Pro Life? Really?
During the past few weeks I have received a number of communications, both printed and electronic, dealing with the voting records of Catholic and non-Catholic politicians on pro-life issues. The 2008 AD primaries and elections are soon to be here, and all moral people ought to be familiar with the records of people they might put into elective office.
But a few things bothered me with most of the material I read. First of all, there was little or no distinction made between voting records at the Federal and State levels. Secondly, "pro-life issues" seemed to be confined to abortion and euthanasia alone. Allow me to share a thought or two about these matters:
The powers that are delegated to the Federal government by the States are limited to those enumerated in Constitution and its amendments. All other powers "are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people" (Amendment X). The Roe vs. Wade decision of the Federal Supreme Court was made only after the Court had arrogated powers to itself not granted by the Supreme Law of the Land expressed in the Constitution. The regulation of medicine and the prosecution of those who would kill others is within the jurisdiction of the States and not within that of the Federal Government. To legitimately change this fact would require a constitutional amendment. To act in defiance of this fact is a form of perjury, for "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution" (US Constitution, Article VI [emphasis added]).
One might argue that "since they violate their oaths every day for things indifferent or even evil, our legislators ought not have any scruples about passing laws protecting the unborn," or forbidding euthanasia, or protecting the sanctity of marriage, or whatever else seems good to pro-lifers. "If a constitutional amendment is necessary, amend the Constitution." Both of these ideas may sound good, but the first condones the violation of what must return to being a sacred oath if we are to have the rule of law. The idea of amending the Constitution at every "bump in the road" could certainly backfire—with the current political climate, the possibility of a pro-abortion amendment is not beyond the pale. The United States need to return to constitutional government—not to depart farther from it. Why not demand that government enforce laws legitimately passed, and remove those who violate them—whether they be Justices, Presidents, or members of Congress?
On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the States and local governments to see that Natural Moral Law is observed within their territories. And to resist vigorously any attempt by the Federal Government to expand its influence into matters of local concern. We really don't want a National School Board setting a secular humanist curriculum for our children any more than we want a pro-abortion or pro-sodomy amendment to the Constitution. Of all the interested parties, the States are in the best position of any to demand an end to the Federal Reserve, a return to honest money, and a re-assessment of the 16th Amendment (US Constitution, Article I, sec. 8 & 10)—reliance on the "infinite money supply" in Washington being at the root of most of the nation's troubles, making it nearly impossible to resist Federal involvement in every aspect of life. Federal funds are far from free!
Some years ago, Modernist Church leaders argued for a "seamless garment" approach to the sanctity of life. The major flaw in their reasoning was that Divine Positive Law (law revealed by God Himself) makes a distinction between the lives of the guilty and the lives of the innocent (see Exodus xxi, etc.). For reasons good or bad, the Modernists wanted to place the life of a guilty murderer on par with that of an innocent baby. That might have spared the lives of a few on death row, but erasing the distinction between the guilty and the innocent has led to the slaughter of many and the violation of the rights of many more. In the murder of the unborn it is the innocent who die and the guilty who live. Likewise, in "terminating" other unwanted people. Removing guilt and innocence from our moral calculus puts us closer to making moral decisions based on little more than our ability to do something—if we wish not to have a child or would like to control another nation, a decision made without regard to guilt and innocence rests largely on our physical ability to perform an abortion or send an army to attack.
Our definition of "pro-life" ought strongly to take into account this concept of guilt or innocence. Abortion and euthanasia are obvious in this connection. What about military and economic sanctions used against a non-aggressor nation to change its domestic ideology or behavior?
Was President Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, correct in saying that the starvation of 500,000 Iraqi children was "worth it"? Imagine the firestorm she would have touched off if the 500,000 had been Jewish people or homosexuals—imagine the outcry if she had called for the starvation of our nation's convicted murderers and rapists!
Were the United States right in waging an aggressive war against Iraq, justified only be "reasons" yet to be discovered. Was it right to attempt to terrorize a people into submission through "shock and awe" bombings of their cities? To bomb entire neighborhoods where "bad guys" were maybe hiding? How many civilian deaths will be "worth it" to achieve "victory"?—a "victory" that has yet to be defined in such a way that it might be recognized by observers rather than being declared by politicians! The numbers currently range from the US's "we don't do body counts," to the Lancet medical journal's conjecture a year ago of 650,000—the people at Iraq Body Count put it at roughly 80,000 documented civilian deaths—is that "worth it"? Plus another 4,200 US and Coalition military fatalities and 1,000 contractors? And God knows how many other people who will never be "normal" again? And for WHAT?
The philosophical implications of failing to take into consideration the difference between guilt and innocence may not be as attention getting as having "shock and awe" come to a main street near you, but they are real nonetheless. One might, with wild imagination, argue that in theory, torture, the suspension of habeas corpus, abrogation of the right to bear arms, the presumption of guilt rather than innocence, and the ability to spy and confiscate domestically do not attack human life directly—but, in fact, those practices are associated with the bloodiest totalitarian regimes the world has known. Do we want to lose even the thin veneer of civility and protection the Geneva Conventions afford to modern soldiers?
Are there "victimless crimes" against life? Modern man imagines that there are—or, more accurately he de-criminalizes them in his mind. Even if (very hypothetically!) we set aside the fact that sin is a crime against God, we still cannot set aside the fact that sin is a crime against individuals and society. People are indeed damaged by pornography, and prostitution, and promiscuity, and their damage hurts the families and the societies in which they live. Population control, even by natural means, threatens the extinction of Western Civilization, in spite of what Modernist churchmen would have us believe. The NFP "counseling programs" espoused by the late Pope John Paul II (Crossing the Threshold of Hope, pp. 208-209) were not "the necessary condition for authentic conjugal love," but were all too often the means to selfishness and a precursor to contraception and abortion. If you teach a couple how to prevent children it will not be long before they envision children as a disease—not just to be prevented, but to be surgically removed if necessary
To the degree that crimes against the Natural Law—"victimless" or otherwise— can be limited by legislation, it is the duty of legislators to do so. Without a radical change of the US Constitution most of this legislation is properly the prerogative of the State or local authorities. At the Federal level the highest priority of voters ought to be to elect men who will return the Republic to legal government. For pro-lifers, abortion is a good teaching example. Until the 1960s all fifty of the United States had strong laws against abortion. Attempts to liberalize these laws came "from on high"—from national lawyers groups, and ultimately by the fiat of the Federal government in Roe vs. Wade.
It is the duty of our Catholic leadership to recognize the complex nature of the problem into which ignorance and apathy have allowed us to descend. Yes, Catholic politicians who break the moral law should be denounced before the electorate and treated like any other notorious offender if they dare approach the Sacraments; the same must be said for non-Catholics; and it must be said for the entire moral law, not just a commandment or two. And let us not forget that the duty to obey and uphold that moral law is incumbent on each and every decent human being.
Probably the best poll I have encountered is at Joe Healy's "Defend Life" Blog. He links to the USCCB, which is a bit too "seamless garment" for me, but the questions he proposes are the right ones. Unfortunately, it only lists Republican answers—perhaps something that will be corrected after the primaries. And, of course, voters must be able to evaluate all of the candidates in an election, not just those running for president.
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