary to the teachings of his church, and continues to receive communion, also contrary to the teachings of his church. Governor Palin, a professed conservative Christian, opposes abortion, consistent with her beliefs and the teachings of her church. Does that suggest that her convictions (about abortion as well as other issues of greater substance for the campaign) are sincere and that perhaps Senator Biden's are not? I rather think so.  I also think that, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with a candidate's convictions, sincerity in holding them is important. These things also suggest, at least to me, that when Governor Palin says something, we don't have to look to see whether she has her fingers crossed behind her back.

I do disagree with all four candidates, and their parties, in their attempting to make the matter of abortion — as well as any other religious matter — a campaign issue, particularly since it is something about which none of them will, if elected, have any significant ability to do anything. Were the issue one which either candidate could significantly affect, I might well feel differently.

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About Dan Miller

  • Irene Wagner

    Franco – you were posting #116 while I was posting #117, so I didn’t notice your questions to me there ’til now. I think I’d just repeat #114 to answer them.

    Jesus did make Pilates head spin, yes. He made McCain’s and Obama’s heads spin, too. Cynicism in politics has never been in short supply.

  • Irene Wagner

    Ruvy, if things keep spinning out of control the way you think they may be, the UNITED STATES Senate might try to pull something like that off!

  • Irene Wagner

    Herod was elected “King of the Jews” by the Roman Senate. Thus, he was a Roman official.

  • Zedd


    The initial decision not to debate was a crap shoot. They were hoping that the electorate would think the “Republican by gosh he is steppin up to the plate” or something meaningless like that, and be ignited. It’s sad really. The Rep senators keep hailing McCain’s coming back to Washington as the reason for the progress with the bill. Unbelievable. The talking points are starting to sound pitiful. I would be disturbed if I were a Rep that my party thinks I am that stupid. But judging from the excitement among so many STILL about Sara Palin, the political strategists may be right. Sad really.

  • Ruvy

    The wheels are visibly coming off the McCain campaign.

    Just a thought fro yuou fine folks. Don’t crown Obama just yet. Wait till he actually has taken the oath of office on 20 January 2009, and descends the podium before hollering “President Obama”.

    “There is many a slip between cup and lip.” [W. Shakespeare]

  • I agree, Zedd, and the logical gymnastics some of our BC (and other) friends on the right are performing in order to talk Palin up are quite spectacular.

    I merely observe that Dan is unlikely to consider Obama more strongly as a result of your argument.

    I read somewhere the other day that someone had come up with a list of about 80 prominent Republican women who were more qualified than Palin to fulfill the vice-presidency. However, I don’t think any of them would have done McCain much good. I’ve always felt that America was readier to elect a black man to national executive office than it was a woman, and the latest polls seem to be bearing that out.

    The wheels are visibly coming off the McCain campaign. First there was his bizarre decision to stop campaigning in Michigan (the one blue state he had a cat in hell’s chance of stealing) – and Palin’s subsequent dismay – and now we have Palin accusing Obama of buddying up with terrorists, which is almost guaranteed to backfire.

    Three weeks ago, before I went on vacation (and absented myself from the newswire), McCain was looking pretty healthy. Now he looks desperate. I need filling in as to what the hell happened while I was gone!

  • Zedd


    After George Bush, it’s important that we regain some semblance of dignity and respect for the office and the nation. It does matter that we think that the President can be replaced by any body. The VP is OUR second choice for President. Palin is a bad choice.

    With the mess that we have caused to the world’s economy, the destabilization that we have caused with the two wars, we have to be better than “less than average”. Palin is less than average among our politicians. The position of second in line has to be held by someone who can fill the shoes of their predecessor.

    Lastly, Doc I didn’t bring Palin up Dan did. Just responding. I cant take the “aw shucks, soccer mom, John Wayne sayings, flag loving” business. It is a preoccupation with nothingness.

  • Zedd, your argument would have more weight if Palin were at the top of the ticket. She isn’t, however: McCain is. I don’t think Mac’s age is as significant as it’s been made out to be, despite his treatment at the hands of the NVA. Let’s face it, if the White House medicos can keep Dick ‘No Original Parts’ Cheney still functioning, there won’t be a Palinian bum on the Oval Office chair any time soon.

    I agree, Palin is a disaster, but then so was Dan Quayle and he didn’t do George the Elder any harm…!

  • Zedd


    I was a bit harsh. I apologize. I am however concerned and highly frustrated by the reckless nature of modern day Republicans. This tendency to emotionalize at the most inappropriate times has caused the swift and unnecessary decline of our nation. Sara Palin is wrong as Vice President. Being the thinking man that you are, you know that. However the endless quest for symbolism and emotional highs, theater come to life…. It’s a childish and dangerous obsession and obviously, addiction.

    Important decisions have to be made. The future of this nation is always at stake. Folly regarding important matters is unacceptable. This weakness in a certain portion of our population has been noted and has been manipulated by those who seek power. What is sad is that this tendency was designed. It was a slow prodding to formulate a drone like constituency that could be ignited with the utterance of a few key phrases and sentiments.

    Give in. Vote your intellect. Restore the hopes of a lowly woman who admires you, otherwise.

    Currently you are grasping at straws to find virtue in this candidate. While it is true that all who have failed must be given something so that they save face, the gift of an entire nation and perhaps an era is much too much. You want to be right, when so little says that you have been. You are however willing to sink the entire ship in order to appear right, to save face.

    To speak in the manner that may appeal to your Republican sensibility, MAN UP! Take ownership of the mess that your party has created and rally on the right side to victory. (I hope that sounded Hollywood enough). How’d I do? Will you now vote for Obama?

  • Irene, Herod wasn’t a Roman…

  • Irene Wagner

    Of course the Word has been tinkered with and continues to be. The nicest thing about the Nicean Council and the resultant canon was that it put a cap on the whole enterprise of Gospel-writing. The people who had known Christ personally, and those who had been taught by eyewitness of his miracles, were all dead, so nobody got to write any more gospels or epistles, including the Gnostics. Demiurge? what the???

    A twist or two of the Matthew-Mark-Luke’n’John scroll, and there’s already a major Blooper. Pontius Pilate wimpily sent Jesus to his death, but Herod tried to kill THE BABY JESUS. Editorial heads should have rolled, if depicting Roman officials in a positive light had been the goal.

    I’m just being too dang contrarian, I know. I’ve gotta get out of here. Nice talkin’ to you again, Dr. D.

  • Franco

    Irene you make a valid point.

    So who brought Jesus to that Romans for execution?

    And yes , Pilate’s wife was “greatly troubled” about Jesus and told her husband not to take part in and decision of his guilt or innocence.

    So Pilate gave the choice to the Jews 100% when he offered up both Barabbas and Jesus and told them to choose. And he washed his hands of it.

    But I think Doc’s assertion is also a valid one in that Pilate also and to be thinking of the risk of pissing off still further the leaders of an already fractious province of the Empire. Because it was just that, a fractious province. So by all accounts I am sure that Pilate’s head was really spinning that day.

    So when the Jews were given the choice, they chose. For they too wanted to wash their hands of him for their own personal self-serving interests.

    Which my account for why the Jewish leaders at the time made on historical record of it just like they would not have made special note of any other common criminal at the time, especially under such self serving interests.

  • ‘Tinkering’ with the Word was happening from Day One, Irene. There are dozens of surviving gospels and there is much significance in which were eventually included in the New Testament and which were left out.

    By the time of the Council of Nicaea [sp?], Christianity was an important element in the life of the Roman Empire. It makes sense that the Council would elect to include Matthew, Mark and Luke, in which Pilate comes off smelling, if not of roses, then at least as if he’d remembered to use his roll-on deodorant that morning.

    There are several apocryphal gospels which do not show the governor in such a flattering light.

    I have a fascinating book entitled What If…?, a large collection of essays in which historians examine what might have happened if pivotal events in human history had gone a different way. One of them looks at what might have happened if Pilate had listened to his wife and set Jesus free.

    A tricky exercise. I can’t think of an event with more profound consequences for the future development of Christianity (and other faiths) except for the revolt of the Maccabees.

  • Irene Wagner

    The scheme to appease the Romans by pinning the Crucifixion on the Jews must not have worked. That’s why there are Christian catacombs in Rome. The oppression stopped after Constantine’s conversion, but at that point it wasn’t necessary to have Gospels that appeased the Romans, was it?

    Early Christians were willing to be martyred for their witness to Christ. Why would they have “tinkered” with the Word, which they considered sacred, so as to appease Romans by whom they were willing to be martyred? Especially when they were, ’til their deaths, trying to convey to the Romans what they believed to be the true message of Isaiah 53: ALL of us have sinned. ALL of us put Jesus on the cross. Through that death, God makes all of those who come to him with broken hearts clean. I don’t know what to call a Christian who, instead of focusing on his own transgressions, focuses on the role the first century Jews played in Jesus’ death. No charitable name comes to mind at the moment. I don’t think you would have found many of them in the Roman catacombs.

    Your legal-historical perspective starts to make a lot of sense at paragraph three. The Bible reports that Pilate’s wife was “greatly troubled” about Jesus, and warned her husband to treat him fairly. Pilate might have gotten off the hook with the Romans. His wife may have been another story…

  • Franco

    That’s the legal-historical perspective. The religious one is above my pay grade.

    I don’t know Doc, I think your account of this event stacks up to be about as good as any religious perspective I have heard.

  • Crucifixion was a uniquely Roman punishment, and the remarkable thing is that Jesus suffered such a death for (allegedly) transgressing Jewish, not Roman, law.

    The gospel authors attempted, understandably, to paint the Romans in as good a light as possible (they still had to live under their rule, of course), and so the synoptic accounts set the responsibility for Jesus’ death squarely on the shoulders of the Jews.

    For me, though, Pilate comes across in the Gospels as a weak administrator who allows the Sanhedrin to dictate to him despite Jesus’ clear innocence of the crimes he is accused of. Jesus’ teachings did not threaten the Empire in any significant way – he even insisted to his audiences that they should respect Roman law. To Rome, he was just one more in a long series of insignificant preachers whose movement would likely gather followers for a while, lose momentum and then fizzle out.

    Historically, Pilate was a mediocre, time-serving politician, and it is understandable that he took the pragmatic course of action he did rather than run the risk of pissing off still further the leaders of an already fractious province of the Empire – an outcome that would not have pleased Tiberius one little bit and would have cost Pilate not only his job but possibly also a lot more.

    That’s the legal-historical perspective. The religious one is above my pay grade…


  • Irene Wagner

    were / wouldn’t

  • Irene Wagner

    Why are the two mutually exclusive, Silas? If Jesus was destined to die the sacrificial death described in Isaiah 53 (emphasizing its sacrificial nature) and Psalm 22 (emphasizing the physical details of the death), don’t those same texts implicitly demand the existence of exutioners? Wouldn’t those who performed crucifixions most likely be agents of the state, those who had the authority, as Isaiah 53 states, to have Jesus “numbered among the transgressors”?

  • Christ was executed by the state for saying what he said and doing what he did.

    Is that so? Did not Pilate submit to the ruling class in Judea at that time? And, if one were to subscribe to the Catholic notion, wasn’t it the destiny of Christ to be crucified in fulfillment of the Scriptures? We can’t have it both ways. Either Christ died in fulfillment of Prophecy or the state put Him to death for violation of Roman Law. Or is there a third alternative? That being the whole scenario was staged for the benefit of a throng of mindless followers who needed a hero?

  • Irene Wagner

    Republicans: McCain spends fall 07 through mid-summer 08 alienating Christians, and at the same time gaining the trust of economic conservatives and hawks who are NOT social conservatives. Come August 08, fully understanding his strategy, many of them take their cue from him and sing the praises of Palin, the very MODEL of the Christian for whom they showed so much disdain earlier in the campaign. And why? For the same reason their leader does: they recognize that folks with “I’m pro-life and I vote” bumper stickers aren’t just whistling Dixie.

    Democrats: Obama spends fall 07 through mid-summer 08 alienating Christians. The choice of Biden was a head-scratcher for awhile, but seen in the light of McCain’s selection of Palin it quickly starts to make sense. Biden has VERY strong liberal Jesuit ties, and his views on abortion show it. His son Hunter collected 80K since 1986 lobbying for the University of Scranton, a Jesuit college. Jesuits have had a “liberalizing” affect on North American Catholicism (and South American Catholicism, too, if one considers Liberation Theology.) Many Catholics have Communion and homilies delivered to them by priests who are of this liberal Jesuit persuasion, and the funnel through which Roman Catholic teaching comes to the typical Catholic is his parish priest. I can’t say that Biden’s faith is any more or less sincere than others whose understanding of Catholic thought was heavily influenced by the liberal Jesuit parish priest or college professor. I can’t say that it’s any less sincere than Palin’s.

    What I can say for sure is that the Democrats’ cynical embrace of Christians is no more cynical than that of the Republicans.

  • Zedd, in Comment #105, You say, Believe it or not, . . . [Christians] get to interpret the bible which ever way you choose. You are not told what to believe. I would call your attention to the link in my Comment #91, referring to the obligations of Roman Catholics, whom I assume are still a major Christian denomination, vis a vis abortion and other matters referenced in the link.

    You say We are in the immense trouble that we are in because of people like yourself, who make choices based on NOTHING. I am sorry that you feel that way. On the other hand . . . .


  • Good point, Franco, but it is important to remember that Matthew did not intend his gospel as a historical narrative, and treating it as such is risky at best.

  • Zedd


    It is apparent that you are not a Christian. Believe it or not, you get to interpret the bible which ever way you choose. You are not told what to believe. There are many Christians (conservative ones) who believe in the right to choose. Palin’s no choice position is not BECAUSE of her being a Christian. It’s just what she believes.

    Also, you absolutely have no way to know whether her saying she is not for choice is a true personal belief or a political play. I am so disappointed in you Republicans for being suckers and getting all personal with politicians. You want to be played and lied to. Enough with the emotional folksy stuff. If you are pro choice vote for a pro choice candidate and end emotional, personal analysis that can’t possibly be validated. We are in the immense trouble that we are in because of people like yourself, who make choices based on NOTHING.

  • Franco

    #103 — Cindy D

    “Amazing, imagine writing a person’s words only about 80 years after they died!”

    No one can put himself or herself into the true mindset of the times back then. We can only go on historical records and then only imagine what was going on and try to compare that some how to the world around us today to make it seem real.

    Christ was executed by the state for saying what he said and doing what he did. His followers were hunted and killed by the government as well. Writing anything down exactly at that time was not conducive to groups working an underground press as most of his followers were the poor and dejected with very little means to even conduct it. Something the radicals of the 60’s and 70’s in the US lack none of.

    The following account was written by the Roman historian Tacitus concerning events in 64 A.D. in his book Annals. It is famous because it is one of the first mentions in a non-Christian source of Christianity and the ongoing Christian persecution since Christ was executed. Tacitus speaks of Christ’s execution in his book.

    Your assertion above makes senses in today’s perspective only, and only if you are not on the run and being hunted which I do not believe you are.

    But we can look at Tacitus historical writing and we an assocate those times with events happening today.

    There are those being hunted like that right now by the tens of thousands in Sudan, who would find little time or means to write down and fully organize documentation of the events they are now suffering. Those writings will come later, years later and for years to come, but only if they ever find refuge some place.

    Eye Witness to History, Tacitus 55 -117 CE

  • Cindy D

    Amazing, imagine writing a person’s words only about 80 years after they died!

  • Franco

    I don’t think there are m(any) Christian religions that have much to do with the teachings of Christ.

    Wow, almost word for word with what Christ said in Mathew 7:14-24

  • Cindy D


    I don’t think there are m(any) Christian religions that have much to do with the teachings of Christ.

  • Haven’t religions changed over time just for this very reason–disagreement about important teachings? Are all these historical changes the result of hypocrisy?

    Of course! Look at the Mormon Church. Polygamy would still be accepted were it not for Utah wanting statehood. Every Christian sect (heresy) is created out of a political necessity. It’s got nothing to do with Christ and all to do with Earthly power. Catholic priests would be allowed marriage were it not for the Roman Church’s preoccupation with equity holdings. I’m not a conspiracy theorist; however, I will go to my grave believing that John Paul I’s untimely death was nothing less than premeditated murder.

  • Cindy D


    I think it’s “don’tcha know” and “you betcha”.

  • Cindy D,

    Well, I mean, yeah, you know. Like, it isn’t against my religion, you know.


  • Cindy D

    Yeah, well Dan, I was thinking your assertion smacked of a bit of politic itself.

    I was simply probing the depth of your conviction.

  • Cindy D,

    I don’t know “most Catholics,” and have no idea what they think. I do know that some of those running for elective office try to keep one leg on one side of a very broad river, and the other leg on the other side.

    I don’t much care what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. I do, however, think that public luminaries who actively support, and make political hay from, legislation which is anathema to their church, while pandering for the votes of fellow communicants, are of suspicious sincerity in one area or the other.

    As to having female priests, or homosexual priests, or priests of any other (lawful) persuasion, it is entirely their problem, and they are quite welcome to it.


  • Cindy D

    Belated points: If Biden didn’t practice his religion, I would have less trouble believing he is Catholic for political reasons. But, he does practice.

    And then there’s the point to be made that he might have chosen a less controversial point on which to merely gain political support.

    “If I were an ordained priest, I’d be taking some issue with some of the more narrow interpretations of the Gospel being taken now,” Biden says. “But my church is more than 2,000 years old. There’s always been a tug of war among prelates and informed lay members.”


    “This is my church as much as it is the church of a cardinal, bishop, or janitor, and I’m not going anywhere,” he said.

    Quotes from here.

  • Cindy D


    Do you think that most Catholics distort their doctrine for political purposes?

    Most Catholics are pro-choice.

    Despite the Catholic Church’s strong opposition to abortion, a slim majority (51%) of Catholics believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while 44% oppose abortion in most or all cases.

    It seems more likely to me–although I realize, not to you–that Biden is just an ordinary Catholic on par with most of his contemporaries.

    I have no doubt it’s possible. It just seems like a stretch.

    Some other considerations:

    Haven’t religions changed over time just for this very reason–disagreement about important teachings? Are all these historical changes the result of hypocrisy?

    People who have historically disagreed with their church haven’t necessarily forked over ownership of their religion to those in power.

    What do you think about the Roman Catholic women priests movement? Are they politicizing too? Should they be tossed out because they differ with a major tenet of their church?

  • Cindy D,

    You are an atheist/agnostic but you hold yourself out to be the arbiter of what doctrines of someone else’s religion are the most important for them to follow? No, not at all. That’s up to them and the highest authorities of their sect has spoken, not once but frequently and now with increasing fervor. It bothers me for any sect to claim supreme authority in what I consider matters of conscience, but the Roman Catholic Church does exactly that.

    It also bothers me that people who claim to be devout adherents to any sect which demands strict obedience to a particular doctrine should so claim while distorting that doctrine, particularly for political purposes. It smacks of hypocrisy, of which there is more than enough without that sort of thing.


  • Cindy D


    You are pro-choice about abortion, but you are anti-choice about what part of their church’s religious dogma a person should adhere to?

    You are an atheist/agnostic but you hold yourself out to be the arbiter of what doctrines of someone else’s religion are the most important for them to follow?

  • Here is the most recent Vatican comment on the pro-choice views of Senator Biden, et al. I very much agree with the pro choice position, but feel that that those purport to belong to the Roman Catholic Church should adhere to its most important doctrines, or leave.

    It will be interesting to see how the Vatican position is received. Will the pro-choice members reconsider their membership or their position or ignore the matter?


  • MarkF

    This is to respond to the post by Jordan Richardson on September 5

    Mr. Jordan,

    I’m afraid that you don’t know much about the Catholic Church when you say that since no Pope has declared the Church’s teaching abortion to be infallible that it is not a doctrine of the faith, thus making it optional. You said that the only two solid doctrines of the Church are the Assumption of Mary and the Immaculate Conception because they have been declared as infallible by the Popes.

    What you don’t understand is the doctrine of papal infallibility is just the icing on the cake as it were. The really important doctrine, which the Catholic Church shares with the Orthodox Churches is that the Church as a whole is infallible. The body of the faithful as a whole is infallible. So a belief does not have to be declared by a pope in order to be infallible, it just has to have been taught consistently by the Church.

    By your reason, the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus would not be an infallible teaching until they are declared so by a pope. I believe these things are in the documents of Vatican II, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t infallible teaching until then. The Pope will often intervene to make a statement when there is some questions or threats made to the teaching of the Church. For example the Bible has always had the same number of books in it since the canon of scripture was put together in late antiquity. It was accepted by the ancient Church councils, which convey another form of infallibility, and since the Bible was accepted by the faithful, and was taught as containing all these books and letters, it was already part of the accepted beliefs of the faith. But after the Protestant revolt, many began to question if certain books should really be part of the Bible. So after the Council of Trent the Church came out with an official list of which books were in the Bible. It really didn’t need to; the books were already there and were there infallibly. The Church did this to answer the questions that many had raised. There are many such teachings that the Church has that have never been proclaimed by a Pope. Abortion was one of them. It needed to papal action because it was something that the Church always preached against since the beginning.

    That’s not to say that Catholic teaching doesn’t grow and develop. St. Paul did not know about the concept of the trinity. Yet the seed of it can be seen in his writings and in the Gospels. It is clearly shown in the Apostle’s creed which as the name suggests goes back to the very beginnings of the Church. This creed was added on to by various councils to become what we call the Nicene creed and thereby the trinity became a core doctrine of the Church. But the trinity was a core belief of the Church all along, and its seeds go back to Christ’s time. Nothing entirely new can be added to the beliefs of the Church, they can only grow and mature. Now we have the doctrine of transubstantiation. The apostles had no idea of this concept. Yet they knew that the bread and wine had become the body and blood of Christ. This is clear from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Again, there is growth and development of an idea, but that’s not the same thing as what Mr. Jordan and the so-called Catholics for Life people claim about abortion.

    When the Church teaches something since its inception it can and is said to be core belief and is infallible.

    You make a huge mistake by saying that the Church has changed its position on abortion. You’ve obviously read the biased and inaccurate “Catholics For Choice” website.

    You’re mixing up a lot of terms here too. For one thing, one particular Church Father does not create an infallible teaching, not even if it’s St. Augustine. I’ve read his Enchiridion and I doubt that what he’s saying is abortion is OK. Rather the point he’s making is that even aborted fetuses will end up as fully formed humans after the resurrection. In another work, Marriage and Concupiscence, St. Augustine says that both abortion and contraception are mortal sins. You can read both of these works on NewAdvent.com.

    But even if he said that abortion is wonderful, one Church Father alone does not mean that much. St. Jerome, St. Basil, St. Athenagoras, the Didache (which you wrongly quote), St. John Chrysostom and a lot more ALL say that abortion was a mortal sin and the equivalent to murder. That makes a consensus and that makes it part of the universal Church teaching, and a matter of faith.
    You also made a HUGE mistake when you said,
    “Aquinas agreed, saying abortion was not homicide unless the fetus was “ensouled.” For the record, St. Thomas Aquinas considered ensoulment to take place “well after conception.” The resulting Church discipline for abortion was penance. No excommunication, nada.”
    You’re mistaking Church discipline (excommunication) with something being a mortal sin. These are two different things. The difference is between whether something is moral or not in the sight of God and the Church, and whether the Church adds an additional earthly penalty to a sin to further discourage the faithful from committing it. Morality is eternal and is ordained by God. Breaking a grave moral law condemns a man to hell. Something entirely separate from this is the idea of a Church discipline such as excommunication. Excommunication is a Church penalty that is put on some mortal sins to warn the faithful to repent. It is a penalty that is only valid on earth, and so pales in comparison to damnation. The idea is to get the person to repent and go to confession and to avoid hell. When you say that the discipline for abortion was the sacrament of penance, you’re mistaking your terms. The sacrament of confession is not a Church discipline. It’s a sacramental requirement, the command comes from God, and it pertains to all mortal sins. Church discipline means things like excommunication; they come from the Pope or a Bishop and their affect ends at the grave
    St. Thomas, based on the limited science of the time, thought that early abortions were not the equivalent of homicide, but of course they were still mortal sins. And he thought that all late term abortions were murder and also were mortal sins.
    When you say what you did you create the impression that the Church was OK with abortion because the “discipline for abortion was penance.” Besides the fact the sacrament of penance is not a discipline, the very same thing pertains today with murder. If a person murders someone, there is no discipline for it (no excommunication) but it is a still very much a mortal sin and they have to go to confession to absolve it. Just because the Church doesn’t excommunicate someone for murder doesn’t mean that she thinks that murder is not sin.

    All mortal sin demands a confession to remove it. Excommunication is also removed by a good confession. It just adds another earthly incentive to get to confession.

    Also you said that the Church’s positions on abortion and homosexuality only originates to oppose what the pagans did. That’s not right either but I may come back to that later.

    You quote from the “Catholics for Choice” website by saying,

    “It wasn’t until Pope Sixtus V issued the bull Effraenatam that the penalty for abortion became excommunication. His successor, Gregory XIV, felt the stance was harsh and conflicted with early teachings on ensoulment. So he moved the goalposts and issued a stance that stood for nearly 300 or so years: Sedes Apostolica (no punishment stricter than local civil law or that based on sacred canon law).”

    I can find no documentation to back up what they say. They say that “Sedes Apostolica” is a papal encyclical but it doesn’t seem to be. “Catholics for Choice” is a highly biased website and they don’t cite where they get their information from so it’s hard to locate their sources. But either way, even if what they say is true, which I doubt, all they are talking about here is Church discipline, which as I said above is something totally different from the morality of something. The morality of abortion has never changed. It’s always been a mortal sin whether a late term or early term abortion.

    Though abortion was always a mortal sin, a Church discipline was attached to it in the Code of Canon law of 1917. The so-called Catholics for Choice people say it was Pope Pius IX that did this but I can’t back this up. For one thing, until the 1917 code was published, there was no standard code of canon law for the whole church, so anything Pius IX did would not have been universally valid. Anyways, Church teaching on abortion did change when the additional burden of an excommunication was placed on it. This is hardly a radical break as these people suggest. It is line with other teachings maturing and developing, as it did with the trinity and transubstantiation.

    And that abortion is a mortal sin and a form of murder is a required belief for all Catholics to uphold.

    Another point is that when the Bishops refuse communion to a pro-abortion politician, like I hope they do to Sen. Biden, Rep. Pelosi and all others, this is NOT an excommunication. They are just denied communion. There is a big difference between the two.

  • Cindy D

    Mums, the word. Your secret is safe with me.

    However, I disagree about the house painter job. perhaps you didn’t know it, but men typically require a note from a woman in order to make a purchase of house paint. So, you see, you’re safe. Just Carry a lot of those paint chip cards with you.

  • Thanks, Cindy

    Not only that, he made it better than I could have done. Moreover, I found the video funny and enjoyed it.

    Alas, handicaps are things with which we many of us must live. Should Senator McCain not win the current election, and apply for a job as a typist, I should doubtless find it necessary to reject him.

    I must admit that I myself have at least one serious handicap. I can’t pass a color blindness test, and therefore my FAA license as a pilot (commercial with instrument and multi-engine ratings) denies me the privilege of piloting an aircraft at night or landing at an airport which, due to lack of radio facilities, uses a “biscuit” gun flashing red or green lights to indicate refusal or permission to take off or to land. Pity me. Please. It ain’t my fault that I suffer from this physical disability. I am a victim, and didn’t chose my genes (which are otherwise pretty good, since both of my parents lived well into their 90s). Oh well, got some good ones and some bad ones.

    Actually, the night flying restriction is pretty silly, since it arose back when night navigation was based on colored lights on the ground, and is also based on the red-green lights displayed on the wings of aircraft — you gotta be able to see whether one is approaching or departing your path. However, by the time that an approaching aircraft gets close enough to see its red/green lights, it can be a tad late. I actually did a bit of night flying (illegally, so please don’t tell anybody) and never had a problem, except on landing; day and night depth perception are different. My lack of experience with night landings presented a few difficulties, but I did OK nonetheless. Had the FAA regs not prohibited my night flying, and had I not more or less honored them, I would not have experienced such minor difficulties.

    We all have crosses to bear, some more than others. Sad to say, I probably couldn’t get a job as a painter, even of houses. Woe is me.


  • Cindy D
  • Cindy, as to the SOB thingy, I happen to like dogs, and therefore don’t think it is an appropriate term of disparagement. I don’t like, for example, cockroaches, and don’t know anyone who does. Therefore, I would rather call bad people cockroaches.

    A. I don’t know how to answer this question, because I don’t understand it. But, let me give it a try. Society couldn’t survive without rights, regardless of their origin. If I happen by your window and see a really yummy looking apple pie cooling, I don’t have a right to steal it. Should I try to do so anyway, you have a right to take appropriate action: perhaps chase me away or call the police and ask them to arrest me. I then have a right to whatever legal recourse may be available. Without such rights, the protections they afford and their enforcement, society probably could not exist.

    B. Gays having rights equal to those of everyone else does not seem to me to infringe upon the rights of anyone. If a potential employer thinks that I (a White heterosexual male over sixty-seven) am too ugly, stupid, old for the job or a Republican, he can decline to hire me for those reasons, most any other reason, or even for no reason at all. I have no right to force him to hire me, and I have no problem with that. Were I to seek a role in a motion picture, portraying a teenage Martin Luther King, I would more than likely not get the job regardless of my acting ability (of which I have none). Were I to apply for a job as an attendant in a ladies’ toilet facility, the prospective employer could and should take into account that I am a male and that assigning me to such a job might discourage use of the toilet facility by, or be offensive to, many of his female customers. Were the Roman Catholic Church to refuse employment as a priest to an unrepentant Methodist clergyman, I can’t see anything wrong with that. To grant “rights” to such employment would diminish the rights of others. Were the proprietor of an organization which claims to convert gays from their “wicked ways” to decline employment to a person who is a self proclaimed homosexual, or were a religious organization, which holds to the view that homosexuality is wicked and contrary to God’s law, to refuse employment to such a person, then granting him the “right” to such employment, regardless of the employer’s wishes, would be unduly inconsistent with the right of the employer to refuse it.

    “Equal rights” are great, provided they are “equal” and don’t unduly infringe on the rights of others. When they are not “equal,” or infringe unduly on the rights of others, problems arise.


  • Cindy D


    Seriously though (before you tell me that something is wrong with my SOBs thingy):

    A) Why then defend anyone’s rights?

    B) Please explain how gays having rights equal to other people, removes any rights from anyone?

  • Cindy D


    SOBs is just fine, as I include men in there. Referring them as bitches, just makes the expression more potent. I don’t think they’d like it.

  • Franco

    Dan Miller,

    “I guess it all depends on what one means by “rights.” Disregarding the idea of “natural” rights, which I don’t quite understand,”

    Dan, natural rights are the canon of all rights and the most important of all rights. So I am confused as to what you mean when you say you don’t quite understand them. Maybe I am not reading your statement correctly. Care to elaborate.

    “rights” are granted or denied by the Constitution and legislative enactments or, in many cases, action by other institutions, governmental agencies”

    Who’s Constitution are you talking about?

  • Clavos

    I meant the SOB who gave ’em rights, but for you, I will include them all.

    I freely admit to sexism; I’ll take all I can get. Oh wait…

  • Clav,

    Oh, all right. Have it your way.

    However, I think you mean SOBs. Even that, however, is rather sexist. How about “Sons of Bitches and Bitches?” I could go along with that, provided that the reference is not to bitches (canine) and their male offspring. Dogs and bitches do very little harm, and (in my experience) never lie.


  • Clavos

    As to getting rid of all the clowns in Washington, that (like one thousand lawyers at the bottom of a lake) would be a good start, but still just a start. And, of course it would diminish their “rights.”

    When did THEY get rights?

    And whose fault is it that they got ’em?

    Hang the SOB!

  • I guess it all depends on what one means by “rights.” Disregarding the idea of “natural” rights, which I don’t quite understand, “rights” are granted or denied by the Constitution and legislative enactments or, in many cases, action by other institutions, governmental agencies, universities, school boards, etc. Racial preferences have given “rights” to some by taking “rights” away from others. Bailouts have taken “rights” away from some in order to confer “rights” on others. We all have rights and obligations, and the rights of one group or class sometimes infringe upon the rights of other groups or classes. Diminishing the obligations of one group or class often diminishes the “rights” of others, and vice versa.

    As to getting rid of all the clowns in Washington, that (like one thousand lawyers at the bottom of a lake) would be a good start, but still just a start. And, of course it would diminish their “rights.”


  • Clavos

    Anyone who would oppose the rights of some Americans should not be holding high office.

    At last!!

    A valid reason for getting rid of ALL the clowns in Washington!!

    Props, Cindy…

  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Cindy, pick up the Sept. 22 New Yorker for some really interesting reading. It’s well worth the money. One great article about Alaskan poilitics and Palin (a good deal of interviews with her) and one hysterically funny piece by George Saunders that completely skewers her.

  • Cindy D

    As for Palin hiring chums and firing people she doesn’t like see some of it here, posts # 25 and #46.

    As to Palin’s actions to impose her own beliefs against the will of her populace, see comment # 18 here.

    She opposes gay rights. See comment # 112 here.

    I don’t care if she can’t do anything about that this moment. Anyone who would oppose the rights of some Americans should not be holding high office.

    (For those who read over that statement and don’t actually “feel” anything, then please consider this–if it helps, please imagine we aren’t talking about “gay” rights, instead imagine it’s “black” rights “women’s” rights, or any other word that fills you with the understanding of how evil it is to deny anyone’s rights.)

  • Cindy D

    Oh, just to support another comment I made for the thread, so others who don’t read links might see more of the story.

    In link number 2 you’ll find the figure, close to $500k, that Prof. Rick Steiner was told he’d have to pay to get his information request processed–information he’s requested under the Alaska Public Records Act.

    He says it takes him 6 months of attempting to get the info to get to “no”. They’re not going to give him anything.

    “They ultimately got an attorney general’s opinion that they would not release this one document that I wanted, which was the state science review, claiming that it was a deliberative pre-decisional document and they had executive privilege to do so.” (link 2 , comment 74)

    Mind you this is the document Palin lied about.

    He then figures maybe it was filed with the federal fish and game department.

    It turns out it was. He gets it through a federal freedom of information request.

  • Cindy D


    Yes, I know you are an agnostic/atheist.

    Okay Dan. Here goes some evidence on my point about lying and secrecy. I’ll give a little background, all of which should be contained in my references. If something’s not, let me know and I’ll get the reference.

    The polar bear was put on the endangered species list. This was considered a watershed event because the Bush administration was forced by the court to release its decision and by law that decision has to be based only on scientific evidence not on economic impact. The polar bear is considered endangered due to the impact of global warming on its habitat, unlike other animals who are listed because of their declined numbers. This had the effect of forcing the Bush admin to make a decision that acknowledges global warming. Bush is still trying to reduce the protections the polar bear receives under the endangered species act, because it means accountability for government institutions who engage in activity that effect the polar bear.

    I mention all this to point to the overwhelming legitimacy of the evidence. Even the Bush admin could not justify discounting it, when pressed by legal considerations.

    Palin didn’t want the Polar Bear on the endangered species list. It’s going to be problematic for drilling, for a gas pipeline, for the oil industry, for big emissions producers. So, what does she do? She lies. She claims that the state’s scientific research analysis does not support the listing. (But it does as is later revealed.) She refuses then to release the report of the state scientists, which she claims her position is based on, and attempts to block its release, for obvious reasons. She just lied about what it says. Instead Alaska wants to spend $2 million trying to hire scientists who would disagree with both the federal scientists and the Alaska state scientists (who are all in agreement–the polar bear is endangered by global warming).

    Remember, the point is not about disagreement, it’s about lying and trying to cover up lies because she disagrees.

    E-mail reveals state dispute over polar bear listing. Biologists disagreed with administration.

    Sarah Palin and Global Warming: Alaska Prof. Says Palin Misrepresented State Findings on Endangered Polar Bears…and Tried to Cover It Up

    Legislature wants polar bear study. GLOBAL WARMING: Conference would seek dissenting views.

  • Cindy,

    Just to clarify one point: I am an Agnostic/Atheist, as I have often said, and don’t accept the theological teachings of any religious denomination.

    As to Governor Palin, whom I like, I would be very interested in looking at any links you might care to provide to support your various assertions about her. Should they be accurate, I shall certainly consider changing my opinion.


  • Cindy D

    Yes, if you are going to believe in imaginary beings, the most important thing is that you act in accordance with your beliefs in imaginary beings, even if you believe they wish you to enforce your will on others.

    Godfuckingforbid (interfux), that you believe what you believe and are fair enough not to impose your delusions on others, allowing others to live by what they believe.

    Meanwhile, Palin is a liar, who tries to hide her communications from public scrutiny after she promises open government, hires her buddies and fires people that disagree with her (she calls people who disagree “haters” in her typical juvenile style), and overturns her constituency’s votes to enforce her personal beliefs on her state.

    She’s the soccer-mom who hides scientific findings and fucks with people by having her minions tell them it’ll cost 500K to get what should be free open information. Why? Because she is a devious fuck and will try to derail disbelievers aka disagreers any way she can (illegally if she can pull it off.)

    Did I mention she’s a SECRETIVE LIAR? But, I guess that she’s acting in accordance with her beliefs.

    Maybe she belongs to the Church of Fucking Secretive Liars Who Should Force Everyone to Live According to What We Believe.

    Hey, if she belongs to that church then well, I guess she a saint!

  • Here is an article claiming that Senator Biden has now been denounced by fifty-five Roman Catholic bishops for erroneously stating the Roman Catholic position on abortion and thereby leading good Roman Catholics astray. That does not bother me. The Roman Catholic Church has a strong theological position on abortion, and to go all wishy-washy when a Roman Catholic communicant publicly takes a contrary view would indicate a lack of sincerity. However, the article goes on to suggest that this may deny Senator Obama a substantial portion of the Roman Catholic vote.

    Biden is being trashed across every state of the Union by Catholic newspapers, TV and radio stations, and blogs. It is a tsunami of rejection.

    I have no independent information on whether this is actually happening. Perhaps I should pay more attention to these outlets, but I don’t. Life becomes unnecessarily complex when a non-issue such as abortion assumes an undeservedly high level of prominence in a Federal election.

    It is hardly my place to discuss whether the Roman Catholic Church should change its stance on abortion, or whether it should revise its policies to allow its communicants a bit more freedom of choice on abortion and other theological matters. Whether it should or not, it seems highly unlikely that it will do so anytime soon. I do think that Senator Biden should at least “talk the talk,” and perhaps even “walk the walk,” while proclaiming his loyalties to Roman Catholic doctrine. That’s his problem, not mine, since I don’t plan to vote for him or Senator Obama regardless of their different positions on abortion. I do plan to vote for Senator McCain and Governor Palin, despite my disagreement, particularly with Governor Palin, on what should be the abortion non-issue.

    My concern is that “Catholic newspapers, TV and radio stations, and blogs. . . . [are spewing] a tsunami of rejection. . . .]” against any candidate running for any office in the United States on theological grounds. If true, it suggests a (to me) very offensive intrusion of theological doctrine into U.S. politics, where it should have no place at all.

    I hope that we are not about to see a backlash reversion to the old “don’t vote for JFK, because his allegiance is to Rome” ideas. That would be tragic for all of us, and not just Roman Catholics.


  • Troll,

    Very good question, and any answer which I can attempt has to be rather speculative. I think that basic legal philosophy on interpretation of the Constitution and laws (as distinguished from political or religious ideology) could and very well might make a legitimate difference. Is the Constitution to be interpreted as changing to keep up with societal norms, or even as changing to push society beyond those norms in a “desirable” direction, or is it to be interpreted more in light of which it actually says, what it meant when written and how it has been interpreted over a long period of time? Are the rights of the States to be accorded substantial deference, in accordance with the Tenth Amendment,

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    I personally think that the Tenth Amendment has been given too little deference; however there is lots of precedent for doing just that and I am afraid that such will continue to be the case. There may be slight shifts here, but dramatic change seems unlikely.

    My “bottom line,” is that there may be modest changes over time in modes of Constitutional interpretation, but that to expect substantial changes to occur over a short period would be unrealistic.


  • troll

    Dan – (off topic question) can you think of any issues/cases facing the Court where composition of the court would be dispositive – ?

  • It seems that Speaker Pelosi has accepted an invitation to discuss her views on abortion with San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer, who described her views as being “in serious conflict” with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Speaker Pelosi had said “I’m a regular communicant, so [denial of communion] would be a severe blow to me.”


  • troll

    Dan – you’ve convinced me that I was wrong headed to think that members of the federal executive and/or judiciary would seriously consider decentralizing power

    (btw – until the 2000 elections I was secure in the belief in the glacial nature of the the Court – not so sure any more)

  • Baronius, that is an interesting read although, after the first two sentences I get a little less clear exactly what it means.

    I would agree that a just war could be fought but suspect that would mean the last certain just war the US fought would be WWII.

    It is one thing to defend a just war however and another to oppose a regime starting one, like Germany for example. If the Pope speaks with the authority of god, which real catholic would dare reject such opposition.

    I was unaware Catholicism had come out against capital punishment so early but, good as that was, where is the opposition to it now?

    That leaves abortion and euthanasia and on those issues I definitely support the position that these are intensely personal and individual choices that ought not to concern the church or state. They are obviously easier targets for the church to tilt at than the “Big 2”.

  • Baronius

    Dan – Actually, the question of ensoulment isn’t particularly related to the immorality of abortion. Remember that we see contraception as sinful, so by our standards we don’t have to prove that the fertilized egg has a soul. Certainly, there’s a difference in degree between preventing a being from being created and killing that being, but it’s degrees of wrongness. That being said, the fertilized egg has a distinct human genetic code, so I see no problem labelling it a separate (if not separated) human life.

  • Troll,

    I apologize for my less than adequate response. This may be equally inadequate. Let me try to supplement it, with a preface: predicting whether a tropical depression will become a tropical storm and then a hurricane is a science, and there are lots of computer models. Often, the different models provide different solutions. Even the very best meteorologists have a tough time, and guess right infrequently, particularly in their long term (a week or so) guesses. The more precise they attempt to be, the greater the likely error. Human behavior does not affect the path or the progress of a storm, which eliminates many substantial complications. It is more difficult to predict events in which people are involved, particularly when the events attempted to be predicted won’t occur in the near future. Predicting what a President will try to do to affect the outcome of a Supreme Court decision, in a matter not before the Court and likely to get there only after several years, in an unknown context, is pretty much a worthless exercise. Predicting whether he will succeed is even more chancy. Here’s my shot at guessing whether a solidly anti-abortion President, trying very hard, could get Roe v. Wade reversed. I don’t think he would be able to do so, but I’ve been wrong before and will be wrong again. I may well be wrong this time.

    Roe v. Wade curtailed the rights of States to limit abortions, permitting them to continue to do so only in specified circumstances. It asserted Federal power, via the Fourteenth Amendment, to accomplish this. However, as far as I know, there is no Constitutional basis for Federal legislation in the abortion area, a point with which I have previously dealt.

    Regardless of who wins the election, I don’t see any significant chance of Roe v. Wade being modified, on a Constitution based analysis, to restore the power of the States in this area. As noted previously, there is a substantial disinclination at the Supreme Court to resolve Constitutional issues, and the Court has traditionally attempted to resolve such issues only as a last resort and when necessary. It has also been very reluctant to overturn its own decisions once made, particularly those of Constitutional significance and of recent vintage. Roe v. Wade is fairly recent precedent, and to hold that it was wrongly decided on Constitutional grounds and therefore improperly diminished the rights of the States to limit abortion would be a major stretch.

    True, were staunch anti-abortionists to be seated on the Court, this might happen. However, I suspect that whoever wins the election, there will be a more than sufficient “liberal” pro-choice majority in the Senate, not to mention sufficient “liberal” opponents of States’ rights, to block such an appointment. The Constitution does not state the number of justices who may sit on the Supreme Court, and FDR was able to get his way in grossly expanding the Commerce Clause by merely threatening to “pack” the Supreme Court. He didn’t actually have to do it; he merely threatened to do so. President McCain could possibly try to do that, but it seems highly unlikely that he would or that if he did the threat would succeed. It would be a pretty empty threat, because actually packing the Supreme Court with additional anti-abortion pro-States’ rights justices would seem to be even more difficult than getting a single anti-abortion – pro States’ rights justice approved by the Senate.

    On the other hand, Roe v. Wade was decided thirty-three years ago, and focused on medical issues in deciding whether legitimate State interests were involved in prohibiting or limiting abortion, rather than on the more complex and contentious (and essentially theological) question of when “life” begins. It sought to determine whether and to what extent a State may permissibly protect a pregnant woman from the dangers of abortion without infringing impermissibly on her Constitutional rights. The Court also considered at what point a fetus becomes “viable,” thereby providing a State some legitimate interest in the fetus. Subsequent to “viability,” a State may if it so elects restrict abortions to those necessary for the “life or health” (whatever those words mean) of the pregnant female.

    I assume (but do not know) that the period during which abortions are medically safe for the pregnant woman is now longer. The Court (as now constituted or differently constituted) could, on medical rather than Constitutional grounds, decide that abortions later than the first trimester no longer present a significant danger to the pregnant female and that the States therefore have no legitimate interest in restricting abortion on demand to the first trimester, subject only to the interest in ensuring that sound medical procedures are used for the pregnant woman’s benefit, as distinguished from for the benefit of the fetus. This would be difficult, because of the other medical considerations: the time at which viability occurs may now be earlier than it was thirty-three years ago, and States could therefore be deemed to have a legitimate interest in the well being of the fetus sooner. Similarly, medical science may have by now substantially reduced the hazard to the pregnant female of carrying to full term a fetus which, thirty-three years ago, would have endangered her health or life. These are factual, medical questions about three different but related issues, consistent answers to which could produce different and perhaps irreconcilable results. To attempt to predict those results would require both a very good crystal ball and knowledge concerning the precise facts of the case, neither of which I have. However, these are questions concerning which theology is or should be irrelevant and to decide which overturning Roe v. Wade on Constitutional grounds would be unnecessary. Presented with these factual/medical issues, the current Supreme Court, or a Court with new members, could go either way — regardless of who might be the President or who might have got them on the Court.

    For such questions to be presented to the Court, quite a few things would have to happen. Some State would have to pass a new law further limiting abortion on demand or prohibiting abortion regardless of the consequences to the life and health of the pregnant woman. That would be the easy part, since there are doubtless some States in which such legislation would be popular. Then, someone would have to contest the law; it would have to be someone with “standing” to do so, probably a pregnant woman (or several women) whose abortion rights had thereby been diminished. The case would have to make its way, rather slowly, up to the Supreme Court, overcoming numerous and substantial procedural hurdles along the way. Should the case actually be considered substantively by the Court, it would probably try very hard to avoid any Constitutional issues and decide the case on other grounds, probably the factual, medical ones suggested above. Here again, I seriously doubt that the composition of the Court would be dispositive.

    Could I be wrong? Of course I could be. I very much favor States’ rights, and much prefer pro-choice on the abortion issue. These are inconsistent goals. Unfortunately, I don’t see any realistic likelihood that States’ rights will make a come-back, and fortunately I see far less likelihood that the Supreme Court — no matter how constituted — will find a basis for prohibiting abortion regardless of State law. At most, my crystal ball suggests that it may, just may, permit the States further to limit abortion. And that is a very wild guess.


  • Pablo

    “There is a similar history of debate about capital punishment. It’s worth noting that the Catholic Church was the first institution to speak out against it in any way. I’d cut and paste some of it, but I’m less familiar with the theories.”

    That’s mighty white of them Baronius, considering that they (the Catholic Church) tortured, maimed, burned at the stake, and killed millions of human beings. If I were a member of this cult, (I am not) I would spend the rest of my life begging the Lord for forgiveness for the sins of my faith. It is a bigger travesty than even the Nazis, of whom I abhor almost as much.

  • Baronius

    Chris – There’s a branch of civics called the Just War theory. It describes the conditions under which a country may go to war, and the actions a country may take during war. It dates back to the Romans, and has been a steady stream of Catholic thought through the centuries. I could explain it myself, or cut and paste from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I choose the lazier:

    Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity. Those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity, provided they do so without harming the rights and obligations of other men and societies. They bear legitimate witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death.

    The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war. All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. However, as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.

    The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
    – the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
    – all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
    – there must be serious prospects of success;
    – the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

    These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the “just war” doctrine.

    There is a similar history of debate about capital punishment. It’s worth noting that the Catholic Church was the first institution to speak out against it in any way. I’d cut and paste some of it, but I’m less familiar with the theories.

  • troll

    zero pressure Dan – I look forward to your comment

  • Troll,

    I’m still working on amplification of my earlier response. Unfortunately it is late for me; I am tired and not thinking as well as I should. First thing tomorrow, I promise.


  • Baronius, perhaps you could show us some evidence of the Catholic moral position with regard to war and capital punishment. I’m not aware of any personally, so it would be good to see.

    I would have a modicum of respect for this outfit if they actually engaged with more important matters than people’s personal life choices.

  • Baronius,

    I very much appreciate your response, but don’t find it complete. Perhaps, if you have a chance, you might do me the kindness of asking your priest tomorrow or later at your convenience. (If there were a priest here with whom I could speak in English, I would love to have such a discussion with him. This is a very rural area, and there isn’t one, as far as I know.) If your priest is a Jesuit, I am confident that he will have a more definitive answer — although not necessarily one which I will find complete or persuasive either — I have always admired the logical thought processes of the Jesuits, although not necessarily their morality to the same extent.

    The question is a purely academic one for me, since I place no credence in either the concept of original sin or the immaculate conception; however, it seems to be one with which theologians have wrestled for a very long time. A related question, obviously, is at what point under Roman Catholic doctrine a fetus becomes “ensouled” and — for that reason — not subject to abortion. I understand, perhaps erroneously, that it occurs at some point subsequent to rather than at the moment of conception.

    Thanks, Baronius. Now I have to try to supplement my earlier response to Troll, which he quite properly found at least equally incomplete.


  • Baronius

    Chris, the Catholic Church doesn’t avoid issues of war and capital punishment. Not at all. But I suspect that’s not what bothers you. From your comments, it seems that you’re more bothered by the fact that they take a position on anything.

  • Baronius

    Dan, excellent question. I’m sloppy with my terminology, half the time because I’m trying to make a point in a simple way, the other half because I don’t know the proper terminology.

    I’d say that we all share the moral failings of our species, and are collectively marred with original sin. Yes, that’s guilt. But there’s something redeemable about human beings. It doesn’t serve justice to kill them as payback for their original sin.

    It does serve justice to take back from the thief and to kill the killer – but we should always remember that mercy is as much of a virtue as justice. The Catholic Church teaches that it can be permissible to take a life in defense of yourself or another. On the societal level, that can mean killing a killer through legal channels. On the international level, that can mean fighting a war, if it’s done for the right reasons and with the right methods. In a nutshell, there’s a difference between the guilt from a specific act (which calls for justice) and the guilt from being in a state of sin (as we all are born into).

    Do all unbaptized people burn in hell? Catholics never say that. We’ve been given an institutional system, the Church and the sacraments, that we can follow in order to attain heaven. We know it works. We don’t know what else may work. God’s mercy is not limited to the sacraments – like the thief who died next to Jesus wasn’t baptized, but Jesus said that he’d attain heaven. But I’m not gambling with someone else’s system when I know that the sacraments can work.

    (My terminology shines again: saying that sacraments “work”. Yikes. What I’m really talking about includes things like salvation and grace. I shouldn’t talk about the sacraments like they’re machinery. Of course, Christ can save anyone He wishes to, but the sacraments are an institutional means which aid us in the reception of God’s mercy. That sounds better than “work”.)

    This comment is way too long already, especially for a tangent. But let me add that Mary was conceived without sin, which we call the Immaculate Conception. Adam, Eve, and Jesus were too.

  • troll

    Dan – (when you return) – I’m not trying to trivialize matters but if there is some kind of a ‘formal process’ of getting to legal objectivity then my question above stands: where does the disagreement come from

    an objective approach to a case can yield contradicting decisions depending on the judge…true – ?

    (btw – I’ve read your humor and should have said that you seemed disinclined to frivolity on this thread)

  • Troll,

    I have no problem with frivolity and have occasionally engaged in it myself. I seem to recall having written two or three attempts at satire here. I merely stated that my question was not frivolous, and that I hoped for a non-frivolous response.

    I agree that there are significant philosophical differences between Justices Ginsberg and Thomas. Back when now Justice Ginsberg was a judge sitting on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, I argued several cases before her and found that she was both fair and intelligent (perhaps just a tad anal-retentive, but that is a characteristic of many judges). Her questions during oral argument were pertinent, and although her “liberal” leanings were rather clear, she was able to separate her personal ideologies from the cases before her, and did so. Sometimes she agreed with me, sometimes with the other side. I have no personal experience with Justice Thomas, and so can’t comment from that perspective.

    Any issue which comes before the Supreme Court has multiple facets — the procedural context (often complicated and lengthy) in which it arises, the law (and the legislative history of that law) upon the basis of which the lower court decided, and (in some but far from all cases) Constitutional questions. Constitutional questions are decided only if there is no other way to dispose of the case, on other issues. These things are unique in just about every case, and are unknown and unknowable until a case actually arises. Even a justice who had strong personal feelings against abortion would have a difficult time getting to the question of whether an abortion case before the Court raised Constitutional questions if there were other bases for deciding. For a Supreme Court nominee to opine on how he would rule on an abortion case would be silly and would suggest his unfitness for the job. Sometimes silly questions of that sort are asked, but most Supreme Court nominees have sufficient good sense and acumen to avoid answering them.

    I’m afraid that’s the best I can do for now. We are about to have a thunderstorm, which means that I am about to turn my computer off. Experience suggests that this is the prudent thing to do.


  • troll

    Dan – as you seem to have no patience for frivolity and while we wait for Baronious or some other religious authority to weigh in – what stuck me when I first read this article was that while supremos do act in less than completely predictable ways you downplay the importance of the beliefs that they hold before their appointments which color their interpretations

    what is the basis for the differences in decisions from say Thomas and Ginsberg and aren’t these differences pretty much predictable – ?

    the upcoming appointments will be critical to how the federal government treats abortion…..(which in my opinion is and in my ideal world would be a non-governmental issue altogether)

  • Christopher,

    I am not trying to prove or disprove anything. I asked a question because I don’t know the (an?) answer. There are a lot of people who are more knowledgeable than I am, and who are far better at rigorous logical analysis. The question I asked has been discussed within the Christian churches, and particularly within the Roman Catholic Church, for many centuries. My question was not frivolous, and I hope for a non-frivolous response.

    Although I am an Agnostic/Atheist, I am interested in why Christians think as they do. Some of them, at least, are substantially more likely to provide reasoned analysis than, for example, communicants of the Church of Man Made Global Warming.


  • You’re too kind!

  • troll

    (…maybe even thrice)

  • Dan, possibly a waste of time trying to use logic to disprove faithist dogma. Most faithists can’t think straight.

    troll, you proved me right twice over…

  • troll

    with apologies to Dan and those interested in a serious theological discussion (and to prove Chris’ correct):

    “…a certain mode of production or industrial stage is always combined with a certain mode of cooperation or social stage and this mode of cooperation is itself a ‘productive force’…” K Marx

    supernaturalism and monotheism as a particular instance has evolved as an ‘instrument’ of production that results in individuals amenable to our present relations of production

    hypothesis: change the relationship then the instrument will follow

  • I wrote the article to suggest that abortion should have little if anything to do with the Presidential election because there is very little if anything a President can do to affect the issue, one way or another. I am not going to touch the subject on this thread again,for that reason, except to raise a theological question for Baronius. I may write another article, more broadly touching on the places of religion in politics and of politics in religion. It may well be beyond my capabilities, but I plan to give it a shot.

    Baronius, I do have one theological question for you. You state,

    The fetus, whatever you believe it to be, isn’t a guilty human life. If you believe it to be a life, it’s innocent. The infirmed [?] are innocent. Any killing of the innocent is wrong.

    It had been my understanding that an important basis of Christianity, and not just Roman Catholicism, is the doctrine of original sin: since we are said to be descended from Adam after the Fall from Grace and not immaculately conceived, as Jesus is said to have been (apparently, the immaculate conception is so very important that it is one of the two doctrines upon which the Pope has spoken ex cathedra), we are “guilty” and require redemption. As I understand Roman Catholic doctrine, it is very important to baptize infants, to remove the taint of original sin; savages lacking this benefit are condemned to Hell or at least not to be admitted to Heaven. Hence, according to some Christian religions, Jesus made a pit stop in Hell on the way to Heaven to deal with this problem.

    I don’t offer this as an argument for or against abortion, or concerning when life begins. It just strikes me as inconsistent on the one hand to claim that a fetus is “innocent” and yet to suffer from original sin, for which the only cure is baptism absent which Hell or a state of more or less neutral suspension short of Heaven is assured. I would be interested in any clarification you might care to provide.


  • Oh no you won’t…

  • troll

    my apologies – I will avoid them in the future

  • History is full of lies. The monotheism lie is damaging humanity today. It is one lie that, precisely because of its ability to deceive so many so thoroughly, needs some substance behind it.

    I don’t like selective quotes taken out of context, they always seem designed to confuse the matter under discussion rather than illuminate it.

  • troll

    not clear about the ‘ought’ thing…in some sense history is what it is

    ‘There is only one science: the science of history’ – K Marx

  • Isn’t that my point? If someone or some organisation is claiming a higher moral authority, it ought to be based on something of substance, not a fabrication.

  • troll

    when has moral authority had anything to do with proof and truth – ?

  • Archie, not for the first time, your grasp of logic is flawed, which means you have things backwards.

    There is no need to disprove the existence of gods. It is incumbent on the people who assert that there is a god to prove that it is so. That has never happened in all the 6,000 years or more this idea has been afflicting humanity.

    There is actually evidence to support the big bang theory, but the important thing to note is that the supporters of this idea are calling it a theory, whereas the god con is put forward as fact with absolutely zero evidence.

  • Arch Conservative

    “Caholicism, like all faithist cults, has no moral authority of any kind, as it is based upon unproven theories and its leader has no more moral authority than anybody else.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong but the last I checked the existence of a god has not been disproven which, by your logic, means that atheists and secualrists have no claim to moral authority over people of faith.

    The simple fact is that the big bang theory and all of the other theories as to how anythign came to be in existence can no more be proven than the existence of a diety.

    It’s also obvious that most people of faith today do NOT belive that god and science are mutually exclusive concepts while most atheists do.

  • Clavos, well I never knew that so thanks for joining the debate. I have a lot of sympathy for those many millions of people, across all three strands of the montheism deception, who are the victims of that particular long con.

    Baronius, I don’t agree with your statements at all; not with regard to the basis of justice or how respect for life should be made manifold.

    My point is that for an organisation that claims some kind of moral perspective and authority to be willing to interfere in the personal lives of individuals but be completely absent on matters such as war or capital punishment strikes me as offensive.

    Abortion or euthanasia or inherently personal matters whereas war or state killing are much larger and more far reaching matters.

    How typical of an ethically bankrupt organisation to avoid such important issues…

  • I believe that the spiritual life of a human begins when the infant exits the womb and takes its first breath. I admit I may be wrong but I am comfortable in adhering to that belief. I also understand the other side of the coin where many would believe life begins at conception. And, that’s OK as well. However, no individual in a free society has the right to impose those beliefs by law upon another. I think the decision handed down by SCOTUS in Roe v. Wade is a rational, well thought out opinion and should remain, period. Decisions on termination of a pregnancy within the parameters of Roe v. Wade should be made by one person, the mother. It’s her body, her life, her decision. Of course they’ll all say that it’s between her and her doctor or her and her God. Sorry, that’s fluff. It’s a woman’s individual decision and the issue should have no influence on the election of a President.

    Insofar as Islam is concerned, Dave, I agree. Islam seems more destructive. And as with all religions, there are schisms which cause extremism. The three children of Abraham: Judaism, Christianity and Islam are like three brothers with a fierce sibling rivalry. They all want Daddy’s ultimate approval and hunger for it because it seems like Daddy’s been an absentee father for about 1,428 years.

  • Are you citing Muslims, extremist Christians or extremist Jews here? That statement could apply to all of the above. So here’s my open can of worms – there’s no difference between a Nazi, Mr. Wexler, James Dobson or a Muslim extremist. It’s the same game, just different game pieces.

    So let’s not tolerate ANY of them, Silas. That said, I still think that basically Islam is more destructive. There’s no toleration of slavery and ritual murder in extremist Christianity or Judaism for all their other faults.

    Now, to get back to the original issue here, I think we should start a movement to resist the ridiculousness of making non-issues like abortion the central focus of a campaign. I care deeply about a woman’s right to choose. But it’s still way less important than other issues which receive far less attention in the campaign and the media coverage of it. And I have to say that the same is true for health insurance, immigration and anything having to do with poverty in America. They’re all bullshit. We have perfectly adequate systems to deal with all of them at least to the extent they need to be dealt with, and we ought to be focusing our attention on real issues.


  • Baronius

    Gosh, Christopher, I failed to change all of your beliefs about the universe with a single comment on a message board. I didn’t see that coming.

    You said that you couldn’t understand the Catholic position. I’m not trying to persuade you, just to explain my church’s position. The most I hope for is to show that Catholicism is internally consistent. Its consistency with reality is outside my scope.

    So go to the old concept of Justice. It is never just to harm an innocent person. It may be just to harm a guilty one. Can we agree on that? Note that I’m not saying that every guilty person need be harmed; I’m just saying that justice puts a greater burden on the guilty.

    The fetus, whatever you believe it to be, isn’t a guilty human life. If you believe it to be a life, it’s innocent. The infirmed are innocent. Any killing of the innocent is wrong.

    The guilty may be killed in self-defense. Society may defend itself against enemies from without or within. Self-defense against a foriegn enemy is called a just war. Self-defense against a domestic enemy is capital punishment.

    In all four cases, the Catholic position is derived from a traditional understanding of justice.

  • Matt, YOU are a genius. Best laugh I had all day. THANK YOU!

  • Clavos

    Furthermore, Catholicism, like all faithist cults, has no moral authority of any kind…

    Not for you or me, no. But there are tens of millions of people around the world for whom it is the moral authority.

    Even in the USA, it’s the largest single religion.

  • The abortion issue in the election was not a planned one. The blogosphere basically fucked the election back in February with discussion of it without any protection, and the wedge issue has grown inside the womb of political debate ever since. With the issue being in the campaigns for seven months now, it is far too late to terminate the discussion. We could have done something about it back in May, but now we must deliver the subject up through election day and love it like it was our own.

  • To my way of thinking, from a moral or ethical perspective war and capital punishment are far worse than abortion or euthanasia.

    Furthermore, Catholicism, like all faithist cults, has no moral authority of any kind, as it is based upon unproven theories and its leader has no more moral authority than anybody else. In fact, as the leader of a cruel deception, he has less.

  • Baronius

    Christopher – The question isn’t which is more important, between war and the death penalty and abortion and euthanasia. It’s that war and capital punishment, while frequently wrong, may be right. Abortion and euthanasia are never right.

    Look at two common reasons for capital punishment, cold-blooded murder and writing articles against Putin. You can argue that the first one is justified. The second one is obviously immoral. Likewise, you can look at the 1939 German invasion of Poland as an immoral war, and the defense of Poland as a moral war. But Catholics believe that there’s no moral abortion, no moral euthanasia.

    I guess if you tallied up all the deaths in the world, there would be more caused by war than by abortion. Definitely more than by euthanasia. But morality isn’t measured by statistics, and even the smallest wrong act should be labeled as such.

  • Baronius

    Wow. I wish that every Catholic took his faith as seriously, and was as well-educated in it, as Dan and Clavos.

    Jordan, the Church has varied over the years about the punishment appropriate for abortion, and about the question of when human life begins. Those are respectively a matter of discipline and of science. The church has never wavered about the matter of doctrine, that abortion is a serious sin.

    Matters of discipline are gray areas, and a lot of latitude is granted to bishops. It’s tough to tell if a person can be led back to the faith best by giving them wiggle room or telling them to step back in line. Matters of science are pretty widely up for debate; the only questions arise when they appear to contradict matters of faith and morals. Usually, they don’t.

    Dan, The Pope is considered to be infallible when he speaks authoritatively on matters of faith and morals. He’s only done that twice, explicitly. But he has spoken on a lot of issues, often in union with Councils of Bishops.

  • Clav(os)

    Having skimmed the list, I now understand why our now twelve year old cat never got very far in learning her Kittyechism.


  • Indeed, Clavos. The beginning of the end of Christianity is at hand and somehow I think Jesus Himself is happy about that!

  • Clavos

    The Roman Church is NOT the one true Church.

    No argument from me, Silas. As far as I’m concerned, ALL churches (and religions) are phony, man-made constructs.

    But the Catholics believe (and teach their young) that theirs is.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Clav, the list is of dogmas of the Catholic church. That is to say nothing of infallibility.

    Father Pat McCloskey has a different view still.

    Of special note to the context of our discussion from McCloskey:

    Even though councils have given infallible teachings on matters of faith and morals, they have also made some prudential judgments about which there can be very legitimate disagreement.

  • The Roman Church is NOT the one true Church. I am Unitarian now after generations of Roman indoctrination. At one time I thought that I was called to the priesthood and after a year of seeing what goes on behind the scenes I was left disillusioned and hungry for ultimate Truth. The Roman Church under the guidance of the patron saint of multi-level marketing (St. Paul) is nothing more than an ancient version of AMWAY and they use the Bible as their product catalog. The remaining “reformist” sects are perpetuations of this MLM scheme and the lemming congregations just don’t get it yet.

  • Clavos

    There are others too, Dan(Miller), such as the idea that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church.

    According to this list, there are over 400.


  • Jordan Richardson

    Dear me. That’s pretty thin soup. Somehow I thought that the Trinity was pretty important, along (perhaps) with the existence of God.

    In terms of teachings that the Pope has declared infallible, those are the only two. I’m assuming that Catholics would assert the Trinity and God’s existence as foregone conclusions, unlike abortion which is pretty damn grey.

    the point of the article was that abortion is a red herring, and should have precious little to commend itself as a focus of the Presidential campaign.

    Agreed. I have to admit to not being able to fully relate to the fuss about the issue up here in Canada. Any opposition to it as a legal element was pretty small and went away quickly.

  • Jordan,

    You say, As far as I know, there are only two infallible pieces of Church dogma: the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. Dear me. That’s pretty thin soup. Somehow I thought that the Trinity was pretty important, along (perhaps) with the existence of God. But then, as a non-Christian, I may be wrong.

    Anyway, the point of the article was that abortion is a red herring, and should have precious little to commend itself as a focus of the Presidential campaign.


  • Jordan Richardson

    Clavos, “the faith” is far, far more than a compilation of ever-changing, ever-evolving pieces of doctrine. I think that’s something all religious people agree on.

  • Jordan Richardson

    In terms of the abortion discussion, I’m not prepared to ignore the fact that the Church position on it has changed throughout the years. What’s a good Catholic to do when the Church changes “key doctrine?”

    The truth is that no Pope in the history of the Catholic Church has called the teachings on abortion as “infallible.” Not a one. So while one might interpret the stance as “key,” it is certainly not considered infallible by the Throne. But Catholic theology tells individuals to follow their personal conscience in moral matters, even when their conscience is in conflict with hierarchical views.

    St. Augustine had the point of view that early term abortion required the same penance of any other sexual sin, making it no worse than any of the others. In the Enchiridion, he held that abortion was certainly not murder: “But who is not rather disposed to think that unformed fetuses perish like seeds which have not fructified”

    Aquinas agreed, saying abortion was not homicide unless the fetus was “ensouled.” For the record, St. Thomas Aquinas considered ensoulment to take place “well after conception.” The resulting Church discipline for abortion was penance. No excommunication, nada.

    Before that, the Didache asked some serious questions about the Church’s teachings on abortion. Namely, it asked whether the position on abortion was basically being used to cover the sin of fornication or adultery. It was thought that early Church opposition to abortion came as an offsetting result of the pagan beliefs, meaning that the Church distinguished itself from these religions by opposing what they had no problem with. Pagans typically had no issue with abortion and gay sex, so the early Church did.

    The Didache also set up the idea of hominization, which is when a fetus becomes “human.” The debate carried on in the Church (and still does).

    It wasn’t until Pope Sixtus V issued the bull Effraenatam that the penalty for abortion became excommunication. His successor, Gregory XIV, felt the stance was harsh and conflicted with early teachings on ensoulment. So he moved the goalposts and issued a stance that stood for nearly 300 or so years: Sedes Apostolica (no punishment stricter than local civil law or that based on sacred canon law).

    Pope Pius IX brought back excommunication as the punishment for it later on, of course. After a few more flip-flops, the Church of today passed right through a few more pronouncements and settled on the idea, for the moment, that aborton is always wrong. But again, no Pope has declared this teaching infallible.

    So it’s certainly not fair to say that this doctrine is “key” in line with ages of Church history. As far as I know, there are only two infallible pieces of Church dogma: the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. If Biden disagreed with those stances, he’d be an insincere Catholic. But that he, and millions of others, disagree with Church teaching on abortion is simply the latest in a long line of opposition to the doctrine.

  • Clavos

    So you figure that Biden is essentially pandering to pro-choice individuals at the expense of Church dogma and, in a roundabout way, his faith?

    Not necessarily. I actually believe that he IS sincere about being pro-choice. However, if he is, he’s no longer a Catholic, no matter what he may consider himself.

    Like Dan, I consider myself not a Christian for just such a reason (actually, several reasons); but I think Dan’s point is the important one here: if you claim the faith, live it, according to the teachings of the faith you claim.

  • I guess that makes for a lot of insincere people. Yep, sure does. If one elects to claim membership in the Roman Catholic Church, then one should accept its teachings, particularly its key teachings. I don’t accept the key Christian teachings and therefore am not a Christian.

    Whether Senator Biden (or Speaker Pelosi or Senator Kennedy for that matter) will actually be denied communion is for their church to decide. Thus far, all I have heard is a lot of noise and fury, signifying nothing. Whether Senator Biden et al are comfortable with one leg on one side of a wide river and the other leg on the other side is for them to decide. Whether I accept their sincerity is for me to decide, and I have done so.


  • Jordan Richardson


    So you figure that Biden is essentially pandering to pro-choice individuals at the expense of Church dogma and, in a roundabout way, his faith?

    Sorry if I’m having trouble grasping your stance, Clav.

  • Clavos

    Actually, what I said was that either he’s willing to risk his faith OR he’s insincere, because that’s literally the position he’s in.

    If he’s not being insincere, then the Church should make its decision in that context.

  • Jordan Richardson

    the Church would disagree completely with you, especially as regards the part I highlighted.

    The Church would absolutely disagree with my personal opinion on that particular topic, but it speaks to a broader and more important issue.

    Its dogma are not open to interpretation or discussion, and once a Catholic has been warned by a Bishop (as in Biden’s case), he/she is subject to excommunication.

    Hans Küng is a good example of this. He still considers himself a Catholic and met with Pope Benedict in 2006 to discuss theology. Küng, as most Catholics would know, had a heavy hand in the Second Vatican Council and is among the Church’s more liberal theologians. While he has lost his missio canonica (the faculty to teach Catholic doctrine), he’s still a member of the Catholic Church. Point being that there are, despite the dictation from the Throne, a good deal of Catholics that still disagree with and adamantly argue against some of the Church’s doctrinal points and remain Catholics through it all.

    If Küng wasn’t excommunicated, it seems unreasonable to assume Joe Biden would be based on his abortion stance.

    And, further to my overall point, I would be hard-pressed to doubt the sincerity of an indivudal like Küng (many Catholics would disagree, many others would agree) both in terms of his faith and his vision for the Church.

    So when you claim that Biden is between either losing his faith or his sincerity, you had better also apply the false choice to centuries of other theologians that dared challenge Church teachings. I don’t think this counts as a question of sincerity, as I think Biden has proven it with his stance. You claim that he’s insincere, when at best he’s one of millions of Catholics that openly disagree with key Church doctrine.

    I guess that makes for a lot of insincere people.

  • Clavos


    I’m not being argumentative here, but as an ex-Catholic, I can tell you that this entire paragraph:

    Dan, I don’t know anyone who follows all church teachings. That does not make me question their sincerity, their faith, or their capabilities. Instead, I applaud their honesty and their integrity to discover that nobody speaks for God(s) on this planet and that church laws, however “holy” some might deem them to be, are merely manmade. (emphasis added)

    is in complete opposition to Catholic dogma, and the Church would disagree completely with you, especially as regards the part I highlighted. As far as the Church is concerned, if one, as a public figure, participates in the facilitation of abortion and euthanasia in any capacity, be it helping to pass laws or even advocating in favor of those practices, He/she is in violation of the most sacred of the Church’s beliefs and is prohibited from receiving the sacraments, including communion.

    The Church is neither democratic nor liberal. It is autocratic and top-down, and it believes that, on matters of faith and dogma, the Pope IS speaking the word of God, and there is no discussion, no debate. Its dogma are not open to interpretation or discussion, and once a Catholic has been warned by a Bishop (as in Biden’s case), he/she is subject to excommunication.

    Matters NOT considered to be faith and dogma ARE open to discussion.

    If Biden is a true Catholic, he knows all this, so either he’s choosing to accept the Church’s excommunication, and lose his faith (and privilege to die in absolution), or he’s being insincere to the American people; as far as the Church is concerned, there’s no middle ground.

  • The word “Assassin” comes from the Hashishin, suicide commandos from a particularly weird sect of Islam (even for the times).

    Good spin but not all the facts. But I forgot. We have limited attention spans so we’ll rely on the sensational and ignore all the facts. That’s an Obamian thing to do. If you REALLY want to know more about the etymology, click here. If not, throw that baby out with the bath water.

    .. there was this little thing called “The Reformation”, you may have heard of it? For those who haven’t, there’s this thing called “Protestantism” …

    Oh my. The Catholics and other Christians have evolved. More spin. Another product of the Reformation? Pat Robertson. James Dobson. Jerry Falwell. Different players, the same militancy.

    …corrupt structure of the Christian World was forced to change its habits, leading to things like the Enlightenment…

    Somebody’s been smoking the stuff the assassins are selling and I want some! There’s nothing “enlightened” about the manner in which the extreme Christian Right has done business in America.

    It is a religion/society in which bigotry and racism and sexism every form of intolerance is viewed as virtue, as demonstrating one’s power.

    Are you citing Muslims, extremist Christians or extremist Jews here? That statement could apply to all of the above. So here’s my open can of worms – there’s no difference between a Nazi, Mr. Wexler, James Dobson or a Muslim extremist. It’s the same game, just different game pieces.

  • Christopher,

    I don’t understand it either or, to the extent that I understand, agree with it. But then, I am not a Roman Catholic. Many years ago, when I found that I could not accept the most important teachings of Christianity, I ceased to be one and would never label myself as one.


  • Personally, I don’t understand this Ratzinger idea of moral issues having different values. Nor do I understand why war or the death penalty would be less important than abortion or euthanasia. In fact, I would have thought it should be the other way round…

  • Jordan Richardson

    So, if I take this correctly, you’d rather have someone who held unquestionably and blindly to Church Doctrine that is, in fact, debated daily within many Catholic circles I know than you would have someone who actually questioned the doctrine and came to their own logical conclusion based on evidence.

    Dan, I don’t know anyone who follows all church teachings. That does not make me question their sincerity, their faith, or their capabilities. Instead, I applaud their honesty and their integrity to discover that nobody speaks for God(s) on this planet and that church laws, however “holy” some might deem them to be, are merely manmade.

  • My limited understanding of the Roman Catholic Church is that it is less cafeteria style than most Protestant churches. Abortion and euthanasia are anathema to the Roman Catholic Church, and in another article I wrote,

    In a 2004 letter to American bishops, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, stated “not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia . . . . there may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about war and the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia. . . . . [priests] must refuse to distribute it to a Catholic politician [who] consistently campaigns and votes for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws.”

    That abortion and euthanasia are critical matters of belief within the Roman Catholic Church seems clear. For a Roman Catholic to claim that there can be legitimate diversity of opinion within the Roman Catholic congregation concerning them seems, to me, to be rather strange.

    I do find it encouraging, on one level, that some who profess to be Roman Catholics support abortion rights. However, on another level, I submit that it calls into question either the sincerity of their adherence to the very heart of their Roman Catholic faith, or the sincerity of their public utterances on other matters or, perhaps, both.


  • This campaign and the comments I see on BC is (or perhaps has been), for the most part, entering the phase where people are reacting based on emotion.

    I’m emotional on several issues myself, but when choosing a president, I would like to think my choice is based on fact gleaned from research, not whether or not I like a person or if their views MATCH EXACTLY mine. I can tell you as an independent that there isn’t a candidate around whose views exactly mirror my own. That’s why I – myself – have to take a sensible approach.

    I know that others don’t feel the same, and that’s cool. Heck, my mother voted in her first election after becoming a citizen for JFK, simply because he was Catholic and she thought he was handsome.

    People should realize that votes are cast for a variety of reasons, to include some that may seem nonsensical to you or me. I’ve seen it happen here in Detroit where the people voted in a thug. They knew he was a thug, but they still cast their collective ballots for him, when I would not do that.

    Dan makes a valid point in that no matter how you feel about abortion, the laws aren’t going to be changed in a day because this guy or that is the President.

  • Dave Nalle

    The militancy is written into the Koran and reinforced over and over again in the actions of Mohammed who was a ruthless, murdering bastard and his successors who were conquerors and oppressors and militant exclusionists of the worst kind.

    Islam has had its moments of glory and greatness, but they have all been times when forces of reason temporarily bucked the overall trend. And now, in its days of decadence (rather like Christianity) it’s gone weird and sick and ever more violent. And starting from a worse place to start with it has gone very, very evil.

    Put the terrorism aside. Pretend it doesn’t exist. Even without it, this is a religion which kills homosexuals, women who are raped and those who convert to another religion. It is a religion/culture which revels slavery and thinks of education solely as a tool for programming the young to engage in suicidal warfare. It is a religion/society with gulfs between rich and poor which stagger the imagination and in which the rich can commit any crime with impunity and can kill, abuse, rape and exploit with no consequences. It is a religion/society in which bigotry and racism and sexism every form of intolerance is viewed as virtue, as demonstrating one’s power.

    So forget the terrorism. Just hate the evil which it comes from.


  • Cannonshop

    Um, Silas, the Militancy was there before the Crusades. The word “Assassin” comes from the Hashishin, suicide commandos from a particularly weird sect of Islam (even for the times). A reading of the Q’uran would also yeild some rather juicy bits on how to wage Jihad, and how to treat non-believers… unlike the Catholics, though, the Muslims never gave up on conversion by the sword, nor do they socially and societally isolate those who wish to practice it.

    As for the Catholic Church that killed some millions (probably a touch more than seven) and tortured millions more for centuries, there was this little thing called “The Reformation”, you may have heard of it? For those who haven’t, there’s this thing called “Protestantism” that cropped up a few years after a guy called Gutenberg invented the Printing Press. It happened because a Monk named Martin Luther saw lots of Hypocrisy in the church, and abuse, and said something about it. There were LOTS of internal wars over this, but the end outcome was that the giant, monolithic, homicidal, and corrupt structure of the Christian World was forced to change its habits, leading to things like the Enlightenment (from which the west derived all this neat science stuff, the idea that maybe Reason should be used instead of Superstition, and a weird, wacky idea that Kings are not granted the right to rule by being picked by a god for the job.) The shift took centuries, but happened. Unlike the Middle East.

  • Yes, Pablo, it is. If non-Muslims stopped for a few minutes and read the history of the Muslim struggle against the Roman Church perhaps they can understand the militancy which runs rampant in the Middle East. At least Muslims look at Christ as a great Prophet.

  • Pablo


    Is this the same religion that slaughtered around 7 million people, and tortured countless others for centuries? I hope not.

  • charlie

    Another thing: Sarah Palin has made it known that she supports abortion if the life of the potential mother is in jeopardy. Now does that mean she is going against her church’s teachings? [No.] Or does she have a moral understanding of how to deal with critical situations in life – like Joe Biden – that is wider and more heart-based than what a man-made church believes? And I’m a Catholic, BTW, who doesn’t believe every piece of scripture in the Bible but believes in leading a Christian life, based on everything I’ve learned. When I sin, I repent by saying the Act of Contrition or going to confession. And so does every true Catholic/Christian, whether they are liberal or conservative, pro-choice or pro-life.

  • Jordan Richardson

    So basically the reasoning here is that Sarah Palin is more sincere and trustworthy (“she doesn’t have her fingers crossed behind her back”) because she follows her church’s thinking and Biden is not as sincere and trustworthy because he doesn’t follow a particular part of his church’s thinking.

    I don’t want to get off on a rant about how little this reasoning says about your understanding of the average believer. I disagreed with MANY of my church’s positions on a myriad of social issues, yet I was not insincere about any of those issues. Biden appears to be upfront and doesn’t seem to be pandering to his church. I would question his sincerity had he been deceptive, but I believe he wants to be a Catholic Christian and, like many other Catholic Christians, struggles with part of the doctrine.

    In my view, that registers Biden as an independent thinker willing to trust his heart and reason over manmade church doctrine. The idea that you cannot say the same for Sarah Palin appears alarming.