Thursday, January 19, 2006

Clarifying Dialogue

Welcome to the muddle that is my brain. There's a point -or an idea, anyway- at the end of this, I promise.

I go round and round in my own mind about what the Catholic church is pleased to call "life issues". As the dialogue is typically framed, there are three such issues in the pantheon: abortion, capital punishment, and euthanasia. It's easy to extend the argument to broader social justice categories and even personal issues such as the use of birth control, but for the most part the conversation revolves around the big three.

Contrary to the Church's teachings, I have come down as a reluctantly pro-choice voter, an ardent anti-death penalty voter, and just plain undecided about right to die issues. I think I have good theological reasons for the decisions I have made, but I also concede that using the Aristotelian/Thomistic reasoning that the church uses, those decisions are suspect. Mostly what I do is ignore the fact that I haven't come to any great personal clarity on these issues until something brings the lack of clarity to the front of my brain. And of course, the recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the Oregon assisted suicide law has done that.

I know that the Oregon law isn't a broad right-to-die law. It is very carefully crafted and its goal is respect and dignity. Moreover, I'm totally up for any snub to the Bush administration, however it comes. But intellectually and morally (those being not unrelated for me), I am uncomfortable with this mind-muddle. And of course, there are plenty of other intellectual snarls in my head, having nothing to do with Catholic moral teachings. There are even moments of absolute certainty, and nonetheless there are people of no small intellect who disagree with me. What's that about??

Wouldn't it be an interesting use of blogging to find rational people, capable of calm and respectful dialogue, to at least provide an exposition of different viewpoints? I know there are sites that try to do that, with varying levels of success. But first of all, more clarifying dialogue isn't going to hurt; if anything it will help. And secondly, I have something slightly different in mind -a sort of repository of essays on subjects from calm and reasonable people.

That's how far I've gotten in the idea-phase. Please let me know what you think.

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