Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Arguing in the Court of Public Reason

I read a while back a story on CNS which dealt with the ACLU taking the US Dept. of Health and Human Services to court because the USCCB is receiving government funds to do work for trafficking victims. The USCCB, through its Migration and Refugee Services department, helps victims in many ways. The ACLU's problem? The USCCB won't give aid for "contraceptives or abortion or contraception referrals".

First, this is ridiculous. When will secularists stop trying to drive religion completely out of existence? If one wishes to drive it out of the public life of a society, it will be driven out of existence, for the existence of any body is necessarily public. Man is a social animal.

Now, I applaud all attempts at winning the case in favor of the USCCB. Nevertheless, if we are to defend ourselves, we need to come up with true and convincing arguments which will persuade even the most anti-religious of minds.

Obviously, if we were able to argue rationally, we would draw upon fundamental human dignity and the natural law. Abortion murders a child: it takes innocent life. Contraception is against the fundamental good of human dignity: the full expression of one's self-gift. Strength of will, abstinence and chastity are the way to go. Yet, these will not convince because they have become so "religiously" stigmatized. Some view them simply as being religious ideals and beliefs which ought not be imposed upon all people (even though they are simply by the fact of human nature).

So, what do we need to do in our argument? We need to convince people that one position is just as "religious" as another, given the opponent's definition of religion. Religion is often understood as belief in the Divine or superhuman beings. Wherefrom, if I don't have any such belief, my opinions are more simply "rational," not "religiously-inspired," and universal in application.

What needs to be shown is that dis-belief in a "superior power" is as much religion as belief in such. Religion, then, should be understood as any system of belief. Further, there is no "objective-standpoint" by which one can "refrain from judgement" in this regard for agnosticism, when used in argument, becomes atheism. There is no "veil of ignorance" by which we can reason from without absolutely objective truths or our personal beliefs.

If one were to be truly agnostic about such matters, the conclusion would not be (as the ACLU suggests) that since we don't know whether there is a God and whether abortion and contraception are acceptable, we ought to provide the service. No, the conclusion would be that since we don't know, there ought to be legitimate difference in the various organizations which receive public, governmental support - some groups can offer such services, and others can opt to not offer such services. This would be the truly agnostic position, which (unless the ACLU or the government wants to identify itself as an entity with a specific system of belief) the government ought to adopt. Mind you, this latter is not the Catholic position - natural law tells us that abortion and contraception are unacceptable.

If we want to argue civilly on this matter, however, this would be at least one way that we might convince "non-religious" entities, and the US Courts, that Catholic organizations ought to be granted government funds, while at the same time allowed to opt not to offer (in the Catholic mind) morally unacceptable services.