Can Catholics vote for pro-abortion politicans

61 Responses

  1. Bryony Klugman says:

    Very true. Abortion can never be justified as contributing to the common good as it cheapens all human life and dignity. There is an additional problem in South Africa: the lack of constituencies, effectively making it very difficult to distinguish between pro- and anti-abortion public representatives. In this as in much else, politicians are effectively not individually answerable to their electorates. This system, understandably adopted in the 1990s as a quick fix to ensure as many people could vote as possible, drastically needs to be replaced but, as it suits the ruling party in particular, it is unlikely that the political will to do so will emerge in the foreseeable future..

  2. John E Cunha says:

    Sadly statistics reveal that a large portion of Catholic voters voted for Barack Obama. This being despite the fact that Barack Obama is very much pro-abortion and pro-gay (same sex marriages, etc), in other words anti-Christ. This is a clear indication that a large portion of Catholics in the USA, and indeed the world one could argue, are ignorant or uncertain of certain Church teachings. Of course there is a percentage of Catholics that are aware of Church teaching but refuse to adhere to it, their “conscious” being their supreme point of authority.

    The bishops of the USA have thus begun to take things in a much more serious stance it seems, trying to revitalize Catholic identity as part of the “New Evangelisation”. This should be the goal of all the clergy around the world of course especially in this Year of Faith. The ultimate goal of course which needs to be emphasized being the SALVATION OF SOULS! (In my years of attending Mass I’m not sure I heard this being said once during a sermon or homily, at least not directly).

    It’s heartwarming to see that some bishops are identifying a return to Tradition as part of the New Evangelisation. Hopefully this means as well that a return to the Tridentine Mass will be on top of the list as a proponent of true Catholic identity. The emphasis of the “Four Last Things” (Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell) should also take centre stage once again. All of this of course being expressed and conducted in a manner of true love and concern (none of that hell and brimstone nonsense, not in a fundamentalist manner anyway).

    Here’s some promising quotes from certain bishops from the Synod:

    “The president of India’s episcopal conference issued a rousing call to religious orders to return to their missionary roots. Cardinal Toppo of Ranchi said:

    I would like to make a humble appeal to the religious orders to become missionary again! In the history of evangelization, all the religious orders led by the Holy Spirit have done outstanding and marvelous work. Can we say the same of the Religious congregations today? Could it be that they have begun working like multinationals, doing very good and necessary work to meet the material needs of humanity, but have forgotten that the primary purpose of their founding was to bring the kerygma, the Gospel, to a lost world?”

    “Archbishop Martin of Dublin spoke of the prevalent culture of religious indifference:

    Young people live in a culture of relativism and indeed banalization of the truth often without even being aware of it. It is a culture which they did not create. They may not know any other culture, yet they must find Christ in the midst of this culture while they have little familiarity with the language of faith. The challenge of the New Evangelization must be marked by a robust confrontation of ideas, not in terms of ideological aggression, but in helping young people in the discernment of ideas.”

    At the end of the day Catholics, like all of God’s children, have a right to free will, free choice. So can they vote for a pro-abortion/pro-gay politician? Sure they can. Should they? Well, no.

    Daily Prayer For Conversion Of Sinners
    Dear Lord, I pray for the Conversion of Sinners
    for all of us who require daily conversion
    for those who are dearest to me, my family and friends
    for those not following You, but themselves
    for those inside and out of Your Church, ignorant of Your truths
    for those who are falling away from Your truths,
    for all who are considering or following a false religion
    for those trying to earn their way to Heaven
    for the ones who do not even consider You
    Please Lord, convert their minds and hearts, to truly
    know You, love You and always be obedient to Your Word,
    and then bring them home to live with You for all Eternity.

  3. John E Cunha says:

    Just to add to this topic, here are some profound statements by His Excellency Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia:

    “Archbishop Chaput began his talk, titled “Renewing the Church and Her Mission in a ‘Year of Faith,’” by discussing the nature of faith. He said the Nicene Creed, recited at every Sunday Mass, is the “framework and fundamental profession” of Catholic belief.

    “The less we understand the words of the Creed and revere the meaning behind them, the farther away we drift from our Catholic identity – and the more confused we become about who we really are as Christians.”

    The archbishop discussed the importance of personal integrity, and the role of Sunday Mass in forming our lives throughout the rest of the week.

    “We need to give our hearts to what we hear and what we say in our public worship. Otherwise, little by little, we become dishonest.”

    “More than 70 million Americans describe themselves as Catholics. But for all practical purposes, they’re no different from everybody else in their views, their appetites and their behaviors.”

    This state, he said, was part of the “legacy” left by the baby boomer generation “to the Church in the United States.”

    “In a sense, our political and economic power, our addictions to comfort, consumption and entertainment, have made us stupid.”

    In response to that state of affairs, Archbishop Chaput urged every one to repentance and to conversion. In the face of a Catholic population indistinguishable from the general public, he proposed a sort of examination of conscience.

    “So we need to ask ourselves: What do I want my life to mean? If I claim to be a Catholic, can I prove it with the patterns of my life? When do I pray? How often do I seek out the Sacrament of Penance? What am I doing for the poor? How am I serving the needy? Do I really know Jesus Christ?”

    “Who am I leading to the Church? How many young people have I asked to consider a vocation? How much time do I spend sharing about God with my spouse, my children and my friends? How well and how often do I listen for God’s will in my own life?”

    The full article can be found at the following link: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/archbishop-chaput-being-a-saint-is-the-only-thing-that-matters/

  4. Mike de Fleuriot says:

    What right does the Catholic church have in making decisions for women who do not belong to the Catholic church. If any position of the Catholic Church on abortion is in any way generated from religious views, that should automatically disqualify the Church from demanding their position become the accepted position.

    This is because the debate on abortion, includes women who are not Catholics, and as such can not be expected to listen to views that have nothing to do with them. Imagine if you will a High Priest of Hinduism, making a suggestion that all people, including Catholics doing something that they do not support or even acknowledge.

    The Church should stay with what can not do any harm, let them continue to tell stories about souls and stuff, that is of no matter to people in the real world.

  5. P.R.Margeot says:

    You are back again, M.de Fleuriot. Listen, this is a Catholic site, your views are of no interest to us. Do not attempt to tell the Church what she has to do to save souls. We’ve told you before that that was the ‘raison-d’etre ‘ of the Church. What I say , what you say are not important in the grand scheme of things. The Church is going forward inexorably.

    We are duty-bound to pray for your conversion, you who were a Catholic before and who lost the Faith. Other readers will join in prayers for the salvation of your soul. Remember the last Four Things in this life : death, judgement, Heaven, or Hell.

    The last time I suggested that we do not reply to the provocation of the commenter; I was told, no , we should engage him, broaden our minds, even learn from him. O.k. each one decides.

    Having said that, I see with pleasure and hope that M.de Fleuriot reads the SC religiously. He may be touched by G-d’s Grace and light and re-discover what he has abandoned, at a time when things are improving…

  6. Victor Victoria says:

    I, too, am heartened that Mike reads the Southern Cross site. And that he makes posts here.

    Certainly, to respond to Mike with the words “Listen, this is a Catholic site, your views are of no interest to us” is appallingly bad manners. Mike’s views are of considerable interest to me, I always enjoy reading his posts, even when I might not agree with them.

    Perhaps Mike gets such a rude response because he makes a valid point: “What right does the Catholic church have in making decisions for women who do not belong to the Catholic church.”

    Certainly, the Catholic Church argues that its abhorrence of abortion stems not purely from a religious argument, but from a rational argument along the lines that the new life growing in the womb is in fact a person with an inalienable right to life … and if that is true, then it becomes difficult to be able to countenance abortion since it is a violation of the very right to life.

    This is a complex issue, well beyond my capabilities to argue on. But life happens, and life is often very messy, and pressing decisions are taken. If a young girl is raped, some would argue that she has no recourse to the “morning after pill,” since they believe that to be an abortifacient. I am not /convinced/ … and I am a practicing Catholic. If a mother’s life is threatened by the developing child in her womb, and both are certain to die, are we to deny the mother the right to her life? [This is not a hypothetical situation … a woman who was undergoing a miscarriage and who was denied a termination of pregnancy in Ireland has recently died, along with her child … some people are enraged as a consequence … see http://edition.cnn.com/2012/11/14/world/europe/ireland-abortion-controversy/index.html for details.]

    I don’t wish to wade into this highly-contentious matter, other than to point out that there are serious questions which need delicate teasing out by theologians, philosophers and the great thinkers of the age … and which often demand immediate (and consequently potentially-imperfect) answers by ordinary people who are living out the messiness of their everyday lives.

    Mike de Fleuriot, I for one am thrilled that you still visit this site, and post from time to time!

  7. Victor Victoria says:

    PS Mike, I am of the suspicion that the real world is the world of souls and “stuff,” and that what you seem to imply is the “real world,” i.e. the world of space, matter and forces of interaction, is but but a pale shadow on the real world.

  8. Derrick Kourie says:

    Mike: I second VV’s welcome. Everyone is welcome, provided they obey the rules as clearly set out by the editor. Pay no attention to PRM and his mis-use of the royal “we”. He does not represent anyone except himself. (He possibly speaks for the schismatic SSPX. His relationship to that organisation is not 100% clear.)

  9. P.R.Margeot says:

    Mr Kourie, you are right , I represent myself, however, I do have some feedback of what’s happening here.
    Do not worry; the readers will judge who is who in this place. They will also decide who pushes which line. Do not underestimate the public.
    Now, let’s enjoy your and Mr Victoria’s exchange of views with Mike de Fleuriot. By the way, indeed , I was abrupt and bad-mannered with him. Am sorry( to M.de.F). Before I leave you guys to a fruitful, robust, open-minded, fraternal debate, I will ask Mr Victoria why does he now write under a pseudonym ? He who decried others who wrote under pseudonyms. Just asking.

    If he gives me a good reason, I might join him ….

    Now we are waiting for the trio to illuminate us.

  10. Mark Nel says:

    VV writes: “If a mother’s life is threatened by the developing child in her womb, and both are certain to die, are we to deny the mother the right to her life?”

    VV has, like the majority of the secular world, jumped to the conclusion that the Church’s teaching on abortion led to this woman’s death. An examination of the facts are that the applicable laws in that country clearly contained provisions for the circumstances such as those described in the instance of this woman, if the husband’s version of events is to be believed. Those laws permitted termination of pregnancy if the baby had no chance of living and the mother’s life was at risk by not doing so.

    That hospital has an exceptional record, far better than any other hospital in the UK. I would put my money on it that things are not quite as they are being reported and that those driving the reporting have only one of two objectives. Firstly, to sell newspapers; and secondly, to drive legislation permitting abortions so they can grow their market share in a highly profitable industry that is nothing less than a legal slaughterhouse for innocent children.

    The right thing to do is wait for the outcome of the investigation. At the moment this ‘noise’ is being driven, as I have already said, by groups whose major interest is clearly to legalise abortion. This story has taken more than a month, after the woman’s death in October 2012, to break. It has also conveniently broken into the headlines at a crucial moment. It hit the headlines right before an important debate is due to happen on the subject of abortion in that country. A bishop, whose name I cannot now remember, described the expressions of outrage and compassion for her death as, in many instances, just “activism masquerading as compassion”.

  11. Victor Victoria says:

    PRM, I have been perfectly open as to who it is writing under the pseudonym of Victor Victoria … and I have already given my reasons and intentions.

  12. Victor Victoria says:

    Mark, if my example was a bad one (and I’m not sure that it was), it doesn’t detract anything from my point. If you prefer, I’ll cite the example of the nine-year-old girl who was systematically raped by her father-in-law since the age of six, and who had an abortion to save her life … she weighed 38 kgs and could not bring the twins to term without posing a very serious risk to her life. See, for example, http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2009/03/9yearolds_abort.html for some further details.

  13. Victor Victoria says:

    The patriarchal dimension of Brazilian society (from where the nine-year-old hails) seems to mirror our own … see http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/03/11/brazil.rape.abortion/ .There is an abysmally high rate of sexual crimes against women … do we really expect these women to bear the children of their rapists? If so, then I expect a little more noise from the self-appointed guardians of Church law against patriarchalism, and the abuse of women and children.

  14. Victor Victoria says:

    What was your first name again, PRM? Mine is Vincent.

  15. P.R.Margeot says:

    The time having arrived , I will announce to the world at large,/// trumpets blaring///, ///drums beating///, that my first name is Paul and that I did not want any one from the commenters to call me by that name. I disclosed my surname and initials and that was enough for me. As for the future, carry on calling me PR, PRM.

  16. P.R.Margeot says:

    Am out of here, my boss ,even though he is very liberal in allowing me to use his time when we are not busy, may not like me to abuse of his time and money. I know he also checks the SC and sees all that is written…I must be careful, I need my job. Life is tough.

  17. Mark Nel says:

    VV, there are always hard cases that make the Church teaching seem unreasonable and even difficult to follow. The gate is narrow. It is not easy to follow. The world is filled with suffering that make all of us despair at some point in time and inevitably always leads us to that question of why does God allow suffering? Why are these young girls in this situation and why do they have to bear the burden of carrying a rapist’s child?

    This is why the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are so important. We don’t have the answers and it is difficult for all of us to understand and accept, but that does not change the truth that has been given to us. We must remain committed to following that moral truth in the face of these difficult scenario’s, knowing that there is a reason and that there is a reward that will make sense of all this one day.

    If we believe that life begins at conception, as we do, no matter how difficult the scenario is, the life and rights of that unborn child must be defended as much as we defend the life of the mother. The real question and outrage must always be directed at why these incidents happen and what is being done to stop them happening. That must remain the focus. When our attention is on what we do about an innocent unborn child, we divert from the real problem; the sin committed by some brute that showed no respect for the rights of the mother.

  18. Mark Nel says:

    I am doing some research. I am not sure but I do believe the Church does permit a mother who has been raped to immediately go to a hospital and take the morning after pill do try avoid her conceiving. I am sure that it has to be done within a certain time and subject to the condition of it being a defence from the consequences of the attack. I will try find more and comment here later.

  19. Victor Victoria says:

    Mark, does this not appear to be part of the problem: you think that “the Church” might permit something, and go off to do research. If it does, then that thing becomes okay for you, if it doesn’t, then that thing is anathema.

    Have you ever asked yourself what /you/ think? Or what others outside the Church think?

    The official church can (and has) learnt from a collective wisdom that transcends its formal borders. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

    A real dialogue means listening (genuinely listening) to a disparate range of views. And being open to the possibility that one’s current best synthesis might actually be confronted by fresh insights, and require modification … sometimes, even volte face.

    Regarding moral questions as completely understood and closed seems to me to be presumptuous, since our knowledge and insight must surely always be finite. In the final analysis, we are not God. And all theology is surely speculative at the end of the day.

    St Paul confirms this suspicion: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am.”

  20. Victor Victoria says:

    We note the brouhaha that is unfolding over the denial of the sacrament of confirmation by a parish priest in Barnesville Minnesota to a seventeen-year-old teenager, simply because the teenager’s political stance on a matter of civil law differs from that of his pastor! The teenager’s entire family has been placed under interdict, being barred from the sacrament of holy communion.

    This appears to be an act of political and ecclesiastical fascism. The question of Catholics and their support for politicians, as raised in Michael Shackleton’s article above, is quite a nuanced one. I point to some excellent analyses of the limits of canon law in this regard, since they aid in explicating the issue at hand:


  21. Mark Nel says:

    VV I don’t believe the problem is as you describe above, which basically implies blindly following the Church. I am quite capable of thinking for myself and reaching my own conclusions, and I do. However I may be wrong and to this end I need the guidance of the Magisterium. I am fortunate thus far in that I have always found that my thoughts on a matter end up coinciding with what the Church teaches or, when I was not certain, I found that what the Church teaches, opposed to what others teach, made more sense to me. I do not blindly just follow, but when in doubt, I do always follow the Church.

    The question is what will happen when I reach a subject where I strongly believe something and that belief conflicts with Church teaching. I hope and pray that when that moment arrives that I will have the humility to obey the teaching of the Church. I needn’t repeat the obvious reasons for why ultimately the Magisterium must always trumps my own beliefs on a subject.

  22. Mark Nel says:

    I hit submit to quick.

    I would then find appropriate forums to debate my beliefs that contradict the Church’s teaching in a way that is always extremely cautious about creating confusion amongst other Catholics. I would however continue to follow the Church and would never, as in the examples of women ordination, act contrary to the Church’s teaching and/or incite others to act contrary to the Church’s teaching. I would in humility wait and debate, in appropriate forums, and PRAY.

  23. Mark Nel says:

    The problem I have with groups like this “We Are All Church” group is that they do not debate amongst themselves and with bishops, priests and theologians as is their right and duty to do. They go a step further and are actually on a crusade to attract others to their group in order to convert them into their way of thinking. They even want to advertise their group in this newspaper. This is out of line. It is destructive and not reasonable behaviour.

  24. Victor Victoria says:

    I can think of other behaviours that are destructive and unreasonable, and quite out of line … pots and kettles and degrees of blackness and all that rot.

  25. Mark Nel says:

    You are quite right VV, there are other behaviors that are destructive, unreasonable and out of line. One such would be to suggest that the Church’s teaching contributes to the high rate of suicide amongst gay teens because of a disagreement with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

  26. Victor Victoria says:

    Since I was aware (and have made several hierarchs aware!) of empirical studies that indicate precisely such a link between suicide rates among LGBT youth and institutional discrimination, I would hardly call it a suggestion, let alone a destructive, unreasonable or out-of-line one!

    Mark, why don’t you wander over to the following culmination of a three-year study (supported by grants to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention from the Lilly Foundation and the Johnson Family Foundation):

    “Suicide and Suicide Risk in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Populations: Review
    and Recommendations,” Journal of Homosexuality, 58:10–51, 2011

    The authors are: AP Haas PhD, M Eliason PhD, VM Mays PhDMSPH, RM Mathy MAMSWMStMSc, SD Cochran PhDMS, AR D’Augelli PhD, MM Silverman MD, PW Fisher PhD, T Hughes PhDRNFAAN, M Rosario PhD, ST Russell PhD, E Malley MPA, J Reed PhDMSW, DA Litts OD, E Haller MD, RL Sell ScD, G Remafedi MDMPH, J Bradford PhD, AL Beautrais PhD, GK Brown PhD, GM Diamond PhD, MS Friedman PhDMSWMPA, R Garofalo MDMPH, MS Turner MD, A Hollibaugh & PJ Clayton MD

    Warmest wishes,


  27. Mike de Fleuriot says:

    I think it was Churchill that said something along the lines of “Those who try to silence you, are afraid of what you are saying”. I have found this to be most true among the theists.

    But as you will have notice in this pro-life debate, almost all support from it comes from the older and male generation. Reading the replies to my comment, I am yet to see a reason offered why this one group of theists feels that they have a right to dictate the health issues of another person, based solely on their view of how reality works. This is a prime example of the arrogance that the theistic world view pushes forward, because they claim to know the unknowable, their preferences must be given primacy no matter the cost.

    Allow me to put forward a purely hypothetical example. Imagine if you will, that the Vatican was having a discussion about the celibacy of the priesthood, and Richard Dawkins, flew in from Britain to actively campaign in allowing priests to have marriage. Do you not think that would be uncalled for, and extremely arrogant of him to do this. After all he is not even a citizen of the Vatican city. Now how about the real case of divorce in Ireland, where a certain nun flew all the way from India, to Ireland, where she was not a citizen to do something similar. The only difference between these two examples is that one actually happened and the other did not.
    (And later that year, she, Agnes Bojaxhiu, spoke of her dear friend Diane, hoping that she would find peace after her divorce.)

    As I have said before, these health issues are the province of only three people, the woman who is pregnant, the attending medical doctor and the father. Each of which has a right to offer their wishes and opinions on how to progress, with the medical doctor’s opinion dealing only in modern accepted medical matters, the father stating his position on whether he will want the pregnancy to continue or not. The father can only voice his preference and has to abide by what the woman and the doctor determine to be in the best interests of the woman. No one else’s opinion, views or beliefs should be allowed into the determination process, after all none of those people are involved in this situation.

    And anyway abortion is allowed, according your bible, Numbers 5:11-31 (which is protected by Matt 5:18, et al)

  28. Victor Victoria says:

    Dear Mike,

    you claim that as you “have said before, these health issues are the province of only three people, the woman who is pregnant, the attending medical doctor and the father.”

    The last time you made this claim, I pointed out that you might have left someone off the list, namely the child gestating in the womb. What about his/her say in the matter?

    You might say that the child cannot speak for itself, but neither can a new-born baby (please note that infanticide has been used as a method of “birth control” for many millennia), so what’s the difference? The child is NOT a part of the mother’s body, by the way. It has its own genetic material, its own (perhaps incompatible) blood type, etc … it is essentially using the mother as a (parasitic/symbiotic?) host, attached via a placenta.

    If you were under threat, your very life were under threat, wouldn’t you like your fellow citizens to stand up for you, to speak out for your right to life? Especially if you were very vulnerable, and unable to speak out for yourself?



  29. Victor Victoria says:

    Allowing a new born baby to die by refusing to feed and nurture it, keep it clean and warm and safe, would be infanticide.

    Allowing an unborn baby to die by actively separating the placenta from the host, thereby denying the baby nutrients and oxygen and a safe space for it to continue its development appears to be a form of infanticide, doesn’t it?

    These are vexing questions, and I am loath to make any definitive pronouncements … but it is worth raising some awkward questions which arise from reason herself …

  30. Derrick Kourie says:

    @Mike: In addition to the points made by VV, and in response to your assertion that only 3 people have a “right” to be involved in the decision, I have to ask:

    – Who gets to decide about rights, and on what basis?
    – Are rights decided upon democratically? (Most people would vote for the death penalty—does that mean that murderers do not have the “right” to life?)
    – Or are rights somehow embedded in the human condition?
    – And if so, how do we get to discern those rights?

    Is the thing that you call a “right” not simply a concept that you have taken over from the very thing you criticise: your Judeo-Christian heritage?

    Suppose a Chinese citizen says to you: “My country is over-populated. We cannot afford to have more than 1 child per couple. The state has a right to abort a fetus of couples who do not adhere to this norm.” Upon what principle do you say: no, only 3 people have a “right” in this case?

  31. Derrick Kourie says:

    In regard to the broader issues raised in these comments, I have been conscious of two matters that I think deserve to be highlighted:

    1. Women who conceive in unfortunate circumstances and who could have had an abortion but choose not to do so, are nothing less than heroic. They have my greatest admiration. We should honour and praise them as true examples of human goodness, and we should support them and their families in every possible way.

    2. In a context where legal abortion is a fait accompli (as in SA), merely expressing moral indignation at abortion may be cathartic, but quite unproductive. Do we not all have an obligation to try to work for an environment where the perceived need for abortion is diminished. Surely we should factor in such considerations when we make decisions about voting.

  32. Bryony Klugman says:

    The American Catholic journalist, George Weigel, offers an interesting perspective on the wider context of the culture of abortion, which has destroyed or wrecked so many lives, in his reference to Cardinal Martini’s valedictory interview, at the end of which, the Cardinal stated that `The Church is 200 years behind. Why in the world does it not rouse itself? Are we afraid? Fear instead of courage?”

    Of course there is no suggestion that the late Cardinal approved of abortion in any way, but nevertheless Weigel rightly warns against trying to “keep up with” the values of the world, rather than assert those of the Gospel, as he continues:

    `To which one wants to reply, with all respect, “Two hundred years behind what?” A western culture that has lost its grasp on the deep truths of the human condition? A culture that celebrates the imperial autonomous Self? A culture that detaches sex from love and responsibility? A culture that breeds a politics of immediate gratification and inter-generational irresponsibility, of the sort that has paralyzed public policy in Italy and elsewhere? “Why in the world,” to repeat the late cardinal’s question, would the Church want to catch up with that?’

    [The fulll article may be found at: http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/9401%5D

  33. Bryony Klugman says:

    *That should be “…destroyed AND (not `or’) wrecked…”, in reference to the babies and their mothers respectively, the latter often, although by no means always, pressurized at a vulnerable time..

  34. Mike de Fleuriot says:

    By rights, I mean the only people who must be allowed to be involved in the decision to terminate. Which means only the three people I mentioned have the right to be involved.

    As to rights being decided democratically, that does not apply here, as there are only three people who are able to make a decision here. And each of them have different areas of concern and involvement. So this is not a democratic decision, but a decision based on reason.

    All the other red herrings about rights, are just that. They have no bearing on the decision.

    As to the foetus’s “rights” I will have to suggest that the choice of the woman overrides it, especially in cases of illegal sex. But I must point out what I consider to be a little bit dishonest, and that is almost all the pro-life people talk as if all abortions are late term abortions. In most cases, the termination is done as soon as the permanency is confirmed. From reading the hysterical literature of the pro-life movement, they are suggesting that almost all abortions are pre-birth crowning’s

    This is not the case, especially in every modern country. That fact is that the only way to reduce the abortion rates, is to provide contraceptives, good sex education and to empower women. Abstinent is only 99% effective, as your own religion shows. Give women the choice to decide how many and when to have children, though access to contraceptives and good education will go a long way to reducing this problem. Unfortunately there are some major organisations who actively work to prevent this from happening, and that is base evil, at least from my point of view.

    In my discussions here on this subject, I have noticed that only men seem to be against the pro-choice position, and that reminded me of a quote which goes something along the lines of “If men got pregnant, you would find abortion clinics on every corner and the procedures would be free.”

    So you guys really have not say in this matter, especially if you are against the right of a woman to choice what she wants to do with her health. And doubly so if you are a member of a virgin clergy.

  35. Derrick Kourie says:

    @Mike: Point taken about the absence of women in this debate. I don’t know whether too much can be read into that since males tend to dominate the postings not just in this thread, but in all others on the Southern Cross website. In her refreshing 2007 book “The New Atheists — The twilight of reason & the war on religion” Tina Beattie highlights the fact that debates (such as this present one, the science/religion debate, etc) tend to be male-dominated. She points out that they often serve as a sort of head-butting, jousting, males-seeking-dominance forum. Women tend to find such contestations something of a turned off and bore! Nevertheless, women seem to be well-represented on both poles of the abortion issue in other contexts, such as voting patterns, public organisations, etc.

    I am interested in your assertion that rights are derived from reason. It is not self-evident that reason alone dictates that only mother/father/doctor have rights to decide about abortion. My point about a possible Chinese viewpoint on abortion, which you dismiss as a red herring, was to illustrate that reason is culturally determined. When you ascribe rights to the parents, you speak from a value-system which preferences individuality over group—a particularly Western bias. As Beattie says: “Rationality does not float free of all the particularities of our lives but is embedded within them and flows from them.”

    For example, your assertion that the woman’s rights override that of the fetus derives from a particular value system that says something like: “the convenience of established life trumps the continued existence of incipient life”.

    Similarly, when you add the rider: “especially in cases of illegal sex” (I presume you mean rape) you are articulating a value system along the lines of: “someone who has suffered the violation of having a pregnancy forced upon her has more of a claim over the fetus than someone who has fallen pregnant by her own negligence.”

    My point is that if I have a different value system to you, there is no way in which we can convince one another by reason of the rightness of our viewpoint. If I say to you: “Incipient life is just as important as established life”, all you can do is respond “No, it isn’t.”, and then I will say “Yes it is”, and you will say “No” and I wll say “Yes” and we get nowhere.

    That is why I am heartened by the fact that we are in agreement that actions should be taken to bring the abortion rate down. You are therefore endorsing the point I had made earlier. At least we agree that abortion is generally undesirable. We probably also agree that education, especially of women, is a key element in bringing down the abortion rate. I would like to see as part of that education, a stronger emphasis on critiquing the banal Holywood-inspired values of society. I would like to see young people encouraged to aspire to be masters of their sexuality, not victims. They should know that abstinence is a wholesome, natural, authentic option—not some wayout impossible geeky norm. Provided that such an educational emphasis is in place, I would personally not exclude other measures you suggest to bring down abortion rates.

  36. Mike de Fleuriot says:

    Sorry kids are going to have sex, they always have, and there is nothing anyone can do about this. The best that we can do is provide them with proper education, and effective health measures. Abstinence will never be able to stand up against teen hormones, that is not how human biology works, no matter how much you want it to work. This is what you are up against.
    [NSFW – http://www.epiclol.com/cdn/pictures/2012/06/abstinence-only-education_1338542678_epiclolcom.jpg ]

    If you take a look at the US, you will find that states with abstinence only education are also the states with the highest repeat teen pregnancies as well as the highest in STD’s. While those who offer a contraceptive based sex education generally are at the low end of this scale. Condoms work, if used correctly. This is a fact and a solution to all the problems of sex. In fact anyone who refuses to support such education and heath services is actually increasing the problem.

    And you will also have noticed that the pro-life brigade never want to talk about illegal abortions or self induced abortions, with their associated harm to the physical and mental health of the slut who got herself knocked up out of wed lock. (To use their phraseology). Coat hangers are for hanging coats! Education and health services prevents this.

  37. Derrick Kourie says:

    I am not some starry-eyed ideologue who imagines that one is going to stop teenage sex altogether. Rather, it is about limiting the /extent/ of uncommitted sex. More specifically, it is about contributing to a climate where those teeangers who choose not engage in sex are not marginalised as dorks or geeks. Conversely, those who become sexually active should not be made to feel like grown-ups or heroes. It is they who are weak, vulnerable and at risk.

    My experience of teenagers is that they are more than capable of being idealistic—in fact, they are naturally disposed towards idealism. Those who opt not to take sex casually, those who wish to have high ideals about sex, need to know that it is they who are normal. The sexually profligate are the odd ones out. It is the sexually undisciplined ones who render themselves less and less capable of coherent, committed human relationships. One merely has to look at the incoherent lives of the so-called Hollwood stars, to see where such undisciplined sexual relationships end up.

    Practically everyone, even Dawkins, accepts that sex should be limited to mutually consenting partners. I would like to add into that, that the degree of sexual involvement should be commensurate with one’s commitment to the other. If you do not accept that, then sex ceases to be something that takes place between two subjects, but instead, reduces “the other” to an object for my pleasure. A refusal to accept the other as subject diminishes your ability to form lasting deep relationships. That, in turn, leads to an incoherent, unconnected life. These are well-established psychological facts. I am asking for nothing more than that such facts should be highlighted as part of the education of young people. To simply distribute condoms and tell young people to do as they wish, is to betray young people. You set them up for failure as human beings.

    Everyone accepts that you don’t simply give up on youngsters and say: Kids will be kids. Kids will smoke/drink/take drugs. It can’t be stopped. We might as well dish out heroine and speed at teenage parties. Why is it right to give youngsters solid scientific information about the effects of drugs, alcohol and smoking, but then hold back on full scientific information about the effects of uncommitted and unrestrained sexual involvement?

  38. Mike de Fleuriot says:

    I smell straw here, I never said nor suggested that condom should be packed with school lunches. I said that sex education should lead the way, as well as access to contraceptives. From what you are suggesting is that only married people should be allowed to have sex. I am sorry I must have missed the ceremony where you were crowned king of all of us. Remember what I said about not telling those of us who do not belong to your club, how to behave, this is what I mean.

    Casual sex is not a bad thing, especially if all parties are educated in what to expect and are able to put their needs on the table for examination. What you have been suggesting is a set of rules on how to be a moral human according to your world view. This is something that you would not accept from, say me, if I was to demand my world view to become the standard, so I suggest you need to rethink your statement.

    Also, you might want to examine why you came across so dogmatic, could it be because you know your position would not stand without this hard line you propose?

    The only workable solution is to lock up your children until you are able to select a mate for them to marry, or to educate them in how to be a normal sexual human, without fear or favour. Parents need to accept that their children will have sex, and it’s up to the parents to determine if their children have better sex than they had when they where their children’s age. The reason parents can not do this, is because they did not have proper education in sex when they were young, or the education that they did receive, was totally obscene, that it still affects them today.

  39. Victor Victoria says:

    I wonder if I might post a link to the excellent article entitled “human sexuality – its power and purpose” which appeared in this week’s Southern Cross. Written by Fr Ron Rolheiser, a well-known “mystic,” it makes an attempt to synthesize our evolutionary inheritance as sexual beings with our inheritance as spiritual beings, and it does much to hold this tension in a very honest and truthful manner. (It also doesn’t proscribe, one way or t’other, … but simply breaks the topic open for deeper reflection.)


    I post his concluding paragraphs here, since they might whet readers’ appetites to follow the link and read this powerful article in its entirety.

    “As well, sexuality wreaks havoc with many people’s church lives. It is no secret that today one of the major reasons why many young people, and indeed people of all ages, are no longer going regularly to their churches has to do, in one way or the other, with their struggles with sexuality and their perception of how their churches view their situation. My point here is not that we and the churches should change the commandments regarding sex, but that we should do a couple of things: First, we should more realistically acknowledge its brute power in our lives and integrate sexual complexity more honestly into our spiritualties. Second, we should be far more empathic and pastorally sensitive to the issues that beset people because of their sexuality.

    Sexuality is sacred a fire. It takes it origins in God and is everywhere, powerfully present inside creation. Denial is not our friend here.”

  40. Derrick Kourie says:

    @VV: Thanks for the link. I had read the article in the hardcopy of the Southern Cross, and I was indeed very impressed by it. It’s great that it is also available in electronic form.

  41. Victor Victoria says:

    This column is about the tension between political and spiritual values, specifically about Catholics voting for pro-abortion politicians. This, it is argued, is a life and death issue. Some even phrase it as a great war between a “culture of life” versus a “culture of death.”

    There is another issue that has yet again raised its ugly head: the tension between Catholicism and the civil law as regards the phenomenon of homosexuality.

    Uganda’s parliament is trying for the second time to pass a civil law that could carry the death penalty for homosexuality: if passed, hundreds of thousands of Ugandans will likely face execution! This is yet another life and death issue, and I’m afraid that fundamentalist Christians seem to be behind much of the foment in this country.

    Let us show that we are not cafeteteria Catholics … let us show that we are “seamless garment” Catholics, who support a consistent life ethic, from cradle to grave. How can we do this? I suggest one small concrete action that we can all undertake:

    I would strongly urge all people of goodwill to sign the online Avaaz petition at http://www.avaaz.org/en/uganda_stop_gay_death_law/?bCfdJab&v=19438 … and thereby put your faith into action!

    I hope that my challenge doesn’t violate the combox policies … if so, I apologize, and request that this post be deleted.

  42. Derrick Kourie says:

    @Mike: Knowing the philosophical position from which you come, I have been seeking maximum consensus and avoiding being unnecessarily contentious.

    Thus, I noted that we agree that it is desirable to minimise if not eliminate the need for abortion, and we agree that education about sex is one way to reduce abortions. My intention in the previous post was to fill in some of the blanks about what I think such education should entail. My apologies if, in emphasising that theme, I misrepresented your position on making contraception available.

    Aside from all your rhetoric, I think the focal point on which we differ is in your second paragraph: “Casual sex is not a bad thing” and your belief that I dogmatically advocate “a set of rules on how to be a moral human according to [my] world view.”

    What you describe as my “set of rules” on how to be moral was intended as a rational argument, not a dogmatic assertion. I assumed (wrongly it seems) that we had an implicit common basis of understanding of “good” and “bad” — i.e. I assumed that you would accept that it is “good” (or even just preferable) for humans to relate to one another on a subject-to-subject basis rather than on a subject-to-object basis. It seems that in this, I was mistaken.

    My understanding of casual sex is that two people mutually agree to interact on a subject-to-object basis with one another—i.e. there is no genuine interest or commitment to the personhood of the other. You claim that from your point of view, such casual sex is not a bad thing. There is no way in which I can argue with you because we have totally different views of the universe.

    As I understand your universe, there is no moral directionality, no ultimate principle of good: we are just isolated bits of conscious matter in a cold expanding universe that has no particular destiny. In such a universe, indeed it matters not that we treat others as objects. After all, that is simply what we all are: enlivened purposeless objects. In such a universe, it is quite rational to pursue my sexual pleasure without much interest in the other objects involved in tht pursuit. If, in my pursuit of my pleasure, I make a little mistake—neglect to use contraceptives or use them incorrectly—then it is quite rational to get rid of that awkward little fetus as soon as possible. It is quite rational to limit sex education to themes such as the correct technical use of contraceptives to avoid the inconvenience of an abortion, the dangers of STDs, the problems of single-parenthood, etc. And it is quite rational to scorn education about the broader human and humanising dimension of sex and sexuality. Given your philosophical starting point, your position is quite coherent.

    From where I stand, your philosophical starting point seems to lead to a world which is singularly unattractive: banal, robotic, bland, joyless and opportunistic. I am not surprised that the atheist existentialist philosopher, JP Sartre, titles his book: “Nausea”. I am deeply grateful that my starting point is very different from yours. I am much happier with a world view which is well expressed in the last sentence of VV’s quote above: “Sexuality is sacred a fire. It takes it origins in God and is everywhere, powerfully present inside creation.” In such a world, sex is a God-given rewarding subject-to-subject encounter. In such a world, something is “good” when it entails authenticity. An encounter is subject-to-subject when it entails, not indifference, but a commitment to the long term good of the other person—i.e. when it entails love.

    It seems unlikely that we will find consensus on this matter. We have had the God/no God debate endlessly before. Perhaps we should agree that you continue in your world, and I will in mine.

  43. Victor Victoria says:

    Extraordinarilly well put, and meticulously and cogently argued, Derrick!

  44. Victor Victoria says:

    Mike, as regards your claim that “In my discussions here on this subject, I have noticed that only men seem to be against the pro-choice position” … Bryony is a female, isn’t he?

    I would hope that no-one would dare to use a nom-de-plume as a means to pretend to be of the other gender … it would demean honest women by having faceless and shameless men pretend to argue as them … a sort of patriarchalism gone wild! In point of fact, it would be a dishonesty of the most sordid kind.

  45. Mike de Fleuriot says:

    Derrick, this reply is mainly addressed to your reply to me.

    Debating here, I really learn the meaning of logical fallacies, especially the straw ones. Let me ask this, in your personal opinion what is the purpose of the sex act, in simple English terms, if you can?

    Your position, which seems to be based on the current teachings of the Church, is that sex should only be inside marriage for the express purpose of creation of life. Anything else that is experience is a lucky bonus, but not needed. This goes to my point about the right of the Church to dictate how people should behave towards others, do we in this modern world really need to be told this, especially by an organisation that is rather out of touch with the modern world.

    Every advance that the secular world has made, the Church has fought unless it was reluctantly forced to accept the advance. I can not really think of one thing that the Church proposed that improved the life of the modern human, before it was developed by the secular world. That is why the Church’s views on human sexuality and human rights are in conflict with the rest of the world. The Church believes that they and only they know what is best for everyone, no matter if these people are members of the Church or not.

    One other thing, this strawman you erected about atheism and equating it to nihilism, you know it is false, because I know that you have had this explained to you many times. Please do not continue to do that, it makes you look dishonest.

  46. Victor Victoria says:

    Dear Mike,

    For /homo sapiens,/ the sex act appears to have two primary purposes: the unitive and the procreative.

    “Casual sex is not a bad thing, especially if all parties are educated in what to expect and are able to put their needs on the table for examination.” To use the sex act to fulfil egotistical “needs,” using the other as a superficial caricature, a sex object, for the purposes of self gratification, a one-night stand, appears to be rather plastic, if you don’t mind my saying so.

    Incidentally, the generative, as Ron Rolheiser points out, has a far broader meaning than biological procreation alone.

    I think it might help if I post Fr Ron’s entire article, since it speaks to what Derrick has been saying, and to your misunderstanding of his carefully-constructed arguments.

  47. Victor Victoria says:

    Taken from:


    Sexuality – Its Power and Purpose
    Fr Ronald Rolheiser OMI

    We are all powerfully, incurably, and wonderfully sexed, this is part of a conspiracy between God and nature. Sexuality lies right next to our instinct for breathing and it is ever-present in our lives.

    Spiritual literature tends to be naïve and in denial about the power of sexuality, as if it could be dismissed as some insignificant factor in the spiritual journey, and as if it could be dismissed at all. It cannot be. It will always make itself felt, consciously or unconsciously. Nature is almost cruel in this regard, particularly to the young. It fills youthful bodies with powerful hormones before those persons have the emotional and intellectual maturity to properly understand and creatively channel that energy. Nature’s cruelty, or anomaly, is that it gives someone an adult body before that same person is adult in his or her emotions and intellect. There are a lot of physical and moral dangers in a still-developing child walking around in a fully adult body.

    Further, today this is being exacerbated by the fact that we reaching puberty at an ever younger age and are marrying at an ever-later one. This makes for a situation, almost the norm in many cultures, where a young girl or boy reaches puberty at age eleven or twelve and will get married only about twenty years later. This begs the obvious question: How is his or her sexuality to be emotionally and morally contained during all those years? Where does that leave him or her in the struggle to remain faithful to the commandments?

    Admittedly, nature seems almost cruel here, but it has its own angle. Its dominant concern is to get each of us into the gene pool and all those powerful hormones it begins pouring into our bodies at adolescence and all those myriad ways in which it heats up our emotions have the same intent, it wants us to be fruitful and multiply, to perpetuate ourselves and our own species. And nature is uncompromising here: At every level of our being (physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual) there is a pressure, a sexual one, to get us into the gene pool. So when you next see a young man or woman strutting his or her sexuality, be both sympathetic and understanding, you were once there, and nature is just trying to get him or her into the gene pool. Such are its ways and such are its propensities, and God is in on the conspiracy.

    Of course getting into the gene pool means much more than physically having children, though that is deep, deep imperative written everywhere inside us that may be ignored only in the face of some major psychological and moral risks. There are other ways of having children, though nature all on its own does not easily accept that. It wants children in the flesh. But the full bloom of sexuality, generative living, takes on other life-giving forms. We have all heard the slogan: Have a child. Plant a tree. Write a book. There are different ways to get into the gene pool and all of us know persons who, while not having children of their own and neither writing a book nor planting a tree, are wonderfully generative women and men. Indeed the religious vow of celibacy is predicated on that truth. Sexuality also has a powerful spiritual dimension.

    But, with that being admitted, we may never be naïve to its sheer, blind power. Dealing with the brute and unrelenting power of our sexuality lies at the root of many of our deepest psychological and moral struggles. This takes on many guises, but the pressure always has the same intent: Nature and God keep an unrelenting pressure on us to get into the gene pool, that is, to always open our lives to something bigger than ourselves and to always remain cognizant of the fact that intimacy with others, the cosmos, and God is our real goal. It is no great surprise that our sexuality is so grandiose that it would have us want to make love to the whole world. Isn’t that our real goal

    As well, sexuality wreaks havoc with many people’s church lives. It is no secret that today one of the major reasons why many young people, and indeed people of all ages, are no longer going regularly to their churches has to do, in one way or the other, with their struggles with sexuality and their perception of how their churches view their situation. My point here is not that we and the churches should change the commandments regarding sex, but that we should do a couple of things: First, we should more realistically acknowledge its brute power in our lives and integrate sexual complexity more honestly into our spiritualties. Second, we should be far more empathic and pastorally sensitive to the issues that beset people because of their sexuality.

    Sexuality is sacred a fire. It takes it origins in God and is everywhere, powerfully present inside creation. Denial is not our friend here.

  48. Derrick Kourie says:


    My personal opinion about the purpose of sex corresponds precisely to that of the Church, as given by VV above. The purpose is twofold: unitive and procreative.

    Note 1: It is specifically a dual purpose and not, as you suggest, for procreation only. It is emphatically not the case that the Church teaches that “[a]nything else that is experience is a lucky bonus, but not needed”. Instead, it teaches that sex is a gift from God not simply to procreate, but to enjoy and console one another and to mediate something of the love, goodness and beauty of God to one another, not just through the sexual act itself, but through the full spectrum of sexual interaction and being together.

    Note 2: I find your question to me a little odd, because I don’t see that sex can have a purpose if there is no purposer. I understand “purpose” to be something forward-looking, something associated with an intention. Blind evolution cannot have an intention or purpose. From an evolutionary perspective, sex is simply a biological mechanism that ensures the continuation of the species. But it has no purpose, except in a metaphorical sense.

    I agree with some of the other points you make. I agree that the Church is indeed frustratingly slow and out of touch in reacting to many contemporary situations. I think that this is especially the case in the realm of human sexuality. I wish the Church would have a major in-depth review of its teachings derived from and relating to human sexuality. Catholics are pretty divided about such things.

    One should also give credit where it is due, especially in regard to the Church’s social teaching and its actual social work. It has contributed hugely to education and health services throughout the world, especially amongst the poor and amongst AIDS suffers. In a 2007 interview with the BBC, the Noam Chomsky, (himself an atheist) was asked for contemporary examples of religion making a positive contribution. He was full of praise for Catholic social teaching and said: “The Catholic Bishops Conference in the United States comes out with statements that are so progressive that the press won’t report them. The Pope’s new year messages are often not reported because they would be considered so far ‘to the left’ (whatever that means in the US spectrum).” The pivotal role of John Paul II in the downfall of communism is widely recognised. And the Church’s social teaching as reflected in encyclicals such Rerum Novarum, Progressio Populorum and many others (including the most recent encylical of Benedict — Caritas in Veritate) are widely consulted and respected by opinion formers at all levels.

    I am sorry if it offends you that I see a connection I see between atheism and nihilism. You say that I will be dishonest if I make the connection. I say that I will be dishonest if I do not. As far as I can see, the one logically follows from the other as day follows night. I have several outspokenly atheist friends and I accept that they, like you, find meaning beyond themselves in their families, work, entertainment or whatever. The atheists I know are also highly ethical people, and I presume you are as well. But when pushed, they all concede that ultimately their morality is derived from “feeling” and their inner evolutionary impulse, rather than from logic; that ultimately there is no “good” or “bad”; that ultimately nothing really matters.

  49. Mike de Fleuriot says:

    I really wished that you did not bring your god into this, for the simple reason that you have yet to show any testable evidence that your god can exist, does exist and is needed to exist. Until you do that, a statement like :

    “Instead, it teaches that sex is a gift from God not simply to procreate, but to enjoy and console one another and to mediate something of the love, goodness and beauty of God to one another, not just through the sexual act itself, but through the full spectrum of sexual interaction and being together.”

    Has the same amount of meaning to me, if you have used the words Zeus or hamster in the place of God. Until you can show that your god exists, I have to reject your claims that you know the mind of your god, especially when what you claim, is pretty much exactly the same as what you want to be true.

    Be honest and answer this question. Do you know the mind of your God? Yes or no. And if not yes, then how are we supposed to determine what is your wants and your Gods wants. Papal infallibility is sort of a joke these days, the rest of the world has learnt that.

    So that leaves you having to defend your wants in these issues by your own reasoning, and not relying on something that you have no access to, namely the wishes and wants of your God.

    My position is that the choice is the sole providence of those actually involved in the procedure, the pregnant, the father and the medical personal. After all, they are the one’s directly affected by the procedure, and as was stated above, most of these abortions are usually preform very early in the pregnancy. What has muddled the waters unfairly is this unfounded concept of a soul, for which there is yet to be an authorised accepted definition, as well as a specific location in the human body for it, and a detailed function of how it works.

    If you can not show it, then you do not know it. It’s that simple. The idea that a soul appears/exists/implants at conception is a nice thought, but not a well thought out one. When you look at the conception of twins, when one twin actually absorbs the second twin, does the second twin’s soul get absorbed as well, or does it get returned to soul storage. Remember the discussions about “test tube” babies.

    All this says that until we are shown evidence of a soul, conciousness has to be the deciding factor as to when a human is a human. And science has some really scary things to say about when conciousness is present in a human, it is a long while after the child is born. I think the problem is that the religious still have not fully accepted that we humans are animals and are not as special as the religions have been promising, that is why they keeping hanging on to these keep sakes from early times.

    To repeat, you, your congregation and the Holy See, have no right to have a say in the choice of a woman with regards to what she wants to do with her body. Her decision is final, and at that time, she must be give full access to the best possible medical expertise that is available. To do anything else, including screaming at her, shoving pictures of aborted babies in her face, and bombing abortion clinics is not what your Jesus would have wanted, I think. (but then there is Luke 19:27)

  50. Derrick Kourie says:


    This is a little bizzare. Knowing that I am Catholic, you push me to tell you what the purpose is of sex. I point out that it’s a strange request from an atheist, because a purpose presupposes a purposer. Nevertheless, I oblige, and predictably, my answer to your question includes a reference to the purposer, God. But that reference makes you freak out! Now you ask if I know the mind of God. Whatever answer I give will surely entail the word “God” again. Hopefully that will not upset you again.

    Since you ask: of course I don’t know the mind of God. God is utterly beyond anything you or I could know or imagine. Theologians would say that one can only know about God that which God chooses to reveal. God’s revelation, they would say, is principally through creation, through the scriptures, but most of all, through our rational intelligence as applied to both creation and the scriptures. Why? Because God is supremely rational.

    Your scepticism is justified regarding claims about what is and is not the mind of God. Such claims should always be tested against reason. There is indeed a danger of confusing my wants with the mind of God. That is why we, within the Christian (and indeed, entire human) community need to interact with one another on the basis of rationality. This is exactly what I have been trying to do with you, and I find that your conclusions frequently entail leaps in logic: for example your denials of the association between atheism and nihilism, your insistence in earlier posts that what clearly constituted evidence was not evidence, and now your assertion that “conciousness has to be the deciding factor as to when a human is a human”.

    If that is truly your belief, then let’s build a super-race, a la Nazism. Whenever those pre-conscious human forms pop out of the womb in less than perfect physical form, let’s eliminate them. And let’s take out all those inconvenient unconscious post-humans who lie around uselessly unconsious in hospital beds in chronic facilities. Roll on, brave new world! (Yea, euthenasia, I know: dying in dignity and all that…. But how about eugenics as advocated by Marie Stopes. She, after whom so many abortion clinics are named, was quite fascinated with Hitler, and especially with the use of abortion as a method for controlling the growth of the lower-classes. Look it up… But I digress…)

    If you reject eugenics, i.e. if you hold that one is to respect preconscious humans because they will grow into humans, then you are implicitly admitting that respect is due to the fetus from conception onwards. That is precisely the basis of the anti-abortion argument. Arguments of viability are seen as secondary—they do not trump the fact that the fetus (whether or not “ensouled”) /will/ become human and therefore deserves respect.

    Your next thought deserves comment as well: “I think the problem is that the religious still have not fully accepted that we humans are animals and are not as special as the religions have been promising.” This is a very mixed up statement. Of course we are animals in the sense of being a very recent product of evolution in the primate branch. But you have to be willfully blind not to admit that we are incredibly special animals. If intelligent life had to land on earth, what would be striking is not how similar we are to apes, but how massively different we are to everything! The fact that a monkey fetus will result in a monkey is quite amazing. The fact that a human fetus will result in a human is orders of magnitude more amazing. That seems to me an empirical observable conclusion.

    In regard to your closing paragraph: anyone has the right to say anything to anyone. You have the right to reject what has been said. Of course, I utterly reject the fanticism found in some pro-life circles. For reasons already hinted at in previous discussions, your assertion about who does and does not have rights in deciding about abortion seem to me to derive from the logic behind the nihilism inherent in your atheism, similarly to the conclusions about casual sex. And that underlying nihilism ultimately renders the notion of rights itself as quite absurd.

    I am sorry to say that I have to stop my interactions here. Unfortunately, I really have a number of pressing commitments that are being neglected. I guess we both know that we are not going to change one another’s viewpoints. Let future readers make up their minds on the arguments that have been presented. You should feel free to respond to this as you wish. However, I do want to thank you for your interactions. I actually quite enjoy them, and would love to chat with you over a cup of coffee about these matters. Who knows …

  51. Mike de Fleuriot says:

    You say God (note: I am using the word God to limit confusion, not from any deep-seated need to believe, or other nonsense) chooses what to reveal, to which I have to ask again, How do you know this. I accept that you believe it to be true, but until you can show a thing to be true, you can not say that thing is true. This leads you into a logical problem, your thought is rational, because God is rational and therefore your thought is what God has revealed to you. If I told you that God was talking to me, and told me that all your arguments are nonsense, because they are not Gods rational thinking, what would you say to me. And why can I not use that same statement to question your Theologians?

    And then you double down and claim on faith alone, that your God is supremely rational. That is why I refuse to accept the use of God in any debate, at least until my opponents have shown that gods can exist, that they do exist and that they are needed to exist. Do that then we can start talking about if your God is the one that did everything, or what ever else you want to talk about with regards to God.

    The danger of confusing your wants with your god’s wants is a real and apparent thing, but you have yet to show beyond a doubt what your god actually wants. Everything any religious person has ever claim in the name of his god, thought the history of humankind has NEVER been shown to be the word or wish of his particular god. Not once, in all of history has this been so. That is why I dislike having gods brought into debates like this. Until you can show it, you can not know it to be true.

    Can you see better than an eagle, swim faster than a fish, stronger than an elephant, etc. Your view is the view of a religious person, who has been taught from his youth, that he is special and a god loves him and made him. That is the arrogance of one who says that he knows the mind of a god, and bases all his decisions on what his god thinks, or what he thinks his god thinks. Did you ever read the short story about a puddle of water from Douglas Adams, where the puddle begins his day in his hole in the ground remarking how well the hole fits him, concluding that the hole must have been designed for him, and he keep this thought all though the day, as the sun slowly dries up the water in the puddle.

    The arrogance of the religious really is amazing, when you consider that not only are we genetically similar to the great apes, but we are also emotional similar to them. The only way you can divorce us from the apes, is by having your god (and not some heathen god) create humans specially. You might claim to accept evolution, but you just a sophisticated creationist at heart. Until you can show how your God created Adam, I have to deal with you as a creationist.

    There is no difference that I can see between the development of a human and a baby potato, in fact I think a potato has more chromosomes than humans. Irrelevant I know, but it suggests that humans and potatoes have no need of gods to create them. These things just happen in understandable ways, and never have any need for gods to be involved in them.

    Do you even understand what nihilism is and what atheism is. I know you do not accept those descriptions, but that is to be expected. A living human, in my opinion is worth more than a unwanted foetus, especially is that foetus began in an act of illegal sex. What are your personal views on the rights of the pregnant women to decide what to do about her condition? Are you suggesting that her rights are over ridden by the unborn rights? What is your reasoning for that? Remember, I will discount any reason as invalid if you bring in a religious theme, without showing evidence that this what your god actually wants to happen.

    You have failed to show that anyone, other than the three people I mentioned, having equal or greater rights in the decision to terminate. All you have done is claim to know the minds of your gods, and though that you base your view that this process is wrong. You have not shown or even addressed why the rights of the woman is needs be suppressed over the rights of the unborn.

    I often wonder how noble your ego will have to be, if you ever found yourself in a position to make such a decision. You know, a wife, a daughter, a grand-daughter raped pregnant by a STD carrying missing chromosome male, what would your decision be to this gift from your God?

  52. Mike de Fleuriot says:

    On Nov 26 a blogger named Libby Anne posted this comment about abortion on her blog.

    For those who do not want to go there, I will copypasta a few sections of it here, just for info’s sake.

    If abortion were illegal, women forced to keep unwanted pregnancies would sink below the poverty level and find themselves stuck in abusive relationships.

    If abortion were illegal, women who miscarry would be viewed with suspicion, and if it was determined that the woman played any role in the miscarriage, they would be jailed, and perhaps even prosecuted for manslaughter. The rest of the western world would look on in horror.

    If abortion were illegal, profiteering doctors would set up shop and perform unsafe abortions without the safety of medical regulations. Women would die.

    If abortion were illegal, a few kind-hearted doctors concerned about meeting women’s needs would perform abortions even with the threat of criminal sanction and in the face of death. Some might make the ultimate sacrifice, dying for their desire to help women.

    If abortion were illegal, women with unwanted pregnancies would seek out home remedies. They would try to induce abortions using methods they had heard on the grapevine, passed from person to person, or order abortion-inducing pills online and take them at home. Some would take the wrong amount, or at the wrong time in the pregnancy, and end up hospitalized.

    If abortion were illegal, women would travel to Mexico to buy abortion-inducing drugs, and seek out abortions in Canada.

    If abortion were illegal, women with health conditions or nonviable pregnancies would be at risk of receiving sub-optimal care. Women with ectopic pregnancies, or women who are miscarrying, might find their health set aside as doctors consider the fate of their nonviable pregnancies. Even health care providers who authorize abortions to save a mother’s life might face consequences.

    And she has links and stuff to back up each of these claims made above. You can check them out to see if she is making them up, in fact you should check her claims to keep her honest.

  53. Victor Victoria says:

    Dear Mike,

    You clearly have a deep concern for the rights of women, and this is commendable. It shows that you are a moral being, that you have a set of moral values, and that you feel indignation when someone crosses the line of your personal moral code.

    I, for one, wonder how you have arrived at your personal moral code. Why this deep concern for the rights of women? From where does it spring?

    I would like to ask you some questions, to see how the situation of killing a prenatal (antenatal, if you prefer) or postnatal child (perhaps even a female child) squares with your personal moral code:

    [1] Does a newly born baby have any rights? I ask this especially in the light of your earlier claim: “All this says that until we are shown evidence of a soul, conciousness has to be the deciding factor as to when a human is a human. And science has some really scary things to say about when conciousness is present in a human, it is a long while after the child is born.” Until a postnatal child shows evidence of whatever it is /you/ might mean by consciousness, do you believe that its mother has the right to terminate its life, since it is not human (by your definition).

    [2] Could you indicate the scientific literature from which you have gleaned your ideas of consciousness, and when babies acquire consciousness.

    [3] What is your operational definition for consciousness? (Please answer, even if you are forced to present an operational definition you have found in the scientific literature … I simply want to understand what you mean by consciousness, especially if it is your means of defining the criterion for becoming human.)

    [4] Can you please explain how consciousness can be scientifically measured?

    Kindest regards,

    Vincent Couling

  54. Victor Victoria says:

    Just to get the discussion moving, please permit me to post an abstract from the contemporary scientific luterature:

    Basic Consciousness of the Newborn
    Author(s): Lagercrantz, H (Lagercrantz, Hugo)1; Changeux, JP (Changeux, Jean-Pierre)2
    Source: SEMINARS IN PERINATOLOGY Volume: 34 Issue: 3 Pages: 201-206 DOI: 10.1053/j.sempen.2010.02.004 Published: JUN 2010
    Times Cited: 1 (from Web of Science)
    Cited References: 35 [ view related records ] Citation Map

    Abstract: The newborn shows several signs of consciousness, such as being awake and aware of him/herself and mother. The infant processes olfactory and painful inputs in the cortex, where consciousness is believed to be localized. Furthermore, the newborn expresses primary emotions such as joy, disgust, and surprise and remember rhymes and vowels to which he or she has been exposed during fetal life. Thus, the newborn infant fulfills the criteria of displaying a basic level of consciousness, being aware of its body and him/herself and somewhat about the external world. Preterm infants may be conscious to a limited degree from about 25 weeks, when the thalamocortical connections are established. Semin Perinatol 34:201-206 (C) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

  55. Victor Victoria says:

    Dear Mike,

    Did I dust off my copy of “The Cambridge handbook of consciousness” in vain last night?

    Can’t we have a scientific discussion vis-à-vis consciousness?

    I want to bring up a whole array of points.

    Such as the multidisciplinary nature of research into consciousness (philosophical, psychological, linguistic, neuroscientific, quantum mechanical), with all the attendant disagreements as to what actually constitutes consciousness.

    Such as the insights which tell us that consciousness doesn’t just occur at a particular moment in time, but appears to develop/evolve gradually and dynamically over a long period of time, in ever-deepening levels.

    Such as the absence of a universally accepted operational definition for consciousness.

    Such as the reality that “rigorous” scientific research into consciousness is a pretty recent phenomenon, with an explosion of research in the past couple of decades … meaning that research into consciousness is essentially in its infancy. (There is pretty-much a dearth of research into how consciousness develops during ontogeny … certainly, making the claim that the foetus and the newly-born child have no consciousness at all is most contentious, as is the suggestion that consciousness is an “all-or-nothing” phenomenon rather than something which develops dynamically with the evolution of time … and during the perinatal period itself.)

    Such as the potentially-revolutionary (and mostly unexplored) implications for quantum mechanics upon our understanding of consciousness (as per the ideas of the likes of Bernard d’Espagnat et al.).

    Would you prefer it if I used the word “God” in my array of questions, so that you could glibly dismiss me in /prima donna/ style? Well, Mike, I’m looking to have a rational scientific discussion with you. Is that perhaps a problem?

    The silence is becoming deafening …



  56. Victor Victoria says:

    It helps when a protagonist makes an intervention, since then the stockpile of counter-inventions to already-anticipated interventions can be brought into play.

    Since there are no such interventions, might I be permitted to draw out an important arrow from the quiver?

    Mike, if “hard science” were to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the foetus has consciousness (even your definition of it), would you then concede that your claim that “these health issues are the province of only three people, the woman who is pregnant, the attending medical doctor and the father” would need to be extrapolated to include at least a fourth person: the conscious foetus?

  57. Derrick Kourie says:

    Thanks for your contributions, VV. I have been enjoying them–most interesting. The whole question of consciouness is indeed intriguing, especially in the light of Mike’s claim that “There is no difference that I can see between the development of a human and a baby potato”.

    What really interests me is that humans do not merely have consciousness, but that they have the capacity of being conscious of their consciousness. Teilhard speaks of animals knowing, but humans knowing that they know. Not quite the humble old potato, I guess but I guess that is a whole different conversion.

  58. Mike de Fleuriot says:

    It seems to me that the signs suggested in the paper quoted, are all automatic biological functions, mixed with some rather unfounded assertions for appeal. To quote” Such as being awake” which is really a combination of response to stimuli and the body being sufficiently rested. I do take issue with the assertion of the baby being aware of it’s sex and that the person it is looking at is know to it as it’s mother. Nitpicking I know, but it does colour the claim. The statement about sense of smell and ability to feel physical stimuli (pain being another appeal to emotion) in the cortex, where this undefined consciousness is believed to be located. I use undefined because that it is undefined, there are many different ways to describe it.

    The claim that higher emotions such as joy, disgust and surprise are present in a newborn, when the baby has yet to come into contact with things or events that will cause these high level emotions to be defined into their mind. I also would like to see how the writers of this paper are about to show that rhymes and vowels are remember from the pre-term exposure. I do agree that there is a limited amount of consciousness in the end term of the pregnancy and this is not a problem for my position, because I have never suggested the end term abortions that are non hazardous to the mother should be the normal. Here I would demand my “three person” rule to take precedence.

    Most terminations that I am talking about, and the pro-choice movement is talking about is early pregnancies, before all this undefined consciousness develops. I fully agree with everyone here, I am not as educated as most of you, but I think that my disagreement with you is mainly based on the non medical reasons your views project, namely the religious dogma, the interference in business that does not need your input, and the total ignoring of the rights of the woman in these matters. I say well done with your beating me up on the medical stuff, but I noticed that you folk ignored or did not want to answer my rape question, you know the one, a wife, a daughter, a grand-daughter raped pregnant by a STD carrying missing chromosome male, what would your decision be to this gift from your God?

    Also I did not see any response to the results from making abortion illegal. Martyr Homes are good for those women willing to take the pregnancy to term, but what about those women who do not want to do that. Will you tie them down to a bed for nine months, just to save a soul? Some of you will think that this is a good idea, and your right to do this. Yes, you know people like that, and these are the people on your side, you might want to see what else these people are willing to do to stop the scourge that is abortion.

    We can voice our opinions in the public arena on this subject, but we do not have any rights to enforce our wants on women, no matter where we believe these wants come from.

  59. Derrick Kourie says:

    Hi Mike

    You deserve a response on some of your points. These are my personal convictions, and I may well get into trouble with some Catholics for some of the things I say.

    I believe that abortion is a bad thing. I believe that everyone should do whatever we can to limit it to an absolute minimum, because ultimately it entails a downgrading of respect for human life, or—more precisely—it is the worst manifestation of a general culture that entails a disrespect for human life. Some of the things we can do (in order of priority) include education, advocacy of committed sexual relationships, maximal support for women who choose to have the baby (including concilling, adoption, etc), and—as final fall back—I actually agree with you: contraceptives. I do not believe that it is very constructive from a Christian perspective to merely scream against abortion legislation, imagining that you have thereby dispensed of your duty.

    The points you make are very relevant:

    1. “…the results from making abortion illegal.” I take your point. There does seem to be a need for some sort of legislative framework that allows for abortion in certain cases: mother’s life in danger; mitigation of the effects of backstreet abortions, etc. I personally do not feel comfortable with an outright ban, but also not with “abortion on demand”. I do not pretend to having a “solution”, other than work to minimize the number of abortions.

    2. “… but I noticed that you folk ignored or did not want to answer my rape question,…” I don’t know for sure how I would respond if my wife/daughter had been raped. It would be hypercritical to claim that I would rule out an early abortion. It would be an awful dilemma. That is why I have said earlier that to keep the baby should be seen as an act of heriosm.

    I think that much of the abortion debate has been rather sterile, with pro- and anti- groups moralistically shouting at each other from across the street, as it were. I think it is much more productive to talk about ways of minimizing the number of abortions.

    As for the official Church: it has an obligation to speak the truth as it sees it, but a large part of that truth also has to entail compassion. I agree with VV: there is a 4th person (at the every least, an incipient person) involved and the Church may legitimately raise its voice, I think, in favour of that incipient person (as may everyone else). Whether emotional, vocal publc anti-abortion protestations are helpful is, for me, an open question. It may have some value in raising consciousness, but I believe that it has numerous unintended negative consequences.

    Finally, I feel obliged to correct a mis-statement I made above. It appears that Marie Stopes was not pro-abortion, and that she had only had a passing association with Hitler. (An earlier statement of mine might have indicated otherwise,) However, she did advocate eugenics, principally through large-scale contraception to the lower classes.

    Now I will definitely tune out of this debate.

  60. Victor Victoria says:

    Dear Mike,

    How best to respond?

    No-one suggested that the newborn baby is aware of its sex, or that the person it is looking at is known to it as its mother! Perhaps you should re-read the abstract, this time a little more slowly and reflectively. The labels are given for the reader, and can hardly be construed as knowledge in the possession of the infant. Your misreading indicates a woeful lack of the capacity for critical analysis on your part, I’m afraid.

    I see elsewhere that you describe yourself as a “free thinker,” a “rational thinker.” Not a bad ideal to aspire to, and I must concede that I take delight in much of your writing (yes, I just Googled you), your gutsy style. But you do tend to shoot from the hip, and that can be dangerous.

    You critique the Catholic Church for its dogma … and yet, what you present appear to be your own dogmatic (and often ill-informed) constructs. You blithely (and with nary a trace of irony) say things like “I would demand my … rule to take precedence.” Isn’t this precisely the sort of attitude you claim to abhor (especially when manifested by the Church)? Perhaps your irrational fear of the Church is an instance of the psychological phenomenon of projection … where you unconsciously transfer your own shortcomings (e.g. a propensity towards irrational dogmatism) onto the Church to avoid having to recognize them in yourself? When pressed to make some basic definitions, you fail to even attempt them. What sort of rational thinking is that? All quite pitiful, really.

    You speak of consciousness as if you are speaking as a materialist: i.e. as a proponent of the //philosophical doctrine/dogma// that nothing exists except matter and its movements and modifications, and that consciousness and will are wholly due to the operation of material agencies.

    Well, just as you would spurn the imposition of Catholic dogma on the populace, so would I spurn the imposition of your dogma on the populace! Who knows, you might even try and justify the killing of three-year-old babies because they don’t fulfil your (presently undefined!) definition of consciousness, and hence of being human!

    In my personal journey, if there is one thing that I have learnt, it is not to underestimate the collective wisdom that resides in Catholic thought, especially where the intellectual spirit is allowed to range free. Yes, things are a bit verkrampt in some circles right now … but the question of abortion is a highly-complex and nuanced one, and any attempt to arrive at rash conclusions is perhaps somewhat dangerous. I’d prefer an honest synthesis of spiritual wisdom and scientific findings any day over the sort of “secular” reign of terror some have in mind as the grand solution to societal woes. Secular society might well benefit from the discerned wisdom present in the Catholic church (and vice-versa!), and an open and honest dialogue might yield much fruit for the greater common good. All would need to be fully open to the possibility of both give and take.

    The compassion, love and profound respect that emanates from the wisdom of the (best of the) Catholic faith tradition is not to be dismissed so lightly. Sure, some cold-hearted clerics have missed the boat, and the Catholic faith tradition has a shadow side, but at the end of the day, I have much more faith and trust in this worldview than the cold, clinical, utilitarian, egocentric, individualistic model that you have somewhat dogmatically presented elsewhere. I am sure that many secular humanists might agree.