Catholics & the 2004 Presidential Election - Collected Readings & Resources

Friday, July 23, 2004

Senator Kerry may be human -- but is he a person? 

Posted by Christopher Blosser at 10:54 PM

L.A. Times reports that John Kerry reiterated his position on abortion in a recent interview with ABC's Peter Jennings:
"Let me tell you very clearly that being pro-choice is not pro-abortion," he told ABC's Peter Jennings. "And I have very strong feelings that we should talk about abortion in a very realistic way in this country. It is a very complicated, incredibly important moral issue that people have to face."

Thursday, Jennings pressed Kerry about whether he then believed that early-term abortions were murder.

"No, because it's not the form of life that takes personhood in the terms that we have judged it to be in the past," the senator responded.

"It's the beginning of life," Kerry added. "Does life begin? Yes, it begins. Is it at the point where I would say that you apply those [criminal] penalties? The answer is, no, and I believe in choice. I believe in the right to choose, and the government should not involve itself in that choice, beyond where it has in the context of Roe vs. Wade."

Kerry said Thursday that he personally believed that, in the fertilization process, "a human being is first formed and created, and that's when life begins."

"There's a transformation. There's an evolution. Within weeks, you look and see the development of it, but that's not a person yet, and it's certainly not what somebody, in my judgment, ought to have the government of the United States intervening in."

So, having recognized the fact that life begins at conception, and that this life is human, Kerry now falls back on the precarious and morally questionable position that, because unborn human life is not yet "a person," we are entitled to kill it.

A number of Amy Welborn's readers have already responded by critiquing Kerry's muddled thinking and tortured logic on this issue. However, I wanted to refer you to an excellent essay by Dr. Peter Kreeft from Boston University, who thoroughly demolishes Kerry's stance in the essay: "Human Personhood Begins at Conception" (Medical Ethics Policy Monograph Stafford, Virginia: Castello Institute. 1997), in which he notes the novelty of such a position:

Thus the crucial issue is: Are there any human beings who are not persons? If so, killing them might be permissible, like killing warts. But who might these human non-persons be? Jews? Blacks? Slaves? Infidels? Counterrevolutionaries? Others have said so, and justified their genocide, lynching, slavery, jihad, or gulag. But pro-choicers never include these groups as non-persons. Many pro-choicers include severely retarded or handicapped humans, or very old and sick humans, as non-persons, but this is still morally shocking to most people, and many pro-choicers avoid that morally shocking position by including only fetuses as members of this newly invented class of human non-persons, or non-personal humans. I think no one ever conceived of this category before the abortion controversy. It looks very suspiciously like the category was invented to justify the killing, for its only members are the humans we happen to be now killing and want to keep killing and want to justify killing. But the only way we can prove this dark suspicion true is to refute the category. Are there any humans who are not persons?
Kerry's stance is rooted in the philosophical premise called functionalism, which is to say "defining a person by his or her functioning or behavior." Readers can turn to Dr. Kreeft's article for an extended philosophical analysis and refutation of this position. And, for the benefit of those with a shortened attention span, CatholicEducation.Org has produced a condensed version ("A Person's A Person, No Matter How Small"), outlining possible responses for Senator Kerry and like-minded folk:
  • An embryo is just a bunch of cells. It can't be a person! Yes, but so are you and so am I. The fact is, an embryo will grow into a fetus, which will grow into a baby ... and a toddler ... and a teenager ... and an adult. So it's not just a bunch of cells; it's a human being at the very earliest stages of development.
  • Okay, it's a separate life, but it still can't be called a person. It will grow into a person, but it's not a person while it's in the womb. So what is it then, an ape? A fish? If it's not a person, how does it become a person?
  • It becomes a person by acting like a person. People think. Embryos do not. Not all people think all the time. Does this mean that not all people are persons? For example, you don't think when you are in deep sleep. You don't think when you are in a coma. Are you sometimes a non-person? Newborn babies have very limited thinking abilities compared to teenagers. Does this mean that they are not people?
One of Amy Welborn's readers lamented that Peter Jennings didn't press Senator Kerry on at what point, specifically, would he bestow "personhood" on a human life. Perhaps Mr. Jennings had refrained as well on account that both he and Kerry would then have to grapple with the challenge of Dr. Kreeft.

Incidentally, did you know that in 1928 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that women were not 'persons'. As a result, they were not entitled to hold office as Senators. This ruling held until it was overruled by the British Privy Council (thanks to CatholicEducation.Org for the history lesson).

Update! Catholic Light informs us that William Donahue has weighed in on the matter:

"Kerry's dichotomy," Donohue said, "was advanced by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857 in the Dred Scott decision."

"In that ruling, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote that members of 'the Negro race' were 'not regarded as a portion of the people or citizens of the government.' Similarly, he concluded that 'it is too plain for argument, that they have never been regarded as part of the people or citizens of the state."

"Catholic League Hits Kerry on Abortion Washington Times July 23, 2004.

Ongoing commentary by the editors of CatholicKerryWatch

Sen. John Kerry stands with Kate Michelman (right) President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Since 1995, Michelman's group has given Kerry a 100% rating for his voting record to defend abortion.


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Contributing Editors:

Oswald Sobrino of
Catholic Analysis

Earl E. Appleby of
Times Against Humanity

Jeff Miller of
The Curt Jester

Ad Limina Apostolorum

Christopher Blosser of
Against The Grain

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Kerry's Critics


Ad Limina Apostolorum
The Black Republican
The Blog From The Core
Catholics for Bush [Blog]
Catholic Light
Defensor Fidei (Jimmy Akin)
Domenico Bettinelli, Jr.
The Galvin Opinion
Just Being Frank
Laudem Gloriae
Let's Try Freedom
Mark Shea
[The Meandering Mind of a Seminarian]
The Mighty Barrister
Open Book
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TriCoastal Commission


Catholics Against Kerry
De Fide
Kerry Wrong For Catholics
Priests For Life

News Resources

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Kerry Communion Watch @

The Candidates on Abortion: Where do they stand?




National Catholic Reporter
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The Hill
Crisis Magazine
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Related Documents & Articles

Worthiness To Recieve Communion: General Principles
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Evangelium Vitae
Pope John Paul II

Worthy to Receive the Lamb: Catholics in Political Life and the Reception of Holy Communion, from Archbishop Donoghue (Atlanta, GA), Bishop Baker (Charleston, SC) and Bishop Jugis (Charlotte, NC).
August 4, 2004

Catholics in Political Life U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. June 7, 2004.

Catholic Politicians and Bishops. By Most Rev. Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop of St. Louis. America June 21-28, 2004.

A Time For Honesty, Pastoral Statement by The Most Reverend John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark. May 5, 2004.

Why Communion Could Be Denied to Anti-Life Legislators. Interview with Father Thomas Williams, dean of the School of Theology of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Why Don't Catholic Politicians Practice What the Catholic Church Preaches?, by Judie Brown. Washington Dispatch April 19, 2004.

How to tell a Duck from a Fox: Thinking with the Church as we look toward November, by Archbishop Chaput. Denver Catholic Register April 14, 2004.

On the Dignity of Human Life and Civic Responsibility, a Pastoral Letter by La Crosse Bishop Raymond L. Burke.

Blood On Their Hands: Exposing Pro-abortion Catholic Politicians, by Mark Stricherz. Crisis May 2003.

The Failure of Catholic Political Leadership, by Robert P. George & William E. Saunders. Crisis 18, No. 4 (April 2000).

Denying Holy Communion: A Case History, by Bishop Emeritus Rene Henry Gracida. [PDF Format].

Ten questions regarding the denial of the Eucharist, by Barbara Kralis.

Recommmended Reading

John Kerry, Abortion and the Catholic Church

Irreconcilable Differences", by Matthew Mehan. NRO Sept. 16, 2004.

John Courtney Murray and the 'Liberal Catholic' Justification of Abortion Investigative report by Christopher Blosser. August 30, 2004.

"Please answer the question, Senator Kerry", The Mighty Barrister. August 2, 2004.

You wouldn't even ask. Fr. Pavone (Priests for Life). July 2004.

Kerry isn't making abortion stand clear, by Raymond J. Keating. Newsday July 27, 2004.

Senator Kerry May Be Human . . . But is He a Person?, Catholic Kerry Watch. July 23, 2004.

Kerry's Catholic Problem, by Brent Bozell. July 7, 2004.

The Body Politic and the Body of Christ: Candidates, Communion and the Catholic Church. Debate btw/ Thomas J. Reese, S.J. and George Weigel. June 23, 2004.

The Kerry challenge, by George Weigel. May 5, 2004.

Rites and Wrongs: Why John Kerry should not take communion, by Philip F. Lawler. Wall Street Journal April 30, 2004.

John Kerry's Catholic Problem", by Cal Thomas. April 26, 2004.

Kerry Distorting Catholic Doctrine. interviews George Weigel. April 16, 2004.

"Personally Opposed, But…" Five Pro-Abortion Dodges, by Todd M. Aglialoro. Crisis April 1, 2004.

On Embryonic Stem-Cell Research

Reagan vs. Reagan and The Stem-Cell Cover-Up, Catholic Kerry Watch, August 14, 2004.

Senator Kerry dismisses religious convictions as "ideology"  Catholic Kerry Watch. August 9, 2004.

Ron Reagan & Functionalism, Revisited, Catholic Kerry Watch. July 29, 2004.

Out of Touch, by Michael Fumento. Refuting Kerry's claims on the use of embryonic stem cells. Citizen Magazine August 2004.

Stem Cell Defection, by Ramesh Ponnuru. National Review August 16, 2004.

Stem Cell Research: Fact Sheets, Letters to Congress and Articles from the USCCB.

On Voting, "Proportionality" and Cardinal Ratzinger's Memorandum

What Ratzinger Said, by James Akin. Sept. 9, 2004.

Bishops Refute Flawed Theology (of Andrew Greeley) Barbara Kralis. August 22, 2004.

Thoughts on Proportionality, Catholic Kerry Watch. July 12, 2004.

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