Thursday, April 16, 2009

Catholic Basics--Moral Issues of Life and Death 2

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. The excerpts for this series began here.

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.
2. The "sanctity-of-life ethic"
The opposite philosophy of life is the traditional "sanctity-of-life ethic," which is taught by all the great religions of the world, is the basis of Western civilization from its Judeo-Christian roots, is presupposed n our laws, and is the basis of all Catholic teaching about the fifth commandment.

There are three reasons for the sanctity of human life: its origin, its nature, and its end.

"'Human life is sacred because'" [a]"'from its beginning it involves the creative action of God'" [b]"'and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator,'" [c]"'who is its sole end'"1 (CCC2258).

"'God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right irectly to destroy an innocent human being'"2 (CCC2258).

If this is not true, then life is not sacred and God is not God. If it is true, then the "quality-of-life ethic" is as serious a form of idolatry as the worship of stone idols, false pagan gods, or evil spirits--all of which in ancient times also manifested themselves in the practice of human sacrifice, especially of children.

3. The sense of the sacred
Not all men throughout history have known the true reason for the sacredness of human life: that one God created all men. But most men and most societies have instinctively intuited that moral conclusion, even without that theological premise, and felt a strong sense of the sacredness of human life. they have often violated it--history is full of murder and bloodshed--but the sense of shame and guilt remained attached to killing, especially killing the innocent. These instinctive feelings--the sense of the sacred and the sense of shame and guilt--seem to be in crisis today.

The loss of the sense of the sacredness of human life seems closely connected with the loss of the sense of sacredness of three other closely connected things: motherhood, sex, and God. Of motherhood, for by far the most dangerous place in the world today in America is a mother's womb during the child's first nine months of life. Of sex, for the "sexual revolution" was a radical change not only in behavior but in vision, in philosophy. Of God, for "the fear of the Lord," which Scripture calls "the beginning of wisdom," is usually thought to be "primitive" and even harmful, even by many religious educators.

1 CDF, instruction, Donum vitae, intro. 5.
2 CDF, instruction, Donum vitae, intro. 5.
Coming next, the basic principle of Catholic ethics of human life.

(Note: you can also find the book as a series of pdfs or podcasts here. My series of excerpts would be found in Lesson 27.)

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