Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A reply to a Camosy response to 'Aiming at Life'

Camosy has responded to the previous post, in a comment over at Catholic Moral Theology. I'm posting my response here also (partly because of the exceedingly narrow columns over at that blog).

Camosy: "I never once use the word 'aggressor' to describe the prenatal child who threatens her mother’s life."

I did notice that when I read your book. In an absence of your definition of 'threat', I considered two possibilities: that you meant 'threat' to refer to something distinct from 'aggression', or else that 'threat' and 'aggression' in your book really amounted to the same thing. Now prior to describing the fetus as a threat, you had pointed out some examples where Catholic teaching allows (possibly fatal) self-defense against aggressors. (The Catechism always refers to aggressors when describing permitted self-defense.) And then you stated: "If one may use deadly force to defend against the deadly threat of an innocent juvenile soldier and an innocent shooter..." But that only applies if 'threat' refers to actual aggression. So I concluded that, though it was not obvious, your argument was dependent on 'threat' referring to the same thing as aggression.

Alternatively, if your use of 'threat' doesn't refer to aggression, but to something else, then (a) what is the point of giving examples of Catholic teaching about defense against aggression?, and (b) what exactly is this 'threat', and where is the Catholic teaching about it?

The definition of 'threat' is usually something like: "an expression of intent to inflict injury", or "possible harm". In neither case does Catholic teaching simply allow a perhaps fatal self-defense as a response -- something more is needed (actual aggression, in fact).

Camosy: "...in your treatment of my argument about RU-486 you miss the fact that such an abortion may not aim at death by intention, and then we are talking about indirect abortion and onto proportionate reasoning. Without argument you then claim that there is no due proportion in the cases I propose. But even if you are correct about this, making a moral mistake with respect to proportionality is not the same as aiming at death. It would not be a direct abortion."

Let me make my argument in a different, more general, form. Suppose someone is considering performing some specific action which appears to have a good direct effect, A, and a bad side-effect, B. On evaluating the relative good and evil effects, they note that the evil of B is actually much worse than the good of A. If at that point they decide that A is so personally attractive that they go ahead and perform the act anyway, they are now in the situation of intending B -- not as an end, but as a means. (I.e. they could avoid any overall evil simply by choosing not to perform the act at all. Instead, they choose to allow the evil of B, since otherwise they don't get the good of A. That makes B a means. That also makes it intentional. And thus, direct.) The preceding argument can be applied to the taking of RU-486: the good effect being something like "relief from a burden", and the bad effect being the death of the fetus. The disproportionate evil ends up being intended (i.e. direct).

Camosy: "Third, inducing labor is clearly an abortion of pregnancy."

A very common definition of abortion is the ending of a pregnancy before viability. Sometimes "abortion" is additionally used to describe cases where the death of the child is going to occur, even though it is viable. However, simply the fact that labor has been induced doesn't mean it is an abortion.

Camosy: "Indeed, if you accept that what was done in that 2009 America magazine case is legitimate..."

What was described there was commendable. The parents were thinking of an early induction (i.e. pre-viable), which the Catholic hospital declined to help with. The parents were then persuaded to change their mind, and they decided to go with either induction at full-term, or a natural birth. From the given data, it is not clear which of those two occurred. But no abortion of any kind occurred, whether direct or indirect.

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