Yesterday Anthony Esolen, a professor of English at Providence College, tore up the seamless garment approach to moral issues in Crisis Magazine:
In the 1980s, at the height of his influence among American bishops, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, alluding to the robe of Jesus for which the Roman soldiers cast lots, proposed that Catholics treat a host of political issues as one. The “seamless garment” of respect for human life, for the Cardinal, implied opposition to abortion and to capital punishment; opposition to the threat of using nuclear arms; suspicion of any belligerent stance taken by the United States against communist Russia and her satellites; and the support of a vast social welfare state, with no clear boundaries to protect people against its benevolence.
…For the Cardinal had allowed the issues of the day to collapse into vitalism. To be in favor of “life” meant to be in favor that people should be alive, and should have sufficient means to enjoy their being alive. But what kind of life that was (what it means to be a human being) and where that life was going (to heaven or to hell) were not discussed. Planned Predators and their ilk rushed into the breach, maintaining, though they did not use the words, that vitalism is an absurd idol. Nobody wants merely to breathe! One must look at the quality of human life, and by quality they could only mean, since they were vitalists too but of a deadly sort, the things that a human being could do, or the narrowly defined utility to others that such a life could bring.
…The next time you see a woman great with child, walking with her husband and a couple of children already born, consider that you are beholding something natural and holy. Abortion is evil because it takes an innocent human life. But abortion is heinous because it attacks those natural bonds at their roots. Murder is sometimes a crime of passion. Abortion is, in the individual case, not so culpable as murder; and yet its principle is wickeder. The murderer kills a man. The abortionist does that too—and murders human nature to do it.
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