Undoubtedly one of the most interesting figures to grace the stage of human thought was the 5th century philosopher Socrates. Even when on trial for his life, he refused to abandon the pursuit of truth. In defending himself before his accusers, Socrates says, "The unexamined life is not worth living" (Plato, Apology, 38a). Socrates argues that, for human life to have its proper value, there must be public discussion of the issues of life and virtue as well. Our nation is just hours away from another presidential election. Public discussion is intense. The pundits and the propaganda have been prodding people to vote in one way or another. This moment is freighted with meaning. We are at a crossroads in our nation's history. We need to disengage reason from rhetoric. We need to face squarely the principles that inform our choices and the consequences that follow them. Not financial gain, but truth; not popular acclaim, but truth; not party spirit, but truth is the foundation for sound judgments and responsible choices.
The ancient Greek philosophers gifted us with an indispensable tool in the inquiry for truth. They taught us logic. Today there are well over 200 different definitions of logic. But quite simply, logic is the science and art of reasoning. It directs the mind to attain clarity in thinking and consistency in judgment. Before we make any choice, we need to think logically. Only with careful reasoning can we hope to arrive at truth-apart from the slant of the polls and the prejudice of the press. Grasping the truth of the issues before us, we can make moral choices and wise decisions. It is not too late for any one of us to examine the political issues logically without partisan spirit. I offer a few reflections to spark such an examination.
Society exists to promote, protect and guarantee the common good. In a healthy society, government, elected leaders, politicians, citizens and voters willingly serve the common good of all. The first priority, the fundamental priority of the common good is protecting and supporting human life. For without life, there is no common good. Safeguarding human life energizes us to provide food and housing for the poor as well as a clean environment and proper healthcare for all. Promoting human life moves us toward healing the hurt of victims of any crime and toward an ever more humane treatment of those who commit offenses against society. Protecting human life impels us to use every diplomatic means possible to stay the scourge of war. No matter how justified a particular war may be, war cannot avoid the indirect taking of the lives of innocent people. Guaranteeing human life necessitates a profound respect for the very sanctity of life from conception to natural death.
Modern science has irrefutably shown that human life begins at conception. Logic, therefore, demonstrates that abortion kills. From the first moment of life, a person placed in this world by God is to be cared for and loved. Abortion murders innocent children. Partial birth abortion kills them with particular cruelty and terrible pain. Euthanasia deliberately extinguishes human life. Embryonic stem cell research and human cloning manufacture, manipulate and then destroy human life. These evils attack the heart of the common good, life itself.
Some say Catholics are a one-issue people. This is blatantly false! The Church speaks often and at length on social justice, the global economy, the environment, capital punishment, poverty and war, as well as on respect for life. The Church's teaching is logical. The Church recognizes a hierarchy of values. Not all moral issues bear the same moral weight. We can defend our own life when attacked. We should defend the rights of others. At times the evil of war may be permitted-lamentably and always as the last resort-to guarantee and protect the rights and lives of innocent people. But the direct killing of innocent life is always wrong. Abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and human cloning destroy the most fundamental right of all-the right to live. They are never permitted! They are intrinsically evil. To accept, as science teaches, the truth that human life begins at conception and then to destroy that life for any reason is completely illogical and immoral.
Some adopt as their political shibboleth such oft-repeated sayings as "My religion is one thing; my politics, another;" or "I am personally opposed to abortion; but I will not let this influence my vote." Has logic been banished from our land? How can someone personally hold that abortion is murder and yet say, "because my constituency wants it, I will support abortion?" How can anyone logically say my religion does not affect my decisions on these issues of life? Stealing, abusing children, lying are evils that religion prohibits. Laws and courts recognize these as evil not because there are religious prohibitions against them, but because they are against the common good. So too abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and human cloning. These issues go beyond the prohibitions of any particular religion. They are ethical questions that touch the common good for individuals and communities of every race, religion and way of life.
Some individuals appeal to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court. That decision legalized abortion on demand and violated the common good. It has led to the barbaric killing of children through partial birth abortion, a practice decent people have already repudiated, pace some judges. Supreme Court decisions are changed and even reversed as society becomes more attuned to moral values. The most often cited case is the Dred Scott decision on slavery. The Supreme Court may wrongly decide. But we cannot simply acquiesce. Respect for the common good challenges reasonable people to work to change such decisions. Tragically support for the Roe v. Wade decision has been made the litmus test of political viability and the more pressing moral challenge to change is sidestepped. Logic, coupled with integrity, demands the opposite response. Since human life begins at conception, presidents, governors, legislators, judges and voters should be working to insure that our laws guarantee all individuals the right to life, even at the weakest and most vulnerable stage of their life.
A well reasoned examination of the truth about life and the courageous commitment to protect the sanctity of all human life is the foundation of the common good and the guarantee that a country or civilization can endure. When our nations goes to the polls in a few days to vote, each of us will choose for or against the common good. What logic will lie behind our choice as a nation?
Through the intercessions of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, may God grant us the gifts of wisdom and right judgment.
October 26, 2004