TO BE ‘PRO-CHOICE’ IS TO HOLD THAT A WOMAN HAS THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE whether to proceed with, or to terminate pregnancy. In this chapter let us examine this proposition in general, then in detail, and then investigate its underlying motivation.
The proposition is sometimes accepted as a self- evident truth on one of two grounds. One ground is that proceeding with a pregnancy and abortion are neither objectively right nor objectively wrong, but morally indifferent, morally neutral, options between which the woman has a right to choose as she wishes. This is however untrue if in the previous chapter it has been validly argued that proceeding with a pregnancy is objectively right, and abortion is objectively wrong.
The other ground for accepting the proposition as a self-evident truth is that (again) the two options are neither objectively right nor objectively wrong, but options to which it is the woman’s prerogative to give moral content: in other words it is for the woman to determine which option is right and which is wrong. It must be replied that any serious moral thought reveals that it is not the sentiments or deliberations of a given individual that make certain actions right (such as showing compassion to one who suffers) and certain actions wrong (such as destroying an innocent, defenceless life) but that (again) they are right or wrong objectively.
From the Catholic standpoint this second ground may be expressed in one of two ways: the claim to the moral autonomy of the conscience and the claim to the moral autonomy of man. These two claims are addressed in detail in the encyclical Veritatis Splendor.
With regard to the first claim, the Church teaches that man must act according to the moral law. It is this moral law which is revealed in the conscience with respect both to general principles of conduct and to particular actions. As is observed in Veritatis Splendor s.54 quoting from Gaudium et Spes: ‘In the depths of his conscience man detects a law which he does not impose on himself, but which holds him to obedience…’ The judgments of conscience are, however, not infallible and should be corrected if in conflict with the moral law, because ‘Conscience is not an independent and exclusive capacity to decide what is good and what is evil. Rather there is profoundly imprinted upon it a principle of obedience vis-à- vis the objective norm…’ (Veritatis Splendor s.60 quoting from Dominum et Vivificantem). With regard to the second claim, Veritatis Splendor 232
s.35 quotes from Genesis 2:17: ‘Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat’, and comments as follows: ‘With this imagery Revelation teaches that the power to decide what is good and what is evil does not belong to man but to God alone’. For man to abrogate moral autonomy to himself, for him to constitute himself the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong is to disobey this commandment of God, and to seek to ‘be like God’ but ‘without God, before God, and not in accordance with God’ (St. Maximus the Confessor, Ambigua: PG 91, 1156c). It is not just a sin: it is the prototype of sin.
What particular factors are thought to give a woman the ‘right to choose’? Let us now evaluate in the light of the remarks in the previous chapter the most popular feminist116 arguments for abortion. These include the slogans referred to in that chapter.
1. ‘Our Body Our Choice’
The slogan suggests that the unborn:
- (a) is part of the mother’s body;
- (b) is located within the mother’s body;
- (c) cannot exist outside the other’s body (the so-called ‘viability’ argument).
As Romano Amerio notes in Iota Unum (s.90): ‚Feminism…in its last unfoldings…is…the negation of marriage and the family‘.
(a) is untrue: the unborn has a body of his own; (b) is true; (c) is true up to about 6 months from conception.
Can (b) and (c) to the extent that it is true, justify abortion? Does the unborn’s location within the mother and dependence upon the mother justify killing him? Not if, as has been argued in the previous chapter, the unborn is a human being (rather than a noxious parasite), a person, with dignity in himself, created in the image and likeness of God.
In illustration: take an invalid dependent on another person for life. His dependence clearly does not justify killing him, wherever he may be located.
2. ‘A Woman’s Right to Choose’
What factors might this slogan be thought to cover other than factors (a)-(c)?
(d) The woman’s self-sacrifice in proceeding with a pregnancy, in addition to trauma if it resulted from rape;
- (e) The trauma of giving a child into adoption;
- (f) The self-sacrifice involved in bringing up a child especially if the child is disabled.
This trauma and self-sacrifice involved in these cases is undeniable, but must be seen in the light of the rewards of giving birth to and bringing up a child (particularly a disabled child) if this is undertaken with love.
Now in line with the considerations adduced in the previous chapter, any sufferings here do not clearly outweigh the sufferings involved in abortion, whether to the mother or to her progeny, but in any case cannot justify killing an innocent human being. In short, the fact that a person causes one suffering unintentionally does not justify one to kill that person.
In illustration: one’s suffering in carrying for an invalid does not justify one to kill the invalid.
3. The prospective suffering of the child in being born disabled or unwanted
Now, disabled children do, perhaps, suffer more than other children in general but as experience shows, if they are brought up in a loving family, can lead a fulfilled life. Unwanted children may be adopted; it is not evident that adopted children suffer greatly.
In any case it must be said again that any suffering that may be experienced by the child does not clearly outweigh the suffering involved in abortion, and cannot justify killing an innocent human being. With regard to the second point: the possible future suffering of a person does not justify one in killing that person.
In illustration: imagine an invalid who is not at the moment suffering; the possibility of him suffering in the future does not justify one in killing him now.
4. No Return to Back-Street Abortions
This slogan is thought to justify abortion under the present law as preventing ‘backstreet’ abortions. The slogan expresses the following position: Abortion under the present law, which involves relatively little suffering for the mother (being largely untraumatic and hygienic) is preferable to ‘backstreet’ abortion – which involves much suffering to the mother (being traumatic and not invariably hygienic).
This argument is also invalid because although under the present law the circumstances of the operation are less traumatic, there are many more women and children involved so that in fact there is both more suffering and more killing.
It may be added here that it would appear117 that the quantity of women who died after ‘backstreet’ abortions in Britain had been vastly over-estimated and was in fact already diminishing before the Abortion Act was passed.
As remarked earlier, it is suffering that gives weight to the principal pro-choice arguments, as has been seen in varying degrees in these four arguments. The appeal to suffering is a feature of that hedonism which has been discussed above, an approach to moral reasoning which prescribes the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain or (in its slightly more sophisticated version) the pursuit of happiness and the avoidance of suffering.
It has been argued in the previous chapter that hedonism is a shallow philosophy and hence defective. Just as its shallowness was seen before in its failure to respect dignity of man, so its shallowness is shown here by its failure to respect the importance, the gravity of suffering. (Indeed, as suggested before, the two types of failure are related).
A human being has objective dignity and the fact of his suffering is important and grave: any philosophical or religious system of depth recognises these truths. Suffering is not an enemy to be avoided at all costs but something to be accepted and born patiently and an occasion for learning compassion. A right response to suffering is essential for a life of integrity and spiritual growth: ‘whoever does not know how to suffer does not know how to live’. (Human Life Under Threat by Josef Cardinal Ratzinger) The deepest understanding of suffering is clearly the Christian understanding: namely, that suffering is the highest vocation of all for it is the vocation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is for man humbly to accept his sufferings as sent by God, to offer them to Him as a loving gift, and as the completion of ‘what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His Body, that is, the Church’ (Colossians 1.24).
Suffering does not give the woman the ‘right to choose’, then; it may, however, give her the belief that she does have this right. In other words it is not so much a rational as a psychological ground for this belief. It may be noted here that an individual’s philosophical outlook often reflects his or her psychological make-up: atheism, for example, typically results from anger that finds its origin in disappointment, suffering or oppression, especially during childhood.
The typical psychological antecedents for the pro- choice stance may perhaps be described as follows: The motivation for abortion is hedonistic (issuing from considerations of pain, suffering or self-interest – see the last chapter), and will typically flow from a hedonistic sexual relationship. Such a relationship treats persons as objects. The woman, who is often the more sensitive party, feels this more deeply: in short, she feels maltreated and abused. If she then conceives and the man refuses to care for her or to take responsibility for their child, and especially if he abandons her, she feels still further maltreated and abused. Her natural response is to become angry and to assert herself as the sole arbiter of her future: she has the right, she feels, to choose abortion, or pregnancy, childbirth, and the raising of the child, together with the concomitant transformation of her entire life. If, in addition, she is told that abortion is wrong and that she must alone bear the life- transforming consequences of the sexual act, and particularly if she is told this by a male and/or in an unsympathetic manner, she will feel a victim yet again of ‘male domination’ and self-interest and all the more justified in her pro-choice stance. We see, then, how this stance is grounded in the woman’s suffering. We also see the role played by anger (which explains the militant nature of the pro-choice movement) and the principle role played by aggression: the aggressive behaviour of the male leading to the aggressive stance of the female, leading in turn to the supremely aggressive act of abortion.
Aggression leads to aggression, machismo leads to feminism (as Cardinal Ratzinger points out in ‘Human Life under Threat’), conduct unworthy of a man leads to conduct unworthy of a woman. What is required in place of aggression is first that the man love, respect, and honour the woman. She will then respond in like manner. When a woman becomes pregnant and, perhaps because unmarried, becomes confused and afraid, she deserves again to be accorded the same love, respect, and honour. She deserves to be helped to fulfil her deepest needs, namely by being given support and care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the raising of her child.
The shallow response to the woman’s suffering is to advocate and facilitate abortion, to be led by compassion in regard to an evil that one can see to bring about an evil that one cannot see. For abortion does not merely serve to terminate the woman’s immediate suffering but exchanges it for greater suffering and for death: the suffering and death of the child together with the long-term suffering and sometimes even the suicide of the mother.
In short, abortion is wrong, and in the words of Pope John Paul II in ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope’ (p.205): ‘It is not possible to speak of the right to choose when a clear moral evil is involved, when what is at stake is the commandment ‘Do not kill!’ Rather (p.206) ‘in firmly rejecting ‘pro-choice’ it is necessary to become courageously ‘pro-woman’ promoting a choice that is truly in favour of women… who if they enjoy our support are… capable of heroism’.
Continuation of the true account of the real exorcism done on a 14 year old Rob from Jan. 15, till April 19, 1949. From this real account, we know for sure that we do not want anything that has to do with sin, the devil, or hell.
On Feb 26, letters were scratched on Rob’s body by claws. His mother was from St. Louis and thought that a change to return there would be good for her son. The first was word written on the boy’s ribs in deep red was ‘Louis’ and ‘Saturday’ on his hip. And on the boy’s chest was written ‘3 1/2 weeks’. This writing appeared with no motion of Rob’s hands and caused him great pain. HIs parents were concerned about sending him to school and the writing appeared ‘No’ appeared on his wrist and a large ‘N’ on both legs. Rob could not have done this writing since it sometimes was on his back. At this point his mother was afraid to disobey the devils orders written on her son.
Lent is an excellent time to watch out for what our hearts desire. Jesus says it clearly:
For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also. Matt. 6:21
The devil uses our weaknesses to tempt us. He watches what we like and incites those desires and passions.
He tried to incite in Jesus’ heart the desire to fill His stomach with bread when He was hungry.
He tried to get Him to avoid all suffering, especially on the cross, by inciting His ability to do miracles and to not suffer no matter what would happen by falling off the top of the Temple.
He tried to incite in Him the easy way of bringing about His Kingdom by quickly adoring the devil and then getting on with His Good Kingdom.
- Is it food?
- Is it sex?
- Is it dirty pictures and books?
- Is it being loved?
- Is it shopping?
- Is it alcohol?
- Is it drugs?
- Is it wanting to rest all the time?
- Is it wanting to be liked by everyone?
- Is it wanting to be affirmed?
- Is it being better than others?
- Is it wanting a lot of money so that you can be happy buying what ever you think will make you happy?
- Is it working too much to make a lot of money?
- Is it getting always your way?
- Is it vanity?
- Is it dressing sexually so that you are desired by others?
- Is it making quick money by gambling?
- Is it winning video and computer games?
- Is it watching television and soap operas to avoid living our own lives?
- Is it watching and talking about sports?
- Is it talking about others so we do not have to look at your own defects?
For from the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. Matt. 15:19
The prophet Joel reminds us that Lent is about changing the heart from which come our thoughts and then the will puts those desires into action.
Now therefore saith the Lord: Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning. And rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil. Who knoweth but he will return, and forgive, and leave a blessing behind him, sacrifice and libation to the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Sion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, Gather together the people, sanctify the church, assemble the ancients, gather together the little ones, and them that suck at the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth from his bed, and the bride out of her bride chamber. Joel 2:12-16.
So, if this lent we can fall more in love with God and Mary, our hearts will want their love and trust their advise. It will be easier to not sin. Only then, can our hearts rest in God and Mary.
Other desires never give final rest. The transitory pleasures that our hearts desire never last. We all know this. We have experienced it a thousand times. But for some reason, we keep on falling for the same old trick of our flesh and the devil. If I just could have this sexual experience, buy this, have this person love me, eat that, go there, make more money, have that perfect job, house, spouse, children; then I will be happy forever.
So again, this lent let us watch carefully what our hearts desire. Let us redirect our desires toward God, Mary and the eternal things that fulfill and last for ever.
We are so blessed to be traditional Catholics to know this and to be encouraged to let go of passing worldly pleasures and put our hearts set on those of Heaven and God’s love.
Let us now turn to hedonism. In so doing we move from an objective to a subjective system of morality. In the definition of the Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (op. cit.), hedonism, or ‘ethical hedonism’, ‘affirms that only pleasure is intrinsically desirable and that displeasure (or pain) is intrinsically undesirable…other philosophers have thought that happiness is the only thing that is intrinsically desirable’. We may thus understand this system to teach that the only good is pleasure or happiness, the only ill is pain or suffering.
In denying objective good, the hedonist denies the existence of that objective good which is God, or that objective good which is the object of rational love, or the will. In so doing he renders himself incapable of any adequate description of reality, morality, and the meaning of life.
To the hedonist, the human being is not good in himself, he has no dignity, no objective or intrinsic dignity, but only a derivative value, or utility (see the beginning of the section on the Dignity of the Person above) according to the pleasure or pain he might give or enjoy. For this reason the human being is to be treated as no more than a body: he is to be treated as an object or thing, like any other. The hedonist does not see that it is morally good to visit an invalid: he sees it as a means to relieve the invalid’s pain or to satisfy himself. He does not see that suffering is a mystery, that it has a meaning which cannot fully be comprehended by the intellect: he sees it simply as something to be ended. The hedonist proposes that the human being should be motivated by pleasure or at best by happiness: he reduces rational love to sensible love, he understands man on the model of the beasts.
The hedonist offers an inadequate description, a severely impoverished and debased conception, of reality, and of morality. The hedonist is shallow. In the first chapter of the book (p. 9) it was stated that this book is not addressed to the shallow man. The reason for this may be seen in its fullness with regard to the hedonist: there is no common ground for discussion between a hedonist and a man of good will. All that a man of good will can do is to show that the hedonist either denies, or is unable to explain, those things, which are the deepest, and the most important in human existence.
According to the criteria given in the first chapter, hedonism is in virtue of its shallowness a severely defective approach to moral reasoning – even more so indeed than humanism. Its deficiency is, moreover, evident in the logical incoherence of much of its argument, including its argument on abortion. The unsettling significance of this logical incoherence is elucidated in chapter thirteen.
Let us look at the hedonistic argument for abortion, which ranges from the weak to the invalid.
Let us distinguish between two types of hedonism: egoism, and utilitarian hedonism. Egoism concerns the individual’s pleasure or happiness, pain or suffering. Utilitarianism concerns the maximisation of goods (under some description) and/or the minimisation of ills (under some description). Utilitarian hedonism in particular concerns the maximisation of pleasure or happiness, and/or the minimisation of pain or suffering.
Let us consider these two types of hedonism, first with regard to an early period of pregnancy, the first two months, then with regard to a later period of pregnancy, the period subsequent to the first two months.
During the early period, the egoist argument for abortion is weak, because it is not clear that abortion does on balance spare the mother pain or suffering, for many women suffer remorse or regret as a result of abortion.
During this same early period, the utilitarian argument for abortion is weaker still, for it is even less clear that abortion minimises the combined pain or suffering of the mother and the unborn: not only is there the possibility that the mother may suffer remorse or regret, but there is also the possibility that the unborn may suffer extreme pain in being destroyed, for as early as the second and third weeks from conception certain of the structures necessary to the perception of pain, such as the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system are in the process of development.
During the later period, the egoist argument is weaker than it was before, and becomes progressively weaker the further the unborn develops, for, as noted above, as early as one month from conception the unborn resembles a born human being rather than any other organism, and the longer the pregnancy continues, the more closely he comes to resemble a born human being. Consequently one might reasonably suppose that the mother is more likely to suffer remorse at two months from conception than before, and that the further the unborn develops, the more likely is she to suffer remorse.
During this later period, the utilitarian argument is simply invalid, for there is no ground for saying that abortion at two months or later minimises the combined suffering of the mother and the unborn: not only is there a substantial possibility that the woman will suffer remorse, and the more developed the child the more substantial the possibility, but it is also an irrefutable fact that all the structures necessary to the perception of pain are in existence from the tenth week from conception, so that we may infer that the unborn is able to experience pain and suffering from the beginning of the tenth week from conception at the latest.
Pain and Suffering
We have compared the pain or suffering of the mother in proceeding with her pregnancy with her pain or suffering in undergoing abortion and with the pain or suffering of the unborn. Let us now consider the nature of these forms of pain and suffering in detail, and consider the pain and suffering that motivates abortion in relation to the other factors that motivate abortion.
Abortions may be divided into those that are deliberately intended and those that are not. Typically, the former comprise surgical abortion and late chemical abortion, the latter comprise early chemical abortions (whether by the use of vaccines, implants, or ‘contraceptive’ pills) and abortions resulting from the use of intrauterine devices and from in vitro fertilization.
A certain proportion of those abortions that are intended are undertaken from a consideration of the mother’s suffering. Consider, for example, the woman who has become pregnant unexpectedly and is confused, frightened, unprepared for a child, and who is perhaps not assured of the support of the man, who, by contrast tries to coerce her into abortion; or consider the woman who has conceived as the result of rape, or who is expecting a severely disabled child (in which case the prospective suffering of the child is also relevant).
It is typically on grounds of suffering or the human’s ‘well-being’ (In ‘Our Right to Choose: Toward a New Ethic of Abortion’ by Beverly Wildung Harrison, Beacon Press Boston, 1983.) that the proponents of abortion defend the practice and charge those who oppose it with a lack of compassion. It is principally on grounds of suffering that the current law permits abortion: risk to the physical or mental health of the mother, risk of a severely handicapped child (chapter 7); it is suffering that gives weight to the slogans ‘Our Body Our Choice’, ‘A Woman’s Right to Choose’, ‘No Return to Backstreet Abortions’ (chapter 9).
It must, however, be most clearly emphasized that suffering, or the expectation of suffering, accounts for the motivation of only a small proportion of abortions: what accounts for the other abortions, which constitute their vast majority, is not in fact suffering but self-interest.
As for the greater proportion of abortions that are intended: pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood are considered intolerably burdensome, particularly in circumstances of financial difficulty, a demanding or rewarding career, or an unstable non-marital relationship. To label such phenomena as intolerably burdensome, to view them simply as occasions of pain and suffering, is possible only on the shallowest, hedonistic attitude towards these phenomena.
As for those abortions that are not deliberately intended, a small proportion would appear to be motivated by considerations of pain and suffering, as when circumstances of dire poverty or the risk of congenital disease motivates the use of abortifacient ‘contraceptives’ or when the suffering of childlessness motivates in vitro fertilization. The majority of unintended abortions would appear by contrast to be motivated by self-interest.
The attitude of parents towards any unintended abortion that they might cause may be categorized more fully as either pure ignorance, total disregard for, or sheer indifference to, the destruction of the unborn. Typical of the first category are abortions resulting from the use of abortifacient ‘contraceptives’ prior to sexual intercourse where the parents are ignorant that the ‘contraceptives’ that they use have the capacity of acting in an abortifacient manner. They do not intend to destroy a human life; they merely intend to prevent a human life coming into existence. Typical of the second and third categories are abortions resulting from the use of abortifacient chemicals at an early stage of pregnancy, from the use of intrauterine devices, or from in vitro fertilization. The motivation for all these forms of abortion is self-interest: in the case of in vitro fertilization it is the desire to ‘have a child at all costs’ (Evangelium Vitae 23), in the other cases it is the desire for what one might term ‘sterile sexual intercourse’.
We have seen then, that only a small proportion of abortions are undergone from a consideration of pain and suffering, but that the vast majority are undergone out of self-interest. We have seen the nature of the pain and suffering that motivates abortion. The pain and suffering that is the actual or potential result of every abortion both for the mother and for the child is, by contrast, of a different order altogether.
A woman who undergoes abortion is prey to the experience of what has been described as ‘post abortion trauma’ whereby she undergoes deep depression and, often unable to reconcile herself to her action, is driven towards despair and even suicide. A vivid account of the trauma is given in the powerful work ‘Will I Cry To-morrow?’ by Susan Stanford; a brief summary of the symptoms, which may persist for many years, is given in ‘The Divine Remedy’ by Madeleine Beard: ‘emotional distancing and numbing, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, sadness, sorrow, lowered self-esteem, distrust, hostility towards self and others, regret, sleep disorders, recurring distressing dreams, nightmares, anniversary reactions, alcohol and/or drug dependencies and abuse, sexual dysfunction, insecurity, painful unwanted re-experiencing of the abortion, relationship disruption, communication impairment, isolation, self-condemnation, flashbacks, uncontrollable weeping, eating disorders, preoccupation, memory and/or concentration disruption, confused and/or distorted thinking, delusions, bitterness, an enduring sense of loss, survivor guilt with an inability to forgive oneself, psychological distress associated with physical complications.’(Quoted in ‘The Christian Order’ Volume 38. Number 4. See also Nancy Michels: Helping Women Recover from Abortion, Minneapolis, Bethany House 1988, p. 30-1)
What of the suffering of the unborn? We have already noted that the infanticide that follows induced labour and which is deceitfully described as ‘abortion’ is accomplished by means of starvation, poisoning, drowning, or mutilation.
As for abortions proper, it has already been stated above that all the structures necessary to the perception of pain are in existence from the tenth week of conception. Indeed, the extremity of the suffering as the unborn is dragged out of the womb feet first and disgorged of the brain, or poisoned, cut to pieces, crushed to death, or mutilated to death by a vacuum machine may readily be imagined. This suffering is manifest in the victim’s desperate struggle to resist abortion and attempts to scream (as may be witnessed on the ultrasound film ‘The Silent Scream’).
So far we have been considering only the physical suffering of the unborn. It is however evident that they also undergo sufferings of a mental/psychological nature. These sufferings have been attested by psychoanalytical observation of the foetus; their nature may be inferred from the experience of the born infant.
Considering the foetus first, we refer to the acclaimed work: ‘From Foetus to Child: an observational and psychoanalytic study’ By Dr. Allessandra Piontelli, Routledge 1992.. The author presents case studies on some 18 children, showing the deep effects of pre-natal experiences on their psyches. ‘Case no. 18 – Thomas’ describes the deep traumas of a child whom his parents attempted to abort. Let this brief quotation from the case study suffice: ‘He spent most of his sessions in almost complete immobility and silence inside the bin…curled up in the foetal position. The end of each session was almost invariably met with desperate, terrified screams. I tried to pull him out of his hiding-place. Rather frequently, though, Thomas also mimed repeated aggressions with all sorts of potentially sharp objects… penetrating and stirring his secluded space. Such sharp persecutors seemed aimed at starting him from his hiding, bringing him to the open, and reducing him to a bloody pulp.’
Turning now to the born infant, observation reasonably suggests that he experiences an absolute dependence of his life on the life of his mother. (See the work of Donald Winnicott e.g. ‘Home is where we start from’ W.W. Norton and Co. 1986, and the description of his work in The Companion of Psychology, Routledge 1994 vol. II, e.g. p. 1267: ‘The earliest stage in the infant’s experience is one of undifferentiated fusion with, and attachment to, his/her primary object, most likely the mother…’.) One might say in other words that the born infant is unable to dissociate himself from his mother or from his emotions. For these reasons he experiences the forceful or unloving sundering from his mother as a sundering of the inmost being, and as absolute – which is why it leaves life-long wounds.
Let us return to the unborn infant and to the nature of his experience of abortion: The physical relationship is even closer, to the extent that the child is actually connected to the mother and exists within her, so that one would be inclined to say that the born infant’s experience of union was not quite absolute, that his emotions were not quite absolute, but that those of the unborn child in fact are. It would follow that this experience of being sundered from the mother would approximate even more closely to the experience of being sundered in the inmost being, and be all the more terrifying because it is violent and fatal; and that this experience of sundering, and the terror, and the experience of actual destruction would be absolute.
Let us note here that the typical surgical abortion takes place in the third month from conception (it having taken time to verify pregnancy, and procure abortion) and therefore involves all the physical sufferings and arguably all the mental sufferings as well that have been described in the preceding three paragraphs.
During the early stages stage of pregnancy it may be argued that the physical structures necessary for sensation, or for intense sensation, are not yet formed. In reply, as was stated above in the discussion of the nature of the unborn in chapter seven, as early as the second and third weeks from conception certain of the structures necessary to the perception of pain, such as the brain, spinal cord and nervous system are in the process of development. Therefore even at this early stage the possibility of pain cannot be excluded.
Even if the unborn at any stage of pregnancy does not react visibly to stimuli, it does not follow that such stimuli do not cause him pain; it only follows that they do not cause a motor response in him. Finally it should be said that since there is no logical connection between development and (intensity of) sensation, it is reasonable that the embryo be given ‘the benefit of the doubt’. In other words, just as we have said of the destruction of the embryo that even the risk that it constitutes the killing of a person makes it wrong, so too we may say that even the risk that it constitutes the infliction of pain or suffering on a person makes it wrong.
Here is a petition from Tradition, Family and Property to save the family at Extraordinary Synod Oct. 2015. If you have not signed one, this is a good one to sign. Thanks,
As the word ‘humanism’ suggests, it is an approach to moral reasoning that affirms human dignity. The term Humanism is here understood according to the definition of The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy as ‘the Philosophy which recognizes the value or dignity of man and makes him the measure of all things…’ Indeed it is the merit of this approach that it attempts to do justice to the dignity and worth of the human being or person (terms which are here used interchangeably).
Now Humanism, as it is characteristically believed or unconsciously lived out, views the value or dignity of man (conceived merely as a psychophysical organism) as the highest principle of moral action. Despite its merits, this system of philosophy is thus subject to certain demerits: it effectively denies the existence of God and the soul contrary to reason. Consequently it is unable to yield a deep solution to the meaning of life, or to offer any adequate foundation for objective morality or for the objective dignity and worth of the human being. (We recall indeed that the three forms of dignity of the person distinguished in chapter two are all determined by the person’s relation to God.) For these reasons humanism is, according to the criteria for moral systems given at the end of chapter one, defective, except where the term is used in a different sense to describe those philosophical or religious systems which respect the dignity of man and derive it ultimately from God. The Catholic Faith can par excellence be described as humanist in this modified sense in that it is centred on a Christ, Who in possessing both a human and a divine nature is truly human while at the same time truly Divine.
It will however be appropriate to examine abortion in the light of humanism as it is normally understood since this attitude is widely held, and since in the light of (at least one form of) humanism, abortion may be shown to be wrong even without reference to the existence of God or of the soul. Let us distinguish between two forms of humanism here: a strong form and a weak form.
1. Strong Humanism
The strong humanist argues that abortion is wrong by reference to the objective dignity and worth of the person. He derives personhood not from the spiritual soul, the existence of which he denies, but from the essence of physical humanity, namely the distinctively human physical organism that comes into existence at conception (as referred to above). Since this physical organism has a peculiar dignity, it must be respected as such, and therefore it is wrong to destroy it (at least while it is in a state of innocence).
2. Weak Humanism
Now according to the arguments in the first section of this chapter and to the strong form of humanism outlined above, the human being or person is the living being with a human genetic structure who comes into existence at conception, who is unchanged in his essential nature from conception until death. The weak form of humanism differs from these theories in understanding the human being or person as the living being of the (biological) human type that has the physical and (particularly) mental characteristics of a born human being – characteristics that will include the organs, limbs, mental functionings, and appearance. It is to the human being understood in this sense that this theory ascribes dignity and therefore also rights, including the right to life.
What position does weak humanism adopt on abortion? To answer this question, we must first ask when the unborn assumes the characteristics of a born human being, when in other words it attains maturity. Since maturity involves a gradual process, there can be no definitive answer to this question; however the unborn may perhaps be recognised as mature at least by the second month from conception, at the beginning of the foetal stage, for by this stage, as noted in the previous chapter, ‘everything is now present that will be found in a fully developed adult’ – the brain functions, the eyes are sensitive to light, even the fingers and toes are clearly defined.
It is indeed arguable that the unborn attains some degree of maturity as early as one month from conception for by this stage he already resembles a born human being rather than any other physical organism and hence may be said by the weak humanist to be a human being and to possess a corresponding dignity. It is arguable that abortion is wrong as early as this stage, then, but the same may not be said of the earliest period of pregnancy. Indeed it is typically the weak humanist who attempts to justify abortion during this earliest period with the remark quoted above: ‘I do not believe that that is a person’.
This second form of humanism is subject to the general defects of humanism listed above and to the defect of shallowness in that it determines humanity not according to the essence of physical humanity, as strong humanism determines it, but according to its more familiar accidents, namely, as said above, the physical and (particularly) mental characteristics of a born human person.
Let us criticize weak humanism in more detail not on external grounds, by reference to God, the spiritual soul, and the natural law, but on internal grounds, on its own terms. Weak humanism may in fact be criticized in more detail with regard to the criterion by which it establishes personhood, and by which it establishes the dignity of the person. It may also be criticized with regard to the possibility that the human being, and the dignity proper to him come into existence at conception.
Let us assess certain considerations that may lead the weak humanist to suppose that the human being or person comes into existence at the onset of maturity, let us say at the beginning of the foetal stage.
The first consideration is the difficulty of applying the terms ‘human being’ and ‘person’ to the embryo – particularly at the cell-like stage. In reply it may be said that this difficulty does not derive from the fact that maturity is essential to humanity or personhood, but it derives from the fact that these terms are commonly used of the born, the term ‘human being’ typically relating to the physical characteristics of the born, and the term ‘person’ typically relating to the mental and moral characteristics of the born. It is however clear that these terms may felicitously be applied to the unborn if they are understood as referring essentially to the living physical being of a human type.
The second consideration is that the beginning of the foetal stage marks a significant change of appearance and powers in the being in question. In reply, the terms ‘human being’ and ‘person’ are ontological terms. If one seeks to apply them on the basis of a change, the change must be an ontological or more technically a ‘substantial’ change. The change of appearance and powers does not represent a substantial change, therefore it cannot mark the coming into existence of a human being or person. If by contrast the Aristotelian – scholastic thesis had been correct that the spiritual soul superseded the sensitive soul, which in its turn superseded the vegetative soul, the acquisition of human appearance and powers could arguably mark an ontological change, and so mark the coming into existence of a human being or person.
The third consideration is that the beginning of the foetal stage marks an actualization of characteristics that were previously only potential. Yet since, as noted above, ‘human being’ and ‘person’ are ontological terms, this actualization could only mark the coming into existence of a human being or person if it represented an ontological (or substantial) difference in the being in question. There seems, however, no ground for holding this. Rather it would appear that the immature unborn and the mature unborn are ontologically the same; they are different only in the sense that the characteristics of the former are potential and the characteristics of the latter are actual. In illustration, a lily bud is ontologically the same, is of the same order, as a lily. It differs from a lily only in the sense that its characteristics are not yet actualized.
The fourth consideration is that the beginning of the foetal stage marks the assumption of functional characteristics. In reply it should be said that functional characteristics constitute what it is to be a human being or person only on a functionalist, and ultimately hedonistic, understanding of the human being or person, and not on a humanist understanding.
In conclusion, none of these considerations, individually or conjointly, provide grounds for establishing that the human being or person comes into existence at the onset of maturity. Rather the genetic structure provides grounds for establishing that the human being or person comes into existence at conception, as is maintained by the strong humanist. At an early stage (for example in the first week of pregnancy) he is less developed than he is at a later stage (for example in the last week of pregnancy); he has a different appearance (a cell-like appearance) than he has at a later stage (a mature human appearance); and he lacks the capacities that he will possess at a later stage; but he is not for these reasons a being of a different order from a human being (for instance an animal): he is less developed than a human being at a later stage, but not therefore less of a human being.
A further argument may be advanced at this stage in the light of a fuller understanding of the nature of the human being. This is a temporal argument for the existence of the human being from conception from the standpoint of the weak humanist, which is comparable to the temporal argument for the existence of the human being from the Catholic standpoint above.
Consider any substance that exists over time: existence over time, or temporal extension, is one of its objective properties as a substance. Therefore to consider it in its temporal extension permits one to understand it more fully than to consider it at a particular moment. In illustration: imagine a pencil that was made yesterday and will be destroyed tomorrow. Its temporal extension over two days is one of its objective properties. To consider it in this way permits one to understand it more fully than to consider it simply as it exists at the present moment.
Now the temporal extension of a thing is defined by criteria of unity and identity over time. The unity and identity of the pencil, the fact that it is one and the same pencil from yesterday until tomorrow defines its temporal extension from yesterday until tomorrow. The fact that it is not one and the same pencil as the wood and lead from which it was made yesterday and as the powder into which, let us imagine, it will be ground tomorrow determine that it was not temporarily extended (as a pencil) before yesterday nor will it be so after tomorrow.
Let us turn to the human being. The human being exists over time and has temporal extension, so to consider him in his temporal extension permits one to understand him more fully than to consider him at a particular moment. His temporal extension is defined by his unity and identity over time. The weak humanist would claim that his unity and identity over time extends from the stage at which he assumes the appearance and powers of a mature human being until his death. This claim however, as has been argued above, has nothing to recommend it logically. Rather it would appear that the unity and identity of a human being over time extends from conception to death, because at conception there comes into existence a being with a particularly human genetic code or ‘genome’ who develops organically and in an unbroken continuum from this point until death.
Such reflections would appear to be sufficient to show that from conception until death there exists an entity which possesses unity and identity over time, that there exists one life, one living being, which is moreover a living being of a human type, namely a human being. This conclusion has been reached not merely by reference to particular physical characteristics, but also by reference to temporal extension. The human being is understood (that is to say understood in the minimalist sense accepted by the weak humanists) not merely as the being with a human genetic code, but as the being with a human genetic code that extends from the embryonic, to the foetal, to the infant stages, to the stage of childhood, adulthood, and old age. Having criticized weak humanism with regard to its criterion for establishing the existence of the human being, let us proceed to criticize it with regard to its criterion for establishing the dignity of the human being.
Now the humanist by definition ascribes dignity to humanity: his criterion for humanity and his criterion for dignity are one and the same. The four considerations that have been listed above in relation to maturity can no more serve as grounds for ascribing dignity than they have been able to serve as grounds for ascribing humanity. Rather, just as the human genetic structure is the only factor which may properly serve as the humanist criterion for humanity, so it is the only factor which may properly serve as the humanist criterion for dignity.
A particular criticism of the claim that maturity determines dignity may be made as follows: the weak humanist hold that it is maturity, it is the possession of certain characteristics in an actual form that gives the unborn his dignity. But what reason is there to suppose that it is the actualization of these characteristics which gives the unborn his dignity? It is surely not the actualisation of these properties, but the possession of these properties (even in a virtual form on account of a potentiality), that gives the unborn his particular excellence. The unborn possesses these properties prior to maturity, in fact from conception, albeit in a potential form. In illustration of this argument: if a lily is to be prized, then a lily bud is to be prized; if a great opera singer is to be prized, then a student with the potential to become a great opera singer is to be prized.
Even if the immature unborn possessed a lesser dignity than the mature unborn, it would seem on the above analysis to possess a dignity of the same order. Consequently if the dignity of the latter entailed a right to life, then it would seem reasonable that the dignity of the former entailed a right to life as well. At the very least we could say with certainty that there would be no grounds for denying the former the right to life.
A final criticism of weak humanism concerns the possibility that the person and the dignity of the person come into existence at conception, whether with the coming into existence of the living being with a human genetic code or with a human genetic code conjoined with a spiritual soul (as has been discussed in the first section of this chapter). This is an irrefutable possibility. It is an irrefutable possibility in other words that the embryo is a person and has a dignity which entails the right to life. It follows that to kill the embryo is to risk killing a person. As is stated in the passage from Evangelium Vitae quoted above: ‘What is at stake is so important’ that it makes such an action wrong.
When asked most Catholics why they do not like the Latin Mass, most say it is boring and they do not get anything out of it. The ‘new’ Catholic only thinks about what he wants and hardly ever stops to reflect and ask what God wants.
So I ask them, can you not give God just one hour the way He likes it. Can you not make the sacrifice to pray one hour at a Mass that pleases God, rather than at the “Mass” that ‘you’ like.
- Our life.
- Our soul.
- His Beloved Son Jesus as our Brother and Savior.
- Jesus gave up His life for us on the Cross and continues to give us His Body and Blood at every sacrifice of the Holy Mass.
- The opportunity for our soul to be saved from eternal death and the flames of hell, if we obey God’s instructions and warning not to sin.
- God’s Divine Book of instructions, the Holy Bible
- The Holy Sacraments that dispense God’s life giving graces to our souls.
- The security of knowing that God is all powerful,
- God’s protection and miracles when we truly believe in Him and pray to Him with faith.
- Our Mother Mary who protects us from the devil and cares about our lives and souls.
- The example and prayers of our brothers and sisters the saints.
- The protection of the Angels, especially our Guardian Angel.
- Faith, Hope and Love.
- The air we breathe when our lungs automatically breath without us doing anything.
- The heart pumping blood all over our body to renew it ever few seconds.
- The ability to laugh and enjoy life.
- Family, especially children.
- Human love.
- The sky, the sun, the stars, the planets.
- The Earth we live on, placed just at the right distance from the sun so that we neither fry nor freeze.
- Birds and their eggs to eat.
- Whales, dauphins, fish and all that lives in the sea.
- Dogs and cats.
- All animals we eat to keep healthy.
- Snow, rain, and wind.
- Pure water to drink.
- The basic elements like petroleum, minerals, metal ores, chemicals and fibers from which we make cars, tires, clothing, plastic, glass, and metals.
- Heaven is for free and eternal. It is the greatest gift from God that we could ever receive. It is beyond understanding what we will experience there. It will be extreme and intense love and pleasure there with God, Mary, the Angels and saints for all eternity.
Wow. How could we not want to spend one hour in the Holy Latin Mass to please and thank God for all His gifts He continually pours out on us every second. We are so blessed to be traditional Catholics and to know this.
Just on a light side, maybe we are not thankful for mosquitos, flies, poison oak, rattlesnakes, scorpions and the people who persecute us.
In the 1960 Roman Breviary Martyrology we read this about St. Peter Mavimenus.
At Damascus, St. Peter Mavimenus, who said to certain Arabs who came to him in his sickness: “Every man who does not embrace the Catholic Christian faith is damned as is mohommed, your false profit, was” and was slain by them.