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?

13 Responses to A question.

  • As a fellow child of God the baby is of infinite worth. We hope to see the child in Heaven and are moved by the baby’s fate to redouble our efforts to battle the evils which led to his early death. Without God it would be much too easy to view the unfortunate baby as a fellow animal now out of its sad misery. When Man attempts to remove God from His world Man quickly makes that world into a very dark place indeed.

  • T. Shaw says:

    A question: Is their true motive to save themselves from suffering?

    Mac is correct: finite suffering can lead to infinite joy in Heaven.

    We need to recognize that these people believe they have only this world and they need to make it as good for themselves as they can.

  • T. Shaw says:

    I have experience of this same situation.

    Here the courageous and loving young couple is dealing with much the same as Ronan’s parents and they have the love, faith and courage to live with it in hope and to carry on their loving family life.

    I envy their courage and faith.

    Without Christ we are nothing.

  • DJ Hesselius says:

    Here’s another question, or maybe just an observation: I’m under the impression the pro-life movement has basically declared that aborted/”post-partum aborted” (it’s all just murder, isn’t it?) go to Heaven (baptism is waived in this case). Well, Heaven is the greatest goal, what we should all be aspiring to and aiming at. And bonus: moms who repent their abortion will get to meet their child in Heaven. I ever heard of abortion facilities helping their “patients”/victims make “sorry cards” or “valentines card” or something like that so that there is “closure” with the abortion and some reassurance that the woman did the right thing, everyone will be united in Heaven, etc, etc, etc.

    So…doesn’t that make abortion easier then? I was pro-abortion (and yes, it IS pro-abortion, not pro-choice) for quite a number of years, in part because of diseases like Tay-Sachs.

  • Pinky says:

    I had a recent conversation with my dad on the subject of Iraq. He asked if there was a better way of handling situations like Iraq, with the war and subsequent nation-building. I answered that if you’re looking for a proven historical method, you should go in and kill all the men, take the women, make the children slaves, burn the cities, and salt the earth on your way out. That works.

    In like manner, I can’t fault the logic of the Australian article. Infanticide works. It’s more accurate than genetic testing for abnormalities. It’s the logic of the world.

  • Pinky says:

    DJ – There isn’t really a unified theology of the pro-life movement. Even the Catholic Church hasn’t pronounced anything on the fate of aborted babies. On the one hand, there’s the fact that Jesus provided us with the sacraments (including baptism) for our salvation, and was very specific about it. On the other hand, we’d be wrong to believe that God is limited by the sacraments.

    I tend to think of it as taking I-95 versus Route 1. They both go in the same directions, but I-95 is well-marked and designed for interstate travel. On Route 1, it’s going to take a lot longer, and you can easily end up on the wrong road or fail to make it your destination entirely. That analogy makes sense to me, but I don’t know if it’s theologically correct.

  • T. Shaw says:

    They can rationalize any evil. They do not believe in The Eternal, Ominpotent God, the Father Almighty. They don’t believe in objective truth.

    Does the question of whether a murder vic is in Heaven or Hell matter with regard to the crime? Hamlet lamented that his father was unshriven. I doubt many in 2012 think in those terms.

    God alone knows whether the murdered unborn is in Heaven or Limbo or . . .

    What we know is that the baby murderer usurps God’s power to determine when his creations live and die. Man is created by God in His image.

  • DJ Hesselius says:

    Pinky: I’m simply following what I believe to be the mainstream pro-life belief to its logical conclustion, just as those who are advocating infanticide have done with abortion. It is pretty rare to hear about Limbo in the Church these days, except on orthodox/conservative (catholic) websites. And most (all?) Protestants reject Limbo and Purgatory. I think only the very “fundamentalists” types would say that the unbaptised and aborted babies go to Hell.

    This uncertainy may not make a difference to those who are strong in their faith, who accept God and Lord and Master of life,etc., but it may be making an impact on those who have a weak faith, or no faith at all, people who see no value in suffering.

  • Mary De Voe says:

    When the parent makes a decision that is not in the best interest of another living person who is a human being, that person becomes a ward of the court. The court must appoint a guardian to defend the endangered person’s civil rights. Being told that one ought not to have been born is insulting to the child and his Creator.

  • Mary De Voe says:

    “In like manner, I can’t fault the logic of the Australian article. Infanticide works. It’s more accurate than genetic testing for abnormalities. It’s the logic of the world.”
    One person’s freedom ends where another person’s freedom begins.

  • francodrummer says:

    Although this subject should be simple, we as human beings make it difficult.
    All life is precious and all mistakes can be redeemed…if this is true, which I believe it is, then we should not have abortion and we should not have the death penalty – a human paradox.
    I hope and pray for this war for life to continue after the baby is born to the parent(s) that a) does not want the child, b) cannot afford the child, c) raises the child with anger and hatred and/or ineptness, etc…that means programs, taxes, and more that many on the right do not believe in…let’s take on the entire war, not just the one battle.
    Let’s fight for the unborn and for the child of God after she’s born!

  • Mary De Voe says:

    francodrummer says:
    Although this subject should be simple, we as human beings make it difficult.
    All life is precious and all mistakes can be redeemed…if this is true, which I believe it is, then we should not have abortion and we should not have the death penalty – a human paradox.
    A condemned capital one murderer must expire with grief over his crime. Should the capital one murderer continue to live, he represents double jeopardy of life, while he lives, to every person alive since he has taken human life. The jail guards, the warden and his family, the contractors, the doctors and nurses and professionals in the prison are in jeopardy of life. If the capital one murderer kills again, the state is responsible for enabling the murder.
    The unborn, whom I prefer to call the newly begotten, are all innocent virgins, sovereign in their person.

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