Thursday, February 28, 2013

Want to Get Paid for Full-Time Pro-Life Work After Graduation? [SK]


If so, join us at the annual Friends for Life Boot Camp in Fort Wayne June 26-27. You'll get one-day of support raising training and one day of pro-life apologetics training. Great combo!

We've added the one-day support-raising seminar to equip graduating college students (and other qualified pro-life advocates) to raise financial support so they can work full-time saving lives. Attending the seminar does not guarantee you a job. But it will position you to approach pro-life organizations who can't pay you from their general budgets (they're broke), but may employ you if you take personal responsibility for raising your own salary. Mike Spencer and Scott Klusendorf--both of whom have raised financial support--will teach the seminar.

Here's the problem we're trying to fix: What do we do with pro-life students after they graduate college? Currently, there is no lack of pro-life activity for students at the collegiate level. Pro-life student groups are represented at over 850 campuses nationwide. But once these students graduate, get married, and begin earning a living, their pro-life activity drops to minimal. Meanwhile, pro-abortion college grads can take jobs with Planned Parenthood and other liberal institutions where they get paid to work full-time promoting the killing of unborn humans.

Generally speaking, pro-life advocates at the community level are extremely dedicated and hard working, but they tend to be part-time volunteers. Their time and resources are limited. Pro-abortion leaders, meanwhile, are almost always highly paid professionals from medicine, law, politics, and academia. These professional elite’s have the time and resources to work full-time advancing the culture of death. Meanwhile, pro-life views are under attack from all sides as outdated, irrational, and intolerant, and millions of young people have absorbed that viewpoint.  And we think we can win this fight with part-time volunteers?

There’s a better way. It’s called support raising. That is, pro-life groups that previously could not afford to hire new staff can put new troops in the field at no extra cost if they train them to raise their own salaries just as Scott Klusendorf, Stephanie Gray, David Lee, Troy Newman, and other pro-life leaders have done for years using proven funding strategies originally developed by mission organizations like Campus Crusade, the Navigators, and Frontiers. The support-raising model is a critical strategy shift that could change the face of pro-life advocacy in the 21st century, transforming our movement from part-time volunteers to full-time professionals serving the cause of life.

With that in mind, our annual Friends for Life Boot Camp will begin offering support-raising training for qualified applicants at our July 26-27 camp. The support seminar is an ad-on (pre-camp) and will not replace our current pro-life apologetics content aimed at high school and college students who have yet to graduate. Rather, it gives those students a chance to consider full-time pro-life work after graduation. To use a baseball analogy, think of our current Friends for Life Camp as a farm system where aspiring pro-life advocates are equipped with the skills needed to play in the major leagues. With the new support-raising seminar, our students are positioned to actually get in the game.

In short, the Friends for Life Boot Camp will equip students to defend their beliefs before graduation and train them for a lifetime of service after. The support-raising training is completely voluntary. Students attending Friends for Life camps are not required to take support-raising training. But for those who want full-time involvement after college graduation, the support seminar will uniquely position them to do just that. Students will learn to:

1. Avoid common support raising mistakes
2. Execute three proven support-raising strategies
3. Develop a proper Biblical and ethical attitude toward raising money—one that communicates a winning and exciting vision rather than a desperate cry for funds
4. Keep their givers excited about pro-life work over the long haul


Support-Raising Seminar Outline

I. The Bad News:

A. There are more people working full time to kill babies then there are working full time to save them.
B. Pro-Life leadership versus pro-abortion leadership (amateur vs. professional)
C. Funding issues: pro-life groups are broke; they cannot afford to pay new staff.
D. Cultural mindset: The public does not agree with us that abortion is a serious moral wrong.
E. Cultural mindset among pro-lifers: “You should work for free or get church funding.”

II. The Solution: Self-supporting Pro-Life Staff

A. Evidence it can work (Campus Crusade, Navigators, Inter-varsity, and various pro-life leaders and advocates, etc.)
B. Pro-Life staff in U.S., Canada, and Britain
III. Pitfalls to Support-Raising and Their Solutions

A. Bad attitudes toward raising money

1. Common (erroneous) view of support raising: “It’s a dirty adjunct to genuine pro-life work. You mean I got to go out and beg for money?”
2. “Get by” mentality
3. Laziness, poor work ethic—In short, a lack of desire
4. No strategy
5. Refusal to grow as a person
6. Unhealthy fear of rejection: Are any of my fears worth the price of babies dying (whose lives could have been saved if I were fully funded)?
7. “Poor-talk”—hinting about money rather than directly asking

B. Biblical model for support-raising: Ask rather than demand. Communicate your great vision not your great need.

1. Jesus raised support (Luke 8: 1-3; 10:7, Matthew 10: 9-10)
2. Paul raised support (1 Cor. 9)
3. Example of Levites (Numbers 18:6, 20-24, 2 Chronicles 31:4)

C. Other common mistakes:

1. Mail appeals (OK for cash projects, not personal support)
2. Assuming money follows ministry
3. Failure to specifically ask for support
4. Hinting about money
5. To slow a pace—play at support raising
6. Do it “crisis to crisis”
7. Neglect support raising for the adrenal rush of ministry
8. Refuse to write support raising into your job description


IV. Successful strategies:

A. Eyeball to eyeball

1. Brainstorm contacts
2. Phone for appointment: PUT YOUR AGENDA UP FRONT
3. Make eyeball to eyeball presentation

B. Small and large group presentations

1. Changing feeling as a predicate to changing behavior (role of abortion pictures)
2. Using the PIE card effectively
3. Communicate urgency

C. Phone strategies

1. Letter/phone
2. Calling pro-life mailing lists


V. Donor Ministry:

1. Writing effective monthly donor update letters
2. Communicating your vision more than your need
3. Use of pictures to illustrate your pro-life work
4. Use of social media and email to stay in touch


Commonly Asked Questions About the Support Raising Seminar

1. Who is the primary (but not exclusive) target audience? The training is aimed at college students within a year of graduation or who recently graduated. Our purpose is to train pro-life speakers with a focus on pro-life apologetics. We may allow others to attend on a limited case by case basis.

2. What are the requirements for attending the support-raising seminar? Applicants within a year of college graduation must complete Pro-life 101 and Pro-Life 201 either by attending Friends for Life Camps or via the DVD training Scott Klusendorf provides at no charge. All attendees will read Scott’s book The Case for Life and answer the chapter questions prior to, or immediately after, the support raising seminar.

3. What about high school seniors and undergraduates who are not within a year of college graduation? Admission will be on a case-by-case basis, with priority given to those closer to graduation.

4. How much does the support seminar cost? TBD, but under $100, which includes lodging, seminar materials, and meals. Travel to and from Fort Wayne is the responsibility of the registrant.

5. Does attendance at the support-raising seminar guarantee a job? Absolutely not. We provide only the training needed to raise funding should an existing pro-life group hire the applicant. We do, however, make every effort to link seminar registrants to pro-life groups willing to interview them for full-time positions as pro-life apologists.

6. Do you accept applicants of all religious persuasions? Yes. We accept Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and those of no religious persuasion. However, the support-raising training is based on biblical principles and applicants must not insist on changing that.

7. How long is the seminar? One day—Friday, June 26.



No Pictures Allowed? [SK]

I’m sometimes told that graphic abortion pictures have no place in formal abortion debates. The claim goes like this: “Forensic competitions do not allow pictures. Nor do court trials. Words alone stand as evidence."

This is wrong on so many counts, but I’ll stick to just three quick replies.

First, as speech and debate professor Dr. Marc Newman points out, every speech textbook on the planet acknowledges the importance of visual aids in speeches where words alone are not adequate to describe something (“The Great Abortion Debate,” p.78).

Second, formal academic debates are not forensic competitions (tournaments with multiple teams) where random topics are assigned mere moments before the event. Rather, academic debates allow each speaker weeks to research his position and present the best case possible, using whatever evidence is relevant in the Socratic quest for truth.

Third, even in court cases, graphic images are admitted as evidence, despite the emotional impact on the jury. Associated Press reports that jurors in the trial of Andrea Yates, the mother who drowned her five young children in a bathtub, will view numerous pictures of the crime scene. One of the photos shows 7-year-old Noah Yates floating face down in the bathtub with his arms outstretched, submerged beneath the water. Others detail bruising on the children and how the bodies of Noah's four younger siblings — John, 5; Paul, 3; Luke, 2; and Mary, 6 months — were laid out on a bed in the back bedroom. State District Judge Belinda Hill said the photos' relevance outweighed any prejudice they might cause the jury (“Judge Allowing Yates Jurors to See Crime Scene Photos,” (AP) February 20, 2002).

To cite another example, gruesome photographs depicting the bloody attack by two frenzied dogs took center stage in the trial of a San Francisco couple accused of letting the animals maul a neighbor to death. Prosecutors displayed images of Whipple's fatal injuries—the back of her neck bloodied and punctured by the dog's teeth, her buttocks and breasts also punctured, her face covered in blood. Prosecutors successfully argued that although the images were disturbing, jurors would not understand the nature of the crime without them (“California Jurors See Dog Attack Victim Photos” (AP), February 20, 2002).

Gregg Cunningham puts it well. “If something is so horrifying we can’t stand to look at it, perhaps we shouldn’t be tolerating it.”

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pros and Cons of Labels [Megan]

 According to a recent advertisement released by Planned Parenthood (P.P.), there is a rising desire that the term "pro-choice" be stricken as the label given to the position of individuals who advocate abortion rights.

Most people "just don't want to be labeled," they claim.

They may very well be onto something, but I think they take it too far. 

Inherently, labels as used by individuals come with pros and cons.

Some labels are automatically associated with stereotypical meanings, which can be further exacerbated by any number of factors that influence individuals — culture, education, circumstances, media, etc.

When labels are thrown out haphazardly, they oftentimes unfairly corral others into groups according to the audience's perception. On the face of things, a label alone associated with a single person drops all of its baggage on that individual. By definition, "liberal" means "open to new behavior or opinions, and willing to discard traditional values," while "conservative" means "holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation." Neither definition explicitly mentions politics or religion. But when you hear one or the other, those definitions are probably not all that come to mind, if they come to mind at all.

To be a responsible communicator, it is necessary to have at least some understanding of your audience's context — whether it's an individual or a packed room. An awareness of the audience allows the communicator to define terms carefully so that the meaning of the message is clear. Words — even labels — must be carefully chosen so that a clear message can be received. Irresponsibility in that area can shut your listeners off — and have them labeling you — so that your message, and your meaning, fall on deaf ears.

That being said, it is important to make the following distinction:  to try and understand another's view is not the same as to agree with it.

Entering into another's context allows the communicator to treat others with respect, to treat their views fairly, and to clearly convey ideas that might be contrary. It allows the conversation to continue. A lack of finesse in this area results in communicators who attack straw men — they tear down views that their listener doesn't even hold. As a result, the communicator, and his/her view, loses credibility in the eyes of the audience.

But...

The "let's do away with labels" mentality, if logically followed, would have disastrous results.

As I recently read a Helen Keller biography to my daughter, she was gripped by the telling of Keller's first "word." Anne Sullivan, Keller's live-in teacher and caretaker, had been working for some time using the sign language alphabet to try and teach Keller about the world around her. Washing the dishes one day, Sullivan signed "w-a-t-e-r" into Keller's hand. Keller did not respond. Later that day, at the pump outside the house, Keller placed her hands in the water and realization dawned. She frantically began signing "water" for Sullivan, showing that she understood, that she associated the label with the clear liquid spewing forth from the pump.

Keller's realization that the world around her could be named is what began her learning, and learn she did. Hers is an amazing story.

One has to accept that in order for any meaningful interaction to be had, labels are necessary. If words lose their meanings, we're in real trouble. Language is one of the key things that separates human beings from animals — the ability to communicate, to learn at advanced rates. We think about the world around us propositionally and form meaningful thoughts, thoughts that can be tested and proved either true or false.

To do away with that meaning altogether is to, as C.S. Lewis suggested in The Abolition of Man, "evolve" ourselves right back to the very Nature from whence we supposedly came.
Labels, names for things or ideas, give us a jumping-off point in dialogue with others. In meaningful conversation, they bring the other person into the general vicinity of the talker's view. Once some general boundaries are established, specifics can be sought out. Truth can be uncovered. Meaning can be had. Progress can be made.

In the case of P.P.'s new propaganda, the claim is that "pro-life" and "pro-choice" don't accurately portray how most people feel about abortion. And that a large group of individuals do not identify with either label.

P.P. is aiming for moral neutrality — and, in doing so, is taking the firm position that everyone else should as well. But with or without the labels, moral neutrality is a myth. The debate over abortion rests on one point that has nothing to do with what one feels about it — the moral status of the unborn. Either an individual believes the unborn are human beings deserving protection under law, or they are not and may be killed by the act of abortion if a woman chooses to have one.

It may be that the call for abolishing "pro-choice" comes from the fact that many identify themselves as "personally pro-life," while others label them pro-choice. They're both, the claim goes, so essentially they're neither. But — because the real question is "What is the unborn?" — they can't have their cake and eat it too.

The label "pro-choice" may be changed, shifted, or thrown out, but whatever rises up in its place will have the same meaning. Call it what you wish, but even those who consider themselves "personally pro-life," but who believe other women should have the legal right to abortion are functionally squarely within the stance/label/lack-of-label they claim not to be, one which holds that other women ought to have the choice if and when they need to terminate a pregnancy.

So, though humanity's ability to name things and communicate meaning with one another involves great responsibility and, at times, not just a little nuance, P.P.'s latest rhetoric is insidious at best. My hope is that those who hear it, no matter how nice it might sound, read between the lines and seek out the meaning behind the words — the [overstated] assumption that "what [most Americans] want" is for women to have the safe and legal option to intentionally kill human fetuses (see Christopher Kaczor's definition of "abortion" in The Ethics of Abortion, page 8).

 There are only so many "attractive" ways to put that.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Lincoln Scholar of the Pro-Life Cause [SK]

No one exemplifies Lincoln's thinking on human rights better than Hadley Arkes, the Edward N. Ney Professor of Jurisprudence and American Institutions at Amherst College. His book Natural Rights and the Right to Choose is must reading for any serious pro-life apologist. Stop reading and order now! Then, read my summary below to help you navigate the text.*

Key questions raised by the book:

1. Where do basic human rights come from?  Do they come only from government or are they rooted in something that transcends government?
2. What is man?  Is human nature fixed or does raw political power determine who is and is not a human being?
3. What is law?  Is it merely the construct of jurists and lawmakers, or is it based on first principles of morals and justice?

Thesis of book: 

If we can arbitrarily alter the definition of “man” to suit our preferences, and if nature provides no definition of a human being that we are obliged to respect, then we remove all claim to natural rights, including the right to an abortion.

Summary of the book:

Secular liberals insist that abortion is a fundamental human right the State should not infringe upon.  Arkes simply wants to know where this alleged right to an abortion comes from.  In other words, is it a natural right that springs from our nature as human beings or is it a positive (legal) right granted by government?  If the latter, the abortion advocate cannot really complain that she is wronged if the State does not permit her to abort.  After all, the same government that grants rights can take them away.  

On the other hand, if the right to an abortion is a natural right—a right one has in virtue of being human—then the abortion-advocate had that right from the moment she came to be, that is, from conception! Thus, we are left with this amusing paradox: According to the logic of many abortion-advocates, unborn women do not have a right to life but they do have a right to an abortion!  Absurd!  In short, the defenders of abortion cannot tell us where rights come from or why anyone should have them.  By advocating an alleged right to choose, they have talked themselves out of the very natural rights upon which their own freedoms are built. 

Three Key Questions

#1: Where do basic (fundamental) rights come from?

The Founders and Lincoln answered that question by distinguishing natural human rights from merely legal ones.  Natural rights are those rights that you have simply because you are human.  They are grounded in your human nature and you have them from the moment you begin to exist.   For example, you have a natural right not to be harmed without justification as well as a natural right not to be convicted of a crime without a fair trial.  Government does not grant these basic rights.  Rather, government’s role is to protect them.  In contrast, legal (or positive) rights are those rights you can only acquire through accomplishment or maturity.  These rights originate from the government and include the right to vote at your eighteenth birthday and a right to drive on your sixteenth.  But your natural right to live was there all along.  It comes to be when you come to be.

To cash this out further, I do not have a legal (positive) right to vote in the next Canadian election for the simple reason that I am not a Canadian citizen.  But just because I lack the right to vote in Canada does not mean I lack the right to basic protections whenever I visit that country.  Likewise, just because a fetus may not have the positive right to drive a car or vote in the next election does not mean he lacks the natural right not to be harmed without justification.  Elective abortion unjustly robs the unborn of his or her natural right to life, as Arkes explains in an earlier book:

No one would suggest that a fetus could have a claim to fill the Chair of Logic at one of our universities; and we would not wish quite yet to seeks its advice on anything important; and we should probably not regard him as eligible to vote in any state other than Massachusetts.  All of these rights and privileges would be inappropriate to the condition or attributes of the fetus.  But nothing that renders him unqualified for these special rights would diminish in any way the most elementary right that could be claimed for any human being, or even for an animal: the right not to be killed without the rendering of reasons that satisfy the strict standards of “justification.” 

The distinction between natural and legal rights underscored the famous Lincoln/Douglas debates.  At issue was this question: Were the rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence natural ones or were they merely the creation of positive law?  Lincoln argued for the former: The claim “All men are created equal” meant that no man by nature is the ruler of another man in the way man by nature rules a dog. If the slave is a man, those same rights found in the Declaration (including the right to liberty) apply to him as they do the white man.  In short, the slave was a human being with certain rights that spring from his nature and those rights hold across time and place.  Because they are present whenever beings with a human nature are present, neither government nor popular opinion could legitimately deny them.  Douglas took the latter position, suggesting that who was and was not a bearer of rights depended on popular sovereignty.  Unlike Lincoln, he acknowledged no truths grounded in the nature of human beings that would hold across time and place.  Instead, we only have those rights granted through positive law.  Southern states did not count slaves as bearers of rights and that fact alone settled the matter. 

But as Lincoln pointed out elsewhere, in their willingness to justify the enslaving of Blacks, Southerners were affably putting into place premises that would justify their own enslavement.  In other words, the argument for slavery, in principle, could not be confined to Blacks, that in fact, it worked equally well to enslave Whites:
You say ‘A’ is white and ‘B’ is black. It is color, then: the lighter having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are a slave to the first man you meet with a fairer skin than your own.
You do not mean color exactly — You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again: By this rule you are to be a slave to the first man you meet with an intellect superior to your own.
But you say it is a question of interest, and, if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you.  
Likewise, many arguments used to justify the taking of unborn human life work equally well, in principle, to justify killing people outside the womb.  The right to kill unborn human beings cannot be confined to the womb.  In short, the only way to account for human equality is to argue that humans are equal by nature, not function.

#2: What is man?

The academic Left insists that “natural” rights are nothing but an oppressive ideology because human nature is nothing but a fiction.  “In the understanding of the post-modernists,” writes Arkes, “there is no objective nature of human beings, and no settled truths that arise from that nature: What we call human nature is socially constructed from one place to another according to the vagaries of local culture.”  

Nevertheless, the very people who profess that there can be no moral truths that hold across cultures (because there is no human nature that holds across cultures) insist upon casting moral judgements across cultures.  Radical feminists condemn wrongs done to women in foreign countries and take for granted that there really must be “women” out there, that is, beings with a certain ontological nature.  Arkes concludes: “When we sum up these things, we arrive, as I say, at the most curious result: In the world of the Left on the campuses, there are ‘human rights’ to be vindicated all over the globe, but strictly speaking, there are no ‘humans,’ for there is no such thing as human nature.  And because there are no moral truths, there are no ‘rights’ that are truly meaningful.”

Judges followed the lead of academic √©lites and removed from our law any fixed notion of what constitutes a “man” or human being.  Power, raw political power, now determines who is and is not a human being with rights.  For example, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), Justices O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter announced (in their famous “mystery passage”) that, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”  That is, human nature is not fixed, but determined subjectively.  But if that is true, there can be no fixed rights that arise from that nature, including a fixed right to an abortion.  So why can’t a future Court just arbitrarily decide that women don’t have a right to an abortion?  The Court didn’t say.

So what are left with?  The Court has affirmed the right of a person to define his own concept of existence, the meaning of the universe, and the meaning of human life.  But, writes Arkes, “was there any reality or truth attaching to him?  And what was there about him that commanded the rest of us to respect these decisions he reached about himself and the universe?”  Why can’t we just make him up to be someone who has no rights if that fits our own concept of meaning and human life?  In short, the Court’s mystery passage assumes the very thing it denies: By demanding that we respect a person’s judgement about human life and the meaning of the universe, the Court assumes that the human being in question actually exists as a rational agent, whether my own concept of the universe admits him or not.  

#3: What is law?

The first generation of American jurists understood two things forgotten by modern jurists.  First, the purpose of government was not to create rights, but to secure ones that we already have by nature.  Second, one cannot speak seriously of things that are truly rightful or of human rights in general without assuming moral realism (that is, the belief that right and wrong are real things, not merely constructs of human opinion or culture). Put simply, if moral truths do not exist as a foundation for law, then law itself becomes merely a system of raw political power accountable to no one. Modern jurists have forgotten what our Founders taught us about the relationship between law and morals.  Now we are told that because human nature is socially constructed (rather than fixed), there can be no objective moral truths that spring from that nature. We often hear, for example, that society should confer a large degree of liberty by not legislating on controversial moral issues for which there is no consensus, especially if those issues incite deep division.  Abortion, the argument goes, is a divisive and controversial issue.  Therefore, it should be left to personal choice.  But this view is itself controversial.  Do we have a consensus that we should not legislate on controversial matters?  Moreover, slavery and racism were controversial and divisive issues.  Are we to conclude that it was wrong to legislate against them?  The fact that people disagree is no reason to suppose that nobody is correct.  There are still natural laws of morals and justice that apply.

Additional Resources:

1. Mark Levine, Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America (Washington DC: Regency, 2005)
2. Hadley Arkes, First Things: An Inquiry into the First Principles of Morals and Justice (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986)
3. Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)

*Portions of the above review adapted from my book, The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Three Reasons Pro-Life Protestants Should Care About the Selection of a New Pope [SK]

There are more, but here are three quick ones.

1) The pro-life cause will suffer if the new Pope fails to uphold the distinction between intrinsic evils and contingent ones. Pope Bendict upheld this distinction while pro-abortion politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Andrew Cuomo are trying to undermine it in hopes of confusing voters. They confuse voters three ways. First, they lump elective abortion in with other so-called “life” issues like opposition to war, care for the environment, redistribution of income, health-care reform, etc. Second, they claim that because they are “pro-life” on these other “life” issues while the abortion-opponent is pro-life only on one—abortion—they are actually the true pro-life candidates. This gives them a pass on their rabid support for elective abortion. Third, they claim they will work to “reduce” abortion while doing everything possible to keep it legal and funded with tax money.

This is flawed reasoning. For example, war can be a moral evil, but it isn’t always so. Careful thinkers make distinctions between intrinsic (absolute) moral evils and contingent ones. For example, the decision to wage war may or may not be wrong, depending on the circumstances. However, the decision to intentionally kill an unborn human being for socioeconomic reasons is an intrinsic evil and laws permitting it are scandalous. True, a general in a just war may foresee that innocent humans will die securing a lasting peace, but he does not intend their deaths. With elective abortion, the death of an innocent human fetus is not merely foreseen; it is intended. The problem is that many Catholics and left-leaning evangelicals are perfectly willing to support a political party that supports an intrinsic evil simply because its members promise to help us avoid contingent ones. This is bad moral thinking.

Moreover, suppose an elected official has an excellent health-care plan, but he and his party are committed to the proposition that men can legally beat their wives. Wouldn’t that be reason enough to reject that party? True, abortion isn’t the only issue any more than slavery was the only issue in 1860 or the treatment of Jews the only issue in 1940. But both were the dominant issues of the day. Pope Benedict understands that pro-lifers should give greater moral weight to those dominant issues.

2) The pro-life cause will progress if the new Pope advances Benedict's view of incremental pro-life legislation that limits the evil done. If Pelosi and company represent a threat from the Left, pro-life purists represent one from the Right. The purist insists that pro-lifers compromise their principles when they support legislation that fails to protect all unborn humans. I’ve written elsewhere about why this reasoning fails, but Pope Benedict—even before he was Pope—understood that if you can’t stop the evil outright, you should at least work to limit the evil done.
“[A]ccording to the principles of Catholic morality, an action can be considered licit whose object and proximate effect consists in limiting an evil insofar as possible. Thus, when one intervenes in a situation judged evil in order to correct it for the better, and when the action is not evil in itself, such an action should be considered not as the voluntary acceptance of the lesser evil but rather the improvement of the existing situation, even though one remains aware that not all evil present is able to be eliminated for the moment.” (Cited in Fr. Peter West, Voting for Imperfect Candidates)
Pope Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, also affirmed incremental legislation. He stated the moral principle on which this approach is based in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae. He begins: “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it.” In the next paragraph, however, the pontiff makes clear what does not fall within that prohibition:
A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. . . . In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects. (Emphasis mine–cited in Clark Forsythe, Doing What can be Done.)
Five years later, on the publication anniversary of Evangelium Vitae, the Pope reiterated his call for Christians to limit evil:
No effort should be spared to eliminate legalized crime or at least to limit the damage caused by these laws, but with the vivid awareness of the radical duty to respect every human being’s right to life from conception until natural death, including the life of the lowliest and the least gifted.
It seems to me that JPII’s language here is quite clear. His words apply precisely to a context where pro-life lawmakers would like to end abortion once and for all, but find themselves in a situation where, given current legal constraints, they cannot pass such a bill. Hence, for the moment, they work to limit the evil of abortion “insofar is possible” while continuing to strategize toward the ultimate goal of protecting all children.

3) The new Pope will be uniquely positioned to challenge the pervasive relativism that suggests all moral and ethical truths are equally valid. Pope Benedict coined the perfect phrase for our current situation when he said the western world suffers under “a dictatorship of relativism.” Wow. It’s hard to beat that for a spot-on analysis of the biggest threat to pro-life principles. At the same time, he helped religious pro-lifers advance their case. For example, in his book “Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions,” Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) argued that religious truth claims count as real knowledge and the Christian faith in particular has greater explanatory power. That’s a very helpful concept to pro-lifers of all stripes who battle against a highly secularized culture that rejects truth in everything but the hard sciences. Let’s pray the new Pope clearly affirms the intrinsic value of human life and makes careful distinctions between contingent evils and absolute ones.

[Updated @2:09 for spelling, typos, and heading changes.

News on the Matter

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