Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Catholic Basics--Moral Issues of Life and Death

As promised, I am following up my answers about pro-life issues with excerpts from Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft. This is the book I read that cleared up many of my objections to Catholic teachings.

I must stress that this book does not substitute for the Catechism and is best read as an accompaniment to it. Also, I must stress that this book is best read from the beginning as Kreeft, in following the Catechism, provides a logical construct for the reason the Church's teachings exist. That is just precisely the Catechism does, but this book is somewhat easier to understand, especially in its application to specific examples of modern life and the faith. Although this section necessarily addresses other issues such as capital punishment, euthanasia, suicide and more, I will be focusing primarily on abortion and the right to life.
Chapter 7
The Fifth Commandment: Moral Issues of Life and Death

1. The "quality-of-life ethic"
Throughout the twentieth century, Western civilization has witnessed a titanic struggle between two radically opposed philosophies of human life: the traditional "sanctity of life ethic" and the new "quality of life" ethic." This new morality judges human lives by the standard of "quality," and by ths standard it declares some lives not worth living and the deliberate "terminatino" of these lives morally legitimate. ("Termination" is the usual euphamism for killing) Life Unworthy of Life was the way it was described in the title of the first book to win public acceptance for this new ethic, by German doctors before World War II--the basis and beginning of the Nazi medical practices.

The criteria by which a human life is most often judged in this "quality-of-life ethic" today are:
  • a. Whether it is wanted by another. Today this is usually applied to unborn children, to justify abortion: if the baby is "unwanted" by the mother, or predicted to be "unwanted" by "society," then it is thought morally right to take that life, in other words, to kill it. In other places and times, other "unwanted" groups have been denied the right to life, such as jews (the Holocaust), Blacks (lynching), and people with the wrong political or religious beliefs (in totalitarian states).
  • b. Whether it has "too much" pain. Today this is usually applied to justify killing the old. But there is an increasing pressure to justify and legalize medically assisted suicide at any age.
  • c. Whether it is severely handicapped, mentally or physically. Of course, there is no clear dividing line between more and less "severe" handicaps, or between "much" pain and "too much" pain. And with no objective criteria, the decision of whether it is right to kill must be baed on subjective feeling and desire.
Coming next, "sanctity-of-life ethic."

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