Comments: other opinions

Giles Fraser mentions 'a revolting-sounding' video called The Silent Scream.
The video had to be realeased some time back, in the interests of openness and freedom of information, because it is difficult to have any opinion at all on abortion without knowing what is involved.
It would be bad enough if one person supported the killing of one pre-term baby *with* first-hand knowledge. But in three separate ways the situation was and is worse. Namely: *Many* people 'claim' to support the killing of *many* such babies *without* first-hand knowledge.

The question was: if abortion is so ok that 180000 people in a small island can suffer it every year (twice as many if you count the mothers, as one must) then what is there to hide? The video (which is not the only one of its kind) made clear what there is to hide.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 1:47pm GMT

Surprisingly, perhaps, I agree (a bit) with Christopher — informed decision making requires knowledge of the darker bits as well as the brighter ones - but my memory of the video in question is that it too is a partisan production which effortlessly skirts round major ethical issues.

When we recall how Christian pressure groups have helped block the implementation of sex education policies which in the rest of Europe have successfully delayed the date of first sexual encounters, reduced the demand for abortions and all the rest, I think we need to put our house in order rather than further bombard the people our moralising has betrayed.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 3:28pm GMT

I agree with Giles Fraser about how blogging and discussion boards lead to easy personal attacks, and through anonymity. I use "Pluralist" because it carries a personal history, plus if you click the link, so to speak, you can find out about me more than you can about most. I think we can be clear and try to keep to good manners at the same time.

The problem comes when you criticise someone's performance and strategy, or lack of it. One wonders who would choose to be Archbishop of Canterbury these days. More definition and decision in the role, more connection with the person he once was, might help, but he must feel an immense weight upon him. In fact recent TV programmes have indicated that he does feel it.

I think Don Cupitt is right, they are just incapable of stopping the fundamentalists. We've seen this with Tom Wright trying to put up some sort of reasoned evangelical theology, and it goes absolutely nowhere so that, in the end, even he ends up shouting at the fundies. I don't think his theology is sustainable - it is clever but bends itself to doctrine at critical points rather than continuing with reason - and part of the problem is not simply impotence of liberals but that they have always compromised (not a bad ethic, after all) and been deliberately unclear. Well, now the predicament has been laid down, clarity is important, because the future is at stake. Conversation is open, we are all grown up, and we ought to be honest.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 4:09pm GMT

I think Ratzinger is very interesting, and Don Cupitt picks up a point that he undermines his own position. Ratzinger produced a book stating he wasn't giving out the papal position, and so split his personality into academic and Pope.

The lecture, notorious for his crack at Islam, was far more interesting for his reliance on Greek culture as the means of revelation, connecting with a self-limiting God and not of pure transcendence. This is undermining.

This is the justification for the mistranslations of the Septuagint, and the whole post-New Testament doctrinal framework. He arged against liberal Harnack or Ritschl and those historian types who want to reproduce a purer, more Jewish, Yeshua of history. But we all know these positions are relative and cultural, and giving Greek culture some sort of divine privilege is special pleading. It is this sort of reliance, looking for support, that brings the edifice down.

I have to say, though, that Cupitt's latest position of dismissing heterological (symbolic language of religion) for autological language (mean what you say directly) is not actually religious, and religion is like art and is going to be imprecise. I have a review coming out in the next Faith and Freedom (Manchester College) where I argue against his new position. I think we also need to look at the rather forgotten but in his time important theologian, James Martineau, who understood the conservative relationship of liturgy to belief, and the then subjectivity of belief or what we would now see (combining the two) as postmodern.
(Cuoitt review) (about a third down?) (Broad Church, Unitarians)

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 4:31pm GMT

Is the following strictly true:

"Yet, despite the social unacceptability of sending hate mail, those who post comments on websites — also known as bloggers — are able to get away with the most disgusting bile, wrapped in the clothing of anonymity"

That's just inaccurate innit? And him a journalist! Bloggers are them what have blogs and they're the ones that the anonymous wackos send their comments to. They might give ourselves fancy names like, well, Raspberry Rabbit or Captain of Adventure but that's just because They're really called Carl or Rodney and spend their free time sitting around with our pants on our heads eating those noodles that come in the square package and that you boil for three minutes before sprinkling the powdered sauce on them from the package. Pundit heaven feels like the center of the universe until the doorbell rings and they've got to take their pants off their head, hide the bowl with the noodles and find a houecoat. But in fairness their email address are generally to be found on the blog somewhere so Fr Fraser can write back and tell them to lighten up on the language, &c

Which would be great. Like I said, nobody ever talks to us much.

Raspberry Rabbit
write me Giles, write me!

Posted by Raspberry Rabbit at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 5:04pm GMT


You would not fit into Giles' category. You have a hyperlink so we can find you. ;-)


I agree with your sentiments about late-term abortion. I consider that to be murder (sorry to those who are offended). However, I do not consider the morning-after pill or an induced early period to be murder. Deplorable as these things are (they should not be the automatic form of contraception); they are a necessary evil. Women do get raped (even by their husbands) and no woman should be forced to carry a baby to term because some male fantasized about distorting her body and life.

Cupitt's article made me sad. His last two paragraphs contained "So the great churchmen know that sooner or later Christian thought must undergo a very great transformation. A handful of writers are already describing it, but they are not popular, for it is a change far too big for the church to contemplate as yet... What are church leaders to do, then? As they put the old metaphysical language on the back burner, they are hoping that new ideas and public debate will gradually change the climate. And that I think is about the best they can do, in their unenviable position."

God has painted humanity into a corner. The greenhouse effects, pandemics, poverty and war will not be overcome by ostrich theology.

Nor will they be overcome by sectarian theology that denies or distorts reality so that people can feel "safe" in an unsafe world.

Go to Jeremiah - do not say there is peace or safety when there is not. Get off your butts, accept that reality will still be there tomorrow (no it is not a dream from which you will wake up) and get on with fixing problems.

And that means fixing distorting cliques' hijacking of processes that would solve the problem so that their church/oil company/government doesn't have to deal with the reality that they are going to have to change how they operate because not only their institution but this whole planet needs healing. That means our enemies as much, if not more so, than our friends.

Which is where Rabbi Romain's article comes in - we have to love our congregations and bring out the best in them, including those who have GLBTs members and friends.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 9:31pm GMT

Giles Fraser wrote: "The gay debate is just the beginning of a takeover bid for the soul of the church." ..and.. "If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend the tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them."

I think that the piece is very telling. Firstly it explains why liberal people like Giles started, and continue to push, the "Gay Debate". Secondly it suggests an assumption that liberals think that only they should be in charge. Thirdly, the ridiculously complex Orwellian arguement about "intolerance" to foster "tolerance" shows that he does *not really* mean tolerance. He is just labelling his views "tolerant" rather than "liberal".

Finally he completely ignores the actual facts and arguements of the gay-sex debate in favour of demonising the other side. A sure sign that you have lost the arguement, but intend to win at any price..

Posted by Dave at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 12:01am GMT

Cheryl Clough wrote: "I agree with your sentiments about late-term abortion. I consider that to be murder (sorry to those who are offended). However, I do not consider the morning-after pill or an induced early period to be murder. Deplorable as these things are (they should not be the automatic form of contraception); they are a necessary evil. Women do get raped (even by their husbands) and no woman should be forced to carry a baby to term because some male fantasized about distorting her body and life."

Dear Cheryl, I agree with you on the morning after pill. It is much more ethically reasonable because it only works before the fertilized egg is implanted in the womb - before the longitudinal folding that makes a developing embryo a young human being, rather than just a group of unspecialized cells. Widespread availablity of the morning after pill could be a great way to avoid having to abort unwanted children, whether 'mistakes' or the products of abuse. And make it possible to justify limiting the [lesser?] evil of abortion to cases where the mother is likely to die during pregnancy, not simply for the convenience of the parents..

However, my favourite route is to adopt the ABC method that has shown good results against AIDs in some African countries. If everyone abstained before marriage, and was faithful within marriage, AIDs and all other STDs would be gone within a generation, the condemnable abortion of babies would be unnecessary, and social breakdown would be hugely reversed. Not a bad outcome for a bit of collective self-denial!

Posted by Dave at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 12:22am GMT

Here in the US fundamentalism is on the rise because there's little else to satisfy people's desires for (1) order and purpose in their lives and (2) transcendence.

(1) For lower-class people, and others, whose lives are insecure and chaotic, who operate on impulse, aren't in the habit of considering consequences, can't seem to see more than a week ahead, have no reasonable goals and can't seem to organize their lives there are two ways to get it together: get born-again or join the military. People like this need structure and discipline. Neither mainline churches nor secular organizations, e.g. schools, are providing that anymore. Structure and discipline aren't incompatible with liberal social or political values, but many liberals are viscerally averse to them, so the devil gets the good tunes.

(2) For people questing for transcendance, liberal churches, influenced by Don Cupitt et. al., have little to offer. Priests who, like Cupitt, imagine that Continental “philosophers” like Neitzsche, Heidegger and Derrida are the latest word, assume that the metaphysical basis of Christianity has been thoroughly discredited and operate accordingly. So, depending on class and personal stylistic preferences people wanting transcendance—looking for some connection to a personal God, a window into another world and some prospect of post-mortem survival—either become fundamentalists or take up syncretic New Age “spirituality.”

If church leaders don’t like the fix they’re in maybe they should be reading contemporary analytic philosophers of religion who believe in God, like Plantinga and Swinburne, rather than Continental “philosophers” who are not only intellectually disreputable but actively hostile to religious belief. If they want to speak to people who are looking for transcendence, maybe they should dip into the vast literature of Christian mysticism, provide guidance in prayer, meditation and religious practice, and conduct devotions and liturgical services that are conducive to religious experience.

Why is this so hard to figure out? Or to do?

Posted by H. E. Baber at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 1:38am GMT

What made "The Silent Scream" TRULY revolting, was its *bogus* fetalogy. It assigned a level of *sentience* ("screaming") to fetuses which could not remotely have achieved that state of development.

Rather easy to tip the scale (of argument), when you don't have to stick to the facts?

Lord have mercy!

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 2:38am GMT


I agree with your vision. It is a beautiful vision. But unfulfillable for this generation.

In the current reality, there are many males who think that parenthood is leaving a deposit of semon and that somehow the children grow up "okay". There are some men who would never be parents if they were not able to rape women.

What we need is a society that reveres and loves children and does not see "paternalism" (or "maternalism" for that matter also) as an unaffordable cost. Until we respect and value children and the ability to provide for them into the indefinite future we are not going to fix many problems in this world.

We will not heal the world by destroying parts of the world or denying their needs. Healing will come when we acknowledge that we must love and nourish all that exists - no matter how imperfect.

For example, I have spent most of this weekend thinking that God can not do away with illness and unnecessary death until we understand that every soul needs a certain amount of resources to survive. If we are not going to exercise constraint in birth control and sustainable development; then we must accept that God must "prune" our excesses from time to time.

And before the puritans gloat, remember AIDS, war and famine do not distinguish between rich and poor, white or black, male or female, young or old...

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 10:41am GMT

" ... the ABC method that has shown good results against AIDs in some African countries. If everyone abstained before marriage, and was faithful within marriage, AIDs and all other STDs would be gone within a generation ..."

You forgot C: condoms which are particularly important in curbing the spread of AIDS and STDS. When the C part was de-emphasized in Uganda, I believe that the rate of infection shot right back up.

The best way to prevent abortions is to make widely known a variety of means of birth control.

Abstinance is an ideal, but not all sex is consensual, and, speaking as one who teaches at a university, I have observed that not all sexual engagement takes place with both parties being sober. There is such a thing as non-consensual sex, even within marriage. There is also such a thing as ill-considered or unconsidered sex, particularly in the context of American undergraduate [and also high school] culture.

I don't think that those who engage in the latter would necessarily make ideal parents, although when they gain some emotional maturity they well may.

So yes - Absitence, Being faithful - and Contraception.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 1:13pm GMT

Dear Cheryl and Cynthia, I wasn't ignoring Condoms (or I'd have written "AB"). But commitment to A and B are the only real solution to STDs (especially AIDs), abortion, and a lot of relationship troubles. And condoms are not much use unless you have the cash and discipline to use them EVERY time.. In real life 1987-2007 in UK US nearly everyone who got AIDs wasn't infected due to the lack of free condoms and "safe sex" warnings, but because they or someone close to them was *promiscuous*.

Cheryl Clough wrote:"And before the puritans gloat, remember AIDS, war and famine do not distinguish between rich and poor, white or black, male or female, young or old..."

Yes it's horrible, but "puritans" are at extremely low risk - which was *exactly* my point !!

Posted by Dave at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 5:47pm GMT

Everybody go read H.E. Baber's post again, please!

(It would be really good to stop talking about homosexuality, pro and con, for at least 10 minutes, anyway, so what's anybody got to lose?)

Posted by bls at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 8:35pm GMT

Actually Dave. Puritans are often more at risk. Their children are more likely to rebel and "act out" against their parents. The people who do go off the rails often do so dramatically. Predatory sociopaths find it easy to camoflauge where the approved emotions are scripted, and concerns and dissent are frowned upon (especially from their unobedient victims who are often women, children, GLBTs).

How does a gay youth speak out that a youth leader is molesting them, without declaring their sexuality? These are the unspoken tragic stories that have been played out in many parishes over centuries. Similarly, what about the women who conceived children from priests, parish leaders or their own kin - who were then treated as the guilty ones. Plus they get the joy of being disciplined whilst watching their perpetrator (often an esteemed member in their religious community) being affirmed and comforted by everyone as they are obviously the victim of a delusional and/or lying woman.

Look at the information about down-low men. This is one thing that the Australian gay community did a fantastic job of recognising very early in the AIDS pandemic. You can not quarantine sex and who is and is not safe. The AIDS pandemic has made it clear for all to see just how extensive it is for "pure" men to have fun with boys. For example in Sydney, it is well known that many a male has a male-male sexual encounter just around the corner from St Vincents hospital - where the wife is involved with preparation for the birth and settling in of new baby...

One of the most tragic things in this whole debate is that many who ascribe to puritanical paradigms have a belief this increases their safety from things such as AIDS. It can help, but a mistaken overconfidence in this security is actually more dangerous than a pragmatic acceptance that we are all at risk. After all, none of us can plan what curve ball God is going to throw at us next (or when).

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 9:01pm GMT

Dear Cheryl, I doubt that most of the 5 million people that were infected with an STD in the US or UK last year were puritans, or their offspring!

People who actually Abstain before marriage, and Be Faithful in it, are at very low risk of contracting AIDs. It is the people who are promiscuous who put themselves and their partners at risk. I agree with you that there is all sorts of other "stuff" that can mess people about, but we mustn't let that distract us from the basic facts! People are being made ill, infertile and dying in huge numbers - because of completely voluntary behavioural choices !

Posted by Dave at Monday, 5 February 2007 at 12:05am GMT

In defense of Continental philosophers: the likes of Jean-Luc Marion are equally worth reading for church leaders everywhere. Now there's one who believes in God. Don't forget Paul Ricoeur, the French Lutheran.
I might as well argue that this is where the Radical Orthodox movement of John Millbank and others might have played a role. They are trying to reconcile differing philosophical traditions in an attempt to re-express Christianity. However, rather than introducing themselves into public theology, their density has written them out of the current discourse. Which is what I find disturbing. Their protests ought to be heard in a louder voice, not one couched in language most of the world does not understand.
I'd honestly rather be pluralistic, seek out the possibilities, rather than be trapped in the caricatures of the other tradition. Oh, yes, church leaders also ought to be reading Emmanuel Levinas, who was a devout Jew in his lifetime.
As I said, trapped in our caricatures...

Posted by Ren Aguila at Monday, 5 February 2007 at 1:02am GMT


I found myself thinking a lot about what you suggested today.

I think the other thing that is forgotten in the puritan model is the reality for most women.

For example, in my own life, the worst violations have come at the times that I have been most "pure". There is actually a lot less abuse when a woman does not fit the model of "pure" and is therefore not desirable by the conventions. There is more freedom to move around as men no longer look at you as a possible conquest to brag about to their mates. There is more peace as you are not reeling from the day to day heckling and sniping that comes from being an attractive or desirable woman. There are no worries about whether men are being nice to you because of the brag factor, your money or your talents.

Thus I would also comment that the puritanical model overlooks that there are souls who enjoy besmirching other souls, especially females and children.

Unfortunately, women and children can not afford to be naive in our societies, because if we are not educated we fail to recognise the machevelian manouvering of dishonest men who want to win the conquest and have no regard to the damage their playing does to the lives of others. Nor can the naive protect themselves from those souls who actively want to hurt others because that causes them pleasure.

There are many people who hate churches, because they have experienced puritantical souls tell them they "deserved" to be raped and violated; that they had somehow brought it on themselves. Is a two year old child more accountable than their adult parents, neighbours and associates? When do the perpetrators become responsible and not their victims?

Any model that does not acknowledge these violations is doomed to failure. Any model that does not acknowledge the victims and their post trauma angst is lacking in compassion.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 5 February 2007 at 4:40am GMT


You made a posting between my last two postings. So I will deal with your posting as though the last one had not occurred (which in reality it hadn't until TA was updated).

My second posting partially addresses some of your isues.

My other reply to your last posting is that assumes that being in a relationship presumes control and accountability over the other partner.

Unfortunately, the school of hard knocks tells me that even if you choose to be "moral" that does not guarantee that your partner will also be moral. Further, vows before God do not preclude partners doing unsafe sex (or other activities) without your knowledge or consent. Similarly, it does not acknowledge that partners knowingly and deliberately hide the evidence of their duplicity and misconduct so that their partners are oblivious of their intentions or the costs of their misconduct.

Puritanism would make such souls accoutable for their partner's errors - where telepathy and precogntion would be required to recognise the partner's dysfunction?

Are we really demanding that abused people use telepathy and precognition to defend themselves? In which case, which court would accept their evidence?

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 5 February 2007 at 9:35am GMT

Christian website boast of abstinence pledges as reducing teen pregnancy:

The following reports that abstinence pledges can delay sexual activity by 18 months -- a long stretch in a teenager's life. The downside is that when pledgers do have sex they are unlikely to use condoms:

More about the downside here:

The following finds that 25% in the drop in US rates for teen pregnancy is due to abstinence programmes; the remainder to contraception.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Monday, 5 February 2007 at 11:27am GMT

Hi David Rowett-
Best thing to do is (a) to compare the teenage conception rate from before sex education started with the conception rate today.
Then (b) try and defend the thesis that sex education reduces the conception rate.
It doesn't even leave it the same.
It doesn't even increase it.
It increases it stratospherically.
Of course, there are questions of causation and correlation here. But the basic point holds. If something presented as a viable option, people will do it considerably more than if it is not presented as a viable option. Because everyone dreads not being normal. This is proven by the much lower teen conception rates in stabler sub-societies with a strong sense of culture and heritage, like British Jewry, British Asians.
There is an extent to which Holland is two different societies: Amsterdam and Rotterdam on the one hand, and the rest on the other hand. The stats for Amsterdam and Rotterdam are nothing to shout about. But in much of the remainder of Holland the Reformed Church is strong and this is reflected in better stats.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 5 February 2007 at 1:49pm GMT

""puritans" are at extremely low risk - which was *exactly* my point"
WRT AIDS, lesbians are also at very low risk. Those who ARE Christians tend to go to churches with better liturgy, IMNSHO, so I know what I'd rather be:-)

And, H. E. Baber, I agree with your first point, though I must make allowance for your elitist tone. I fail to see, however, how Evangelicalism provides transcendence. Its legalism, its mistrust of anything mystical even in the Sacraments, its general inability to see the Incarnation as anything other than God coming to be punished on behalf of the guilty and that at times seems to get close to Arianism, and on and on, don't seem overly transcendant. You don't find much in the way of labyrinths or contemplative prayer in Evo churches, in my experience. Indeed, the bulk of the Christian mystical tradition, coming as it does from the post-Apostolic period, tends to be dismissed as the "traditions of men" if not the machinations of the Devil. What you DO find is easy answers to hard questions, confirmation of a particular modern lifestyle, reassurance that God will love you as long as you obey, or that you are better than others because you obey, and a persecution complex that, while present everywhere, is very well developed in Evangelicalism. It is curiously comforting to think of one'sself as part of an oppressed minority, especially when one can think one'sself oppressed because one is standing for God's Truth. There is also an attractive mythology of Church. All mythologies contain truth, I guess, but that contained by the Evangelical mythology seems very small and hidden, in my view.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 5 February 2007 at 2:58pm GMT

Sorry to intrude again into your discussion of sex but re Ren Aguila's remark, my problem with Continental philosophers isn't that they're godless but that they're Continental philosophers.

Their discussions are, as you note "couched in language most of the world does not understand." And that includes me. Analytic philosophers, including analytic philosophers of religion, write intelligible English prose and those who believe in God are generally pretty orthodox. Here you have what you want: a clear, philosophically sophisticated defense of more or less orthodox Christianity in language people can understand.

So, why aren't theologians, and parish clergy, reading these guys?

Posted by H. E. Baber at Monday, 5 February 2007 at 5:18pm GMT

Hang on, Christopher: so it's sex education that's to blame for promiscuity is it? Not (for example) women's emancipation, the delaying of marriage because of financial factors and a thousand other reasons.

post hoc is not propter hoc.....

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Monday, 5 February 2007 at 6:50pm GMT

Analytical philosophers tend to project a chilly metaphysical God, a pale parody of scholasticism, and they tend studiously to ignore all non-rationalistic theology (e.g. Luther, Schleiermacher, Barth) as well as all culturally and historically sensitive hermeneutics. Also, they are usually much more difficult to read than the continental philosophers (whom you have to read in the original French or German of course). Also, they frequently develop heretical accounts of God, because of the aforementioned defects; Richard Swinburne's tritheism is a case in point.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Tuesday, 6 February 2007 at 4:44am GMT

Nonetheless there is much to be learned from analytical philosophers who are well-informed about Christian tradition, such as Eleonore Stump.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Tuesday, 6 February 2007 at 4:47am GMT

Christopher Shell wrote: “Best thing to do is (a) to compare the teenage conception rate from before sex education started with the conception rate today.”

Into “statistics” again, dear Christopher? Not Gagnon this time I hope?

Before honesty there were no reliable figures…

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 6 February 2007 at 5:59am GMT

hi Goran
'No reliable figures'? Not at all. The first year of legal abortion in Britain saw (from memory) 50-60 thousand abortions. One can easily access the precise figure, if interested. From this we can safely conclude the following:
(1) The figure in pre-legal days could scarcely have been more than that.
(2) It is likely to have been appreciably less (we don't know by how much), since the evidence overwhelmingly shows that legality leads to considerably more abortions.
(3) Common sense points the same way.
(4) That means that at least four or five times as many pre-term babies (and anyone who claims the life-cycle does not begin at conception is precisely as mediaeval as those who believed the soul made its entry after a set number of weeks)are now being killed as would have been before the abortion act 1967. That is, well over an extra hundred thousand a year.

Hi Cheryl-
The vast majority of the above are 'social abortions', strictly illegal, but more importantly plain wrong, devoid of love and feeling, and cynical. Evil? Well, most of the things we call the most evil of all are those that involve cruelty to innocent children.
How can these be a necessary evil? Is it 'necessary' that people enjoy their promiscuous lifestyle at others' expense?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 6 February 2007 at 12:34pm GMT

I was not going to jump in again, but I found Fr. Joseph's comments quite interesting. The fact is, there are really interesting theistic philosophers in whatever tradition, whether analytic or otherwise. I think we ought to read, and read widely.
My comments about readability apply mainly to the Millbank school, which is in a class of its own. (Just read Catherine Pickstock and you see what I mean.) Paul Ricoeur, who I must concede must have been influenced by his American sojourns, is one of those French thinkers who really makes an effort to be readable, and his translators do him credit on this score.
Again, it's really a question of plurality of voices. Leaders of the churches have to find a way out, and to limit the paths out of the dark woods would not help.

Posted by Ren Aguila at Tuesday, 6 February 2007 at 1:55pm GMT

"(3) Common sense points the same way."

I don't find your "sense" at all common.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 6 February 2007 at 5:18pm GMT

Christopher, your statistics ignore several things. First, I have worked with Obstetricians who remember those times, and who wish never again, regardless of how they think about abortion, to have to deal with a young woman dying of sepsis from a backroom abortion. This a huge cost of prohibiting abortion, and is no less a loss of life. Second, while I too believe life begins at conception, many do not, who are not being medieval. My understanding is that Judaism considers life to begin at birth. Are they medieval? What about arguments about progressive ensoulment or life begins at quickening? All medieval? Third, and most importantly, we cannot fall for the myth that making something illegal will make it stop. surely the best way to prevent abortion is to eliminate the need for it. Is it necessary that people be, essentially, given the death penalty because they do not follow your moral code?

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 6 February 2007 at 5:31pm GMT

The other problem with the 'human life begins at conception' is the statistic (sorry) that a considerable number of conceptions end before the mother is aware that she has conceived. God, therefore, is calling into being humans with <28 day lifespan.

This could lead us into difficult territory, no?

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Tuesday, 6 February 2007 at 11:50pm GMT

I really can't speak to analytic vs. non-analytic philosophers - but can't we pay some attention to the rest of the post?

Doesn't it make sense to acknowledge that "structure and discipline" might really be the reasons that many people look to the church? And does that have to be a bad thing? I don't, BTW, mean "discipline" in the sense of "punishment" - but faith as a way of life, which includes daily practice - prayer and meditation and daily devotions - and study?

We don't all have Ph.D.s, you know; we're not all independently wealthy, either, nor do we really care if our clergy are intellectuals. We do look to the church for religious practice and structure, though. At least, some of us do; there are lucky people who don't need this, I suppose, but perhaps they are there for the other part of it - transcendence and authentic religious experience?

Christian mysticism would be a good place to start; the practice is at least 2,000 years old, and there's a lot there.

We can do politics through political organizations; we can do good works through social service organizations. We need the church for religion - which can and has supplied both structure and ecstasy. Amazing, really, but there it is. Can't we get back to focusing on some of the basics after all this hoo-hah?

Posted by bls at Tuesday, 6 February 2007 at 11:57pm GMT

Ricoeur was always very lucid -- due to his French Huguenot background rather than to American sojourns -- and American academic prose, especially when it regurgitates translated French philosophers -- is not as lucid as all that.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Wednesday, 7 February 2007 at 3:44am GMT

Christopher - how many women have you personally accompanied through an abortion who were "devoid of love and feeling, and cynical"? I don't know a single one.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 7 February 2007 at 10:23am GMT

Hi Erika-
Then why did they care nothing for their small but perfectly-formed appendage? And I am not talking about their handbag or lapdog here.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 7 February 2007 at 1:33pm GMT

CS said rather distastefully
Hi Erika-
Then why did they care nothing for their small but perfectly-formed appendage? And I am not talking about their handbag or lapdog here.

I suggest you ask them, Dr. Shell. You might find it enlightening or even humbling. I know of one lady who was compelled to have an abortion by her fine upstanding parents, for example.

The gospel reading at the mass this morning included in the list of things which defile 'slander, pride and folly'.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Wednesday, 7 February 2007 at 2:44pm GMT

'We don't all have Ph.D.s, you know; we're not all independently wealthy, either, nor do we really care if our clergy are intellectuals. We do look to the church for religious practice and structure, though. At least, some of us do; there are lucky people who don't need this, I suppose, but perhaps they are there for the other part of it - transcendence and authentic religious experience?
Christian mysticism would be a good place to start; the practice is at least 2,000 years old, and there's a lot there'

May I warmly commend the Relgious Society of Friends ? No clergy -with Ph.Ds or otherwise.(Or one might say no laity....).

And strong on mysticism,and practice of discipleship, I'd say....

Posted by laurence at Wednesday, 7 February 2007 at 9:26pm GMT

Distasteful? What is more important? - being murderous or being distasteful? Priorities....

I was actually trying to highlight the distastefulness of viewing one's child as a mere appendage of oneself - and a disposable one to boot - but sorry if this backfired.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 12:43pm GMT

Christopher: you are not engaging with the point, which is that few women enter into a termination with a 'so what' mentality. The black-and-white moral universe on which so much Christian nonsense is predicated does not exist.

To call someone 'murderer' when they have opted for an abortion as the least bad option is perhaps technically correct — but what then would we call someone whose share portfolio included BaE and Raytheon, or Pfizer or General Motors.... It seems odd to me that, once again, freedom of conscience is allowed for middle class respectables, but denied others, many of whom are at the bottom of the heap. 'Double effect' is an ethical exercise which clearly only applies to me and my pals. This is cost-free discipleship, about as far away from the Gospel as it is possible to be.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 1:23pm GMT

And others are trying to highlight the distastefulness, not to mention uncharitableness, of assuming that everyone who has an abortion is uncaring and just out for a quick fix for the complications of their sexual wantonness. You might try respecting people's humanity a bit more. Abortion is a tragedy, but to ignore the human suffering undergone by the mother because of your need to judge is one of "those things you ought not to have done"..

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 1:38pm GMT

This is a difficult subject for males to pontificate upon-or even reflect on, and it is hard to avoid impertincence.

Sometimes a kind of new input, lexio divina or amplificatory text, or dream, may transform thinking & feeling, bringing release from circles (possibly vicious)/ circular thinking : -

So folks here may wish to know of :--

1. The foetal shrines in Japanese temples, where women who have had abortion leave jizo dolls. I have a photograph of them from an article. They give one pause for thought.

2.The Sacrament of Abortion
by Ginette Paris

a Canadian Jungian writer. (First published as L'Enfant, l'Amour, la mort), Spring publications, 1992. The French title is even more evocative, perhaps than the title (above) of the translation into English.

3. Encounter with the Self
a Commentary on Wm Blake's
Illustrations on the Book of Job
by Edward Edinger

(Inner City Books 1986)
Includes reproductions of the Blake plates.

If not now -- When ?

Posted by laurence at Thursday, 8 February 2007 at 7:11pm GMT

'The human suffering of the mother'?
Then why did the mother choose an option that involved guaranteed suffering for two over one that involved suffering for a maximum of one?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 9 February 2007 at 12:46pm GMT

Perhaps because having the child would, as far as they could see, guarantee suffering for two anyway? Honestly, Christopher, is Jesus paying you keep the judgement seat warm till he gets back?

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 9 February 2007 at 1:41pm GMT

"Distasteful? What is more important? - being murderous or being distasteful?"

You're not an Anglican, are you Christopher?

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 9 February 2007 at 7:37pm GMT

Judge not lest you be judged.
Getting into Heaven isn't done via good works, but by an adult mind accepting Jesus as their personal saviour & repenting all the bad things they have done (not too another infalable human (confession), but directly 2 God through prayer).

Posted by Gods Witness at Wednesday, 16 May 2007 at 9:15pm BST
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