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Saturday, September 1, 2012

It's Election Time...Accusations of Flip-Flopping...

It seems every election season we hear about flip-flopping.  You know, where someone changes a position that the other party doesn't like.  Most of the time it is a Democrat accusing a pro-life candidate of changing his position from being once pro-abortion to that of pro-life.

Friends, that is not flip-flopping, that is development of understanding.  As Christians, and more specifically, as Catholics, we are expected to form our consciences according to the Truth.  Sometimes it is easier, sometimes it is harder.  But it is always a journey that takes the entire life of a person and it happens in varying degrees.

What we are really fighting is what is known as British Empiricism.  It is the basis of the philosophies of John Stuart Mill, John Locke and David Hume.  They essentially state that logic is the answer and that everything can be explained vis a vis the scientific method (Yes, I know that is an oversimplification, but it is the very base of their understanding) and that if it cannot be logically reasoned or proven then there is no basis for it.  This is how the vast majority of pro-aborts view their movement.  They really believe that since we cannot prove that life begins at conception, that we cannot treat the unborn human person as a person.  And the argument stems from there.  I will not rehash it, it is widely known.

To the contrary, many in the pro-life movement don't ascribe to this philosophy.  They are more akin to Bl. John Henry Newman's view as presented in An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent.  Newman breaks things down into several parts, first he speaks about believing that which you don't understand and second, he speaks about believing that which you cannot prove.  These views are at odds with the Empiricists because it uses assent and inference, a concept which does not follow the closed view of logic.  Newman's view speaks much more fluidly about logic and that it can be applied in a much more open way.

What the pro-aborts refuse to acknowledge is that one can assent their mind and their will to the tenants of the unborn without fully understanding that life begins at conception.  But it is not necessary to "know" this either because  So while the regular unlearned pro-lifer, or anyone for that matter, may not be able to conceive that human life begins at conception, the words of the propositions that define the position are clear and intellectually accessible and assent may legitimately follow.

The key difference between assent and inference is that assent is unconditional and inference is conditional, i.e., dependent on other propositions or ideas and unable to stand by itself.  This is the second part of the equation.inference described a proposition that is intrinsically dependent on other propositions. For instance, the statement, "Therefore, the car is red," is clearly dependent on antecedent propositions for its meaning and those propositions would need to be disclosed before one could meaningfully assent. This is an inferential statement as opposed to "The car in front of the house is red," which is an assertion that can be assented to because it can stand on its own.

Finally, Newman speaks about the Ilative sense.  It is the faculty of the human mind that closes the logic-gap in concrete situations and thus allowing for assent. Logic/formal inference utilizes dependable processes that lead to a certain and firm conclusion in the fields in which it is applied. However, Newman maintained that in concrete life formal incontrovertible proof in favor of a decision is not possible—the best one can achieve is converging probabilities in favor of a conclusion. For Newman it is impossible to attain the concrete existential equivalent of logical certainty. Thus, to close that gap between converging probabilities and full assent, one needs the aid of the Illative Sense in order to attain certitude in specific situations.

Newman recognized that there are dangers associated with using the Illative Sense. In using it one may become vulnerable to superstition and eccentricity. But superstition is held in check, Newman suggests, by the moral element in the act of faith, that is, holiness, obedience, and the sense of duty will safeguard faith from becoming mere superstition.

So, where the pro-abort fails is in holding fast to the Empirical view is that he refuses to look beyond the scope of the logic which faces him.  He doesn't properly apply reason as it is intended to be applied.  The pro-lifer, on the other hand is more willing to allow for his own human faculties to grow and close the "logic gap" as Newman puts it, therefore opening the possibility that it is acceptable to believe that human life begins at conception without empirically knowing it to be the case.

As we listen over the coming months about Romney's journey to becoming more pro-life, we must take into consideration that he may not have a full assent of his mind to the concept.  However, we can take solace in the fact that he is coming to understand it better.  We know this because of his own personal transformation, but also because of who he chose as a running mate.  Paul Ryan is staunchly pro-life and he will be able to continue to help the assent of Romney's mind to that of being more completely pro-life.

If Romney can make the statement regarding being pro-abort, "Understand over time one's perspective changes somewhat," he said. "I'm in a different place than I was probably in 1994, when I ran against Ted Kennedy, in my own views on that."

We can have hope that he will continue to grow in assenting his mind to becoming 100% pro-life.  We must not forget that while there may be some semblance of evil in some of the things a candidate believes, we are bound to electing that candidate which will do the most to further the common good.  If we stop supporting Romney in favor of a candidate like Ron Paul, who may be more perfect, knowing that he does not have the votes to defeat Obama who is more evil than Romney, we are not helping to lessen evil in the world.  For if Obama is re-elected we will face a greater evil than if Romney is elected.  The push right begins by choosing the lesser evil and perfecting the person after that.  It is clear that we cannot perfect Obama, so we must choose to elect the candidate who can defeat him.  In this election it is Mitt Romney.  Once Romney is in office, the American people through the pro-life movement can work to perfect him.  We have seen that he is open to developing his view.

It is not better to be a little pro-abort.  But it is better to be open to the pro-life truth.  Romney gets us there and he is electable. No other candidate can do that.  So, as we vote this election season, we must remember that to lessen evil is a step at destroying evil.  It is akin to the parable of the weeds...

[24]Another parable he proposed to them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a man that sowed good seeds in his field. [25] But while men were asleep, his enemy came and oversowed cockle among the wheat and went his way.
[26] And when the blade was sprung up, and had brought forth fruit, then appeared also the cockle. [27] And the servants of the goodman of the house coming said to him: Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? whence then hath it cockle? [28] And he said to them: An enemy hath done this. And the servants said to him: Wilt thou that we go and gather it up? [29] And he said: No, lest perhaps gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also together with it. [30] Suffer both to grow until the harvest, and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers: Gather up first the cockle, and bind it into bundles to burn, but the wheat gather ye into my barn.
[36] Then having sent away the multitudes, he came into the house, and his disciples came to him, saying: Expound to us the parable of the cockle of the field. [37] Who made answer and said to them: He that soweth the good seed, is the Son of man. [38] And the field, is the world. And the good seed are the children of the kingdom. And the cockle, are the children of the wicked one. [39] And the enemy that sowed them, is the devil. But the harvest is the end of the world. And the reapers are the angels. [40] Even as cockle therefore is gathered up, and burnt with fire: so shall it be at the end of the world.
[41] The Son of man shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all scandals, and them that work iniquity. [42] And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [43] Then shall the just shine as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43

I am not telling you how to vote, but rather that you must vote to lessen evil.  Who is sowing good seed in that parable and who is sowing weeds?

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