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The Myth of "Settled Doctrine"

From The Catholic Thing:

So this “settled doctrine,” what is it? At every step it is a lie. It is a lie about when life begins. It is a lie that the fetus is not human from conception. It is a lie that we cannot strive to do something about it. It is a lie that it is the common good that these infants perish because we decide that it is “necessary,” a “choice,” a “right,” “the law.” It is a lie that we do not need the infants that we have systematically killed. It is a lie that each abortion is not an intentional killing of one of our kind by one of our kind.

“Settled doctrine” is a rule-of-the-thumb judicial maxim, like “Odiosa sunt restringenda” or “In dubiis libertas." These latter are legal customs designed to protect the one who must obey from unclear, though generally just laws. Can we have “settled doctrine” over unjust laws? This is the claim we are confronted with.

The “settled doctrine” of slavery was challenged on grounds of its moral rightness. From whence could such grounds arise? Surely not from “settled doctrine” itself. “Settled customs” in the ancient world maintained that, given a choice between death and slavery after defeat in battle, most men would choose slavery. Therefore, slavery was tolerated. Those who chose death over slavery were always more admired.

The same people who oppose the “settled doctrine” of slavery on moral grounds reject these same grounds when it comes to aborted human beings. This obtuseness can only be explained as a willful blindness justified as a conflict of “rights.” The shifting reasons given for abortion have come to be simply, “We will it.” All arguments for it are at bottom based on lies. But “rights,” we are told, do not apply to human beings at every stage in their growth. We used to say that if children managed successfully to be born, they were human. But now we also eliminate the born. The so-called “right to a dead fetus” or to a “perfect child” is claimed to be a higher obligation.

“Settled doctrine?” It is settled only if we will it to be settled. It is “settled” if we lie to ourselves about what it is we kill. It is “settled” if we reverse the Socratic principle that founded our civilization, namely, “It is, after all, right to do wrong.” Why? Because we will it. “Quod placuit principi, legis habet vigorem” (I-II, 90, 1, ob. 3).

In the end, “No evil can come to an unjust man.” This too is “settled doctrine” among those who deny what Benedict XVI called, in Spe Salvi, the “Final Judgment.”

Indeed, slavery was enshrined within the Constitution itself and yet we turned away from that horror and injustice which itself is less horrible and less unjust than infanticide.

Abortion advocates invoke "settled doctrine" because they have lost the moral argument and so resort to the legal one.

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