Monday, July 4, 2022

The Natural Law Basis for Dobbs and Eliminating Legalized Abortion

by Justin Soutar

Like many other Americans of good will, during the past ten days I've been offering prayers of thanksgiving for the historic Supreme Court decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health Organization that overturned the Court's terrible 1973 ruling in Roe vs. Wade. At the same time, I've been offering prayers of petition for the continued growth and spread of a culture of respect for life throughout our land.

The Dobbs decision is a credit to the fine legal minds and devout Catholicism of Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Writing for the majority, Alito is absolutely correct that the reasoning underpinning Roe was egregiously flawed, and that there is no "right to abortion" in the U.S. Constitution. These five justices performed their sworn duty before God to the American people by strictly interpreting the Constitution according to its original text, meaning, and intent with regard to abortion law. That is exactly what all Supreme Court justices are supposed to do in every legal case, regardless of the issue. They are not supposed to "legislate from the bench," twisting the Constitution's original meaning to impose a contemporary ideological viewpoint on the entire nation, as they did in Roe and have unfortunately done many times since then on other important issues.

So what does Catholicism have to do with the majority's ruling in Dobbs? Two things. First, the Catholic Church teaches that there is no conflict between faith and reason, properly understood and applied, because both come from God and are sources of objective truth. When taken seriously in its totality, when believed and practiced as intended, Catholicism not only encourages faith in God (religion) and love of God and neighbor (morality), but also good critical thinking, coherent logical reasoning, and sound judgment. This is why the Catholic Church founded the modern university system in Europe in the High Middle Ages, and it is a major reason why these five justices earned great legal reputations and were appointed to the highest court in the United States.

Secondly, as Catholic League president Bill Donohue pointed out in his excellent book Why Catholicism Matters (2012), the foundation of inalienable human rights originating from the Creator on which our Declaration of Independence and Constitution were built was given to the world by the Catholic Church. While some of her members have notoriously violated her teachings in these areas, the Church has steadfastly maintained the sacredness of human life and the immorality of abortion since ancient times and has developed her doctrine on ordered liberty in the course of centuries. Our nation's Founders inherited the timeless natural law principle of inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness primarily from Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Robert Bellarmine, and they explicitly constructed a new nation on this principle written by the Creator into the fabric of human nature.

The idea of objective and universal moral truths of divine origin existing outside of ourselves and to which we must humbly submit is anathema to the morally relativistic and radically secularist thinking that has poisoned our society with a hedonistic "culture of death" in recent years. As a result of Roe vs. Wade, during the past fifty years, more than sixty million innocent unborn children (potential citizens) of the United States have been brutally denied the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that were theoretically guaranteed to them by the Constitution for the sake of convenience. Simultaneously, the number of violent crimes against born human beings in this country has increased dramatically, and several states have legalized euthanasia. This should come as no surprise. Saint Teresa of Calcutta declared truthfully that abortion is the greatest destroyer of peace because if a woman can kill her unborn child, there is nothing to stop anyone else from killing whomever they wish to kill.

But the reality of inalienable human rights exists in all times and places, whether it is fully acknowledged and respected or not. The grave evil of African-American slavery was both legal and common throughout much of the United States for more than eighty years, and the alleged "right" to own slaves was even upheld for a time by the Supreme Court in Dred Scott vs. Sanford. Someday, the citizens of this country will rightly look back with utter horror at the Roe vs. Wade regime, viewing abortion the same way we view slavery today: How could this civilized nation founded on the principle of "liberty and justice for all" have tolerated such a grave injustice against so many millions of her own people for so many years?

I was disappointed but not surprised that Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the pro-Roe minority in the Dobbs case. Appointed to the High Court by President George W. Bush in 2005, Roberts was a faithful Catholic with apparently stellar conservative credentials. Just seven years later in 2012, however, Roberts was the deciding vote upholding the Affordable Care Act in United States vs. ObamaCare. He is an example of the unfortunate trend among many justices and judges in the United States in recent decades pointed out by Robert Bork in Slouching Towards Gomorrah (1996): when conservative lawyers are placed in U.S. courts, they often become less conservative.

The Supreme Court was right to return the issue of abortion to us, the people and our elected representatives. Unfortunately, while many states will now vote to restrict abortion or to outlaw it altogether, some will keep it legal with few if any restrictions. The monumental challenge now facing the pro-life movement in the United States is to sufficiently educate and mobilize the public and elected representatives to eradicate the evil of legalized abortion from all fifty states, either state by state or through Congressional legislation. President Ronald Reagan foresaw the latter method in his famous "Evil Empire" speech of 1983, declaring, "Human life legislation ending this tragedy [abortion on demand] will someday pass the Congress, and you and I must not rest until it does."." 

If the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution mean anything, the inalienable right to life of American unborn children cannot be protected in some states and left unprotected in others per the differing whims of majority vote, court ruling, state law, or executive order. As a matter of basic justice, it must be legally guaranteed throughout the nation. Given the controversial nature of the issue, this won't happen without a fight. As we fought a Civil War for the just cause of eliminating legalized slavery, we may well have to fight another for the just cause of eliminating legalized abortion. Our national transformation from a culture of death to a culture of life will not happen overnight, and prayer and fasting will play a critical role in its success. The closing lyrics of our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," come to mind:

O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand 

Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.  

Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n-rescued land 

Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Copyright © 2022 Justin D. Soutar. All right reserved.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Reflection on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

"People expected that in the messianic age the miracle of the manna would be repeated. The Messiah, so they believed, would prove his identity in that everyone would have enough to eat and bread would once more come down from heaven.

"Jesus' intention is to transfer this manna miracle onto a different plane. And to do it with the Eucharist. With the bread in which he gives himself, and in which accordingly the multiplication of loaves takes place henceforth throughout history, down to our own day. He can, in a certain sense, be shared with others to an infinite extent.

"In this sharing of bread, Jesus is making an advance with this renewed manna miracle, in that he repeats the old manna but also leads to a quite different, shall we say more humble, and at the same time more demanding, form. In its profundity this is a far greater miracle. And also in that bread does not just fall down from heaven; but sharing human togetherness, mutual giving--things that do not just fall down from heaven--are also made part of it."

--Benedict XVI, God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald (Ignatius Press, 2002), pp. 246-247

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Reflection for the Feast of the Visitation

"In fact, to proclaim means to exalt a reality for its greatness, for its beauty … Mary exalts the greatness of the Lord, praises Him, saying that He is really great. In life, it is important to look for big things, otherwise you get lost, behind so many little things. Mary shows us that if we want our life to be happy, God must be placed first, because He alone is great. How many times, instead, we live pursuing things of little importance: prejudices, rancor, rivalry, envy, illusions, superfluous material goods … How much pettiness in life! We know this is the case. Maria today invites us to look up to the “great things” that the Lord has done in her. In us too, in each of us, the Lord does many great things. We must recognize and rejoice, proclaiming God, for these great things."

--Pope Francis, Angelus Address, August 15, 2019

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Quote of the Day

"Christ is the Morning Star, who, when the night of this world is past, gives to his saints the promise of the light of life, and opens everlasting day."

--Saint Bede the Venerable (673--735)

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Reflection for Holy Week

"We have to admit that the author of the Letter is clearly not referring exclusively to the night in Gethsemane, but has in mind the whole of Jesus' via dolorosa right up to the crucifixion... John speaks of Jesus' tears at the death of Lazarus, and this in the context of his being 'troubled' in spirit--for which, as we have seen, John uses the word that was to reappear in the 'Palm Sunday' passage corresponding to the Mount of Olives tradition.

"Each time, it is a question of Jesus' encounter with the powers of death, whose ultimate depths he as the Holy One of God can sense in their full horror. The Letter to the Hebrews views the whole of Jesus' Passion--from the Mount of Olives to the last cry from the Cross--as thoroughly permeated by prayer, one long impassioned plea to God for life in the face of the power of death.

"If the Letter to the Hebrews treats the entire Passion as a prayer in which Jesus wrestles with God the Father and at the same time with human nature, it also sheds new light on the theological depth of the Mount of Olives prayer. For these cries and pleas are seen as Jesus' way of exercising his high priesthood. It is through his cries, his tears, and his prayers that Jesus does what the high priestis meant to do: he holds up to God the anguish of human existence. He brings man before God."

--Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth--Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (Ignatius Press, 2011), pp. 163-164

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Quote of the Day

"Today we often hear about 'geopolitics'. But unfortunately, the dominant logic are the strategies of the most powerful countries to affirm their own interests, extending their area of economic influence, or ideological influence, and/or military influence. We are seeing this with the war. In this scheme, Malta represents the rights and power of the 'small' nations, small but rich in history and civilization that should lead toward another logic – that of respect and freedom – the logic of respect and also the logic of freedom, of the coexistence of differences, opposed to the colonization of the most powerful."

--Pope Francis, General Audience, April 6, 2022

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Quote of the Day

"So be amazed, all you people great and small who fear God! You well-educated people in authority, listen and examine this carefully. Who was it who called one as foolish as I am from the middle of those who are seen to be wise and experienced in law and powerful in speech and in everything? If I am most looked down upon, yet he inspired me, before others, so that I would faithfully serve the nations with awe and reverence and without blame: the nations to whom the love of Christ brought me. His gift was that I would spend my life, if I were worthy of it, to serving them in truth and with humility to the end."

--Saint Patrick, Confession (ca. A.D. 460), no. 13

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Quote of the Day

"Am I really my brother’s keeper? Yes, you are your brother’s keeper! To be human means to care for one another! But when harmony is broken, a metamorphosis occurs: the brother who is to be cared for and loved becomes an adversary to fight, to kill. What violence occurs at that moment, how many conflicts, how many wars have marked our history! We need only look at the suffering of so many brothers and sisters. This is not a question of coincidence, but the truth: we bring about the rebirth of Cain in every act of violence and in every war. All of us! And even today we continue this history of conflict between brothers, even today we raise our hands against our brother. Even today, we let ourselves be guided by idols, by selfishness, by our own interests, and this attitude persists. We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death! Violence and war lead only to death, they speak of death! Violence and war are the language of death!"

--Pope Francis, Homily, September 7, 2013

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Quote of the Day

"How is the journey of my faith going? Is it parked or is it on the move? Faith, if it is to grow, has to begin ever anew. It needs to be sparked by desire, to take up the challenge of entering into a living and lively relationship with God. Does my heart still burn with desire for God? Or have I allowed force of habit and my own disappointments to extinguish that flame?"

--Pope Francis, Homily, January 6, 2022

Monday, January 17, 2022

Quote of the Day

“Cowardice asks the question - is it safe? Expediency asks the question - is it politic? Vanity asks the question - is it popular? But conscience asks the question - is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.”

--Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929--1968)

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Reflection for the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

"Today, the Son of God is born, and everything changes. The Savior of the world comes to partake of our human nature; no longer are we alone and forsaken. The Virgin offers us her Son as the beginning of a new life. The true light has come to illumine our lives so often beset by the darkness of sin. Today we once more discover who we are!....

"This Child teaches us what is truly essential in our lives. He was born into the poverty of this world; there was no room in the inn for him and his family. He found shelter and support in a stable and was laid in a manger for animals. And yet, from this nothingness, the light of God’s glory shines forth. From now on, the way of authentic liberation and perennial redemption is open to every man and woman who is simple of heart. This Child, whose face radiates the goodness, mercy and love of God the Father, trains us, his disciples, as Saint Paul says, 'to reject godless ways' and the richness of the world, in order to live 'temperately, justly and devoutly' (Titus 2:12).

"In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this Child calls us to act soberly, in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential. In a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin, we need to cultivate a strong sense of justice, to discern and to do God’s will. Amid a culture of indifference which not infrequently turns ruthless, our style of life should instead be devout, filled with empathy, compassion and mercy, drawn daily from the wellspring of prayer."

--Pope Francis, Homily, December 24, 2015

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Reflection for the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"In the lovely painting venerated in this basilica [Leon, Mexico], the Blessed Virgin holds her Son in one hand with immense tenderness while extending her other hand to succour sinners. This is how the Church in every age sees Mary. We praise her for giving us the Redeemer and we put our trust in her as the Mother whom her divine Son bequeathed to us from the Cross. For this reason, we invoke her frequently as 'our hope' because she has shown us Jesus and passed down to us the great things which God constantly does for humanity. She does so simply, as a mother teaches her children at home."

--Benedict XVI, Homily, March 25, 2012

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Quote of the Day

"What then is apathy? It is a great enemy of the spiritual life and also of Christian life. Apathy is a type of laziness that makes us slide into sadness, it takes away zest for life and the will to do things. It is a negative spirit that traps the soul in apathy, robbing it of its joy. It starts with sadness sliding downwards so that there is no joy. The Book of Proverbs says: “With all vigilance guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life” (4:23). Guard your heart: that means to be vigilant! Stay awake and guard your heart."

--Pope Francis, Angelus, November 28, 2021

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Quote of the Day

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

--Ronald Reagan (1911-2004),
U.S. President, 1981--1989

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Quote of the Day

"If we do not strive to tear up the seeds of vices by the roots, but instead consider it sufficient to use a light touch to correct only certain external matters that cause offense to the popular mind, then it will turn out for us as it does for farmers. They neglect to tear out weeds by the roots, but only cut off those that spring up and do not purge the field of noxious stems. In doing so they bring about what they plainly do not want, namely, that after a few days the weeds spring up more abundantly."

--Saint Charles Borromeo