Is pregnancy the construction of a person or the development of a person? (Via Mere Comments)


  1. Quin Finnegan says

    Helpful up to a point. We should go further in asking which person is, or which persons are, being developed. Or constructed, or whatever. How should we draw the line anywhere? Life and death come to us, ultimately beyond our means of knowing why. Why should we pretend otherwise?

  2. Henri Young says

    Yeah, this is a line of debate which will resolve nothing.

  3. Henri Young says

    But, that “Mere” is a good site. We should link it.

  4. Henri Young says

    How many times can I repeat it?

  5. Henri Young says


  6. Henri Young says

    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

  7. Rufus McCain says

    I knew this post would generate a lot of comments.

  8. Henri Young says

    We should start a prolonged series of very grave comments now.

  9. Rufus McCain says

    Henri: I agree it doesn’t resolve anything, but the two analogies might be a useful starting point for discussion. I also appreciated the conceptual tidiness of the piece.

    Quin: Not sure I understand your point about asking “which person”. From the position of someone saying the person is being developed vs. constructed following the moment of conception, I take it to mean it is an inexorable process: once conception occurs, everything is in play and the result is a human organism. As Percy said, it’s a commonplace of biology. The human being arises out of mystery and is destined to die sooner or later, his death and ultimate destiny also shrouded in mystery. There’s no mystery to the basic argument here, though. Abortion is the taking of a life that has inexorably begun to develop.

    Was that grave enough?

  10. Rufus McCain says

    C’mon, everybody join in! Let’s break a hundred comments!

  11. Rufus McCain says

    We should discontinue posting entries to the blog and just post comments to this entry from here on out.

  12. Rufus McCain says

    Beer Joke of the Month

    (Happy Belated Birthday to Pope Benedict!)

    A drunk man who smelled like beer sat down on a subway seat next to a priest.

    The man’s tie was stained, his face was plastered with red lipstick, and a half empty bottle of gin was sticking out of his torn coat pocket.

    He opened his newspaper and began reading.

    After a few minutes the man turned to the priest and asked, “Say, Father, what causes arthritis?”

    The priest replied, “My Son, it’s caused by loose living, being with cheap, wicked women, too much alcohol, contempt for your fellow man, sleeping around with prostitutes and lack of bath.”

    The drunk muttered in response, “Well, I’ll be,” then returned to his paper.

    The priest, thinking about what he had said, nudged the man and apologized. “I’m very sorry. I didn’t mean to come on so strong. How long have you had arthritis?”

    The drunk answered, “I don’t have it, Father. I was just reading here that the Pope does.”

    (Found on Happy Catholic)

  13. Quin Finnegan says

    That’s a funny beer joke, and I sure don’t mean to to be the killjoy, but I have to say that what you’ve said is exactly what I mean. By ‘construction of which person’, I mean that we need to consider not only the baby/embryo/cellcluster, unfertilized egg and swimming sperm, but, for starters, the two parents as well. What about their development? For creating a child and all the etc.’s are surely a part of the construction or development of the parent. You know this a lot better than I do.

    This point was driven home for me by a collection of interviews with women who had been traumatized by abortion, many of whom asked, “How much worse could going through with the pregnancy have been?” Not very. For some anyway. For some it’s a breeze. Likewise for men. That’s the scary thing: that the so-called “Ick factor” doesn’t apply to everyone. For some people it’s a complete abomination, and for others it’s garbage-in/garbage-out. And I’m not ranking on these people, exactly, either. I’ve seen some pretty cavalier responses to the abortion question at every level by people, who, as far as I can tell, are much better citizens than I am.

    But for the analogy of construction to work, you’d have to have the cars on the assembly line somehow forming the machines that made them, and perhaps even the machines that made those machines. Which, in a sense, they do, since engineers will take into account how well those cars drive and then set about designing another gerneration of cars that run better. So I guess you can make it work, but my immediate reaction was, well, okay, but we’re taking it down to a mechanical level here, again, and that’s really part of the problem.

    The metaphor of the polaroid is even worse. A smudged picture is one thing; a spike, a knife and a vaccuum cleaner are quite another. That’s the extreme version, I realize, but I have to say that if a person can’t realize that something is seriously wrong with that procedure, I really don’t see how metaphors are going to help. In my opinion it puts the gruesome reality at too comfortable a distance.

    I’m not very well versed in these arguments, though, I have to admit. When I said that I wonder how we can draw the line, one thing I had in mind is that we really can’t even draw it at conception. Nobody wants to revisit the arguments against in vitro fertilization and artificial contraception, but the Church continues to prohibit them, strictly speaking, and some would say with good reason. Why are we on the verge of allowing abstinence to be taught in public schools? Why are the African populations that allow abstinence to be preached the ones that have seen a dramatic reduction in AIDs? I’m going off the cuff here, I don’t have the statistics, and by all means correct me if I’m wrong, but though it may seem silly to ask whether people in the Church were right all along … weren’t they?

    No, for all those wondering: I don’t shoot doctor abortionists. Yes, that’s an abomination as well, and people who do shoot abortionists should be convicted of murder and locked up because they’re a danger to us all.

    Okay, done.


  14. Rufus McCain says

    Consider this:

    Embellishing on McLuhan, French philosopher Jean Baudrillard suggests that film, television, and now the Internet have created a zeitgeist of “hyperreality” in which direct experience takes a back seat to simulated objects and experiences. This happens because simulations, unlike real things, can be endlessly and perfectly replicated. We are “seduced” by a simulated object’s aura of perfection. It begins to appear, in Baudrillard’s words, “more real than reality.”

  15. Rufus McCain says

    Quin: I’m not discounting any of what you’re saying. I wholeheartedly agree. But for me the strength of the essay is that (a) it offers a fresh starting point for discussion of this heated issue and (b) the two analogies, imperfect as they are, get at a truth about two opposing views of abortion. Even folks that are mostly opposed to abortion will compromise on prohibiting very early abortions. The “development” analogy helps clarify why that’s wrong — because at the moment of conception everything has begun, an inexorable process has begun.

  16. Henri Young says

    So, I guess the Toga Party is xld.

    Why don’t we display the corpse of Cho Seung-Hui on Oprah this week. Rig up some contraption to simulate weeping and apology making.

    Invite the Rutgers Womens basketball team.

    It’s interesting that the victims bodies were not even cold before parents were calling for the job of the University President.

    Attention must be paid.

  17. Rufus McCain says

    What’s xld mean?

  18. Henri Young says


  19. Quin Finnegan says

    Rufus: Baudrillard has written some very catchy titles like “The Ecstacy of Communication”, but actually reading his books feels a little like trying to survive on a diet of cotton candy and Diet Coke. In my humble opinion.

    You’re right about the strengths of the article; I’m just not very good at debating, or trying to find new ways of casting light on an opinion which I find reprehensible. It does make political sense to compromise on early abortions, absolutely can’t get around that, and we are political animals (according to Aristotle, I think), there’s no getting around that either, and so I guess there’s no getting around our need to polish up our opinions for political debates.

    The article just bugged me more than it helped me, I guess.

    One potential problem I see with the argument by analogy is with the high school sophomore who reads the article just after he gets his girlfriend pregnant. They’re scared, and they’re confused, but he knows one thing for damn sure: he isn’t ready to be a father. So he takes the construction argument back to his girlfriend and says, “Yeah, I know it goes against your gut reaction, and in fact it goes against mine, too. But it’s still early, and we know our parents and teachers would just as soon not deal with a couple of young parents any more than we want to deal with a baby. And if you think about it, it’s kind of like a car on an assembly line. At this point all we have are a couple of nuts and bolts in there. That’s it. Let’s be responsible and take care of this, the sooner the better. There’s plenty of time to be parents later.”

  20. Quin Finnegan says

    Strictly speaking this isn’t a problem with the analogy, I know. In this case it would be a misuse of the analogy, since the author of the analogy seems to be otherwise inclined.

    Which makes the above scenario all the weirder. Even sinister.

  21. Quin Finnegan says

    Henri: you mean, hook up some kind of contraption to the corpse, don’t you? It’s pretty easily done with a little surgical tubing, duct tape, and a syringe. If we controlled his arms with a couple of puppet strings we could show him rubbing his eyes. That way people wouldn’t notice if you hit the syringe too hard and water started shooting out of his nose.

    And Don Imus should be there, but he’ll be too busy collecting his signing bonus from Sirius.

    And if Steger knew his ass from his elbow, he would have fallen on his sword from the get-go. I mean literally fall on a sword at the press conference. I’m sure they have plenty of those Confederate saber thingies down there in the South. Those people are friggin’ crazy.

  22. Henri Young says

    Duc tape will work. Anyway, what happened to the South? How can a little twerp like that walk into a building and kill 31 people? It seems like there was a time, not long ago, when such a person wouldn’t have gotten more than two shots off.

    Women were included in the victims.

    I wish they were still flippin’ crazy.

  23. I just had to add a comment, something slightly unholy about 69 comments. Or maybe I am just a prude.

    No its the first one.

  24. speaking as one who has had persons “in development” within both of us are being developed.

    Is that what you meant?

  25. Henri Young says

    In the totalitarian society of the future, burying your comments at the bottom of a long list of comments will be the only outlet for free speech.

  26. Rufus McCain says

    Development is continuous. We are in a process of becoming. Conversatio morum.

  27. Okay that sounds too much like philosophy.

    It is way too late for me to be philosophizing.

    I am going to turn my Itunes sleep mix playlist on and try to get some sleep, you guys can stay up all night contemplating personhood. Or drinking, or both.

    Hey, I think I just figured somthing out about philosophers.

  28. Rufus McCain says

    The problem with some blogs is they’re like runaway trains. You take a nap for a couple of weeks and the train has left the station. Your comments are like trees falling in the forest, like words uttered into the void of space, like missing bolts on the assembly line and the car is already headed for Spokane or Ames or Tuscaloosa where some hapless soul lays down cash for it not knowing it is missing these crucial bolts.

  29. Rufus McCain says

    The living is carefree and easy down here among the comments.

  30. Rufus McCain says

    You can relax and put your feet up, crack open a cold one, enjoy the company of good friends, just be your ordinary old self.

  31. Rufus McCain says

    … We know now that the modern world is coming to an end … at the same time, the unbeliever will emerge from the fogs of secularism. He will cease to reap benefit from the values and forces developed by the very Revelation he denies … Loneliness in faith will be terrible. Love will disappear from the face of the public world, but the more precious will be that love which flows from one lonely person to another … the world to come will be filled with animosity and danger, but it will be a world open and clean.’ (Romano Guardini, The End of the Modern World; epigraph to Walker Percy’s The Last Gentleman)

  32. I’m wondering if the newest Hollywierd diet craze will be Diet Coke and cotton Candy.

    Just so you know I am actually reading ALL of the dang comments. . .

    or postponing the start of laundry, which might also be true. but dont’ judge too harshly.

  33. Quin Finnegan says

    Angelmeg, that’s what I meant, and as far as the Hollywood Diet is concerned, we’re halfway there with Diet Coke. I can’t enjoy the stuff though – for me it has a taste that I can only describe as “thin”. This might be why it’s so successful, I don’t know. If they could figure out how to give it a ‘thick’ taste for a ‘thin’ body, they might actually have a decent product. And a slogan.

    And if they would just put the cocaine back in Coke, I’d be all over it like white on … well, I’d be all over it.

    Rufus, I think that’s my favorite Percy epigraph. It’s spooky and inspiring at the same time. Have you read any RG? Ratzinger, er.. the Pope has quoted him a number of times. Might be worth a Reading Club .

    Angelmeg (again), have you read this comment? Would you be up for reading Guardini with us?

  34. You would have to read fast, the window of opportunity for my reading what I “want to read” is closing very quickly.

    I start my two philosophy classes in June and will be immersed (if not drowning) in Plato, Augustine, Aristotle, and Aquinas all summer.

    I read Guardini on Liturgy a few years ago. I remember liking him. At least I didn’t have to read everything twice as I had to with Ratzky-watzky-Ratzinger err I mean Dear Pope Benedict.

    At present I am thoroughly enjoying Part II of Jesuits In Space (AKA Children of God by Mary Doria Russell, the Sequel to the Sparrow)

    Tell me what to read and so long as I can read it before my anniversary (May 21st which is about when I will have to start reading the Philosophers) I will gladly join you.

    You haven’t sent me in the wrong direction yet. Kierkegaard has been the only philosopher that I could comprehend without getting a headache, and I loved Walker Percy, so Lead on.

  35. Carbonated beverages are bad for arthritics so I have sworn off of them (save for champagne on special occassions) , and the sweetener gives me migraines I can honestly say I have never tasted a Diet Coke in my life.

    Now Cotton Candy; that is one thing that interestingly enough is pure cane sugar and even with all of my allergies I can still eat.

    I love the stuff (not all the time though.)

    are we realy going to stop when this reaches 100?

  36. Rufus McCain says

    I want to read Guardini, and the book the Percy epigraph comes from seems like a logical choice, but I’m not sure about doing it as a reading club selection just yet. I still want to do Lost in the Cosmos — because (a) it would be fun and (b) we might actually get more than two people reading it.

  37. Rufus McCain says

    Pope Benedict, if you’re reading this, Happy 80th birthday and many happy returns of the day. I meant to say this on comment #80.

    P.S. Sorry about the joke I pasted in above. It wasn’t even that funny.

  38. Rufus McCain says

    I read The Sparrow a few years ago. I liked it but probably not enough to pick up the sequal. That thing they did to the main characters hands. Oy vey!

  39. Rufus McCain says

    Not sure what to make of those two posts by Henri. They look interesting from down here in the comments, but the weirdness increases the closer you get to them.

  40. Rufus McCain says

    I’ve lost 6 lbs in 3 wks on weight watchers, with the goal of losing 30 by mid-summer. And I got up my nerve to approach the best priest I know of in town about spiritual direction.

    I was thinking about writing up a blog post correlating these two topics: Fat-Assed Blogger Challenge. Wherein I describe my simultaneous backslide into physical and spiritual flabbiness and my resolve to address both birds at once with a single stone, the one that was rolled away from the tomb on Easter morning.

    I’ve been running and praying the rosary while I run, averaging about one mystery per mile. It’s a great combo. And it just occurred to me that was what someone suggested Lickona title his next book: Running with Rosaries. He pooh-poohed the idea, but I think I might just have to co-opt it. Watch out Matt!

  41. Rufus McCain says

    I had a dream about running the other night. Some of you were in this dream, but I can’t recall what you were doing. I only remember running and not growing weary.

  42. Rufus McCain says

    I’m planning to mow the lawn tomorrow for the first time this year! That brings good cheer to my heart. (h/t to the Lickona family blog.)

  43. Rufus McCain says

    I hate to keep bringing up Lickona.

  44. Rufus McCain says

    I don’t think we need to set a limit on this, angelmeg. Let’s just see how we all feel when we get to a hundred.

  45. Rufus McCain says

    How about that partial birth abortion ban. How about that Supreme Court. Go team.

  46. Awesome about Spiritual Direction. I don’t know what I would do without it. No, I do know, I have lived without it and I don’t like what I become when I don’t have direction.

    My present director is a very compassionate priest who is willing to say “cut the crap” when I need it. He was also instrumental in my healing process after I left my job last year. I see him once a month and I would sooner cut off a leg than give up my appointments.

    I have been blessed with four good spiritual directors who were with me at crucial times in my spiritual development. I don’t know how long I will be with this present one, but I hope it will be for a long while.

  47. I was so excited about the supreme court decision I wanted to become a Supreme Court Cheerleader.

    Mrangelmeg thought that was unseemly for a woman of my age (and stature). So, sadly, no pom poms for me.

    I will just have to stand in silent admiration that with tons of prayer wafting their way, cooler heads prevailed when it really meant something.

    As that great philosopher Horton the Elephant said

    A person is a person no matter how small.

  48. I am up for reading Lost in the Cosmos!!!!!

    Oooh OOOOh OOOOH

    When do we start!!!!

  49. Children of God explains about the hand mutilation a bit. Still brutal (not defensable at all) but when you read the context, wow.

    I have teared up five or six times in the first 100 pages at the beauty of the theology and spirituality of the writing in the sequel.

    The basic questions are: Is God in the Ruins? CAn what we perceive as utter failure really have ripples that God can use to change the course of history?

    Maybe I see parallels in my own failures (not quite as brutal and final as his, but painful none the less) from which I have seen glimmers of those same kinds of ripples.

    Oh well. Maybe I also like it because I want to be a fiction writer and I love the way she writes characters.

    Maybe I just like it because it wasn’t written by some really old dead guy.

  50. The only thing I hate about the com box is the infernal typing test that you have to pass to post you comment.

    I am dyslexic, and I never get it right the first time.

  51. The Ironic Catholic says

    Hey, the party’s over and I’m unfashionably late!

  52. The Ironic Catholic says

    Hey guys (and girl), I’m exactly 97% sure I’m entering a spiritual direction program this Fall–to become a spiritual director, not receive it (already a directee).

    No, I won’t sling satirical jokes all the time at them.

  53. Rufus McCain says

    Bingo! IC is here and the party’s just getting started. Let’s shoot for a 1000-comment jubilee.

    If you become a spiritual director (SD?) then Korrektiv might have to elevate you from groupie to resident SD.

    Sorry about the word verification thing, AM. It is annoying. But not as annoying as the comment spam and comment porn that come pouring in without it.

    OK, I’d like to call a meeting of the Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub board of directors. All in favor of reading Lost in the Cosmos, say aye. Opposed?

  54. Angelmeg glares around ready to shoot spit wads at anyone who isn’t willing to read Lost in the Cosmos.

  55. IC this is so cool. I am going to take SD training after my masters is complete. I have two programs to choose from, One is Benedictine and local and the other is Jesuit and three summers at BC.

    I am leaning toward the Jesuit program because I have had five years of the Bennies and I can’t take anymore (gradual school is in a benedictine monestary)

  56. Actually a School of Theology/Seminary attached to a Benedictine Monestary. Don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and thing I invade the cloister to go to gradual school.

  57. The Ironic Catholic says

    Hmm…I could try Lost in the Cosmos…never read it (I know, the shame).

    Rufus and Angelmeg, it would take three yrs to become a resident SD. Angelmeg can share resposnibilities.

    Angelmeg, my primary hesitation is the program. It sounds good and I like my SD pretty well (she is one of the leaders of it)–it’s connected to a FRanciscan order and college near here. But my fear is that it is a little warmer and fuzzier than me. I like my Christianity straight up, not bubbly wine.

    That may be entirely my problem though. And given the small kiddo situation, I don’t really have other options anytime soon. (This one is really set up well for working people–three long weekends of retreat workshops, meetings with a practicum advisor quarterly, your own spiritual direction, two one week directed retreats….

  58. IC,

    You get what you want from any program. If the basis is sound you can get the training you need even if parts are too sickly sweet for your own taste. You will become the type of Spiritual Director you were meant to be regardless of the trappings.

    I think the most important thing you learn in the training is to be a good listener, both to the seeker and to the Transcendent Other, so that you can help the one find the other (and vice versa).

    I hope that makes sense. It did while I was writing it, but when I went back to reread itI I’m not so sure it is as clear.

  59. The Ironic Catholic says

    Angelmeg, it makes sense. I just don’t want to repeat past mistakes in education…perhaps I became who I was meant to be, but the road was a lot rockier than it needed to be.

  60. angelmeg says

    sometimes the difficult journey is the process by which we are made into the minister we are meant to become.

    In other words:

    Don’t make me quote “The Road Less Traveled”.

    My dad used to say that.

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