UPDATE: My dear friend Rocco passes on a report that appeared in the San Francisco Examiner that Speaker Pelosi has accepted Archbishop Niederauer's invitation to sit down for a discussion about the issue of abortion. Of course, the archbishop addressed the speaker's publicly stated rationale for her unequivocal insistence that a woman has the right to choose an abortion, which position is in direct conflict with church teaching, in the current issue of Catholic San Franciso, the newpaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. As Archbishop Niederauer invited us in his column: "Let us pray together that the Holy Spirit will guide us all toward a more profound understanding and appreciation for human life, and toward a resolution of these differences in truth and charity and peace".
I was provoked by Fred yesterday, in a good way, to think seriously about the issue of abortion and the stance of the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Senator Joseph Biden, who is a Catholic. That last phrase is key. He is a Catholic. That is not disputable, at least not on this blog. That being stated, it is easy to be unreasonable about faith, or to not draw the conclusions necessitated by certain aspects of our Catholic faith, to translate our faith into a life, our life. It is difficult and requires our cooperation with God's grace. I daresay that precious few of us have perfected it, that is, have become perfect. I certainly have not. This is further complicated by the fact that we live in what philosopher Alaisdair MacIntyre accurately describes as an emotivist culture. This is particularly true of our political culture. Both conventions are examples of this reality. Voting, when undertaken responsibly, remains a deliberative act of reason. I misstated something in an earlier post that needs to be corrected: Sen. Biden supported the partial birth abortion ban.
If I am going to address the subject of unreasonable faith, I have a whole lot of ground to cover, especially when faith meets politics, which adds a whole new dimension of unreasonableness, which is driven by the electorate's highly emotional approach to issues. It is political supply and demand. I want to lay out some facts. The first fact is that Sen. Biden is morally opposed to abortion. He has said on numerous occasions that he accepts church teaching that life begins at conception. So, his confusion isn't even about the immorality of abortion. Like many Catholic Democratic office-holders and candidates, his stance has two main components. The first is legal and recognizes that whether you like it or not, Roe v. Wade is presently the constitutional law of the land. Faithful Citizenship confronts this reality directly:
"Sometimes morally flawed laws already exist. In this situation, the process of framing legislation to protect life is subject to prudential judgment and 'the art of the possible.' At times this process may restore justice only partially or gradually. For example, Pope John Paul II taught that when a government official who fully opposes abortion cannot succeed in completely overturning a pro-abortion law, he or she may work to improve protection for unborn human life, 'limiting the harm done by such a law' and lessening its negative impact as much as possible (Evangelium Vitae, no. 73). Such incremental improvements in the law are acceptable as steps toward the full restoration of justice. However, Catholics must never abandon the moral requirement to seek full protection for all human life from the moment of conception until natural death" (FC 32).I once again urge everyone to read Dennis O'Brien's No to Abortion: Posture, Not Policy. Short of reading a lot of big books, this article is essential reading for anyone interested in the vexing issue of abortion. The second component is a confusion, the refusal to recognize that the church's teaching is derived from reason and not from revelation. Therefore, it is not the case that we are seeking to impose our faith on others. Nonetheless, in the words of Sen. Obama, from a speech he gave in 2006, entitled One Nation . . . Under God
"Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all."Sen. Biden's former bishop, now retired, Bishop Robert Mulvee, speaking about the senator said in response to a group of Delaware Catholics who accused him of neglecting his pastoral duties by not censuring Sen. Biden: "I am personally convinced that communication, not excommunication, is the way to change minds and hearts" on abortion (Intermountain Catholic 5 Sept. 2008, pg 4). We saw another example of this pastoral approach, which itself is a prudential judgment made by a person's bishop and nobody else, in Archbishop' Niederauer's response to Speaker Pelosi's recent public remarks on abortion.
It is important to note that Sen Biden has supported a number of measures, including the partial birth abortion ban and even opposing federal funding for abortions, that limit and restrict abortions. Again, it is not the case that an expansion of the availability of abortion is being sought. By all indications, Joseph Biden seems to live his faith, even if he does not always translate it effectively into public policy. By all accounts, he is a solid father and a faithful, caring husband. For several years he raised three children by himself after the car wreck that claimed his wife's life and that of one of his daughters. He is one of the few senators who have been in the Senate long enough (i.e., before the harsh, partisan divisiveness that started in 1994) to have deep personal friendships with members across the isle. He and John McCain are very good personal friends and have been for years. I think this is among the reasons he was chosen by Sen Obama. I also believe this is why the Dem Convention struck such a respectful tone toward Sen McCain, which was not reciprocated at all by the Republicans, who were pretty nasty toward Sen Obama, not Sen McCain personally, but certainly by the other keynote speakers, which prompted yesterday's Jon Stewart fest here on Καθολικός διάκονος.
On the subject of unreasonable faith, Gov Palin, while solid on abortion, is on record as believing that the war in Iraq is God's will.