Dialoguing over abortion

Here’s something I see everyday among my children: An older, crafty child, takes away a toy from a younger, trusting child, and then when the younger child begins to scream, the older child remains calm, smiles, and acts as though his younger sibling’s “irrationality” is a sign of the rightness of his own position.

Or, consider this example. Suppose the CEO of a company makes an unpopular decision -- say, business dress (rather than “dressing down”) is now required on Fridays-- and he holds an (optional) meeting with employees to discuss it. The meeting, he explains, is for purposes of “dialogue” over the decision.

But at the beginning of the meeting he makes it perfectly clear that his decision is irrevocable, and that nothing that any one says will change his view. If some employees then leave the meeting, are they against “dialogue”?

Two lessons from these examples: The first is that an appeal to “dialogue” can sometimes be a tool of oppression. Martin Luther King Jr. was well aware of this: his Letter from a Birmingham jail was written in response to clergyman who implied that he was an extremist, closed to further “dialogue” about segregation.

The second is that, in matters of action (not matters of thought or doctrine), there is no true “dialogue” if nothing can change as a result of a discussion.

Both of these points are relevant to President Obama’s address last month upon receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame.

Obama’s basic message was that people should presume good will among those who disagree with them over abortion, and commit themselves to dialogue and mutual understanding.

That’s a great message -- but the wrong time for it, and the wrong audience. A U.S. President might valuably have delivered such a message in 1972 to the Supreme Court, rather than telling it now to the assembled students and parents of a Notre Dame graduating class. Change the context, and the meaning of the message changes as well.

Let’s review some elementary history. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade overturned the laws of 47 states which prohibited abortion.

This was the most “anti-dialogue” decision in history. Prior to Roe, citizens “dialogued” with good will over the wrongness of abortion. In nearly all states they decided it was wrong. And then they passed laws against it.

But then the Supreme Court intervened and declared one side of the debate the winner. It took the claims of that one side and enshrined them in a “constitutional right”-- that is to say, that side’s view became irrevocably fixed in law. Finally, the Court demonized the pro-life side, claiming that laws against abortion had never been passed in goodwill-- that is, for the protection of nascent human beings-- but had always been merely a tool for men to oppress women.

Since 1973, pro-lifers have worked themselves to the bone trying to revive a civic dialogue that was crushed by the Supreme Court, despite the most unfavorable conditions. The media continues to report, mistakenly, that Roe made abortion legal through the first trimester only. Abortions are never shown on television and always referred to euphemistically. Major institutions -- law schools, universities, professional associations -- regularly “screen out” pro-life colleagues. Rejection of the pro-life view is mandatory for advancement in most circles of U.S. society, including a major political party.

The civic reality in this country is that constructive public discussion of abortion was eliminated in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court.

One would expect a President to address himself to this reality and take pains to change it. Instead, Obama has made it perfectly clear that he favors the status quo and will appoint only Supreme Court justices who uphold it.

It’s hard to know what is more absurd and ridiculous -- a President who preaches “dialogue” over abortion while being firmly committed to the elimination of constructive civic dialogue, or a Catholic university which smiles with self-satisfaction at hearing his message -- and which seems incapable of detecting and explaining the fallacies in it.

Another truism about dialogue is that you can’t dialogue if you don’t grasp what the other person is saying. Did you ever have what you thought was a discussion with someone, only to discover, by some chance comment he makes near the end, that he never heard you all along?

Obama’s Notre Dame speech was like that as well. Near the end, after declaring (quite falsely) that all faith implies doubt, Obama said, “if there is one law that we can be most certain of, it is the law that binds people of all faiths and no faith together ... It is, of course, the Golden Rule -- the call to treat one another as we wish to be treated.” He then summarized the history of the Civil Rights movement, saying that it was an application of this rule, and he congratulated it for realizing at last, “the dream of civil rights for all of God’s children.”

Huh... come again? Weren’t we supposed to be “dialoguing” over abortion, and sensitive to the views of others? But as those pro-lifers see it, the unborn are included among “God’s children,” and the Golden Rule implies it is wrong to procure an abortion.

The President spoke as if he was oblivious to all that and had never really grasped what pro-life people are saying.

He is -- and he hasn’t.

Michael Pakaluk is Professor of Philosophy at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences in Arlington, VA. In May he was a visiting professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...

Book tells about behind-the-scenes search for St. Peter's bones

HOUSTON (CNS) -- Two Houston men shared a journey through centuries of history and a decades-long archaeological dig under the Vatican to unveil a story ...

Update way priests are chosen, accompanied, pope tells new bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The best way to help the Catholic Church, Pope Francis told new bishops, is not by pointing fingers and creating scapegoats, but ...

Vatican confirms ongoing Sistine Chapel Choir finance inquiry

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican confirmed an ongoing investigation into financial irregularities involving the directors of the Sistine Chapel Choir. ...

After meeting pope, cardinal says he's hopeful about addressing crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston struck a determinedly hopeful tone after his long-awaited meeting with Pope Francis ...

DA clears Indiana bishop of misconduct, says claim has harmed prelate

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend welcomed findings by a Pennsylvania district attorney that cleared Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ...

Cardinal DiNardo calls meeting with pope lengthy, fruitful

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo has called a Sept. 13 meeting between Pope Francis and leaders from the Church in United ...

What do Church abuse policies mean by 'vulnerable adult?'

Denver, Colo., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- A Vatican summit this February will gather the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world. While ...

'Elitist, clericalist' church allows abuse to thrive, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sexual and physical abuse by priests and religious and the scandal of its cover-up by church authorities thrive in countries where ...

Cardinal Wuerl to ask pope to accept his resignation

Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- An archdiocesan spokesman has confirmed that Cardinal Donald Wuerl will soon ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation ...

Pope accepts resignation of West Virginia bishop as inquiry into abuse claims launched

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Pope Francis Thursday accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield from the pastoral government ...