Take the tube

Re-reading, I have been struck by the quality of discussion in the Phoenix mother and baby case: A distressing decision. At the time of my writing this, the majority of you lean to the hospital’s side. But there are contributors who are concerned about precedent, or about how our opponents might use such a decision against us. And one contributor notes that there have been a number of issues in which the hospital appears to have ignored Catholic teaching. But I wonder whether anyone will be willing to give a full blooded defence of settled Catholic teaching here.

It would seem that we are inclined to regard sufficient motive as an excuse for a chosen act. Orthodox moral teaching maintains that if the act is wicked in itself no motive whatsoever can justify it.

To test this further I want to propose a problem which looks again at the question of the ectopic pregnancy which I have already mentioned. On July 9 2009 I was writing about the proportionalist approach to moral decisions. I quote a couple of my paragraphs:

“And a human act can only be judged as a whole: that is, taking into account circumstances and intentions. Thus we subscribe to the principle that abortion is gravely wrong. But we accept that, in the case of a pregnancy which develops in a fallopian tube, it is legitimate to remove the diseased tube although that leads immediately to the death of the baby as a regrettable, but proportionate, side effect.

This principle of “double effect” is well established. But it would not cover the circumstances where it is medically possible to remove the baby from the tube, leaving the woman with an intact tube – in some cases her only one. Again the baby dies. We correctly class this as abortion, but is it justifiable when the baby is destined to die in either case and the alternative procedure preserves the mother’s fertility? I leave you to think about that.”

While this is similar in some ways to the Phoenix case, an important difference remains: the mother’s life is not in question here. The complexity lies in the two ways of dealing with the problem. One requires the direct killing of the baby to preserve the mother’s fertility (I noted the possibility that she might have only one fallopian tube): the other not only kills the baby indirectly but endangers or removes fertility.

I think this realistic dilemma brings out strongly the contrast between what appears to be commonsense and the requirements of Catholic orthodoxy. Would this set a precedent, and what would it do to the Catholic position of abortion where the medical interests of the mother are pressing?

Now, how about Captain Oates?

(If you want to see the quoted passage above in context, the easiest way is to put Morals in proportion into the search box.)

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Moral judgment, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

81 Responses to Take the tube

  1. Whether killing is intrinsically wicked, even as the only means of averting a double tragedy, is the nub of the Phoenix dilemma, and denying it appears logically sustainable. Merely preserving the mother’s fertility would be a lot harder to defend; whatever the eventual judgement on it, in the present state of the issue it might not be worth the contention that it would arouse.

    • st.joseph says:

      It is never acceptable to sacrifice a life to save a womens fertility.IVF is not acceptabe when so many foetus are destroyed to have a baby.

    • st.joseph says:

      Quentin I have been reading a piece on Catholic Moral Teaching on Family and Moral Ethics .

      Ectopic pregnancies is the name given to those pregnancies which occur outside the womb,usually in the fallopian tube,although in exceptional cases in the ovary.Due to a malformation of the tubes, or disease,the foetus becomes lodged in them,threatening sooner or later to rupture and to cause a greater or lesser degree of bleeding with consequent danger both for the mother and child.
      If a laparoscopy shows that there is little bleeding and the ectopic is not above a certain size the pregnancy is allowed to continue and the foetus may take up a secondary position,either in the womb or in the abdomen.
      The child may die at term,but equally a caesarian section may be possible.
      The ectopic foetus has the same right to life as a uterine foetus and so every effort must be made to save it,such as an operation to transfer it to the uterus
      if there is a reasonable chance of success.
      Once the mothers life is is directly and gravely threatened, then the normal medical procedure of excising the tubes,with the consequent loss of the foetus is licit providing it is done according to the principles of double effect.Hence the whole process must be directed to curing the illness of the mother once she is in actual danger of death..If the foetus has not died already it will be an indirect undesired abortion.
      The temptation in extra -uterine pregnancy is impatience,that is to act before the danger of the mother becomes grave,thus carrying out a preventative direct abortion.When the foetus is at the point of achieving viability the intervention must be delayed as much as possible even at the risk of life,because there must be a proportion between the good sought and the evil done.
      It may occur that a women while pregnant has an illness,such as cancer,which is life threatening and can only be cured by operating on the womb.Such an operation if essential to save the mother can be carried out on thee principle of double effect as long as the four conditions are met.One must,of course desire the mothers cure and in no way the death of the baby which is then indirect. The direct killing of the baby because the mother has some other bodily illness unconnected with the womb such as kidney disease, AIDS hyper-tension ,diabetes etc is never licit
      Quentin I think you made this quite clear in your post, but reading the comments on other blogs, I seem to get the impression that the conditions were not met.We dont know the truth,unless the hospital can say the real medical conditions and how far away the mothers death was.
      One mention on a blog was that her condition could have been treated,but would have been expensive.
      I dont believe that the Bishop would have used this as an excuse to exercise his right to remove the Catholic name from the hospital without having more info than what we have.
      The case of ectopic pregnancy and saving a womans fertilty is not a question when it favours the death of a baby or future pregnancies.
      Sorry this is so long and it has probably been said all before, but can not be emphasised too much.

  2. claret says:

    Orthodox moral teaching maintains that if the act is wicked in itself no motive whatsoever can justify it.
    What then of a prostitute engaging in illicit sex but wearing a condom to protect a ‘client’ from contracting a sexual disease ?

    • st.joseph says:

      Claret, I think a prostitute would already be on the oral contraceptive pill
      So therefore the use of a condom would be irelivant.

    • Mike says:

      I don’t see the dilemma here. Wearing a condom does not justify the act of prostitution. As for the rest, I think Pope Benedict XVI has already covers the issue. Wearing it solely for the purpose of protecting a ‘client’ is a step in the direction of recognizing that some actions are morally wrong.

  3. Mr Rubio says:

    I have found what I regard as a much higher quality of discussion on this matter (‘A Distressing Decision’) here (scroll down to the comments).

    • st.joseph says:

      Thank you Mr Rubio for that web site,it is definitely ‘high voltage’ and quite inspiring at times.
      One can draw their own conclusions as to what side of the fence their on.
      I can see more clearly now the Bishops decision. Obviousley it would put a slightly diffirent slant on it if we had the truth from the hospital report on the womens health and her danger of death, no facts were allowed to be shown.
      What I hear of the Hospital they had 7 or so years of not keeping to Church teaching, so the Bishop was correct to remove the name Catholic.We have too many Bishops who turn their back and dont want to face up to Truth on Humanae Vitae
      As for the excommunication as I said in earlier comments he had a right to make this public but that does not exclude the Sister from attending Mass,she is still a catholic and receive the Sacrament of Penance,therefore she will be able to renew her reception to the Blessed Sacrament. The Church has an obligation to make this public in both cases to prevent scandal.
      We all have to face The Lord in the end.

      • st.joseph says:

        I wonder if a priest was called to Baptize the baby,I didn’t see any reference, unless I missed it!

      • Mr Rubio says:

        Thank you St Joseph. I share your understanding of the truth here. One of the interesting features of the discussion is how little attention has been given to the Bishop’s authority to declare the Church’s teaching & the manner in which, according to all the sources of information including documents, video & radio broadcasts, he did so. I have personally drawn much from his patient & humane example in trying to bring those involved to a clearer understanding & by the sincerity of his statement (in the video) of having his identity in Jesus Christ rather than in the comments, positive or negative, in the blogosphere. The teaching in Humanae Vitae is clearly still proving difficult for many in the Church to assimilate.

  4. RMBlaber says:

    Do I dare to correct ‘st joseph’ on a matter of fact once again? The fact that the hypothetical prostitute might be taking an oral contraceptive is neither here nor there. She (st joseph ignores male prostitutes) is merely protecting herself against an unwanted pregnancy thereby. The point of deploying barrier methods of contraception, here, is to protect against sexually transmitted infection. It is precisely this purpose which renders the use of condoms (male or female) permissible, according to Pope Benedict XVI’s recent declaration.

    Killing – meaning the killing of one human being by another – might be ‘intrinsically wicked’; however, there are numerous occasions and situations when it is not only permitted, but actively encouraged, as in wartime*. Is the policeman who kills a terrorist in order to prevent the terrorist from detonating a bomb that would have killed hundreds of people guilty of ‘an intrinsically wicked act’? If so, is that not merely a recognition that there are occasions when we are confronted by a choice, not between good and evil, but between evils, and must choose the lesser of them?

    Clearly, then, to say that ‘killing’ is ‘never’ justified is false. There are times when killing is justified. In the Phoenix baby case, as I understand it, it was not the fertility, but the life of the mother that was at stake, and the life of the foetus could not have been saved even if the mother’s life had been sacrificed. If this understanding is incorrect, then a different judgement may be necessary, but the principle is established.

    *As far as wartime is concerned, St Thomas Aquinas laid down the principles of the just war: that the end (i.e., the purpose or objective of the war) should be a just one, and the means to achieve that end should be just and proportionate. He would not have approved of carpet bombing of civilian populations, or the use of nuclear weapons. Further refinements to just war theory since his time have been added by the likes of Hugo Grotius. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_War.

  5. st.joseph says:

    Read me right ‘again’RMBlabber, the use of a condom as a contraceptive method is the meaning of intrinscally evil, of course one can include the union of the two which is forbidden by the church,not only as a contraceptive method.
    In the case of the condom being used as a lesser of two evils as the media said ,like you ,misinterpret a meaning that suits yourself
    If a prostitute ,I assume the Holy Father was saying a male prostitute it is not applicable as a contraceptive method-can a male become pregnant?And as I said in earlier posts in A Hole in The Dyke ,a women who would go to a male prostitute would also be on another form of contraceptive,not relying on a 25% failure of a condom-.
    Did I say anything about killing?You again are putting words into my mouth to suit yourself.
    And if you say ‘You dare to correct me on an issue of fact again-please tell me where you have done this before?
    Were you replying to Quentins post-as I was ,say so and try not to include st.joseph in the same comment.I await your reply Thank you.

  6. claret says:

    ‘Orthodox moral teaching maintains that if the act is wicked in itself no motive whatsoever can justify it.’

    I feel my attempt to be a bit mischievous ( in a ‘tongue in cheek’ way, ) may have backfired slightly.
    The quote above is a line from Quentin’s introduction to this post and it just brought to mind the recent controvesy arising from the Pope’s remarks on condoms. (Not an exact parallel to the line on orthodox moral teaching but very near to it.)
    However it seems to have diverted some of the comments away from the subject of the post.
    It may have been debated before on here but if not it would be useful to have a discussion on ‘lesser of two evils’ and ‘double effect.’
    Contributors on here may not be aware but the Bishops of England and Wales have recently appointed to a high profile position in Catholic education a former MP who had a terrible record on voting on life issues when in Parliament from a Catholic perspective. He voted for abortion and every other anti-life measure at every opportunity and when the Bishops were challenged on this appointment they issued an offical excuse to justify the appointment of saying that although he voted for abortion it was the lesser of two evils ! The ex MP is still in post in Catholic education.

    • Horace says:

      To recap on the “principle of double effect”.
      a) Two effects result from a single action – one good one bad.
      b) The action itself is good or morally neutral.
      c) The bad effect is not intended.
      d) The action is proportionate to the desired effect.
      THEN ) The action is justified.

      The real difficulty, as I see it, lies in determining (b) “the action itself is good, or morally neutral” since the morality of an action cannot be separated from the intention of the doer (Thomas Aquinas :- Now moral acts take their species according to what is intended . . II-II, 64,7).

      This would seem to me to conflict with “the act is wicked in itself”.

    • st.joseph says:

      Claret,thinking about your comment on the prostitute wearing a condom.
      Do you know if the Holy Father was speaking only on male prostitution.
      Your comment may not be so much tongue in cheek but an enlightenment.
      If a female prostitute was taking a contracptive that worked as an abortifcient,and the condom only gives 25% protection-it would not only be used as a contraceptive or to prevent the spread of aids,but it would be sharing in the guilt of an early abortion if the women became pregnant.
      Therefore you would be right in saying what you said.
      You made me think about it. Thank you.

      • st.joseph says:

        That was meant to say 75% protection.

      • st.joseph says:

        Claret I have had another thought about this and that is-If a female prostitute on the oral contraceptive pill and a male using a condom with 75% protection from aids and 75% protection from an early abortion-would that be justified.I can’t make my mind up. What would the church teach.I know the answer in a perfect world , but we dont live in a perfect world.
        All I know is that one baby aborted from conception is not justified to preventing Aids.Is it all to do with intent?
        Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?
        We could ignore it as there is so many aborted from contraception in families-catholic ones at that.So why am I concerned. Just a thought!

  7. Advocatus diaboli says:

    My dear Catholic friends, I have resisted the temptation to attack your more extraordinary moral positions for many weeks now. But finally I can’t resist it.

    Do make up your minds. If you believe that the direct abortion of a foetus is wrong, and if you hold that nothing can justify a wrong act even a good motive, then you have to condemn both the Phoenix abortion and the removal of the baby from the tube. (The argument that the placenta was pathological and so could be removed is smoke and mirrors – typical bad casuistry. The problem is not with the placenta but with pulmonary hypertension.)

    If you believe otherwise, than you have to accept both. In both cases the baby dies irrespective of any decision so that consequence cancels out of the equation. In the Phoenix case you save the life of the mother: in the tube case removing the baby saves the fertility of the mother. So it ‘s a good outcome either way.

    I of course believe otherwise. Try and be consistent.

    • Horace says:

      Here is an attempt to justify this case using the principle of double effect (see above).
      If we have a mother who is ill and her life is being threatened by a foetus in the womb and the foetus is dead then clearly the obstetrician should operate to remove the foetus. This action then is clearly ‘good or morally neutral’.
      If the foetus is alive however
      a) Two effects result from a single action – saving the mother, killing the foetus.
      b) The action itself remains good or morally neutral. (Neither the physical action nor the obstetrician’s intent has changed.)
      c) The bad effect is not intended.
      d) The action is proportionate to the desired effect.
      THEN ) The action is justified.

      it may be argued that ‘killing the foetus’ is vastly more important than even ‘saving the life of the mother’ – in which case
      d) proportionality breaks down
      AND ) The action is not justified.

  8. Quentin says:

    Horace, I can see the point you are making but I don’t think it holds up. There are, as you say, two effects. But properly we should read “saving the mother by the means of killing the baby.” it is a staple of moral theology that, in double effect, the action taken – the means – must not in itself be unlawful. Direct killing of the baby is unlawful. QED.

    Imagine if your approach were to be widely accepted. Suppose that I raid your bank account. I could have a good ultimate intention, such as the benefit to a charity to which I give your money. But to achieve it I have to steal your money thus offending your right to ownership.

    • Horace says:

      In the second paragraph Quentin seems to be suggesting that the act ” raid your bank account” might be construed as ‘good or morally neutral’ because the associated intention is good? This is not the argument that I was proposing.

      On the contrary, I was suggesting that the action was “to remove the foetus” and that this could be construed as ‘good or morally neutral’ because the procedure was the same whether the foetus was alive or dead.
      [incidentally in the link provided by Mr Rubio there is a good deal of discussion as to the legitimacy of the precise means by which this ‘removal’ is carried out].
      The question of intentionality arises subsequently ( c ).

      Quentin says” . . properly we should read “saving the mother by the means of killing the baby.” which suggests that there is only one effect; but as St Thomas points out “Nothing hinders one act from having two effects [i.e. consequences], only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention.”

      As I said before “The real difficulty in this formula for argument lies in determining whether it can be shown that “the action itself is good, or morally neutral”.

  9. RMBlaber says:

    Speaking generally, it is easy to side with ‘Advocatus diaboli’ here, sit back and watch Catholics tie themselves up in moral knots.

    The ‘principle of double effect’ is, on the face of it, very clear. In one locus classicus similar to that here, the pregnant woman is dying; her ectopic pregnancy is the cause; the cure is the removal of the fallopian tube containing the foetus; but – as everyone knows – although this will save the woman, the foetus will die. This death may not be the direct intention of the operating doctors, but that will make no difference.

    One might (in answer to St Thomas Aquinas) argue – with the utilitarians – that it is not the intention of the actor that counts (after all, ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’, as we all know), but the consequences of the act. This theory is termed, unsurprisingly, ‘consequentialism’. One is reminded of Thomas Becket, in TS Eliot’s ‘Murder in the Cathedral’, being tempted to ‘the greatest treason/To do the right thing for the wrong reason.’ Certainly, to take account of intentions and ignore consequences seems to be opting for a rather myopic moral calculus.

    Where does this leave us? I think that we have to recognise that we do not live in a perfect world or a perfect moral universe, where all our actions can be assessed as either ‘good’ or ‘evil’. We are frequently confronted with a choice between the lesser of two evils, where there is no ‘good’ option available. Sometimes we may face a multiplicity of alternatives, all of which are undesirable to a greater or lesser degree. To recognise this is no more than a sign of intellectual and moral maturity. If we are not to be reduced to a state of complete paralysis, unable to decide what course of action to take or policy to pursue, simply because the Church requires of us a degree of moral perfection that is unattainable in this sublunary realm, then it is incumbent upon us to ignore ecclesiastical counsels in favour of one that is more pragmatic and sensible.

    A word or two, finally, to st joseph. Firstly, it would be nice to be addressed correctly: so, ‘RMBlaber’, please. Secondly, I was merely trying to point out that the taking of oral contraceptives does nothing to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Pope Benedict XVI’s concession refers to barrier methods, which do do something to inhibit the spread of STIs, albeit imperfectly (sexual abstinence would be the only perfect method of stopping STI), for that very reason. This is hardly rocket science. I was making no comment about the intrinsic moral status of condoms or their use, whether by married couples, gay couples, or anyone else.

  10. st.joseph says:

    Yes RHBlaber, as to the spelling mistake I will tell you why that happened.I was looking back to a earlier post of John Candido’s on the Slippery Slope, memorising one of his comments, which I answered above ,in answer to yours. His comment had spelt your name as Blabber twice ,and as I was making my comment to you ,it was in my mind to how he spelt it,and was an accident on my part.You can see it for your self.
    Sorry about that.
    I think if you read the post above on ectopic pregnancys-not mine ,but the teachings of the church ,as I read it.You will find that the mother ‘must’ be in danger of death’
    Just to make a point which I made earlier, was a priest called, for the baby and the mother’ It is usual if someone is dying they would receive the Sacrament of the dying.
    A catholic hospital I presume would have that duty. Also for all the other terminations
    that were carried out there.If they were not so particular as to carrying out terminations-why would they think about the last rites or baptism.

    Now the point I was making and that is where the media were saying that Pope Benedict was doing a U turn on condoms were misinterpreted.He was not giving way for the legality for them to be used as a contraceptive.
    I was also questioning your ‘again’statement which you haven’t answered yet.

  11. John Nolan says:

    “Now how about Captain Oates?” When this first appeared in the CH I wrote to Quentin arguing that Oates’s self-sacrifice was not strictly speaking suicide, and he kindly took the time to write back; we also touched on Kipling’s poetry. Thank you Quentin for your courtesy.

    The prevailing ethic among Englishmen of Scott’s day (and it wasn’t just confined to the upper and middle classes) has been aptly described as Christian-Stoic. Scott’s own epitaph reads “Quaesivit arcana Poli, videt Dei”, which I shall translate for Superview’s benefit as “He sought the secrets of the Pole and now he sees the secrets of God”, noting only that it takes fifteen English words to say what Latin says in five. This ethic would have strongly militated against the idea of suicide. We read in Scott’s jounal that Wilson, the doctor, offered them the means to make an easy exit (presumably morphine) which they declined at the time. This is interesting as we know Wilson to have been a very devout Christian.

    The evidence for Oates’s death comes from that journal, which we know was written with his (Scott’s) posthumous reputation in mind. “I am just going outside and may be some time.” It is not explained how Oates, with his badly frostbitten fingers, managed to unlace the tent flaps. Some like Roland Huntford have drawn their own conclusions.

    Oates’s body was never found. When Scott’s tent was opened the following spring, the bodies of Wilson and Bowers were fastened in their sleeping-bags, and in an attitude of sleep. Scott, by contrast was a “terrible sight”. The top of his bag was open, and his face showed the evidence of frostbite on living tissue. We have to draw our own conclusions. Did Scott, not an overly religious man, maintain the Christian-Stoic ethic to the end?

  12. RMBlaber says:

    I see I am ‘RHBlaber’ now. I must be ‘Christian-Stoical’ about it, obviously. What John Nolan has to say is very interesting, although I think we may be reaching the point here where we really need to start another, if related, topic, as this is a long way from the moral rightness or wrongness of the Phoenix decision, or the ethics of removing ectopic pregnancies.

    Is suicide ever justifiable? Hard cases make bad law. I exclude the classic ‘Rape of Lucrece’ scenario (in Roman legend, Lucretia, the wife of Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, was raped by Sextus Tarquinius, her husband’s cousin; this led to her suicide, the expulsion of the kings, and the founding of the Roman Republic). Lucretia’s action may be psychologically understandable, and even excusable, given her mental and emotional state, but objectively, her suicide (if historical fact) was still illicit.

    We may, in other words, agree with the sentiment of Mme de Stael’s famous dictum, ‘Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner’, but this must be applied at the subjective casuistic level, not made the basis for objective ethical judgements.

    What of the Capt. Lawrence Oates-type suicide, i.e., a suicide for the benefit of others, intended to ensure their survival? Such heroic self-sacrifice is surely laudable, rather than to be condemned. After all, is not its ultimate archetype the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross of Calvary? Was not Our Lord giving His life for the sake of the entire human race? Other instances are, for example, those who chose to give up places on the life-boats of the ‘Titanic’ so that others could go in their place.

    It might be argued that Our Lord did not commit suicide because He was, in fact, executed by sinful men, and in the peculiarly agonising and barbaric fashion then reserved by the Roman Imperial authorities for non-citizens. However, there is no question but that He allowed this event to take place, even though He could have prevented it. Capt. Oates, in venturing out into the freezing South Polar weather, knew that he was condemning himself to certain death, but did so in the hope that his sacrifice would save the remaining members of the Terra Nova Expedition.

    It is clear from this that, just as the killing of other human beings is sometimes justified in certain circumstances, so, too, is the killing of oneself (or, at any rate, the allowing of oneself to be killed, or to die, when that could be prevented).

  13. Quentin says:

    Horace, I must be missing your point. Your argument would seem to suggest that putting a bullet through someone’s head is morally neutral because the act is the same whether the someone is alive or dead. I would say that removing a live foetus is a different moral act from removing a dead one. Wouldn’t you?

    • Horace says:

      “removing a live foetus is a different moral act from removing a dead one”
      Yes it is, I think, “a different moral act” but is it “a different physical act”?

      In truth I am not at all happy with the standard formula for deducing “double effect” – it is much too easy for ( b ) to become mere sophistry, as you consider my suggested argument to be!

      On related matters:- I would agree with Advocatus diaboli that “The argument that the placenta was pathological and so could be removed is smoke and mirrors ” but I would also hold that to say “removal of a portion of Fallopian Tube containing a living baby is morally justified while removal of the embryo from within the tube is not” is equally ridiculous. (Note: I do not know whether both are justified or neither is justified)

      The best definition that I have encountered for abortion is as follows:-
      “Abortion means choosing to end a pregnancy so that you don’t have a baby.”
      I think that we would all agree that abortion by this definition is against Catholic teaching and is wrong.

      What is called “therapeutic abortion” however is in a different category and is, to say the least, arguable.

  14. ionzone says:

    Absolutist ‘abortion is always wrong even if the mother would otherwise die and the baby will anyway’ is stupid. There is precedent in the Bible for such things being decried. Jesus had no truck with people who would interpret scripture to mean that greater evils must be preformed in the name of a so-called ‘morality’ that is neither moral nor right.

    What is moral about letting both mother and baby die for the sake of pretending to be moral? For the sake of sticking to the word of a vow and ignoring the spirit and reasoning behind it entirely? Anyone? Anyone?

    If we interpret scripture to mean life is sacred….as we should….then what idiot decided that meant killing people through inaction? Abortion is only wrong when the baby stands a chance. Otherwise it’s just plain death by torture.

  15. ionzone says:

    I forget what it is called, but it is actually a logical fallacy that runs like this:

    All drugs are bad

    Penicillin is a drug

    Therefore penicillin is bad.

    In this case it is not quite so open but still follows the same flawed logic:

    Killing is wrong

    Causing one death – that would occur anyway – to save another life is killing

    Therefore it is wrong.

    It sounds horrible, and it is. But doing nothing is TWICE as bad.

  16. Iona says:

    Letting somebody die, when you have the means of saving them, is surely culpable negligence, – a “sin of omission”. So the hospital staff was in the unenviable position of having to choose between sins: on the one hand killing the foetus, on the other hand allowing both foetus and mother to die though having the means to save the mother’s life.

    • Quentin says:

      Iona, you encapsulate the dilemma neatly. But you then need to come to terms with 2 further issues.

      1) Your judgment obliges you to dismiss the Church’s settled teaching in this matter. That doesn’t mean that you are necessarily wrong but it does leave a big burden of proof with you.

      2) This was a live issue over the period when the Abortion Bill was originally being debated. It was cited by the champions of the Bill as an example of the Church’s intransigence. The Church argued that, once agree to take an innocent human life in order to save another and you move on to the slippery slope. The principle of the sanctity of life has been abandoned. Are you happy for this to happen?

  17. Advocatus Diaboli says:

    I would counsel ionzone to avoid formal logic. His first syllogism is not fallacious, The conclusion is not true because the first premise is not true.

    His second syllogism should read:

    Any direct taking of innocent life is wrong
    A baby is innocent life
    Therefore directly taking a baby’s life is always wrong.

    No fallacy there either. If he disagrees with that conclusion (as of course I would) he must oppose it by questioning either the first or the second premise.

    But why should I be teaching you lot logic. You are supposed to have incorporated logic from Aristotle. I am supposed to be the ignoramus.

    • tim says:

      AD, do not suppose that we suppose you are an ignoramus – neither you nor your client. We welcome correction, from whatever source (in principle, anyway).

  18. st.joseph says:

    Letting someone die when we have the means of saving them is a good question.
    A life is a life from conception,whether it is 1 minute 11 minutes or 11 weeks.
    Does abortifacients not beg the same question-is it right to kill a child-when it isn’t for the life of the mother?When we pray outside an abortion clinic and see car after car driving in (one consolation some do turn around and go home) it shows how disposable babies have become.
    Are we discussing the Phoenix case or abortion in general?
    We will never know the answer to the Phoenix case, and we cant do anything about it now. But we can try to do something to uphold the Sacredness of life from conception .

  19. John Nolan says:

    On the distinction between suicide and self-sacrifice I agree with RMBlaber. It should also be remembered that suicide was a felony until 1961 – in this as in other cases the new secular “morality” is barely two generations old. I would say that a society which sees nothing wrong with abortion on demand but would criminalize foxhunting has a skewed idea of morality. But I digress.

    The Church gives suicides the benefit of the doubt. Even if it is not a case of “the balance of his mind being disturbed” there is also the principle of inter pontem et fontem: “Betwixt the stirrup and the ground, he mercy sought and mercy found”. Catholics who commit suicide are given the rites of Holy Church. Which brings us back to the Phoenix case. If it was an isolated incident and the hospital acted in good faith, those concerned could in my view have been given the benefit of the doubt without compromising the principle that abortion is wrong. But it’s a big “if”.

  20. John Candido says:

    Orthodox teaching is a much needed aspect of the magisterium of the church, and can be of benefit to the laity in terms of its help towards an ordinary guidance for their daily lives. Clear examples of which are the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and the teaching and guidance of ecumenical councils, papal encyclicals, and various statements emanating from national conferences of bishops. However, in accepting the magisterium of the church, we should not confuse the meaning of magisterium, with words such as authority, guidance, and teaching, on the one hand, with other words such as command, order, absolutism, and compulsion, on the other. Both classes of words are distinctly different in meaning, substance, sentiment, and emphasis. We must be clear about these differences if we are to live mature and intelligent Christian lives.

    Most people would surmise; look to and obey whatever the magisterium says on any one issue, and you would be on very safe grounds as an obedient and good Christian. Therefore the default position would naturally be the ascription to obedience and orthodoxy. Who can argue against proscriptions such as thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, covet another person’s wife, lie, etc., etc.? And there is nothing ordinarily wrong with this until the complexity of life experiences seem at loggerheads with the ordinary teachings of the church.

    The metaphor of a much loved child within a loving family is quite apt for this discussion. A loving parent makes a reasonable request of the child and a much loved child immediately obeys his or her parent’s request unquestionably. Whenever the same child in the same loving family is between the ages of let us say 14 and above, the parent, if he or she is to parent both lovingly and intelligently, needs to take into consideration a growing independence, selfhood, and maturity, within their child. In other words, the child is no longer strictly a child, and a semblance of tolerance needs to be shown by the parents for their child’s growing independence and self-actualisation.

    In a similar fashion, the church must acknowledge a growing maturity, learning, and sophistication amongst the laity of today, and I say this without meaning any offence to our multitude of forebears, who have lived their Christian lives anonymously, obediently, and with integrity. The church has catered for the modern world with its teaching on the primacy of the human conscience as found within the Second Vatican Council’s Dignitatis Humanae, or as it is known in English, the Declaration of Religious Liberty, which was promulgated on the 7th December 1965, and its presentation of the human conscience within the CCC within paragraphs 1776 to 1802 of Part Three: Life in Christ, Article Six: Moral Conscience.

    The church has also taught principles within the subject of moral theology known as objective and subjective morality. The objective teaching or moral norm on the one hand, and the circumstances or subjective morality at play within the circumstances of individuals and groups, are absolutely important distinctions to make. The teaching of subjective morality caters for individuals that are confronted with difficult situations, or perplexing quandaries. I believe that subjective morality is a sign of God’s compassion and understanding towards all individuals that are faced with complex and difficult choices.

    It should be quite apparent to all after the previous points of discussion, that orthodoxy and unorthodoxy are not mutually exclusive propositions, but can be an intelligent way of responding to the particular circumstances that one can find oneself in. In other words, it is not sinful or heretical to make choices that are unorthodox and located within the primacy of the human conscience, which could have its basis within theological analysis and/or the principles of subjective morality.

    I believe that there are three distinct magisteriums or orthodoxies at work within the church at any one time. Firstly, there is the magisterium of the pope, the various Vatican congregations, together with the bishops that are found throughout the world. Secondly, there is the magisterium of the doctors or academics of the church, also known as its theologians, exegetes or scriptural scholars, philosophers, and ecclesiastical historians. Lastly, there is the magisterium of the laity, as found within our mathematicians, scientists, academics within the humanities and social sciences.

    The hierarchy rule the church in its day to day issues and have the authority to teach the gospel to the laity and to whoever else might be interested. Their presentation of teaching or the exercise of their ordinary magisterium can be construed as the church’s orthodoxy. The research of the church’s doctors, as represented by theologians, exegetes, and the like, adds another dimension to the orthodoxy of the church’s teachings by contemporising, and deepening them. This is an inexhaustible process by this magisterium.

    Their research can elucidate misunderstandings, controversies, or break new theological, exegetical, or philosophical grounds. This is metaphorically similar to the new knowledge that is garnered by the research of scientists and mathematicians. Theological research can comprise of a certain newness of doctrinal expression, together with the questioning of current theological understandings.

    Because of this, the doctors of the church can find themselves in conflict with the ordinary magisterium of the church, as has been the case throughout the church’s history, with quite sad, horrific, and unjust outcomes for the questioners. People like Professor Hans Kung would have been burnt at the stake in the not so distant past. While such an outcome would be absolutely unthinkable today with the separation of religion and the state, the balance and separation of powers, the end of arbitrary rule of despotic monarchs, the establishment of the rule of law, and our system of law courts.

    Not much is said about the largest part of the magisterium of the laity. That part of the laity that is not secular university academics forms the overwhelming majority of the laity and the church itself. Currently, throughout the Middle East and Africa, there are mass protests from the majority of the populations of Tunisia and Egypt, which seek a greater share in the wealth of their country as well as democratic reforms. The same sorts of mass movements were at work in the French and American revolutions. Mass protest has played a part in the ending of the West’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

    These mass movements are a metaphor for the rights of the laity today. In the light of the paedophile crisis, there have been street protests by the laity throughout the United States of America. This has led to the removal of some American prelates, the jailing of sexual predators, the promise by American bishops of changes to church policy regarding priestly management, compensation for victims, and to litigation against offending archdioceses for the morally bankrupt movement of suspected paedophiles from parish to parish. Through their use of the mass media, the laity seeks the punishment of offenders regardless of their priestly, religious, or episcopal rank, through the use of courts of law.

    The rise of the dignity and power of the laity in today’s church has been the surprising and joyous employment, under difficult circumstances, of the magisterium of the laity. It would be a mistake to say that the exercise of magisterium of the laity is only to be found within the modern age. It has certainly been exercised in the past where heresy has been dealt with by the laity.

    Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s ‘Arians of the Fourth Century’, is about the orthodoxy of the body of the faithful during the Supremacy of Arianism throughout Christendom, which contrasted with the efforts of most prelates. Although we decry the breakup of the Christian church by the Reformation, it was an exercise of the magisterium of the laity, who voted with their feet as to what branch of Christianity they would align themselves with. This was principally a protest, for better or worse, against the corruption of Rome as they interpreted it during the Middle Ages. My apologies for the length of this piece, and if you got the end of it, thank you for your patience.

  21. John says:

    I have not the medical or theological expertise or the reading depth to take up the comments posted above.
    What I do find myself asking is – What would Jesus do in a situation like this? Were there any times He was faced with dilemmas such as this one? How did He use authority?
    In the first place I feel that if the hospital’s action had been put to Jesus it would have been done so maliciously as a veiled attack, trying to catch Him out, so that he could be quoted as contradicting handed down teaching. (Is there a veiled attack here in this dilemma?) (Were the learned theologians with Jesus or against Him?)

    In response the classic picture of Jesus writing in the sand comes to mind.
    With the hospital before Him would He condemn, or would He not be much more likely to say: Where are the ones who condemn you? (and how pure in heart / free from sin are they?) Go away and don’t sin any more.
    With the bishop before Him, He would I think have many things to say and do (go to the hospital and wash their feet for example) – live and teach humility, love and forgiveness.
    Adultery is not right. But condemning the adulterous woman (by anyone other than God) is also not right. Far from excommunicating, surely Jesus sought out the sinner, and died Himself for them so that they could be saved from their (yes very real) sin.

  22. Superview says:

    A thoughtful, balanced and generous contribution from John Candido, that reaches out to try and address some of the confusion and misdirection in our thinking about the exercise of authority in the Church. It is my own conviction that Church history must be viewed as truthfully and as objectively as possible, even if the truth is often painful, because to draw a veil over the parlous circumstances in the Church that gave rise to tipping points, for example, the Reformation, is to deceive succeeding generations. There remains an unhealthy silence about these periods – from encyclicals to sermons, we are told that the Holy Spirit guides the Church, with one consequence being that many conclude that the Church can do no wrong (which more often than not means the Pope and the Vatican can do no wrong) which is not borne out by history and leads to self-delusion by those in authority. This then leads to what the then Cardinal Ratzinger curiously referred to as “mistaken forms of ultra-Montanism” – in an interesting paper entitled ‘Conscience and Truth’, 1991, from a link given in Quentin’s posting Holding out for a Hero in August 2008:
    The paper also obliquely relates to the Pheonix case, insofar as it discusses what freedom of conscience might mean if it is in conflict with truth – although it is easily, though not briefly, resolved in the paper by identifying any conscience in conflict with the Church’s teaching as erroneous. Thus there can be no respecting the consciences of the Religious and medical staff in the hospital, because they are judged by the Bishop to be subject to a Canon Law which is no respecter of consciences for those who ‘procure an abortion’.
    The above contribution by John challenges in a remarkably effective way the view that it is too simplistic to speculate what Jesus would have done, and connects with Quentin’s reminder of the ‘slippery slope’ argument. In my brain this always resonates, possibly in an imperfect way, with St. John’s account at 11:45-50 of the meeting of the Pharisees and Scribes, some of whom seem to be wavering, to decide what to do about Jesus, and the warning of the High Priest Caiaphas: ‘You don’t seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed’. Doesn’t Caiaphas speak again whenever we avoid taking the right and humane action for fear of the Church’s teaching being seen to be imperfect?

  23. John Nolan says:

    “The Reformation…was an exercise of the magisterium of the laity, who voted with their feet as to what branch of Christianity they would align themselves with.” I’m sorry, JC, but you can’t be allowed to get away with a howler like that. I don’t know what your academic discipline was, but it sure wasn’t history. Take Germany, where the Reformation began. The princes who adopted Lutheranism (and there were political considerations in their choice) imposed the new religion on their subjects, just as the subjects of Catholic princes remained Catholic. The principle enshrined in the Religious Peace of Augsburg was “cuius regio, eius religio”. There was indeed a mass movement in Germany, the Peasants’ Revolt of 1524-5, but the main grievances were economic rather than religious. Luther himself backed the princes in suppressing the rising; contemporary accounts put the number killed at 100,000.

    In England the Reformation was imposed by a small political elite using the machinery of an effective centralized Tudor state. Popular risings (Pilgrimage of Grace 1536, Western Rising 1549) were for the old religion and were savagely repressed. Modern scholarship has debunked the idea that the late medieval Church was in a moribund state – see Eammon Duffy’s seminal work “The Stripping of the Altars”.

    You are of course right in defining magisterium in a less restrictive sense. It simply means a teaching function and whether or not what is taught is true is irrelevant. I am a bit confused as to the difference between your second and third magisteriums (magisteria?) Is the second specifically Catholic and the third non-Catholic?

    Thanks for the reference to the orthodoxy of the laity at the time of the Arian controversy. Is this an admission that Arianism was heretical? This would seem to run counter to your earlier argument about the meaning of orthodoxy. Quibbles aside, I did enjoy your contribution; the issues you raise are well worth discussing.

    • John Candido says:

      Thank you for your reply. John, I must confess that I have no qualifications in ecclesiastical history and certainly no expertise in the history of the Protestant Reformation. If these top-down events happened, then they happened. But my point is that somewhere in time and history, ordinary, individual people, would have been able to make-up their own minds on which church to join, based on what they perceived was the Catholic Church’s corruption of the Gospel and/or its poor administration, or lack of such corruption and/or poor administration. These issues during the Middle Ages, as contemporaneously interpreted and communicated by individuals such as Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, and Jan Hus, were aimed at both the Roman Catholic Church, and lay Catholics everywhere.

      If everybody where to go to Wikipedia’s article on the Protestant Reformation at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_Reformation#Religious_situation_in_Europe , you can read the following quote taken from the article under the heading of the ‘Religious situation in Europe’. ‘The Protestant Reformation began as an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church, carried out by Western European Catholics who opposed what they perceived as false doctrines and ecclesiastic malpractice — especially the teaching and the sale of indulgences or the abuses thereof, and simony, the selling and buying of clerical offices — that the reformers saw as evidence of the systemic corruption of the Church’s Roman hierarchy, which included the Pope’. Whether or not the church’s critics at the time were right or wrong on these issues, these were their perceptions of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. It was these same perceptions of the church which sadly led to the Protestant Reformation. The rest they say is history.

      The second magisterium is Catholic in that the academics, who work within Catholic theology, history, exegetical scholarship, and philosophy, generally have a Catholic orientation. Although, in a strict sense, you don’t have to be Catholic or a believer for that matter, in order to work as an academic theologian, exegete, historian, or philosopher. It is for these individuals a strictly intellectual or academic exercise, without faith being a prerequisite or an absolute necessity for their personal interest and involvement.

      The smaller part of the third magisterium, as it refers to scientists, and other academics, does not have to be constituted by believing Catholics. The personal beliefs of academics are irrelevant to their work so long as their work is motivated by searching for the truth and in absolute academic integrity. The magnificent and magisterial work of scientists, mathematicians, or any other academic field, has an enormous impact throughout the secular and Catholic world, for obvious reasons.

      It is both interesting and important to note that the three magisteria are distinctly separate but interrelated. All three have a perpetual existence. And all three are in creative tension with each other from time to time.

      The bulk of the remaining members of the magisterium of the laity are of course mainly Catholic, but they can also be composed of other Christians, and members of other faiths, or people with no faith, or indeed those who are agnostic. Why? Because anybody in the modern world can have an input or say on any contemporaneous issue within a democratic nation-state, by using the mass media, the courts of law, by demonstrating, and in exercising any of their inalienable human rights as they see fit.

      Finally, I have never come across the word ‘magisteria’ before, meaning I think the plural of magisterium. My copy of the ‘Oxford Concise English Dictionary’ does not list it, and neither does the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary at http://oxforddictionaries.com/ . John, if you can establish it as the plural variant of magisterium for me, by pointing me at some authoritative source, I would be very grateful to you, because such a word would be very useful for everybody to utilize within this blog.

      In addition, I was wondering if you or anybody else reading this post could do everybody a great favor. If the validity of the word ‘magisteria’ is in doubt, can somebody contact the authors and lexicographers of the Oxford English Dictionary, in order to authoritatively determine if the word ‘magisteria’ is an English word or not. I suspect it is an old English word that has possibly fallen out of current usage. However my point is, that if it is not an English word, somebody should suggest to the same lexicographers of the Oxford English Dictionary, to include it as a worthy addition to our wonderful language. Thank you for your reply. John Candido.

  24. st.joseph says:

    The Council of Trent instituted sever reforms in the practice of granting indulgences,and, because of prior abuse’ in 1567 Pope Pius V cancelled al l grants of indulgences involving any fees or other financial transactions (Catholic Encyclopedia).
    The act proved the Church’s seriousness about removing abuses from indulgences.
    One never could ‘buy’ indulgences.
    The financial scandal around indulgences,the scandal that gave Martin Luther an excuse for his hederdoxy,involved alms-indulgences in which the giving of alms to some charitable fund or foundation.

  25. John Nolan says:

    John, I think if a Latin word becomes accepted as English it should have an English plural; when Tom Lehrer used “stadia” for “stadiums” he was being jocular – he also got a laugh when he referred to “persons of the opposite gender” (this was circa 1960).
    Magisterium, with a capital M is now almost exclusively used with reference to the teaching authority of the RC Church, so you will hear Anglicans say “Of course we don’t have a Magisterium as such”. It isn’t often used in the plural but when it is I must say I prefer “magisteriums”.

    The best history of the papacy for the general reader is Eamon Duffy’s “Saints and Sinners” (Yale 1997). He pulls no punches, as in his critique of 19th century papal absolutism quoting Newman: “we are shrinking into ourselves, narrowing the lines of communication, trembling at freedom of thought, and using the language of dismay and despair at the prospect before us”. He is critical too of those popes of the 18th century who caved in to pressure from secular rulers, such as Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus – “It was the papacy’s most shameful hour.” Above all he is fair and does not resort to caricature. Sadly, many of those who attack Benedict XVI make little attempt to understand either the man or his office.

  26. RMBlaber says:

    To correct John Nolan, although it is true to some extent that the Protestant Reformation, in its official form, was a ‘top-down’ reform of the Church imposed from above, as Eamonn Duffy argues, where he gets it wrong is in relation to the unofficial, and more extreme, versions – such as the Anabaptists or the Socinians (Unitarians). These were condemned as heretical by the Reformers (Luther, Calvin and Zwingli) themselves, and outlawed by the various Protestant rulers, both here and on the Continent, but were nevertheless popular movements, which survived persecution.

    I don’t intend to enter the debate about a possible plurality of ‘magisteria’ in the Church, except to say that, in principle, it sounds like a recipe for anarchy. From the perspective of a hierarchical organisation, with a ‘top-down’ structure, where power is concentrated at the apex of the managerial and political pyramid, there can, surely be only one authority, one ‘magisterium’. If Scripture, the Creeds, the Fathers, the Councils and previous Popes are all cited as sources of teaching authority, who but the present Pope is the sole valid interpreter of that authority?

    And that, surely, is the trouble. In the Catholic Church, the Vatican rules, OK – rightly, or wrongly. Dissent is no more permitted in the Roman Church than in the Soviet Communist Party in the days of Leonid Brezhnev. The doctors and nurses at the hospital in Phoenix, and the hospital administrator, were acting in good faith, with the intention of saving a woman’s life – yet they have been excommunicated for their pains, accused of being abortionists.

    Anyone who dares to question Catholic teaching openly, in whatever medium, is liable to the same penalty; yet Catholic moral teaching is not covered by the warranty of infallibility, in the way that its doctrine is. Even there, the teaching of Catholic doctrine seems wedded to an outmoded Aristotelean metaphysics that has no relevance to or validity in the modern world, as is in desperate need of ‘re-enculturation’, if I may be forgiven the jargon.

    John asks ‘what would Jesus do’ in the Phoenix situation. He also asks ‘were the learned theologians for Him or against Him?’ The answer is, they – the Scribes, the Pharisees and Sadducees, were against Him, every step of the way. If He had said and done what they wanted Him to, He would have been just another Scribe or Pharisee. For Jesus, there is only one Law, the Law of Love, to love God, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself. As St Augustine said, ‘Love, and do as you will.’

    The hard part is applying the law of love in tricky situations like the Phoenix case. We do not resolve these things by painting them black and white, and pretending that they are simple and clear-cut. Some people want the moral universe to be made of absolutes, but they need to grow up and realise that there are rather more relatives in it than absolutes, and grey areas, rather than black or white ones.

  27. st.joseph says:

    The hard part is applying the law of love in tricky situations.You are in no position to judge the Phoenix case. You presume to know all the circumstances.
    That is why we have the Magisterium..
    Going back to the 7o’s so many in the church were awed by sociology,psychology,psychoanalysis, and all the ‘isms’, from feminism to socialism. They discovered democracy and they wanted to apply it in the Church as well.
    They discovered sexuality and if they didn’t leave the priesthood or the religious life,
    like one-third of priests and nuns did,they claimed they could exercise it while remaining in the clerical or religious life.They sought to live like the laity,throwing out their cassocks and Roman collars but holding on to their comfortable status as religious.
    They discovered the Protestant Reformation,five centuries later,and bragged that it was all something new and modern.
    Archbishop of Krakow-the late Pope John Paul 2nd,who came from Poland where the faith was almost heroic,where popular devotion crossed paths with daily life,where the Virgin Mary was ever present,where secularism reared its ungodly head and instead of attracting people,inspired fear and horror,where the catechism was still followed and where the elegant ‘papers’ by theologians of Western universities were not read’
    ‘More than defending the pontificate of John Paul 2nd RIP, or Pope Benedict XVI
    from the deluge of accusations against him and those who are faithful to the Magisterium-we need to know how the alternatives are not the best answer to the problems of the Church. These problem exist today and have always existed. But in order to address them,we need much more than the prescriptions of an ideological ‘modernism’.

  28. John Nolan says:

    RMBlaber, the Nicene Creed probably has no relevance or validity in the modern world, but so what? I cannot for the life of me understand this liberal preoccupation with “relevance” and “modernity”. The Church founded by OLJC will last until the consummation of the world – we have His promise on it. And if you don’t believe it subsists in the Catholic Church please feel free to choose another denomination. I was taught at the age of eight that “the Church cannot err in what she teaches, as to faith or morals, for she is our infallible guide in both”. If I cease believing that, I hope I shall have the intellectual honesty to stop referring to myself as a Catholic.

  29. RMBlaber says:

    Why am I ‘in no position to judge the Phoenix case’ when I have possession of the facts of the case? Of course, if I am mistaken as to the facts, then I may err with regard to my judgement, but there is no reason, that apart, why I must mistrust my own judgement, and my own conscience, and defer to that of another, or some institution, however august it might be.

    In reply to John Nolan, I, for one, do not need lessons from him, or anyone else, in intellectual honesty. I no longer call myself a Catholic, and do not (as I have made clear on this site) avail myself of the ministrations of the Catholic Church.

    The point that escapes him about relevance and modernity is that the Church is very much in competition with opposing cultural forces, chiefly those of Islam and secularism, and will find herself increasingly squeezed between the two. On the one hand, however, she obfuscates and obscures her message with a metaphysic derived from Aristotle via St Thomas Aquinas, which has been both philosophically and scientifically discredited. (How can one, for example, defend hylomorphism after the discoveries of particle physics and quantum mechanics?)

    On the other hand, the Catholic Church resolutely resists the possibility that God might be speaking through the medium of secular change, and in some aspects of post-Enlightenment secular morality. Was the Catholic Church at the forefront of the movement to liberate slaves? No, that was Evangelical Protestant Christians, like William Wilberforce, who were also inspired by Enlightenment ideals. The Catholic Church has tended to be a force of reaction and conservatism, rather than progress. Divorced couples know this; so, too, do gay men and women, and those many Catholic priests who would like to marry, but are prevented from doing so. Secular morality may be wrong about some things – abortion and euthanasia, for example – but that does not mean we should ignore and reject all of it.

    I don’t expect to be agreed with, although it would be nice to be treated with just a little more courtesy than I have been of late by some of my fellow contributors to this ‘blog. The argumentum ad baculum is a poor sort of argument.

    While we debate these matters, the people of Egypt are struggling (and dying) for their freedom, and for democracy in their country. I would like to take this opportunity to express my solidarity with them, and I pray that they will be successful.

    • st.joseph says:

      St Wulston.Benedictine Monk 1062-1095 and Bishop of Worcester -1062.
      He was a vigorous opponent of the slave trade from the port of Bristol,and achceived the abandonment of the practice from Ireland!
      All on his web site.
      His Anniversary was celebrated on January 19th.

      A note on your thoughts on the Phoenix case-
      The moment the authority of the Christ,that is to say the Vicar of Christ and the bishops who are united to him is denied,then faith degenerates into opinions.
      In the words of Dom Columba Cary.Elwes in Law,Liberty and Love, ‘The difference between faith and human opinion for history is that the former can give a certitude strong enough for men to build order out of chaos, while the second is so fluid that it produces chaos out of order.” This is surely the case today,when so many have abandoned the teaching authority of the church.

      The taking of the Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium may appear to be only a small step ,but it is an essential step for those who have the responsibility and the mandate to teach theology. Without that authority the teachings they proclaim would be merely opinions and not ‘the firm prophetical word’ of the faith. Those who refuse to take it and those who violate it should be dismissed”
      The responsibility lies heavily on the bishops over seminaries to insist that the profession of faith and the Oath of Fidelity is taken.
      It is our duty as the laity to defend it-and you are so much for the laity to have their say! That is why I am having mine now!

    • John Candido says:

      I completely agree with RMBlaber when he says that the Catholic Church is blind to the possibility that God may be speaking to them through the secular world in a number of issues. I suppose the only way forward is to hope that God will produce a liberal pope from an apparently conservative or ‘safe’ candidate. Who knows, Pope Benedict XVI could become increasingly liberal as he gets older. Maybe not! The thing is that it is not only the secular world that could be the medium of God’s message to the church; it can also come from just about anywhere when you think about it.

      I would also like to express my solidarity with the people of Egypt in this perilous hour of their fight for freedom, democracy, human rights, and social justice for all of their people. I wish them success in their struggles.

    • Quentin says:

      Argumentum ad baculum. I like it, and shall use it often — possibly on this blog. Yes, RMBlaber, you made your position and therefore claim to intellectual honesty clear. Your problem is that you are blessed, or cursed, with an anima naturalitur Christiana. So you can run, but I wonder if you can hide.

    • John Nolan says:

      The reference to intellectual honesty was in the first person and I was using “you” in the impersonal sense. However, on re-reading my post I can see how you got the wrong end of the baculum and construed it as a personal attack. My fault, I fear.

      As an historian, may I put in my two penn’orth? The slave trade against which Wilberforce campaigned was specifically relevant to England, which was the main commercial beneficiary of it. In the England of 1800 it is hardly surprising he was a Protestant. To judge the Catholic Church on her record concerning the exploitation of indigenous peoples you would need to look at central and south America. It is a vast subject but on balance the Church emerges with some credit.

  30. John Candido says:

    st.joseph, surely you don’t think that St. Wulfston had his own website during the eleventh century?

    • st.joseph says:

      Before websites we had History books. Or did you not know that!!!

      • st.joseph says:

        And in case you did not know his name is spelt how I said it in the catholic Directory- but can be Walstun, which It tells it on his ‘web site’

      • John Candido says:

        st.joseph, can you give me the website address of the Catholic Directory that you refer to please? Thank you.

  31. st.joseph says:

    You will have to ‘seek and you shall find’ like I did. Perhaps you might start with slave trade and and his name-which ever way you wish to spell it. I just fished around as I knew the history! Living in this part of the country-also worshiping along with Benedictines, which he was!
    As you are so proficient with a computer ,you should have no trouble finding it-if I could!

  32. ionzone says:

    “I would counsel ionzone to avoid formal logic. His first syllogism is not fallacious, The conclusion is not true because the first premise is not true.”

    Sorry, I was annoyed at something unrelated when I wrote that so my logic was not framed exactly – your rephrasing is what I intended.

    • ionzone says:

      Though it was rather the point that the first phrase was untrue – ‘all drugs are bad’ is very easy to invalidate (as I did). ‘All killing is bad’ is a matter up for debate. In this case the killing of the, already doomed, baby to save the mother is, in my opinion, a very strong case for abortion for purely medical reasons (note that I consider rape to be a medical reason – though that has no bearing on this particular debate).

      • tim says:

        Ionzone, could I check? did you mean to type ‘not’ or ‘note’? I hope the former – but the latter fits rather better with your comment (‘no bearing on this particular debate’).

  33. John Nolan says:

    JC, have you considered that the toppling of Mubarak in Egypt might lead, not to a new dawn of democracy and human rights, but to a radical Islamist state? Even before the present unrest there was evidence of increasing persecution of Christians which even the BBC had woken up to. Egypt has never experienced democracy. Cast your mind back to Iran in 1979 and get real.

    Your naive optimism also extends to the Church. No pope, however liberal, is going to get up and say: ‘Sorry, chaps, but we’ve got it wrong for 2000 years, even longer if you count the Jewish tradition. Adultery and sodomy? A misunderstanding of Scripture which Blessed Hans Kung, whom I raised to our altars (sorry, tables) only last year, has kindly pointed out to me. And I’ve decided that women can be priests. I know that it’s going to cause a schism and that the Orthodox will have nothing to do with us for at least another thousand years, but we can’t swim against the tide of secular opinion, can we? By the way, I’ve wound up the CDF, aka the Holy Office. The new breed of highly-educated laity don’t need to be told what to believe. You will already have experienced at your Sunday Worship the new ecumenical version of the Creed: “We believe in God. We believe in each other. We believe in justice, peace , democracy and human rights…” Of course, we must not forget those who are still attached to the now discredited traditions of the old church. I have commissioned a version in Latin and Gregorian Chant of Blessed John Lennon’s wonderful hymn “Imagine”…’

    • Quentin says:

      I like it. I like it.

      I can visualise an extremely funny futuristic play using just this approach.

      • st.joseph says:

        I like it too John,Sometimes a simple sense of humour can disarm fierce aggression,We see this in the example of some of the English martyrs who went cheerfully to their death,and sometimes joked with their executioners-for instance St Thomas More,
        An example of this sense of humour in defending the Faith can be seen in the famous and holy Dominican,Father Vincent McNabb. He was continually being heckled and abused by a certain woman while he was speaking at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park,London.
        On one occasion she cried out at him ‘If you were my husband I would give you a cup of poison!”to which Father McNabb replied, “Madam, if I were your husband I would take it!”

      • John Nolan says:

        I remember a television play called “Catholics” broadcast around 40 years ago which featured a future liberal Church “after Vatican 3” investigating a remote Irish monastery which was still using the old Latin Mass. If I’m not mistaken, the abbot was played by Trevor Howard. It wasn’t a comedy and in those days didn’t seem too far-fetched!

    • John Candido says:

      John, I, along with Quentin, will gleefully await a playwright’s future efforts along similar lines to your reply. I am sure it will give everybody, especially me and all other liberals, howls of laughter! I must say that as a liberal, looking at 2,000 years of ecclesiastical history is an extraordinarily sobering exercise; I would have to be stark raving mad to expect any of the things that I espouse in my posts, to happen anytime soon. I have alluded to this unfortunate fact quite a few times in some of my posts. However, I will gladly wear the moniker of naïve optimist, any day of the week. For where is life, without hope, however naïve at times? And where are our spiritual lives, without the courageous embrace of Christian hope, however ridiculed by the secular world?

      The most august living moral leader in the world today in my opinion, is Mr. Nelson Mandela. Having suffered an incarceration of more than 27 years, for being found guilty of terrorist offences in 1964, he led South Africa out of a certain abyss, to a democratic, non-racial, nation-state. Was Mandela a naïve optimist in 1964? In the light of the brutal and savage attacks that Africans had to endure for many years, for daring to protest peacefully against the racist apartheid government; do you expect the African people to refrain from political activity, and should circumstances dictate, violence, which is aimed at asserting their dignity as human beings? I don’t think so.

      I was a young man in my twenties and thirties when these horrific news reports about South Africa appeared regularly on television. I was utterly appalled by what I saw on a weekly basis. I type these next three words with great emotion, in memory of those Africans who were tortured and killed for the stupidity of racism and apartheid. Amandla! Power! Amandla!

      You are correct in stating that the possible collapse of the Mubarak regime may lead to a very unpleasant alternative government. Apart from the Muslim brotherhood, the Egyptian army could inherit national control. You have also made a fair and reasonable comment, in order for me to cast my mind back to the Iranian revolution in 1979, and its poor outcome of Islamic, sacerdotal rule.

      Are we to conclude from these examples that the Egyptian people should go home and do nothing to improve their state of affairs after 30 years of repression? In the light of savage gunfire from pro-Mubarak forces on innocent and unarmed civilians, ordinary Egyptians have become more determined to end the Mubarak regime, not less. It is estimated that about 300 civilians have been killed so far by the regime during these mass demonstrations. The political elite of Egypt are a disgraceful collection of disgusting thugs, who thoroughly deserve arraignment to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

      There is no doubt that to challenge any repressive regime, is to usually place your own life at serious risk. Egyptians, I believe, have decided individually and en masse, to take the initiative at hand through mass demonstrations in order to change their current despotic arrangements. They have obviously thought long and hard about the perilous choice they have made. I have no doubt whatsoever that they have made a decision consistent with their human consciences in this matter.

      Are they naïvely optimistic for following their consciences and placing their lives at risk for a better political, social, and economic way of life for their families? To look at the enormous personal risks they are taking for an uncertain outcome, I think they are naïvely optimistic but they have my total support. Don’t human rights, democratic reforms, and social justice matter to Egyptians, as much as they do to the citizens of the UK, Europe, Africa, Asia, the United States of America, and the rest of the Americas? Yes, emphatically so.

      All educated people remember the French and American revolutions. Most people would surmise from even the most cursory of insights, that these revolutions, however bloody, unjust, and horrific to prosecute, were the harbingers of lasting social, and political progress. The eventual outcome of these revolutions were, the democratic project, the rule of law, written constitutions, the beginnings of social justice, and human rights globally.

      These developments were a part of the unexpressed hopes of the pre-revolutionary masses during the late eighteenth century, through the political values of various intellectuals. Unfortunately, the nature of revolutions being what they are; a great deal of violence and bloodshed was inevitable. This occurred both during and after the French revolution.

      While you are correct in saying, that there is no guarantee that any revolution will achieve democratic outcomes; attempts at fooling the majority of people that have been repressed for decades, does have a finite life. People are human. Their patience only goes for a certain distance. When this is exhausted, they snap. Along the way, most of them would have thought about the alternatives many times. Such a process is directly in accord with the principles of forming one’s conscience.

      Any fair person seeking or holding any liberal positions of ecclesiastical reform in today’s church, should not begrudge people who cannot help being born in a past historical era. Compassion and understanding is needed here. All individuals are partly a product of the culture that they were born into, and partly a product of their own thinking.

      It is not the case that most of the past history of the church was full of error, and we are not free to arrogantly proclaim that ‘they should have known better’. Such a position would be preposterous. Even in sending poor souls to the stake for failing to recant their ‘controversies’, the church, at that time, was the chilling product of the mediaeval age, and all of its past development. In any case, nobody has the right to make a final judgement of others, except God.

      • John Candido says:

        In my post on the 4th February 2011, I have incorrectly stated that Nelson Mandela was found guilty of ‘terrorism offences’ in his trial which led to him being given a life sentence instead of the death penalty. This translated to his incarceration of more than 27 years at a state prison on Robben Island. The offences were in fact sabotage offences against public property.

        The University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School has a very informative website for members of the public that highlights various famous court cases throughout history. You can access and read Nelson Mandela’s address to his trial in 1964 in full by going to http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/ftrials.htm . If you scroll down the page you come to an old photograph of Nelson Mandela with the description ‘Nelson Mandela Trial (1963-64). You then click ‘Mandela’s Trial Speech’ on the left hand side.

        If you can find the time, it makes for very interesting reading. Mandela explains why the African National Congress (ANC) had gradually evolved to policies of sabotage against public property after decades of fruitless negotiations had led to less human rights for Africans, and in response to savage and brutal attacks against innocent civilians in public protests against apartheid, such as the one at Sharpeville on the 21st of March 1960. On this horrific day, the South African Police opened fire on a peaceful crowd of black protesters killing 69 people. You can read about this appalling incident on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharpeville_massacre .

  34. st.joseph says:

    John, I remember seeing that too. My husband wasn’t a catholic then and I remember him saying ‘its on is way’.He was a great defender of the faith,. even though he didn’t become a catholic until three years before he died.
    He did try to find the film in later years.

  35. st.joseph says:

    John Candido,Your comment about the playwrights similar effort,put me in mind for a good title,it could be called ‘A Vision of Hell. Not so funny then. No howls of laughter either.

  36. John Nolan says:

    John, I don’t think anyone would deny that Nelson Mandela is a great man, in a world dominated by political pygmies on the one hand and nasty pieces of work on the other. Seemingly spontaneous mass movements can bring about change for the better – look what happened in Eastern Europe in 1989. But when things went badly wrong in the former Yugoslavia NATO had to sort it out, the UN having proved ineffective.

    Hilaire Belloc, whose political leanings were liberal, believed the French Revolution to have been a good thing but maintained all his life that Dreyfus was guilty. I take the opposite view. France in the 1780s, despite the deficit ( Britain’s was actually greater), was modernizing rapidly and industrial growth was higher in some sectors than ours. Literacy levels were impressive, thanks to church schools. Overseas trade flourished and a commercial treaty was signed with Britain to the advantage of both countries. Protestants were emancipated in 1787 despite Louis XVI’s coronation oath to extirpate heretics (Catholics in England had to wait till 1829). The Revolution and the wars that followed it ensured that French trade did not recover its 1789 levels until the 1830s. Violence was not an unfortunate by-product of the revolutionary process; it was its driving force and the main reason for its failure. By 1795 the poor were worse off than they had been ten years earlier, and the destruction of the Catholic Church meant that there was no system of poor relief.

    Had the American Revolution not happened the US would have become a self-governing dominion like Canada. Slavery would have been abolished in 1833 as it was in the rest of the British Empire so there would have been no Civil War. And if the Canadian example is anything to go by, the indigenous Indians would have been treated with more humanity.

  37. John Candido says:

    By the way; if I may be permitted to digress somewhat? There are three very good films that I would like to recommend to everybody to go and see at your leisure. ‘The King’s Speech’, ‘True Grit’, and ‘Sarah’s Key’ are excellent films that nobody should miss if they can avoid it. I hope that you will enjoy them, if you haven’t seen them yet.

  38. st.joseph says:

    John Candido,
    You say in your comment on Feb 4th,’ that as a liberal looking on at 2000 years of ecclestical history is an extradionary sobering experience, I would have to be stark raving mad to expect any of the things that I espouse in my posts to happen,at any time soon’. Leave out the word ‘soon’, and you would be perhaps speaking the truth at’ last’. You forget about the 3 years that Our Lord began His Ministery, from 2030 to 2033 . The 3 most important years which changed the course of history. and perhaps if you meditate on the Cross, it may sober up your experience.
    St Paul who became a bitter persecutor of the infant Church,Our Lord made him blind until He opened St Pauls mind to the truth. Before as a young man he was educated in Jerusalem by Gamaliel who gave him a thorough grounding in religious doctrine of the school of Pharisees.
    He writes in his Epistle to the Galatians (2;19,20.
    “With Christ I am nailed to the Cross; and I live now, not I,but Christ lives in me. I live in the faith of the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself for me”.
    That thought absorbed his mind; hence in his first letter to the Corinthians(2;1,2) he wrote.”And I brethren,when I came to you,came not in loftiness of speech and of wisdom,declaring unto you the testimony of Christ.For I judged not myself to know anything among you,but Jesus Christ; and Him crucified,”
    With this love of Christ crucified, missioneries like St Francis Xavier preached the Gospel to the pagans, sometimes facing innumerable deprivations and sufferings,even martydom itself. This was the inspiration that led to charity to the poorest of the poor,to the founding of leprosy centres and hospitals and orphanages. In this way they filled the world with the love of Christ crucified,echoing the words of the Scriptures:
    “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”….
    In all your intellectual words dont forget our Blessed Mother who was not chosen for Her degrees and diplomas, but for her Divine Wisdom.She is the one that stood at the foot of the Cross of Her crucified Son, and is now called the Mother of the Church.
    Petitions have come and still coming from all over the world for years now asking the Holy Father to define the 5th Marian Dogma- of Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate.This is long overdue.
    Information on this can be found on Vox Populi Maria Mediatrix.
    Theological Foundations towards a Papal Definition.
    So you see John, all your liberal thinkers will have to pass Our Blessed Mother.
    She is the Women who crushed the head of Satan with her heel-so the liberals dont stand a chance.

  39. st.joseph says:

    That should have read between 30 to 33 AD.

  40. cmlod says:

    Given that the church now says that stillborn babies may go to heaven and given that all embryos and foetuses are to be considered full human beings, should not the church allow a rite of baptism for the unborn so that they may be guaranteed Heaven?

  41. st.joseph says:

    You may be interested to log on to the web site http://www.priestsforlife.org There is a lot of information on baptism for aborted babies- also funerals for aborted babies and videos of the funerals. And Blogs A lot to read .
    Also what Pope John Paul 2nd. has said on the subject.

  42. John Candido says:

    Thank you Quentin for sharing the letter of the German theologians to the German hierarchy, called ‘The Church in 2011: A Necessary Departure’, within the ‘Independent Catholic News’. I read it with great interest! It was a marvellous example of what thought and dialogue can achieve amongst those theologians, and potentially within the wider church.

    Of course we are all waiting on the substantive response of the German hierarchy and Rome, which will be interesting to observe. Let us hope it will lead to substantial dialogue, debate, and thorough reform. This should be based on the overwhelming need to contemporise the policies, practices, doctrines, protocols, and governance of the Roman Catholic Church.

  43. st.joseph says:

    Quentin,where can I find your comment on the German theologians to the German heirarchy? Thankyou.

  44. John Candido says:

    My apologies to st.joseph as I did not read her question clearly that was addressed to Quentin. Quentin’s comments about the letter of the German theologians can be read in his most recent letter to all contributors of secondsightblog.net and I have copied it for you below.

    Dear Second Sight Blog User

    There have been some interesting responses to The Pity of Teenage Sex, and I know that some of you have written to Channel 4 or to your bishop. Having held responsibility for public relations in a large organisation I know how effective a well argued letter can be. There has also been criticism of the programme from secular sources, and I have inserted a link for you to read what is said.

    We have had some strong discussion of the nature of the Church’s governance recently. And I know that some of you will be interested to read the letter from the German theologians at:
    Most of the comment on this topic has been made on Take the tube, so I suggest that any comments on this letter are attached to that – so that none of us miss them.

    Meanwhile, this week I give you a few thoughts on what is a less dramatic but arguably more important topic.

    Good wishes to all


    Quentin de la Bedoyere

  45. st.joseph says:

    Thank you John.

  46. st.joseph says:

    John, I had found the letter, I wanted to know’ where I could find Quentins comment on it’ ?I was asking Quentin.It wasn’t on the link you gave me.!

  47. st.joseph says:

    Thank you John,I didn’t get any of that on my computer.I eventually got into the Catholic Herald web site ( am still a novice)and the comments made on the blog regarding the Letter,are most interesting,that is to say, out of the 74 comments made ,I was pleased to read that nearly all favoured the teachings of the Church.
    The Holy Spirit is working well!

  48. John Nolan says:

    In medieval Germany it was customary for theologians to initiate debate by drawing up arguments (theses) and nailing them to the church door. Martin Luther famously did this at Wittenberg, which traditionally marks the start of the Reformation. He had 95 theses; the authors of “Kirche 2011 – ein notwendiger Aufbruch” confine themselves to six, albeit with a lengthy preamble which begins with a reference to the cases of sexual abuse which occurred at the prestigious Jesuit-run Canisius College in Berlin thirty years ago. For those not familiar with the case it involved the homosexual abuse of adolescent boys by two Jesuit teachers which as far as I am aware did not include buggery per se, with a possibility that other (unnamed) individuals also abused minors, including girls (the college went co-ed at the end of the 1970s). According to the authors this has plunged the Church into an “unequalled crisis” (ein beispiellose Krise), which if you consider the events of the 16th century sounds a tad alarmist. However, the prospect of large numbers of German Catholics defecting and taking their church tax with them does not bode well.

    The six propositions contain nothing new; they have been on the liberal agenda since the 1960s. The German bishops’ spokesman alludes to this, as well as to the fact that some of the demands are opposed to Church teaching; he refers diplomatically to “tension” (Spannung) but the implication is clear enough. I get the impression that the authors have already decided what needs to be done and would not be receptive to counter-arguments, so they are not in fact initiating a debate. The “last chance” to which they refer has another, perhaps unconscious connotation – do they see the fall-out from the sex abuse scandals as the last chance to impose their agenda on a Church which for twenty years has emphatically not been moving in their direction?

    They make some valid points, particularly regarding the implications for the community of oversize parishes (XXL-Pfarren) in a country which is still very community-orientated. Regarding Canon Law, which few of us in real life actually encounter, I would like to know what they mean by administrative justice (Verwaltungsberichtsbarkeit). What is meant by “women in church ministry”? The German has “im kirchlichen Amt” (in ecclesiastical office). One phrase in the translation has “we see hardly any trace of reform-orientated reforms” which makes no sense at all until you turn to the German which has “zukunftsweisende Reformen” (reforms which point to the future) which presumably distinguish them from Benedict XVI’s reforms which point to the past.

    As for point 6, they advocate the very deformations of the liturgy that Benedict has repeatedly deprecated; it makes you wonder where they have been for the past ten years. I have been to worship services in Germany devised by the faithful, and have often found them well thought-out, devotional and prayerful, with well performed and appropriate music. Long may they continue. But they are by their nature non-liturgical.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s