Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Catholic Basics--Moral Issues of Life and Death 4

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.
9. Sins against the fifth Commandment
These include:
  1. “Infanticide [killing an infant],70 fratricide [killing one’s brother or sister], parricide [killing one’s father or mother], and the murder of a spouse are especially grave crimes by reason of the natural bonds which they break” (C 2268).
  2. “The fifth commandment forbids doing anything with the intention of indirectly bringing about a person’s death” (C 2269).
  3. “The moral law prohibits exposing someone to mortal danger without grave reason,
  4. “as well as refusing assistance to a person in danger” (C 2269).Also,
  5. abortion,
  6. euthanasia, and
  7. suicide all demand special treatment today, since the traditional consensus against them is rapidly breaking down in so-called “civilized” and “advanced” societies in the West.
10. Abortion and the Right to Life
The “bottom line” first:“[h]uman life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception [its beginning]. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life72” (C 2270).

The American Declaration of Independence has the same philosophy: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

We cannot pursue our end of happiness without liberty. (Therefore slavery is a great evil.) But we cannot have liberty or pursue happiness without having life. (Therefore
murder is a greater evil.)

The State did not create us, design us, or give us life. Nor did it give us the right to life. Therefore the State cannot take away that right.

All persons, not just some, have a “natural right” to life simply because of their nature, because of what they are: human persons. Only if someone gives up his right to life by threatening the life of another is it right to take his life, to protect the innocent other person. This is the morality of Western civilization, of Greek and Roman classicism at its best, of religious Judaism, of Islam, and of Christianity, of
Biblical Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy as well as Roman Catholicism. It is the “sanctity of life” ethic.

The other philosophy, the “quality of life” ethic, holds that only some, not all, human beings have an inalienable right to life; and that some human beings may draw the line for others and exclude them from the community of persons, from those who have the right to life. This same principle is at work whether those excluded persons are unwanted, unborn babies, the old, the sick, the dying, those in pain, those of a certain “inferior”or unwanted race,those who have the wrong political opinions, or those who are declared “severely handicapped” because they fail to come up to a certain standard of intelligence or performance such as “significant social interaction” – which standard is always determined by the killers.

Thus the “quality of life” ethic denies the most basic human equality and the most basic of all human rights. No two moral philosophies could be more radically at war with each other than the philosophy of the culture Pope John Paul II has called the “culture of death” and the philosophy of the Church of the God of life.
Coming next, the universal agreement in the Catholic tradition about abortion.

(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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