Monday, October 7, 2013

Flourishing-Like-Ours and the Philosopher's Stones

Saint Jerome Extracting a Thorn from a Lion's Paw, second quarter of 15th century. Master of the Murano Gradual (Italian, active about 1430–1460). Tempera and gold leaf on parchment. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 106, recto.
Did you know that if you were a large and distinguished Roman Catholic educational institution providing health insurance to 1,700 employees and 9,369 students, and that insurance included coverage not just for family planning but also abortion, God might not instantly condemn you to an eternity of punishment?

Well, I thought so too (indeed I have sometimes thought it might be the other way around), but I didn't have any proof until I read in today's Times about Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, a great Jesuit school whose trustees are currently debating whether to eliminate that abortion coverage (not the contraception coverage, which they must provide by law, thanks to Obamacare and no thanks to the US bishops).
“Part of the university’s mission is to promote justice,” Professor [Christopher] Kaczor said. “And in the Catholic tradition, abortion is considered a justice issue. So to say the university supports justice and then also pay for abortions is a contradiction.”
That certainly sounds pretty Jesuitical to me; it's true, though, that the Catholic tradition considers abortion a justice issue, if by "the Catholic tradition" you mean Christopher Kaczor's 2010 book

The Ethics of Abortion: Women's Rights, Human Life, and the Question of Justice (Routledge Annals of Bioethics)

because according to the publisher's blurb the idea of making abortion a justice issue is not what you might call a tradition but a whole new thing Appealing to reason rather than religious belief"; and a short version of the argument is nothing but the symbol-soup of philosophical Ratzingerism:
I develop a rational justification for the view that all human beings, including the unborn, should be respected and accorded equal basic rights by virtue of sharing in flourishing-like-ours with other normal adult human beings, because of our genetic orientation to rational agency, and in light of the kind of being that we are rather than simply the sort of activity we are capable of at this time or that. 
Just saying, New York Times, that even when interviewing professors of philosophical ethics you need to ask whether they have an agenda.

I hope the school does keep its benefits as they are, but even if they don't, it was a beautiful experiment in how to be Catholic in the original sense.
Chart by Google.

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