Month: February 2012

A question.

In an article for Slate.com, a mother — herself born with and survivor of a physical disability — expresses the wish that her son, stricken with an incurable disease, had never been born:

If I had known Ronan had Tay-Sachs … I would have found out what the disease meant for my then unborn child; I would have talked to parents who are raising (and burying) children with this disease, and then I would have had an abortion. Without question and without regret, although this would have been a different kind of loss to mourn and would by no means have been a cavalier or uncomplicated, heartless decision. I’m so grateful that Ronan is my child. I also wish he’d never been born; no person should suffer in this way—daily seizures, blindness, lack of movement, inability to swallow, a devastated brain—with no hope for a cure.

(Emily Rapp: Rick Santorum and prenatal testing: I would have saved my son from his suffering Slate.com. February 27, 2012.

* * *

In Australia, Academic philosophers Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva have written a peer-reviewed paper, published in a journal of “medical ethics”, advocating the murder of newly born babies, substituting for infanticide the kinder, gentler euphemism, “after-birth abortion”. They assert that:

“If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn.”

Source: “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” is in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

* * *

There was something in the confluence of those two news items in recent days that brought to mind a passage from That Strange Divine Sea: Reflections on Being a Catholic by Christopher Derrick, which — so aptly capturing “the Catholic perspective” contra that of the “modern world” — floored me upon reading it as an inquiring agnostic in college, and sticks with me to this day:

Human existence always involves suffering, and this can sometimes be bitter indeed, inescapable too: the life of man can certainly be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” But with the first words of the Bible in mind, in the first words of the Creed as well, we believe in the goodness of the Creator, and we therefore see all human existence and in fact all ‘being’ as an absolute and unquantifiable good. . . . it makes no sense at all to speak of some point (of poverty or cancer or whatever) beyond which life simply isn’t worth living.

This is the first principle and paradox of the Faith. It can be stated apothegmatically. It is not a good thing to be diseased and starving. But it is a good thing to be, even when diseased and starving.

A dear and terrible principle, and it’s what divides the Church from the world most centrally — most crucially.

A more specific picture will throw it into sharper relief, and (if considered carefully) may help you to decide which side you’re really on.

Imagine a young girl who lives alone in a tar-paper shack, in some frightful shanty town on the outskirts of the big city in — say — Latin America. She lives, of course, by prostitution; and eventually she has a baby whom she cannot feed. The big jets go fuming up from the airport nearby, tight-packed with steaks and martinis for the Beautiful People — that is, for you and me. But there’s little for this girl to eat, so she has no milk; and in any case, the baby has inherited some of her diseases. So he looks out, briefly and with unfocused eyes, upon God’s world, and then he curls up and dies. His mother borrows a spade, buries him somewhere, and goes back to work.

As you know, I am not being fanciful or morbid in outlining such a story: things of that sort happen all the time and in many places.

Was it a bad thing for that bay to die? It was an abomination, a blot on the entire human conscience: if you and I have any share in the responsibility for it, we must fear the Lord’s anger.

But was it a bad thing for that baby to live?

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Chaput: "God will demand an accounting"

The American Jesuit scholar Father John Courtney Murray once said that “Anyone who really believes in God must set God, and the truth of God, above all other considerations.” (4)

Here’s what that means. Catholic public officials who take God seriously cannot support laws that attack human dignity without lying to themselves, misleading others and abusing the faith of their fellow Catholics. God will demand an accounting. Catholic doctors who take God seriously cannot do procedures, prescribe drugs or support health policies that attack the sanctity of unborn children or the elderly; or that undermine the dignity of human sexuality and the family. God will demand an accounting. And Catholic citizens who take God seriously cannot claim to love their Church, and then ignore her counsel on vital public issues that shape our nation’s life. God will demand an accounting. As individuals, we can claim to believe whatever we want. We can posture, and rationalize our choices, and make alibis with each other all day long—but no excuse for our lack of honesty and zeal will work with the God who made us. God knows our hearts better than we do. If we don’t conform our hearts and actions to the faith we claim to believe, we’re only fooling ourselves.

We live in a culture where our marketers and entertainment media compulsively mislead us about the sustainability of youth; the indignity of old age; the avoidance of suffering; the denial of death; the nature of real beauty; the impermanence of every human love; the oppressiveness of children and family; the silliness of virtue; and the cynicism of religious faith. It’s a culture of fantasy, selfishness, sexual confusion and illness that we’ve brought upon ourselves. And we’ve done it by misusing the freedom that other—and greater—generations than our own worked for, bled for and bequeathed to our safe-keeping.

What have we done with that freedom? In whose service do we use it now?

John Courtney Murray is most often remembered for his work at Vatican II on the issue of religious liberty, and for his great defense of American democracy in his book, We Hold These Truths. Murray believed deeply in the ideas and moral principles of the American experiment. He saw in the roots of the American Revolution the unique conditions for a mature people to exercise their freedom through intelligent public discourse, mutual cooperation and laws inspired by right moral character. He argued that—at its best—American democracy is not only compatible with the Catholic faith, but congenial to it.

But he had a caveat. It’s the caveat that George Washington implied in his Farewell Address, and that Charles Carroll – the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence—mentions in his own writings. In order to work, America depends as a nation on a moral people shaped by their religious faith, and in a particular way, by the Christian faith. Without that living faith, animating its people and informing its public life, America becomes something alien and hostile to the very ideals it was founded on.

This is why the same Father Murray who revered the best ideals of the American experiment could also write that “Our American culture, as it exists, is actually the quintessence of all that is decadent in the culture of the Western Christian world. It would seem to be erected on the triple denial that has corrupted Western culture at its roots: the denial of metaphysical reality, of the primacy of the spiritual over the material, [and] of the social over the individual . . . Its most striking characteristic is its profound materialism . . . It has given citizens everything to live for and nothing to die for. And its achievement may be summed up thus: It has gained a continent and lost its own soul.”(5)

Catholics need to wake up from the illusion that the America we now live in – not the America of our nostalgia or imagination or best ideals, but the real America we live in here and now – is somehow friendly to our faith. What we’re watching emerge in this country is a new kind of paganism, an atheism with air-conditioning and digital TV. And it is neither tolerant nor morally neutral.

As the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb observed more than a decade ago, “What was once stigmatized as deviant behavior is now tolerated and even sanctioned; what was once regarded as abnormal has been normalized.” But even more importantly, she added, “As deviancy is normalized, so what was once normal becomes deviant. The kind of family that has been regarded for centuries as natural and moral – the ‘bourgeois’ family as it is invidiously called – is now seen as pathological” and exclusionary, concealing the worst forms of psychic and physical oppression.(6)

My point is this: Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it. So it always has been. So it always will be. And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Excerpt, “A Thread for Weaving Joy”
Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life. January 22, 2012. Washington, D.C.
(HT: Wheat & Weeds; Stand Firm).

Megadeth for Santorum!

David Mustaine, the frontman for thrash-metallers Megadeth just came out in favor of the Republicans in the 2012 race:

“I’m just hoping that whatever is in the White House next year is a Republican. I can’t bear to watch what’s happened to our great country. Everybody’s got their head in the sand. Everybody in the industry is like, ‘Oh, Obama’s doing such a great job…’ I don’t think so. Not from what I see.

“Looking at the Republican candidates, I’ve got to tell you, I was floored the other day to see that Mitt Romney’s five boys have a $100 million trust fund. Where does a guy make that much money? So there’s some questions there. And watching Newt Gingrich, I was pretty excited for a while, but now he’s just gone back to being that person that everybody said he was – that angry little man. I still like him, but I don’t think I’d vote for him.

“Ron Paul… you know, I heard somebody say he was like insecticide – 98 percent of it’s inert gases, but it’s the two percent that’s left that will kill you. What that means is that he’ll make total sense for a while, and then he’ll say something so way out that it negates everything else. …

“Earlier in the election, I was completely oblivious as to who Rick Santorum was, but when the dude went home to be with his daughter when she was sick, that was very commendable. Also, just watching how he hasn’t gotten into doing these horrible, horrible attack ads like Mitt Romney’s done against Newt Gingrich, and then the volume at which Newt has gone back at Romney… You know, I think Santorum has some presidential qualities, and I’m hoping that if it does come down to it, we’ll see a Republican in the White House… and that it’s Rick Santorum.”

Mustaine’s always been something of an enigma in heavy metal. Heralded as one of the top 100 metal guitarists in the world, he was kicked out of Metallica in the 80’s for being a ‘mean drunk’ (hard to do, given Metallica’s penchant for imbibing), tried the “7 steps” program but found it a distraction and decided to head straight for God in a Pascalian wager:

“Looking up at the cross, I said six simple words, ‘What have I got to lose?’ Afterwards my whole life has changed. It’s been hard, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Rather go my whole life believing that there is a God and find out there isn’t than live my whole life thinking there isn’t a God and then find out, when I die, that there is.”

Politically he’s very conservative — almost “fringe-right” (his album Endgame was influenced by the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones). In 2011, he called President Obama “the most divisive president we’ve ever had. I’ve never, in my 50 years of being alive, listened to an American president try and turn one class of people against another class of people.”

Recommended

Obama’s "Compromise" on the HHS Mandate

In what the New York Times asserts is an attempt to appease his liberal Catholic supporters, President Obama announced Friday his decision to “soften” a rule requiring religious-affiliated organizations to pay for insurance plans that offer free birth control: “rather than requiring religiously affiliated charities and universities to pay for contraceptives for their employees, the cost would be shifted to health insurance companies.”

Following an initial statement expressing a reservation of judgement, the Catholic Bishops of America have released a second response, again voicing their grave concerns and reiterating their call to repeal the mandate:

… stepping away from the particulars, we note that today’s proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. In a nation dedicated to religious liberty as its first and founding principle, we should not be limited to negotiating within these parameters. The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.

Rocco Palmo (Whispers in the Loggia) has the scoop of the evening with an internal briefing within the USCCB, a “a heavily bulked-up version of a second public response”.

Related

  • Dale Price (Dyspeptic Mutterings) thinks that the proposed “compromise” deserves the Cleveland Browns Reply.
  • And according to Andrew McCarthy (NOR): “the Justice Department used to call this sort of thing fraud:

    In the scenario addressed by the Obama administration’s cockamamie “compromise,” religious organization employer (call it “A”) wishes to purchase health insurance from B insurance company for C, its employees, but not cover birth-control services that violate A’s religious principles and that the First Amendment protects A from having to subsidize.

    Obama is telling A that it can pay B and that the payments will not cover birth control services for C; he is then telling B to cover the birth-control services for C — but only because A is making the payments. A is thus deceived by Obama’s representations into paying B for C’s birth-control services.

    That is fraud. If you tried to pull something like it, federal agents and attorneys would investigate and prosecute you.