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Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Natural Law = Bigotry? Please.

I love George Weigel.

He is quite possibly THE most articulate Catholic apologist in America today, as well as the most learned historian of our Church. Yet, the main reason I love his writing has to do with his adeptness at explaining the Catholic teachings that are rooted in natural-law thinking. He explains them in such a way that anyone, even a non-Catholic, can understand. And what I appreciate the most is the way in which he continually hammers home this point that one needn't be Catholic to accept the arguments that Catholics raise in the public square.

A favorite quote of mine on this point came from a piece he wrote back in April about the Obama-Notre Dame controversy:

"Daley and Biden (and Kathleen Sebelius and John Kerry and Barbara Mikulski and Susan Collins and Clan Kennedy and the rest of the Catholic pro-abortion pols) are not the arbiters of the truth of Catholic faith. More to the public point, they are dead wrong on what is at stake in the life-issues debate. For what is at stake, to repeat, is not some peculiarity of Catholic dogma but a publicly accessible truth about justice that everyone willing to take an argument seriously can grasp."

But what I really wanted to highlight today was his Nov. 27 column on Catholic Exchange, titled: "The Natural Law = Bigotry? Please."

It's full of good stuff, but here are a few highlights:

"...[T]he Post's indictment -- in an editorial titled 'Mr. Cuccinelli's bigotry' -- centered on the fact that candidate Cuccinelli had described homosexual behavior as contrary to 'natural law' and had further suggested that natural law was a useful guide to public policy...the Post's anonymous editorial writer described Mr. Cuccinelli's appeal to natural law as a 'retrofit (of) the old language of racism, bias, and intolerance in a new context'...Baloney. What's being retrofitted here is an old-time anti-Catholic bigotry, tarted up in the guise of tolerance and extended to those who think there are moral truths built into the world and into us -- truths that we can grasp by reason." [emphasis added]

Bravo, Prof. Weigel, on the restatement of the definition of natural law. Moral truths built into the world and into us. I like it. Here's another passage:

"Ken Cuccinelli is a serious, practicing Catholic. He's also a sophisticated politician who knows that you don't argue public policy in the public square on the basis of uniquely Catholic theological premises. Rather, you make your arguments in a public vocabulary, accessible to all. That's the grammar and vocabulary of the natural moral law: the basis on which Thomas Jefferson argued the case for American national independence, Martin Luther King, Jr., promoted the civil rights of African Americans, and John Paul II passionately and effectively defended the religious and political rights of all." [emphasis added]

He goes into further detail about how these leaders argued their cases in the public square and how ridiculous it is to call any of this "bigotry." Go and read the whole thing.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Biology 101 as the Foundation for a Natural Law Approach

Videos like this are always both sad and unsurprising. Sad because it's always heartbreaking to hear someone talk about doing something so gravely evil as murdering a child. And unsurprising because deceived pro-choicers have always found ways to call a grave evil a moral necessity. It's almost as if intellectual dishonesty is par for the course. It has to be; there's no way to maintain a pro-choice position without it.

The most ardent pro-choicers have long acknowledged that abortion is, in fact, killing. Yet your common, everyday, non-activist pro-choice person will spam every abortion-related message board on the internet (and even some non-abortion-related ones) with euphemism, equivocation, and personal insult to the contrary. It almost makes one wonder what would happen if they took apologetics instruction from the doctors they are defending. C'mon, guys, get with the program; the pro-abortion-choice mantra is: "Yes, of course it is killing; it's a sad and tragic thing, but women and their pregnancies are complicated, and so it's a necessary evil sometimes."

The average (reasonable) person does not agree with that statement. In fact, the average person's conscience recoils at the idea of killing any innocent person - for any reason. They are only able to tolerate abortion because they have deceived themselves as to what it truly is. Abortionists and the radical activists who defend them, however, have employed no such basic biological deception. Their deception is of a higher order: one that somehow imagines that we must ever kill one innocent person to protect another. Most people would not accept such a deception, but fortunately for the pro-choice side, there are a variety of self-contradictory deceptions to choose from, and each person receives the one she finds easiest to accept.

What does all of this have to do with the natural law? Well, the concept of natural law states that rules for how humans ought to live can be observed in human nature itself. It is obvious to most people that killing fellow humans does not produce good outcomes. It deprives the victim of a happy future; it tears apart relationships; and it leaves regret and emotional wreckage in its wake. Few would deny these things. But in order to get to the point where we are applying natural law theory to abortion, we must first acknowledge the simple biological reality that abortion equals killing a fellow human being. It is amazing how difficult it can be for some people to make that very simple first step, but if those doing the killing and those who defend them have made it, how hard could it be for the rest of us?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Gay Marriage as a Natural Law Question

Advocates of gay marriage have long stated that they do not wish to undermine religious freedom by forcing churches with moral objections to gay marriage to perform ceremonies uniting same-sex couples. In fact, when the Illinois General Assembly introduced civil unions legislation in the spring of 2009, they named the legislation the Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act for this very reason: the legislation explicitly protected religious institutions from being compelled to "solemnize or officiate" civil unions.

In the heat of that legislative session, State Rep. Greg Harris, lead sponsor of this controversial bill, even told me that as strongly as he felt about gay marriage, he felt just as strongly about religious freedom - and that's why he made sure that this opt-out clause for churches was included.

Even a couple of self-described orthodox Catholics once told me that even though they accept the Church's teaching on this, they think it's okay to have gay marriage legislation as long as the Church doesn't have to participate in these marriage ceremonies.

What is going on here?

I think it's the same phenomenon that happens with so-called "pro-choice Catholic" politicians. While saying they accept Church teaching - or, failing that, that the Church at least has a right to believe and teach what she does - they show absolutely no understanding of WHY the Church believes and teaches what she does.

WHY does the Church teach against gay marriage?


In short, the Church teaches against gay marriage because it is not what human beings were made for. It goes against our nature and ultimately harms those who practice it, in both body and spirit.

Therefore, how could it ever be enough to simply grant that those who disagree with gay marriage shouldn't have to be involved in the ceremonies? What about down the road, when such couples want to adopt children? Should Church-based adoption agencies be compelled to release children to couples whose unions they believe are intrinsically harmful to those couples, any children in their care, and the wider society? What about when it comes time for Church-affiliated institutions to choose the benefit packages that they will offer to their employees? Should they be compelled to grant marriage-like benefits to employees to protect and strengthen unions they recognize as harmful to all involved? Should Church-affiliated grade schools be compelled to hire employees who openly live a gay lifestyle that they recognize as harmful to that person and to society?

No matter where a person stands on the gay marriage question, these are issues that everyone should consider. The Church does not teach against gay marriage for an arbitrary, obscure "religious" reason. This is about much more than a ceremony. Ultimately it is about two competing worldviews. It is about the relationships between people and how they affect those people and the world they live in. As always, the Church's teaching is rooted in natural law which can reveal to everyone, even the non-believer, the self-evident truth about how human beings are supposed to function in the world.

George Washington on the Natural Law

"The foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; ...the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained..."

I'm a Politician Who Just Happens to be Catholic

Jack Kenny at the New American recently wrote an article describing the New Hampshire Institute of Politics' forum "Catholics in the Public Square." Kenny astutely sums up the problem with many Catholic politicians today who don't understand that they still retain their Catholic identity while in public service. In his words: "They seem to think separation of church and state requires a divorce of morality from law." Therefore, they see no problem with voting for laws that protect - and, in some cases, expand - the so-called right to abortion.

This really gets to the heart of it. Does anyone truly believe that laws should have nothing to do with morality? That the Church has no rational reason for what she believes and proclaims as the moral truth other than "God says this is bad"?

The Church, as the voice of Christ on earth, teaches us not only that God says things are bad, but the reason why. Her critics would do well to inform themselves of the actual reasoning behind the teachings. They may be surprised to find that it makes intuitive sense.

Naturally Pro-Life

Like all the rest of creation, man is destined by God to an end, and receives from Him a direction towards this end. This ordination is of a character in harmony with his free intelligent nature. In virtue of his intelligence and free will,man is master of his conduct. Unlike the things of the mere material world he can vary his action, act, or abstainfrom action, as he pleases. Yet he is not a lawless being in an ordered universe. In the very constitution of hisnature, he too has a law laid down for him, reflecting that ordination and direction of all things, which is the eternallaw. The rule, then, which God has prescribed for our conduct, is found in our nature itself. Those actions which conform with its tendencies, lead to our destined end, and are thereby constituted right and morally good; those at variance with our nature are wrong and immoral.
--"Natural Law," New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia

One of the most beautiful things about being Catholic is the faith's sacramental mentality - meaning that almost any material thing can be an outward sign of the presence of God. Indeed, the way nature is ordered reveals what God has intended for it. Moral principle tends to be reflected in how nature "works" best; therefore, most teachings that are typically described as "religious" are actually self-evidently true for anyone who takes the time to examine inherent human nature and act in accordance with it.

Nowhere is this more true than with the issue of abortion. While the pro-life position is often described as a "religious" belief and subsequently dismissed or ridiculed as irrelevant, rarely does the critic take the time to actually examine the "why" behind the belief. That "why" is the subject of this blog.