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Reading Selections From “The Clash of Orthodoxies” by Robert P. George

Reading Selections From “The Clash of Orthodoxies” by Robert P. George

Secularism/Orthodoxy
Two Responses To A Myth of Orthodox Secularism
Reason: A Guide For Human Choosing In Conformity With A Good Will
Understanding The Nature Of The Church
Theologians Represent A Parallel Magisterium?
Secularism As A Way Of Preserving Social Peace

Philosophy
David Hume And Reason’s Role
Thomism’s Special Standing
Faith Needs Reason
Philosophy’s Contribution
The Fundamental Harmony Between The Knowledge Of Faith And Philosophy
An Example Of The Two Wings Of Faith And Reason
Reason Can Be More Than Instrumental And More Than A Servant To Emotions
Faith, Philosophy and Culture

Marriage
Traditional Understanding Of Marriage
Sexual Acts That Are Not Reproductive In Type Cannot Be Marital Acts
Marital Acts Are Truly Unitive
Understanding Marriage

Pornography
Public Health And Safety And Public Morals
Pornography: Moral Corruption Vs Shocked And Offended
Human Sexual Psychology Bias
Masturbatory And Sodomitical Acts

The Human Being
We Are Embodied Persons
Person/Body Dualisms
The Life Of A Human Being Is Intrinsically Good
Human Nature Is Determinate, Unchanging And Structured
Human Good And The Constitution Of Human Nature
What is a human being?
Forms Of Person/Body Dualisms
If Man Is Radically Free
The “Human Non-Person” And “Post-Personal” Human Beings

Abortion
Abortion As A “Sin Against God” Or As The Unjust Taking Of Innocent Human Life
The Human Being: The Continuous Development Of The Zygote
The Gospel of Life
The Unwanted Child
Pro-Choice
“Abortion Rights” And The Golden Rule Of Fairness
Peter Singer On Abortion And Infanticide

Homosexuality
Gay is Good
Sexual Immorality Dis-Integrates The Person And Damages Individual Integrity And The Community
A Simply Untenable View
A Uniquely Correct Answer
Sexual Abstinence

The Law, Democracy and Truth
Scalia: Democracy Is Neutral; Pope: The Moral Linchpin Of Democracy
A Law In Line With Moral Truth
Dred Scott Resembles Roe V Wade
Democracy Is A Means And Not An End
The Tyrant State
John Paul II And Democracy
A Conception Of Democracy
Nonsense Upon Stilts
Abraham Lincoln On Dred Scott And The Timeless Rationality Of Equal Rights
Those Who Deny Natural Law
The Widespread Misunderstanding Of The Relationship Between Faith And Reason
Corruptions Of Fields That Render Them Incompatible With Christian Faith
Scientism: How Philosophy Can Become Anti-Philosophical
Positive Law
John Paul II on Civil and Moral Law
John Paul II: A Particular Problem Of Conscience
The Maintenance Of Public Morality Does Not Require Making Every Sin A Crime
The Court Regards Euthanasia And Abortion
God Has Placed In The Human Heart A Desire To Know The Truth

Two Responses To A Myth of Orthodox Secularism 
(The myth is that orthodox secularists would have us believe that their positions are fully and decisively vindicated by reason (Science) and therefore can be judged to have been displaced only on the basis of the irrational, or at least, non-rational faith). Some concede that religious and even moral judgments depend on faith that cannot be rationally grounded, but they argue that secularism itself is based on non-rational faith, that secularism must, in the end, also rest on metaphysical and moral claims that cannot be proved. In that way, they suggest, secularism is just like religion, and is not entitled to any special standing that would qualify it as the nation’s public philosophy. In fact, its standing would be less than that of the Judeo-Christian tradition, since it is not the tradition upon which the country was founded. On this account, secularism itself is a sectarian doctrine and, as such, is incapable of fulfilling its own demands of being accessible to “public reason.”

A second response…is to affirm the demand for public reason for public policies and offer to do battle with secularism on the field of rational debate. Those who take this view seem to agree that secularism is itself a sectarian doctrine, but they claim that religious faith, and especially religiously informed moral judgment, can be based upon and defended by appeal to publicly accessible reasons. Indeed, they argue that sound religious faith and moral theology will be informed, in part, by insight into the authentic and fully public reasons provided by principles of natural law and natural justice….The second accepts the proposition that reason can and should be used to identify moral truths, including truths of political morality, but claims that Judeo-Christian morality is rationally superior the morality of orthodox secularism. As already noted this is my position.
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We Are Embodied Persons
Implicit in the view that human life is merely instrumentally and not intrinsically valuable is a particular understanding of the human person as an essential non-bodily being who inhabits a non-personal body. According to this understanding – which contrasts with
the Judeo-Christian view of the human person as a dynamic unity of body , mind and spirit – the “person” is the conscious and desiring “self” as distinct from the body which may exist (as in the case of pre- and post-conscious human beings ) as merely
“biological,” and, thus, sub-personal, reality. But the dualistic view of the human person makes nonsense of the experience all of us have in our activities of being dynamically unified actors – of being, that is, embodied persons and not persons who merely “inhabit”
our bodies ad direct them as extrinsic instruments under our control, like automobiles. We don’t sit in the physical body and direct it as an instrument the way we sit in a car and make it go left or right.
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Person/Body Dualisms
This experience of unity of body, mind and spirit is itself no mere illusion. Philosophical arguments have undermined any theory that purports to demonstrate that the human being is, in fact, two distinct realties, namely a “person” and a (sub-personal) body. Any such theory will, unavoidably, contradict its own starting point, since reflection necessarily begins from one’s own conscious awareness of oneself as a unitary actor. So the defender of dualism, in the end, will never be able to identify the “I” who undertakes the project of reflection. He will simply be unable to identify whether the “I” is the conscious and desiring aspect of the “self,” or the “mere living body.”….

In short “person/body dualisms” purport to be theories of something, but cannot, in the end, identify something of which to be the theory.
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Sexual Immorality Dis-Integrates The Person And Damages Individual Integrity And The Community
The psychosomatic integrity of the person is another of the basic or intrinsic goods of the human person. This integrity is disrupted in Community any sexual act that lacks the common good of marriage as its central specifying point. Where sex is sought purely for pleasure, or as a means of inducing feelings of emotional closeness, or for some other extrinsic end, the body is treated as a sub-personal, purely instrumental, reality. This existential separation of the body and the conscious and desiring part of the self serves literally to dis-integrate the person. It takes the person apart, disrupting the good of acting as the dynamically unified being one truly is.

Did our Christian forbears invent this idea of integrity? Did they dream up the notion that sexual immorality damages integrity by dis-integrating the person? No. Christianity has had, to be sure, a very important role in promoting and enhancing our understanding of
sexual morality. But in the dialogues of Plato and the teachings of Aristotle, in the writings of Plutarch and the great Roman stoic Musonius Rufus, and, of course, in Jewish tradition, one can find the core of this central, important teaching about the way sex is so central to integrity, and therefore so central no only to us as individuals but to us as a community. Dis-integrated, individual human beings cannot form an integrated community.
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The Life Of A Human Being Is Intrinsically Good
The wrongness of abortion follows from the truth – fully accessible even to unaided reason – that the life of a human being is intrinsically, and not merely instrumentally, good. As a good Christian, I believe that each human life is a precious gift from God. But
even if one doesn’t share that belief, reason nevertheless grasps the truth that human life is intrinsically, and not merely instrumentally valuable. Reason detects the falsity of the dualistic presuppositions of secularism’s belief that human life is merely instrumentally valuable. It identifies the unreasonableness of denying that every innocent human being – irrespective of age, size, stage of development, or condition of dependency – has an inviolable moral right to life.

Reason affirms that if any of us has a right to life, then all of us have it; if we have it at one stage of life then we have it at every stage of life; if we have it at the middle then we have it at both edges. There is no rational argument that anybody has been able to come with – and the best and the brightest in the academy have struggled for more than twenty-five years to do so – that shows that a healthy thirteen year-old or a forty two year-old has a right to life, but a comatose eighty year-old or an unborn child has no right to life. There is no rational basis for distinguishing a class of human beings who have a right to life (and other fundamental human rights) and a class of human beings who do not. This is the moral core of the great “self-evident truth” upon which our nation was founded: the proposition that all human beings are “created equal”
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David Hume And Reason’s Role
The 18th century philosopher David Hume, a founding father of modern secularism, summed up the position (of reason’s role being purely instrumental): “Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and may never pretend to any office other than to
serve and obey them.” Reason’s role, in other words, is not to identify what is rational, what people should want, but merely to devise means of obtaining goals that people happen to want….This view of reason make it impossible to vindicate any fundamental moral principles, including any fundamental human rights.
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The Body As A Sub-Personal Reality
EITHER the body is a part of the personal reality of the human being, win which case the human person, properly speaking, is a dynamic unity of body, mind and spirit, OR the body is a sub-personal dimension of the human being that functions as an instrument
at the service of the conscious and desiring aspect of the self – the “person”, strictly speaking who controls and uses the body. The secularist position on issues such as abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia straightforwardly treats the body as a a sub-personal reality: a living human body is not a person, or, at least, is not a person until it comes to be associated (somehow) with a mind or other center of conscious self-awareness; and a living human body ceases to be a person not necessarily by dying, but at any point at which it loses this association, which may be long before death. The body, as such, according to secularists, lacks the dignity of personhood – that is why they believe it isn’t necessarily wrong to kill “pre-personal” or “post-personal” human beings (fetuses, handicapped infants, the irreversibly demented, or other human “non persons”).
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A Simply Untenable View
Contemporary liberal political theorists defend “choices for death.” The phrase is …Ronald Dworkin’s description of abortion and euthanasia in the opening sentence of his book Life’s Dominion – a book devoted in its entirety to defending abortion and euthanasia
and their immunization from legal prohibition. “Abortion,” Dworkin says “which means killing a human embryo, and euthanasia, which means killing a person out of kindness, are both choices for death.”

Of course, when Dworkin and other liberal theorists talk this way, they place the accent on the idea of “choice.” They understand and present their view not as the political theory of the culture of death, but rather as the political theory of the “the republic of choice,” or, if you will, “the culture of freedom.” The subtitle of Dworkin’s book clearly signals the author’s ideological bent, to wit, “an Argument about Abortion, Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom.” And the sentence immediately following his candid acknowledgment of the death-dealing nature of the choices he proposes to defend is already in ideological spin mode: “Abortion,” he declares, “chooses death before life in earnest has begun; euthanasia chooses death after it has ended.” Well, as that master of sentence parsing – and of spin – Bill Clinton might say, it all depends what the meaning of “in earnest” is. Those two little words foreshadow Dworkin’s vast argumentative effort to show that the lives of the very young and very old or infirm human beings are not valuable in a way that makes it wrong to kill them or makes it right for the law to protect them against being killed. …

The view is simply untenable for the very reason identified in the Linacre Centre’s statement (Britain’s influential Catholic think tank submitted a statement to the House of
Lords’ Select Committee on Medical Ethics): “It renders inexplicable the unity in complexity which one experiences in everything one consciously does. It speaks as if there were… a non bodily person and a non-personal living body. But neither of these can one recognize as oneself. One’s living body is intrinsic, not merely instrumental to one’s personal life. Each of us has a human life (not a vegetable life plus an animal life plus a human life); when it is flourishing that life includes all one’s vital functions including speech, deliberation, and choice; when gravely impaired it lacks some of those functions without ceasing to be the life of the persons so impaired.”
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Gay is Good
Although many people, particularly those who cling to traditional Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish religious faith, continue to believe that homosexual acts and relationships are morally bad, many other people, notably including a great many journalists, intellectuals, and other opinion-shaping elites, have adopted the belief that homosexual conduct is no vice at all. “Gay is good,” they say. So the debate has shifted from whether or not the state is justified in prohibiting sodomy to the question whether it is justified in refusing to honor homosexual relationships by, for example, declining to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
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A Uniquely Correct Answer
Natural law theorists (and others) maintain….that on certain issues, including certain fundamental moral and political issues, there are uniquely correct answers. The question whether there is a human right against being enslaved, for example, or being punished for
one’s religious beliefs, admits of a uniquely correct answer which is available in principle to ever rational persons. Pro-life advocates assert that there is similarly a human right against deliberate feticide and other forms of direct killing of innocent persons. Differences over such issues as slaver, religious freedom, abortion and euthanasia may be “reasonable” in the sense that reasonable persons can err in their judgments and arrive at morally incorrect positions. But assuming there is a truth of these matters…– errors of reason must be responsible for anyone’s failure to arrive at the morally correct positions. There are many possible roots of such errors, not all of which involve culpability or subjective guilt on the part of the individuals who make them. Ignorance of, or inattention to, certain relevant facts or values may be the source of a particular error. Prejudice or other sub-rational influences – which may be pervasive in a culture or subculture making it difficult for any of its individual members to reason well about certain issues – may block insights that are critical to sound moral judgments….Nothing in the position of natural law theorist or rational believers entails the proposition that we can always easily arrive at correct moral positions or that we will not sometimes (perhaps often) get things wrong.
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Reason: A Guide For Human Choosing In Conformity With A Good Will
Many religious people – most informed Catholics and many Protestants and observant Jews – understand reason not only as a truth attaining power, but as a power by and through which God directs us as individuals and communities in the way of just and upright living. In his formal account of natural laws as a participation in what he called the “eternal law,” Aquinas says that although God directs brute animals to their proper ends by instinct, God directs man—made in God’s image and likeness and thus possessing
reason and freedom – to his proper ends by practical reason through which men grasp the intelligible point of certain possible actions for the sake of ends (goods, values, purposes) which, qua intelligible, provide reasons for choice and action. Where these reasons have their intelligibility not, or merely, by virtue of their utility in enabling us to realize our other valuable or desirable ends, but also by virtue of their intrinsic value and choice-worthiness, they constitute the referents of the most fundamental principles of practical reason and precepts of natural law. Aquinas gives an expressly non-exhaustive list of examples: human life itself, marriage and the transmission of life to new human beings, and knowledge, particularly of religious truth. The integral directiveness of these principles, when specified, constitutes the body of moral norms available to guide human choosing reasonably, namely, in conformity with a good will – a will toward integral human fulfillment.
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Abortion As A “Sin Against God” Or As The Unjust Taking Of Innocent Human Life
Inasmuch as most pro-life advocates are traditional religious believers who, as such, see gravely unjust or otherwise immoral acts as sins – and understand sins precisely as offenses against God – “a pro-life advocate sees abortion as a sin against God.” But most
pro-life advocates see abortion as a sin against God precisely because it is the unjust taking of innocent human life. That is their reason for opposing abortion; and that is God’s reason, as they see it, for opposing abortion and requiring that human communities
protect their unborn members against it. And they believe, as I do, that this reason can be identified and acted on even independently of God’s revealing it. Indeed, they typically believe, as I do, that the precise content of what God reveals on the subject (“in thy
mother’s womb I formed thee” Jeremiah 1:5) cannot be known without the application of human intelligence by way of philosophical and scientific inquiry, to the question.
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The Human Being: The Continuous Development Of The Zygote
A human being is conceived when a human sperm containing twenty-three chromosomes fuses with a human egg also containing twenty-three chromosomes (albeit of a different kind) producing a a single-cell human zygote containing , in the normal case, forty-six
chromosomes that are massed differently from the forty-six chromosomes as found in the mother or father. Unlike the gametes (that is, the sperm and the egg), the zygote is genetically unique and distinct from its parents. Biologically, it is a separate organism. It
produces, as the gametes do not, specifically human enzymes and proteins. It possesses, as they do not, the active capacity or potency to develop itself into a human embryo, fetus, infant, child, adolescent, and adult.

Assuming that it is not conceived in vitro, the zygote is, of course, in a state of dependence on its mother. But independence should not be confused with distinctness. From the beginning, the newly conceived human being, not its mother, directs its integral organic functioning. It takes in its nourishment and converts it to energy. Given a hospitable environment, it will, as Dianne Nutwell Irving says, “develop continuously without any biological interruptions, or gaps, throughout the embryonic, fetal, neo-natal, childhood and adulthood stages – until the death of the organism. ….The significance of genetic completeness for the status of newly conceived human beings is that no outside genetic material is required to enable the zygote to mature into an embryo, the embryo into a fetus, the fetus into an infant, the infant into a child, the child into an adolescent, the adolescent into an adult. What the zygote needs to function as a distinct self-integrating human organism, a human being, it already possesses…..Rubenfield attacks White’s point, which he calls the argument based on the “gradualness of gestation,” by pointing out that “no arbitrary line separates the hues of green and red. Shall we conclude that green is red?”

White’s point is not that fetal development is “gradual” but that it is “continuous” and is the (continuous) development of a single lasting (fully human) being…. As the human zygote matures, in utero and ex utero, it does not “become” a human being, for it is a
human being already, albeit an immature human being, just as a newborn infant is an immature human being who will undergo quite dramatic growth and development over time.
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Traditional Understanding Of Marriage
Here is the core of the traditional understanding: Marriage is a two-in-one-flesh communion of persons that is consummated and actualized by acts that are reproductive in type, whether or not they are reproductive in effect (or are motivated, even in part, by a desire to reproduce).The bodily union of spouses in marital acts is the biological matrix of their marriage as a multi-level relationship: that is a relationship that unites persons at the bodily, emotional, dispositional and spiritual levels of their being. Marriage, precisely as such a relationship, is naturally ordered to the good of procreation (and to the nurturing and education of children)as well as to the good of spousal unity, and these goods are tightly bound together. The distinctive unity of spouses is possible because human (like other mammalian) males and females, by mating, unite organically – the become a single reproductive principle. Although reproduction is a single act, in humans (and other mammals) the reproductive act is performed not by individual members of the
species, but by a mated pair as an organic unit. Germain Grisez explains: “Though a male and a female are complete individuals with respect to other functions – for example, nutrition, sensation, and locomotion – with respect to reproduction they are only potential parts of a mated pair, which is the complete organism capable of reproducing sexually. Even if the mated pair is sterile, intercourse, provided it is the reproductive behavior characteristic of the species, makes the copulating male and female one organism.”
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Sexual Acts That Are Not Reproductive In Type Cannot Be Marital Acts
Although not all reproductive-type acts are marital, there can be no marital act that is not reproductive in type. Masturbatory, sodomitical, or other sexual acts that are not reproductive in type cannot unite persons organically: that is, as a single reproductive
principle. Therefore such acts cannot be intelligibly engaged in for the sake of marital (i.e. one-flesh, bodily) unity as such. They cannot be marital acts. Rather, persons who perform such acts must be doing so for the sake of ends or goals that are extrinsic to
themselves as bodily persons. Sexual satisfaction, or (perhaps) mutual sexual satisfaction, is sought as a means of releasing tension, or obtaining (and sometimes sharing) pleasure, either as an end in itself, or as a means to some other end, such as
expressing affection, esteem, friendliness, etc. In any case, where one-flesh union cannot (or cannot rightly) be sought as an end-in-itself, sexual activity necessarily involves the instrumentalization of the bodies of those participating in such activity to extrinsic ends.
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Marital Acts Are Truly Unitive
In marital acts…the bodies of persons who unite biologically are not reduced to the status of mere instruments. Rather, the end, goal, and intelligible point of sexual union is the good of marriage itself. On this understanding, such union is not a merely instrumental good, i.e., a reason for action whose intelligibility as a reason depends on other ends to which it is a means, but is, rather, an intrinsic good, i.e., a reason for actions whose intelligibility as a reason depends on no such other end. The central and justifying point of sex is not pleasure (or even the sharing of pleasure) per se, however much sexual pleasure is sought – rightly sought – as an aspect of the perfection of marital union; the point of sex, rather, is marriage itself, considered as bodily (“one flesh”) union of persons consummated and actualized by acts that are reproductive in type. Because in marital acts sex is not instrumentalized, such acts are free of the self-alienating and dis-integrating qualities of masturbatory and sodomitical sex. Unlike these and other non-marital sex acts, marital acts effect no practical dualism which volitionally and, thus, existentially (though of course not metaphysically) separates the body from the conscious and desiring aspect to the self which is understood and treated by the acting person as the true self which inhabits and uses the body as its instrument….Marital acts are truly unitive, and in no way self-alienating, because the bodily or biological aspect of human beings is “part of, and not merely an instrument of, their personal reality.”
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Understanding Marriage
Marriage is a type of good that can be participated in, or fully participated in, only by people who properly understand it and choose it with a proper understanding in mind; yet people’s ability properly to understand it, and thus to choose it, depends upon institutions and cultural understandings that transcend individual choice.
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A Law In Line With Moral Truth
Persons who are exclusively homosexually oriented lack a psychological prerequisite to enter into marital relationships. But that is no fault of the law. Indeed, the law would embody a lie (and a damaging one insofar as it truly would contribute to the undermining of the sound understanding and practice of marriage in a culture) if it were to pretend that a marital relationship could be formed on the basis of, and integrated around, sodomitical or other intrinsically non-marital (and, as such, self-alienating sex acts).

It is certainly unjust arbitrarily to deny legal marriage to persons who are capable of performing marital acts and entering into the marital relationship. So, for example, laws forbidding interracial marriages truly were violations of equality. Contrary to the published
claims of Andrew Sullivan, Andrew Koppleman, and others, however, laws that embody the judgment that marriage is intrinsically heterosexual are in no way analogous to laws against miscegenation. Law forbidding whites to marry blacks were unjust, not because
they embodied a particular moral view and thus violated the alleged requirement of moral neutrality; rather, they were unjust because they embodied an unsound (indeed a grotesquely false) moral view – one that was racist and, as such, immoral. A sound law of marriage is not one that aspires to moral neutrality; it is one that is in line with moral truth.
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Public Health And Safety And Public Morals
What is true of public health and safety is equally true of public morals. Take, as an example, the problem of pornography. Material designed to appeal to the prurient interest in sex by arousing carnal desire unintegrated with the procreative and unitive goods of
marriage, where it flourishes, damages a community’s moral ecology in ways analogous to those in which carcinogenic smoke spewing from a factory’s stacks damages the community’s physical ecology….

Just as companies have an obligation in justice quite apart from considerations of legal liability to avoid damaging people’s health by polluting the air, so, too, people have an obligation in justice even apart from legal prohibition to avoid harming people’s character (and the goods and institutions that depend on widespread good character) by producing and disseminating pornographic materials…

The counterargument (pornography is a choice unlike breathing toxic pollutants).First of all, it can be, and often is, unjust to subject people to powerful temptations to do things that are harmful to them, morally or otherwise, and whether or not they are cognizant of
the harm. It seems to me mere liberal superstition to hold otherwise. Second, and even more important, the accumulation of private decisions to use pornography affects – sometimes profoundly – the community as a whole. For example, where pornography
flourishes, as it does in our own culture, it erodes important shared public understandings of sexuality and sexual morality on which the health of the institutions of marriage and family life in any culture vitally depend. This is a classic case in which the accumulation
of apparently private choices of private parties has big public consequences.
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Pornography: Moral Corruption Vs Shocked And Offended
I think the dissenting members of the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, which issued it Report in 1970, were right on the mark: “The government interest in regulating pornography has always related primarily to the prevention of moral
corruption and not to …the protection of persons from being shocked and/or offended.”
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Human Sexual Psychology Bias
If this characterization of pornography (loveless, affectionless sex; invasion of physical intimacies; objectification of the erotic experience) is accurate, why would anybody be interested in pornography? Why does it have any appeal to people? Why is there a market for it – indeed, according to a recent cover story on the pornography industry in U.S. New and World Report, an $8 billion market in the United States alone? …

As John Finnis has observed, “sexuality is a powerful force which only with some difficulty, and always precariously, can be integrated with other aspects of human personality and well-being – so that it enhances rather than destroys friendship and the care of children, for example….human sexual psychology has a bias towards regarding other persons as bodily objects of desire and potential sexual release and gratification, as mere items in an erotically flavored classification (e.g. “women”), rather than as full
persons with personal and individual sensitivities, restraints and life plans.” Pornography, precisely by arousing sexual desires unintegrated with the human goods to which sexuality is morally ordered, induces in its consumers states of emotion, imagination
and sentiment that disposes them to understand and regard themselves and their bodies, and others and their bodies, as, in essence, instruments of sexual gratification – sex objects. .Pornography corrupts by appealing to and heightening the tendency
toward selfishness, which, even in the most virtuous among us, represents a danger to our integrity and to the precious relationships (husband-wife, parent-child, friendships) which depend, in part, on the proper integration of our sexuality into our lives….

Sexual liberation is a sort of self-contradiction. Freedom lies not in sexual self-indulgence or self-gratification, but rather in sexual self -integration, self-possession and self-control. …The freedom pornography imperils is freedom from a sexuality that in unintegrated, selfish, impulsive, depersonalized, disordered, out of control.
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Democracy Is A Means And Not An End
In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (1995), Pope John Paul II reminds us that “fundamentally democracy is a ‘system’ and as such is a means and not an end. Its ‘moral value’ is not automatic, but depends on conformity to the moral law to which it, like every other form of human behavior, must be subject.” This doctrine of the necessary conformity of civil law to moral truth long predates the rise of the modern democracy. It is present in both Plato and Aristotle, and was given careful systematic expression by St. Thomas Aquinas. It has been a central feature of the tradition of papal social teaching. As applied to modern democracy, the idea is that the moral legitimacy of law or public policy cannot be established merely by showing that it was put into place through the workings of democratic institutions. It is true, as the Pope affirms, that democracy is uniquely valuable because it embodies more fully than any alternative system the principle of the fundamental moral equality of citizens. For this reasons the Pope says that the “almost universal consensus with regard to the value of the democracy…is to be considered a positive ‘sign of the times,’ as the Church’s Magisterium has frequently noted.” Nevertheless, even a democratic regime may compromise its legitimacy and forfeit its right to the allegiance of its citizens. This happens when the institutions of a democracy are manipulated so that the ‘right’ ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person…In this way, democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism.”
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Scalia: Democracy Is Neutral; Pope: The Moral Linchpin Of Democracy
In criticizing Roe, Scalia argues that the Constitution, properly interpreted, leaves the people of the states free to legislate against abortion. In a noteworthy address at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, however, he recently declared that by the same
token, that if people want abortion, the state should permit abortion in a democracy.” While the justice made clear his own preference for pro-life public policies, he argued that in itself democracy is neutral as between competing positions on issues such as abortion
and euthanasia. “I do not know how you can argue on the basis of democratic theory,” he said, “that the government has a moral obligation to do something that is opposed to the people.” Responding to a questioner who raised the issue of the rights of minorities,
Scalia declared that “the whole theory of democracy, my dear fellow, is that majority rules, that is the whole theory of it. You protect minorities only because the majority determines that there are certain minority positions that deserve protection.”

The Pope’s argument in Evangelium Vitae, by contrast, highlights the sense in which the abandonment of the unborn to abortion and the infirm to euthanasia betrays the substantive principle of equal worth and dignity that is the moral linchpin of democracy,. Any regime, including a democratic one, degenerates into what the Pope calls a “a tyrant state” when its law exposes the weakest and most vulnerable members of the community – those in most need of the law’s protection—to private lethal violence or other forms of oppression.
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The Gospel of Life
The Pope’s call for all of us to live the “Gospel of Life”…All of us must give witness to the sanctity of human life….It is essential to resist “the trivialization of sexuality,” which is “among the principal factors which has led to contempt for new life.”
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The Unwanted Child
One is reminded of the profound witness of Mother Teresa at the National Prayer Breakfast in February 1994: “Please do not kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted.” …For us, the society we must strive to create, there can be no such thing as an “unwanted child.” …
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Pro-Choice
Laws that authorize the killings of the unborn or infirm are permissive in form. They license and sometimes encouraged private killing, but do not positively command it. This is what enables supporters of abortion to describe themselves as “pro-choice.” By this logic, so were supporters of antebellum laws that permitted slavery yet required no one to own slaves or to demand return of fugitive slaves.
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The Tyrant State
The judicial movement toward euthanasia makes it plain that the hour is late. The “culture of death” is well advanced in our nation. As the Pope says, “given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper names, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception.” Let us therefore speak plainly: The courts, sometimes abetted by federal and state executives and legislators, have imposed upon the nation immoral policies that pro-life Americans cannot, in conscience, accept. Since the legitimacy of institutions of governance – be they democratic or otherwise – depends ultimately on their capacity and willingness to preserve and promote the common good by, above all , protecting fundamental human rights, the failure of the institutions of American democracy to fulfill their responsibilities has created what is truly a crisis. People of goodwill – of whatever religious faith – who are prepared to consider seriously the Pope’s teaching in Evangelium Vitae cannot now avoid asking themselves, soberly and unblinkingly, whether our regime is becoming the democratic “tyrant state” about which the Pope warns.
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John Paul II And Democracy
John Paul II enthusiastically promotes democracy not as some sor t of “lesser evil”, but as a system that more perfectly than any other embodies the great moral truths of the fundamental dignity of each person. “Democracy cannot be idolized to the point of making it a substitute for morality or a panacea for immorality. Fundamentally, democracy is a “system” and as such is a means and not an end. Its “moral” value is not automatic, but depends on conformity to the moral law to which it, like every other form of human behaviour, must be subject: in other words, its morality depends on the morality of the ends which it pursues and of the means which it employs. If today we see an almost universal consensus with regard to the value of democracy, this is to be considered a positive “sign of the times”, as the Church’s Magisterium has frequently noted. But the value of democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes.

Of course, values such as the dignity of every human person, respect for inviolable and inalienable human rights, and the adoption of the “common good” as the end and criterion regulating political life are certainly fundamental and not to be ignored. The basis of these values cannot be provisional and changeable “majority” opinions, but only the acknowledgment of an objective moral law which, as the “natural law” written in the human heart, is the obligatory point of reference for civil law itself. If, as a result of a tragic obscuring of the collective conscience, an attitude of skepticism were to succeed in bringing into question even the fundamental principles of the moral law, the democratic system itself would be shaken in its foundations, and would be reduced to a mere mechanism for regulating different and opposing interests on a purely empirical basis.”
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A Conception Of Democracy
Democracy is not a simple, morally neutral mechanism of majority rule, whereby fifty-one percent of the people do as they please. Rather, it is a conception of democracy that, as the Pope’s analysis in Evangelium Vitae brings to light, is shaped by its own justifying moral principle of the equality-in-dignity of all human beings – ac conception that, I and others connected with First Things believe, was operative in the central proposition of the Declaration of Independence (“all men are created equal”) and enshrined in our Constitution (particularly, though not exclusively in the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment). Under our conception of democracy the function of democratic institutions is to serve as the mechanisms by which the people act to fulfill their moral-political responsibilities to protect the weak and innocent, preserve and promote public health, safety and morals and secure the overall common good.
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Dred Scott Resembles Roe V Wade
Even prior to the Dred Scott decisions in 1857, the legitimacy of the regime of government in America was weakened by the grave injustice of slavery. Still, conscientious citizens such as Abraham Lincoln, who opposed that monstrous evil, could, he and many other believed (and I believe) honestly swear to uphold the Constitution because, whatever its inadequacies, it did not contain a strict right to own slaves. True, it failed to secure the moral right of every human being not to be enslaved, but it did not remove the authority of democratic institutions to abolish slavery and secure the moral right against it. The people in their states retained the authority to act through democratic means to effect abolition within their jurisdictions and the people of the northern states chose to exercise this authority. Congress, it its exercise of general jurisdiction in th federal territories, had (or so it was thought) the authority to act
against slavery, albeit in a limited way, and so did act. Of course, inasmuch as the southern states permitted slavery in states that chose to retain “the peculiar institution,” and even facilitated it in certain ways, it failed to protect the right of those enslaved to the equal protection of the laws. But as bad as this situation was, no citizen was asked to pledge allegiance to a regime whose basic constitutional principles included something so unjust as a right of some human beings to buy, sell, use and use up other human beings.

Then came Dred Scott. According to the understanding of the Constitution by which Roger Brooke Taney and those justices joining him sent Dred Scott back into slavery, the American people, acting through constitutionally established institutions of democracy that the federal level, had no authority to interfere with the right of slaveholding, even where, as in the territories, general jurisdiction was in the hands of the federal government. This was, in effect, to manufacture a constitutional right to slaveholding. Indeed, it is difficult to see how the practical import of this decision was not to deprive even the free states of their effective power to prohibit slavery within their borders. So not only was Dred Scott’s central holding unjust, but it was also a gross usurpation of the people’s authority to act through their democratic institutions to prohibit, or, at least, to contain slavery. And, in these respects, Dred Scott resembles nothing so much as Roe v Wade, creating for morally conscientious citizens of the antebellum era precisely the dilemma that Roe creates for citizens today.
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Nonsense Upon Stilts
Ever since Jeremy Bentham scorned the idea of natural or moral rights as no ordinary nonsense, but “nonsense upon stilts,” a certain stream of thought about rights has held them to be merely conventional and historically contingent. According to the conventionalist or historicist view, moral rights cannot come as a divine gift because there is no divine giver; nor can they derive from human nature because there is no determinate human nature. Moral rights, according to conventionalist and historicists, exist only in the sense that certain people, or peoples, happen to believe — as a contingent matter of fact, that is, subjectively — that rights exist and are willing to
honor them. Where people, or peoples, do not happen to believe in their existence, rights simply do not exist. …What they deny, and what theorists of natural law and natural rights affirm, is that legal rights can embody or express moral right that are not merely
contingent and conventional.
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Abraham Lincoln On Dred Scott And The Timeless Rationality Of Equal Rights
“They defined with tolerable distinctness, in what respects they did consider all men created equal—equal in “certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This they said, and this meant. They did not mean to assert the
obvious untruth, that all were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet, that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.”
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Those Who Deny Natural Law
Justice Thomas made his ideas on natural law crystal clear to me: “Those who deny natural law,” he said, “cannot get me out of slavery.” Of course Justice Thomas was not suggesting the contemporary historicists or conventionalists – those who deny natural
law” – believe in slavery, and he well knows that some nineteenth-century believers in natural law argued for a natural right to own slaves. His point was that the moral relativism that informs historicist and conventionalists’ accounts of rights precludes the
proponents of such accounts from offering a rational moral argument against slavery. All they can say is that once upon a time in this country white people had the legal right to own black people, and now black people (and indeed all people) have the legal right not to be enslaved. For the latter proposition they can cite the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Their historicism and conventionalism preclude them, however, from saying that the Thirteenth Amendment embodies or gives legal force to a moral or natural right not to be enslaved. Under their account, no one would have had objective moral reasons (though they could have had economic or other instrumental or non-moral reasons) to support the abolition of slavery. Of course, people may be believed (and acted upon their belief) in a natural right not be enslaved, which provide a moral reason for them to support abolition, but this subjective belief, under the historicist and conventionalist account, lacked a rational ground. That is to say, it was in no sense
rationally superior to the belief of other people that no such right existed or, indeed, that they had a right to own slaves. It also follows that neither historicists nor conventionalists could provide an adequate rational defense against the return in the future of some form of slavery.
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Human Nature Is Determinate, Unchanging And Structured
Despite all the differences among the greatest minds that ever applied themselves to the fields of ethics and politics there is one proposition on which those within the natural law tradition agree, namely that human nature is, in significant respects, determinate, unchanging and structured. This does not mean that human nature is a closed nature, for practical knowledge – knowledge of what is morally right and good for man – is not knowledge of what is already the case but, rather, knowledge of what is to be (and ought to be) done, that is, knowledge of possible human fulfillment through rationally motivated action. Because human beings as practically rational agents can understand and act upon reasons provided by the basic goods of human nature, they, unlike beings whose natures are closed, possess the capacity of free choice. Thus, human beings are capable of understanding a moral law, a law of practical reasonableness, constituted by principles of right reason in practical affairs.
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If Man Is Radically Free
Those who reject natural law are skeptics who correctly reason that if man is radically free – free from any standards of practical reasonableness, which is to say morality – then, as Nietzsche put it “all things are permitted.” This suggests that men are free to
pursue their desires and interests, whatever thy happen to be; they are, that is to say, morally free, whether or not they are legally free, to deny freedom to others, to manipulate, exploit, even enslave them. Where reason has no sway in practical affairs, the sole question is who has the power. And the powerful have no reason to spare the weak, The radical or nihilist critique of moral objectivity understandably, on its own terms, denounces natural law thinking as a “slave mentality.”
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The Widespread Misunderstanding Of The Relationship Between Faith And Reason
The Pope (John Paul II) does believe that, however, that the widespread misunderstanding of the relationship between faith and reason particularly among those primarily responsible for catechesis and evangelization weakens the ability of the Church to transmit saving faith. Indeed the faith that Christians attempt to transmit, when they badly misunderstand the relationship, is Christian faith only in a weak and defective sense. It may, for example, be an overly rationalistic faith, or an overly emotional one. The Jesus in whom people are invited to have faith may be, not the Christ of the Gospels – the Word made Flesh who suffered and died for our sins and whose resurrection makes possible our own salvation – but rather a magician, or a comforting teddy bear, or a mere example of ethically upright living , or what have you.
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Corruptions Of Fields That Render Them Incompatible With Christian Faith
The Pope also recognizes the legitimacy, autonomy, and importance of non-philosophical methods of inquiry and intellectual disciplines, including psychology and sociology, and, especially, the natural sciences. Scholars and students in these disciplines rightly, in the Pope’s view pursue knowledge of their subject matters for its own sake, as well as for its practical use in the improvement of the conditions of human life.

Here, perhaps, it is worth pausing to take note, however, of the Pope’s warning against possible corruptions of these fields that render them incompatible with Christian Faith. The first of these warnings is that the legitimate autonomy of the sciences can be
misinterpreted a somehow liberating them for the overreaching requirements of the moral law. So what the Pope calls the “scientistic (as opposed to scientific) mentality” can lead people to think that “if something is technically possible it is therefore morally permissible.” The second warning is against scientism” as such, that is, “the philosophical notion which refuses to admit the validity of forms of knowledge other than those of the positive sciences.” This notion – a philosophical, and not itself scientific one, you will
note –”dismisses values as mere products of the emotions” and “consigns all that has to do with the question of the meaning of life to the realm of the irrational or imaginary.”
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Scientism: How Philosophy Can Become Anti-Philosophical
The reality of scientism (whether or not it is quite as widespread as the Pope believes it is) reveals not only the possibility of philosophical error, about which no one needs convincing, but also the way in which philosophy can become anti-philosophical. The positivism at the heart of scientism was devised by philosophers as part of the philosophical enterprise – reason itself in the critique of what were perceived to be the pretensions of reason. By instrumentalizing reason – viewing it as, in Hume’s famous phrase, the mere “slave of the passions”—it reconceived philosophy, not as the search for wisdom (what the Pope calls the pursuit of sapiential knowledge), but as a purely analytic enterprise. But when reason is instrumentalized, it soon turns on itself in utter distrust. Then, as even the analytic value of reason is denied, positivism collapses into the darker phenomenon of nihilism, the critique of which is impossible from the purely analytic perspective. To overcome nihilism, philosophy must return to its original Socratic status as both an analytic and sapiential pursuit. If the Pope believes that the restoration of philosophy in Catholic intellectual life is essential to the catechetical and evangelical mission of the Church, it must be philosophy restored to its Socratic status and thus revivified. Obviously anti-philosophical philosophy won’t do. So the Church herself, as the Pope sees it, has a stake in the renewal of philosophy in both its analytical and sapiential aspirations.
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Positive Law
Does Law “exist” prior to legal decision? Can judicial reasoning be guided by standards internal to the legal materials? At the dawn of the twenty-first century we can, I think, affirm a position more subtle that the one Holmes asserted at the end of he nineteenth. Yes, the standards to guide judicial reasoning can be internal to the law of a system that seeks to make them so, though never perfectly. Positive law is a human creation – a cultural artifice – though it is largely created for moral purposes, for the sake of justice and the common good. That is to say, law exists in what Aristotelians would call the order of technique, but it is created in that order precisely for the sake of purposes that obtain in the moral order. So, for moral reasons, we human beings create normative systems of enforceable social rules that enjoy to a significant extent, a kind of autonomy from morality as such. We deliberately render these rules susceptible to technical applications and analysis for purposes of, for example, fairly and finally establishing limits of freedom of conduct, as well as resolving disputes among citizens, or between citizens and governments, or between governments at different levels. And to facilitate this application and analysis we bring into being a legal profession, from which we draw our judges, that is composed of people trained in programs of study that teach not, or not just, moral philosophy, but the specific tools and techniques of research, interpretation, reasoning , and argument relevant to legal analysis.
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John Paul II on Civil and Moral Law
Certainly the purpose of civil law is different and more limited in scope than that of the moral law. But “in no sphere of life can the civil law take the place of conscience or dictate norms concerning things which are outside its competence”, which is that of ensuring the common good of people through the recognition and defense of their fundamental rights, and the promotion of peace and of public morality. The real purpose of civil law is to guarantee an ordered social coexistence in true justice, so that all may “lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2).

Precisely for this reason, civil law must ensure that all members of society enjoy respect for certain fundamental rights which innately belong to the person, rights which every positive law must recognize and guarantee. First and fundamental among these is the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being. While public authority can sometimes choose not to put a stop to something which –were it prohibited — would cause more serious harm, it can never presume to legitimize as a right of individuals –even if they are the majority of the members of society –an offence against other
persons caused by the disregard of so fundamental a right as the right to life. The legal toleration of abortion or of euthanasia can in no way claim to be based on respect for the conscience of others, precisely because society has the right and the duty to protect
itself against the abuses which can occur in the name of conscience and under the pretext of freedom.
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“Abortion Rights” And The Golden Rule Of Fairness
Cuomo and others purport to be willing not that anyone ever have an abortion, but only they be free to choose whether or not to have an abortion. It is, of course, psychologically possible to will that others have the choice as to whether to have an abortion, while at the same time, hoping that they never choose that option. But it is not possible – and here is the problem for liberal Catholics who support “abortion rights” – to will that someone have the freedom to abort without willing the injustice of abortion. A moment’s reflection reveals the reason this is the case. A governor, legislator, or other public official who acts to establish or preserve a legal right to abortion necessarily wills that unborn human beings be denied the legal protections against direct (and other forms of unjust) unjust killing that he will s for himself and others whom he considers to have lives worthy of the protection of the laws. Such a public official, therefore, acts in defiance of the Golden Rule of fairness in carrying out his public duties. In this way, he renders himself complicit in the injustice of those abortions that his actions help to make possible. However sincerely he may hope that women will forgo the freedom to abort and adopt instead of pro-life alternatives, the blood of abortion’s unborn victims is on his hands.
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John Paul II: A Particular Problem Of Conscience
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”.

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.

Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favoring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. 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.
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Understanding The Nature Of The Church
The Church is not primarily a bureaucratic institution – although there are, to be sure, bureaucracies to carry out many of the Church’s activities; nor is the Papacy or the Magisterium a political office that exists primarily to carry out executive and legislative
functions. Rather, the Church is the Mystical Body Of Christ, the people of God . The papacy and the episcopate were established by Christ himself, not to legislate, but to teach Christ’s savings truths to his people. Contrary to its depiction in the secular media, the Magisterium does not “ban” abortion or contraception or homosexual activity; banning is a legislative act; rather it teaches the truth that such acts are intrinsically immoral, contrary to Christ’s saving truths, incompatible with the sharing of divine life understanding the nature of the Church and its authority makes all the difference when it comes to issues of moral consequence.

People who view the Church as essentially a political body and the Magisterium as a legislative office will chafe under the authority of decisions that strike them as restricting freedoms they enjoy. They will test those decisions by appeal to conscience – understood now, not as a judgment of what one is morally required to do or not do, but, rather, as one’s feeling about whether a certain activity – abortion, premarital sex, or whatever – is in fact morally available for one’s choice, the Church’s teaching about the wrongfulness of that activity notwithstanding.

By contrast, people who understand the essentially mystical reality of the Church and the function of the Magisterium as teacher of Christ’s saving truths will adopt an attitude of humble – and grateful – submission to the Church’s moral teachings, understanding those teachings as making known the mind of Christ and thus helping to make possible our salvation. Such people will treat those teachings as principles of the formation of their consciences. And they will struggle to live in accordance with them.
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The Maintenance Of Public Morality Does Not Require Making Every Sin A Crime
Dignitatis Humanae declares the right of all people to be free from coercion in matters of religious belief and practice and in the dissemination of religious ideas. That great declaration further teaches that man “is bound to follow” his conscience. But it is no more to be interpreted as a license for anarchy than it is a brief of moral subjectivism. As the declaration itself makes clear, even the principle of freedom from coercion in religious matters is subject to the just requirements of public order, including the maintenance of
public morality. The legal prohibition of injustices — particularly the prohibition of grave injustices – such as abortion and other violations of the right to life – is plainly legitimate and often demanded by justice itself. It is true that not every obligation of the moral
law need, or should, be enforced by civil law. It would plainly be a mistake to make every sin a crime. Indeed….the Holy Father has himself observed that prudence dictates that toleration of certain vices, lest the effort to eradicate them by legal prohibition make matters worse, rather than better, for society as a whole. But, this may not be interpreted as proposing a “right” to commit immoral acts, nor is it of any use to Catholic liberals or others who would countenance a regime of law that effectively denies to the unborn their fundamental right to life.
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Human Good And The Constitution Of Human Nature
The Church teaches that a person’s nature, in the sense relevant to moral judgment, is constituted by human goods that give him reasons to act and to refrain from acting, and not by desires that may, rightly or wrongly, also provide motivation. These “natural goods” are “basic” inasmuch as they are ends or purposes that have their intelligibility not merely as means to other ends, but as intrinsic aspects of human well-being and fulfillment. Far from being reducible to desires, basic human goods give people reasons to
desire things – reasons that hold whether they happen to desire them or not, and even in the face of powerful emotional motives that run contrary to what reason identifies as humanly good and morally right.
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Masturbatory And Sodomitical Acts
Masturbatory and sodomitical acts, by their nature, instrumentalize the bodies of those choosing to engage in them in a way that cannot but damage their integrity as persons. Inasmuch as nonmarital acts cannot realize any intrinsic common good, such acts cannot but be willed for instrumental reasons, And in such willing, “the partners treat their bodies as instruments to be used in service their consciously experiencing selves; their choice to engage in such conduct thus dis-integrates teach of them precisely as acting persons.”
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Sexual Abstinence
Andrew Sullivan (Gay Advocate) rejects the teaching of his Church that homosexual acts are intrinsically immoral, because he has come to believe that the sublimation of sexual desire to which the Church calls those whose homosexual inclinations make marriage a psychological impossibility alienates people from themselves and “leads to some devastating loneliness.” For Sullivan, it is celibacy that is “unnatural”, at least for people from whom it is demanded because of a sexual orientations they did not choose, rather than, say, a religious vocation they did choose.

Of course different people will consider a (and even experience) the onerousness of sexual abstinence differently, depending upon their grasp of the reasons for exercising sexual self-restraint. And people’s judgment as to whether such reasons obtain (prevail) will likely vary, depending on their understanding, however informal and implicit, of the human good, of what is truly fulfilling of human persons.

It is entirely understandable that someone whose self-understanding is formed in accordance with the characteristically modern conception of human nature and the human good would be doubtful of the proposition that there are morally compelling reasons for people who are not married, who cannot marry, or who, perhaps, merely prefer not to marry, to abstain from sexual relations. For Sullivan and others who share this self-understanding, sexual abstinence seems not only pointless but emotionally debilitating and even, in some sense, dehumanizing.

They should at least consider, however, that the modern conception does not hold a monopoly of the allegiance of thoughtful men and women. The alternative conception of human nature and its fulfillment articulated in the natural law tradition (and embedded in one form or another in historic Jewish and Christian faith) enables people who critically appropriate it to understand themselves and their sexuality very differently. Of course the adoption of this (or any other) view, even if sound, cannot by itself effect a change of sexual orientation or simply eradicate homosexual or other morally problematic sexual desires. However, it can and does render intelligible and meaningful the struggle to live chastely, irrespective of the strength of such desires and regardless of whether one is “gay” or “straight,” married or single.
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The Court Regards Euthanasia And Abortion
In June of 1997, the Supreme Court of the Unites States handed own two unanimous decisions rejecting constitutional challenges to state laws prohibiting people from assisting others in committing suicide. In State of Washingon vs Glucksberg and Vacco v Quill, not a single justice was prepared to endorse the proposition that the Constitution of the United States implicitly contains a general “right to die” analogous to the “right to abortion” the Court claimed to discover in the Constitution in the 1973 case of Roe v Wade….

In the important development in the struggle over abortion, the United States Congress has twice voted to ban dilations and extraction, better known as “partial-birth” abortions. Apparently because of the graphically barbaric nature of this procedure, public support of
such a ban is particularly high. However President Clinton vetoed the ban both times – claiming, utterly implausibly, that partial-birth abortions are sometimes necessary to protect the health and preserve the future fertility of pregnant women. Although his vetoes were overridden in the House of Representatives, they were sustained in the Senate, where ten of the thirty-three votes needed to prevent an override of the veto were provided by self-identified Catholics.
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Theologians Represent A Parallel Magisterium?
The single factor most responsible for undermining the laity’s understanding and willingness to be guided by the teaching authority of the Church is the scandalous defiance of this authority by theologians, especially priest-theologians and members of women’s religious orders. Above all, the suggestion – sometimes formal, often merely implicit –that the theologians represent a parallel, or even superior, Magisterium has a devastating effect on the faith of many lay Catholics. If there are two, equally valid sources of authoritative teaching, and these sources disagree, then the individual believer is free to choose between them. The public dissent of theologians becomes a license for the very practical dissent of ordinary Catholics on issues ranging from contraception and in vitro fertilization, to divorce and remarriage, and, of course, abortion.
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Thomism’s Special Standing
John Paul II, whose own philosophical commitments and methods are drawn from the phenomenological tradition associated with such thinkers as Husserl and Scheler, is at pains to observe that the Church herself does not choose among those philosophical
systems and methods which are compatible with Christian faith (whether or not their origins are in the world of Christian thinkers). More than one system, he plainly supposes, can be valuable it he pursuit of truth and understanding of faith. True, as the Pope acknowledges in a subsection of the encyclical entitled “The Enduring Originality of the Thought of St. Thomas Aquinas,” Thomism has a special standing, a kind of pride of place, in the intellectual life of the Church, at least since the publication of the encyclical
letter Aeterni Patris by Pope Leo XIII. But in commending this philosophical approach, and Aquinas himself as a model of intellectual rigor and philosophical and theological attainment, the Church does not confer upon Thomism standing as the “one true philosophy.”

Indeed, John Paul II says explicitly and emphatically that “no historical form of philosophy can legitimately claim to embrace the totality of truth, not to be the complete explanation of the human being, of the world and the human being’s relationship to God.”
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Faith Needs Reason
Faith also needs reason. Just as there are philosophical errors, so too are there theological ones. And the abandonment of philosophy, or the failure to develop and deploy sound philosophical methods, results according to Fides et Ratio in some of he errors characteristic of contemporary theology – including Catholic theology. Above all fideism – particularly as it manifests itself in what the Pope labels Biblicism– is the consequence of a theological error about philosophy, indeed the theological error of supposing that theology can do without philosophy, that faith can get along without rational inquiry, understanding and judgment. …

The Pope describes Biblicism as a view that “There are also signs of a resurgence of fideism, which fails to recognize the importance of rational knowledge and philosophical discourse for the understanding of faith, indeed for the very possibility of belief in God. One currently widespread symptom of this fideistic tendency is a “Biblicism” which tends to make the reading and exegesis of Sacred Scripture the sole criterion of truth. In consequence, the word of God is identified with Sacred Scripture alone, thus eliminating the doctrine of the Church which the Second Vatican Council stressed quite specifically. Having recalled that the word of God is present in both Scripture and Tradition, the Constitution Dei Verbum continues emphatically: “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture comprise a single sacred deposit of the word of God entrusted to the Church. Embracing this deposit and united with their pastors, the People of God remain always faithful to the teaching of the Apostles”.

Scripture, therefore, is not the Church’s sole point of reference. The “supreme rule of her faith” derives from the unity which the Spirit has created between Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church in a reciprocity which means that none of the three can survive without the others. Moreover, one should not underestimate the danger inherent in seeking to derive the truth of Sacred Scripture from the use of one method alone, ignoring the need for a more comprehensive exegesis which enables the exegete, together with the whole Church, to arrive at the full sense of the texts. Those who devote themselves to the study of Sacred Scripture should always remember that the various hermeneutical approaches have their own philosophical underpinnings, which need to be carefully evaluated before they are applied to the sacred texts.
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Philosophy’s Contribution
Pope John Paul II:”Without philosophy’s contribution, it would in fact be impossible to discuss theological issues such as, for example, the use of language to speak about God, the personal relations within the Trinity, God’s creative activity in the world, the relationship between God and man, or Christ’s identity as true God and true man. This is no less true of the different themes of moral theology, which employ concepts such as the moral law, conscience, freedom, personal responsibility and guilt, which are in part defined by philosophical ethics.”…

It is not merely that philosophical work is needed to defend the Jewish and Christian understanding of marriage against the critique currently being waged against it with great force (sometimes, of course, from within the Church) by liberal secularism. …

What does it mean for a man and woman to become “one flesh”? Is the biblical notion of “one flesh union” merely a metaphor? If not, do married couples become “one flesh” only in the sense that they are genetic contributors to their biological offspring? Are marriages between infertile spouses truly marriages? Can an infertile man and his wife become “one flesh”? If so, why not two persons of the same sex? Why not more than two persons?

There are, I submit, answers to these questions. But one cannot simply look up the answers in the Bible. To achieve an adequate understanding of the biblical teaching one must advert to philosophical truths. To grasp the profound, and quite literal, sense in which spouses in marriage truly become one flesh – and not merely in their children, and, indeed, even if they cannot have children – one must think through the matter philosophically. One must understand correctly, for example, the status of the human being as an embodied person, rather than a non-bodily person who merely inhabits and uses a non-personal body. For the biological (“organic”) unity of spouses in reproductive-type acts (even where the non-behavioral conditions for reproduction happen not to obtain) unite them interpersonally – and such interpersonal unity provides the bodily matrix of a comprehensive (and thus, truly marital) unity – only if persons are there bodies (whatever else they are) and do not merely inhabit them. Is the body part of personal reality of the human being? Or is it merely an instrument of the conscious and desiring part of the self? These are philosophical questions that cannot be evaded if we are to understand, much less defend, the biblical view of marriage.
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The Fundamental Harmony Between The Knowledge Of Faith And Philosophy
We, as individuals, have no guarantee that we will understand Scripture correctly. For us there is only honest trying. No philosopher as such enjoys the charism of infallibility. No Catholic, certainly Catholic philosopher, can be certain that he has interpreted the data of revelation correctly, or worked out its true implications, before the Magisterium of the Church, drawing on all her resources, including the work of exegetes, theologians , and philosophers –resolves the issue definitively. It is the Church herself and her Magisterium that authority and the charism of infallibility reside….

John Paul II: “The fundamental harmony between the knowledge of faith and the knowledge of philosophy is once again confirmed. Faith asks that its object be understood with the help of reason; and at the summit of its searching reason acknowledges that it cannot do without what faith presents”
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An Example Of The Two Wings Of Faith And Reason
As the Pope says of all talk of God, analogical, where but philosophy can the church go in seeking its understanding? …So long as science and religion remain in their proper spheres there need be no conflict between them. Peace (if not mutual respect) is ensured by separation. And there is truth in this. Religion and science have all too often invaded each other’s spheres. But faith and reason, while enjoying, as the Pope says, a legitimate independence or autonomy from each other, are also profoundly interdependent in the ways that I have indicated in explicating the teaching of Fides et Ratio. This interdependence is signaled in the encyclical’s magnificent opening sentence: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

As I have already remarked, the Pope firmly asserts the unity of truth, So, for example, if Christ is not risen bodily from the dead as a matter of historical and scientific fact, he is not risen as a matter of faith; and if his resurrection is indeed, as the Church teaches, a
truth of faith, then it is true historically and scientifically as well. …Faith and reason, the Pope says, are two orders of knowledge. But they are linked, and, to some extent, overlapping, orders. Some truths are known only by revelation; others only by philosophical, scientific or historical inquiry. Those known by revelation are often, however, fully understandable, or their implications fully knowable, only by rational inquiry.

And often the full human and cosmic significance of those knowable by philosophical, scientific and historical inquiry only becomes evident in the light of faith. And then there is the category of truths, particularly in then moral domain, knowable, in principle, at least, by philosophical inquiry but also revealed. Here revelation illuminates the truths of natural law, bringing into focus their precise contours, and making apparent to people of faith their supernatural significance. At the same time, natural law principles inform the
Church’s understanding of the of content of revelation (as in the example of marriage) and enable the believer more fully to grasp the meaning and implications of what is revealed. Thus it is that on the “two wings” of faith and reason the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.
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Reason Can Be More Than Instrumental And More Than A Servant To Emotions
In principle anyone ought to be able to see that reason can be more than merely instrumental, more than emotions ingenious servant (“the slave of passions”), it is no accident that resistance to the positivistic reduction of reason (or the nihilistic denial of rationality) comes, in the main, from philosophers firmly rooted in traditions of faith. If, as the Pope says, faith has nothing to fear, and much to gain from, reason, then it is also true that reason has nothing to fear, and much to gain from, faith.
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Faith, Philosophy and Culture
John Paul II in Fides et Ratio: “When they are deeply rooted in experience, cultures show forth the human being’s characteristic openness to the universal and the transcendent. Therefore they offer different paths to the truth, which assuredly serve men and women well in revealing values which can make their life ever more human. Insofar as cultures appeal to the values of older traditions, they point—implicitly but authentically—to the manifestation of God in nature.”….

This means that no one culture can ever become the criterion of judgment, much less the ultimate criterion of truth with regard to God’s Revelation. The Gospel is not opposed to any culture, as if in engaging a culture the Gospel would seek to strip it of its native riches and force it to adopt forms which are alien to it. On the contrary, the message which believers bring to the world and to cultures is a genuine liberation from all the disorders caused by sin and is, at the same time, a call to the fullness of truth. Cultures are not only not diminished by this encounter; rather, they are prompted to open themselves to the newness of the Gospel’s truth and to be stirred by this truth to develop in new ways.”

The Pope’s point is that these (cultural) truths transcend particular cultures just as they cannot be captured in any one, final, ultimately and definitively true philosophical systems. Yet just as faith cannot do without philosophy, it cannot do without cultures – which, like philosophies, are (even at their best) particular and limited. People understand, appropriate, and live the truths of faith in the light of particular cultures – or they understand, appropriate and live these truths not at all., So faith is unavoidably, mediated by and through cultural structures – if it is present at all –even as it necessarily transcends every culture.
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God Has Placed In The Human Heart A Desire To Know The Truth
Truth is, in Christian teaching, both universal and universally longed for. God is truth – Jesus Christ as the Son of the Living God, is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” “God has”, as the Pope says in the second half of the opening sentence of Fides et Ratio, “placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth — in a word, to know himself — so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”
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What is a human being?
He or she is a whole, living member of the species Homo sapiens. Plainly, gametes (sperm cells and ova) are not human beings. They are parts of other human beings. They lack the epigenetic primordia for internally directed growth and maturation as distinct, complete, self-integrating, human organisms. The same is true of somatic cells (such as skin cells), even though such cells can provide the genetic material necessary to bring into existence by cloning a new and distinct human being.

Modern science shows that human embryos, by contrast are whole, living members of the human species, who (unless bring prevented from doing so) are actively developing themselves to the next more mature stage along the continuum of development of a
single unitary human organism. They are capable of directing from within their own integral organic functioning and development into and through the fetal, infant, child, and adolescent stages of life, and ultimately into adulthood as, in each case, determinate, enduring whole human beings.

It is not that a human embryo merely has the potential to “become a life” or “become a human being.” He or she (for sex is determined at the beginning of life) is already a human being. His or her potential is precisely to mature as the kind of being he or she already is, viz. a human being. In this crucial respect, the embryo is like the fetus, infant, child and adolescent. …

The last refuge of those who are bent on justifying destructive research on embryonic human beings, but wish to avoid the collapse into utilitarianism is to claim that human beings in the embryonic state, while possessing “some” value, are not yet “persons” with rights. This will not do. You and I are essentially human physical organisms. In other words, we do not “have” organisms that we (considered now as conscious and desiring agents) possess and use; rather, we are rational–animal organisms.

Therefore, we – that is the persons we are – come to be precisely as and when the animal-organisms we are come to be. One does not become a person only after some time after one comes to be. The human person is a bodily entity – not a mere consciousness inhabiting and using a body – so all human beings, including embryonic human beings, retarded human beings, and frail, demented, and dying human beings, are “persons” whose rights deserve respect and protection. The concept of the “human non-person” – a human being whose life can be deliberately destroyed, or who can be mutilated or enslaved, to serve the interests of others – richly deserves the ignominy in which it has come to be held. Let us not accept the devil’s bargain of reviving it in return for the hope of scientific advances – or for any other reason.
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Secularism As A Way Of Preserving Social Peace
A minority party within the secularist camp defends secularist ideology not on the ground that its tenets are true or vindicated by reason – secularists of this stripe deny the possibility of moral truth or the power of reason to make sound moral judgments of any type — but on the purely prudential ground that the official commitment of public institutions to secularism is the only way of preserving social peace. Ultimately, this is a hopeless strategy for defending secularism. It must implicitly appeal to the idea of moral truth and invoke the authority of reason (if, for no other purpose, than to establish the value of social peace) even as it officially denies that moral truth is possible and that reason has any real authority.

Moreover there is simply no warrant for believing that social peace is likely, or more likely, to be preserved by committing our public institutions to secularist ideology. Partisans of worldviews that compete with secularism are, to say the least, unlikely to surrender these institutions to the forces of secularism without a fight; nor is there any reason for them to do so. Consider the issue of abortion: Christians, observant Jews and others who oppose the taking of unborn human life do not consider a circumstance in which more than a million elective abortions are performed each ear to be a situation of “social peace.” They quite reasonably reject secularism’s claim to constitute nothing more than a neutral playing field on which other worldviews may fairly and civilly compete for the allegiance of the people. As the example of abortion makes clear, secularism is itself one of the competing worldviews. We should credit its claims to neutrality no more than we would accept the claims of a baseball pitcher who in the course of a game declares himself to be umpire and begins calling his own balls and strikes.
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Forms Of Person/Body Dualisms
It is true that some Christians embrace a certain form of person/body dualism, believing it necessary to identify the human person with the soul as distinct from the body in order to avoid materialism and/or affirm the existence of the immaterial human soul or its immortality. According to this form of dualism, the body, though not an intrinsic part of the person, may nevertheless enjoy a certain dignity by virtue of its association with the soul so that the deliberate destruction of the body, as in suicide, euthanasia and abortion, may therefore be morally wrongful. Still the body remains an essentially sub-personal reality and does not in itself participate in the dignity of the person.

A homicidal act does not actually destroy a person although it may nevertheless constitute the wrongful destruction of a person’s body. This view, whose proponents can claim the patronage of Plato and Descartes, was rejected by Aquinas and other great Christian thinkers for what I believe to be excellent reasons. They saw that it is by no means logically (or, for that matter, theologically) necessary to identify the human person with the soul as distinct from the body, and thus to deny that bodily life is intrinsic to the human person, in order to avoid materialism or to affirm the soul’s existence or immortality in order to affirm the human person is a unity of body and soul – both being intrinsic parts of the person. One needn’t deny the soul’s existence or immortality in order to affirm that the human person is a unity of body and soul – both being intrinsic parts of the person. As the doctrine of the resurrection of the body makes clear, human beings are saved and exist in eternity as bodily persons, not as disembodied souls.
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Peter Singer On Abortion And Infanticide
Once one recognizes that the scientific evidence establishes that the fetus , no less than the newborn, is a human being, one must logically treat the two the same in assessing the question of their rights and our duties toward them. And so, Peter Singer, a leading advocate of abortion and a recent appointee to a distinguished professorial chair of bioethics in my own university argues that infanticide is sometimes morally justifiable and ought, up to a certain point, be legally permissible.

While Singer’s views have caused outrage and made his appointment at Princeton controversial, the truth is that he is merely following the logic of a pro-choice position in light of an honest assessment of the scientific facts. He recognizes that “birth” is an arbitrary dividing line when it comes to the humanity and rights of human beings in the early stages of their development. Hence if abortion is morally justifiable, so is infanticide. Of course, I believe that Singer is tragically wrong in supposing that abortion and infanticide are morally justifiable; but he is right in claiming that either both of these practices are justifiable, or neither can be justified.
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The “Human Non-Person” And “Post-Personal” Human Beings
I recognize that people who believe, as my colleague Peter Singer, for example, believes that the “sanctity of human life” ethic is a mere relic of outmoded religion (or what have you) will view these matters entirely differently. They do not believe that all human beings are persons, or have fundamental rights. They are not scandalized by the concept of a “human non-person” and “post-personal” human beings (as well as severely retarded human beings who never were and never will be “persons,” as they are pleased to define
the term) to whom the promises of basic rights and equality under the law do not apply.

Although I deeply disagree with these people, at least they engage the issues straight forwardly and do not pretend to ignorance about when human life begins (or ends). Professor Singer himself, in defending abortion (and infanticide) dos not try to hide the fact that it is killing and, indeed, killing a human being. He does not feign a belief in the equality of all human beings while advocating policies and practices that simply cannot be squared with such a belief, In any event, I do not expect people who do not believe that the unborn, or newly born, or the profoundly handicapped, or demented are persons with rights to share the Pope’s worries and mine about what the acceptance of abortion, infanticide and euthanasia does to democracy.
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