Politics And Logic
Bishop Arthur Joseph Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey
October 26, 2004
Undoubtedly one of the most interesting figures to grace the stage of human
thought was the 5th century philosopher Socrates. Even when on trial for his
life, he refused to abandon the pursuit of truth. In defending himself before
his accusers, Socrates says, "The unexamined life is not worth living" (Plato,
Apology, 38a). Socrates argues that, for human life to have its proper value,
there must be public discussion of the issues of life and virtue as well. Our
nation is just hours away from another presidential election. Public discussion
is intense. The pundits and the propaganda have been prodding people to vote in
one way or another. This moment is freighted with meaning. We are at a
crossroads in our nation's history. We need to disengage reason from rhetoric.
We need to face squarely the principles that inform our choices and the
consequences that follow them. Not financial gain, but truth; not popular
acclaim, but truth; not party spirit, but truth is the foundation for sound
judgments and responsible choices.
The ancient Greek philosophers gifted us with an indispensable tool in the
inquiry for truth. They taught us logic. Today there are well over 200 different
definitions of logic. But quite simply, logic is the science and art of
reasoning. It directs the mind to attain clarity in thinking and consistency in
judgment. Before we make any choice, we need to think logically. Only with
careful reasoning can we hope to arrive at truth-apart from the slant of the
polls and the prejudice of the press. Grasping the truth of the issues before
us, we can make moral choices and wise decisions. It is not too late for any one
of us to examine the political issues logically without partisan spirit. I offer
a few reflections to spark such an examination.
Society exists to promote, protect and guarantee the common good. In a
healthy society, government, elected leaders, politicians, citizens and voters
willingly serve the common good of all. The first priority, the fundamental
priority of the common good is protecting and supporting human life. For without
life, there is no common good. Safeguarding human life energizes us to provide
food and housing for the poor as well as a clean environment and proper
healthcare for all. Promoting human life moves us toward healing the hurt of
victims of any crime and toward an ever more humane treatment of those who
commit offenses against society. Protecting human life impels us to use every
diplomatic means possible to stay the scourge of war. No matter how justified a
particular war may be, war cannot avoid the indirect taking of the lives of
innocent people. Guaranteeing human life necessitates a profound respect for the
very sanctity of life from conception to natural death.
Modern science has irrefutably shown that human life begins at conception.
Logic, therefore, demonstrates that abortion kills. From the first moment of
life, a person placed in this world by God is to be cared for and loved.
Abortion murders innocent children. Partial birth abortion kills them with
particular cruelty and terrible pain. Euthanasia deliberately extinguishes human
life. Embryonic stem cell research and human cloning manufacture, manipulate and
then destroy human life. These evils attack the heart of the common good, life
Some say Catholics are a one-issue people. This is blatantly false! The
Church speaks often and at length on social justice, the global economy, the
environment, capital punishment, poverty and war, as well as on respect for
life. The Church's teaching is logical. The Church recognizes a hierarchy of
values. Not all moral issues bear the same moral weight. We can defend our own
life when attacked. We should defend the rights of others. At times the evil of
war may be permitted-lamentably and always as the last resort-to guarantee and
protect the rights and lives of innocent people. But the direct killing of
innocent life is always wrong. Abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell
research and human cloning destroy the most fundamental right of all-the right
to live. They are never permitted! They are intrinsically evil. To accept, as
science teaches, the truth that human life begins at conception and then to
destroy that life for any reason is completely illogical and immoral.
Some adopt as their political shibboleth such oft-repeated sayings as "My
religion is one thing; my politics, another;" or "I am personally opposed to
abortion; but I will not let this influence my vote." Has logic been banished
from our land? How can someone personally hold that abortion is murder and yet
say, "because my constituency wants it, I will support abortion?" How can anyone
logically say my religion does not affect my decisions on these issues of life?
Stealing, abusing children, lying are evils that religion prohibits. Laws and
courts recognize these as evil not because there are religious prohibitions
against them, but because they are against the common good. So too abortion,
euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and human cloning. These issues go
beyond the prohibitions of any particular religion. They are ethical questions
that touch the common good for individuals and communities of every race,
religion and way of life.
Some individuals appeal to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme
Court. That decision legalized abortion on demand and violated the common good.
It has led to the barbaric killing of children through partial birth abortion, a
practice decent people have already repudiated, pace some judges. Supreme Court
decisions are changed and even reversed as society becomes more attuned to moral
values. The most often cited case is the Dred Scott decision on slavery. The
Supreme Court may wrongly decide. But we cannot simply acquiesce. Respect for
the common good challenges reasonable people to work to change such decisions.
Tragically support for the Roe v. Wade decision has been made the litmus test of
political viability and the more pressing moral challenge to change is
sidestepped. Logic, coupled with integrity, demands the opposite response. Since
human life begins at conception, presidents, governors, legislators, judges and
voters should be working to insure that our laws guarantee all individuals the
right to life, even at the weakest and most vulnerable stage of their life.
A well reasoned examination of the truth about life and the courageous
commitment to protect the sanctity of all human life is the foundation of the
common good and the guarantee that a country or civilization can endure. When
our nations goes to the polls in a few days to vote, each of us will choose for
or against the common good. What logic will lie behind our choice as a nation?
Through the intercessions of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, may God grant us the gifts
of wisdom and right judgment.