Friday, July 31, 2015

TFTD: No, Joan Chittister *Didn't* Put Pro-Lifers in Their Place

So, Facebook seems to be dredging up a 10 year old quote by Sr. Joan Chittister that pro-abortion proponents are claiming “puts pro-lifers” in their place. The quote in question is:

I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.

It’s a cheap shot, aimed at putting pro-lifers on the defensive, but it is full of logical fallacies. The main problem here is that it assumes that the only way to carry out the Christian mission is to support higher taxes.

First off, it’s a false dilemma fallacy that claims there are two options—either one supports taxes or one isn’t pro-life. It overlooks the work of individuals and groups who run crisis pregnancy centers. It overlooks people who think the tax system needs to be reformed. These exceptions show that it isn’t a matter of two choices. Second, it’s begging the question. Sr. Joan assumes that a person who opposed higher taxes is only pro-birth, not pro-life. That needs to be proven. But instead of proving that this is the case, she uses the assumption to explain the conclusions she wants to set forward. Third, it’s the complex question fallacy—the “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” question. It’s phrased in such a way that to answer in a way which is designed to embarrass the person questioned and where an accurate answer would take much longer than the question allows for.

Put these three things together and you have a soundbite which sounds good on TV (which is where it first aired), but doesn’t actually mean anything when you evaluate it.

Her comment and the pro-abortion supporters who smugly cite it also overlooks something crucial. It is true that the Catholic social teaching requires us to care for people at all aspects of life. The Catholic Social teaching confirms this. BUT, the Catholic social teaching also affirms that the Right to Life is the basic right from which all others flow. While a person who fails in their duty to care for people after birth do wrong, the person who supports abortion or euthanasia does worse because they refuse to recognize the right to life and tolerate injustice in the name of an invented “right.” What good are the taxes for schools, housing, food and clothing if a person supports the murder of the life that needs these things?

Yes, Catholics who refuse to consider the whole of Catholic teaching do wrong—but Sr. Joan’s cronies fall into that category just as much as those she denounces. So, if she denounces those people who refuse to support taxation, she also has to denounce people who support things she does favor—because they support abortion on demand, which is certainly not pro-life, regardless of what other positions they hold. That’s why the quote is meaningless and hypocritical. 

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