Monday, March 29, 2010

Dr. Feser on Catholic "rights," Healthcare, and Abortion [Jay Watts]

Here is a link to a lengthy, thorough, and informative post by Dr. Edward Feser at What's Wrong With the World about Catholic democrats and their misunderstanding of the Catholic language of rights as it pertains to healthcare. I have friends that have struggled with this and they generally reject my attempts to explain these nuances as the ravings of a misinformed Protestant. Dr. Feser is a scholar and a Catholic, and his own explanation is air tight as near as I can tell.

His basic point is as follow: There is clearly a hierarchy of importance among issues based on the gravity of moral offense and the use of the term “rights” does not mean what most people think it does when used by the Catholic leadership in relation to healthcare.

Simply put, we should not understand the affirmation of a fundamental right to life as equal to a general right to available healthcare. If we did then we are forced to except that we have a moral obligation based on the type of being that we humans are to create a society that experiences a level of wealth and scientific advancement sufficient to provide the best healthcare conceivable at any given level of technological development. In addition, a certain number of qualified people are morally required to become doctors and nurses to maintain an affective doctor patient ratio in that society. If that number is not met voluntarily then forced conscription into the medical educational system is a moral necessity. If individuals are failing to work at an appropriate level in charitable giving the government is obligated to provide that healthcare with no respect to the individual's freedom of association and participation because healthcare is equal in priority to the fundamental right to live without being unjustly killed by your fellow man.

But Dr. Feser does a yeoman's job of explaining why this simply is not the case and how traditional Catholic teaching is heavily dependent on the principle of subsidiarity, which entails that the agency bearing the most responsibility to take care of the needs of their fellow man is the private community and not the government. That the term “rights” as used throughout Catholic literature enjoys various understandings as to the implications and urgencies of recognizing whatever right is being discussed. In other words, and shamelessly stealing from Orwell, some rights are more equal than others.

His main point is to distribute the blame for this misunderstanding between two distinct groups. The Catholic leadership, particularly the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the politicians that have used this confusion to justify and celebrate their Catholicism in championing certain social causes. The Bishops, according to Dr. Feser, are culpable for not being clear that their encouragement for Catholics to engage these other social issues (healthcare, poverty, and the like) should not be seen as a declaration that those issues are morally equal in importance and urgency with the issue of the massive destruction of human life through abortion. The politicians are guilty of either doing nothing (Stupak) or doing worse than nothing (Pelosi, Kerry, Biden, Giuliani, and Schwarzenegger to name a depressing few) by championing and endorsing the legal right of women to do something that is in direct contradiction to the moral teachings of their Catholic faith. The post is extensive, and I highly encourage a careful and complete reading.

I would like to add that these Catholic democrats that endorse government run healthcare need to immediately amend their insipid and cowardly stance on abortion. Their claims that personal opposition to abortion should not translate into laws that impact those who disagree with them as to the nature of human life are ringing awfully hollow today. Their behavior over the past several months has exposed that talk for the farce that it always was. It is time to own up to the truth of your position. You support law that has empowered the willful, morally reprehensible, and government sanctioned destruction of more than 50 million human lives in the United States since 1973 alone. You have no problem legislating your morality as long as it is consistent with the democratic party platform, so please just admit finally and once and for all that you do not care about abortion, the unborn, or Catholic teaching on the matter. This ruse has grown tiresome and your latest power grab against the will of the majority of American people makes it untenable to pretend that you care about the freedom of others to live without your “moral interference” for their own good.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Pro-life Political Podcast #1 and Only [Serge]

LTI is not a political organization and does not endorse any candidate. The regular participates of the LTI podcast - namely Rich, Scott, and Jay - wanted to change gears and explicitly discuss politics - specifically the recently enacted health care reform bill and its impact on the pro-life cause. Thus, the link to the podcast below is not LTI material, meaning the views expressed are individual opinions and are not endorsed by Life Training Institute. Furthermore, LTI spent no money or staff resources producing it.

Scott described this one as a barnburner yesterday and I could not agree more. Enjoy.

Click here for the direct download

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Effectively Responding to Moral Relativism [Josh Brahm]

While working last week with the Justice For All exhibit at Kennesaw State University, I got into a conversation with two students, Justin and Teesha, about moral relativism. There are few topics more difficult to discuss than moral relativism. This is partially because it’s a complicated topic already, but also because few people are open to changing their views on relativism. Even if a person is typically open-minded, the whole concept of relativism is that we can have differing views on a subject, yet we can both be right.

When I train students to respond to moral relativism, I tell them to start by asking a clarification question. Steve Wagner of JFA points out that there are two different types of relativism, so it’s best to ask, “do you believe morals are relative to individuals or cultures?”

If the person believes morals are relative to cultures, I’m going to ask, “then how can you judge the Nazi’s decision to slaughter the Jews?”

If the person believes morals are relative to individuals, I’m going to say, “then you can’t distinguish between a father who feeds his daughter and a father who molests his daughter, can you? They just have different preferences.”

I’m going to share with you an excerpt of my dialogue with Justin, in hopes that it will give you some “tools for your toolbox” to use the next time your friend says “morals are relative.”

Justin:   There is no such thing as objective truth.

Josh:    Is that a true statement?

Justin:   Well, it’s true for me.

Josh:    I understand that, but is it true for me too, or is it just true for you?

Justin:   I don’t know, but it’s definitely true for me. There are some things I believe are wrong, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong for everybody.

Josh:    Okay, well do you think we could agree that there are some things that are objectively wrong? Like rape, for example. Wouldn’t it be wrong for someone to rape Teesha?

Justin:   Well, it would be wrong for me.

Josh:    I understand that, but when I say ‘rape is wrong,’ I mean that there is something inherently evil about the act of rape itself. It seems that when you say ‘rape is wrong,’ you’re simply stating a personal preference.

Justin:   Yes, it’s wrong for me, but who am I to judge someone else?
(I could tell by Teesha’s body language that she was slowly coming to grips with the natural consequences of Justin’s worldview, and it was making her a little uncomfortable, but she didn’t say anything yet.)

Josh:    What about child prostitution? It happens all around the world. Can’t we at least agree that that’s really messed up?

Justin:   Well, I personally don’t think that’s right…

Josh:    Yeah, but some people do. Some people think it’s okay to sell little girls' bodies for sex with adult men. Isn’t that just wrong?

Justin:   Well, some people grow up with different parents and in a different culture than me. So I definitely wouldn’t do it, but who am I to judge another culture?

Josh:    I definitely agree people’s worldviews are partially shaped by their parents and culture, and that we should strive to think freely and clearly, and not just adopt whatever our parents taught us. (Justin nods approvingly.) But couldn’t an entire society be wrong about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of paying to have sex with 7-year-old girls?

Justin:   I think it’s wrong, but it might be right for them.
(Teesha interrupts that she disagrees with Justin. “Well I think that would be wrong!” she replied.)

Justin:   Something can be wrong to me, but that doesn’t make it wrong for someone else. Maybe it’s right to them. There is no objective right and wrong.

Josh:    Look, everybody used to think the earth was a flat disc on the back of a giant sea turtle. Were they right?

Justin:   It was right for them.

Josh:    Yes, but were we ever actually on the back of a giant sea turtle?

Justin:   *pauses / stammers*

Josh:    Do you understand the Law of Non-Contradiction? It is not possible that something be both true and not true at the same time and in the same context.

Justin:   But there is no truth!

Josh:    See that?! You just made a truth statement, that there is no truth! I don’t even have to refute that. Your argument is refuting itself! It committed suicide. It was Dead On Arrival.

Teesha laughed, and we moved on to another topic, and went our separate ways a half hour later.

Why was I able to be so quick on my feet in that dialogue? Because I had already prepared for that kind of conversation. I read books like “Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air” by Frank Beckwith and Greg Koukl or "The Case for Life" by Scott Klusendorf. I listened to CD’s over and over on this topic, so I could master the material for myself. A lot of my responses were not even original! But they were tools in my toolbox, ready to be taken out when the opportunity came up.

I also chose to describe some of the most despicable acts I could think of. (I purposely left out the more graphic descriptions in this article, but suffice to say, I left little to the imagination.) I did this because it’s one thing to stand on a college campus and say there is no objective right and wrong, but it’s another thing to hear what it’s like for a 7-year-old to be forced to have sex with an adult man. There’s a reason we have a negative gut instinct when hearing things like that. It’s the kind of thing bioethicist Leon Kass refers to as “the wisdom of repugnance.”

So start preparing yourself for conversations like this! One way to do that is to listen to the weekly podcast at, read Scott's 5-Minute Pro-lifer articles, or listen to the LTI Podcasts. Then you can be ready the next time someone tells you, “fetuses aren’t persons,” or “I’m personally pro-life but I wouldn’t tell someone else what to do with their body,” or even, “There is no truth. Morals are relative.”

Whatever you do, find a way to get involved. Moral relativism is one of the most destructive worldviews of the century. It’s become so popular that it’s even creeping into our churches unnoticed. It’s important that pro-lifers are able to combat it respectfully but effectively.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mind-numbing Nebraska Legislation [Elizabeth]

Nebraska lawmakers are trying to pass the Abortion Pain Prevention Act — which would ban abortions after the 20th week of gestation — after more than 2,800 abortions were performed in the state in 2008, according to an article published on NewsNetNebraska.

The author of this legislation, Sen. Mike Flood, was recently quoted as saying if the fetus can feel pain, it’s worthy of the state’s protection.

I know that Flood is pro-life and is well-intentioned, but our ability to feel pain has no bearing on our humanity and, therefore, our right to protection under this nation’s laws.

If he’s merely introducing this bill in hopes of doing some good, then I applaud his efforts. But this bill rests haphazardly on faulty reasoning.

Let’s adopt Sen. Flood’s reasoning for a moment and say that pain should be the determining factor that transforms a fetus into a Fourteenth Amendment-protected human being. His own expert testified before the legislature that a developing fetus can likely feel pain at 20 weeks, if not before.

That “if not before” should surely prompt Sen. Flood to want to pinpoint the stage at which an unborn child develops the capacity for pain. Otherwise, if there’s a chance the fetus is enduring pain, it shouldn’t be forced to suffer dismemberment in its mother’s womb. We should err on the side of caution.

Also, under Flood’s reasoning, a patient anesthetized for surgery must temporarily fall out of the grace of state protection.

And, actually, as Scott Klusendorf pointed out in The Great Abortion Debate, the author of Principles of Anesthesiology asserts that the neurological structures necessary for pain are present in the fetus between 8 and 12 weeks gestation. Even pro-choice advocates have suggested giving a fetus the benefit of anesthesia during abortion because fetuses at 19 weeks gestation have been seen thrashing about violently during blood transfusions carried out in utero.

Under Nebraska’s current law, abortion is forbidden beyond a fetus’ viability, which they’ve determined is 24 weeks — with the exception of extenuating, grave physical risks to the mother. The new restriction would base the ban on pain rather than viability.

Francis Beckwith breaks down the problem with using viability as the point at which the state takes an interest in the life of the unborn in his book, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice.

Beckwith points out that changing from nonviable to viable “does not impart to, or remove from, a being any property or properties that would change that being’s identity.”

He argues that, perhaps, the nonviability of the unborn should “lead one to have more rather than less concern for that being.”

Finally, he concludes that, “each of us, including the unborn, is nonviable in relation to his environment.” If you want to learn about your nonviability, stand naked on the North Pole, he suggests.

Still, Flood has a lot of common ground with pro-lifers. He’s trying to prohibit as many abortions as Roe v Wade will allow. Perhaps, if the legislation passes, it will reopen a dialogue on the topic. And that’s what needs to happen. Sooner or later, the debate always returns to the crux of the issue: “What is the unborn?”

Until legislators look honestly at that question and allow the evidence to lead them where it will, mothers — many of whom are unaware that their unborn children are whole and distinct human beings — will continue determining the worth of their unborn children during all nine months of pregnancy in most every state.