Reactions – Seamless Garment/Consistent Life Ethic

John 19:23

 Vulgate – Milites ergo cum crucifixissent eum, acceperunt
vestimenta ejus (et fecerunt quatuor partes, unicuique militi partem) et
tunicam. Erat autem tunica inconsutilis, desuper contexta per totum.

 NIV – When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them
into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining.
This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

 Response to my Atlantic essay has been interesting to track, if limited. One Irish blogger, a former journalist with Opus Dei connections tweets:

His argument here is that I’m right, they were inconsistent when ignoring life issues in the past, but the dissent over Notre Dame and now BC is a sign that things are improving – by getting more rigid.  This is consistent with Opus Dei perceptions, but it’s useful to see it laid out so clearly here.

On the article page itself, a commenter named Curt made this point:

A president has less influence on post Roe and post Casey abortion
than most people acknowledge. Obama is wrong on abortion, but we have
FIVE Catholics on the Court and yet Roe stands.
In contrast, a governor or president can personally commute a death
sentence, and by implication, not commuting an execution is to affirm
its moral rightness.
Accordingly I would hold a president or governor more accountable for
his capital punishment record than his abortion rights platform.

Curt’s bio on Disqus describes him as “politically conservative.” I’m pleased, as I tried to write this so that it would appeal across party lines. Curt strikes me as someone with whom I might not agree, but whose reasoning I can respect. I like that.

I’ve always been impressed with the unyielding notion of the seamless garment/consistent life ethic. The term was coined by Chicago’s former Cardinal Bernardin (a man much missed by many of the Catholics I most respect), and to me it makes a lot of theological sense. All life is sacred (as all beings are created beings, a notion Aquinas raises too), and if you take that seriously, you can’t subdivide between guilty and innocent, young and old, armed and defenseless. All[human] life. No seams. Full stop. But it’s hard to live up to, unless one is willing to become a pacifist, and the unrelenting focus on abortion at the expense of other life issues by the U.S. Catholic hierarchy has, I think, betrayed their positions as political creatures. Abortion is the life issue in the U.S., and the conservative hierarchy tracks that. As noted in this article, in 2011, some of the inflamed rhetoric claiming religious warfare about the Obama contraception mandate emerged from Texas, where the death penalty is king and injustices well-documented.

This has always been my stance – if you want me to respect an absolute pro-life, anti-assisted suicide and anti-contraception position, then you also need to be a pacifist and an activist against state-sponsored execution. I understand the theological arguments why only abortion and euthanasia (as they see it) are worse than executions and war, but I reject them a hair-splitting and arbitrary.

Which is, I suppose, the point of my essay. You can make an arbitrary judgment about what issues are important, but then we’re in the world of dialogue, debate, and compromise, not unyielding theological principle. So come to the table and let’s talk about complexity – AIDS vs Condoms, abortion to save a mother’s life, contraception vs poverty, legal abortion vs illegal abortion, sex ed., and so forth.

2 Replies to “Reactions – Seamless Garment/Consistent Life Ethic”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I wish I had something of more substance to contribute than "Well said, Prof. Perry," but you have covered the ground.

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