Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Prof. Hadley Arkes on Joe Biden: "The Rise of an Empty Man"

(Hat tip: Opinionated Catholic)

A must-read by Prof. Hadley Arkes at The Catholic Thing:
... The cars assembled at their post conveyed a message, as inescapable as it was portentous: Here, in a chapel, affecting to be in communion with his Church, is a man who has trumpeted his rejection of the most central moral teachings of the Church. During the presidential campaign he offered, as one of the prime accomplishments in his political life, that he helped to defeat the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. With that stroke he managed to preserve, unimpaired, the right to kill an unborn child at every stage of its life. We have had a sense of what it means to “give scandal” or to misinstruct the faithful about the teachings of their own Church. But now it is done even more dramatically, with the presence of limousines to convey the point: that you can be a prime defender of the right to abortion at every stage and for any reason – nay, you can even exult in public for your achievements in securing that “right” – and still be a “good Catholic.”

Faced then with a positivist among judges, Joe Biden opened the hearings on confirmation by staking out a strong position on natural law:
As a child of God, [he said] I believe my rights are not derived from the Constitution. My rights are not derived from any government. My rights are not derived from any majority. My rights are because I exist. They were given to me and each of my fellow citizens by our creator and they represent the essence of human dignity. [Emphasis added.]
But that summoning statement for the natural law should have struck in the most telling way against Biden’s stance on abortion. James Wilson, one of the premier minds among the American Founders, raised the question of when we acquire those rights that flow to us by nature. And the answer was: As soon as we began to be. By Biden’s own words, the doctrine of natural rights should protect the offspring in the womb as soon as we know it “exists.” He can evade the problem by affecting to be agnostic on the question of when human life begins. He could say, with Barack Obama, that the question is above his pay grade, if he simply neglects to consult the textbooks on embryology.

For Biden, incoherence lay on every path. Four years after the hearings on Robert Bork, Biden was faced with hearings over Clarence Thomas. The charge made against Thomas was that he had once done a lecture offering a pitch to take natural law seriously again. Biden then put out the warning, as earnestly as the warnings issued over Bork: that if we have a jurist who takes natural law seriously, there will be less regulation of the economy and more people dying then in industrial accidents. We may take these moments as snapshots of Joe Biden, to be placed in the album, as part of the chronicle of an American story: the rise, ever upward, of an empty man.

[Read the whole thing]
(Cross-posted at Catholics Against Joe Biden)

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