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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Abortion and "You can't legislate morality"

The anniversary of Roe v Wade is upon us, and it often invites discussions with folks who disagree with the Catholic Church on her view of abortion.

An argument that is often promoted by the prochoice crowd is:  you can't legislate morality.  You can't force your view on me, because America is a democracy.

And that's frankly, gaga, lala nonsense.
It's something they've heard and accepted, blindly, without considering if it's actually true.

All laws are, essentially, nothing but "legislated morality". 

And what are civil rights except "legislated morality"? As Fr. Thomas Kocik says, "How are we to describe the civil rights laws of the 1960s, except as the codification of a moral imperative?"

He goes on to say, "And what are our various social welfare laws, if not expressions of a corporate responsibility for the poor, the old, and the sick among us? The question, then, is not whether but how we legislate morality."

Morality is legislated and "forced" on us every day.  To wit:  "You can't drive a car with your baby in the front seat."  And "You cannot refuse to serve a man in a restaurant because of the color of his skin".  And "If you draw a swastika on a piece of property, you will be punished".

So it's a peculiar argument to deny prolifers the right to also try to legislate their morality. If it's true that it should be illegal to kill an innocent human being, then why not extend this law to the most innocent, and most vulnerable human beings?

Now, it's correct to say that no one can be coerced into believing another person's morality.   As Catholic Apologist Mark Shea says, "What we really mean when we say you can't legislate morality is that the Law cannot put the things of the Spirit in the heart. It cannot instill love of neighbor, for instance. But it can and does punish those who can't even bring themselves to keep from harming their neighbor. It says, if you can't love your neighbor, at least don't beat him to death with a baseball bat or cheat him out of money. That's a really moral function. It's just not the highest moral function."

So when Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless" he meant this in the sense that morality, as a change of heart, can't be imposed upon society.  Not that we shouldn't legislate morality.

As a corollary, even though all law is legislated morality, we also don't want all morality to be legislated.

So, while adultery is immoral, it isn't necessary to legislate this into a crime.
And while everyone should be giving honor and glory to God, it's bad legislation and bad government to force this upon our citizens.

Laws are enacted which enforce the floor of human behavior, not the upper echelons of morality.

It is heroic virtue that can't be legislated...that is something that comes from the infusion of grace, not from the legal system.

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