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Trump impeachment trial risks further division



At the beginning of each new year, it is tempting to believe that the previous year can be filed, its lessons learned, and the coming year begun as an unmarked page. That romantic hope, however, is always soon disappointed.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore)

This year, for example, it was reasonable to reflect back on 2020 as the year of wrestling with the COVID-19 and as the end of the Trump presidency. A year of disruption, from which much had been learned, leaving the approaching 2021 a time of serenity and new beginnings. Come mid-January, however, Australians found themselves cancelling holiday plans, calculating how to cross state boarders, facing lockdown and quarantine.

Similarly, for people in the United States the hope that the election might mark the beginning of a less fractured polity sank in polemic over the result of the election and in the violent occupation of the Capitol. Infections and deaths from COVID mounted and impeachment proceedings were launched against President Trump.

The reappearance of the disturbances of 2020 reinforces the need to remember the lessons learned from them. The first lesson was that, if a society is to meet the threat of the coronavirus people need to look beyond their own individual interests to the good of the whole community, beginning with its most vulnerable members. They needed to accept limitations on their freedom of movement, of association and of economic activity. The welfare of society could not be guaranteed by untrammelled personal liberty or by economic competition between competitive individuals. It required governments to act authoritatively to ensure the common good.   

The second lesson, learned from the United States experience, was of the danger of polarisation. The election campaign made clear how many Americans made central the things that divided them from one another, lost sight of their shared national identity and shared humanity and withdrew from engagement with those who differed from them in wealth, religion, education and opinions. Politics was about power and not about persuasion. This made impossible the concerted national effort necessary to respond to the coronavirus and other threats to society. In the face of polarisation and the social paralysis it engendered, the need for mutual respect, empathy, negotiation, civility and concern for the common good became evident. These values needed to be embodied both in the policies and the political relationships of the new government.  

Both these lessons emphasise the importance for us as individuals, representatives of groups, as citizens and as human beings, to look to the good of all in society and to work together for it. This attitude sees political interaction and its embodiment in parliament as a conversation in which people differ but also respect one another in that difference. Politics is not ultimately about power but about persuasion.

With these considerations in mind, I question the wisdom of the move to impeach Trump. My reservations are not based on a defence of his moral character or of his behaviour as president, on a denial of his complicity in encouraging violence for his own political benefit, or on the belief that he should not be held accountable for his actions. I agree with Trump’s critics on these points. They are based rather on the reality that the impeachment of a president after his term of office is a largely symbolic gesture. It will therefore need to be justified by how it is seen as well as by what it does.


'The process of impeachment risks deepening the antipathy between the two parties and becoming a symbol of the failure of representatives of government to subordinate their interests and their enmities to addressing the urgent needs of the nation.'


In this case, I concede the symbolic force of responding to Trump’s attack on the democratic process by recourse to the democratic process of impeachment. But I fear that as the process plays out, it will be seen by a divided nation to symbolise and embody the polarised politics of the previous years and of the incapacity of the organs of government to comprehend or address the causes of the anger and despair that foment division. It will hinder, not free, the new president.

The impeachment process will focus national attention on Donald Trump and so risk exacerbating division and drawing attention away from the needs of the nation. Those who supported Trump and the Republican Party in the election, almost half of those who voted, were united in their support of what he stood for. He was the symbol that united people in their hostility to the various groups whom they believed had betrayed the nation. The proper response would be to weaken his symbolic force by letting him disappear into oblivion.  

The risk of allowing the face of Donald Trump to dominate public life in the early days of the new presidency will be that it will consolidate his influence among his supporters and in the Republican party more generally. If the process is prolonged and concludes without the two thirds majority necessary for impeachment, it will also confirm the widespread suspicion that the legislators are more interested in the exercise of power than in serving the common good. If he is impeached, he will be seen by his followers as a martyr. Either way the process of impeachment risks deepening the antipathy between the two parties and becoming a symbol of the failure of representatives of government to subordinate their interests and their enmities to addressing the urgent needs of the nation.

I would be delighted to be proved wrong in my assessment of the risks of impeachment. But might it not be better for both Congress and Senate to condemn the incitement to violent interruption of democratic process, get on with addressing the needs of the people, and to leave to the judicial system the prosecution of those, including Trump, who instigated the attack on the Capitol?



Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

Main image: Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, Donald Trump, impeachment, Joe Biden, US, America, politics



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Existing comments

Thank you Andy. So much damage has been done by unexamined opinions reinforced by prejudice and alienation. It is surely time to attend to the healing possibilities of this new period, at every level of healing, while drawing on hope and unity.

MARYANNE CONFOY | 21 January 2021  

The United States has long regarded itself as the most fortunate country in the world. Blessed with vast natural resources and a strong national identity the USA has dominated world affairs. The attack of 9/11 profoundly changed perceptions in America. Trump’s appeal to the people to ‘make America great again’ resonated with the disenfranchised. Now there is an opportunity with a new President who is pledging to work for peace. The best way to achieve unity may be to show how this is the better way to live. Biden has a big remit but this is not beyond such an experienced campaigner.

Pam | 21 January 2021  

Whilst I basically agree with these philosophical comments, I must ask the obvious question - how do we stop this madman who knows how to influence millions to stand again for President in 2024 and other Government positions? It is a catch 22 situation!

Pete | 21 January 2021  

The rise & rise of Donald J Trump was caused by a plethoric multiplicity of intersecting variables. The United States needs time to examine how he reached such a position of almost dictatorial power & at the same time manifest symptoms of psychological derangement. Psychiatrists better than Political Scientists and/or Sociologists may be able to help us understand Trump & Trumpism. Despite Andrew's misgivings I think the Democrats had to call out Trump's destructive reaction to losing the election. To encourage his supporters to take back the victory that had been "stolen", when all legal objections had been rejected, could mean only one thing to the extremists & fanatics, take it back by illegal means. It will be risky but so can a pre-op purgative. The US body politic needs it. The GOP needs it.

Uncle Pat | 21 January 2021  

Welcome back Andrew. hope you had a good rest with family and friends. Just want you to know how much those of us in the domestic church value your regular articles. In the absence of balanced , unbiased comment in written and televised media we look forward to your perspectives. And what happy news to see the Melbourne refugee prisoners released into the community. What happens to these fine men as they attempt to survive in their new found freedom.? How do they survive on bridging visas and find accomodation? Maybe its a time to acknowledge and support the tireless workers who show refugees care and guidance as they transition to a new life , wherever that may be.

Celia | 21 January 2021  

What insurrection? What incitement? Insurrection is Sitiveni Rabuka’s invasion of the Fijian parliament. Here, the parliamentary trespassers were, well, aimless. Of course, some of them could have become physically nasty with a legislator but lynching a hapless legislator per se does not an insurrection make. The burden of proof for a crime is beyond a reasonable doubt. Urging your supporters in words which could reasonably be interpreted as go mill in front of the Capitol and make a loud noise is hardly proof of inciting an insurrection, given that most of the crowd stayed outside. However, if the Democrats want Trump to survive conviction in the Senate so he can remain a noxious pest within the Republican Party and split their vote in 2024 as an independent, or, equally, sink their chances as a nominee flawed by legal proceedings concerning sexual histories and business and tax matters, a charade of a failed senate trial would be a good way of going about it.

roy chen yee | 21 January 2021  

Does it have to be either/or ? The impeachment in the House has already occurred. The trial in the Senate has yet to begin but it will be over quickly. The outcome sought is a political one, to prevent Trump from ever holding office again, surely a worthy objective. There will surely be a majority of senators in favour even if not the designated two thirds. The criminal charges in the courts have yet to be laid, tried, determined and appealed. It is there that the detailed evidence of alleged illegalities will be laid out for all to see. They will inevitably be drawn out, and the spotlight will be on Trump. The outcomes sought will be convictions, punishable at law. The immediate tasks of the new president are essentially administrative, and the domestic ones can only be implemented with the cooperation of the states. It is with state governors surely that Biden must begin. The divisions and discriminations that lie at the base of so much that is wrong with America have deep and long-term roots and are not going to be resolved in Biden's 4 year term but rather will take generations, if ever.

Ginger Meggs | 21 January 2021  

"He was the symbol that united people in their hostility to the various groups whom they believed had betrayed the nation." If those who elected Trump to office four years ago - which includes pro-life supporters - were correct in their estimation of the social democrat Clinton and Obama legacy, it seems highly unlikely, with or without an impeachment, that the "symbolic force" of the outgoing President will "disappear into oblivion". Biden's margin was not a landslide. Middle and working class America, disdained and neglected by anti-Christian and anti-family ideologies of 'woke' elites with powerful legal influence, will most likely find, as Trump has flagged, new forms of resistance. God bless America.

John RD | 22 January 2021  

You have hit the bullseye, Andy. Trump was to a considerable extent a demagogue who misused social media with serious consequences. It would be extremely difficult to convict him in a court of law for inciting the Capitol riot. I think this second impeachment is attempting something similar. It will not succeed. As John RD said, there were people who voted for Trump who were not members of the radical right. He would never have been elected on just the extremist vote. America is a divided nation and needs to come together for its own and the world's good. I think Biden is attempting to do that. I very much doubt Trump will be a presidential candidate in 2024. We need to move on.

Edward Fido | 22 January 2021  

You acknowledge the necessity to make him accountable but worry about appearances. With respect, appearances are not at issue here. As with Truth and Reconciliation exercises a nation must be prepared to face up to its darkest moments before it can move forward. Sure, it is painful but it is necessary. Otherwise what went before is legitimised. That should not happen.

Stephen Lusher | 22 January 2021  

I was somewhat surprised to read this argument in favour of appeasement. It also seems to accept the absurd assumption that a Senate trial, sometime in the next few weeks, will be "divisive"! As if the impetus to address the serious and deadly violence on 6 Janury 2021, which was promoted and supported (if not actually incited) by POTUS 45, is the divisive act. This is simplistic pragmatism and bit too cynical to appear in Eureka Street and in your name Andrew Hamilton. Tyrants should never be appeased - said remembering those fateful days of appeasement in the 1930s.

Lyn Anne Riddett | 22 January 2021  

Thank you Andrew for yet another insightful comment on a serious situation. I agree with you. This is a time, above all else, for a 'healing' of society. Only then can we consider, as a more unified society, appropriate ways of addressing issues that need to be addressed.

margaret atchison | 22 January 2021  

Thank you Andrew for this beautifully constructed piece on the Impeachment. I agree with your premise regarding the further fracturing of America into camps! However (that wonderful word) there is the benefit of him never being able to hold public office ever again!

Jennifer Raper | 22 January 2021  

I agree with Father Andrew's assessment of the risks. There is nothing to be gained from keeping Donald Trump and his followers in the news every day- that is exactly what Trump and his supporters would wish for. I don't think any person can forget that Donald Trump thrived on the media frenzy- if he wasn't in the news, he would make sure that he became the centre of attention, like a spoiled child, by tweeting insults to get a response. By denying him and his ilk of that attention, they will nothing to show for all the temper tantrums they throw- just like a spoilt child should be ignored.

JOHN WILLIS | 22 January 2021  

In a democracy it is a basic principle that no one, even the person in charge, is above the law. If Trump is not called to account in any way for encouraging an attack on the Capitol it will send a clear message that the president is above the law. It is true that a trial will exacerbate divisiveness, but the alternative is to place the ruler above the law.

Milton David Fisher | 22 January 2021  

Thank you for this article, Andy. I largely agree with you, but think that impeachment should proceed if there are enough Senate Republicans who want to use it to remove the possibility of Trump standing for re-election as President. The continuing Trumpism of the Republican Party seems to me the main game here.

Sandy Yule | 22 January 2021  

If anyone thinks Trump was an aberration, they should read “When America Stopped Being Great”, by Nick Bryant. The theme is that the divisions, ideologies and forces that led to Trump were building in American society over 40 years, dating at least from the Reagan Presidency. The Trump legacy will remain with most of the 74 million people who voted for him. Biden and Harris will never be able to build a bridge to common ground with many of these people but there is a starting point in reaching out to the 15 percent of Republican voters who reportedly disapproved of Trump’s overt incitement to mob violence and the Republican lawmakers who do not oppose impeachment. If over four years the new leadership can respect and understand the deep divisions in American life, this is still some progress in the right direction. Andrew Hamilton makes valid points, but the Senate trial has to go ahead even if the two thirds majority cannot be achieved, not only for symbolic purposes now that Trump is gone, but to finally hold him accountable. The effort will be worthwhile if it can diminish the Trump legacy on US politics and the chance of another Trumpish figure emerging in four or eight years.

Brett | 22 January 2021  

For an “attack on the democratic process”, let’s start with the Obama Administration using state power, via its Taxation office, to harass and intimidate conservative non-profit organizations. The Justice Department has now settled legal actions by dozens of such groups. Then within two weeks of Trump taking office, Democrats began calling for his impeachment. Firstly, by pushing a grand conspiracy of Russia/Trump collusion, with Democrats from Hillary Clinton to Jimmy Carter calling him an “illegitimate” president. Yet it was Clinton who commissioned and paid for the phoney Steele Dossier consisting of Russian disinformation used to institute the Muller Inquiry. When that failed, and after citing some 86 reasons he should be impeached, they settled on a phone call he had with the president of Ukraine. Who can forget Democrats piously carrying the Articles of Impeachment, in theatre that put to shame the propaganda theatre of Stalin’s show trials? Senator Schumer has promised to “change America”. Suggestions have been Constitutional-changing things like admitting new states to give Democrats a permanent majority in the Senate; granting 11 million illegal immigrants citizenship to hopefully get another 11 million votes; and packing the Supreme Court to ensure they can never be challenged.

Ross Howard | 22 January 2021  

Andy's rationale for reconciliation cites the common good but ignores several aspects of the case against Trump, featuring a shamefully partisan advantage in respect of the three main points on which the House formally voted for impeachment, mainly that Trump committed 'high crimes and misdemeanors' because: 1) He falsely claimed he won the election. Shortly before the Joint Session commenced, President Trump addressed a crowd of his political supporters nearby. There, he reiterated false claims that ‘we won this election, and we won it by a landslide.’ 2) He encouraged the riot. He willfully made statements that encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — imminent lawless action at the Capitol. Incited by President Trump, a mob unlawfully breached the Capitol, injured law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress and the Vice President, interfered with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the election results, and engaged in violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts. 3) He’d been putting actions to his words to try to overturn his loss. The media recorded a recent conversation Trump held with Georgia's Secretary of State urging him to 'find' just enough votes to overturn Biden's win there. Without impeachment the common good is breached!

Michael Furtado | 22 January 2021  

There is the principle that no one should be above the law. If the impeachment was morally sound, a senate trial should proceed. There is also the principle that calumny is a sin. If the impeachment was a kangaroo court, a senate trial is the accused’s opportunity to convict his impeachers of betraying the Golden Rule.

roy chen yee | 23 January 2021  

Thank you, Andy, for such a timely and challenging analysis. The natural course of the impeachment process is for a senate trial, for all the reasons that the House thought it important to impeach in the first place. A consequence of proceeding in the Senate would likely be the antithesis of political reconciliation and healing. To not proceed, however, would be a major statement by the Senate leadership. It could be a grand statement of reconciliation for the common good, but it would also likely be interpreted by some as a sign of weakness by the Democrats, as in that they don’t have evidence, or don’t have the numbers and don’t want to start something they might lose. Only if there is a broad program of political reconciliation, of which a decision not to proceed in the Senate were just one element, would that narrative of reconciliation seem likely to gain momentum - It would be counterproductive to present it as such, unless there was an underlying reality, starting with the Senate. Andy, you ask whether it might ‘not be better for both Congress and Senate to condemn the incitement to violent interruption of democratic process, get on with addressing the needs of the people, and to leave to the judicial system the prosecution of those, including Trump, who instigated the attack on the Capitol?’ There seems much to be said for this, but the burden of proof in a criminal trial is very different to that required in an impeachment trial in the Senate. Only if the case against Trump seemed sound and likely to be successful in the courts would a prosecution make sense, as an acquittal would not likely assist either accountability or the project of national healing.

Denis Fitzgerald | 23 January 2021  

Quite frankly I'm sick of American politics. In the US, the House of Representatives institutes impeachment proceedings by authorizing a formal inquiry by the House Judiciary Committee, which may then recommend articles of impeachment (an impeachment resolution) for a vote by the full House. So that has been carried. Next a trial is held in the Senate, and conviction is obtained by a vote of at least two-thirds of the senators present. If he's convicted, the penalties extend no further than removal and disqualification from office. Seeing he has already left office, removal is out of the question, so the real reason is to disqualify him of any chance of running in 4 years time. I think the whole "stop the steal" rally was a demonstration of his support which got out of hand. He certainly didn't incite violence. I therefore agree with Fr Andrew that its largely pointless, though I also agree with Michael Furtado that justice needs to be seen to be done. After the process, whichever way it goes, he faces massive debt problems on a myriad of investments which will force him to liquidate more than 50% of his assets. And don't forget, since the election, he has clawed another $250m from his supporters.

Francis Armstrong | 23 January 2021  

I waited a couple of days to respond because I was disappointed to read the policy of appeasement being put forward as the way to deal with the aftermarth of a regime some of whose charisteristics were division, dishonesty, aggression and devaluing of life. To unify his nation President Biden has a challenge facing him. He will need the prayers of all of us. The damage to democracy that former President Trump invited on his nation has to be called into account through legal processes that go beyond an electoral defeat. The manner those processes are delivered are key, delivered with calm, honesty, fairness and justice are a way to demonstrate to the former President and his supporters of the alternative pathway. This article by Andrew Hamilton promotes the abandonment of accountability for former President Trump.

Kevin | 24 January 2021  

One of the things most of us commenting here need to realise is that we are not American. We are commenting from outside the tent. What happens in the USA will affect us, but not as directly as it does Americans. What has happened so far is that American democracy has survived the Trump tweets and machinations, as well as the storming of the Capitol. The legitimately elected government has survived. It did for a number of reasons, including that former Vice President Pence did not collude with Trump. There are people on both extremes in the USA who terrify me. Most Democratic and Republican voters are not like that. For many American voters the choice would have been difficult. Politics and religion are not the same and people should beware of seeing either Trump or Biden as pseudo-saviours. Nor should either be demonised. Arnold Schwarzenegger summed up Trump very well. We should leave it at that. My farewell to Trump would be best summed up in the passage in 'Murder in the Cathedra' : 'Go where the last grey rock...'

Edward Fido | 25 January 2021  

Thank you Andy. I do not believe that there can be unity without accountability and justice to victims. For this reason I would encourage impeachment and no filibuster in the Senate.

Gerry Biddle | 25 January 2021  

I reckon Trump is lucky that the worst he has to face is an impeachment trial. The Americans have shot a number of far better presidents. I suspect that he survived assassination because all the ratbags with guns supported him.

john frawley | 26 January 2021  

The formal document impeaching Trump reads in part : ". . . incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session's solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts." While I understand and respect Andy's analysis, It seems to me that any democratic government should take whatever steps it can to deal with such scandalously treacherous behaviour by an elected President. I'm not convinced that conviction or failure to convict could make the present situation worse, but the process will at least record for history the taking of an important stand for democracy. I would also support the need identified by Andy for both Congress and Senate to condemn the incitement to violent interruption of democratic process, and for the judicial system to prosecute those, including Trump, who instigated the attack on the Capitol.

Peter Johnstone | 26 January 2021  

Three resounding hurrahs to John Frawley for the sharpest and most apt observation!

Michael Furtado | 28 January 2021  

Edward, you are undeniably correct. However, James Martin SJ further explains the overall problem is that Catholic Social Teaching endorses Obamacare, which would have saved many more lives than the abomination that liberal democratic societies have scourged us with in the form of abortion on demand. As Martin shows, its the poorest who are most harshly impacted upon by liberal abortion laws, whereas the Church, especially through the intervention of Cardinal Bernardin, showed us that the Right to Life as well as those appalled by the US tradition of government non-interference in the lives of its citizens, even when they are dying like flies, are the two inseparable parts of Christ's Seamless Shroud. The US Bishops, like Poland's and the rest of the developed world, therefore have an added responsibility (though an unenviable one in these divided times, as Andy calls them) to rally the Catholic faithful as never before to show unity in support of a Church teaching that is beyond a politics that has engulfed the national discourse of many countries. This was never the case until Trump used the abortion issue to garner right-wing support from those blind to the extremist ideological significance of the Boston Tea-Party.

Michael Furtado | 30 January 2021  

You are quite correct, Michael, in pointing out that what is politics in the USA contains many toxic ingredients. I am horrified both by abortion and by the industries it has spawned. The whole concept of the Sacredness of Life, as embodied in all three Abrahamic Faiths, is under threat. It is now very difficult in the West to take a prolife stance as a politician without endangering your chances of selection or election. The same is happening with euthanasia. Will it happen with eugenics? Where will it stop?

Edward Fido | 02 February 2021  

Michael, you raised the abortion issue or what the WHO calls women's reproductive health. Biden has pledged the reinstatement of the subsidy of $9bn USD cancelled by his predecessor. He is of course pro choice. On current figures in the US there are approximately 339,600 abortions per annum. Worldwide, under the auspices of the WHO, there are 56 million. Biden's policy of appeasement doesn't sit well with the Vatican or the American Bishops. I tend to agree with Roy for once that there has to be a standard of proof reached at Trump's trial. And just because Frawley wields a scalpel, doesn't necessarily make him sharp.

Francis Armstrong | 03 February 2021  

Thank you, Francis, for the blunt disapproval!

john frawley | 04 February 2021  

It's OK, John. I think you're insightful and on the ball.

Edward Fido | 04 February 2021  

Thank you John Frawley. I could have used a sledge hammer to crack a .....!

Francis Armstrong | 05 February 2021  

I don't disagree, Francis; the abortion issue, according to the eminent Jesuit, James Martin, has to be read in terms of an over-emotional and imperfectly understood and over-zealous attitude to it in the past by many Christians, including some Catholics, thereby backfiring against a Church teaching that is too subtle for some and in favour of an equally emotionally-overcharged blanket reaction supporting the too-easy 'women's right to choose' argument. Our unborn kids consequently die in shocking numbers, as much for the exaggerated claims attached to the principle of a woman's right to choose as for of the over-simplistic zealotry of some Catholics. It is precisely in these terms that Martin cautions against some US Bishops making Biden the bete noir of what they regard as a one-issue election rather than as a man astride a multi-humped Democratic dromedary with several legs charging simultaneously in all directions, no head and a tail at both ends. And, as much as I have no argument with Edward, the rejection by some anti-abortionists of the exquisitely reasoned position of Cardinal Bernardin is equally shocking. That said, might I declare that Frawley wins the overall joust, with a draw alongside you in the second round.

Michael Furtado | 05 February 2021  

Michael the role of moderator does not sit well with you. Roe v Wade was the cause of abortion on demand, placing the State in direct conflict with the Church. Following that, US women can deal with their doctors directly and no one can interfere with their decisions. However that still contravenes the church's teaching which protects life in the womb from the moment of conception. Even in the case of rape, the life of the child is sacrosanct. Because of that conflict there will always be a divide because Biden has chosen, (like Andrews), to overrule Catholic teaching in favour of expediency and the popular vote. The point everyone seems to have overlooked is that abortion is a bigger killer worldwide than covid ever will be.

Francis Armstrong | 06 February 2021  

Michael F and Francis A. I APPLAUD YOUR ANTI-ABORTION STANCES. It is indeed a great pity that the nominally Catholic new president of cloud cuckoo land has restored abortion funding to the UN and yesterday signed another executive order which serves to further destroy traditional family and fund LGBT "rights" in payment for that community's multi-million dollar support in the recent election and also to penalise religious leaders who disapprove of such things as same sex marriage and the use of IVF in establishing same sex "parenthood". He is also taking measures to counter the legal challenges to the infamous Roe v Wade determination which gave the world abortion on demand. Something the world ignores is the singular experience of the fictitious Jane Roe, the real life Norma McCorvey, who subsequent to her court case told the world that she had been coached in her evidence by two women lawyers ( in their first year out of law school) running a clandestine abortion referral service. Following the case Mc Corvey took up a position in one of their abortion clinics where she experienced abortion for the first time. She was moved to abandon the clinic, become a Christian (subsequently a convert to Catholicism) and long time anti-abortion advocate until her recent death. The pro-abortionists should take a leaf out of womanhood 's fictitious champion, Jane Roe, and join the Catholic president in witnessing an abortion in one of the equally fictitious Women's Health and Family Planning Centres. It is very difficult not to turn away in horror when you watch little legs ripped off in the jaws of surgical forceps to be discarded together with other recognisable pieces of a baby in a bloody kidney dish where a tiny heart is still beating and then to see it all discarded in the swill. Of course, in the modern world the onlooker may be privileged to witness the far less distressing extraction of a complete baby simply discarded to die struggling with the loss of its maternal life giving placenta. It might also be useful if the pro-abortionists were to join the surgeons called in to save a mother's life threatened by trauma caused to their wombs by the frequently unskilled abortionists. While I consider Trump in a far from favourable light, he did remove $500,000,000.00 in US abortion funding from the UN and supports the current legal challenges to abortion on demand law in his Godforsaken country. I do not presume to judge Biden - that will come from a far better judge than I will ever be.

john frawley | 06 February 2021  

I have just finish reading 'What I believe', by Tolstoy. He mentions how all juridical systems are anti- Jesus' teachings. His trail and condemnation to His death, is the clearest declaration of this judgment, about how wrong the judgment of one man towards another is. While Jesus was being trailed and condemned by this system. Jesus was trailing and condemning this system by going to his death, to prove also how wrong man-made law can be. His Words "For judgment, I came into this world''... ''And in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world has been condemned" Points to this. How does an impeachment process come about? How did Roe v Wade come about and approved? Trump is one man being again trailed. Millions of future human beings have also been trailed and found unworthy to claim a right to Life- given to them by God- by such the same- A man made, self-rightlessness, Juridical Court System. Yet- ''Do not Judge'', (as every man is the same in the eyes of God) is one of Jesus' most important commandments. And will always be. When we Judge a man we are Judging God, as every man is made in the image of God.

AO | 07 February 2021  

Francis, a pity you read my leg-pull as an attempt to usurp Andy's princely role. To your and Dr Frawley's eviscerating focus, then, on the horrors of abortion. To address the statistics and in the interests of truth, among the most commonly employed terminations in the developed world are the 'morning after' pill, now widely accepted, including by many Catholics, as a form of contraception. Excluding those statistics, Pope Francis and the better educated, and generally Jesuit, social policy experts within the Church, are also aware that the $500 million US budget to the developing world must redress a scenario in which its most oppressed global beneficiaries are women in developing countries, about 87 per cent of whom are non-literate, and exercise precious little agency other than as the property of their menfolk. It shouldn't surprise that the overwhelming majority of the abortions John Frawley describes emerge from that cohort, in which a woman exercises no right to any agency, let alone the size of her family. The Vatican therefore, and some US Bishops like Cardinal Cupich, have properly placed Biden's pro-abortion policy within the broader context of a much sounder and more critically ethical social policy debate. (Ref: https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/lots-politics-little-legitimacy)

Michael Furtado | 10 February 2021  

Michael, Cupich decried the Illinois legislation and you are attempting to support the Democrat line. Biden himself opposed Roe v Wade for years and then did an about face and fell in with the Democrat policy machine. Whether the subsidy is actually focused on women in emerging countries who have no voice is debatable. I think you downplay the moral issue because it accords with your liberal social views. The US bishops haven't caved in on abortion nor has the Vatican. This assertion:"have properly placed Biden's pro-abortion policy within the broader context of a much sounder and more critically ethical social policy debate" cannot be justified.

Francis Armstrong | 11 February 2021  

Francis, I applaud that you & I share a horror of abortion. Where we differ is on how it managed to capture the policy platform of the Democrats. In my youth I worked with the US psephologist and journalist, Richard Rose. A Jew, he hailed from St Louis, where the archbishop (liberal on civil rights) was Cardinal Ritter. Rose explained that Ritter, whom he met and interviewed, was locked upon the horns of a moral dilemma: the South (segregationist, George Wallace-supporting and Democrat) strongly opposed the civil rights initiatives of Kennedy, also a Democrat. It made sense in this context to advise the faithful that, in the interests of freedom and equality, they switch their vote to the Republicans. As it happened, Kennedy chose a Southern running-mate, Johnson, for VP, and in the end Johnson executed the civil rights legislation which Kennedy introduced, while the Republicans (the party of Nixon, Goldwater & Trump, but also of Lincoln, the slave emancipator) became so right-wing that Wallace founded a new party, The Independents, trying to take votes off both sides. My point here is that US parties are broad coalitions and that it made no sense for some Bishops to support Trump.

Michael Furtado | 12 February 2021  

Michael Furtado. Re your post of Feb 10 - "...the most commonly employed terminations ...are the 'morning after' pill..." When it first became available the "morning after' pill was erroneously thought to cause abortion, an effect no longer supported by the science. It effectively acts purely as a contraceptive through preventing ovulation thus denying the spermatozoon access to an ovum. It is thus and anti-fertilisation agent, a feature of the hormone progesterone that it contains. If taken too late (3-5days after ovulation has occurred) fertilisation is still possible and the resulting gamete can be conceived, ie implantation in the womb can occur. The majority of abortions are still the bloody affairs I have described above, some less bloody than others depending on the size of the baby. The little, earlier ones are easily torn apart and extracted from the womb whereas the bigger ones particularly in late pregnancy as permitted in Q'land and Victoria by the socially responsible respective governments have to be removed alive and left unsupported until overcome by respiratory death. Makes the Barbarians look like advocates for social justice!!

john frawley | 12 February 2021  

Michael, Biden didn't win in a landslide. The Democrats got over the line but not by much. It would (given clergy have the right to vote) be a given that many religious would support the Republicans just as many would support Biden. When Francis visited the US Bishops last year he was staggered to learn that since Roe v Wade there have been 61 million US abortions and they don't qualify for your 87 Percent illiterate 3rd world countries. Vigano denounces Biden as using his Catholicism as a vote winning maneuver. He also denounces the LGBT movement as the biggest lobby group for pro choice after Planned Parenthood. Francis was concerned that there is no one to look out for the rights of the unborn. Yes he has given Papal support to same sex civil unions. CMV denounced that also. Frankly I don't think the church hierarchy is qualified to pontificate on these issues because they are at war with themselves. Ostensibly they have no experience of sexual relationships, no experience of the struggles parents have to raise and educate their children, get them started on a career, their financial difficulties of business and paying off a mortgage. Oh yes, its not mortal sin if you take communion after a divorce. Really? Were MacCarrick or Bransfield or Hart (noted for his cover ups) good leaders? Van Elst? Pell for his Ellis defense? The church for their scramble to always protect the property of the church at the expense of the victim? I wonder. The unborn have the civil right to a life and while 9 bn is squandered on pro choice under the spurious mantle of women's reproductive health, 1000 times that is spent on combating covid 19. Perspective?

Francis Armstrong | 12 February 2021  

John Frawley, Great Thanks for the clinical exactitude of your distinction between the contraceptive effects of the morning after pill and abortion itself. I shall now exclude that figure, based upon the authority of your medical advice (and which used to be included by many pro-life supporters) from my statistics. My information, redundant though it now is, relates to the fact that I knew of many medical sisters working in women's health, who readily prescribe the morning after pill, even though it was widely described and condemned at the time by some Catholic authorities as an abortifacient, a factor which may enable our readers to appreciate both the complexity as well as the division engendered by the abortion debate. As for Francis Armstrong's passionate posts, while I share his revulsion at abortion, I cannot see how he has addressed the points made by Massimo Faggioli and indeed the President of our own Australian Catholic Bishops Conference about the unilateralism of the statement made by some US Bishops favouring Trump against Biden, when it is the overall social policy context wherein abortion - falsely in my view - has been inscribed. It is here that pro-lifers need to make our mark!

Michael Furtado | 13 February 2021  

Michael, Faggioli is a commentator. " Faggioli says even though Joe Biden wears issues like abortion and gender rights "lightly" — meaning they're not central to his platform, which focusses more on inequality and the environment — he sits squarely in the Democrat camp." So does Pelosi, another nominal catholic. For many mainstream Catholics and "leaders", those two ideologies remain uneasy bedfellows. Coleridge is currently a fence sitter. Neither subscribe to some of your views on Democrat policy or on abortion. If Coleridge wants to say politics and religion dont mix and the American Bishops shouldn't favor Republican policy - which seems to be what you are obliquely driving at, then he hasn't articulated that very well. Coleridge abolished the OPW. A retrograde step. He believes the laity (which includes you Michael), should be seen and not heard. His sonorous and didactic finger pointing sermons tend to drive people away from the church, not back to it. The RC made the point 5 years ago that Australian Bishops should not be appointed by Rome but by the laity. In his instance that is a very good point. He was appointed by Benedict. No disrespect, but it seems to me whilst you hint you are in the pro life camp, you are quite content to justify the pro choice democrat policies under the guise of the greater good.

Francis Armstrong | 13 February 2021  

I am too respectful of Francis to typecast him, as he does me, as a social liberal who is soft on abortion. My social policy comprehension emerges from the post-war settlement introduced by Attlee’s Government as establishing a new moral basis for the British economy and state. As such, my earliest appreciation was as an impoverished migrant, intrigued by how the classical economics employed by imperial overseers had allowed millions of my fellow Indians to starve while profits were gleaned out of India to enrich the British state. At Oxford I encountered a contested policy discourse, advanced by Keynes, and based on Scripture, through which 'every valley shall be exalted and all the mountains and hills laid low.' At Aachen Cathedral I saw a painting of the Triumph of Justice which reinforced this moral imperative. I also discovered a counter-narrative within capitalism in which citizen's individual rights were pitted against their social obligations. For me the rights of the unborn child inexorably belong within the social obligations frame, where all rights to life are enshrined and making the 'right to choose' a fiction. Accordingly, several Catholic universities support social policy projects combining justice, human rights, anti-war and right-to-life policy platforms!

Michael Furtado | 15 February 2021  

Spare a thought for a fifth of Creation, made, as all else, in God's image, but regarded in Catholic pro-life circles as expendable. As a queer Catholic, immersed within a Catholicism that for some here has become a one-issue anti-abortion crusade, I wonder about the forgotten fifth of humanity, viz, queer people, until recently largely unseen, with almost no representation other than on those lowest rungs of the ladder reserved for the marginalised. Where is the Catholic conversation that places value on queer lives, known to be destroyed in numbers equivalent to the bloodbath of abortion, by religious exclusion? Why isn't there any articulation about what queer inclusivity means for Catholics, why it matters for all of us, and what happens when inclusive religious environments are not created and/or sustained. I think here of rejection at home, bullying in schools and exclusion in the workplace. Where are the queered solutions for these individuals’ needs and challenges in Catholic settings? Where is the Catholic concern about queer Catholics to see themselves represented in the Catholic home, school and within our sacred spaces and liturgy? Who indeed uses queerness as a lens through which to re-imagine Catholic spaces of belonging and celebration?

Michael Furtado | 16 February 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Spare a thought….’ It may be proposed that as the spirit world is logically prior to the material world, thought is prior to action, as Jesus’ comment on adultery shows. While discomfort in the material world is often caused when physical realities collide, the only things that can collide in the spiritual world are thoughts. There must be some system of logic to arbitrate between thought, to separate true thought from false. For example, can a person be tempted to meet a need, or is temptation, the acquiescence to which produces sin, only a lure which can exist vis-à-vis a want? Can one be said to be tempted to steal a loaf if the alternative to it is a serious repercussion of hunger? Can you be ‘tempted’ to steal a bar of chocolate if you are penniless and about to go into a diabetic coma? Unless there is an argument to the contrary, it might be proposed that queerness is a temptation to think in a certain way and, being a want and not a need, collides with a particular (ie. magisterial Catholic) system of logic extant in the spiritual world of thought.

roy chen yee | 22 February 2021  

The logician often misses out on an appreciation of paradox, Roy. Most of the priests and nuns that I have known best are/have been in some way or other, 'Queer'. Its what's made their formation and example unique and, in the opinion of many, the greatest gift in several instances to and of the Catholic Church, elevating many to sainthood. 'In my weakness I am strong' (2 Cor 12, 9=11). 'The flawed stone shall be the cornerstone' (Matt 21, 42).

Michael Furtado | 26 February 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘Most of the priests and nuns that I have known best…'Queer'. It’s what's made their formation and example….the greatest gift…elevating many to sainthood. 'In my weakness I am strong' (2 Cor 12, 9=11). 'The flawed stone shall be the cornerstone' (Matt 21, 42).’ Perfect. Now tell us what they told you about how it was a gift, or you’ll be citing authorities without telling us why they are relevant. As for Matthew 21:42, what are you trying to pull? The uncontorted text refers to Christ. The builders are flawed for not recognising the stone. Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine. If you want to suggest that he struggled to reconcile his duty to be chaste and celibate with the heterosexual desire to mate, be my guest. But, he didn’t, and being afflicted with a heterodox sexual inclination and struggling to live without giving in to it is not ‘queer’. ‘Queer’, at the risk of offending the Left idea that no one can speak for an intersectional except the intersectional him/herself (which, of course, denies the concept of Apostolic authority), one is ‘queer’ only if one approves of the condition of ‘queer’.

roy chen yee | 28 February 2021  

Aye; there's the rub, Le Roy! While there's plenty of evidence from the animal kingdom that some are created homosexual, there's no evidence, either scriptural or cultural, that Jesus, while male, was heterosexual. While I accept that he was celibate, the company in which he was portrayed as belonging to was almost exclusively male. While this again may well have been a product of the environment in which he grew up and/or in which the Gospel writers recorded their experiences, there's absolutely no evidence, one way or the other, to definitively support your assertions. Indeed we are taught, as well as forever have been, and presumably always will be, that we are - each and every one of us! - made in God's image, which is neither male nor female! As to Matt 21, 42, we - each and every one of us! - is the flawed stone!

Michael Furtado | 01 March 2021  

Dear Editors, Please forgive the accidental elision into 'Black-talk'. Although brown of skin, I intended to say 'We are' and not to risk parodying myself through the use of something akin to 'Ah am what Ah am; Ah is what Ah is!' ;)

Michael Furtado | 03 March 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘While I accept that he was celibate….” Why? There’s no textual evidence of that. So, meaning is also derived from necessary implication. St Paul's strictures against homosexual behaviour, being canonical text, retrospectively imply that Christ was not homosexually inclined. The rejected ‘cornerstone’ is understood within the context of Jesus coming into Jerusalem for the last time and having the religious authorities questioning his own. Your animal examples are drawn from after the Fall.

roy chen yee | 04 March 2021  

Splendid El Roy; such a cleverly argued riposte, taking away from my send-up of John RD's frequent accusation - and welcome newfound allusion, to 'hip-talk' - that I am, if nothing else, simply 'woke'. (Ain't he cool, thought I (and by the way) except for his bleak theology!) And so, more seriously: if I subscribed to the so-called Fall, which I tried explaining elsewhere in ES in terms of its allegorical value and contemporary exegetical limitations, I wonder, given my homosexuality, about what constitutes those not altogether hidden aspects of your own fallen nature or are you so besotted by that, that you find it impossible, even - nay especially - during Lent, to shift your theological perspective to a higher, less judgmental and more forgiving plane?

Michael Furtado | 07 March 2021  

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