Month: August 2004

John Courtney Murray and the ‘Liberal Catholic’ Justification of Abortion

John Courtney Murray was America’s leading Catholic theoligian during Vatican II, and as a peritus [theological advisor] at the council was a great influence on the document “Declaration on Religious Freedom” (Dignitate Humanae).

Murray was also well known for his book We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition, in which he meditated on the compatability of Catholic doctrine with the thought of America’s Founding Fathers, particularly with respect to the First Amendment.

In the discussion of the relationship between church and state, he made the Thomistic observation that there existed a necessary distinction between morality and civil law; that the latter is limited in its capacity in cultivating moral character through criminal prohibitions, and that it “it is not the function of civil law to prescribe everything that is morally right and to forbid everything that is morally wrong.” As we shall see, he was influential in bringing this line of thought to bear on the issue of contraception.

It comes as no suprise, then, that the thought of John Courtney Murray has recently been marshalled by numerous liberal Catholics to justify a “pro-choice” stance in the current debate over abortion.

Consequently, in spite of the fact that I have little knowledge of Murray beyond my reading of We Hold These Truths or of Catholic political philosophy in general, I would like (with no small amount of trepidation) to present my findings on Murray’s thought on contraception and the contemporary Catholic use of John Courtney Murray by “pro-choice Catholics” to support a liberal view of abortion and civil law. . . . READ MORE


“Philosophy On The Rocks” — William Luse blogs his reaction to National Catholic Reporter‘s hatchet job on Deal Hudson and related issues worth pondering.

Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics

. . . Conscience is like an alarm. It warns you when you are about to do something wrong. It does not itself determine what is right or wrong. For your conscience to work properly, it must be properly informed-that is, you must inform yourself about what is right and what is wrong. Only then will your conscience be a trusted guide.

Unfortunately, today many Catholics have not formed their consciences adequately regarding key moral issues. The result is that their consciences do not “sound off” at appropriate times, including on election day.

A well-formed conscience never will contradict Catholic moral teaching. For that reason, if you are unsure where your conscience is leading you when at the ballot box, place your trust in the unwavering moral teachings of the Church. (The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an excellent source of authentic moral teaching.)

From The Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics, by Catholic Answers.

Read it here. Order a FREE PRINT COPY here.

Republicans: What are they thinking?

Mark Shea has referred to the Republican Party as “the Stupid Party” (as compared to the Democrats, who constitute “The Evil Party”), and I have to agree, certain members of the GOP are capable of saying or doing some pretty ridiculous things. Case in point: Earl E. Appleby targets Vice President Cheney’s complete abandonment of moral principle in a move that undercut the position of President Bush.

I would cite as another example President Bush’s refusal to stand up for the right of the Swift Boat Veterans to voice their discontent with John Kerry — their right to do so eloquently made by Michael Novak in a recent editorial for the National Review.

Likewise, much as I appreciate Alan Keyes for his ability to foster substantial intellectual discussion in politics and bring traditional Catholic morality to the table — as noted by my brother, Jamie — his recent support of reparations for slavery (a 180o turnaround) strikes me as disingenuous pandering.

Coupled with the GOP’s efforts to remake their image and “broaden the tent” by granting prime-time addresses to pro-choice RINO’s Sen. John McCain, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger during the convention has prompted me to wonder whether the Democratic Underground isn’t spiking the water cooler at RNC headquarters.

Lest we forget . . .

On August 31st the Florida State Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of Terri’s Law, which the State Legislature passed in emergency session in October 2003, preventing the execution-by-starvation of Terri Schindler-Schiavo.

Fr. Rob Johansen explains what we can do for Terri. (One word: PRAY!)

Meanwhile, reports on a similar euthanasia case in West Monroe, Louisiana:

An 89 year-old woman who suffered a debilitating stroke is being denied life-sustaining food and water by her family and doctors — a court said it was okay because Doris Smith signed a living will. The daughter of the woman argues, however, that her mother never intended to be starved to death when she signed the legal document before her stroke.

Nurses at the nursing home stopped administering food and water to Mrs. Smith Monday, following the instruction of two other children, despite the efforts of attorney Jack Wright. The Louisiana Supreme Court refused to hear Smith’s daughter, Oris Pettis’, appeal. “We’re at the end,” Wright told the Associated Press.

“Most people have no idea that when it states in a Living Will/Power of Attorney that no further medical treatment will be provided in certain circumstances that it means they will also be denied food and fluids,” according to Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. “The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is called regularly by people who have no intention of granting their doctor or family members the right to dehydrate and starve them to death and yet have a Living Will/Power of Attorney document that would do just that.

Related Links:

“There is no darkness in her, although, sadly, the sins of her members veil her beauty to the eyes of the world, bring upon her reproach and insult, and make her suffer before God. If she asks for pardon it is because she recognizes as her own before God and men those who commit these sins, but not the sins themselves, which they commit only in swerving from her.”

Père J. H. Nicolas, quoted in Maritain’s Peasant of the Garonne.