The Personalist Project

An article in Crisis magazine, “What’s Behind the Mandate?” by Gerard Bradley unmasks the Obama Administration’s fundamental empiricism on two fronts—the ontological and the existential.

Ontologically Bradley notes that Obama’s asserts that those who want to place limitations on the availability of contraception, abortion and same sex marriage,  base their opinion on religious convictions which, as such, are subjective and cannot be validated by objective measures and so consequently are not to be protected by law.

Existentially the Administration asserts that the value of such institutions as Catholic Charities and Hospitals solely in terms of the material benefits they afford for the common good but fails to recognize the spiritual benefits intrinsic to these institutions. These spiritual benefits too are seen as subjective and incapable of being validated by objective measures and so too are not to be protected by  law.

Comments (4)

Peter Brown

#1, Jun 27, 2012 10:29pm

This is partly true, in that the Administration's decisions patently treat religious belief as a private prejudice.  Surely, however, a truly empiricist position would give full weight to the objectively-measured efficiency and responsiveness of (for example) the Migration and Refugee Services--but that's not what happened.  In that case, the measurable (empirical) benefit of efficiency was trumped by the non-measurable (thus non-empirical) "benefit" of providing abortion and contraception.  The HHS mandate is similar, in that there really isn't any empirical evidence demonstrating that substantial numbers of Americans lack access to artificial contraception based on its price.

So--not to belittle the dangers of empiricism, in particular the reduction of religious belief to a mere prejudice--but that doesn't explain the full spectrum of this Administration's disdain for the full personhood (e.g., conscience rights) of those who disagree with it.

Rhett Segall

#2, Jun 28, 2012 6:31am

Great analysis and insight, Peter!  Your point is similiar to a biologist, for example, who would say that he/she only accepts the observable facts and makes no judgments regarding the meaning of the facts, for example on the dignity of a human embryo. The biologist fails to recognize his/her non-judgment is a judgment.

Tim Cronin

#3, Jun 28, 2012 7:34am

Similarly the juridicial structure of our government that seems to leave metaphysical and religious arguments out of its structure actually contains a hidden metaphysic and theology.  "My contention, first of all, is that America’s historically dominant understanding of man embeds a voluntaristic idea of freedom, an instrumentalist idea of human reason, and a positivistic idea of religion: in a word, what may be termed a technological conception of the human act. These features all presuppose and are driven by a definite, if mostly unwitting, ontology of man and the cosmos in relation to the Creator. Key to this ontology is the lack of an adequate sense of the original givenness of the creature’s relation to the Creator, and, inside this relation, of each creature’s relation to other creatures." - David Schindler:

Katie van Schaijik

#4, Jun 30, 2012 8:37am

Peter, as I read Rhett's post, my thought was just the same as yours, though you put it better than I would have.  

I agree with both you and Rhett that that the left is working hard to fix in law and policy the idea that religion is a matter of private opinion, while science is only deferred to it when it confirms their absolutist agenda.

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