Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

The pro-abortion movement and the psychopathic mentality

Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
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November 24, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - When I read the words of pro-abortion leaders like Colombian psychologist Florence Thomas, who calls unborn babies “tumors” and says that they are only human if their mother wants them, a disturbing question comes to mind: what is, fundamentally, the difference between this type of perspective, so often expressed by abortionists, and the clinical definition of a “psychopath”?

Although the stereotypical image of a psychopath is that of a serial killer, or a dangerous madman locked in an asylum, psychologists tell us that such people only represent a small minority of those who fall under the category of a “psychopath.”  In fact, we are told, our society contains a larger number of psychopaths than we may suspect, and psychopaths may even disproportionately occupy positions of importance in business, government, and other important fields.

While psychopaths are theoretically capable of committing murder and other acts of cruelty without remorse, the definition of a psychopath is much broader than the image evoked by popular culture.  According to mental health professionals, a psychopath is someone who is fundamentally lacking in human empathy, who sees other human beings as mere objects of manipulation.  The relationships of a psychopath are typically superficial and fluid, and are often sexually promiscuous. The psychopath has a fundamentally egoistic, selfish personality, unable to transcend his own personal sense of self to recognize the dignity of others.

Psychologists estimate that up to four percent of the population falls under the definition of a “psychopath,” ranging from the more tame manifestations, which are included in the broad category of sociopathy or anti-social personality disorders, to the more extreme cases of serial killers. They are often able to deceive others with a veneer of sanity and reasonableness that hides their fundamentally predatory nature.

“Psychopathic” movements

The four percent figure, if accurate, implies that the United States includes a population of more than twelve million psychopaths or sociopaths, and globally the figure would theoretically reach into the hundreds of millions. This startling statistic inevitably raises the question: is it possible for psychopaths to group themselves into movements based on their common inclinations?  History suggests that this can, and indeed does happen.

The classic candidate for a “psychopathic movement” is that of the National Socialist or Nazi Party, which came to power in Germany in the 1930s through a series of economic catastrophes and inept decisions by the German political establishment. Adolf Hitler himself has been diagnosed posthumously with psychopathic tendencies, and many Nazis exhibited symptoms of the same. Moreover, although the majority of Nazis and the Germans who cooperated with them were probably not clinically psychopathic, the movement as a whole seemed to be predicated on a fundamentally psychopathic mentality, one that disposed of human beings as mere fodder for the racial aspirations of the German state.

The same tendencies have been found in other mass movements arising in the last century, especially Marxism, which left an unprecedented toll of tens of millions of deaths by execution and induced starvation in order to achieve its political ends. Again, although it is unlikely that most Marxists are clinical psychopaths, their movement has repeatedly spawned regimes that behave precisely the way one would expect of the most extreme sufferers of the disorder.

The troubled mentality of the pro-abortion movement

In light of the clinical definition of a psychopath, and the historic manifestations of “psychopathic” movements, it is difficult to avoid the comparison between psychopathy and the perspective that is openly expressed by many leaders in the global pro-abortion movement.

Florence Thomas is only one example of the troubled thinking that seems to characterize pro-abortion leaders.  Her comparison of her own unborn child to a “tumor,” that is, a diseased piece of tissue, is not only unscientific; it suggests a mind that is unwilling, or perhaps unable, to transcend itself and empathize with the humanity of another.  Her claim that a fetus is only human if it is desired by its parents is almost a caricature of ego-centrism, implying that one’s personal wishes confer dignity and rights on other people. The conclusion of Thomas flows inevitably from her premises; she believes that women should be free to kill their unborn children for any reason, in order to preserve their “freedom.”

Thomas’ thinking is echoed throughout the anti-life and anti-family movements of our age. Margaret Sanger, the founder of the modern birth control movement, spoke with the chilling rhetoric of eugenics when she dismissed children who are “unwanted” by their parents, referring to them as “human waste” in her 1920 work, “Women and the New Race.”

“Each and every unwanted child is likely to be in some way a social liability. It is only the wanted child who is likely to be a social asset,” wrote Sanger, who also asked, “Can the children of these unfortunate mothers be other than a burden to society—a burden which reflects itself in innumerable phases of cost, crime and general social detriment?”  In another chapter she infamously states that “the most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

The famous Princeton “bioethicist” Peter Singer applies the same fundamental principle embraced by Thomas, Sanger, and others, but takes it to a more explicit conclusion.  Singer acknowledges that unborn children are human beings, but openly denies that they have a right to life, unless their parents want them. Moreover, Singer extends this reasoning to infants after birth as well, offering a moral endorsement of infanticide.

“The difference between killing disabled and normal infants lies not in any supposed right to life that the latter has and the former lacks, but in other considerations about killing,” writes Singer in the second edition of his book, “Practical Ethics.” “Most obviously there is the difference that often exists in the attitudes of the parents. The birth of a child is usually a happy event for the parents ... So one important reason why it is normally a terrible thing to kill an infant is the effect the killing will have on its parents.”

“It is different when the infant is born with a serious disability,” Singer continues. “Birth abnormalities vary, of course. Some are trivial and have little effect on the child or its parents; but others turn the normally joyful event of birth into a threat to the happiness of the parents, and any other children they may have. Parents may, with good reason, regret that a disabled child was ever born. In that event the effect that the death of the child will have on its parents can be a reason for, rather than against killing it.”

Singer’s explicit endorsement of infanticide should be unsurprising to pro-life activists, who are aware that children who survive abortions are often left to die without medical help. A fundamental indifference to human life and the personhood of others is endemic among pro-abortion thinkers, which should bring pro-lifers to ask ourselves if we are really understanding our opponents in this debate.

In reading Florence Thomas’ recent account of her abortion, a tragically flawed personality comes to the surface. A brilliant woman with much to offer the world, Thomas faced a profound moral dilemma at the age of 22, and was hardly able to recognize it as such. She blithely refers to sexual intercourse with her boyfriend as “love,” as if she has no inkling of the concept beyond a physical act of pleasure, without any commitment or spiritual dimension. She dismisses her unborn child as a “tumor,” and says that she has never felt the slightest remorse for her decision to kill it.

As a human life and family news reporter, I have become all too accustomed to this mentality, and my response has changed over the years from feelings of outrage to a calm, resolute commitment to fight the culture of death and its perverse mentality by systematically exposing it. However, I increasingly find myself experiencing another response when I report such stories: a great sadness in the face of people who seem to be missing something fundamental in the deepest levels of their psyche, something that they may never have known by experience.

Are they suffering in silent desperation or are they utterly oblivious to their loss? Did they freely choose this path, or are they victims of something beyond their control?  Ultimately, is there anything that can be done for them, or are they doomed to play their grim role in the global empire of death?  I do not know, and cannot know. I can only pray for them, and leave it in the hands of a merciful God.

Related links:

Famous pro-abortion feminist calls unborn child a ‘tumor’

Women and the New Race, by Margaret Sanger (full text)

Excerpts from Practical Ethics, by Peter Singer, 2nd edition, Cambridge, 1993, pp. 175-217

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Vatican’s doctrine chief: ‘Absolutely anti-Catholic’ to let bishops conferences decide doctrine or discipline

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By John-Henry Westen

VATICAN, March 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has rejected outright the idea floated by Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx that various bishops’ conferences around the world would decide for themselves on points of discipline or doctrine. 

“This is an absolutely anti-Catholic idea that does not respect the catholicity of the Church,” Cardinal Müller told France’s Famille Chrétienne in an interview published today

The question was raised because Cardinal Marx, the head of the German Catholic bishops’ conference and a member of Pope Francis’ advisory Council of Nine, told reporters that the German bishops would chart their own course on the question of allowing Communion for those in “irregular” sexual unions.

“We are not a subsidiary of Rome,” he said in February. “The Synod cannot prescribe in detail what we should do in Germany.”

Vatican Cardinal Müller remarked that while episcopal conferences may have authority over certain issues they are not a parallel magisterium apart from the pope or outside communion with the bishops united to him.

Asked specifically about Cardinal Marx saying that the Church in Germany is “not a subsidiary of Rome,” the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said pointedly “the president of an Episcopal Conference is nothing more than a technical moderator, and as such has no special teaching authority.”  He added moreover, that the dioceses in a particular country “are not subsidiaries of the secretariat of an Episcopal conference or diocese whose Bishop presides over the Episcopal Conference.”

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The CDF head warned that “this attitude makes the risk of waking some polarization between the local churches and the universal Church.” He did not however believe that there was the will for Episcopal conferences to separate from Rome.

The important interview also saw Cardinal Müller contest the notion that the pastoral practice or discipline could change while retaining the same doctrine. “We can not affirm the doctrine and initiate a practice that is contrary to the doctrine,” he said.

He added that not even the papal Magisterium is free to change doctrine. “Every word of God is entrusted to the Church, but it is not superior to the Word,” he said. “The Magisterium is not superior to the word of God. The reverse is true.”

Cardinal Müller rejected the notion that we would have to modify Christ’s unflinching words totally forbidding divorce and remarriage.  We cannot “say that our ministry should be more cautious than Jesus Christ Himself!”  Nor could we, he added, say that Christ’s teaching is out of date or that “we need to correct or refine Jesus Christ because He lived in an idealistic world.” 

Rather, the cardinal said, bishops must be ready for martyrdom.  Quoting Jesus he said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and if we speak all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

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‘Groundbreaking’: Kansas may become first state to ban dismemberment abortions

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By Ben Johnson

TOPEKA, KS, March 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Kansas will become the first state in the country to ban a procedure in which unborn children are dismembered in the womb, if Gov. Sam Brownback signs a bill that recently passed the state legislature.

The state House passed a ban on dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions, called dismemberment abortions in common parlance, by 98-26 on Wednesday.

The Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, which had already passed the state Senate in February 31-9, now heads to Gov. Brownback's desk.

Brownback, a staunch defender of life, is expected to sign the act into law.

"Because of the Kansas legislature's strong pro-life convictions, unborn children in the state will be protected from brutal dismemberment abortions," said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, which has made banning dismemberment abortions a national legislative focus.

The procedure, in which an abortionist separates the unborn child's limbs from his body one at a time, accounts for 600 abortions statewide every year.

Nationally, it is “the most prevalent method of second-trimester pregnancy termination in the USA, accounting for 96 percent of all second trimester abortions,” according to the National Abortion Federation Abortion Training Textbook.

“It’s just unconscionable that something happens to children that we wouldn’t tolerate being done to pets,” Katie Ostrowski, the legislative director of Kansans for Life, told The Wichita Eagle.

Leading pro-life advocacy groups have made shifting the debate to dismemberment a national priority, with similar legislation being considered in Missouri and Oklahoma. Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., who is NRLC's director of state legislation, called the bill's passage in Topeka “groundbreaking.”

"When the national debate focuses only on the mother, it is forgetting someone," she said.

The abortion lobby has made clear that it is uncomfortable engaging in a public relations tussle on this ground.

Elizabeth Nash, the senior state issues associate of the Guttmacher Institute, said that dismemberment is “not medical language, so it’s a little bit difficult to figure out what the language would do.”

On the state Senate floor, Democrats tried to alter the bill's language on the floor by replacing the term “unborn child” with fetus. “I know some of you don’t believe in science. But it’s not an unborn child, it’s called a fetus,” said state Senator David Haley, D-Kansas City.

If the bill becomes law, the abortion industry has vowed to fight on.

Julie Burkhart, a former associate of late-term abortionist George Tiller, said the motion's only intention is “to intimidate, threaten and criminalize doctors.”

“Policymakers should be ashamed,” she said, adding, “if passed, we will challenge it in court.”

Gov. Brownback has previously signed conscience rights protections and sweeping pro-life protections into law.

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How NOT to move beyond the abortion wars

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By Anne Hendershott

March 26, 2015 (CrisisMagazine.com) -- A few years ago, when an undergraduate student research assistant of mine—a recent convert to Catholicism—told me that he was planning to meet with a well-known dissenting Catholic theology professor who was then ensconced in an endowed chair at a major metropolitan Catholic university, I told him: “Be careful, you might end up liking him too much.” I jokingly told my student not to make eye contact with the theologian because he might begin to find himself agreeing with him that Catholic teachings “really allow” for women’s ordination and full reproductive rights—including access to abortion.

I was reminded of that conversation this week when I began reading a new book by yet another engaging Catholic theology professor at a major metropolitan university who also claims (pg 6) that the argument he puts forward in his book, Beyond the Abortion Wars, is “consistent with defined Catholic doctrine.” Written by Charles Camosy, associate professor of theology at Fordham University, the new book purports to be in line with Catholic teachings and promises “a way forward for a new generation.” But, Camosy delivers yet another argument for a woman’s right to choose abortion when confronted with an unborn child that he has described—in the past—as an “innocent aggressor.”

Indeed, Camosy has spent much of his career trying to convince us that he knows Catholic teachings better than the bishops. Criticizing Bishop Olmsted for his intervention and excommunication of a hospital administrator for her role in the direct abortion at a Phoenix Catholic hospital, Camosy suggested in 2013 that “the infamous Phoenix abortion case set us back in this regard.” Implying that Bishop Olmsted was not smart enough to understand the moral theology involved in the case, Camosy claimed that “The moral theology in the case was complex—which makes the decision to declare publicly that Sr. McBride had excommunicated herself even more inexplicable. The Church can do better.” For Camosy, “Catholics must be ready to help shape our new discussion on abortion. And we must do so in a way that draws people into the conversation—not only with respectful listening, but speaking in a way that is both coherent and sensitive.”

This new book is likely Camosy’s attempt to “draw people into the conversation.” But, there is little in his book that is either coherent or sensitive. Claiming to want to move “beyond” the abortion wars, Camosy creates an argument that seems designed to offend the pro-life side, while giving great respect to those who want to make sure abortion remains legal.

Especially offensive for pro-life readers will be Camosy’s description of the abortifacient, RU-486 as a form of “indirect abortion.” The reality is that RU-486, commonly known as the “abortion pill,” effectively ends an early pregnancy (up to 8 weeks) by turning off the pregnancy hormone (progesterone). Progesterone is necessary to maintain the pregnancy and when it is made inoperative, the fetus is aborted. For Camosy, who claims that his book is “consistent with settled Catholic doctrine,” this is not a “direct” abortion. To illustrate this, Camosy enlists philosopher Judith Jarvis Thompson’s 1971 “Defense of Abortion”—the hypothetical story of the young woman who is kidnapped and wakes up in a hospital bed to find that her healthy circulatory system has been hooked up to a famous unconscious violinist who has a fatal kidney ailment. The woman’s body is being used to keep the violinist alive until a “cure” for the violinist can be found. Camosy makes the case—as hundreds of thousands of pro-choice proponents have made in the past four decades—that one cannot be guilty of directly killing the violinist if one simply disconnects oneself from him. Likewise, for Camosy, simply taking the drug RU 486 is not “directly” killing the fetus. He writes:

The drugs present in RU 486 do not by their very nature appear to attack the fetus. Instead, the drug cuts off the pregnancy hormone and the fetus is detached from the woman’s body…. Using RU 486 is like removing yourself from [Judith Jarvis Thompson’s] violinist once you are attached. You don’t aim at his death, but instead remove yourself because you don’t think you have the duty to support his life with your body…. Some abortions are indirect and better understood as refusals to aid (pp 82-83).

Perhaps there are some readers who will find Camosy’s argument convincing, but I am not sure that many faithful Catholic readers will agree that it is consistent with settled Catholic doctrine.

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As one who is hardly a bystander in the abortion wars, I wanted to like this book. As an incrementalist who celebrates every small step in creating policy to protect the unborn, I had high hopes that this book would at last begin to bridge the divide. A decade ago, in my own book, The Politics of Abortion, I joined the argument begun by writers like Marvin Olasky in his Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America, that it is more effective to attempt to change the hearts and minds of people than to create divisive public policy at the federal level. I share Charles Camosy’s desire to end the abortion wars—but this war cannot end until the real war on the unborn ends. This does not mean that the two sides cannot work together—battling it out at the state level—where there is the opportunity for the greatest success. But, complex philosophical arguments on whether RU 486 is a direct or indirect form of abortion are not helpful to these conversations.

Camosy must know that we can never really “end” the abortion wars as long as unborn children are still viewed as “aggressors” or “invaders” and can still be legally aborted. Faithful Catholics know that there is no middle ground on this—the pro-life side has to prevail in any war on the unborn. It can be done incrementally but ground has to be gained—not ceded—for the pro-life side. Besides, Camosy seems a bit late to the battlefield to begin with. In many ways, he seems to have missed the fact that the pro-life side is already winning many of the battles through waiting periods, ultrasound and parental notification requirements, and restrictions on late term abortion at the state level. More than 300 policies to protect the unborn have been passed at the state level just in the past few years. The number of abortions each year has fallen to pre-Roe era levels—the lowest in more than four decade.   Much of these gains are due to the selfless efforts of the pro-life community and their religious leaders. Yet, just as victory appears possible in many more states, Camosy seems to want to surrender by resurrecting the tired rhetoric—and the unconscious violinists—of forty years ago.

While it is disappointing, it is not unexpected considering Camosy’s last book lauded the contributions of Princeton’s most notorious professor, Peter Singer—the proponent of abortion, euthanasia and infanticide. Claiming that Singer is “motivated by an admirable desire to respond to the suffering of human and non-human animals,” Camosy’s 2012 book, Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization, argues that, “Though Singer is pro-choice for infanticide, on all the numerous and complicated issues related to abortion but one, Singer sounds an awful lot like Pope John Paul II.”  In a post at New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a progressive organization led by Rev. Richard Cizik (a former lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals who was removed from his position because of his public support for same sex unions, and his softening stance on abortion) Camosy wrote that he found Singer to be “friendly and compassionate.”  Camosy currently serves on the Advisory Board of Cizik’s New Evangelical Partnership—where he has posted Peter Singer-like articles including: “Why Christians Should Support Rationing Health Care.”

One cannot know the motivations of another—we can never know what is in another’s heart so it is difficult to know why Charles Camosy wrote this book. It must be difficult to be a pro-life professor at Fordham University—a school known for dissenting theologians like Elizabeth Johnson. But, if one truly wants to advance a culture of life in which all children are welcomed into the world, it would seem that inviting Peter Singer to be an honored speaker to students at Fordham in 2012 is not the way to do it, nor would claiming that RU-486 “may not aim at death by intention.” Perhaps it is unwise to continue to critically review Camosy’s work from a Catholic perspective because it gives such statements credibility—and notoriety. But, as long as Camosy continues to claim that his writings and policy suggestions—including his newly proposed “Mother and Prenatal Child Protection Act”—are “consistent with defined Catholic doctrine,” faithful Catholics will have to continue to denounce them.

Reprinted with permission from Crisis Magazine. 

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