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US Catholic Bishops and Abortion

US Catholic Bishops and Abortion

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Published by John Sobert Sylvest
US Catholic bishops, Charles Curran, abortion law , Peter Kreeft, Archbishop Chaput, essentialism, nominalism, evolutionary epistemology, fallibilism, pragmatism, semiotic realism, Carol Tauer, probablism, moral status of the early embryo, pro-choice, pro-life, Catholic moral tradition, magisterium, POTUS, SCOTUS, epistemic warrant, normative justification, evaluative eco-rationality, interpretive impetus, methodologically-autonomous, holonic-like concepts, axiologically-integral
US Catholic bishops, Charles Curran, abortion law , Peter Kreeft, Archbishop Chaput, essentialism, nominalism, evolutionary epistemology, fallibilism, pragmatism, semiotic realism, Carol Tauer, probablism, moral status of the early embryo, pro-choice, pro-life, Catholic moral tradition, magisterium, POTUS, SCOTUS, epistemic warrant, normative justification, evaluative eco-rationality, interpretive impetus, methodologically-autonomous, holonic-like concepts, axiologically-integral

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Published by: John Sobert Sylvest on Aug 04, 2012
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US Catholic bishops and abortion
quote:Originally posted by Phil:My concern here has more to do with understanding what the bishopsare saying in their document on politics and conscience formation thanon the morality of abortion itself. The bishops' teachings are very clearabout that; they believe it to be gravely evil and they can never acceptas legitimate a Catholic being pro-choice.Voting for a pro-choice political candidate is another matter, however; itdoesn't necessarily imply that one is pro-choice, nor that one agreeswith the candidate's position on abortion rights. I realize that this is amuch more nuanced statement than some of the teachings that havebeen given on this matter.I think you represented what the bishops have said succinctly and fairly. Whatthey've said about all of this has evolved over the past four decades or so. Fora chronology of this evolution, seeUS Catholic bishops and abortion legislation:A critique from within the church by Charles Curran. You may rememberCharlie, who was
scheduled 
as a guest lecturer when we were at LSU in the70's. Curran sets out the bishops' position statements fairly, I think, and thenwell demonstrates how their latest iterations are in error, setting out to provethe thesis that the bishops have claimed too much certitude for their positionon abortion law based on four separate arguments: 1) the speculative doubtabout when human life begins; 2) the fact that possibility and feasibility arenecessary aspects involved in discussions about abortion law; 3) theunderstanding and role of civil law; and 4) the weakness of the intrinsic evilargument.One of the most articulate and, in my view, enjoyable authors on so very manythings both Catholic and philosophical is Peter Kreeft. I think he best sets forththe philosophical undergirding for most of the bishops' (like ArchbishopChaput's) moral and legal stances on abortion:Human Personhood Begins atConception. Kreeft's arguments turn on his philosophical defense of essentialism using nominalism as a foil. It is beyond the scope of this thread,but my (devastating!) critique of Kreeft, is that the essentialism-nominalismdichotomy is false because human evolutionary epistemology is moreconsistent with a fallibilist, pragmatic, semiotic realism. Carol Tauerdemonstrates how the Magisterium has been inconsistent in her article THE TRADITION OF PROBABILISM AND THE MORAL STATUS OF THE EARLY EMBRYO.In summary, you are correct, in my view, that the bishops consider a pro-choice stance illegitimate. There are pro-choice stances (moral, legal and/orpolitical)that would not be inconsistent with the Catholic moral tradition perCurran and Tauer, whose arguments I find far more compelling than Kreeft'sand those who employ his philosophical grounds.
 
[johnboy snipped here]quote:Originally posted by Phil:I wonder how much the sex-abuse scandals in recent decades havecontributed to a credibility gap between the Magisterium and the laity? The scandals certainly hurt their credibility but, where the magisterium's moraldoctrines and church disciplines intersect gender, sex and life issues, thebigger problem, in my view, has not been bad form (poor pedagogy, credibilitygaps, etc) or an unreceptive audience (non-docile spirits, non-deferential laity,intractable disobedience) but bad substance (flawed logic, erroneouspresuppositions, flawed metaphysics, poor epistemology). A greater problemmight be how this authoritative lapse could then scandalize the faithful who'dthen question essential dogma and faith practices. There is much room forhope, though, really no room for despair, because the very methodologies thatcould improve the magisterium's gender, sex and life deliberations (re:doctrines and disciplines) are already established, time-honored and well-respected worldwide, both within and without the church: the church's socialteachings, which are par excellence.REGARDING HUMAN CONCEPTSEmotions, maternal instincts, paternal feelings, evaluative dispositions, visceralreactions and other such moral sensibilities, all play important pre-rational andnonrational roles which combine with our rational and supra-rationalpropositions to inform our human moral calculus. So, more holistic appealssound right-headed. The propositional aspects, themselves, present manyangles, too. The human moral subject is more complex than many treatments of this topicseem to recognize. The way most people actually behave and poll, and the waymost legislatures codify abortion-related issues, suggest a more complex moralobject, too. Abortion, even for those who agree regarding its moral status, isthus a much more complex legal and political reality than can be captured bysuch facile labels as pro-life and pro-choice.Among Catholics, the American gap between magisterial teaching and layassent & behaviors is not unique, comparable even to the gap in other Catholiccountries where abortion has been criminalized, quite begging the issue of theefficacy and jurisprudence of legislative strategies and political remedies.Most people seem to invest a greater moral status to the human embryo-fetusas gestation advances and moral, legal and political consensuses thus seem tobuild, too. Because authoritative metaphysical pronouncements have not beenand are not likely to be made regarding human personhood, ontologically,
 
moral determinations will not easily flow, deontologically, in a universallycompelling manner. The weight of nonrational appeals also seems to increaseas gestation advances, militating against merely essentialistic, deontologicalarguments regarding the moral significance, for example, of blastocysts andearlier embryos.Returning to the political crux of the opening post, the complexity of this moralreality should at least construe against facile indictments of others' moralcharacter based only on their legal and political stances regarding abortion,even their moral stance, especially if conscientiously nuanced. The questionthen would turn on what relevant practical outcomes might be pursued andsuccessfully so. We would then be in the realm of prudential judgment, now, forexample, such as questioning how prescient a POTUS has ever been regardingthe future judicial practices of SCOTUS appointees or whether turning thingsover to the states would make a difference here vs there. Or asking whethermaybe increasing access to contraception might advance the cause. Orwhether the probability of neoconservative misadventures at war are far morelikely with one candidate than a change in other life issues might be foranother, for example, such as with abortion issues, which have been in politicallimbo for decades. I won't relitigate these matters here in 2012 as I contributed6 pages worth of posts in 2008 that I could only improve on through silence.Huma concepts are loaded, fraught - with implicit meanings. The practical, aesthetical, relational, existential, evaluative, imaginative,participative, abductive and other informal and/or nonpropositionalhorizons of concern are integrally related to the human value-realizations that we also pursue empirically, inductively, logically,deductively, normatively, formally and/or propositionally. Additionally, the concepts that humans employ in reference to ourmanifold and multiform value-realizations across these different horizonsreflect varying degrees of epistemic warrant and normative justificationin terms of their negotiability status within and across different cohortsof inquiry - semiotic (non-negotiable), theoretic (negotiated), heuristic(in-negotiation) and dogmatic (non-negotiated). A concept's negotiation status depends on a variety of factors, such aswhich root metaphor one employs for one's metaphysic, e.g. substance,process, etc and which approach one takes toward metaphysicalnecessity e.g. essentialist, nominalist, pragmatist, etc and whether onesubscribes to an idealist or realist approach to epistemology and/orontology. In other words, without a basic philosophical agreement re:epistemology and ontology, there's little chance for successfulnegotiation and consensus re: a concept's status, such that it could be

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