As a Catholic moral theologian, Marc Thiessen makes a great Republican speechwriter
February 10, 2010 § 4 Comments
In Chapter 6 of his book Courting Disaster, former G. W. Bush speechwriter and professional torture apologist Marc Thiessen describes the foundation for the moral reasoning he uses to justify the positions he has been publicly promoting for his paycheck:
Casuistry is much misunderstood, so I asked one of America’s great moral theologians, University of Chicago Divinity School Professor Jean Bethke Elshtain, to explain casuistry and how it applies. She says casuistry is “the form of moral reasoning within which the just war tradition is rightly located. In casuistry one reasons from norms. There are times when one finds an exception to the norm, but the norm remains. The exception must be justified. And that justification can take on consequentialist grounds within casuistry. This is what ‘protecting and saving the innocent’ would be.”
I’d quote more – I may well quote more – but suffice to say, it goes downhill from there. The average St. Blogs combox critter has a more rigorous grasp of the rudiments of Catholic moral theology than Mr. Thiessen, who would do well to refer himself, not to Protestant political philosophers, but to the saints and martyrs of the Church, as well as her authoritative Magisterium:
The unacceptability of “teleological”, “consequentialist” and “proportionalist” ethical theories, which deny the existence of negative moral norms regarding specific kinds of behaviour, norms which are valid without exception, is confirmed in a particularly eloquent way by Christian martyrdom, which has always accompanied and continues to accompany the life of the Church even today.
[ … ]
Such theories however are not faithful to the Church’s teaching, when they believe they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behaviour contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law. These theories cannot claim to be grounded in the Catholic moral tradition. Although the latter did witness the development of a casuistry which tried to assess the best ways to achieve the good in certain concrete situations, it is nonetheless true that this casuistry concerned only cases in which the law was uncertain, and thus the absolute validity of negative moral precepts, which oblige without exception, was not called into question.
Reading Thiessen on moral theology is like reading Richard Dawkins on religion: the absolute, nakedly clueless holding forth on the subject matter in question is embarrassing to behold.