Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Barak Obama, Abortion and Ensoulment

Facebook is an interesting way to learn about people. When someone joins a group called "I Secretly Want To Punch Slow Walking People In The Back Of The Head," well by-golly, that says something about a person. Well, one thing I'm noticing is that a lot of the people I grew up with, went to Catholic schools for 12 years with, went to Church every Sunday with have either abandoned their faith or currently hold positions that are contrary to that faith.

Case in point: one high-school classmate of mine recently posted an event on Facebook called, "Goodbye Bush! - Hello Obama!" Since I have yet to find a single compelling reason why any Catholic in their right mind should vote for Obama, I felt compelled to leave the following comment:

"Sorry, can't make it. I'm too busy voting pro-life...."

I know, I know, probably not the most constructive way to begin a dialogue on the merits of Obama's voting record, but what can I say, recent events have got me in a "mood."

At any rate, my classmate provided a quite lengthy response, and I would like to counter that here.

You know there ARE other issues at stake...
Yes, but none as important.

Fortunately, we live in a country where we are allowed to have differing opinions. BTW, if the fetus you're voting to protect is gay, would you still fight for its rights?
Are you still Catholic? As Catholics, we are not allowed to have differing opinions on this issue. Abortion is wrong. Period. And since it is the issue that most directly effects human life, it is more important then war, or feeding the poor, or any other issue. And, to answer your question, assuming that homosexuality is in fact a genetic disorder, I would most certainly protect that baby's right to life. Every single human being has a right to life in virtue of being made in the image and likeness of God. Every single one, not just the ones who were fortunate enough to make it out of the womb. You have experienced that life growing within you. I'm surprised that you would be so willing to vote for someone who advocates the destruction of that life.

I always let Catholicism tell me when life began. Unquestioningly. Then I looked at science and reason. What is it that makes the "zef" --zygote, embryo, fetus-- a person and thus worthy of equal right to life with the woman whose body it occupies?

Is it the possesion of a soul? If so, when does ensoulment occur?

The Catholic Church teaches that ensoulment and therefore personhood, begins at the moment of conception when the sperm penetrates the ovum. At a glance that sounds logical, unique DNA, two separate entities fusing into one. That view however, presents certain problems:
I'm not sure if the debate on personhood is even necessary here. Even if we speak simply of human "beings," not human "persons," it is clear that abortion is wrong. Forget about when ensoulment occurs for a moment. The fact remains that upon conception, human DNA is formed that marks this particular thing as a human being. And human beings should not kill other innocent human beings. The mere probability that this human being is in fact a person is enough to make abortion a grave evil. We should never dare to risk murder.

If we are going to bestow personhood on a cluster of cells with no recognizable human features and no awareness or consciousness at all, we would need to look at the following situations:
Even your arguments about ensoulment do not refute the Church's teaching. For one, you seem to imply here that if consciousness or awareness are not present, then personhood is not present. But, this is faulty logic. If you take it to it's logical conclusion then you must make the absurd assertion that someone who falls into a coma or is otherwise unconscious but still alive someone ceases to be a person as well.

Just b/c that “clump of cells” can’t think or feel yet, that does not mean it isn’t a human person. This is b/c, while consciousness and awareness do not yet exist in actuality, they DO exist in potency. These powers simply await the maturation of the physical body in order to be actualized, or to bear fruit in the person.

TWINNING: For some time after fertilization, the embryo can split in two resulting in identical twins. If we think of the embryo as an individual - whom we will call Jane - endowed with a soul from the moment the sperm penetrated the egg, what happens to the individual when the embryo splits in two, is Jane one of the two, or does she disappear and replaced by Susan and Mary? If Jane disappears, does she go to heaven or limbo? If Jane is one of the two, which one is she? Does she retain the soul she received upon fertilization, or does she and her identical twin receive brand new souls?
I am no expert on embryology, but there are several scholarly articles that I feel adequately address this issue. They include the following:I hope that helps.

IN VITRO: In cases when eggs are fertilized under the microscope in a laboratory, the embryo would receive its soul the moment the scientist injects the sperm into the egg, that would mean that he/she is compelling God to dispatch a soul at that particular moment! (If the scientist is capable of controlling fertilization and thus ensoulment that would imply that God's powers are not unique, since humans can do what he can do) What we should ask is, where in the embryo does the soul reside and why isn't the infusion of the soul observable when the egg is fertilized in the lab under the microscope? With a two celled organism and a powerful electron microscope that should not be too difficult! Or are we to assume that in vitro babies are soul-less?
It simply does not follow from my position of immediate ensoulment that the scientist somehow becomes equal unto God in his creative power. Yes, mankind has found a way to artificially fertilize an egg, resulting in a human zygote. But, only God creates the soul. It is a gift from Him and Him alone. When he gives a soul to such a zygote, it’s b/c it was HIS will to do so. No one can “force” God to do anything.

You also implied that the soul of a human zygote must not be there if we can’t see it under a microscope. I’m sorry, but that’s just silly. Souls are, by their very definition, immaterial. So, it’s not like you’ll be able to find your soul locked away somewhere in one of the chambers of your heart. The human soul, also called the “spiritual” soul, is the invisible, rational, immortal animating principle of man. It cannot be “seen” or “held” anymore than the “I” that is you can be seen or held.

I'm not saying I'm pro-abortion. But I do believe that the Catholic Church has it wrong on when life begins, and the science backs it up. And infallibility is not an acceptable response. (flat world, anyone?)
Your "science" does nothing to disprove my position. You misunderstand infallibility too. Infallibility is a charism of the Holy Spirit that protects the Church from authoritatively proclaiming anything that is false regarding faith and morals .... not astrology.

Also what I AM saying is that I think there are other issues that one should consider when casting their vote in November.
I agree that there are other issues we should consider. I’m not a one-issue voter. But, I do understand basic moral principles. Those actions which most directly effect human life are the most grievous, and there is no issue that effects human life more directly than abortion. As a consequence, you should look at a politician’s stance on abortion before you look at anything else. Do you know what Obama’s stance is? According to his speech to Planned Parenthood, his first action as President will be to pass the Freedom of Choice Act, which will undo all pro-life initiatives that have ever been put in place since Roe vs. Wade. If you are truly against abortion like you say you are, then this should be alarming.

As Catholics we have certain teachings that are simply non-negotiable. These include abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning, and homosexual “marriage.” It is a serious sin both to embrace these practices and to endorse people who embrace them. Barack Obama is the single most liberal candidate to every run for the presidency of the United States. On abortion, he received a 100% rating from NARAL and a 0% rating from the National Right to Life Committee. On euthanasia, he said that someone who is terminally ill should be provided with the means with which to end their own life. He also said that his biggest regret as a senator was voting for Congress to intervene in the euthanization of Terri Schiavo. His position on cloning is unclear. Finally, on homosexual “marriage,” he voted “No” on a constitutional ban of such unions and he received an 89% approval rating from the Human Rights Campaign, indicating a strong pro-gay rights stance.

As a Catholic, there is simply no way that you can support this man. I hope that now you understand my position.

Pax Christi,


  1. Maybe your classmate should mention where she got all her information VERBATIM:

    This is a violently pro-abortion website dedicated to procuring abortions for women. They even have a warning AGAINST the National Pregnancy Support Hotline, which is a Catholic organization.

    That article also displays a shocking ignorance of basic embryology.

    None of what she said is her own. She's being fed this tripe by a pro-abortion organization. How is this different from being fed information by the Church (if that were what was going on in the first place). Way to think for yourself. Awesome.

  2. Btw, the image you posted with this entry freaks me right out.

  3. Wow. Abortion is truly horrific. It's sad to read about someone who is ignorant or mislead on such an important thing.

    I had a thought while reading your blog. You seem so certain that McCain would be more pro-life than Obama. I myself do believe that McCain is more pro-life than Obama. However, I'm far from certain on the issue. I know McCain claims to be pro-life, but I am rather suspicious of this, along with his other recent series of conversions. They have conveniently come just in time for him to run for president. And, McCain's previous statements and voting record, while somewhat mixed, are decidedly pro-choice. Yes, Obama in his short time in the Senate has managed to consistently vote for every pro-choice/pro-abortion bill that has come up, and yes Palin has some excellent anti-abortion credentials. It's clear to me that on abortion McCain is more pro-life, but only because he doesn't seem to care. It seems like, when it comes to the issue of abortion, McCain just takes the most politically convenient position. So, McCain will probably sign an anti-abortion bill if it came across his desk. But, would he sponsor one? Would he appoint a judge that's pro-life? I honestly don't know. I doubt he'd sponsor an anti-abortion bill. And, I doubt a judge's stance on abortion would weigh heavily on his decision making. Obama's like a loaded gun; he's going to be pro-abortion. McCain is like Russian Roulette; he's got a chance at either being deadly to the unborn or having no effect whatsoever.

    Given this less than black and white situation between McCain and Obama, should we limit our pro-life consider to abortion issues? Normally, I would. It's the clearest and gravest moral issue facing our nation, but when no candidate is decidedly pro-life, how do we vote? Obama's health-care plan would seem to bring better preventative medicine to the poor and under-privileged, probably saving many lives. His tax plans could potentially put more money in the hands of the poor, enabling them to feed themselves and again, saving more lives. His foreign policy decisions might lead to greater peace in the world.

    I realize this is all speculative, and as I said, I do evaluate McCain to be overall more pro-life than Obama. BUT, I felt it prudent to challenge your apparent certainty on the issue.

  4. For joeyo:

    Barack Obama promised activists with the nation's largest abortion business that the first thing he would do as president is overturn every pro-life law in all 50 states. He said his first action would be signing the mislabeled Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). The measure, if it becomes law, would codify Roe v. Wade by making the infamous Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited abortions the law of the land. But it would go further and overturn hundreds of state laws that have put limits on abortion like parental involvement, partial-birth abortion bans, and bans on taxpayer funded abortions.

    There is NO way a faithful Catholic can vote for Obama.

  5. Until medical science can pinpoint the exact moment when life begins, we must give Life the benefit of doubt. Otherwise, we devalue all life.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. For Kathy:
    I understand that Obama is very pro-abortion. My point was that McCain's hardly a pro-life candidate. Go to His record is a troubling mix of pro-choice votes and declarations. That makes him substantially better than Obama on that issue. BUT, I believe that, if it were politically convenient for him, McCain would enact many pro-choice or even pro-abortion policies. What ultimately persuaded me that McCain MIGHT stand up against pro-abortion positions was the appointment of Sarah Palin. However, the more I hear her speak, the more I worry that she is merely a figure appointed for votes and will have no impact on McCain's decisions. Still, possibly deadly is better than definitely deadly. That's why I'm voting for McCain in November, but I'm not terribly happy about it.


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