Sunday, October 31, 2004

A Few Key Points From Today's Readings

Our first reading is taken from Wisdom 11:22 to 12:1. There are three very important points of spirituality made in this passage:

1) Our sins are to God like a grain on a balance or a drop of morning dew. They are real, but almost insignificant.

2) The reason our sins are so insignificant to God is we are created in the divine image with an incomparable dignity. The passage clearly says God does not make trash, and he loves all things that he created and holds in existence. God even loves Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, George Bush and John Kerry.

3) God's Spirit dwells and operates in all things.

The Psalm, number 145, is a hymn of praise to this great God who is the true king of the universe.

The second reading from II Thessalonians encourages us to pray for God to empower us to become better than we already are. The passage also contains a warning to ignore those pessimists who think the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

The Gospel makes two important points.

1) Christ loves the little guy, like Zacchaeus, who was so short he needed to climb a tree to see Jesus over the heads of others.

2) Things are not always what they seem. Zacchaeus was a tax collector for the Romans. The first century pious Jew hated the tax collector who colluded with Gentiles to drain the Israeli economy of money that could have gone to the temple tithe. Many tax collectors were also dishonest and charged a commission above and beyond the Roman tax to make a living.

Outwardly, Zacchaeus was a traitor. Inwardly, Zacchaeus worked for his Jewish brothers by acting honestly and fairly in collecting taxes and giving half of his own possessions to the poor. He was doing his best to mitigate the harm caused by Roman occupation, and Christ calls him a true son of Abraham for doing so!

This final point is important in the way we Catholics sometimes judge one another. Often, we look anyone who colludes with the secular world as "cafeteria Catholics" who are immature in faith at best, or sinners, traitors or dissidents at worst. Today's Gospel reminds us that only God can see into the heart and assess the reality of the situation.


Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Ultimate Election Advice

Here's something all Catholics can agree upon in this polarized election. We need to spend a lot of time in deep prayer over the next few days.

Pray that God will send his spirit into the heart of the American people to help guide us to wise decisions.

Pray that whoever wins the election will be guided by the Holy Spirit to enact laws that foster peace, justice, and the common good to the glory of God.

Pray that all see the good in what our political opponents have to offer, and both sides do have some good ideas.

Pray that we each recognize our faults of excess in this election and humbly repent, acknowledging that all sides have made mistakes.

Pray, too, that we all forgive one another and that God will have mercy on all of us.

Pray that we each be granted the grace to accept God's will in the outcome of the election, even if it turns out differently than we expect or want.

Remember that all state authority is ultimately in God's hands. Whether Kerry or Bush or someone else wins, God's providence is always bringing good out evil and magnifying good wherever it is found to help us on the way to salvation until he comes in glory.

Pray that no matter who wins, none of us become disheartened in continuing to fight for those issues that are clear in our conscience, that the Church supports, and that we know are right and just; be it fighting against unjust war, poverty, and the death penalty - or abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

Pray for the safety of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the safety of the Iraqi and Afghan people. Pray for peace throughout the Middle East and God's mercy and love upon Muslims and Jews in the region.

Pray for mercy and blessings upon Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden and a change of heart for them.

Pray for mercy and blessings upon all who have had abortions and a change of heart for them.

Pray for the unity of America as a nation and for God's blessing on our nation and the preservation of liberty.

Pray for personal guidence in your own voting decision and spend quiet time really listening deeply to your conscience. Reflect with Scripture and Sacred Tradition, but also spend some time in total silence and simply listen to the voice of God in your heart.

Come Holy Spirit! Fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and you will enkindle the earth. O God, who did instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of your Holy Spirit, grant that in the same Spirit, we may come to know and do your holy will, through Christ our Lord. Amen!


Thoughts on Halloween

I enjoy the idea of a costume party and the joy of children receiving treats. However, there is something "off" about the idea of celebrating devils, demons, hobgoblins, ghosts, and so forth on "All Hallowed Eve" right before All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

For Protestants, November 1 is Reformation day.

Here's my suggestions. Do a Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament before going to any Halloween parties. If it's not too late, encourage your kids to dress up as Biblical heros or the saints from history. Do the same yourself. Read a little bit about the Reformation - maybe even a homily by Luther. Go to Mass on both the 1st and 2nd and pray with and for our ancestors in faith.


Friday, October 29, 2004

We Have a Moral Obligation to Vote

Whether you like George Bush, John Kerry, Ralph Nader or someone else, if you are a Roman Catholic, you have a moral obligation to vote according to your conscience.

Many Catholics are frustrated with the choices presented in this election, and feel that no matter how they vote, they are backing something immoral. For this reason, many seek justification to abstain from the political process. This is not a moral option.

Here's what the CCC has to say (emphasis mine):

1913"Participation" is the voluntary and generous engagement of a person in social interchange. It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person.
WOW! The Church teaches that you violate your own human dignity by refusing to participate in social interchange to the fullest extent you can!

If you don't like Bush or Kerry, there are still local elections, and you can always write in a presidential candidate. Feel free to write jcecil3 for prez if you wish, but you must participate.
1914 Participation is achieved first of all by taking charge of the areas for which one assumes personal responsibility: by the care taken for the education of his family, by conscientious work, and so forth, man paticipates in the good of others and of society.
The Church acknowledges the importance of your day-to-day life in building the common good. The Bible says that charity begins at home. Yet, all our activity is directed to the common good for the glory of God, and voting is a piece of this. Indeed, the purpose of seeking education is so that we can make as informed a vote as possible.

The Church teaches that we must always follow our conscience (par 1790). We also have a life-long responsibility to continually form our consciences rightly. While it is possible for conscience to err, we must obey our conscience in each given instance in time and space.

A mistake is not a sin.

We only sin when we directly disobey conscience. Do not fear voting for mistake so much as not voting at all. Not voting is an evasion of responsibility. Voting wrongly is merely a mistake if you made the best judgement you could at the time.
1915 As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life. The manner of this participation may vary from one country or culture to another. "One must pay tribute to those nations whose systems permit the largest number of the citizens to take part in public life in a climate of genuine freedom."
The Church is clear. Each person must participate in public life as far as each one possibly can under the system in place in a given country or culture.

Furthermore, against those who think the Church does not value democracy, the Church explicitly pays tribute to those nations with systems that allow the greatest participation by its citizens.

In America, every person over eighteen has the right to vote. If you are a Catholic U.S. citizen over the age of eighteen, you ought to be voting this Tuesday!


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Kerry Sharpens Attack on Missing Conventional Weapons

Kerry attacks Bush for letting close to 400 tons of conventional explosives in Iraq (permitted under U.N. sanctions) to slip out of American hands. Bush claims Kerry is making the attack before all the facts are known, and quips that Kerry is now admitting Iraq had WMDs.

Two points:

First, nobody ever denied that Iraq had conventional WMDs. They were even permitted to have these under the U.N. sanctions for the purposes of self defense. While such weapons could be dangerous in the hands of a terrorists, Iraq's possession of these weapons were never justification for war.

Second, while it is not yet clear when U.S. forces became aware of this specific stockpile of conventional weapons, experts have long criticized the Administration for leaving stockpiles of conventional weapons unguarded. It was only a matter of time before some of them went missing.

Bush is not making us safer from terrorists for two reasons.

First, his war in Iraq was unnecessary, illegal, and immoral - which incites further violence against the United States by its very nature.

Second, this war has been completely mismanaged once the decision was made to go to war. We do not have sufficient support from the international community or sufficient troop strength to complete the mission. Iraq has been turned into a chaotic hotbed for breeding terrorism, which is obvious on the front pages of every newspaper everyday.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

When Did I Ever Claim to Be Non-Partisan???

A reader left a comment in the boxes below stating that all efforts to remain "non-partisan" have finally been removed in my past couple of post. When have I ever claimed to be non-partisan?

What I have consistently held is that I am a pro-life registered Republican and practicing Roman Catholic with a liberal theological bias (i.e. - I believe women can be ordained, and I'm not sure artificial contraception within marriage is a sin, or that some sort of gay union cannot be blessed in the Church).

In calling myself pro-life, I mean precisely that I would seek to make abortion illegal through a Constitutional Amendment for the Right to Life.

I also believe in a consistent ethic of life - the late Cardinal Bernadine's seamless garment argument. I oppose the death penalty, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, nuclear proliferation, and pre-emptive or preventative war for the same reasons I oppose abortion.

In calling myself a Republican, I believe in balanced budgets, some limitation on government power, the principle of subsidiarity, and I understand that the promotion of business can often help create jobs and alleviate poverty, and until recently, I believed in supply side trickle down economics.

My constant position has been that precisely because I am a pro-life Republican and a Roman Catholic, I cannot possibly vote for George W. Bush in good conscience.

I have constantly stated that I ultimately disagree with John Kerry on abortion, and all the way up to the Democratic National Convention, I stated that I did not even find him a credible leader. Nevertheless, I have admitted all along that if forced to choose between Bush and anyone else other than David Duke, I would probably chose the other candidate for moral reasons!!!!

My constant position has been that while I cannot judge Bush's soul, nor even his intentions, his policies are gravely immoral. My constant defense of Kerry or any other person opposing Bush has been based on the principle that I resent fellow Catholics implying that it is sin to vote for anyone but Bush.

I've been sitting here for over a year saying that this cannot be true, because it would so violate my conscience to any way allow Bush another four years through my actions that I would consider myself in mortal sin to act in such a way.

I have also stated that if you feel in good conscience that you must vote for Bush, you must follow your conscience, and you would commit no sin.

I am not saying it is a sin for anyone else to vote for Bush.

I am saying my conscience is very clearly telling me that I must vote against Bush.

My conscience is not only telling to vote for someone other than Bush, but I must consciously and deliberately vote against Bush. In other words, I must vote in such a way that my vote is effective in trying to get him out of office as quickly as possible. My conscience is so clear on this that I have reached what I believe is moral certainty that it cannot be true that it is a sin for a Catholic to vote for John Kerry.

How is this unbiased or non-partisan?

I never claimed any such thing. My constant position has been anti-Bush.

Regarding Kerry, I still disagree with him on abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and the death penalty (he would use it against terrorists). I also am a believer in active non-violent resistance to evil, where he holds to a more traditional view of just war. He might even might use pre-emptive strikes against a grave and imminent threat, which is permitted under traditional just war doctrine, but seldom invoked, and not something I support. I am not saying John Kerry is the perfect or ideal candidate, and I never have.

However, as I have watched him, I have come to understand some of his positions better. I believe he is a sincere Catholic. I have come to see that he can act "presidential" and he can be "charismatic" with his serious passion. I disagree with him on many critical issues, but I respectfully disagree, even on the issue of abortion. In saying I "respectfully" disagree, I see him as a rational person who holds consistent positions that meet certain objective principles encoded in common morality and the law. Even if we have differences, there is a common respect for law and morals that earns my respect.

Bush has done nothing to earn my respect. The man's actions are immoral and illegal. I honestly believe it would just and right for the United Nations to arrest him if they could. He has clearly broken international law, as well as the divine law promulgated by the Church, and even the natural law written on our hearts.

On the issues where I disagree with Kerry, Bush talks a good game, and I have admitted this. However, his policies have little to no effect to do anything real about these issues. The legislation he has passed regarding abortion hasn't stopped a single abortion and is largely symbolic.

Indeed, in many cases, while I might agree with the goal as Bush states it, I don't like the means by which he pursues it - such as hinting of stacking courts with biased judges. The right way to end abortion is through the Amendment process.

I don't see any real progress being made on issues like abortion or embryonic stem cell research except that he has brought attention to the issues.

At times, the cynic in me wonders if he is simply manipulating the Christian vote to push through tax cuts for the rich, but I cannot worry about his motives - it is his deeds that make him unworthy of the presidency.

Bush has declared a very unjust war. Unjust war, by definition, kills innocent people. Using the power of the state to kill an unjust war is not the moral equivalent of allowing abortion. It is the moral equivalent of making abortions mandatory!

And while we're talking about abortion, Bush's economic policies have caused the abortion rate to rise on his watch!

Even if he is sincere about his conviction for the unborn, his policies are not working, and his economic policies directly contradict the Church's social justice teachings. Poverty and unemployment have also grown on his watch. And contrary to everything I believe as a Republican, the deficit has reached an all time high!

Kerry has supported balanced budgets since the mid eighties, before it was ever popular with Democrats. His economic policies make sense, even to a Republican who is blinded by greedy need of a tax cut for the wealthy.

Then there is the erosion of civil rights at Guatanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and the Patriot Act. This is not limited government powers I support as a Republican!

This man admits to contemplating the torture himself, and he has done nothing to Rumsfeld, who admits to approving it at Gitmo!

Torture is intrinsically evil according to Church teaching -meaning it is never justified. It is listed with abortion as an intrinsic evil in Guadium et Spes. Torture is also against the law - both U.S. law, and international law! Bush and many members of his administration are criminals, plain and simple.

Kerry respects civil rights and law, while Bush has grown the largest and most intrusive U.S. government ever. Subsidiarity has been thrown out the window while Kerry is the person arguing for states rights on issues like marriage.

This is the most important election of our lives. At stake is the very meaning of human rights and civil law - both domestic and international. At stake is the very notion of a natural law written on the hearts of all humankind - and Bush's policies violate almost all principles of natural law across the board.

There are those who can vote for Bush in good conscience by ignoring all other issues but abortion, and I have consistently maintained you must follow your conscience. It is the teaching of the Church that you must always and everywhere follow your conscience, even if you later discover you were in error.

I think it would take a mal-formed conscience to vote for Bush. Yet, I respect the fact that you must follow your conscience, and it would sin to violate your conscience, even a mal-formed conscience.

Following the dictates of a mal-formed conscience is not a sin. It is a mistake, and we have a moral responsibility to continually work to avoid mistakes - but if a mistake is made by one trying to form conscience responsibly, it is not a sin. If your conscience tells you to vote for Bush, by all means, make that mistake, because it would be a sin not to make the mistake until you understand why it is a mistake.

My conscience does not permit to ignore all other issues for the sake of nice sounding anti-abortion rhetoric. My conscience dictates that I look at reality on the issue of abortion and examine the full range of issues. Bush is the most deadly man to ever hold the office of presidency in the United States of America. While his heart may be good and pure for all I know, his policies are mistaken and immoral - evil!

I have no claim to be non-partisan. I have consistently supported almost anyone but Bush, and Kerry is a pretty good man to put against him, even if I disagree with him on a few very critical issues.


Archbishop Quinn Warns Against Single Issue Voting and Advises Virtue of Prudence

In this article from CNS, Quinn is critical of the oversimplications advised by even some Bishops, and recommends the virtue of prudence, which weighs all factors in an informed Catholic vote.

Also from CNS, a Catholic theologian states that it goes against Catholic tradition to vote based on a single issue:

NEWS BRIEFS Oct-25-2004

By Catholic News Service - Theologian says one-issue voting is foreign to Catholic tradition:

NEW YORK (CNS) -- In an article in America, a national Catholic magazine published by the Jesuits, a Fordham University moral theologian said it is foreign to the church's moral tradition to claim that one issue alone, even abortion, should determine how a voter votes. The theologian, Father Thomas R. Kopfensteiner, took issue with bishops who have argued that a voter facing a candidate who supports keeping abortion legal and one who opposes it must always choose the one who opposes it. "This naive approach to the formation of conscience fails to consider the likely success of a candidate's platform to limit the wrongdoing in either the near or distant future," he wrote in the Nov. 1 issue of America, which appeared about a week before Election Day. Father Kopfensteiner, a priest of the St. Louis Archdiocese, has taught at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York since 1996. He also taught for eight years at Kenrick School of Theology in St. Louis and has also been a visiting professor at the Gregorian University in Rome, where he earned his doctorate.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

An Email From a Graduate Student in Catholic Theology


(and Joe -- you're in this b/c I got the Gumbleton article from your site -- see Greg's comments about your site below (Greg's comments omitted by jcecil3, because Greg did not adress me directly, nor give me permission to print his email)),

Thank you for sending me the thoughts of your friend and the article by Fr. Corapi. As you know, I consider myself "pro-life." I consider myself well-versed in the Catholic moral tradition, particularly with regard to the theological foundations of Church teaching. And I consider myself a man of prayer, one who takes very seriously his responsibilities as a citizen of the United States and as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

The problem that I have with the sentiments expressed by your friend and Fr. Corpari is that they make the decision seem as if it's easy: They say, "abortion, stem cell research, and same sex marriage " are always and everywhere intrinsically evil. Bush is against these things. Ergo, vote for Bush. I understand the logic, but I respectfully disagree. Since when have we been instructed as Catholics, if we possess "well-formed consciences," to vote for a leader based on four issues? I think the choice is significantly more difficult than that.

It is as if we are being asked to ignore the unjust and preemptive war on Iraq -- a clear, decisive and historic shift in American foreign policy -- whose true consequences will not be seen for years to come.

It is as if we are being asked to forget the fact the Church has stood on the side of the poor and downtrodden, for the field and factory worker, and the less-fortunate, and to turn a blind eye to Bush's fiscal management that most benefits the 14,000 wealthiest Americans.

It is as if we are being asked to ignore Bush's record in Texas as the governor of a state that killed scores (hundreds?) of men and women with the death penalty - an outdated form of "justice" that the Holy Father himself has suggested should be reserved for the gravest of situations, if it is even necessary or appropriate at all in these modern times.

It is as if we are being asked to disregard the closed door deals between Bush, Cheney and their friends in the energy industry, whose company's (trust me, I've been watching all year) are making billions of dollars with oil prices that have spiked at least 150% in his time in office, a new pipeline through Afghanistan, and total control over the world's second largest oil supply in Iraq. Such greed and dishonesty, in my opinion, is always and everywhere intrinsically evil as well -- especially when using an office that was entrusted to them by his own citizenry. (And I haven't even begun to comment on the relationship with Saudi Arabia...).

My bottom line: so many Catholic are using abortion as their litmus test for President these days. It frustrates me. I like to ask them: so what if we made abortion illegal? What then? What kind of society have we created in the meantime? Have we created a society into which a parent (who already bears the immense trepidation that comes with such a grave responsibility) would want to bring a child? Have we created a social structure where poor mothers (and fathers!) who discover that they are unexpectedly pregnant can adequately respond to the needs of the little one growing in the womb? Have we fostered a society in which the television and media look into the mirror with shame at the creation of shows like "Desperate Housewives," "Temptation Island," and "Diary of an Affair?" Have we created a society where the majority of our nation's budget is spent on education and health care (especially for our children!!!) versus the lion's share going to defense (both now and in the form of massive, MASSIVE research and development)? Have we eliminated the hypocrisy of invading another nation to rid them of WMD while substantially increasing our own supply and heightening the chance that we will need those babies being (so arduously protected and) born right now to be killed in battle in 20 years to quell another insurgent outcry from the rest of the world?

George Bush had four years to show us that he could create a better society, a society in which we can conceive and raise children who will feel a measured pride about the land in which they were born, all the while recognizing our responsibility to and rights of our global neighbors. Instead he demonstrated for our children the evil of vengeance, retaliation, hatred, and war. He modeled for them dishonesty, greed, close-mindedness, and ambivalence to the poor. And he showed them how to turn the other cheek, not as a sign of humility, but in arrogance as prisoners of war are abused in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and while unborn babies in Iraq will one day awaken to a world that is now much more unstable before his tenure of "terror" began.

He had his four years. His time is up.

- Andy


An Email From a Veteran

Do You See A Pattern Here?


Richard Gephardt: Air National Guard, 1965-71.

David Bonior: Staff Sgt., Air Force 1968-72.

Tom Daschle: 1st Lt., Air Force SAC 1969-72.

Al Gore: enlisted Aug. 1969; sent to Vietnam Jan. 1971 as an army
journalist in 20th Engineer Brigade.

Bob Kerrey: Lt. j.g. Navy 1966-69; Medal of Honor, Vietnam.

Daniel Inouye: Army 1943-47; Medal of Honor, WWII.

John Kerry: Lt., Navy 1966-70; Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V,
Purple Hearts.

Charles Rangel: Staff Sgt., Army 1948-52; Bronze Star, Korea.

Max Cleland: Captain, Army 1965-68; Silver Star & Bronze Star, Vietnam.

Ted Kennedy: Army, 1951-53.

Tom Harkin: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.

Jack Reed: Army Ranger, 1971-1979; Captain, Army Reserve 1979-91.

Fritz Hollings: Army officer in WWII; Bronze Star and seven campaign

Leonard Boswell: Lt. Col., Army 1956-76; Vietnam, DFCs, Bronze Stars, and
Soldier's Medal.

Pete Peterson: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart, Silver Star and
Legion of Merit.

Mike Thompson: Staff sergeant, 173rd Airborne, Purple Heart.

Bill McBride: Candidate for Fla. Governor. Marine in Vietnam; Bronze Star
with Combat V.

Gray Davis: Army Captain in Vietnam, Bronze Star.

Pete Stark: Air Force 1955-57

Chuck Robb: Vietnam

Howell Heflin: Silver Star

George McGovern: Silver Star & DFC during WWII.

Bill Clinton: Did not serve. Student deferments. Entered draft but received

Jimmy Carter: Seven years in the Navy.

Walter Mondale: Army 1951-1953

John Glenn: WWII and Korea; six DFCs and Air Medal with 18 Clusters.

Tom Lantos: Served in Hungarian underground in WWII. Saved by Raoul

(Let's npot forget General Wesley Clarke)


Dennis Hastert: did not serve.

Tom Delay: did not serve.

Roy Blunt: did not serve.

Bill Frist: did not serve.

Mitch McConnell: did not serve.

Rick Santorum: did not serve.

Trent Lott: did not serve.

Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage.

John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.

Jeb Bush: did not serve.

Karl Rove: did not serve.

Saxby Chambliss: did not serve. "Bad knee." The man who attacked

Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.

Vin Weber: did not serve.

Richard Perle: did not serve.

Douglas Feith: did not serve.

Eliot Abrams: did not serve.

Richard Shelby: did not serve.

Jon! Kyl: did not serve.

Tim Hutchison: did not serve.

Christopher Cox: did not serve.

Newt Gingrich: did not serve.

Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as flight instructor.

George W. Bush: failed to complete his six-year National Guard; got
assigned to Alabama so he could campaign for family friend running for U.S.
Senate; failed to show up for required medical exam, disappeared from duty.

Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non-combat role making

Bob Dornan: Consciously enlisted after fighting was over in Korea.

Phil Gramm: did not serve.

John McCain: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and
Distinguished Flying Cross.

Dana Rohrabacher: did not serve.

John M. McHugh: did not serve.

JC Watts: did not serve.

Jack Kemp: did not serve. "Knee problem," although continued in NFL for 8

Dan Quayle: Journalism unit of the Indiana National Guard.

Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.

George Pataki: did not serve.

Spencer Abraham: did not serve.

John Engler: did not serve.

Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: AWOL from Austrian army base.

Pundits and Preachers

Sean Hannity: did not serve.

Rush Limbaugh: did not serve (4-F with a cyst.')

Bill O'Reilly: did not serve.

Michael Savage: did not serve.

George Will: did not serve.

Chris Matthews: did not serve.

Paul Gigot: did not serve.

Bill Bennett: did not serve.

Pat Buchanan: did not serve.

Michael Wayne: did not serve.

Bill Kristol: did not serve.

Kenneth Starr: did not serve.

Antonin Scalia: did not serve.

Clarence Thomas: did not serve.

Ralph Reed: did not serve.

Michael Medved: did not serve.

Charlie Daniels: did not serve.


Monday, October 25, 2004

Justice Rehnquist Hospitalized with Cancer

He says he'll be back to work next week. Three other justices have been treated for cancer in the past.


Economic Injustice for Most by Charles Morris

This is an interesting moral critique of Bush's economic policies.


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Thoughts on Family From a New Father

I'll try to keep this reflection short.

I have found myself over the last week since my daughter was born reflecting a great deal on the sanctity of the institution of marriage. In some ways, the concerns of more conservative Catholics are more urgent to me all of the sudden.

Yet, in my typical "liberal" fashion, I find the focus of my concern for family to be headed in a different direction than some of my more conservative readers.

I was watching The Bachelor last Wednesday. (Yeah. I watch stupid stuff like this.) I was holding my newborn daughter as the program aired.

I found myself growing almost angry at this season's bachelor because he is a divorced man flirting with 20 women.

I imagined such a man one day making a pass at my daughter, and was steaming about something that is probably 20 years away if it ever happens at all. Then I thought of people who might try to make passes at my wife or at me someday, and I just got madder and madder.

On the one hand, I have argued in the past that the Church needs to find a better way to reconcile divorced Catholics to the community of faith, and I still hold to this. The Gospel is ultimately about forgiveness, rather than enforcing the law of justice. I am not writing this to make people feel guilty who have already repented.

Nevertheless, the Church values family, and anyone in a happy first marriage with children knows what a blessing this is. We want society to help us to make our marriages work.

I find myself feeling a twinge of anger at divorced people - especially those with children - and even more especially those who divorced for reasons that do not involve something like child or spouse abuse, drug addition and so forth. These extreme cases probably justify divorce, and even Christ admitted exceptions on divorce for "lewd conduct", whatever that might mean.

My anger is directed at those who admit that they simply "drifted apart".

I know I shouldn't judge anyone, but this type of divorce is a worst threat to marriage than legalized gay unions and many of the things that seem to grab the attention of so many Catholic bloggers.

So here is my two cents on legislation that will protect the sanctity of marriage.

We need to find ways to help support marriages (i.e. - tax structures and social services that encourage marriage).

To the extend we use laws that impose restrictions and prohibitions, we need to address the notion of "no fault divorce", which is a far greater threat to marriage than most of the stuff that our politicians and bishops seem focused upon during this election season.

Perhaps we also should consider laws that punish adultery!

I know that Jesus forgave the adulterous woman, and I am not recommending the death penalty or even jail time for adulterers. Yet, there ought to be a penalty for such a crime against the institution of marriage.

I know that people who commit adultery often experience punishment through the natural shame and guilt. Nevertheless, adultery is taken way to casually in our society. This is a graver threat to the sanctity of marriage than much of the stuff we worry about.

That's my two cents.


Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton: President's Policies are in Opposition to a Culture of Life

Here it is from one who holds Apostolic Succession in union with Rome, echoing what I have been saying for almost two years: President Bush's policies are detrimental to building a culture of life. Bishop Gumbleton succinctly summarizes the key life issues, including abortion and the war in Iraq, and demonstrates the disconnect between President Bush's rhetoric and President Bush's actual policy decisions.



Friday, October 22, 2004

Baby Likes Carey Landrey Tunes

Landrey's Hail Mary: Gentle Woman seems to be a favorite lullabye for Serafia - at least when Dddy's singing.


Thursday, October 21, 2004

NY Times States Vatican Source Says Kerry is Not and Will Not Be Excommunicated

According to Pam Belluck with The New York Times, an un-named source at the Vatican states off the record that while Kerry's position on abortion is not supported by the Vatican, he is not guilty of formal heresy and will not be excommunicated.


Being a Parent is Humbling

I was praying the Rosary while holding my newborn daughter, and strange thoughts were running through my mind as I contemplated the fifth joyful mystery - the finding of Jesus in the temple.

We parents are sometimes absolutely powerless to protect our children. Jesus was lost for three days. Imagine the panic in the heart of Joseph and Mary. In today's world, everything from accidents, the flu and terrorism to crimes against children by people involved in evil we cannot fathom threaten our children. Yet, we hope in God that all goes well.

I was thinking how I will need to try to help my newborn daughter understand the differences between when she does something that I simply don't like, and when she does something that frightens me. If she dyes her hair some odd color, I may not like it, but I can live with it. If she is doing drugs, I am more than upset. I am frightened for her very saftey.

I really should be simply enjoying the birth of this wonderful child, rather than contemplating fears. I am enjoying her immensely - more than she can posibly imagine at this stage of her life.

This little girl is only six days old, and she has me already completely wrapped around her finger. I can't imagine (yet) saying "no" to her.

I think this must be somewhat how God the Father loves us. We sort of have him wrapped around our little fingers, and at the same time, he worries about us and needs to say "no" on occassion because what we do can frighten him - not because what we do directly hurts him, but because what we do can so badly hurt us, and he loves us too much to watch us hurt ourselves unaffected.


Liturgy and Polarization

No,...,this is not about the polarized American elections. Instead, it is about the ongoing renewal of liturgy in the spirit of Vatican II.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

My Little Angel

Her name is Serafia Mwesegha.

Serafia is her great-great grandmother's name on her mother's father's side, one of the first generation raised fully as Catholic Christians in the Metengo tribe.

The name is the female form of the seraphim from Isaiah 6: literally, beings of fire. These are the six winged angels that sing the sanctus before the throne of God. They are the highest rank of angels, the angels of love, the wisest created beings, and are associated with the Holy Spirit, who is Sophia and the feminine Shekinah of God.

The second name is Kisimbiti language, from her mother's mother's side. The word literally means "one who hopes in God."

This second name was chosen by her great grandmother on her mother's side, and shows respect for the wisdom of the elders in chosing a name. Great Grandma chose this name because the entire family was praying for her to come since my wife and I were married.

We were originally considering Anna Laura because there are Anna's and Laura's on both sides of the family. However, on the day of birth, something changed our minds. As this name came to be our favorite, the stories from our Muslim friends of Ramadan babies surrounded by angels seemed to confirm "Serafia Mwesegha" for us.

Then a Christian, not knowing our thoughts, or the Muslim story, gave us a frame for her photos inscribed with the words, "The angels watch over you". This locked the name in place in our minds and hearts.

My little angel will be a fiery pro-life Christian feminist as strong and wise as the Seraphim!


Monday, October 18, 2004

Ramadan Baby!

Mom and baby are doing well, and still in the hospital for one more day to recuperate.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Friday, October 15, 2004, the day of the birth of my daughter, was also the first day Ramadan.

Since my wife is from Africa where their are large Muslim populations, we have many Muslim friends who have been visiting us at the hospital. On separate occasions, we have been told by our Muslim friends from different parts of the world that babies born on the first day of Ramadan are especially blessed.

The story has been told to us from the Ivory Coast in the West to the Sudan in the East to Uganda in the sub-Sahara.

During Ramadan, Satan and all the his demons and all the evil jhin are locked up in hell and unable to do anything on earth. A baby born on the first day of Ramadan is surrounded by the entire heavenly host of good angels.

I told one Muslim friend that our baby will still do Lent, but as she grows up, she will be told that a billion people fast and pray for her every year for one month beginning on her birthday!

That's my story to my little girl, and I'm sticking to it!

Of course, I'll have to learn the lunar calendar to keep straight when this starts each year. Since Ramadan falls on the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, Baby Girl Cecil was conceived around Islamic New Year.

All of this will likely tie into the name of our little girl, and we're keeping people in suspense a little bit longer.


Saturday, October 16, 2004

It's a Girl!!!!!

My wife's water broke Thursday night at 10:30 PM, and Baby Girl Cecil was born Friday morning, at 8:16 A.M. weighing 5 pounds and 13 ounces and 20 and 1/4 inches long!

She was born in the Catholic hospital where my wife has worked as a mother-baby nurse, so we are in good hands.

We're still praying on the name.

Call me biased if you want, but I think it's an objective fact that she is the most beautiful baby I've ever seen.

Blogging will be slow until we all get home from the hospital and settled in to our new living situation. Please keep us in your prayers!


Thursday, October 14, 2004

An Anti-Abortion Case for Kerry!

Dr. Glen Harold Stassen is a pro-life professor of Christian ethics trained in statistical analysis.

His pro-life conviction is a daily lived reality, as he and his wife chose not to abort their son when his wife suffered rubella in her eighth week of pregnancy.

Stassen presents the case that I have referred to many times already. The abortion rate was declining under Clinton and is climbing under Bush.

Stassen draws clear parallels between the statistics and economic policy, and shows that the U.S. Catholic Bishops were right in predicting that Bush's economic policies could have this type of impact.

Stassen states that economic policy and life issues should not be separated, and provides concrete examples from his own life as they relate to the statistics.

Whether we like Kerry as a person or not, and whether we agree with his position on abortion or not, Stassen argues that the empirical evidence demonstrates that abortions would likely be fewer with a Kerry presidency.


Bush Grins, But Doesn't Win by Tom Shales

My wife, who unfortunately cannot vote because she is not yet a citizen, thought Bush's constant nervous chuckles were annoying and irritating.

Here's the actual transcript.

Personally, I thought Bush did come across stylistically better than the past two debate performances. He seemed a little more "likeable", and even displayed a little self deprecating humor at the end.

Kerry was strong, and presented himself once again as "presidential". He has shown the American people consistency across the three debates in both style and substance. I am finding him more and more "likeable" as I watch him and become accustomed to his more serious passion.

On style, I'd say this debate was probably a draw, and may have bored some people. The prior debates were actually fun to watch, even for people who may not follow politics. Only serious policy wonks would have found this debate loads of fun.

On substance, Kerry was the clear winner.

It seemed Bush's answer to many questions was his education policy.

What will he say to the unemployed? He passed the 'no child left behind act" and he will also help unemployed workers go to community college. What about the minimum wage? He passed the 'no child left behind act" and he will also help unemployed workers go to community college. What about the deficit? He passed the 'no child left behind act" and he will also help unemployed workers go to community college. Oh. Let's not forget. He also cut taxes.

Bush was unable to mount a consistent attack against Kerry, and was placed on the defensive for failed economic policies that cater to rich corporate interests. Kerry had the facts on his side, and he knew them well.

Kerry was good, but where he could have done better is to build a theme that put all the facts together in a cohesive vision. Bush was clearly trying to do this, but never really succeeded.

It's a close call who actually won with undecided voters last night.

People may have lowered their expectations of Bush, and thus, his better performance could be seen as a win. On the other hand, Kerry showed once again that he can go toe to toe with President and still look more "presidential".


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Is it Possible John Kerry Has a Clear Conscience?

I have stated many times that I do not agree with John Kerry's stance on abortion, and I am a supporter of a Right to Life Amendment.

Yet, I find proportionate reason in the Church's teaching on war in Iraq to vote against George W. Bush, even if it means Kerry wins.

In trying to convince me to vote for Bush, Catholic readers have been tenacious in attacking Kerry's stance, and the attacks on him often go beyond a passionate disagreement with his public policy.

The attacks on Kerry are personal.

Kerry is accused of being in mortal sin, despite the Vatican admonishment to avoid judging a person's soul in GS 28. He is judged to be a heretic and a cafeteria Catholic. He is presumed to be a cruel and selfish person who would eat babies if he could.

Emotionally, I understand the frustration with his stance on abortion because I do not share his stance. Nevertheless, we cannot judge him as a person.

Pro-life Catholics (and I'm one of them) love to quote the following sentence from Evangelium Vitae:

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 favour of such a law, or vote for it".
It would seem that Kerry is simply ignoring this clear directive from the Vatican. How can any Catholic vote as he has voted in the Senate?

What we pro-life Catholics tend to do is forget to read the remainder of the very same paragraph which lays out some of the conditions under which a Catholic politician may wind up legitimately voting in a seemingly pro-choice manner without thereby sinning.
...,when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law,....
Which is precisely what Kerry argues when he states that abortion is a Constitutional right.

I do not believe he is saying the law should support abortion rights. If he is saying this, he may be in sin.

Rather, I understand him to say that the law does support abortion rights, and he is sworn to uphold the law. This is a different intention, and may not be a sin.

Of course, there is a process for changing the Constitution, and I support that process. I would wholeheartedly endorse a Right to Life Amendment.

This said, even I would admit that the consensus needed for such an Amendment does not exist at this time.

Furthermore, Kerry does have a moral obligation to represent his constituents, respecting the separation of Church and state advocated explicitly in GS 76.

Without a consensus for a Right to Life Amendment, it could be argued that it would be immoral for him to propose one against the will of the people he represents.

Some will want to quote portions of EV 73 that speak of conscientious objection to unjust laws.

Concientious objection is the refusal to carry out a state directive that is evil. For example, if the state tells me to kill an Iraqi, I can refuse. Nobody in America is forced to have an abortion by law.

How does one conscientiously object to a law permitting evil except by not doing what is permitted?

Nobody has accused John Kerry of directly procuring an abortion.

People accuse Kerry of voting for partial birth abortions. This is not entirely accurate. He voted against a particular version of a ban on the procedure that he believed violated the Constitution.

He even stated exactly what the bill needed to include to make it Constitutional. A Nebraska federal court has ruled the very law he voted against unconstitutional.

Kerry was right!

Should he have practiced conscientious objection by passing a law that he knew would be overruled by the courts?

I'd rather see legislators pass laws restricting abortions that they reasonably believe can be enforced. I think the Church would too.

I don't think conscientious objection refers to passing laws you know are going to be ruled illegal.

I'm a little tired of the Republicans passing laws they should know are illegal and unenforceable. If I were cynic, it appears they could be playing a game to get my vote.

Kerry opposes appointing judges to the Supreme Court who do not accept Roe. Doesn't this prove he is violating Church teaching?

Not necessarily. The job of a judge is, to the best of his or her ability, to provide an unbiased interpretation of the Constitution within the framework of the U.S. tradition of jurisprudence.

Roe is part of that tradition, whether we like it or not. Appointing judges with admitted biases against the U.S. tradition of jurisprudence is a bad idea. It could undermine the entire legal process.

In effect, Kerry is saying that abortion is the law of the land whether we like it or not. Many would like to see him work to change the law, but Kerry seems to believe it cannot be changed legitimately.

Whether he is mistaken or not in his view that the law cannot change is a valid question. I think he is mistaken. Yet, a mistake on what can and cannot be done in the U.S. legal system is not a sin.

Personally, I hold out hope that it can change, and I think we pro-lifers need to work on that Amendment. The office of the President is not necessary for this process.

My point is that, as a lawyer, Kerry may really honestly believe it is impossible to legally change the law on abortion.

The Holy Father is clearly saying that such a position could be theoretically possible.

Kerry is not in sin if he honestly believes the law cannot be changed - or even if he simply believes it will take a very long time to change. He may be mistaken, but not necessarily in sin.

Kerry would only be in sin if he knew the law could be changed, and the means to do so were known by him to be within his legitimate power, and he deliberately chose not to do it because he wanted abortion legal.

Continuing with the sentence from EV 73:
..., an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known,...
Kerry has stated repeatedly that he personally opposes abortion.
..., 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.
Kerry and most of the Democrats argue that their social policies reduce the abortion rate, thus limiting the harm done by abortion.

Ono Ekeh has put this well by stating that we can focus on the supply side, or the demand side. Rather than restricting abortions, he argues we should remove the demand for them by alleviating poverty.

Republicans have tended to focus on the supply side exclusively, and Democrats have tended to focus on the demand side.

Again, it is debatable whether this is the only way to limit the harm, or even the best way to limit the harm.

The CCC paragraph 2273 clearly points out that laws restricting abortion should be our ultimate aim, but the Democrats may be correct that the best short term solution is to work on the demand side.

Based on all of this, we cannot say Kerry is clearly outside of the teaching of the Church in his approach if his assumptions were true.

Claiming to be pro-choice is not quite the same as saying one is pro-abortion.

There is a valid distinction between one who would seek to increase the number of abortions, as Margaret Sanger hoped to do in her eugenic world-view, and someone who tolerates the evil of already existing permissive abortion laws.

I disagree with some of Kerry's assumptions, but if he honestly believes them, he may not be in sin. He may be seriously mistaken, but he might not be in sin.

Of course, it is entirely possible that he has motives other than those I have outlined. It is clearly possible for a politician to sin by supporting permissive abortion laws. Only Kerry can know his own motives with certainty.

I do wish kerry would speak to us pro-life Catholics on a more personal, rather than philosophical, level about how he makes his decisions. I even hold out some hope that he would listen to our point of view, and find a way to moderate his stance.

Nevertheless, whether he wins or loses, and whether he changes his position or not, and whether he can explain his position better or not, we Catholics are obligated under GS 28 to avoid judging his person and his soul.

If we disagree with Kerry's assumptions, can we vote for him in good conscience?

Most Catholics in blogdom have already read a statement by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger that contains the following concluding comment:
When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.
Clearly, a Catholic can vote for Kerry if that Catholic is opposed to abortion and finds proportionate reason. The war in Iraq could provide just such proportionate reason.


Father Jim Tucker Provides Evidence of Genetic Links to Male Homosexuality

Of course, there may be some environmental influences as well that build on a genetic predisposition, and/or a combination of genes as opposed to a single "gay gene".

Nevertheless, this new evidence confirms earlier research indicating male homosexuality is passed on with a genetic component that is carried matrilinearly.

Whether we call it merely same sex attraction, or the homosexual condition, or a homosexual orientation, it does not appear to be in any way related to freely made choice or mere "preferences". It is more accurately part of a person's nature.

If graces builds on nature, as the Church teaches, the questions for theologians is how a person with such a natural disposition lives the graced life? Could gay unions be the moral equivalent of marriages between infertile heterosexuals?

Here is a theological reflection on homosexuality from a Biblical and natural law perspective.


Thanks to Steve Bogner for This Fun Quiz

You are water. You're not really organic; you're
neither acidic nor basic, yet you're an acid
and a base at the same time. You're strong
willed and opinionated, but relaxed and ready
to flow. So while you often seem worthless,
without you, everything would just not work.
People should definitely drink more of you
every day.

Which Biological Molecule Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla


NCR's John Allen Suggests Kerry Would Win in Vatican Election

Through a series of private interviews, John Allen has concluded that if the election were held in the Vatican, and all votes were equal, Vatican officials would likely back Kerry over Bush by a 60-40 margin.

He makes no claim how the Holy Father would vote.

Could it be that my own arguments about the gravity of the war in Iraq are a valid reflection of Vatican teaching and priorities?


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

What would it take to overturn Roe?

Pro-lifers seem to be insistent that this election is all about stacking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, and they believe that George W. Bush can deliver this.

Thus, they argue that any pro-lifer who does not see it this way is betraying the cause. If a Christian, they might even argue the individual is in sin.

Let's look at our current Court:

1. William H. Rehnquist: Chief Justice, 80 years old, appointed by Republican, Ronald Reagan: pro-life

2. John Paul Stevens: 84 years old, appointed by Republican, Gerald Ford: pro-choice

3. Sandra Day O'Connor: 74 years old, appointed by Republican, Ronald Reagan: moderate

4. Antonin Scalia: 68 years old, appointed by Republican, Ronald Reagan: pro-life

5. Anthony Kennedy: 68 years old, appointed by Republican, Ronald Reagan: moderate

6. David Souter: 65 years old, appointed by Republican, George H. W. Bush (the Elder): moderate

7. Clarence Thomas: 56 years old, appointed by Republican, George H. W. Bush (the Elder): pro-life

8. Ruth Bader Ginsberg: 71 years old, appointed by Democrat, Bill Clinton: pro-choice

9. Stephen Breyer: 66 years old, appointed by Democrat, Bill Clinton: pro-choice

Seven of nine were appointed by Republicans. Six of these Republican appointed Justices were chosen by Presidents deliberately trying to stack the Court in a pro-life direction.

Court historians acknowledge that the current Court is the most conservative Court in American history. The Republicans also control the legislative and executive branches of the federal government and the majority of the governorships.

Yet, Roe has not been overturned.

Furthermore, the abortion rate is higher under the Bush Administration than it was under a Democratic President in an era when the Republicans had less control.

For this reason alone, I think trying to stack the court has already proven to be a failed policy!

There's an old saying that if the tool you are using isn't working, try a different tool.

It's foolish to keep pounding on a nail with a screwdriver expecting a different result each time you hit the head of the nail.

Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas believe that Roe can be challenged.

Stevens, Breyer and Ginsberg are firm supporters of Roe.

O'Connor, Kennedy and Souter were thought to be pro-life at the time of their nominations by Reagan or Bush the Elder, but have proven themselves moderates who ultimately support Roe.

It must be remembered that Reagan tried to appoint a more conservative Justice than O'Connor, and was unable to get Robert Borke through the Senate Confirmation hearings. Clarence Thomas barely made it through this process as well.

William Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, and Sandra Day O'Connor are all expected to step down in the next Presidential term. Rehnquist is acknowledged as pro-life, while Stevens and O'Connor are supporters of Roe.

If John Kerry were elected President, he has promised that he would appoint Justices who support Roe, and the Court would be tipped five to four solidly pro-choice with only two of the four minority Justices solidly pro-life.

If George W. Bush were re-elected, pro-lifers hope that he will appoint three solidly pro-life candidates in order to tip the scale to a solid five to four against Roe, with only two of the four minority Justices solidly pro-choice.

Bush has promised that abortion will not be a litmus test in Supreme Court Justice appointments.

This, too, should give us some pause!

Even if Bush is lying and manages to get so-called pro-life Justices into three slots on the Court, would Roe be overturned?

I don't think it is likely, and here's why.

The simple fact is that while the Courts do occasionally overturn prior decisions, they do not do so without a legally valid precedent. This is what I think the pro-life movement is failing to fully comprehend.

The Court works much like the Roman Catholic Church in the development of doctrine.

Teachings of the Church sometimes appear to change, but there is a continuity with the prior tradition, and the change is dictated from principles developing within the Tradition.

There is a sense in which one could argue that teaching never really changes. Rather, our understanding of teaching deepens. The magisterium is cautious in evaluating change, and it can take hundreds of years for the simplest change to get done.

The Court operates on similar principles. Change does not occur easily, even when Judges hold private opinions that are contrary to prior Court decisions. The judges will need to be convinced that there is a legally valid reason to overturn Roe, and that reason must come from within the tradition of U.S. jurisprudence.

I believe that Souter, O'Connor, and Kennedy dissappointed pro-lifers because they want a better legal argument before they let any personal bias interfere with legal tradition.

I have an article explaining how Roe may be immoral, but is legally consistent. I think the Justices need to feel and think they have addressed these issues within the tradition.

Not only do I doubt the Court will overrule Roe, but I'm not sure it should. Here's why.

The idea of stacking the Court in order to force the outcome of a specific ruling is actually detrimental to the legal system.

To do this is to undermine the authority of the Court itself, and invest too much power in the Justices rather than the democratic process. The Amendment process is far more democratic.

If Roe were overturned by the whim of a Bush Court, what is to stop the next Court from overturning the decision that overturned Roe?

Every Presidential debate from now to the second coming would be a battle for control of the Court. We should not seek Justices with biases. We should seek competent judges who understand the legal tradition of the United States of America and interpret law within that framework.

Reluctantly, I have come to agree with John Kerry that the Constitution should be interpreted by the law, meaning that Justices should rely on the decisions of their predecessors. The Constitution should be interpreted within the jurisprudent tradition of U.S. Constitutional law, and Roe is part of that tradition.

This doesn't mean that it is impossible to overturn Roe.

The Supreme Court has overruled prior decisions in the past. Rather than an absolute "no" to overturning decisions, interpreting the Constitution within a tradition simply means that a valid legal argument needs to be presented from within the tradition of U.S. Constitutional law as interpreted by the Court in the past, including the Roe decision.

Even when Brown overturned Plessy v. Fergson, it did not so much deny the theoretical principle of "separate but equal" as state that the plaintiffs had demonstrated adequately that separate was not equal in practice, and perhaps inherently so.

The Court also drew on prior legal precedence for desegregated schools by appealing to their legality in Northern states.

In other words, the Justices showed that they were not arbitrarily imposing their personal biases into law. Rather, they were enforcing a valid interpretation of Constitutional law that already existed to uphold the spirit of Plessy.

If Roe is to be overturned, it is not sufficient to merely place Justices on the Court who are personally pro-life. These Justices also need a legal precedent to overturn Roe.

In other words, there are a series of big "ifs" that need to be met in order for Roe to be overturned, even if it were a worthy goal in the first place.

1) Bush must be re-elected, even with his dismal record on other life issues like the death penalty and pre-emptive war, and his own inconsistencies on abortion and social spending that has increased abortions.

2) At least two of the Justices supporting Roe must retire in Bush's next term, and Bush must back away from his campaign promise and deliberately use abortion as a litmus test in appointing their replacements. If Rehnquist also retires, he also must be replaced with a pro-life judge.

3) Assuming Bush can find three competent judges who fit the bill, all of them must get through the Senate confirmation hearings. This is a big "if".

4) A case must be presented that challenges a fundamental assumption of Roe based on a valid legal argument from within the U.S. legal tradition. This is also a big "if".

Furthermore, what would really happen if Roe were overturned?

It would not really make abortion illegal over-night. Instead, it would put the decision back into the hands of the states.

21 states would likely outlaw some abortion procedures based on laws on their books prior to Roe. However, not all of these laws treated abortion as murder, nor did all of these states criminalize all abortions. This is not a big victory!

20 states would likely keep abortion legal, and had already legalized abortion before Roe or were well on the way to doing so. This is not a big victory!

9 states would be considered borderline. These states may limit abortions, but they would not likely outlaw it. This is not a big victory!

In other words, the battle will continue with a divided nation and abortion will remain legal in half the country. Women who want abortions will cross state lines to get them. We will not have accomplished very much.

What is the alternative to a stacked Court overturning Roe?

I would argue a Right to Life Amendment is a better alternative. It cannot be changed easily and it is far more democratic.

However, we cannot get this passed in the next four years no matter who is President. Furthermore, the office of President is not part of the Amendment process.

Here's the nine step strategy I would like to see fellow pro-lifers adopt in reducing abortions immediately in the next four years, and eventually passing a Right to Life Amendment.

1) Short term, we need to remove some of the reasons women choose abortions in order to reduce their number and the desire for abortions. We need to increase social spending and balance the federal budget by rolling back the Bush tax cuts in whole or in part, and decreasing spending on military. This has an immediate effect of reducing the abortion rate and removing the desire for abortions. Clinton proved this. Abortion rates have climbed under Bush, and there is no short term advantage to re-electing him if our goal is a Right to Life Amendment rather than a Court ruling. Democratic social policy is better for reaching the short term goal of reducing the harm of abortion, and better for the long term goal of weakening the opposition.

2) We need to build up a wider consensus in general society that abortion should be restricted. This should be done through grass roots activity. We've been very successful in the last decade on this within the Republican party, and need to build on that success. However, it is time to cross party lines to get the job done. Forty three percent of Democrats lean pro-life. They need the help of pro-life organizers in the Republican camp. A pro-life Democratic base with fundraising capability matching Planned Parenthood needs to be formed. In some ways, I see this as the highest long term priority, but I place it second because it will not produce short term success.

3) Only as 1 and 2 are falling into place should we try to push for cuts to federal spending on abortion. This is a strategic decision, rather than a moral decision. Federal spending on abortion is immoral, but we don't want to win a battle and lose the war. If we try to cut abortion spending without 1 and 2, we will be perceived as merely looking out for the rich. The pro-life Democrats will have leverage to cut spending on abortion, because they can offer an increase elsewhere in return.

4) We need to adopt and insist upon a consistent ethic of life from all legislators who would seek our support. This means we need to oppose the death penalty and war along with abortion, euthanasia, human cloning and ESCR. We need to be adamant about this because otherwise, we are perceived as mere religious fanatics who only care about people until they are born. When the wider society sees and hears a consistent ethic of human life, it begins to dawn on people that pro-lifers are arguing in their own interests.

5) We need to back all other aspects of the feminist agenda, such as equal opportunity in the workforce, equal pay for equal work, and so forth. In the churches, we need to support greater leadership roles for women. We must not be perceived as those who seek to keep women barefoot and pregnant. We also need attractive women to front the cause. This may sound Machiavellian, but it is true. Helen Alvarez was fantastic for the pro-life cause, and anyone who doesn't admit it is not paying attention to reality. We need more women like her in the leadership of the movement: smart, pretty and smiling as they make the case.

6) We must make tough and enforceable laws that crack down on and/or prevent rape, incest, and spouse abuse. There must be demonstrated results in this area, because the opposition will win many battles as long as they can keep stating one in three women are raped. Those who are pro-choice do not necessarily see society as divided between a culture of life and a culture of death. They see our culture divided between a culture of violence and raw patriarchal power verses a culture of peace shaped by women and children. This perception must be effectively erased by addressing their concerns.

7) Only as 1 through 6 fall into place should we begin to look at making real legislative changes. Our goal should not be to simply overturn Roe through the Court process. I outlined the reasons above. Rather, our goal should be a Right to Life Amendment to the Constitution that no Court can rule against. We can start with restrictions already permitted by Roe, and work incrementally at change, but we must never lose sight of the goal of an Amendment.

8 ) Step 7 means electing Senators and Congress people as well as Governors is just as important or more important than who we elect as President. The President has nothing to do with the Amendment process. He does not sign it, and he cannot veto it. It must pass both houses by two thirds and then three fourths of the states. This may sound daunting, but this nation has passed several Amendments already. It can be done. The pro-life movement must be well informed about lesser offices than the President and back social liberals with a consistent ethic of life at every level.

9) When it comes time to propose the Right to Life Amendment, it should be carefully crafted in such a way that it can be enforced. Lesser legislation passed in order to enforce it should primarily punish the doctor, rather than the women. The legislation must respect legitimate medical privacy while providing a means to enforce abortion restrictions. The laws must be clear enough that only the principle of double effect applies.


Consistent Ethic of Life Makes Newsweek

It's nice to see the secular press is starting to notice Catholics who hold a consistent ethic of life. Melinda Henneberger vents our frustrations at this year's election process.


Monday, October 11, 2004

Does Embryonic Stem Cell Research Murder a Human Person?

I haven't posted earlier today and haven't been looking at my comments because I've been in deep thought on this issue and doing some research. I'm sure this post will stir up some controversy, whether I intend it or not.

A reader has raised an issue in my comments that started me in this deep thought. I am surprised that I cannot even find a clear answer to the question from the Vatican, even if stated with non-infallible authority.

The issue is whether murder occurs when stem cells are extracted from an embryo, destroying the embryo in the process. My reader believes that it is obvious a murder occurs.

I acknowledged that the embryo is a human being and that the embryo is destroyed in the process of extracting stem cells.

I also acknowledged that extracting the stem cells from the embryo would be intrinsically evil if for no other reason than that it is evil to perform experiments on a human being without consent.

Yet, as I pondered the issue, I was not sure the human being was murdered since there is still human life after the process (the life of those stem cells).

My uncertainty is rooted in the notion that the soul is the form of the body and the life-force of the body, and after stem cells are extracted from an embryo, there remains human life with the unique genetic traits of the embryo.

How can there be murder while the victim is still alive in some sense?

This "sense of being alive" that I am speaking of is analogous to the state of the frozen embryo itself. There is a sense in which it is not fully alive or fully living the existence of a human person, but it remains an organism of human life nonetheless.

Note: I am not saying that I am certain this is not murder. Nor am I trying to defend embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), which is wrong even if the human being is not murdered. Rather, I am simply asking how a murder took place if the victim is still alive in some sense.

There are roughly two hundred thousands frozen human embryos at fertility clinics that will not be used. To simply thaw the embryos without implanting them in a womb would kill them.

Most ethicists, even non-Catholics, seem to be against destroying these embryos if for no other reason that the "potential human life" that exists.

However, with the potential good that scientists believe could be derived from embryonic stem cells, there are some ethicists who argue that these embryos, which will be destroyed anyway eventually, should be destroyed through the process of stem cell extraction.

As a pro-lifer, I have always advocated defending the right to life from the moment of conception. The Church advocates this as well.

When making the point with atheists and others who do not believe in Catholic notions such as a "soul", I will tend to argue that the state has no right whatsoever to define whether a human being has a soul, or even whether a human being is a person.

Instead, I typically argue that the state has an obligation to defend human life in any living organism defined as human by its DNA composition.

Neither I, nor the Church would hold all human life should be protected by law as though it is a human being.

For example, nobody condemns adult stem cell research.

Nobody thinks that an amputated limb, or an organ transplant, a cyst removed from a human body has an inherent right to life. Nobody would argue that a pint of human blood has Constitutional rights, nor even that it should have such rights.

Not all human life has inherent rights. In each of these examples, the human life in question is not a self contained or individuated organism. Therefore, these examples are not human beings. Rather, they are parts of a human being.

However, I hold that a human being has human rights, and so does the Church.

I am using the word "being" in the classic sense of an individuated ontology, essence, nature or substance. The category of being is definable in the world of observation, where substance and soul are vague categories for legal purposes.

Pro-choicers hold that an embryo does not have human rights because it is not a human person. I tend to shy away from the whole discussion about whether the embryo is a person.

My response to the pro-choice camp is that they are the very people imposing a religious belief on a human being. They are deciding that a particular human being does not have a soul and/or is not a person, which is a religious belief.

There is no question the embryo is human life and a self contained organism, therefore it is a human being.

To argue about whether a human being is a person or not is a philosophical debate.

To argue about whether it has a soul or not is a religious debate.

I am arguing that religion and abstract philosphical constructs like personhood have no place in the abortion debate. What matters is definable physical properties that belong to all human beings.

There are Catholics who are willing to make the argument that the embryo is a person and that it has a soul, but I tend to avoid this entire discussion when talking about a Right to Life Amenmdent.

My entire argument on secular grounds for a Right to Life Amendment is that in a world where murder, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other violence against entire groups of people occur, the state has a fundamental obligation to enact laws that protect the right to life for all human beings regardless of whether those human beings are considered persons by the majority of society or whether we believe those human beings have souls or not in our religion.

A state that fails to define a human being according to an organism with the double helix DNA structure of the species homo sapien is defining the right to life according to a religious or philosophical principle that can be turned against adults.

Indeed, this is exactly what has happened everywhere where mass murder and slavery and other atrocities take place. Enlightened self interest dictates that we should define humanity as broadly as possible in the law, if for no other reason than self-preservation. Invisible concepts like souls and personhood should be avoided. Native Americans were once considered non-persons in American law. Blacks were thought not to have souls by some Europeans.

In other ways, definitions of personhood can become dangerous even to adults.

For example, if we argue that viability is the criteria for personhood, is an infant really viable without adult support? Are any of us completely independently viable without society?

All of this said, I am also a believing Roman Catholic, and it has been my understanding that the Church teaches somewhere that the soul is the life-force in the body. I believe Aquinas held this view. Thus Aquinas thought the soul was infused at quickening, when the fetus was thought to come alive.

Thus, while my argument for laws restricting on abortion does not rely on the belief that the embryo has a soul, it leads to the same conclusion about abortion as the Church.

I assumed the unborn child does have a soul since it is a human being and it is alive. However, my argument with secularists does not rely on any belief in souls.

Yet, with ESCR, life continues after the embryo is destroyed.

What surprises me in trying to determine whether the embryo is murdered in ESCR is that the Church does not seem to definitively teach that the embryo has a soul!

I am shocked to discover this, and I may simply be looking in the wrong place.

However, in Donum Vitae, the Church clearly stops short of saying a zygote or an embryo definitely have a soul:

Certainly no experimental datum can be in itself sufficient to bring us to the recognition of a spiritual soul; nevertheless, the conclusions of science regarding the human embryo provide a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of this first appearance of a human life: how could a human individual not be a human person? The Magisterium has not expressly committed itself to an affirmation of a philosophical nature, but it constantly reaffirms the moral condemnation of any kind of procured abortion. This teaching has not been changed and is unchangeable.(26 - emphasis added)
In other words, the Church is basically arguing exactly what I argue with pro-choicers who do not embrace Catholicism.

The Church is saying that since we cannot know the exact moment the body has a soul or personhood, which are philosophical and religious categories, we must presume that all individual human beings have the rights we know to be inherent to personhood.

The CCC in paragraphs 2270 through 2275 on abortion is careful not to actually say the unborn is a human person.

Rather, it speaks of human life beginning at conception, and defines the individual human life as a human being. Then it states that morally, ethically and legally, we must treat all human beings as human persons with the dignity inherent to personhood.

There is a difference between saying we must treat all human beings as human persons, and saying all human beings are human persons.

Think of it like this: If an animal rights activists says animals are people too, we know it as nonsense, and may even get angry. Animals are not human persons. Yet, if an animal rights activist said they want us to treat animals like people, we would be more tolerant of listening to that position, even if we don't agree.

Donum Vitae never uses the word "murder" and the word "kills" is used only once where the letter states the researcher may be unwittingly killing an innocent human being.

Another way of putting this is that since we cannot know the zygote or the embryo has a soul or is a person, we also cannot know with certainty that it does not have a soul and is not a person.

I don't doubt that the Church believes that the unborn child is a human person with a soul at some point during pregancy. Some abortions are definitely murder in the mind of the Church, such as a third trimester abortion. There are individual Catholics who want to find a way to argue that abortion is murder even at conception.

What is surprising to me is that the Church does not seem to go quite that far in its authoritive teaching. Instead, the Vatican seems to argue that since we cannot know when personhood begins, we should treat all human beings as though they are persons.

Therefore, if we acknowledge that some human beings have rights inherent to personhood, we must assume that all human beings are persons for the purposes of morality, ethics and law, even though we cannot be absolutely certain all human beings are persons.

This makes sense to me because it is precisely my own argument with secularists. It is not that we know the zygote to be a human person. Rather, we cannot know that the zygote is not a human person, and therefore we must treat the zygote as a human person because the zygote is clearly a human being.

Interestingly, I also looked at The Declaration on the Production and the Scientific and Therapeutic Use of Human Embryonic Stem Cells by the Pontifical Academy for Life, and the words "murder", "kill" or "kills" are not found in he entire document (try a word search).

After reading the document, while it clearly condemns ESCR, it does not come right and say that ESCR is murder.

I searched around the web for articles by professional theologians that would address my specific question about how there can be a murder when the victim is still alive in some sense. I've been looking all day today, and can't find exactly what I am seeking.

I sort of knew where I might want to look to get a "conservative opinion".

I googled Germain Grisez and William May each with the key words "embryonic stem cell research" after their names. I found several articles, mostly quoting them, rather than authored by them. So, I'll just summarize quickly what I found rather than citing any one source.

Sure enough, Grisez and May do seem to believe that embryonic stem cell research kills a human person. The way they make the argument, however, does not entirely make sense to me through the articles I have found thus far.

They posit that human personhood is inherent to a human being.

This goes a bit beyond what the Church has said, which is to be expected from these two. They have a tendency to be slightly right of the Vatican, and that's precisely why I wanted their views. I knew that they would either give me the Vatican line or something slightly to the right of the Vatican, with no danger of liberal encroachments.

I'll grant them their assumption that personhood is inherent to a human being.

Grisez and May then seem to simply assert that the stem cells taken from an embryo are not a human being, and therefore not a person.

I'm not sure how they know this, or by what definition they can assert that a stem cell line is not a human being?

This got me thinking even harder.

I tend to argue with pro-choicers to forget about trying to define personhood and soul and stick to defining something we can demonstrate.

A being is a living organism. A human being is a living organism with human DNA. This is all observable phenomenon and we don't need to try measure invisible personhood or souls that we cannot see.

However, from what I can tell with my limited understanding of the science of stem cells, one might be able to argue that a stem cell culture - even an adult stem cell culture - is a living organism of sorts, and a human organism at that!

Therefore, a stem cell line is a human being, but somehow I agree intuitively that it is not a person, though I can't be certain.

How do we avoid the philosophical question of what a person is and when personhood is formed?

The word "person" originates from a Greek word for the actors' mask in the theater.

It developed in Western culture into a philosophical category even before the concept of human personhood arose. Initially, it came to mean something like character. It was used first used theologically to refer to the persons in the Trinity, and only later was applied to human beings!

It came to be a philosophical category answering the question, "Who is that?" as opposed to "What is that?"

The concept of personhood is historically a relational category, where the category of "being" refers to the answer to the question "What is it?"

In the abortion debate, I prefer to stick to the category of being because it avoids all the issues of whether the zygote, embryo, fetus or baby feels pain or is self aware or even is in relationship with anyone.

The category of being is scientifically measurable. The category of personhood could be argued to be a mental construct of sorts. As a relational category, I have always seen it as a potentially dangerous category to use as the sole criteria for legal questions.

Sure, we can argue that the unborn do feel pain, are self aware, and are in a relationship with the mother, but we cannot know with certainty what they experience, and I prefer to avoid the argument.

Besides, even with adults, if we use these criteria to judge personhood, even secular ethicists admit it leaves an opening to kill someone in their sleep, when the human being feels nothing, is not self aware, and is not relating to anyone.

The term "soul" is even more elusive and fraught with danger. Is it merely form and life-force? Or is it the "rational nature" of human beings? Is it self awareness, and if so, when does that form? Do animals have souls? These are all questions I would prefer to avoid in the abortion debates.

Please do not take this post the wrong way.

I am not trying to defend ESCR or abortion.

Nor am I trying to argue that adult stem cell research really ought to be considered immoral, even if the argument from being leads to that conclusion.

The Vatican seems to approve of adult stem cell research, and my gut feel is that there is nothing wrong with it.

If this is true, then it may be necessary to engage in the argument about human personhood and souls, which is precisely what I would rather avoid in the abortion debates.

This issue of adult stem cells as an apparent living human organism and therefore an apparent human being also sheds light to pro-lifers on the way Catholics like John Kerry and Mario Cuomo might think.

I am not trying to defend their position, but the issue does shed a ray of light on understanding their position of being "personally opposed to abortion, but,....."

If adult stem cell cultures meet the definition of a living organism (which I would leave to a scientist to determine), the organism is human. Where there is a living organism, it could be argued that there is a human being. Yet, even pro-lifers do not consider this human being (if it is a human being) to be a human person.

Perhaps what people like Kerry and Cuomo are saying is that they have concluded that the embryo is the moral equivalent of a stem cell line.

Recognizing the Church has made no definitive philosophical statement on when personhood begins, they see the embryo not as a definite human person. Rather, like an adult stem cell line, the embryo is merely as a collection of living human cells without fully formed personhood or soul.

It is human life with the potential of personhood and soul, and should be reverenced as such, which is why and how they personally oppose abortion, and may even seek ways to reduce abortions.

Yet, they would argue that in a democracy that does not recognize the unborn as a person by any wide consensus, and where abortion is considered a Constitutional right, this collection of cells has no more legal rights to personhood than an adult stem cell line.

To counter this, the Church itself has not truly settled that a zygote or embryo is a person with a soul. Rather, the Church has simply asserted the embryo is a human being, and it is wrong to kill a human being, since all human beings must be treated as though they persons - whether they are persons or not!

Yet, how do we define a human being in such a way as to exclude adult stem cell lines? How is it that an adult stem cell line should not be treated with the same respect due a human person?

I know this sounds like an absurd question, and I am not raising the question in an effort to advocate pro-abortion laws.

I am against abortion and have always supported a Right to Life Amendment.

It is true that the Kerry campaign forced me to look at these issues more than I have in the past, and it is true that because of the unjust war in Iraq, I am leaning toward a Kerry vote. Nevertheless, I am not raising these questions to defend Kerry. Rather, I am raising these questions so that we can all think through how to respond to people like Kerry in such a way that he might even change his mind.

I am pointing out that there is a sense in which I don't know how to argue against the Kerry or Cuomo point without reference to a definitive teaching on personhood or the soul that the Church doesn't seem to have really made.

What about others? Reactions? Thoughts? Does anyone have a better way to clarify this issue? Am I overlooking a key document of the Church that clearly defines personhood or soul beginning at biological conception?


Saturday, October 09, 2004

Thoughts on Second Presidential Debate

Let me get the surprise out of the way. Bush was very strong on the life issues: abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

Indeed, I have never seen him this strong, and for the first moment since he declared war on March 19, 2003, I was seeing him in a sympathetic light.

I want to highlight this point because it is important, and the Democrats better take a clue from it. The pro-life moment should also take heart.

No President and no Presidential candidate since Roe has so clearly spoke to the concerns of pro-lifers. He struck a perfect musical chord, where Kerry hit a flat.

If Bush wins this election - or if the race is even close - Bush has demonstrated to America as a whole that life issues are important to enough Americans to make it politically advantageous to move toward the pro-life position. Democrats take heed!

Indeed, so perfectly pro-life were his answers that I could see how anyone who is pro-life may be willing to forgive him on the war. A pro-lifer who believes the war unjust (like myself) is tempted to believe that Bush's heart is in the right place.

Pro-lifers might be saying to themselves that perhaps he made a mistake with the war, but anyone who cares so much for unborn babies can't be a bad guy. His mistakes almost seem forgivable, and we Christians always teach forgiveness.

Nor does it even matter that this is the first time on a national stage that he spoke with this much conviction and consistency on life issues. It doesn't even matter whether he actually plans to do anything to further limit abortion. The point is that he created the impression he would.

He managed to create the image that we are moving forward on life issues, and any shortcomings on his part aren't due to lack of conviction, but are simply part of the slow progression toward the ultimate goal of restricting abortions and ESCR.

There is absolutely no other real reason to vote for Bush.

Some pro-lifers will want to argue against that statement, but hear me out. Bush's strong stand on beginning of life issues color how we interpret other things he has said and done. If we believe him sincere on beginning of life issues, we tend to be more forgiving of any mistakes on the war because it is unfathomable that anyone who loves unborn children would deliberately wage an unjust war.

When Kerry accuses Bush of giving tax incentives to the rich, we are biased to believe Bush's explanation of trickle down economics, because it is unfathomable that a man who loves unborn children would seriously be looking out only for the rich.

Of course, I have always been cynical about Bush's pro-life convictions, even when I voted for him based on this issue in 2000. Up until last night, Bush never spoke in such a way on the national scene that would challenge my cynicism. Indeed, in some cases, such as his first address to the nation on ESCR, which was before the war, he simply confirmed my cynicism.

But last night, he said the right words on beginning of life issues, and he said them in a way he has never said them before to a national audience. I've read about him saying these words to select audiences that were already on board with pro-life concerns, but he never said these words before a national audience.

And these words were powerful.

For a moment, I forgot how nervous and dumb he looked earlier in the debate. For a moment, I forgot about the war. For a moment, he gave me a hope I have never experienced when listening to any politician, either Democrat or Republican, speaking on beginning of life issues. That hope has power.

If Bush wins this election, there can be no other explanation than that sanctity of life issues are more important to the American public than the heads of the Democratic party or many of the pundits want to believe.

The life issues are the only thing Bush handled well last night, and I'm willing to bet on the fact that other than hard core politically connected neoconservatives who consciously wanted war in Iraq in the 1990's, there isn't a single average person on the street who thinks Bush made sense on other issues who was not already pro-life in 1990's.

Hear this loud and clear Democrats - this issue is so critical that a person's stance on it colors the way they interpret the rest of reality!

Wars of prevention, eroding civil rights, torture, half trillion dollar deficits, unemployment and growing poverty, destruction of the environment, the death penalty and everything else wrong with Bush can be explained away as bad luck and isolated instances of human mistake by convincing America you love the unborn.

I realize that pro-choice Democrats will see this as religious fanaticism, and what I am trying to say to the Democrats is that it doesn't matter at all how you perceive this. The point is that even if Kerry wins by a slim margin, enough people have what you consider "fanaticism" that you better start taking it seriously!

Instead of labeling it "fanaticism", it is time for the entire Democratic party to listen up and listen up hard. Bush is proving that our concerns are real and deep and they are not going to go away and we will back almost anyone who gives us an ear. Democrats need to really look at what pro-lifers are saying and start trying to figure out how to meet some of our needs.

What should Kerry do?

He gave a great performance stylistically last night. He demonstrated he can go toe to toe with the President and not come across as a waffler. On the war and the economy, he was objectively right in my mind (or at least more right than Bush). Those who do not have strong pro-life convictions may have seen him as the winner, or at worst, saw the debate as a tie.

One thing he could do is attack Bush on the war on the moral level by calling preventative war unethical or immoral. This would help enforce an image of a man of principle. But he still needs to go further to sway any pro-lifer on the fence (the so-called Catholic swing vote) or to blunt the strength of Bush's position on these issues.

Kerry's attempt to show "respect" for pro-lifers (his words) fell flat. He needs to do one of two things.

The preferable solution to pro-lifers would be a complete turn-around. He could stand up and say that the election has forced him to re-examine the issue and he has had the equivalent of a religious conversion and is now pro-life. I would love it if he did this, but I certainly don't expect it.

Given that this isn't likely, the only thing Kerry can do to even blunt Bush's excellent performance on life issues is to help pro-lifers understand how he, as a Catholic, came to his pro-choice convictions in what he feels is good conscience.

He may feel he was doing this last night, but he didn't accomplish it. He needs to tell us without slogans and shibboleths exactly what went on in his mind at the moment he first began defining himself as pro-choice. He needs to tell his story. He needs to open up as a person.

Kerry cannot expect us to "get it" in 3 and a half weeks as tries to explain a general philosophy of being anti-abortion but pro-choice (which makes no sense to most of us at all). So, instead of a philosophy lesson, he needs to explain how he came to that position in his heart.