Does Romney Live Up to the Culture of Life? Part 2


In part one, I discussed unjust war, assassination, torture and the death penalty and how Mitt Romney has failed to live up to the culture of life on every one of those issues. In this second part I will cover euthanasia, abortion, contraception and gay marriage:

Euthanasia

Unlike many of his fellow Republicans, Romney has been startlingly silent on the issues of euthanasia and assisted-suicide. However, while Romney has failed to make any categorical statement regarding his stance on euthanasia and assisted-suicide what is known is that Mitt Romney made a statement that the government should not have tried to stop Terri Schiavo’s euthanasia and that the courts should “make the family make a decision.”The “family” in this case that Romney was referring to was Terri Schiavo’s husband who, during her coma, had two children with another woman and demanded that the doctors let Terri die by slowly starving her of food and water.

The only other time at which Romney seems to have come out on this issue is in the case of Haleigh Poutre, in which Romney’s Department of Social Services petitioned the courts to pull the then-11-year-old girl off life support. Mitt Romney remained silent on the issue until after the Poutre case received national attention and the young girl began to respond, at which point Romney put together an independent panel to look into the matter. It suggested changes for how the state handles such cases including more closely investigating requests to remove life support.

In light of these two scenarios, it seems that Romney has no qualms about allowing euthanasia and assisted-suicide if its what family members want or the courts rule in favor of such action. If, however, there is sufficient political pressure as in the high-profile case of Haleigh Poutre who was already beginning to respond on her own, then we can expect Romney to oppose euthanasia.

Ultimately, if my life were in Romney’s hands my mind would not be put at ease.

Abortion

Abortion is possibly the most emotional and controversial issue facing our country today and, given Romney’s history of bending with the wind, doing whatever is most politically expedient and never taking a firm stance on anything (at least, not for longer an election cycle), we can expect Romney to do absolutely nothing in defense of the unborn.

During his 1994 Senate Run, Mitt Romney argued that he was more pro-choice than Ted Kennedy: “When Kennedy called him ‘multiple choice,’ Romney demanded an extra rebuttal. He revealed that a close relative died of an illegal abortion years ago and said, ‘Since that time, my mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter, and you will not see me wavering on that.’” (Joan Vennochi, “Romney’s Revolving World,” The Boston Globe, 3/2/06). “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a US Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years we should sustain and support it.” (Joan Vennochi, “Romney’s Revolving World,” The Boston Globe, 3/2/06)

 When he went to conservative Utah, Romney refused to take a firm stance on the issue, “When I am asked if I am pro-choice or pro-life, I say I refuse to accept either label.” (Glen Warchol, “This Is The Place, But Politics May Lead Romneys Elsewhere,” The Salt Lake Tribune, 2/14/99).
But when he ran for office in Massachusetts again, he was pro-choice again, “I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose, and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard. I will not change any provisions of Massachusetts’ pro-choice laws.” (2002 Romney-O’Brien Gubernatorial Debate, Suffolk University, Boston, MA, 10/29/02). In 2002, Romney Offered His Completed NARAL Questionnaire, Filled Out With “Mostly Abortion-Rights Positions,” To The Media Even Before Returning It To NARAL. “Yesterday, Romney also aimed to head off confusion about his stance on abortion rights by answering a Mass National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League questionnaire with mostly abortion-rights positions. He offered the questionnaire to the press even before he returned it to MassNARAL…”

Then he started thinking of national office as a Republican. That’s when he claims to have had his conversion. ”Romney said he had a change of heart on the issue after speaking with a stem-cell researcher, Dr. Douglas Melton. Romney claims Melton said  ‘Look, you don’t have to think about this stem cell research as a moral issue, because we kill the embryos after 14 days.’‘It hit me very hard that we had so cheapened the value of human life in a Roe v. Wade environment that it was important to stand for the dignity of human life,’ Romney says.” (Karen Tumulty, “What Romney Believes,” Time, 5/21/07)

Keep in mind, however, that after his pro-life conversion he appointed pro-abortion judges, stated that he will “maintain the status quo” regarding abortion laws, attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in 2004 despite his claims to de-fund the organization, and invested in two different companies involved in embryonic stem cell research – all of this occurring after his publicly recognized the sanctity of life and personhood of every unborn child.

And less than a month ago lifesitenews.com reported the following:

MIAMI, FLORIDA, May 17, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney scheduled a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser at the home of Phil Frost, the executive of the company that makes the Morning After Pill, on Wednesday night. Plan B One-Step is produced by Teva Pharmaceuticals, Frost’s company.

Additionally, Romney has provided for tax-payer funded abortions in RomneyCare, including a mandate and tax payer funded abortion on demand. Romney enforced a law that required Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. Obama’s recent health care mandate that forces religious institutions to violate their conscience is trampling on America’s most sacred right, The Freedom of Religion. But before Obama discarded the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Mitt Romney had done it in Massachusetts, forcing Catholic hospitals to give out abortion causing pills.

Romney remains pro-abortion in the cases of incest, rape and in saving the life of the mother, stating, “I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view.”

Contraception

On July 25th, 2005 Romney vetoed bill to ensure emergency contraception for rape victims, known as the morning after pill. Arguing that the hormone drugs “would also terminate life after conception.” However, on December 8th, 2005 Romney reversed that decision on the advise of his counsel and ordered all hospitals in the state to make the “morning after” pill available to rape victims, over the protests of Catholic hospitals, who argued that this went against their religious beliefs. A Boston Herald editorial said that Romney had “executed an Olympic-caliber double flip-flop with a gold medal-performance twist-and-a-half on the issue of emergency contraception.”

On October 5th, 2005 Boston Globe reports that Romney had signed a bill seeking federal waiver to expand the number of low-income people eligible for family planning services, including the morning-after pill, over protests of pro-life activists. “The guy’s not coming around,” said Joseph M. Scheidler, the national director of the Pro-Life Action League. The action appears to contradict Romney’s June 18, 2007 claim that “I came down on the side of life” in every decision he made as governor of Massachusetts. See video here.

Inadvertently or not, when asked if he supported the Blunt Amendment, a Republican bill that would exempt Catholic and other religious-backed hospitals and schools from a White House rule requiring them to provide free birth control insurance coverage, Mr Romney said he did not.

“I’m not for the bill,” Mr Romney told an interviewer while campaigning in the crucial swing state of Ohio. “The idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a women, husband and wife, I’m not going there.”

An hour later campaign officials said that Romney had “misunderstood” and was in favor of the amendment. In response to the HHS mandate that would require Catholic employers to provide insurance that covers, not just contraception, but sterilization and abortifacients as well, Romney stated, “This kind of assault on religion will end if I’m president of the United States,” Romney said, calling it “a real blow … to our friends in the Catholic faith.” However, Romney was largely silent about the Massachusetts law, which essentially mirrored Obama’s proposal and was signed by Romney’s predecessor in 2002, the year before he took office, that required virtually the same contraceptive coverage. Romney did not seek its repeal.

Gay Marriage

Romney favors “domestic relationships” for gay couples and states that it is a state issue and that he “did nothing to change it” as governor of Massachusetts. However, he has also chosen to nationalize the issue by calling for a constitutional ban on gay marriage. If the ban does not apply to civil unions, it will not stop states from allowing legal arrangements “identical to marriage” but for the name, which Romney says he opposes. But if the federal government tries to prevent those, states won’t really be free to “make decisions with regard to domestic partnership benefits,” the approach he says he favors.

Either way, Romney is against gay marriage. But when pressured to take a stand what can we expect from a Romney presidency? He seems to pride himself for sitting on his hands regarding Massachusetts’ gay marriage laws and Romney displays that same passivity regarding religious freedom and gay privileges:

In 2006 the Archdiocese of Boston stated that it would no longer place children with homosexual couples (as the Church considers homosexuality “gravely immoral”). A media storm quickly followed. Responding to charges that it was illegally discriminating against homosexuals, the Archdiocese then asked the state to grant a religious exemption to Catholic Charities, but the Legislature balked. Existing Massachusetts non-discrimination laws referencing “sexual orientation” plus “legal gay marriage” would not allow the Church to follow its moral precepts, it was claimed.

Romney erroneously blamed the Church’s predicament on non-existent law and could have rescinded the administrative regulations that would not let Catholic Charities deny placement of children with homosexual couples. Romney also failed to point out that religious freedom was already protected in both the state and federal constitutions. The Archdiocese could have fought this in court but did not — perhaps out of fear of losing major donors with liberal views (who were well represented on Catholic Charities’ board). In the end, the homosexual activists and their allies got their way, and it was another public whipping for the Catholic Church — all of which Romney could have prevented.

According to C. J. Doyle, head of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts:

The opponents of religious freedom never start by assaulting the right to worship, frontally, to assault the right to worship on Sunday morning. They start by trying to marginalize the charitable, restrict the charitable and the educational and the social service activities of churches, and try to narrow the parameters of religious liberty. This is what we’re seeing here in Massachusetts

Apparently, though, Romney didn’t think that the restriction of Catholic charities and the violation of religious freedom that it represented was worth getting involved over.

Romney’s response to all of this? I’m consistent on gay marriage “since running for office”. But with the increasing number of cases of the gay movement and government bullying people to not simply tolerate, but embrace, the homosexual lifestyle at the expense of their freedom of conscience Romney cannot simply stand by and do nothing as he has in the past.

Conclusion

 Mitt Romney continues his poor performance upholding the culture of life in this second part, remaining largely silent on the issue of euthanasia and opposing it only in the case of significant political pressure; he is uncommitted on the issue of abortion, frequently undermining the cause for life and favoring abortion in special cases; he also continued to expand funding and availability of the morning-after-pill after his pro-life conversion, even forcing Catholic hospitals to provide the abortifacient against their consciences; finally, while Romney opposes the re-definition of marriage he does not consider the issue worth sticking his neck out over even when religious liberties are on the line.

To compare and contrast Romney with Obama on all eight issues, on the death penalty, torture and on euthanasia I rate him just as bad as Obama while on the issue of assassination, gay marriage, contraception and abortion I rate him only slightly better. On the issue of unjust war Romney has made it clear that he endorses a foreign policy even more aggressive than Obama’s own and therefore actually rates worse than Obama.

Ultimately, Mitt Romney’s agenda has been on the side of the culture of death on every single issue at one point or another in his political career and he has yet to make an unqualified switch to the culture of life on even one of these issues. Therefore, overall I rate a Romney presidency practically as destructive as Obama’s regarding life-issues. Its incredibly sad that the Susan B. Anthony List and other pro-life groups have endorsed Romney and promised millions to his campaign despite his extensive record of cooperating with the culture of death and his refusal to sign the Susan B. Anthony List’s pledge promising to defend life and promote the pro-life cause. With the percentage of pro-life Americans at an historic high, with 23% of Americans opposing abortion under all circumstances and 51% self-identifying as pro-life, there is absolutely no reason why such a massive demographic should settle for a presidential candidate predominantly in cooperation with the culture of death over one that almost categorically does. Whether Romney or Obama secures power in November, the life movement loses. But by simply voting our consciences and holding out for true pro-life candidates, while we may lose the battle, we will be in a better position for the future to win this war.

Does Romney Live Up to the Culture of Life? Part 1


Obama and Romney are nearly identical on most issues but the one exception may be on life-issues and the Catholic church. Obama has proven himself to be the most pro-abortion President in our country’s history and has opposed the Catholic church at every turn. How does Romney, on the other hand, live up to the Culture of Life?

Unjust War

Iraq

The Vatican strongly opposed the Iraq war as it represented a direct violation of just war doctrine . However, Romney supported the invasion and the troop surge. Per The New York Times, moderator Tim Russert asked Romney during a 2008 presidential debate if the Iraq war was “a good idea worth the cost in blood and treasure we have spent.” Romney answered, “It was the right decision to go into Iraq. I supported it at the time; I support it now.” As New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait explains, Romney’s debate answer came at a time when it was already clear that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction.

Now, with no new information available, Romney states that in hindsight he would not have invaded Iraq knowing that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Romney’s latest comments come only a few days after the U.S. marked the end of the nearly nine year conflict. The Republican contender has not been shy in his criticism of President Obama’s handling of the troop withdrawal. This past Sunday, BBC News reported that Romney said, “I think we’re going to find that this president, by not putting in place a status-of-forces agreement with the Iraqi leadership, has pulled our troops out in a precipitous way and we should have left 10-, 20-, 30,000 personnel there to help transition to the Iraqis’ own military capabilities.”

The pro-life movement is well aware of the horrors of abortion but most are not aware of the staggering cost of this unnecessary and unjust war. Opinion Business Research, estimated that the death toll of Iraqi citizens between March 2003 and August 2007 was 1,033,000. Furthermore, over 4 million people were displaced in one of the largest refugee crises in history and over 140,000 new cancer cases have been reported (depleted uranium being the suspected cause). Finally, the Iraq war has resulted in 4,484 American military casualties and 33,186 wounded. Additionally, the economic hardships and continued adverse health effects inflicted upon the Iraqi populace can be expected to continue for decades to come.

So, Romney was for the Iraq war that violated Christian just war doctrine, even after it became clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction, and he was in favor of continued occupation of up to 30,000 personnel 9 years after the initial invasion. When he did finally change his position it was after the war ended and not based on the grounds that the war was immoral but because there were no weapons of mass destruction – an irrelevant point regarding the war’s legitimacy as far as Christian just war doctrine is concerned.

Afghanistan

Romney is opposed to talking to the Taliban despite the fact that the Afghan war began well over a decade ago. This speaks of a fight first, diplomacy last mentality that is the polar opposite of what just war doctrine dictates is necessary for a war to be considered just, stating that a declaration of war or continued hostilities must always be the option of last resort, with diplomacy being the first – not the other way around. Additionally, Romney is opposed to Obama’s timetable to end military involvement in Afghanistan by 2014 despite the facts that Afghanistan wants us out even sooner, such a timetable has the support of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and NATO, and such a timetable would still leave us with a war that lasted 13 years – more than half of my entire life. Contrast that with World War II which lasted only six years, of which the United States was only involved in for four.

Iran

Romney refuses to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Iran in a preemptive strike to prevent them from developing their own nuclear arsenal. In a June 2007 New Hampshire Republican debate, Romney was asked if he agreed “that the use of tactical nuclear weapons, potentially, would be possible if that were the only way to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb?” Governor Romney responded that “You don’t take options off the table, but what you do is stand back and say, ‘What’s going on here?’ You see what’s happening in Sudan and Afghanistan, in Iraq and Iran. All over the world, we’re seeing the same thing happening, and that is people are testing the United States of America.” In 2011, Romney advocated both overt and covert means to get Iran to stop its nuclear weapons development program. He said that “Ultimately, regime change is what’s going to be necessary.” Keep in mind that preemptive nuclear strikes against Iran’s nuclear reactors would result in an estimated 3 million civilian deaths and compromise the well-being of another 71 million people. Even Obama’s own aggressive foreign policy, while still subpar, is more conservative, showing more restraint than Romney’s.

Our own intelligence agencies admit that they have zero evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons but as far as just war doctrine is concerned the point is irrelevant. The use of nuclear weapons, because of their indiscriminate destruction, are never morally permissible. Additionally, the US Catholic Bishops point out that any military action against Iran at this point would be immoral:

“In Catholic teaching, the use of force must always be a last resort. Iran’s bellicose statements, its failure to be transparent about its nuclear program and its possible acquisition of nuclear weapons are serious matters, but in themselves they do not justify military action.”

“Discussing or promoting military options at this time is unwise and may be counterproductive. Actual or threatened military strikes are likely to strengthen the regime in power in Iran and would further marginalize those in Iran who want to abide by international norms. And, as the experience in Iraq teaches, the use of force can have many unintended consequences.”

Assassination

Romney is surprisingly silent on this topic but what we do know is that he supports drone strikes in Pakistan. Obama has eagerly expanded the CIA drone campaign: the program has targeted rescuers, funerals and weddings and has killed an estimated 385 – 775 civilians – but the drone campaign has attempted to lower that number by defining all males of military age within a drone strike as “combatants” unless categorically proven otherwise post-mortem. The “kill list” is decided unilaterally by Obama-appointed assassination czar John Brennan and, ultimately, Obama himself. The legal rationale for what can only be referred to as an executive death panel is a secret memo drafted by the office of legal counsel and unavailable for the public to read. Considering that Romney supports drone strikes, supports an interventionist foreign policy more aggressive than Obama’s own, and has in no way condemned the CIA drone campaign, the appointment of an assassination czar, or Obama’s own involvement in the program it seems unlikely that Romney would do much, if anything, to dismantle the CIA drone campaign. In fact, its possible that he may simply replace Obama as the solitary man who says who lives and who dies.

Torture

Romney opposes torture but supports “enhanced interrogation” including waterboarding. The Catholic church and the culture of life are categorically opposed to the use of torture under any circumstance and, unfortunately, “enhanced interrogation” is just a euphemism for torture; such is the case with waterboarding.

Some conservative Catholics argue that because the church does not have a specific stance on a specific torture technique then it cannot be torture, and if it is not torture than it cannot constitute inhumane treatment of prisoners, and therefore if it is not inhumane treatment then it is perfectly compatible with Catholic moral teaching.

However, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” Furthermore, the exact rubric for defining torture is listed below:

The Church defines torture formally (i.e., what makes an action torture):

1. violation of human dignity in the form of
2. intentional mental and/or physical harm in order to
3. use a human person as a means (or instrument) for some producible end
4. against that person’s will.

At low intensity, waterboarding intentionally inflicts mental harm against the prisoner’s will in order to extract information or as punishment, and at even moderate intensities can be lethal. Thus, waterboarding constitutes torture and is an intrinsic evil in violation of Catholic doctrine. For anyone not convinced or who believes that waterboarding is just “splashing prisoners with water – and besides its effective and they deserve it anyway” I recommend that you read this article on waterboarding written by Malcolm W. Nance, a counter-terrorism and terrorism intelligence consultant for the U.S. government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence agencies and a 20-year veteran. Here’s an excerpt describing the same waterboarding used by the CIA and supported by Romney:

Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.

Death Penalty

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following in regards to the death penalty:

Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

As the most powerful nation on Earth with one of the most secure prison systems I believe that it is safe to say that cases in which execution is absolutely necessary are nonexistent and therefore use of the death penalty in this country cannot be justified. In 1994 Romney supported the death penalty. In 2005 Romney brought forward a death penalty bill in an attempt to bring the death penalty back to Massachusetts. When testifying, “Romney asserted that, rather than serving to put terrible criminals to death, the major benefit of the legislation would be to pressure the accused into accepting guilty pleas for life sentences, rather than risk execution. As then-District Attorney, now-Congressman Bill Keating explained, that is precisely an argument that had recently been made by the state’s top court for the possible unconstitutionality of the death penalty — that the accused, innocent and guilty alike, could be pressured to plead to anything just to avoid it. An unconcerned Romney testified optimistically that the state might end up saving money by avoiding actual trials.”

As with drone strikes and other issues like the NDAA not addressed here Romney seems more concerned with streamlining serious life-and-death issues by “avoiding actual trials” to save time and money at the expense of due process, the constitution and, most horrifying of all, innocent human lives. Mitt Romney still supports the death penalty today.

Conclusion:

Up to this point, presidential candidate Mitt Romney has failed to live up to the culture of life in his public capacity as a politician on every single issue. On the death penalty and torture I rate him just as bad as Obama while on the issue of assassination I rate him slightly better – but only for a lack of a firm stance. On the issue of unjust war Romney has made it clear that he endorses a foreign policy even more aggressive than Obama’s own and therefore actually rates worse than Obama.

There will be a second part to this article published within the next couple days which will cover euthanasia, abortion, contraception and gay marriage.

Read part 2 here

Combating the Death Mentality: More than just Abortion


The purpose of this post is to address a hypocrisy engaged in by many self-described pro-lifers. I previously wrote about the culture of life here and I highly recommend reading that post before proceeding with this one.

Pope John Paul II was the first to use the phrase the “culture of life” in a World Youth Day tour of the United States in 1993. The Pope stated that “The culture of life means respect for nature and protection of God’s work of creation. In a special way, it means respect for human life from the first moment of conception until its natural end.” He wrote extensively on the culture of life, including in his encyclical Evangelium vitae or “the Gospel of Life.”

In the minds of many, the American pro-life movement and the culture of life are synonymous and, while they do share much in common they are not one and the same. “Pro-life” in its decades long use has historically been much narrower in its definition than what is referred to by the culture of life, referring predominantly to opposition to abortion while the culture of life addresses a wide range of issues (additionally, the culture of life is more than a mere political movement but a way of life meant for all of society). Many self-described “pro-lifers,” while adamant in their defense of the unborn, are willing to compromise on, or even emphatically embrace, issues like our aggressive military interventionism abroad, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and the death penalty. However, all of these issues, and others, are contrary to the culture of life. Many liberals have been quick to point out this hypocrisy among the pro-life movement and they are absolutely right in doing so – in fact, it is the number one complaint I hear from liberals regarding the pro-life movement and one of the few legitimate ones. To support any politician or policy that would sacrifice the human dignity and lives of others in the name of combating abortion is to support a culture compromised. While we can distinguish between life-issues, they have one universal root: the real issue, which is our culture’s disregard for life. Abortion is a symptom, a devastating consequence of our twisted perception of humanity and only by defending every life-issue and having the courage to stand as an advocate for all of the weak, born and unborn, can we expect to effect change. In Evangelium vitae Blessed John Paul II affirms the need to be unconditional in our defense of human life and dignity and support a culture of life. Never did he suggest a need to fight abortion at all costs, but instead calls us to defend all life-issues:

This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”. We find ourselves not only “faced with” but necessarily “in the midst of” this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.

Additionally, to understand what the culture of life is and to recognize when pro-lifers stray from that culture  we must know what it is not. Monsignor Charles Pope. summarizes what the antithesis of the culture of life, the culture of death, looks like:

We have discussed the “culture of death” numerous times before on this blog. This description of Western Culture was used by Pope John Paul II. Fundamentally it refers to the fact that in the modern, western world, especially America death is increasingly seen as a “solution” to problems. Has a child come along at an inconvenient time? Perhaps the baby has been diagnosed with defects perhaps there is some other wrenching problem regarding the pregnancy such as the poverty of the mother. The solution? Abort the baby. Has a criminal committed heinous acts? Kill him through capital punishment. Is an elderly or sick person suffering from a reduced quality of life? Perhaps they are bedridden or experiencing the pains of the dying process. Solution? Euthanize them. Does raising children and dealing with a larger family cause hardships: economic and emotional? Do children cause stress? Simple, contracept so that they don’t exist in the first place. So you see, the death or non-existence of human beings is increasingly the “solution” to problems and this is what is meant by the “culture of death.”

Unfortunately, many conservatives cannot bring themselves to let go of the notion that the death, non-existence or suffering of certain human beings is the “solution” to their problems. Instead, they argue until they’re blue in the face that the lives of hundreds of thousands are expendable if America is threatened (they’re not), preemptive strikes are not unjust (they are), that waterboarding isn’t really torture (hint, it is) and that assassination of unarmed men via car-bombs constitutes “self-defense”. These issues are inseparable from abortion because they all stem form the same mentality: that human life is expendable, that killing and inflicting more pain and suffering is the answer to all our problems. The only way to promote a culture of life, and therefore to be truly pro-life, is not to “just focus on abortion” so as to not “divide our attention” but to stop the culture of death at its root: the mentality of death that underlies each and every one of these issues.

Many pro-lifers don’t fervently defend these immoral actions, however. Many haven’t really given it a lot of thought. But that too has its own dangers. Many pro-lifers have spent years educating themselves on abortion and passionately fighting against it but they have been intellectually lazy when it comes to other life-issues. They are sickened by their own government which, to date, has endorsed the murder of over 52 million unborn Americans but think it improbable that our government would torture or ever be the villain in a war; we’re the good guys and we don’t do that. Besides, those issues aren’t as “important” so why bother finding out? In response to the lukewarm pro-lifer (though fervent on abortion they may be) I ask one simple question: if our government is so corrupt and evil that it freely endorses the murder of defenseless, unborn children by the millions, at the will of their own mothers, and you recognize this, then is not such a government also capable of committing other heinous acts like unjust invasion and occupation of other countries, assassinations, torture and more? In fact, isn’t it probable that such atrocities are happening – right now? We already recognize other areas where our government bows to the culture of death in euthanasia and the death penalty and, while we blame the Democrats on the left for abortion and euthanasia we must also recognize the culture of death present on the right: unjust war, assassination, torture and the death penalty. The Culture of Life is not partisan; these are not Democrat issues or Republican issues, these are American issues – but even on a grander scale, these are global issues and Catholic issues and we must act and vote first as Catholics and as a part of the same Body of Christ and, only following that, as Americans.

Contraception, the USCCB and Ron Paul


I’ve witnessed a lot of confusion among the pro-life movement concerning Ron Paul’s alleged transgressions against the culture of life as well as what, exactly, the Catholic church teaches concerning contraception, specifically on contraception use in cases of rape. I’ll begin by addressing the claim that Ron Paul is compromised on life issues. Here is a post from a reader of the Daily Paul explaining why he believes that he cannot in good conscience vote for Congressman Paul:

I can no longer support Ron Paul. I’ve discovered that in his book Liberty Defined, Ron Paul advocates the morning-after pill:

“So if we are ever to have fewer abortions, society must change again. The law will not accomplish that. However, that does not mean that the states shouldn’t be allowed to write laws dealing with abortion. Very early pregnancies and victims of rape can be treated with the day after pill, which is nothing more than using birth control pills in a special manner. These very early pregnancies could never be policed, regardless. Such circumstances would be dealt with by each individual making his or her own moral choice.”

I had previously understood that Ron Paul would nullify Roe v. Wade, allowing the states to make their own laws, while using the bully pulpit to encourage them to outlaw abortion. The problem is he is using his current bully pulpit to encourage the morning after pill. I will be removing my Ron Paul bumper sticker and be sitting out the 2012 presidential election.

This statement is open to a wide range of interpretations including the one presented above and that is disturbing considering that Ron Paul is so outspoken in favor of the pro-life cause. Ron Paul speaks regularly about the culture of life, has written legislation defining personhood as beginning at conception which would effectively overturn Roe v. Wade, he favors a constitutional amendment protecting life beginning at conception and as an OB/GYN he has devoted his career to delivering thousands of babies. So, if Ron Paul really is advocating abortifacients as a legitimate alternative to abortion then this is in stark contrast to his previous words and actions and, indeed, is quite upsetting.

However, in keeping with the law of Occam’s razor and choosing an interpretation with the least number of assumptions, I would argue that Ron Paul’s above statement remains consistent with his other views. While life begins at conception, a fact Ron Paul readily recognizes, it is impossible to prove that pregnancy has occurred until implantation and therefore impossible to enforce a law banning abortions that take place prior to implantation. A law that can never be enforced is a bad law and, keeping with Ron Paul’s constitutional approach to government, should not exist. If such a law is unenforceable then, indeed, such a decision would be left to each individual’s “own moral choice” and becomes a battle that we must fight and win on the cultural level, by winning hearts and minds, and not through the coercion of law. Or, as Ron Paul but it in the supposedly damning quote above, “if we are to have fewer abortions, society must change.”

Next, I’d like to address the related issue of church teaching regarding contraception. I’m getting my information from Catholic Health Care Ethics: A Manual for Practitioners edited by Edward Furton, Peter Cataldo and Albert Moraczewski, O.P. Information on the USCCB directive in question below can be found here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resource.php?n=968.

According to the Catholic church, contraception use in conjugal love (the loving, theological reality of sexual intercourse) is always wrong. Period. The end. However, the church does allow the use of contraceptives for treating of hormonal disorders in which the intent of the use of the drug is to fix a hormonal imbalance in the body and not to interfere with the theological reality of sexual intercourse. Thus, its obvious that contraceptives such as the Pill are not intrinsically evil but instead their licitness depends on how they are used.

Additionally, there is one other exemption for when contraception use is licit and that is in the case of rape victims. This may seem odd to a great many within the pro-life movement but when one understands the underlying theological dynamics at play then the church’s exemption seems perfectly reasonable.

Catholic theology dictates that there are two realities involved in sex. There is the physical reality which is the anatomical/physiological mechanics of sexual intercourse that is pleasure, reproduction etc. and then there is the theological reality that sex is procreative and unitive. Note that the physical reality of reproduction (the mere promulgation of the species also existent in every animal on Earth) is distinct from the theological reality of procreation (where man and women cooperate with God to bring a new person into the world) and pleasure is distinct from unity. Contraception (as distinct from abortifacients) is wrong because it violates the theological realities of procreation and unity. However, rape is neither procreative nor unitive.

The USCCB, whose role it is to establish policy for the practical application of church teaching in the United States, in “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” Directive 36 provides the rubric for contraceptive use in an emergency room setting for rape victims:

“A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum”.

This includes contraceptives with a possible abortifacient effect as long as contraception and not abortion is its intent and moral certitude that ovulation has not occurred is established. Moral certitude does not necessitate a statistical probability of 100%, impossible to meet with current medical technology, but the highest degree of certainty possible with the tools available to us. Thus, if moral certitude can be established that the woman has not ovulated, thereby minimizing any risk involved that an already conceived child might be harmed, contraception may be administered in order to prevent conception resulting from rape and thus defending the women from further invasion by her attacker.

In summary, I think Ron Paul’s intent is to avoid federal intervention on an issue that cannot be feasibly policed not to endorse the morning-after-pill. Although regrettably his statements on this issue are poorly worded and therefore ambiguous and open to misinterpretation. Furthermore, contraception use in cases of rape does not violate Catholic teaching nor the integrity of the pro-life movement, granted that rigorous protocol is followed. As an experienced OB/GYN who has worked with and praised Catholic hospitals Ron Paul is most likely aware of this – perhaps further explaining his nuanced stance on life issues.

The Third Jihad


I recently watched The Third Jihad which portrays radical Islamism and the threat it poses to the rest of the world via jihad. The full feature length film can be viewed here while a 30-minute condensed version can be found here (Part 1 of 4). The film gives a strong visual to the human rights violations conducted in the name of Islam and portrays a strong sense of urgency in facing this threat. However, while I am in strong concurrence for the need to denounce and reverse the trend of human rights violations as well as the need for a strong national defense in light of this threat, The Third Jihad engages in deceitful tactics, misrepresentation and in several cases outright lies. If you want a better sense of the urgency we face in our conflict with radical jihadism then I recommend you watch this film, but take its content with a grain of salt. I kept notes on some of the most significant misrepresentations in the film which I would also recommend you read in addition to watching the film:

1.3 billion muslims, only a very small minority are radical islamists. The Third Jihad cedes this fact in preface to their production. However, only nine minutes into the movie a commentator states that “thousands of millions” of muslims believe in radical islamism and worldwide jihad. There are not even thousands of millions of muslims in the world much less that many hardliners who believe in worldwide jihad.

The Third Jihad expresses fear at the thought of “non-violent”  muslims within the United States who are further labeled “radical” despite admittance to their non-violence because they wish to spread their muslim beliefs and see sharia law established in the White House. What the movie blatantly ignores is that the United States is a democracy and if muslims want to engage in US politics through non-violent means that is their constitutional right as US citizens. US citizenship is not, and never has been, dependent on a person’s religious status – after all, freedom of religion is one of the central tenets of American democracy.

Nearly 25% of young American muslims thought suicide-bombings in defense of Islam were justified according to The Third Jihad. However, in 2002, 72% of Americans approved of the Iraq war which resulted in the killing of over 1 million Iraqis. Even today, 31% of Americans support the unjust war in Iraq – 6 percentage points more than the suicide-bombing approval rate. We cannot condemn American muslims who support terrorism without also addressing the much greater America that supports the Americanist flavor of terrorism and unjust war.

The movie’s illustration of “US homegrown terrorism” is yet another reason why we need to end our wars abroad and focus on defense domestically. To increase military spending abroad and engage in an ever more aggressive foreign policy is self-defeating.

The movie criticizes Middle East countries for making campaign contributions to US politicians. I’m against all monetary donations to politicians that aren’t form individuals but to single out and only mention Muslim states is highly specious when virtually every single American corporation does the exact same thing in order to buy-out politicians. We Should be calling out our leaders for their lack of character and try to fix our broken political system, not demonizing the Middle East for taking advantage of our own shortcomings.

As for the movie’s condemnation of Islamic activists recruiting among the discontented American prisons population, end the War on Drugs and you cut their recruiting grounds by half.

Condemning British muslims for wanting their government to reflect their values is absurd. The video cites that 81% consider themselves muslims first and British second. I consider myself Catholic first and American second and all Christians should consider their loyalty first to their faith and not their country. Both Catholicism and Islam predate British and American government, and faith in God supersedes loyalty to government. We live in a country in which our constitution recognizes that our rights are granted to us not by the government but by God and thus it is to God to whom our first loyalty should lie. Can we really blame Muslims for doing the same? These are not the radical Islamists that promote terror, these are men and women trying to be faithful to their religion and there is nothing wrong with that. To undermine their faith serves only to push them towards radicalism.

The movie’s assertion that Iran is “making every effort” to acquire nuclear weapons is unfounded. Additionally, the assertion that Iran can develop nuclear weapons in a “very short time” is only true if you believe a decade or more to be a very short time – at least two decades for an inter-continental nuclear missile – and only assuming Iran started immediately. Also, the claim that Mutually Assured Destruction does not apply to Iran is absurd. The sheer volume of nuclear weapons necessary to wipe the entire United States off the map, to say nothing of our Allies, is huge – thousands upon thousands more of the kind of nuclear devices than Iran would be capable of producing. However, while Iran would be able to take out one city in the United States in such a hypothetical situation, we could easily kill every single man, woman and child in retaliation. Additionally, Israel has its own arsenal of 300 nukes right next door to Iran and are even less hesitant to use them than we would be. We have the best protection available against any nuclear attack and this is a deterrent to every nation, regardless of ideology.

The fight against radical Islam is a cultural battle. Additional invasion and occupation of muslim countries is not the answer; in fact, this will only further unify Muslim culture against the West. Targeting Islam under the law is not the answer; again, these are tactics of oppression that will swell the ranks of our opposition. Instead, we must adhere to and promote our Christian beliefs in an attempt to overcome the culture of death that permeates radical Islam and the concept of jihad. In Evangelium vitae, Blessed John Paul II had this to say about the culture of death:

In fact, while the climate of widespread moral uncertainty can in some way be explained by the multiplicity and gravity of today’s social problems, and these can sometimes mitigate the subjective responsibility of individuals, it is no less true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable “culture of death”. This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. Looking at the situation from this point of view, it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favoured tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of “conspiracy against life” is unleashed. This conspiracy involves not only individuals in their personal, family or group relationships, but goes far beyond, to the point of damaging and distorting, at the international level, relations between peoples and States.

But Blessed John Paul II also offers a solution:

This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”. We find ourselves not only “faced with” but necessarily “in the midst of” this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.

For us too Moses’ invitation rings out loud and clear: “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. … I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (Dt 30:15, 19). This invitation is very appropriate for us who are called day by day to the duty of choosing between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death”. But the call of Deuteronomy goes even deeper, for it urges us to make a choice which is properly religious and moral. It is a question of giving our own existence a basic orientation and living the law of the Lord faithfully and consistently: “If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live … therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days” (30:16,19-20).

The unconditional choice for life reaches its full religious and moral meaning when it flows from, is formed by and nourished by faith in Christ. Nothing helps us so much to face positively the conflict between death and life in which we are engaged as faith in the Son of God who became man and dwelt among men so “that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). It is a matter of faith in the Risen Lord, who has conquered death; faith in the blood of Christ “that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel” (Heb 12:24).

With the light and strength of this faith, therefore, in facing the challenges of the present situation, the Church is becoming more aware of the grace and responsibility which come to her from her Lord of proclaiming, celebrating and serving the Gospel of life.

If we are to survive radical Islam it will not be through militarism, ultranationalism or unjust targeting of muslims through the law, it will be through changing hearts and minds. By practicing true Christian charity we can impact muslim culture and rediscover the heart of Man. Thus, by affirming the esteemed value of human life and dignity through continual cultural exchange we can denounce radicalism in all its forms and together firmly establish the culture of life.

400,000 Ninjas in DC Go Unnoticed


Year five searching for counter-protesters at the March for Life . . .

. . . supplies are running low. I will have to quit soon.

In what can only be described as an ocean of people I’ve kept my eyes peeled for the elusive counter-protestors so abundant in the news regarding the March for Life. In five years I’ve never seen even one such solitary soul. However, CBS’s people-finding skills are apparently even more inadequate than my own considering that in their story on the march they somehow missed the 400,000 people protesting abortion – their entire photo gallery consists of shots of maybe a dozen counter-protestors . . .

Meanwhile, a little more investigative journalism would have revealed this:

Regardless of your views on abortion, this is a disturbing example of selective media blackout that should alarm anyone who cares about the integrity of our democratic process. Justice was never reached by keeping people ignorant.

UPDATE:

CBS caves under pressure and adds picture of pro-lifers.

The Culture of Life


Life at its most vulnerable

I’m back from Washington DC and once again I’m blown away by the March for Life. To witness hundreds of thousands of people all congregated in front of our nation’s capital in defense of the unborn. The spirit of joy and determination emanating from the protestors – especially by the uncountable youth present – moved me to reaffirm two simple truths long asserted by the church: first, that humanity is beautiful and, second, that life is precious. It is one thing to understand and intellectually accept these claims but quite another to have them resound in your heart. To see such an affirmation of the culture of life is refreshing.

However, while the witness to the culture of life made by the March for Life every year is wonderful the pro-life movement faces daily challenges. Unfortunately, not all of these challenges are exterior, either, and we must maintain the integrity of the pro-life movement. Many Americans who protest abortion and self-identify as pro-life have not been consistent in their values; these particular pro-lifers, including many of our “pro-life” politicians have taken a “fight abortion at all costs” attitude in the battle for the unborn and have thrown other, apparently accessory, life-issues like capital punishment, unjust war, and inhumane treatment of prisoners by the wayside. This has not gone unnoticed by our fellow Americans. The pro-choice movement has pointed out again and again the contradiction of calling ourselves “pro-life” and simultaneously supporting unjust wars like Iraq or needless executions and as a result many don’t take us seriously – and why should they? When people claim to be for life, but then arbitrarily choose to save unborn children but ignore the deaths of Iraqi citizens caused by a war proclaimed unjust by two popes how is that any different than saying human value is dependent upon the geographical difference of a few short inches between the womb and the outside world?

Many pro-lifers, including many Catholics, have told me that they will support a candidate who endorses torture, or unjust war or some other intrinsic evil based on the rationale that it is necessary to block Obama and defend unborn children. While Catholic moral teaching allows voters to tolerate a lesser evil in order to block a greater one is the state of our nation so dire that ending abortion is the only issue worthwhile of our defense? When, according to Catholic theology, a human life has infinite value can we really prioritize opposing one particular method of needless killing over all others? Just because we have the option to tolerate a lesser evil does not necessarily mean that we should. In Humanae vitae Bless John Paul II condemns promoting even the most admirable ends if the means are evil – no matter how grave the issue:

Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it

This message is reaffirmed in Veritatis splendor:

But as part of the effort to work out such a rational morality (for this reason it is sometimes called an “autonomous morality” ) there exist false solutions, linked in particular to an inadequate understanding of the object of moral action . . . “teleologism”, as a method for discovering the moral norm, can thus be called — according to terminology and approaches imported from different currents of thought — “consequentialism” or“proportionalism”. The former claims to draw the criteria of the rightness of a given way of acting solely from a calculation of foreseeable consequences deriving from a given choice. The latter, by weighing the various values and goods being sought, focuses rather on the proportion acknowledged between the good and bad effects of that choice, with a view to the “greater good” or “lesser evil” actually possible in a particular situation.

Refugees displaced by war

The concept that we must fight abortion at all costs is erroneous. We need to ask ourselves: at what cost? At the cost of hundreds of thousands of dead in an unjust war? At the cost of countless other human rights violations? Abortion is the gravest evil our country has ever faced, but to support any politician or policy that would sacrifice the human dignity and lives of others in the name of combating abortion is to support a culture compromised. While we can distinguish between life-issues, they have one universal root: the real issue, which is our culture’s disregard for life. Abortion is a symptom, a devastating consequence of our twisted perception of humanity and only by defending every life-issue and having the courage to stand as an advocate for all of the weak, born and unborn, can we expect to effect change. In Evangelium vitae Blessed John Paul II affirms the need to be unconditional in our defense of human life and dignity and support a culture of life. Never did he suggest a need to fight abortion at all costs, but instead calls us to defend all life-issues:

This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”. We find ourselves not only “faced with” but necessarily “in the midst of” this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.

defend human life and dignity from conception to death

Only by effecting change in our culture and instilling a respect for all life and the dignity of every human person can we hope to see an end to abortion. If we continue to undermine the culture of life and treat other lives as irrelevant in the light of the supreme evil of abortion then it could easily be another 52 million lives lost before we prevail. Instead, lets stand against all injustice wherever it may be found, find solidarity with our liberal counterparts and together bring an end to all violations of human life and dignity in America.