There’s a Japanese technique that means “mend with gold.”
Here’s an example from a shop that offers a wide selection:
A chance phrase from someone explaining salvation as a side to another point— Suffice it to say that God was not content with leaving us in our brokenness– brought the image of Him mending us.
With gold, of course.
Lovely symbols really are everywhere around us.
Have a great day, folks.
In the “ways that tech can help us” meaning, since there’s no shortage of “technology can hurt you horribly and is probably evil” type posts, articles and borderline verbal ticks. And this is going to be a tiny post, which I hope to have future “good tools” to add to, thus the 1.
“Inspired” to write it because I spent the last hour or two trying to find…basically the free calendar we have from the local Catholic mortuary, but that I can import to my skydrive. (I failed.)
I’ll sort them by platform; PC, MP3 player and Smartphone.
Over at Catholic Vote, they’re responding to the inevitable Atlantic “look at me!” inflammatory article; this one is “Your Christmas Nativity Scene is a Lie.”
He finally does come to something that is admittedly an inaccuracy, and here we seem to arrive at what really concerns him. He notes that most American nativity scenes depict the Holy Family as white, although they certainly were not Europeans.
Merritt has a point here: a depiction of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as European-looking is certainly factually wrong. I think, however, that he makes this into more of a problem than it really is. He fears that such depictions reinforce racism by suggesting that lightness is associated with what is good and darkness with what is bad.
The point was to depict Jesus as a human being, and the artist defaulted to depicting him as the kind of human being with which the artist was most familiar.
If it’s good enough for Mary, it’s probably good enough for the whole family– just last night I was taking pictures of some of the depictions of apparitions on display at the local Catholic school. Pretty sure that a first-century Middle Eastern Jew didn’t look Vietnamese, either.
The problem only comes up if the change is made to make a bad point– I have heard of artists that change Jesus specifically to ‘claim’ Him, as opposed to the idea that He is claiming us.
Written because during C&C Saints the issue of the certified miracles that are required to show that a Saint was in position to nag Himself in person, so to speak; that would require figuring out what a miracle is, and then what it takes, and even a basic summary is worth its own post. So here’s a post, only slightly re-written.
Literally, it’s from the the Latin for “wonderful”. As we are using it, it’s close– wonder-workers, things done by supernatural power, specifically those things done by the power of God. There are several Greek terms at the link for specific meanings if anybody wants to go and break it out.
A miracle is a thing done by the power of God. An event in the natural world that is not of the natural world, so to speak. Continue reading
I found it really interesting; some examples are this:
Pope Benedict IX (1032-44; 1045; 1047-8): Benedict IX was elected through bribes paid by his father. Kelly tells us that “his personal life, even allowing for exaggerated reports, was scandalously violent and dissolute.” The Catholic Encyclopedia judges: “He was a disgrace to the Chair of Peter.”
Pope Leo X (1513-21): Leo X is the pope who is famously said to have remarked: “Let us enjoy the papacy since God has given it to us.” Says the Catholic Encyclopedia:
[T]he phrase illustrates fairly the pope’s pleasure-loving nature and the lack of seriousness that characterized him. He paid no attention to the dangers threatening the papacy, and gave himself up unrestrainedly to amusements, that were provided in lavish abundance. He was possessed by an insatiable love of pleasure, that distinctive trait of his family. Music, the theatre, art, and poetry appealed to him as to any pampered worldling.
I do think it opens a bit weak, since Peter wasn’t the Pope before Christ was even crucified… but it’s justifiable.
During the debates leading up to the 1983 pastoral letter of the bishops of the United States on nuclear weapons, “The Challenge of Peace,” the great churchman Archbishop Philip Hannan of New Orleans said that many of the bishops were uninformed. I paraphrase, because the archbishop himself used much more colorful language, honed by years of working with the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II.
The Plot to Kill Hitler and the Vindication of Pius XII, Crisis Magazine
The article gets better from there.
A cute PSA from ASPCA; it features The Purring (1980), The Texas Chainpaw Meowsacre (1974), Psycat(1960) and Cattie (1976). (Only possibly nasty part is the paper cutout of the mask for the second one– my preschooler didn’t have an issue with any of it, so probably only disturbing if you know what it’s supposed to be.)
It’s a little late, but there have been several rather good blog-articles about Halloween not being evil and nasty and a thing unsuited for polite company this year.
SuburbanBanshee did a Christian Halloween FAQ that I found very amusing, focusing on variations on the pagan issue.
Father Augustine Thompson did one with a really nice focus on the early years called The Catholic Origins of Halloween, which is more history-aimed. (names, dates, that kind of thing)
Mrs. Hull did a more heavy, serious one on the Catholic Origins of Halloween, which is more tradition-aimed.
Bridget Jones did a nice, light one called Don’t Be Spooked, it’s Catholic.
I did a rather scattershot one that includes debunking claims about black cats being killed on the Pope’s orders.
And now I need to go finish my kids’ costumes. They’re all embodying virtues… in the form of pop culture characters they love.
(Kindness, generosity and bravery.)
Died at home, surrounded by family, with his cat on his lap.
No other details available; Otherwhere Gazette will add them as they become available.
Much loved for being intelligent and honest enough to come around to the truth from entirely the wrong direction– I don’t know about anybody else, but trying to figure out how that could possibly happen was one of the ways I found out about “natural law philosophy.” Even someone who stared with some really bad assumptions will, in some cases, come around to the truth as a matter of course if they just keep going.
This has been on my mind of late because of the kerfluffle about common core and fact vs opinion, so republishing it from Catholic Stand.
“Be nice.” “That’s not nice.” “Wouldn’t it be nice if people would just get along?”
Nice is almost as hard to define as the notoriously subjective “fair,” but I’m starting to think it’s far more dangerous. ‘Nice’ is applied to a standard of behavior that does not raise objection among those who are around to be offended; ‘nice’ is a sort of vague version of ‘polite,’ centered around everyone feeling good.
Most obviously, I’m sure anybody that’s stumbled on to this site has at least heard someone say “I’m not very religious, but I try to be a nice person– and that’s what’s really important, isn’t it?” Those of us who have argued theology have almost surely heard “Well, we disagree about that– but we agree that people should just be nice to each other, and that’s the important thing.” Continue reading
Right before I hit “send” on an email sharing the following, my husband sent me a text mentioning that there was finally a mainstream article that had a clue about ISIS.
Suburban Banshee has 14 points, but I think the first five are enough to make the point, and you can always go read the rest at her blog. It is very much worth the time.
1. The leader of ISIS is a member of Mohammed’s Quraysh tribe, and thus is potentially eligible for being a legit caliph.
2. A legit candidate having declared himself caliph, all Muslims are supposed to declare their allegiance to him. If they support anybody else, they can be considered apostate and killed. (Of course, Shia Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims are pretty used to that.)
3. There’s a lot more Sharia law for individual Muslims and the state to follow, when under an caliphate.
4. Under a caliph all Muslims are supposed to live off the state, and all People of the Book and slaves are supposed to do the paying and the working. So other than fighting, ISIS supporters don’t plan on doing anything with their lives; and they must keep conquering and oppressing, or the whole structure collapses under its own weight.
5. If the caliph neglects anything in Sharia law and doesn’t respond to criticism from his followers, they can declare him apostate and kill him. Another member of the Quraysh tribe can then take over as emir, and later, caliph.
They’re not crazy, and they’re not suicidal– they have a radically different world view. Well, maybe they are crazy, but if so it’s a very human sort of crazy– one which Himself spent a lot of time and effort forming a culture, a world-view, that could accept what His Son had to tell us about the different way. Their idea of strength doesn’t allow for mercy, for starters… I’m not good at explaining it, but if you keep studying, you can find it.
It’s sad, but it can deepen your appreciation of what an amazing gift we’ve been given.
An opening note: Yes, I know that in the book, the Doctor was Frankenstein, and the Monster was to be “a new Adam.” In popular culture, Frankenstein’s Monster became shortened to Frankenstein, and sometimes to Frank. I’m going with “Frankenstein” or just “the monster” from here on out.
The basic story is well worn from use– brilliant scientist tries to create a perfect creature and things go badly. It’s been used in every variation from the original human corpses to clones to robots to vampires. (one of the Blade movies) I could make an argument that the Island of Doctor Moreau is a Frankenstein variation, as is the legend of the Golem and thus the Wizard’s Apprentice. A fairly new movie has the monster fighting demons in modern times, or something. Frankenstein even harassed multiple comedy teams in old movies!
The story-line of “make a better person and/or create a new life artificially and horrible things happen” is so well established that it would be easier to try to list all the examples of times it goes right in movies or others stories, and the iconic caricature of The Monster is recognizable even when he’s bright pink and apparently steam powered.
And yet, somehow, there’s something in the way people are that drives us to the same goal as Doctor Frankenstein; we want to make life, because when we make it we’ll do a better job. We manufacture humans in a lab, test, select and implant some portion rather routinely; at the other end of the spectrum, the Anglicans and Catholics in the United Kingdom actually joined together to protest plans to manufacture cloned humans in animal eggs. (Animal Human Hybrids.) In a modern echo of the original story, we use the genetic material in a human egg, put it in another egg, and then fertilize the resulting cell. This makes the “three parent children” you may have heard about.
Focusing on the human-animal combinations, I’ll just quote the Daily Mail:
This legalised the creation of a variety of hybrids, including an animal egg fertilised by a human sperm; ‘cybrids’, in which a human nucleus is implanted into an animal cell; and ‘chimeras’, in which human cells are mixed with animal embryos.
If you’re not familiar with the process, cloning is done by taking an egg, removing the nucleus and inserting a cell, then tricking it into growing. When it does start to grow, it’s the same as an embryo formed in the traditional manner. Almost all of the resulting organism’s DNA comes from the nucleus, but things like mitochondrial DNA come from the egg’s shell. This means that a human cloned in a cow’s egg and not killed for research, if they managed to reach adulthood, would most likely look and act like a naturally formed human. They would probably have health issues, since there are mitochondrial genetic diseases, but being ill health is hardly restricted to clones. God makes the soul.
This is a really long work-up to saying, as best we can tell, a human clone formed in a cow’s egg would be just as human as a child from IVF, or rape, or adultery, or any of a wide range of offenses to human dignity.
Obviously, a cow with a few human genes inserted (‘spliced’) is clearly not human. Drawing a line– “if more than 27.9835% of identified genes are human, you shouldn’t do it” is rather difficult. I would use a rule of thumb that if the goal of creating the organism is to kill it for human parts or to evade rules against killing humans for parts, you’re doing it wrong. Contrast with, say, gene splicing a pig so that a protein that makes a human body reject a pig heart is replaced by a protein that’s recognized as human by a human body.
Another way of looking at it is along the lines of therapy vs enhancement. To go to my pig example, altering the pig with the goal of fixing an existing problem is one thing; altering the pig to get as close to a human as you can get while avoiding non-moral problems (Why animal eggs? Human eggs are expensive and dangerous to get.)
The old question of “what makes a man” is quite popular, so I’ll end with a very long quote that a writer was kind enough to share, taken from The City of God, Chap. 16, Book 8.
Whether Certain Monstrous Races of Men are Derived from the Stock of Adam or Noah’s Sons.
It is also asked whether we are to believe that certain monstrous races of men, spoken of in secular history, have sprung from Noah’s sons, or rather, I should say, from that one man from whom they themselves were descended. For it is reported that some have one eye in the middle of the forehead; some, feet turned backwards from the heel; some, a double sex, the right breast like a man, the left like a woman, and that they alternately beget and bring forth: others are said to have no mouth, and to breathe only through the nostrils; others are but a cubit high, and are therefore called by the Greeks Pigmies: they say that in some places the woman conceive in their fifth year, and do not live beyond their eighth. So, too, they tell of a race who have two feet but only one leg, and are of marvelous swiftness, though they do not bend the knee: they are called Skiopodes, because in the hot weather they lie down on their backs and shade themselves with their feet. Others are said to have no head, and their eyes in their shoulders; and other human or quasi-human races are depicted in mosaic in the harbor esplanade of Carthage, on the faith of histories of rarities. What shall I say of the Cynocephali, whose dog-like head and barking proclaim them beasts rather than men? But we are not bound to believe all we hear of these monstrosities. But whoever is anywhere born a man, that is, a rational, mortal animal, no matter what unusual appearance he presents in color, movement, sound, nor how peculiar he is in some power, part, or quality of his nature, no Christian can doubt that he springs from that one protoplast. We can distinguish the common human nature from that which is peculiar, and therefore wonderful.
For Halloween, I’m cross-posting slightly edited versions of my C&C monster series from Catholic Stand, one a week. Hope that you folks enjoy them.
It’s a staple of horror movies– there is some invisible thing that will get you, destroy your life, take over your loved ones and drag you to hell. A demon haunts this house!
First, we should probably back up a little– demon and devil are frequently used interchangeably with devil more frequently used for specifically religious or silly uses, and demon for “scary and kind of hopeless to resist.” Religiously, the devil is the chief of the demons, (Diabolus enim et alii daemones, kept popping up while I was trying to find any decent information on this topic) and it’s usually capitalized to indicate the Devil. Originally, demon was more like “supernatural being”– think kami, for those who are into anime and manga, or various location-gods and demigods for those who know their classic mythology. If you’d like to see how you get from δαίμων to “demon,” Dictionary.com is your friend, especially in special uses for various spellings. I’m going to save any further “other powers” geekery for a later article– on to demons!
So, when we talk about a demon, what are we talking about? Besides being the Devil’s henchmen, demons are fallen angels; this means that they are definitely not metaphors, symbols, impulses, or any other way of saying “there are not really demons.” They also are not a synonym for mental illness– any good exorcist is going to check for mental illness as a first step; it doesn’t do anyone any good to avoid treatment in hopes that a ritual will help someone, rather than trying to accurately identify the problem. (I have no idea how frequently mentally ill people are also afflicted by demons–especially when there are so many ways to qualify demonic involvement.) Here’s a longish quote from the Catechism to explain how that works:
II. THE FALL OF THE ANGELS
391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”. The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.”
392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels. This “fall” consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: “You will be like God.” The devil “has sinned from the beginning”; he is “a liar and the father of lies”.
393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. “There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.”
So, demons are definitionally evil, having chosen to throw in against God, and they cannot change now. That throws out a pretty good chunk of the more dramatic “can the fallen angel un-fall” type movies– now for the horror. I am going to draw heavily from this interview with Fr. Gary Thomas.
What can demons do?
Think like Paranormal Activity or any other “house has a demon” story. No, you don’t try to fix it by putting a video camera in your bedroom and taunting it, nor do you call “Ghost Hunters,” you see about getting your house blessed; talk to your local parish. Get some holy water. See about getting your hands on a book of prayers, linked below. My mind keeps giving me the image of demonic fleas, but it’s not really funny–here is a quote of signs, from The Rite:
The various kinds of phenomena that can occur in this situation are vast and include unexplained sounds or noises like mysterious footsteps, loud bangs, laughter, screams; the temperature of a room dropping or the feelings of a cold wind with no discernible source; objects disappearing suddenly and materializing in other parts of the house; strange presences felt’ the presence of offensive odors’ interruption of the electric current or the malfunction of electronic devices; pictures that mysteriously bang or fall off the wall; doors and windows that open and close on their own; dishes or other objects levitating and flying about the room.
This cursed activity can be caused by something horrible having happened on the site– crimes, suicides, satanic rituals (yes, including wicca-of-the-month, and probably turn-of-last-century seances, too– it’s a bad idea to invite in unGodly powers, go figure)– or because an infested object is there, or because the demon is there with a human.
Oppression or Obsession:
Two sides of a coin, the former pushed down and the latter wound up; your thoughts are warped in a bad direction; this is when an individual is being attacked by a demon. You can imagine why an exorcist would need to know a lot about psychology– it would be hard to tell mental or emotional attacks by an being with no physical form from a mental disorder. You might think of this as the demon version of a monkey on your back, or maybe being stalked. Instead of a house being “haunted,” it’s you. I don’t want to belittle this– having a demon attack you is obviously bad, even if it’s not as cinematically iconic as the final type of demonic assault, possession.
When a demon can move the victim’s body against their will. (Willingly accepting a demonic possession is integration.) Their soul isn’t controlled by the demon, but everything else…. This is when the exorcist goes to work, although this is incredibly rare and unlikely to involve green pea soup. Some exorcists have reported physical changes that are not scientifically possible. (A note on the limit of science– you’ve got to be there and set up to get really good data, and somehow I don’t think demons would be willing to cooperate.)
So, should we all go hide? Nah. Don’t invite demons in, either actively or by sin, and try to soak your life in spiritually suited everything because that’s a general good idea, but don’t forget that our Boss is massively more powerful. They’re scary but they will not win.
For Halloween, I’m cross-posting slightly edited versions of my C&C monster series from Catholic Stand, one a week. Hope that you folks enjoy them.
Through mere glimpses of him, however, demonic accuracy is achieved: Dracula is an Antichrist. He cannot attack unless willingly engaged. He baptizes his victims in his blood even as he drinks theirs in a sacrifice that gives eternal “life” in animated death. He unites captive souls to his existence, thriving on the unhallowed. He twists scripture to his purpose, lusts for worship … and fears Christ. Crisis Magazine, Oct 2013
Over at Father Z’s blog, he made a (joking) post about how sad he was that he didn’t get a vampire hunting kit for Christmas. One comment pointed out that we can’t sell blessed objects. (Technically false; blessed objects can be sold for their intrinsic value, without added price for the blessing, but accurate enough in terms of buying a Vampire hunting kit which would be pretty worthless without blessing.) This got me thinking about the various legends related to vampires, and Catholicism, especially how often they are portrayed wrongly.
The most famous example of bad (horrifying, really) Catholic theology that involves vampires and popular culture is probably the Dracula story. At one point, Van Helsing makes a putty out of consecrated Hosts, and uses it to vampire-proof a room. It’s supposed to be alright, because he has a dispensation. (No, they don’t work that way.)
Needless to say, this isn’t respectful of the Body of Christ, and if the vampire is reacting to the Body of Christ then it isn’t effective, either.
With respect to the presence of Christ, most theologians hold that, although the host externally remains intact for several days, the real presence ceases as soon as the host is fully soaked with water as from that moment the species is no longer exclusively that of bread.
That aside, Dracula is rather well researched in regards to the folklore of vampires. For example, the crucifix has power in and of itself, since it has a representation of Christ on it, while crosses depend more on the person holding the cross invoking God directly. In various times and places, the formally-blessed cross (or other objects, such as holy medals) was thought to be enough to invoke God. Those objects are called sacramentals, things that recall the sacraments. (Dracula’s mistaken abuse of the Host is indicative of someone who didn’t recognize Transubstantiation, but viewed it as a sort of super-strong symbol.) The most obvious sacramental, which is also used in popular pieties and commonly available for the asking, is holy water– many parishes even have dispensers. It should be kept in mind that the people who really believed in vampires weren’t trying to use holy water or any other sacramental for some kind of a magical effect, but to invoke God’s protection from forces of evil.
Some of the things vampires fear are symbolic, instead of sacramental. Running water calls to mind baptism and the washing away of sins, silver is “white” metal and thus pure, garlic and various plants were believed to be medicines against corruption. Even salt, because of its powers of preservation, was thought in some places to ward off evil, including vampires.
Vampires lack of reflection probably grew out of the folklore of the soulless not having a shadow, and the way that mirrors were once backed with silver. Some more folklore savvy stories had digital cameras work to record vampires, but not silver-based movie cameras, and at least one used silver nitrate in the blood to kill a vampire.
Speaking of souls, this is probably the biggest problem with vampire stories: all too often, authors write “vampires” that by all evidence possess rational souls. To shamelessly steal–er, borrow– from Jimmy Akin’s highly enjoyable Theology of the Living Dead, there are four basic options for any flavor of living dead:
- Animal soul – this is the most traditional, but has more in common with modern zombies as far as behavior goes; modern vampires are generally more intelligent than the average human.
- Non-human rational soul – Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s vampires– they are evil, but the “demons” animating vampires aren’t Satanic, and a lot of the “demons” are just multidimensional travelers. The theology of that television show makes my head hurt….
- Human souls – the ‘vampire’ subculture would be an example of this, or if a story had vampirism as a sort of disease.
- No soul – the body is remote-controlled, either by technology (nanobot vampires) or perhaps demonic possession. (As I understand it, demons are spirits, rather than souls, and couldn’t inhabit a body the way a human soul would. I’d highly advise a lot of mythology research before anybody tried to write this!)
Most vampire stories these days are either humans with a disease or non-human souls animating a body; some of them aren’t even “allergic” to blessed objects. Obviously, if they have rational souls, we have to treat them as people rather than monsters, but then it doesn’t make any sense why holy objects would harm them.
On a practical level, I’d say that anything that smokes on contact with a holy object is to be avoided.
For Halloween, I’m cross-posting slightly edited versions of my C&C monster series from Catholic Stand, one a week. Hope that you folks enjoy them.
Or, less pretentiously:
What should a kid learn in kindergarten?
I’m taking a swing at home schooling the Princess*– she’s just a bit too young to go into kindergarten, and I’ve got enough qualifications legally allowed to be a home educator by the state.
I know that I want her to be reading and diving in to self-guided research that I can supplement with what she isn’t interested in, but I really am looking for a realistic expectation in general.
- reading basic words– “Hop on Pop” as a test.
- being able to draw a connection between math problems and real examples– 2+2 is the same as two apples plus two apples
- writing print legibly in military style all-caps, and basic progress in upper-lower case block-print
- trace a standard coloring book– depending on small motor control, color inside of the lines and fill it out
- recognize and match colors and basic shapes, both two and three dimensional; possibly recognizing a pattern and copying it
- recognize basic classes of animal– land mammal, reptile, bird, fish, sea mammal
- recognize basic plant categories
- growth stages of plants and animals
- master the ASDFJKL; of the keyboard, demonstrate ability to both double-click and click-and-drag, plus understand which you should do in a specific instance
- safety related science– germ theory, electronic theory, very basic physics; why you wash your hands, why you don’t touch that wire, and why you don’t jump out in front of a car to yell “boo.”
- basic scientific theory
- basic skepticism– “what’s another way to look at this?” “is this person trying to make me think something that isn’t quite right?”
- memorize basic prayers– Our Father, Hail Mary, possibly how to pray the Rosary
- basic theology; Trinity, angels, life after death, salvation, caritas, the Saints, some of the ideas of expressing love as wishing-another’s-best-interest
So, those expectations: too high? Too low? What am I missing? No idea what kind of metric to put on history– trying to build a basic understanding of our family history, and of world history, but it’s rather tough with someone who doesn’t consistently grasp the difference between “today” and “last week.”
We have a phonics book that both girls love (yes, the two year old knows her letters and is connecting them to “making words.” Yay, older sister leading by example.) and I subscribe to an OK online school called Starfall, plus a lot of concepts are being introduced by Dinosaur Train, My Little Pony, Guess with Jess and Boo!, as well as Good Eats. I don’t have any good specifically Catholic “edutainment,” although the Scriptural Rosary from Rosary Army is rather good for car trips and I try to catch some ETWN radio shows when I can.
After hearing some horror stories of the utter lack of basic control in classrooms, my husband is pretty supportive of home schooling if I can get this year to work… so please, feel free to suggest!
*Please, don’t bother to “correct” me that it’s not homeschooling– yes, parents are responsible for teaching their children. I noticed, my folks did a great job– I learned more science from my mom than from school, and the only thing they didn’t do well on was what they were told they weren’t qualified to teach. (Religious education.) That doesn’t change that there is a difference between getting one’s formal schooling at a gov’t facility and getting it at a private school, or at home. It’s a matter of specifying what formal schooling a kid gets. I get the world-view statement being made, but I value communicating clearly over Making A Statement when it’s a social nicety like “where do your kids go to school.”
mildly edited and cross posted from Catholic Stand, because it seems to be timely
“Quit forcing your religion on me! Your Pope might think that a fertilized egg is alive, that it’s human, but that’s your opinion– I believe in science! It’s no more a person than a skin cell is, and you just think it has a soul. If abortion upsets you, you should get people to use birth control.”
If you’ve been in abortion discussions, you’re probably familiar with this kind of assertion. I’ll admit that I’ve taken some slight liberty with the paraphrase– I combined several variations into one claim. Other than that….
A ‘fertilized egg’ is a somewhat improper way to describe what happens when a sperm and egg (gamete) join; it’s a zygote, the first stage of development in all animals. It is a single celled organism of whatever species the parents were. In cloning the egg is emptied, the insides of a cell from whatever is being cloned are put in, and the result is induced to start growing as if fertilization had just occurred. (Nuclear transfer; I mentioned this in the Frankenstein installment.) Sometimes the phrase is used to mean “pre-embryo” or “pre-fetus,” although in non-abortion situations (such as IVF) a three-day-old organism is called an “embryo.”
While a skin cell can be said to be alive– because it is part of a living organism– a zygote is an individual constituted to carry on the activities of life by means of organs separate in function but mutually dependent : a living being. If uninterupted, a zygote will develop into a recognizable adult member of the species. A skin cell will remain an skin cell.
When a human egg is fertilized, the organism that results is a member of the human species, distinct from both parents. That is a scientific fact. The Catholic Church teaches that being a living human being means the individual has inherent dignity which we must respect. The question of ensoulment doesn’t arise. (You can find a much more in depth explanation of when human life begins in this PDF of the same name, from the Westchester Institute.)
All of this establishes that, scientifically speaking, the unborn ‘product of conception’ we’re looking at is both alive and of our species.
This is where things get confusing, because science does not speak on who is a “person.” The question of personhood is (in this context) a moral question. As Catholics, we are required to recognize all living humans as people– ironically enough, it is those claiming to be defenders of science who are making a moral judgment, and one that is sadly not that uncommon in the history of humanity. More recently the word “person” has come to be synonymous with “human being,” and is preferred by some to “man” to apply to an individual homo sapiens. It is then easily understandable that most people defending abortion would not want to recognize that their stance means that they are explicitly denying that all humans are “people.” Especially if someone is not carefully choosing their words it is understandable that they would try to claim that a member of our species below a set point of development is not a “human being.”
Pointing out that they are declaring a group of humans to be non-people can be effective, sometimes even on the person arguing for abortion. Please try to be as gentle as possible about it, the shock can be pretty nasty. The author John C. Wright wrote about his instinctive recognition of his son as a person, and laid out the logic rather bluntly. It is worth noting that at the time he was an atheist, though a very classically influenced one.
On a related note, some folks will say that If you don’to like abortions, you should support birth control. This sounds like it should make sense– the logic of “women have abortions because they have an unwanted pregnancy; birth control reduces pregnancy; more birth control would result in less pregnancy.”
First a religious or philosophical response: for a Catholic, this is roughly on par with saying “if you don’t like murder, you need to support assault!”
Chemical “birth control” results in death for the small human, in some cases as a primary means, some physical methods (IUDs) also cause death, and even something as basic as a condom inherently deforms the essence of sex. This is religion, or at least philosophy, although obviously some (sometimes very) non-religious people will agree that risking your kid’s life so you can have lower risk of pregnancy is obviously wrong.
Now the practical side.
Birth control does not necessarily reduce the number of pregnancies, it lowers the chance of a pregnancy as a result of intercourse. Failure is usually measured in terms of the percent of female users who have an unintended pregnancy in the first year of typical use. Not listed, of course, is not having sex unless you recognize that the reproductive act may result in a new life.
That is what makes contraception– and the “contraceptive mentality”– a root cause of the heat in the abortion debate. Contraception promises that you will have sex without a chance of needing to be responsible for your resulting children. So, if pregnancy results anyways, it’s very tempting to believe that there’s not really your offspring involved. People you can’t see are so much easier to dehumanize, and the unborn are both really small and not walking around.
A department of feminist studies professor has been accused of going berserk after coming across a campus prolife demonstration that used extremely graphic displays, leading a small mob of students to chant “tear down the sign” before grabbing one of the signs, storming off with it, then allegedly engaging in an altercation with a 16-year-old prolife protestor who had followed the educator to retrieve it.
“Allegedly” for legal purposes, it was caught on video and is serious enough that the cops– who reportedly were going to poo-poo it off– got serious when they saw the video.
Also notable is that, at the bottom of the article, they mention that some students are claiming they feel unsafe. Why? Because there are people protesting the legal, at-will killing of unborn humans, with pictures and facts to back them up. Not because teachers assault teenage girls with whom they disagree and from whom they have taken private property.
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