Wednesday, August 15, 2012

When Pro life Argumentation Becomes Invincible Ignorance

There are times a Rubick's cube is easier to solve than convoluted Catholic thinking on things like "Invincible ignorance.

The following is a quote I lifted off the NCR article on President Obama's selection of his national leaders for Catholics for Obama.  To say this article generated some heated comment is an understatement.  This comment caught my attention because in it's defense of the pre born it utterly undercuts some important Catholic teaching on salvation. The operative words are in bold:

RC, how can you possibly argue for a distinction between pro abortion and pro choice? After all, however you want to label it, 50 million babies are now in heaven, praying for the souls of their parents who killed them, plain and simple. Saying that you personally disprove of abortion but are none the less pro choice is ridiculus and is a pretty cowardly position to stand on. Either we are for Christ or against Him. None of this wishy washy mealie mouthed luke warm cowardice!

The trouble with stating definitively that all the aborted are in heaven is it forces Catholics to jump through all kinds of hoops to avoid the obvious, if these souls are in heaven why is abortion such a bad thing for the aborted?  The official response to this conundrum is that we don't know for sure this is true, but we believe in a merciful and just God.  Occasionally the argument for 'invincible ignorance' is cited as one way this conundrum can be solved, but then that argument can get extended to all actually born people who never heard of Christ, which certainly puts baptized Catholics at a distinct disadvantage in the heavenly sweepstakes.  Better not to know Jesus, than to know Him at all is the inescapable conclusion.

I suspect it was precisely to avoid these kinds of mind games that Jesus spoke about the spirit of the Law rather than fanatical adherence to the law.  Anyway, here's an example of what happens when people start asking the obvious questions of true Catholics and pointing out some of these problems.  They get banned from said Catholic website.


  1. I did read the link. I have to say that my initial reaction to the posting was "don't feed the trolls" since I personally found it inappropriate that this person should bring the argument onto a post placed by someone who was clearly distressed and seeking comfort - whatever the need to discuss the issue, to me this wasn't the forum to do it. I am strongly pro-life, but I do not believe it to be as simple a moral choice as the Catholic Church teaches, and thankfully nor have my spiritual advisers in the past. As one of them put it "If anyone thinks there's a simple answer to this, they haven't understood the question".

    Secondly the posters on that forum, on both sides, have all got a problem in that there isn't an answer. We simply do not know what happens on the other side. The 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church states "As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allows us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism." which is a huge improvement on the pernicious doctrine of Limbo which caused untold distress to the parents of babies who died before birth for any reason (and as a woman who suffered multiple miscarriages, I have a personal feeling about this. Thankfully the priests I knew at the time were kindness itself).

    We trust in the infinite mercy of a God who, we are told, does not let a sparrow fall without him noticing. We trust in Jesus Christ who stated of the children surrounding him that "theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" - making no distinction between the baptised and the unbaptised amongst those children flocking around him.

    For anyone wishing to do something practical about the subject, there is a prayer which you can say which asks God to extend the mercy of baptism to all the unborn.

    "Heavenly Father, Your love is eternal. In Your ocean of love You saved the world through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Now look at Your Son on the Cross who is constantly bleeding for love of His people and forgive Your world. Purify and baptize aborted children with the Precious Blood and Water from the Sacred Side of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who hung dead on the Cross for their salvation in the name of the Father, and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. May they, through the Holy Death of Jesus Christ, gain everlasting life, through His wounds be healed and through His Precious Blood be freed; there to rejoice with the Saints in Heaven. Amen."

    In the absence of any clear answers, and in a debate as polarized as this one, sometimes the only way forward is prayer.

  2. Olivia I think more people need to be able to admit there are a lot of things we 'just don't know' and learn to trust in God and let go. Which come to think of it was the advice one of my theology teachers gave us all.

    Limbo was a pernicious doctrine, and pernicious is the perfect descriptor.

    1. Whatever it was it was not a doctrine, so don't worry, you can still trust in the doctrines of the Church. :)

    2. (in reply to your remarks to me earlier this week)

      Dear Invictus,

      I have seen that there are way too many catholics who believe that knowledge and understanding begins and ends with catechesis, and obedience to an authoritarian episcopate. This is an adolescent concept of learning. It is purely instructional not personal growth and development. Theology in a university that seeks to grow and understanding more truth inspired by the Holy Spirit begins with questions. After all, as finite beings, the more we study and the more we know, we are ever challenged to listen to the Holy Spirit and seek more of Truth since we can never know what an infinite being knows. There are so many mysteries that human beings can never understand. Mindful ensoulment or personhood is one of those concepts that is and probably always will be a mystery to finite human beings.

      In the scientific fields we have learned a lot. We know for instance that the rudimentary sense of smell begins at about 12 weeks and we can test newborns to find that they are extremely mindful even without spoken language. When did all this occur? No one knows? No one even knows how and exactly when the brain develops mindfulness. One thing we do know that the undifferentiated cells in zygotes and blastocysts have no brain and certainly no mind. We know that most of them never implant into the uterus.

      (According to some dogmatists when attachment does not occur while a woman uses a birth control pill, it constitutes an abortion. Yet women using no hormones do not implant at least 60% of these structures. So how are we to think of these structures -- Structures with souls that go to heaven? Or are they structures with souls that don’t go to heaven. Does mother nature really abort over 60% of God’s souls? How likely is this? Why are some Catholics, Invictus, not capable of critical thought when it comes to this issue? What is it the Bishops really want to gain stressing dogmatic answers to this issue that has no certain answer?)

      We know that the tiniest of insects develop rudimentary brains and we know that many animals develop a mindfulness but just when this occurs in the human being remains a mystery. Why is it so hard for some Catholics to understand that some answers are mysteries that we as humans may never know. My eighth grade nun certainly understood this. She understood that we are finite beings that just do not understand when personhood or mindful ensoulment takes place. So when does human life begin Invictus, you say that the embryologists have answered this question. No one knows the time of mindful ensoulment or personhood. You do not have science on your side as sperm and ova at the time of puberty seem to have life as functioning human cells as well as do zygotes. Every cell in the human body contains the entire genome and the production of dolly the sheep proves that neither sperm or functioning ovum is at all necessary.

      Invictus, may we gain some peace and understanding?

      R. Dennis Porch, MD

    3. Dr Porch,

      To which comment was this intended as a response?

  3. The fact that it wasn't a doctrine was no comfort to the bereaved parents to whom it was presented as such by the Church for a long time. The theological niceties would have meant nothing to them. All they knew was that they had lost their baby, that it was denied burial in holy ground, and the Church was taking away even the hope that they would be reunited in heaven. That's why I refer to it as pernicious.

  4. If, after Christ was buried, he descended to the dead to release all those good people who died before him (unbaptized), why would we not think that includes all those born after him who died without baptism? --Margie G.

  5. Hi, Colleen. Just for the sake of saying so, I disagree with this post. If God is a gracious God, then of course innocent life will be cherished and "saved" in His realm, whether its a preborn infant or a 5 year old. The lack of salvation is the problem of those who made it happen, the aborters and those making the decision. The sin is in sending people to God, not in going there, and I still think God's mercy is much greater than we imagine.

    That having been said, the church creates abortion as an absolute evil while absolving or excusing deaths just as great, sins just as bad. And Limbo is well described as pernicious. Tell the grieving mother that Limbo isn't a doctrine. Better yet, tell that to the priest that espouses it and see where it gets you.

    And one more thing. I went to a lecture where the (very upright and holy) speaker and author stated that when we go to heaven, we'll have to answer to all the aborted and contracepted souls who never got the chance to live on earth due to our selfishness and shame. He noted the 50 million aborted, and wondered what the "true" number of those confronting us would be. I still don't know how to respond to such manipulative crap masquerading as god's truth.

    Matt Connolly