Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How Can You Guilt Me In The Afterlife When You Cannot....Speak?

Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Denver, just issued a statement regarding Catholics supporting pro-choice politicians. If they were to do so, they would need a "proportionate reason" to justify it.
What is a 'proportionate' reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It's the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life - which we most certainly will. If we're confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed."

I have to admit, the fact that aborted fetus' neither have the mental capacity to comprehend a "motive", nor the physical ability to communicate acceptance or rejection of that motive, makes this thought experiment slightly less compelling in my mind.

Via MoJ.

4 comments:

Stentor said...

It's interesting to me that this rationale echoes so closely the approach of academic liberal political theory -- I wouldn't have pegged the Catholic Church as big fans of Habermas.

Joe said...

Veil of ignorance?

PG said...

David, that's a little unimaginative of you -- do you also figure that Catholics needn't worry about allowing a legal regime that lets parents kill severely autistic or otherwise speech-incapacitated children, because the physical forms they have in this world will be the same as their manifestation in the after-life? And now that the Church has declared that unbaptized babies aren't stuck in limbo but instead go to heaven, those aborted fetuses will be in heaven.

Having been raised Hindu, I find this slightly weird, but many Christians seem to think of the individual soul as pretty much fully formed before birth -- indeed, in most pro-lifers' arguments, as fully formed at the moment egg meets sperm (the people who think either egg or sperm has soul are thankfully few). So the idea that in the non-corporeal realm, that a fetus will be unable to "comprehend" or to "speak," evinces an unwillingness to engage with the pre-existing set of ideas that Archbishop Chaput is assuming.

In other words, this might be a very silly thing to say to people of other religious traditions such as Hinduism or Judaism, but it's an entirely sensible appeal to Catholics.

For someone who has grown up in a Christian culture but never bought into it, the idea that a soul would feel victimized by getting to bypass all the shit that happens on earth and going straight to heaven is already ridiculous. The situation was very different when unbaptized babies/ fetuses were going to limbo and not getting an opportunity to be baptized in the Church and get to heaven, but if they now have a pre-punched ticket to heaven, they've lucked out. As a pro-choicer, I wouldn't worry about meeting them at all. I would think the idea that this earth is the only opportunity any soul has to realize itself and become individuated would be a more compelling argument as to why abortion works an enormous deprivation, but I'm not a theologian.

David Schraub said...

While I admit to being in a snarky mood of late, I have a lot of trouble comprehending what it would mean to imagine myself in "communication" with a fetus in heaven -- even if it was mentally developed enough to understand and speak to me. Not having any experience speaking to fetus (much less fetus-person-souls), nor with the discursive ethos imposed by being in the afterlife, its a meaningless thought experiment to me: I have no conceivable way of predicting how the "conversation" would go, because I have no reference point.