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Jules van Schaijik

Religious Freedom under Threat: Panel & Discussion

Oct. 22 at 12:16pm

Saturday evening, our local parish hosted a panel discussion about religious liberty in the current crisis. Taking inspiration from Archbishop Chaput's book, Render Unto Caesar, three panelists addressed the question, then engaged the audience in a lively Q&A, which could have gone on much longer if time had allowed. Feel free to continue it in the comments below. It's hard to think of a more important and timely issue.

Click on the names below to listen to the audio.

Peter Colosi (left), Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at St. Charles Borromeo seminary
Mark Henrie (middle), Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer at Intercollegiate Studies Institute
Katie van Schaijik (right), Co-founder of the Personalist Project


 

Tom Meyer

Around 5'40", Colosi stated that pro-choice advocates reject moral absolutism.  Though he later modified his comments to say that this is the former position of the abortion lobby, I don't think it accurately presents normative arguments, past or present, of people who favor legal access to abortion.  They might, for instance believe either:

  1. That abortion is immoral, but that the state should not enforce laws prohibiting it; or
  2. That not all abortions are immoral;

Now, if someone accepts the Catholic position that all human beings are equally precious and worthy of protection from the moment of conception to their natural deaths, then either of these positions becomes impossible to square withobjective/absolute morals.  But, again, that presumes one accepts Catholic premises on this; almost definitionally, however, someone who is pro-choice does not.

I would be curious to hear Colosi address those -- like me -- who 1) Believe that an absolute morality exists, but dissent from the Catholic understanding on this particular issue and who 2) Beleive it is wrong for the government to force Catholics to pay for abortions or contraceptives.

#1 - Oct. 22 at 6:00pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Thanks for commenting, Tom.

As I read the Catholic position, it's not that all human beings are equally precious and worthy of protection; it's rather that all human beings are objectively precious and worthy of protection.

The distinction is important, because there are ways in which we can legitimately speak of one person being more precious than another.  For instance, a close friend is more precious to me than a complete stranger.  Also, one person who, through his own free choices acqurire great moral beauty is in one sense (not ontologically!), more precious than someone who become vicious and destructive.

#2 - Oct. 22 at 7:18pm | quote

Jules van Schaijik

Tom,

I don't know how Colosi would respond, but to me it seems that absolute morality is grounded in the dignity of persons. Persons may never be used as mere means to an end. If that is the case, and if human beings are persons from conception on, then it follows (does it not?) that all abortions are wrong, and that the state should forbid them.

I know you don't agree with me. Is there something in the above that you think is false? If so, on what do you think absolute morality is grounded?

#3 - Oct. 22 at 11:05pm | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

Tom Meyer, Oct. 22 at 6:00pm

  1. That abortion is immoral, but that the state should not enforce laws prohibiting it; or
  2. That not all abortions are immoral;

I hesitate to ask. Why is it that, so often, abortion is spoken of in terms of morality?

In affirming "abortion is immoral," I predicate the immorality of the act and indirectly of the person who performs the act.

I make an entirely new statement when I say (with the Church) "abortion is an injustice in the strict sense of the term."

 A solitary immoral act - such as drunkenness or impurity - in the privacy of a closet, is immoral, but it is not an injustice towards another human person. It is a victimless act.

An abortion is never solitary, even in the privacy of a closet or WC. It has a victim. Significantly the Church systematically uses the word, "crime:" heinous crime, unspeakable crime. I just haven't found "immoral" predicated of abortion by Church documents.

What's the difference? Can we use force to impose morality? If so, the "privacy" of a closet or bedroom is no argument against the state. Can we use force to impose justice? If so, then the "privacy" of a closet, a bedroom or a free decision does not trump the right to life.

#4 - Oct. 23 at 4:56pm | quote

 

Katie van Schaijik

Damian P. Fedoryka

An abortion is never solitary, even in the privacy of a closet or WC. It has a victim. Significantly the Church systematically uses the word, "crime:" heinous crime, unspeakable crime. I just haven't found "immoral" predicated of abortion by Church documents.

Damian, I agree with your position, if I understand it rightly. I mean, I agree that the proper concern of the state is with justice.

But I am wondering whether you would agree that all acts of injustice are ipso facto also immoral?  Or am I confused about something?

#5 - Oct. 24 at 3:05pm | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

Katie van Schaijik, Oct. 24 at 3:05pm

But I am wondering whether you would agree that all acts of injustice are ipso facto also immoral?  Or am I confused about something?

 I agree. But my point goes in a different direction which is indicated, if I am not msitaken, also by St. Thomas' position that "not all of morality [i.e., moral law] is to be legislated." What could be legislated were those things that hurt others, such as murder, theft, etc.  This reference was used  by Mario Cuomo to chide Catholics who wanted legislation against "sins"  (abortion) they themselves were not able to avoid. 

Because an injustice is ipso facto an immorality, it does not follow that every immorality is ipso facto an injustice against another human being. The reason murder is immoral is because it is first an injustice to others. Public drunkenness or private fornication are immoral before and part from any unjust consequences for others, namely, apart from any extrinsic "evil" effects of the act.

Keeping with the difference between the interior and exterior dimension of personal existence, the "external" implications of unjust acts allow for a use of force which the "internal" status of the moral quality precludes.

#6 - Oct. 24 at 4:23pm | quote

 

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