The Right Coast

June 16, 2004
Holbo on denying communion
By Tom Smith

Interesting article (more than a post) on denying communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, by John Holbo. Thoughtful, but doesn't really have a bottom line, that I can see.

Part of the reason I have come to think of modern liberalism, or whatever it should be called, as something of a sham, is the inability of liberal commentators to get it about Catholics and abortion (I'm not including Holbo here). You really have to imagine that you are a Catholic in, say, Nazi Germany in the late thirties, and that the state is rounding up gays, Jews, gypsies and the mentally defective. Lets say there are, and there probably were, to the shame of the Church, Catholic politicians who do not oppose, or even support, these actions. Do you give them communion?

I think a lot of the warnings to the Church not to mix religion and politics fail to take seriously the position of the Church that abortion is a grave moral wrong. Personally, I think there is room to disagree about that when the life that is ended is that of a cluster of cells less sophisticated than what we eat for breakfast. Agreeing with the church's position means you have to believe the little creature has a soul, or something similar. But in late term abortions, babies that could survive with the usual neo-natal care, are killed. How that is not infanticide is just beyond me. Why an exception should be made for the mother's health is beyond me as well. There are many single moms whose lives would be improved, health included, by allowing them to kill some or all of their infants, and we call that murder. The only argument I have ever heard that makes any sense, albeit of an amoral kind, is that if late term abortions are outlawed, other abortions will get outlawed as well. By the same logic, early life infanticide should be permitted as well. (As to the philosophical arguments of Judith Jarvis Thompson and similar arguments, I think they are stupid. I find it hard to believe that similarly flawed anti-abortion arguments would ever have been published in prestigious journals. She visited at Yale Law School for a term and I was in her class for a while, but dropped out out of fear of doing permanent damage to my philosophical acumen.) In any event, it seems to me as between Planned Parenthood and the RC church, the latter has the more plausible position, even for those who do not accept its metaphysics. (It also creeps me out that Planned Parenthood even has a position on euthanasia. What is that about? Whose choice is that? It makes it look not like "choice" versus "right to life," but "right to life" versus "right to kill.")

It's not really the Church's problem that the Democratic Party has established a litmus test that to be a Democrat you have to believe in the absolute right to an abortion. You rarely hear the suggestion that maybe the Party should reconsider its position on abortion, rather than the Church reconsider its opposition to it. Why can't the Party consider opposition to late term abortions, or consider approving parental consent for abortions for minors? It's hard to see how the Party's position is principled at all. Instead it seems motivated by the political clout of a well organized minority within it. So the Party is asking the Church to compromise its principles for the political expediencies of the Democratic Party. I don't see how the inability or unwillingness of Democrats to stand up to their most extreme factions turns into a moral imperative for the Church. Especially when there is no reason to think it will stop there, there being so many others whose right to life is as qualified as that of the not quite born.

If the Church thinks abortion is a grave moral wrong it wouldn't be much of a church if it didn't deny communion to those who publicly support it. The Church should have done more to fight for the lives of Jews, gays, gypsies, the mentally retarded, the old and infirm, and the many others the Nazis thought did not have the right to live. Maybe it's learned its lesson.