Liberal democracy can not shield the unborn. We’d like illiberalism

Liberal democracy can not shield the unborn. We’d like illiberalism

SaveSavedRemoved 0
Deal Score0
Deal Score0

The pro-life legal strategy erroneously aimed to make the issue of abortion determinable through the democratic process within states. It is now evident that the pro-life right-wing movement in its opposition to Roe v. Wade suffers from a deep ambiguity: Do Pro-Lifers contradict Roe because she has violated a fundamental and non-negotiable precept of the law of nature? Or do they reject it because it was decided undemocratically by the Supreme Court and was not left to the democratic decisions of the individual states?

I have argued In the Church Life Journal, in "Abortion Tests the Limits of Liberalism," we should object to abortion for violating natural law. Write here in the Catholic Herold, in an article Father James Rooney, OP, entitled "The Illiberal Project Will Fail," disagreed.

Father Rooney and Justice Scalia disagree

He raised several objections to my reasoning and made a number of unfortunate caricatures that I have to pass over for reasons of space. However, I would like to highlight a few key points here.

The philosopher John Finnis writes in First Things argued that The Supreme Court should not only be Roe v. Wade to reverse it, but instead classify the abortion as unconstitutional according to an originalistic interpretation of the personality clause of the 14th Amendment. Such a judgment would deprive states and their democratic processes of the power to regulate the issue of abortion. Controversy ensued.

The current pro-life legal strategy is ultimately based on the contradiction of Justice Antonin Scalia in Planned Parenthood against Casey, in which he claimed: “States can allow abortion on request, but the Constitution does not require it. The permissibility of abortion and the restrictions associated with it must be resolved like the most important questions in our democracy: by citizens who try to convince each other and then vote. "

In other words, Scalia – and Pro-Lifers after him – believed that the abortion was wrongly ruled by the court. Consequently, the goals of the pro-life strategy were limited to making Roe v. To reverse Wade and to bring the question of abortion back into the democratic process of the states. The legal approach to abortion seems to have little to do with whether abortion in itself is morally wrong. It is limited to a question of democratic procedure.

Abortion is unconstitutional

John Finnis is right: Abortion should be made unconstitutional regardless of the democratic process. But not for the reasons he suggests. Abortion should be made unconstitutional as it simply violates natural law. No democratic negotiation should be allowed to decide otherwise.

At this point, Ms. Rooney's criticism was becoming relevant. First, he failed to address the authority of John Paul II on the matter. The Pope's teaching on this matter is clearly stated in Gospel Vitae: In politics and government "the original and inalienable right to life is challenged or denied – even if it is the majority – on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of a section of the people."

This is "the uncanny result of a relativism that governs unhindered: the" right "ceases to be so because it is no longer firmly based on the inviolable dignity of man, but is subject to the will of man, the stronger part. In this way democracy is effectively moving towards some form of totalitarianism, contrary to its own principles. "

John Paul's words are not exclusive to Roe v. Wade, but rather for the approach of pro-life advocates who want to enable individual states to decide the question of abortion democratically. Rooney writes: “The strongest argument against Roe v. Wade is that it was a highly illiberal decision. The reason for the bitter struggles over abortion in the US is precisely because a group has imposed a significant culturally burdened law through undemocratic means through a court decision rather than through liberal democratic processes. "

This misses the whole point: Roe v. Wade was a bad decision, not because it was illiberal or undemocratic, but because it contradicted natural law and condoned the slaughter of millions of unborn children. It would not be an improvement for Roe if the same decision were made democratically.

A greater evil than abortion

If Fr. Rooney writes: I would respectfully suggest that he (possibly inadvertently) violate the teaching of John Paul II: “The claim seems to be that a regime should have political or legal mechanisms that do not permit legislation to which contradicts the right morality norms. I find this puzzling: I agree that a constitution shouldn't be changed to allow abortions, but I don't quite see how we could implement a legal mechanism that would make this impossible without serious dire consequences. "

In other words, undemocratic authoritarianism, even with regard to abortion, is a greater evil than abortion itself. Abortion, while evil, can be tolerated in order to preserve liberal democracy.

According to John Paul II, such an approach tragically confuses moral priorities. The question of abortion shouldn't even be on the table for a democratic debate. It shouldn't be a constitutional option. The decision of the democratic process means reopening the door to a deadly form of relativism and totalitarianism that does not respect the dignity of human life.

Such a democracy would indeed be a greater evil than "authoritarianism" which absolutely and irrevocably condemned abortion. As I said at the end of my article, democracy is just not worth the unborn life that could be lost as a result.

The right goal

Then what should be the correct goal of pro-life activism? Finnis's relatively humble proposal is a good start.

Adrian Vermeule of Harvard Law School proposed a broader model of common good constitutionalism. In this approach, “just authority can be exercised in rulers for the good of the subjects, even against the subjects' own perception of what is best for them if necessary – perceptions that may change over time as the law teaches them , accustomed and reshaped. “His more academic writing points out more concrete options that would be necessary for constitutionalism of the common good to really take effect.

Pro-life activism cannot be separated from these larger, long-term goals of constitutional reform. These goals can be broadly described as the re-inscription of natural law into the effective constitution of a particular regime and the explicit reorientation of that regime towards the common good.

Liberalism is supposed to aim only at maximizing the rights and freedoms of the individual, an aim which, given the different preferences of men, is nebulous enough to warrant very different moral interpretations. Ms. Rooney rightly points out that liberalism is not exactly "amoral", but the moral of liberalism can change (as it does) because individual rights are not a stable measure without the unshakable standard of the natural for morality represent law.

The Church's Approach

Such an approach is not naive either, for it is the approach of the Church itself, as the teaching of Evangelium Vitae clearly shows. Proponents of such an approach need not expect, as Father Rooney seems to believe, that "their friends will soon be in charge". You must hope, however, that one day the Christ will be universally recognized as King over all of society.

Father Rooney is right that this is highly unlikely. That does not matter. The Church always sees the direction of history much longer than any human eye can see: Faith motivates us to work tirelessly for the building of the kingdom of God on earth, even if such a goal lies beyond all visible horizons.

Jonathan Culbreath is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and studied philosophy at the University of Leuven in Belgium. He currently teaches at a Catholic high school in Southern California. He is also an assistant editor at The Josias, a website devoted to Catholic social teaching.

The picture shows the battle of Naseby in 1645 after an engraving by E Radclyffe after P G Cattermole. (Photo by Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply