Critiques & Controversies: October 2003 Archives

Twice in recent days Mark at Minute Particulars has posted on the need for nuance. And I preface this with an apology to him if anything I say seems overly strong or harsh.

An excerpt from a recent post:

There is an understandable backlash at attempts to nuance situations that seem so utterly obvious. And, as I mentioned in the below post on partial-birth abortion, I know this backlash firsthand since I really don't see how anyone could find the doctor's words anything other than repulsive. What could possibly be nuanced here? What requires discussion? But I think such a reaction is simplistic and ultimately morally detrimental. Unless you think someone capable of this is the devil incarnate, there ought to be a way to express our moral concerns carefully and intelligently. Any hope of passing laws that will be upheld requires this; and, more to the point, any hope of converting hearts will fail without it.

And I don't have any real trouble with his point. My difficulty comes with the timing of nuancing. When we nuance someone to death we have created a far greater injustice than we can hope to rectify by our nuancing.

Nuancing has been horrendously abused by many post Vatican II reformers to support whatever the spin of the moment might happen to be. That in no way detracts from its importance; however, it does add a certain aura to the term and to the deed. Too many of us have been burned by "nuances" that have reinterpreted Church tradition and law out of existence. The Anglican Church is currently riven with nuance that basically is gutting Christian theology. Nuance has quite a disreputable patina.

Now, take this term that already has a certain weight and apply it to a situation which in itself is really not a case for a rocket scientist and the appearance you get is someone trying to justify the unjustifiable. Because I feel that I know Mark relatively well from his writing, I feel comfortable with the fact that this is not what he is trying to do. On the other hand, all of these arguments come back to us, and we find people saying, "Well Mr. Schaivo is her husband, and don't we believe in the sacramental nature of marriage." Our nuanced argument has just turned good Catholics who are fighting desperately to save a life into those who would overturn Catholic doctrine and sacraments.

The time to nuance our discussion is when Ms. Schaivo has been delivered from the army of Satan massed against her. We need to carefully consider all of the points that are under discussion, we need to thoroughly understand Church teaching and doctrine. But what we need more than anything else right now is straightforward, clear action, based on the circumstances here and now and not on hypotheticals and nuances that could result in a person's death

Bookmark and Share

Mark at Minute Particulars makes some excellent points about the sacrament of Marriage and its position in being able to make health care decisions about a disabled spouse. And for the most part I agree. But I have to say that I see very little shadow of doubt about the propriety of the action in this case because one must wonder how much of the sacrament is intact. One of the reasons little discussion has been devoted to this fact of the case, I believe, is because one must get very scrupulous and legalistic about definitions and who can decide what. After all--the sacrament does not appear to be lived out in this case, (further statement may constitute gossip and so I refrain). I think in any discussion of who makes what decisions, extenuating circumstances such as this must be considered. I give more weight to the legislative action taken in this case, not because it was necessarily right and proper, but it is up to the state to defend those who cannot speak for themselves. Under these circumstance, where it might be more convenient for the person making the decision to have someone "put out of their misery," I believe additional scrutiny is probably in order.

The sacrament of Marriage should drive who we consider the proper person to make decisions in this matter, but then, so should all the circumstances of the case and not a mere legalism.

"Don't we undermine marriage somewhat if we steamroll over the authority a husband or wife has for an incapacitated spouse?" In answer to this very legitimate question, I think the reply must be based not on speculative theory but what was right in this case or in the case under inspection. If to all exterior appearances the sacrament is being lived out fully, all due consideration must be paid to this; however, I think it is relatively easy to see that there are good reasons to suspect Mr. Shiavo's devotion to Ms. Schiavo and his dedication to her best interest. In such a case, should we close our eyes to extenuating circumstances and stand on a rather legalistic interpretation of what the sacrament is all about? My reading indicates that Mark in no way suggests this and I don't want to leave anyone with the impression that I impute this view to him; however, it is the other side, and a tremendously important side at that, of the discussion. And because it is so seamy and so filled with innuendo and the possibility of uncharitableness, it may not have gotten much play in the course of discussion. However, I don't think we can allow the view taken during the Clinton Administration that what one does in one's private life should not affect the view of public actions. As with all such discussions, this one needs to be considered as a whole--and I suspect that the question of the sacrament is somewhat less problematic in the instance.

Bookmark and Share

On Pro-Life Endeavors

| | Comments (1)

I found the following strongly worded and provocative entry in a comments box at Disputations--as it was a rejoinder somewhat off the main point, I thought I would drag it out and comment upon it here.

Comment by Mr. Jospeh D'Hippolito at Disputations

Second, regarding your skepticism of voting because of "pro-life" issues: The biggest problem with "pro-life" Christians in general is that they demand (let alone expect) a democratic government expressed through republican institutions to remake society in their moral image. That is beyond the scope of such institutions, which are designed to ensure individual liberty against government intrusion, not to create a society of virtue where none exists. The Founding Fathers always knew that the success of their experiment depended on a virtuous citizenry.

Besides, "pro-life" Christians have deluded themselves into believing that the ultimate answer to abortion lies in public policy, rather than private endeavors. What sort of endeavors? For one thing, sex education based on personal responsibility and Christian values. For another, centers funded by Christians of means where unmarried, pregnant women can have their babies safely, learn maternal skills, perhaps even get a modicum of job training and a GED. For a third, promoting adoption as an alternative to abortion.

Mr. D'Hippolito and I have exchanged views in the past at Disputations. Mr. D'Hipplolito tends to strong language and strongly worded thoughts. That said, I cannot but agree with the essential thrust of what is said here. Well, let's say that with a little demurral. I do believe that as committed Christians we should push to have as much of our worldview as possible represented in the laws that drive our society; however, I do not think that legislation is ultimately the solution to the problem. The solution lies in making abortion not merely a crime but unnecessary and undesirable.

Now, to give groups credit, many pro-lifers do not spend their time pushing for absolutist legislation that has, it seems to me, little chance of success. A great many do run the kinds of help places Mr. D'Hippolito lists above--but more are needed and more volunteers are needed, and more responsibility needs to be taken by parents for the proper education and instruction of children in matters dealing with sex--and yes, schools should be stressing Chrisitan values and personal responsibility.

All that is here seems very sensible to me. I would just add that it does no harm to continue to work for legislation that helps to put limits on abortion as well. I just don't think it is reasonable, practical, or sensible for that to be the main or only thrust of any work toward a solution to the problem and crime of abortion.

Bookmark and Share

Now there's a phrase to ring terror into every heart. What in the world does a group of nuns have to form a coalition about? This sounds like the AFL-CIO. I was blissfully unaware that such an organization existed and hope to return to that blissful state momentarily. But it did strike a note, a nerve, or some other n-thing. I can't imagine Thérèse (you knew I'd get her here somehow) joining, condoning, or even noticing such an organization. Were there National Coalitions of Nuns in France in the 1890s?

Bookmark and Share



About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Critiques & Controversies category from October 2003.

Critiques & Controversies: September 2003 is the previous archive.

Critiques & Controversies: November 2003 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll