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Nice commentary, Mac. I usually say that I am against abortion, but anti-abortion clicks off the tongue a little easier.

I am also anti-gun, which is another pro-life stance IMO. With now once again the biggest and best ever mass shooting just behind us I also feel anti-USA, or pro-other countries. If it was easy to move to Canada and check out of this place forever, I would do so.

But that is all distraction, sorry. I also enjoyed all of your quotes from Cardinal Sarah, I may have to look into that book.

Thanks. Gun control is a perfect instance of the problem with "pro-life." Whatever one thinks about it, it's a totally different set of moral and political questions from abortion.

I agree with Matthew Schmitz' and Kevin Williamson's pieces. Bratten Weiss' view is very common among our graduate students and the young Catholic intelligentsia. It seems to me to be typical of the kind of opinion young intellectuals hold between the age of 17 and 35 - very smart and very impractical.

Yeah. I agree with them that we should apply Catholic social teaching consistently. But not that you have to embrace their specific positions on twenty different issues to be "truly pro-life."

The funniest reductio of the "if you were truly pro-life.." thing is one I think I quoted here once before: "If you were truly pro-life you'd use low-flow showerheads."

The word “abortion” itself remains a powerful one. Isn’t that mostly why those in favor of it prefer to be called “pro-choice”?

Oh, definitely. The letters in NARAL now officially do not refer to specific words. Especially that first A. :-/

I think they are confused between ethical positions and political positions. Ethically, this is a connection between say not giving a hoot about the mistreatment of animals in industrialized farming and not giving a hoot unborn babies. Actually, even put like that, it sounds a bit of a stretch. But I'm actuall willing to say I support a 'consistent anti-exploitative pro-life ethic' or a 'whole life ethic' or most anything they want to call it.

But I don't buy into 'consistent whole life politics'. Because what you have to get together to do to outlaw or minimimize cruelty to animals in industrialized farming is not the same thing as what you have to do to outlaw or diminish abortion on demand. These are different policies with different stratetical games to be played to achieve them.

I was sorry when David Mills was fired from First Things, but when I look at the kind of guff he wrote in the article cited, I figure either they were right to fire him or it had a really bad effect on his ability to reason.

:-) I don't think it was guff but I didn't especially agree with it, either. Well, maybe roughly half. I can sort of see how he might not have fit in at FT.

I was glad to hear him point this out: " a major reason for the ideological imbalance is the Democratic Party’s complete—fanatical—commitment to abortion". Anti-abortion people had nowhere else to go. Ten years ago I said that for Christians (not just abortion opponents) the difference between Democrat and Republican is the difference between an enemy and an unreliable ally. It's even more true now.

I suspect he is overly optimistic about the appeal of this whole-life movement. People have been predicting or arguing for this amalgam of anti-abortion and more-or-less-Democratic-party principles for over thirty years and it never seems to get any closer. Even if you grant for argument's sake that they're right about everything in their package deal, we're probably going to remain stuck with a two-party system, and both parties are going to find major parts of that package unacceptable.

And therefore their influence is likely to be pretty limited.

Somebody who's been there, done that:


One person commented shrewdly that the 'whole life' pro-lifers don't realize that their entire movement exists on the internet :) Its a nod and wink between Catholics online

Yes, that made me laugh.

The American Solidarity Party is trying to make something of that sort a functioning political party. I actually voted for them in the presidential election, because I could afford to make a statement vote (i.e. the outcome was already known). Perhaps in time something may come of it but for now it's probably more or less what you describe.

Peter Wolfgang's experience is similar to mine. I've moved to a more conservative position, but still have some issues that I'd be considered "liberal" on: immigration, capital punishment, gun-control. I also believe in universal access to healthcare--and I believe that our current system is broken, both before and after Obamacare.

Oh, and I believe in public transportation.

I very much believe in universal access to healthcare. I'd go so far as to say that Catholics are obliged to support it. The question is how to do it. For reasons I've stated more than once, I don't think "single payer" (I'm always suspicious of euphemisms) is a good idea for this country.

I'd describe our current system as not so much broken as insane. It works reasonably well for most people.

It's probably 25 years ago, at least 20, that I heard a discussion of health care on the radio (NPR probably) in which somebody who was somehow involved in it (on the business side, not as a doctor) said "You have to be an idiot not to make money in this business." Given that we can probably take "money" to mean "a lot of money", that struck me as indicative of something very wrong.

I think it's fair to call it guff because David Mills is an older person and has enough experience to know better. Its barely possible for a young person with no experience to grasp that ethics and politics are not simply identical. Young people are idealistic for many reasons, and one of them is simply lack of experience. Their idealism is great, and sends them out onto their journeys in life with energy that goes way beyond what they will ever be able to achieve. As they go through life people learn to temper their energy to the achievability of their projects. They learn that the right thing is not necessarily the achievable thing.

No matter how annoying they can be, it may simply be descriptively wrong to call these young folk self righteous or pharisaiacal. But if the attitudes stucks into late adulthood, then yes, they are self-righteous people talking guff.

The 'on the one hand the Democratics stink but on the other hand I am going to embroider my pro-life stance with a string of other stances and demand that they all be achieved at once or not at all' position that he outlines in that article is a very empty rhetorical ploy.

In other words, what would not be puerile guff coming from a grad student is puerile guff coming from an older man

I agree with what you say as a general point, but Mills's piece doesn't seem such a bad instance to me. I guess you're right that there's a naivete in it, at least as regards its connection to actual politics. In that respect it reminds me of the distributist types who approach the whole subject of politics by comparing the actual world to an abstract set of perfect principles, which makes their criticisms perfectly coherent but mostly irrelevant.

Re-reading it, this struck me: "The whole-life movement points them to sources—particularly, for Christians, Catholic Social Teaching—that give a more comprehensive understanding of human life and the common good than the Republican or Democratic parties can give them."

This is the thing I was talking about a week or two ago: does it really need to be said? Does anybody really look to either of the parties for "a comprehensive understanding of human life and the common good"?! Well, maybe they do, and if so they do need to have that knocked out of them.

I just read a Facebook post from the American Solidarity Party asserting that "gun violence is a pro-life issue." Well, yeah, but....

It sure is.

From what I've been able to observe, there is no way to rationally discuss the relationship between pro gun control and anti abortion positions. If we bring it up we are asking for it.

I was going to say "QED" to Stu's comment.

I'm not sure precisely what you mean, Robert, but I would say something similar, and mean that it's usually impossible to get the obvious distinctions across.

Any topic which instantly enrages someone is then of course a waste of time, and you might as well quickly change to another. I know this just from myself as an example of becoming enraged. But I am older and a tad mellower these days.

What I mean by QED is the way the term "pro-life" lends itself to throwing very different issues into the same basket. Not that they aren't both valid, but they're very different questions, ethical and political.

"But if the attitudes sticks into late adulthood, then yes, they are self-righteous people talking guff."

I think that a lot of these folks lean left economically and politically, and that sort of leftism has a measure of idealism baked in. While it's not exactly the same as the idealism of the younger "social justice" types, it does sometimes lend itself to a similar sanctimoniousness or superiority, albeit one that is perhaps a bit less strident. Which doesn't necessarily make it any less annoying.

As a former youthful idealist, I've long been skeptical that "idealism" is the right word to describe the syndrome. Sometimes it is, I guess, especially in young women. But it very often contains that "sanctimoniousness or superiority" from the get-go. Sort of a "how dare the world not meet my standards" attitude.

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