Faith, Reason, Law, and Abortion

Fr. Christopher Pietraszko, Fr. Pietraszko’s Corner:

There has been a great deal of “buzz” in Canada since Canada’s liberal Prime Minister recently barred those who are pro-life from working in summer jobs, as well as cutting off funding from supporting groups that have this disposition.  Things are beginning to add up, and Canada is looking more and more out-of-touch with its religious citizens.  Rights have been known to rub up against each other.  We wonder where does “hate speech begin” and “freedom of speech end?”  We have discussed women’s reproductive rights but debate how they impact the life of the unborn.  Values compete with values, and if we do not use logic, reasoning, and have a sense of a hierarchy of principles, the end result is that ethical laws are not developed, rather popular anthropologies are indoctrinated, that support the values of the majority.

Value-systems are largely defined by a subjective consensus of people in a social-group.  Values can pertain to a religious community, a secular community, a cultural community, and varied alternatives.  What values lack is their defensibility when we enact them into law.  Laws are not meant to respect values, but rather are meant to be ordinances of reason, that are promulgated by the state for the sake of the common-good.  This has been the basic thrust behind most law since the dawn of civilization, and under the influence of totalitarian regimes, it has often been the “values” of an individual leader that have guided the process of arbitrary laws.  Those arbitrary laws have even been known to be backed by scientific communities who promoted eugenics and advocated for the dehumanization of particular groups during war-times.  Presuming such bigotry to be “scientific” many were gagged from offering criticism as they would be considered sentimental and out-dated in their own basic way of rejecting such laws.  Jews were removed as professors, teachers, doctors, enabling German society to perpetuate and control the false and unjust narrative about the Jews.  Once this particular religious group was removed from the public sphere, science was no longer open to any other interpretation than the racist one that funded their research, tortured and experimented upon such individuals in concentration camps.  This slow process of weeding out from society those who society latently resented and wanted to persecute began by a prohibition to work in various fields because of their race and/or beliefs.20120605-203703.jpg

In Canada, a similar thing is beginning to happen.  Even if it is not the direct intention of the leaders, it would be naïve that it will end in any other way.  Doctors who are pro-life, are forced to offer effective referrals for abortion and euthanasia.  Yet so many people see absolutely nothing wrong with this.  They will create the narrative that such procedures are the “rights” of private citizens, and they should not be denied what is entitled to them.  Therefore, doctors and pharmacists can be weeded out from the medical and scientific community as a result of their views, effectively gagging an alternative view on ethics in order to enforce a false-narrative about the morality around this subject.  This alternative view is gagged, regardless of whether it is proposed from a logical standpoint, apart from an appeal to faith.  The so-called rights of these individuals, in this narrative, are matters of “reproductive rights” for women.  A clever term that couches this matter in a way that is completely oblivious to the actual reality at hand:  a human has already been reproduced and is now developing.  Therefore it isn’t about reproduction, it is about having the right to euphemize/dehumanize a person into somethingof less dignity so that it can be killed.

Not only have workers for the government in the Party of the Liberals and NDP been disallowed to vote according to their conscience on matters of the unborn, they have been entirely excluded from their own respective parties.  Furthermore, even private citizens who do not work in these professions can be arrested for protesting and expressing disagreement with abortion in areas where a bubble zone is erected.  In other words, the law now views public-disagreement as synonymous with harassment, because it simply cannot cope with the idea that people disagree with the pro-choice view.  It therefore is slowly working its way through Canada, fostering the narrative that a pro-life view is a thing of the past, and Canada has to let it go, and gag its opponents by a threat of 6 months in jail or more during a second offense for breaking this so-called bubble-zone.

As I said:  it’s adding up – and going in one particular direction.  So how can it be overcome?  First of all, moments like these need to wake people up who are ambiguous on this matter.  Second, the issues need to be framed properly when it comes to changing the law on abortion.  Third, one should resist the government and do so by being involved with it as much as we can be, and voting according to what will properly prevent moral tyranny from prevailing in our country.

Responding to ambiguous responses to this subject:

There are many people who personally disagree with abortion, but are silent on the matter.  This could be for a few reasons.  Perhaps discussing it with others could cause division, especially family members who have had abortions.  Perhaps wanting to avoid conflict is a main contributor.  Perhaps we have some strange ways of looking at morality, and do not believe that the killing of the unborn is substantially the same thing as killing a new-born.

Let me put these matters to rest.  If you do not want to be criticized, do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.  The best way to avoid a life where we make a positive impact on the world is to go-along with it, and convince ourselves that our private disagreement absolves us from our responsibility to speak up.  But be assured, it does not, and our voice is something justice demands.  Justice is something we should want our family to ascribe to, and if they do not, then that ought to divide us.  If you love your family more than what is morally right, your family will naturally be corrupted by all sorts of vice, and never have the peace it really should have – it will be a false peace, built on fake-peace.  That is to say that not wishing a family to be just and at peace with reason and a good morality is to actually fail to love your family.DecisionMaking

Abortion is the killing of a dependant young human-being, and is not substantially different than killing a new-born.  Therefore, to see if we are truly being consistent with logical thinking, if there is no ontological or substantial difference between a fetus and a new-born, then why would it be a crime to kill a new-born but not the unborn?  Is there some sort of magical science that happens when the baby leaves the womb?  Is the womb a superstitious-magical place, where up to the day before the child is birthed, it can be chopped into pieces or killed as in a partial birth-abortion?  While this rarely would ever happen at such a stage, did you know there was no law preventing it?  To be indifferent to this, would be like saying, “rarely do children get fed to bears as a form of entertainment, so I don’t see why would make a law preventing this?”  In fact, there are laws preventing it, yet someone could nonetheless get away with a partial-birth abortion and be entirely legally protected, and seemingly no one cares to make that a concern.  That is to finally say a child prematurely born, and less developed has more rights than a child who is further developed but still united to its mother’s womb.  Does this make sense logical sense, and how does biology factor into this assessment?

One cannot be personally against the killing of a race of individuals, but that it would be up to each statesman to decide according to his own preference.  It is either killing a human being or not.  In a democratic society, we become morally culpable for not allowing our voice and vote to be expressed in this regard.  Indifference permits evil.

Why do people rarely change their mind?

In discussing this with people who disagree, they might deflect comments in order to gag the conversation.  In my experience, as a priest, I will often hear people bring up the sexual abuse crisis, as if that is what I should worry about, but not abortion.  The frank response to this is that people should not exploita very real and evil action in order to silence a conversation that pricks their conscience.  It usesthe pain of the victims to morally posture in order to distract the conversation from an effective dialogue over the subject at hand.  Logicians call that a “red-herring.” The two issues are not competitive either – killing children and sexually abusing them are things that should never happen.  Why would one frame an argument as if we have to tolerate one evil over another, such as these?

One of the real reasons why very few people change their minds on this subject during a debate is not due to the science or the philosophy – which support the pro-life stance.  Rather, it is due to the very challenging consequences of admitting that we might have to come to terms with what we have been supporting or in some cases, what we have chosen.

I know some Germans who lived in Germany during world-war II.  They, to this day, are still in denial that the holocaust took place.  This I can understand, because it might be difficult to think of oneself being morally responsible (via silence or advocacy) for something that is shameful, tragic, socially condemned, and has marked the history of mankind.  Think now of the women that might think that on the other side of the argument there is nothing but despair in knowing that what I really did was “kill my own child.”

For those who are involved in pro-life work, we have to understand the grave difficulty that is associated, psychologically, with coming to a place where we might have to accept something so horrible about our behaviour: the truth.

The thing is – the pro-life movement is not interested in shaming women who have had an abortion.  In fact, we generally tend to celebrate women who have publically admitted or quietly admitted that they regret their abortion.  We celebrate that because it takes a great deal of interior strength, integrity of mind and hard work to be able to do this.  It also beings a process of healing – and healing can only take place when we are honest about our self-inflicted wounds.  So for those women, who have that gnawing feeling that they did the wrong thing, but pretend behind a façade of jokes, bitterness, and raw-raw events, that gnawing feeling will never go away, no matter what false-narratives you create.  The gnawing feeling only goes away when you come to terms with the decision you have supported in others or for yourself, and realize that you are still loved, wanted, and a remarkable part of society.  For those who have faith, you would be forgiven, and the memory of the choice could be healed.  For those who might be in need of such healing, I highly recommend looking into groups like PROJECT RACHEL which offer support to both men and women who mourn lost parenthood.

It would also be beneficial for pro-life people to consider the social pressure that is placed on women to have abortions in various circumstances.  We currently live in a society where it is not only easy to believe that a fetus isn’t a person as sociological result of the law enforced that permits their killing, but that there are also those who create circumstances that make women think this is their only option/choice.  In these cases, what is required from pro-life people is for us to not stand in moral-competition, but rather recognize that had we been in the same circumstances, we might have done the same thing.  None of this suggests that what they have done is acceptable, but rather that we can relate to its tempting nature as a supposed “solution” to an unwanted pregnancy.  Understanding that we are all people capable of making bad decisions, helps us not make this a matter about being morally superior to others, but rather about saving children from death.  It also helps us discover ways to discourage abortion by changing the social policy that shapes the social narrative/attitude around the subject.

Reframing the matter of faith and reason in regard to law:

Although most objections to the Prime Minister’s new direction of ideological dictatorship frames this matter under religious liberty, I would argue that it is much worse than that.  For Catholics, human law is defined as:  “An ordinance of reason, promulgated by the state for the sake of the common-good.”  That is to say, dogmatic matters of faith really do not have much to do with the logistics of making law.  Furthermore, while one can abhor abortion from the lens of faith, one can also do so from the lens of reason.  This is why various groups, such as “Atheists for Life” exist.  It is also why the Church has an argument that doesn’t even appeal to faith, but rather science and philosophy in order to object to abortion.  Here lies the biggest problem, the Trudeau government has canonized a particular type of anthropology for human beings in general, and excluded all discussion on this matter, even when such arguments are made from a logically cohesive presentation.  In other words, law now is an “ordinance of popular belief, promulgated by the state for the sake of our subjective/existential preferences.”  In other words, reason itself has been excluded from the process of making law.

Would such pro-choice proponents characterize this as the case?  No.  The reason they would not is because they have compartmentalized this issue to merely a matter of faith, which in their minds is nothing more than a sentiment and superstition.  So in their mind, saying that a person is pro-life naturally carries with it the false assumption that those who are pro-life only believe as such because they have a religious creed.  For this reason, Catholics have a long-standing tradition of being able to defend our position without appealing to scripture or Divine Tradition.  We would argue that much of the moral law can be known by human beings who can use reason to discern.  Therefore, a universal moral system can be created whereby mankind can develop an understanding of right from wrong without an appeal to religion.bible-thumper

This for instance is why atheists are not necessarily running around shooting and killing everyone – they are human, and know through natural reasoning the difference between right and wrong, good and disordered conduct.  Yet our society doesn’t question the murder of innocent full-grown adults, nor do those who protest such acts appeal to their “faith” as the sole rationale behind why they condemn such behaviour.  Likewise, this is the case for abortion for many of those who are pro-life.

Therefore, objectively the very idea of a rational debate and dialogue in the chambers of law-makers on this matter has been silenced by a deceiving lie, that this is merely a matter of religions imposing their personal beliefs on others either by neglect or by protestation.  Click Here to listen to a podcast that offers an explanation that is a logical, philosophically reasoned explanation as to why abortion is immoral, and not substantially different than killing a newborn.  This link/podcast does not appeal to faith to make its case.

How do we end this false-narrative?

Fundamentalists who do not adhere to the view that science should never contradict faith are a problem to correcting this false-narrative.  In the protestant reformation, we do note that by making a false-dichotomy between faith and reason (fideism and rationalism) the subsequent consequences were secularism/communism and fundamentalism.  The view heralded the idea that God could break the law of non-contradiction, and that his laws and moral precepts could be self-contradictory.  Philosophers would suggest that God could make something like a “square-circle.”  In this line of thought, universities were encouraged to disconnect faith from reason, not by way of a distinction (which is healthy) but by way of antagonism.  As if God’s created world somehow contradicted God’s own nature and will.  Therefore, what I am suggesting is that the pro-life movement distance itself – when attempting to make new law – from such platitudes which portray the false-narrative that abortion is only wrong on the grounds of divine-revelation.  Human law, cannot ever reasonably contradict Divine-law, yet with fideism, it is imagined as possible.  In this case, the fruit of fideism and rationalism today has really fostered the false-dichotomy and false-narrative of this issue today, and we need to take responsibility for that.

Many Protestants may think that by me mentioning this that I am in some way suggesting that our faith has to be repressed, therefore, in order to change the law.  On the contrary, rather what I am suggesting is that we meditate on scripture which has written the moral-law in our hearts.  Scripture reveals to us that morality can be known, plainly by seeing the things God has created.  Using our brain to discern right from wrong is complimenting God, by using one of the greatest gifts He has given us.  In this way, we glorify God with our bodies, which help us discern the natural-moral truths, without contradicting those moral truths that are divinely revealed to us.  I also do not discourage people from speaking the truth about abortion from the perspective of faith.  All I ask is that in that presentation that it not be presented as antagonistic towards what philosophy and science also suggest.   Faith can add a deeper context to the problem of abortion, but reason can also be a force that couches this matter in regard to laws changing.

Toward those who push the false-narrative from the pro-choice view, we need to unrelentingly continue to use true-words to describe what abortion is, never allowing soft language to soften the perception of what abortion truly is.  You’d be surprised how impactful this can be, and therefore helpful.  What Trudeau has unwittingly done is awoken a large giant within our country that is now ready to react to all such laws.  In this sense, by the faithful organizing and moving forward towards such positive change, the pro-life movement has become even more alive, as Christians and Muslims fight for their conscience-rights, both from reason and faith.

It is also important that we realize that there are people who pretend to be pro-life who create social-media accounts to purposefully make our view seem ridiculous.  They peddle the false narrative.  So accusing such people of having a false-account, or purposefully mischaracterizing the position will help to avoid the manipulation that others might ascribe to in such a dialogue.  I pray hope that pro-life people themselves do not engage in such dishonest forms of manipulation.  A good argument doesn’t need to subject itself to a straw man – both actions associate arguments with a lack of credibility.  Satire is only useful when it is known to be Satire.

What can I do?

Any government is temporary.  The idea that we will keep going in this direction unstopped is merely an illusion meant to discourage us from being pro-active.  Rather, we should speak about this subject without sugarcoating our words.  We ought to also be compassionate, while recognizing that when we speak the truth, it has an impact.  I would also encourage people to get involved with groups like 40 Days for Life (faith-based-groups) or politically active groups such as Right Now (reason-based groups).  Bring the subject down to earth in your minds, recognizing that despite what the culture desensitizes us based on artificial and empty arguments, our nation is still killing its own young.  Out of love for Canada, lets make it our mission to no longer be a country that celebrates such death, but encourages life and justice for all people, regardless of age, development, having Down Syndrome, or sex (i.e. legalized selective-abortions).  True inclusivity doesn’t judge a person’s value based on whether we’d prefer they exist or not, but on who they objectively are:  which is a human being.

Here is a homily on the matter!

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2 comments to Faith, Reason, Law, and Abortion

  • Jon C.

    Which is the greater evil? Contraception or abortion?

  • Jan

    I read a book many years on crime. Paraphrasing the author’s message, so long as governmental bodies insist on banning goods and services that large numbers of people have demonstrated that they wish to buy, people, some of whom are bad people, will sell those goods and services to them. That’s where we are, like it or not, with abortion. Around 57% of Americans seem to be for some kind of ban on abortions. It would be extremely difficult to enforce a law that about 43% of the population is opposed to.

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