This post at Mere Comments from Anthony Esolen got me thinking about the Consistent Life Ethic. The idea is largely attributed to Cardinal Bernadin, who argued that life issues are to be considered and treated as a "seamless garment." That is, if you tear one piece of the garment out, you've irreparably damaged the entire garment. If you're pro-life when it comes to abortion but not when it comes to other life issues (euthanasia, war, poverty, death penalty, contraception, etc.) your pro-life garment is ruined.

The criticism of Bernadin is that his approach has been misused by pro-abortion politicians to justify their support of abortion. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, for instance, can justify spending federal dollars on "family planning services" because reducing the number of poor people (by keeping them from being born, presumably) has an economic payoff.

But that approach is indefensible using Bernadin's logic (and, no matter what Pelosi says, not Catholic). If you tear opposition to abortion out of the "seamless garment," your position on poverty, global warning, or whatever is ruined. If you don't care about the life of an unborn child, your defense of the lives of the poor is diminished at best, destroyed at worst.

The local ministerial association has a book club. We were exiled from the monthly meeting because not everyone wanted to allot part of our 2 hour meeting to discussing a book. Nevertheless, a few of us continue to meet to discuss an agreed upon book between regular meetings. Most recently, we read Pope Benedict's encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

The encyclical deals with the global economic crisis, but it does so with what seems to be a "seamless" approach to life. Central to any discussion about human development, economic recovery, environmental protection, business ethics, etc. has to be an openness to life. "Openness to life is at the center of human development," argues the pope.

While Esolen's warning about missed opportunities is well heard, the misuse of a consistent life ethic doesn't make it invalid. It only makes those who misuse it look foolish.

What is Marriage?

This article from Touchstone is incisive, cutting like a surgeon's scalpel through the cultural mileu surrounding marriage to expose the cancer beneath.

The premise of the article is that marriage, in addition to being the union between a man and a woman, is two other things that have largely been forgotten today: procreative and indissoluble. Because the church has forgotten these things--that marriage is life-long and that it ought to be fruitful--and has instead allowed couples to marry who hold onto the option of divorce (even if looked at diaspprovingly) and who use contraception so as to avoid God's gift of life through their one-flesh union, she has already lost the debate on same-sex "marriage."

If Christian couples can separate marriage from having children, there is no socially defensible reason to exclude same-sex couples from having a culturally recognized marriage.

Is the Church willing to say that divorce is just as sinful as adultery or that contraception is as sinful as divorce? Is she willing to admit that divorce and cohabitation are cut from the same cloth, just as contraception and and abortion hail from the same anti-birth, anti-child mindset?

The article concludes:

If we are truly to defend marriage in this country, and not the contractual couplehood that has for some time now been disguising itself as “marriage,” then it is imperative for us to recover the full meaning of that beautiful covenant whose embodiment is now clandestine and highly countercultural. This will, I think, have to be done from the ground up, and it will take generations to succeed, if in fact it succeeds at all. It will have to be lived out first in small communities that embrace and support the self-giving, procreative, and indissoluble nature of that union, and who do so not as an unjustifiable exclusion, but as a positive commitment to protect such an important, difficult, and beautiful undertaking.

Don't take my word for it, go read the whole thing.

Choice, the Dragon

See another excellent post by Tony Esolen over at MereComments at http://merecomments.typepad.com/merecomments/2009/09/choice-the-dragon.html:
[W]e should conceive of abortion existentially: we should ask what the act is, or does, to the woman who procures it. It is not simply the killing of innocent human life. It is a mother's taking of a life which, unless she has been raped, she herself has conceived, by voluntarily doing what we all know is designed biologically to produce new children. It is therefore deeply unnatural, and is related, alas, to other acts which are now promoted, which are also unnatural; indeed the very category of the "natural" for human behavior is quickly being erased from our common consciousness, and with it any natural end for which human beings strive.

* * *

We should, I think, beware of using the language of the enemy; and the enemy has been bandying that word "choice" about, while political partisans clear across the field assume, without thinking too deeply about it, that choice is an unalloyed good.


Shrinking populations bode poorly for world economies

The Kid Issue

Joel Kotkin, 09.08.09, 12:00 AM EDT

Shrinking populations bode poorly for world economies.

The full article is available at http://www.forbes.com/2009/09/07/japan-elections-birthrates-opinions-columnists-joel-kotkin.html. For an excerpt, see the following:

Japan's recent election, which overthrew the decades-long hegemony of the Liberal Democratic Party, was remarkable in its own right. But perhaps its most intriguing aspect was not the dawning of a new era but the emergence of the country's low birthrate as a major political concern.

Many Japanese recognize that their birth dearth contributes to the country's long-standing economic torpor. The kid issue was prominent in the campaign of newly elected Democratic Party Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who promised to increase the current $100 a month subsidy per child to $280 and make public high school free. The Liberal Democrats also proposed their own pro-natalist program with a scheme for free child day care.

Japan's predicament seems obvious. Its fertility rate has dropped by a third since 1975. By 2015 a full quarter of the population will be over 65. Generally inhospitable to immigrants, Japan could see its population drop from a current 127 million to 95 million by 2050, with as much as 40% of the population over 65 years of age. By then, no matter how innovative the workforce, Dai Nippon will simply be too old to compete.

While Japan's demographic crisis is an extreme case, many countries throughout East Asia and Europe share a similar predicament. Even with its energy riches, Russia's low birth and high mortality rates suggest that its population will drop 30% by 2050 to less than one-third of that of the U.S. Even Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has spoken of "the serious threat of turning into a decaying nation."

Russia's de facto tsar has cause for concern. Throughout history low fertility and socioeconomic decline have been inextricably linked, creating a vicious cycle that affected once-vibrant civilizations such as as ancient Rome and 17th-century Venice.

Persistently low birthrates and sagging population growth inevitably undermine the growth capacity of an economy. Children provide a large consumer market and push their parents to work harder. By having children, parents also make a commitment to the future for themselves, their communities and their country.

In contrast, a largely childless society produces other attitudes. It tends to place greater emphasis on leisure activities over work. It also shifts political pressure away from future growth and toward paying pensions for the aging. An aging society is likely to resist risky innovation or infrastructure investments meant to serve future generations.

* * *

As the Japanese increasingly recognize, it's better to experience some population growth than to become a giant nursing home. A somewhat youthful, gradually growing population certainly may create considerable environmental and social challenges, but a scenario of persistent decline and rapid aging seems far worse.


Luther to Several Nuns

To Several Nuns
by Martin Luther

(Translated by Erika Bullmann Flores)

From Wittenberg
6 August 1524


. . .You are correct that there are two reasons for which life at the convent and vows may be forsaken: The one is where men's laws and life within the order are being forced, where there is no free choice, where it is put upon the conscience as a burden. In such cases it is time to run away, leaving the convent and all it entails behind. . .

. . .The second reason is the flesh: Though womenfolk are ashamed to admit to this, nevertheless Scripture and experience show that among many thousands there is not a one to whom God has given to remain in pure chastity. A woman has no control over herself. God has made her body to be with man, to bear children and to raise them as the words of Genesis 1 clearly state, as is evident by the members of the body ordered by God Himself. Therefore food and drink, sleep and wakefulness have all been created by God. Thus He has also ordered man and woman to be in marital union. Suffice it to say that no one needs to be ashamed over how God has made and created him, not having been given the high, rare mercy to do otherwise. All this you will amply learn and read and hear proper sermons about when you come out. . .


Welcome aboard the Black Pearl

There is another interesting discussion over at the blog Four and Twenty Blackbirds showing the error of modern epistemology and ethics that give lip service to absolutes, but functionally end in nothing but moral relativism.

...it reminded me of this dialog from Pirates of the Caribbean:

Elizabeth: You have to take me to shore! According to the Code of the Order of the Brethren.
Barbossa: First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement, so I 'must' do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the Pirate's Code to apply, and you're not. And thirdly, the code is more what you call "guidelines" than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner!


I Pledge

I Pledge Obama

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the Obama States of America
and to the stem cell researchers for which he stands
one ideology under UNICEF
with licentiousness and contraception for all.

P.S. Avoiding bottled water to reduce the number of plastic bottles polluting the environment still leaves another problem unsolved—polluting the environment with non-biodegradable condoms. Some advice is available from Columbia University, but note that the suggestion in favor of lamb-skin condoms may grate against the consciences of those who take seriously the prohibition stated in Leviticus 18:23.

Ah, but such thinking would be so pre-Twentieth Century Project, wouldn’t it?

“Unchastity in general is a homicidal waste of the generative powers, a demonic bestiality, an outrage to ancestors, to posterity, and to one’s own life. It is a crime against the image of God, and a degradation below the animal. Onan’s offence, moreover, as committed in marriage, was a most unnatural wickedness, a grievous wrong, and a desecration of the body as the temple of God.” Johann Peter Lange, Commentary on the Holy Scripture (1864, yep, pre-Twentieth Century)