On the particular issue of abortion, we find solid defense of the unborn in the Republican Party’s most recent party platform. It should be expected, therefore, that members of the Republican Party would uphold the pro-life ethic in accordance with the principles outlined by their party. On the pages of the New York Times, however, efforts to enact these principles into law are characterized by “boy wonder” A. G. Sulzberger as an “agenda” of the “GOP“ that the courts are right to suppress. Sulzberger opines that such suppression offers “relief to Democrats”.
The court actions around the country have brought a measure of relief to Democrats who are hoping some of those cases will result in the courts’ overturning laws that they were unable to stop. And while Republican proponents are hoping to see these laws eventually pass muster, even failure would be instructive for legislation explicitly intended to push legal boundaries.
Virtually every bill before every legislature, regardless of the issue, is “explicitly intended to push legal boundaries”. Every change in law “pushes legal boundaries” since current “law” is a “legal boundary”. There would be no need for legislatures if “legal boundaries” could not rightly be “pushed”. The suggestion that “legal boundaries” denying the right to life cannot legitimately be “pushed” amounts to a claim that anti-life law is sacred dogma.
Writing in the context of the judiciary, Sulzberg is operating on the assumption that Roe v. Wade is sacred dogma to the Democratic Party. Roe is ostensibly an objective truth, the “boundary” that may never rightly be “pushed” in any way without causing pain to Democrats. “Relief for Democrats” comes when this sacred dogma is upheld by judges who agree with the Democratic Party that the Republicans’ claim that life has sanctity is somehow suspect.
Exactly how far does this dogma extend? According to the Democratic Party platform, the “right” to abortion absolutely includes taxpayer-funding. Sulzberger ends with a quote from a Planned Parenthood official offering the shocking claim that the legal battle to end taxpayer-funding of abortion is “wasting taxpayer dollars”.
But Peter B. Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, was upset despite the early legal victories.
“I find it irresponsible,” Mr. Brownlie said, “that publicly elected officials are passing legislation that they should know is illegal and wasting taxpayer dollars going to court to defend things that are not defensible.”
Defense of life might currently be characterized as a “GOP agenda” if the Republican Party platform’s comparison to the Democratic Party platform is any indication. It would be a travesty, however, if this remains the case. Defense of life is not something that should be confined to the realm of any party’s ideology. The paramount right to life should be defended at every time, and in every place, by everyone, regardless of party affiliation.
Though political ideologies, movements and parties may come and go, the dignity of all human life is a constant and objective reality that should be defended by all. Any movement which does not uphold the dignity of the human person is operating in illegitimacy on the point. Without the right to life, all other rights are meaningless.
Perhaps because most people still understand this basic truth, both of the major political parties in America lay claim, on some level, to defense of human dignity, but only one of these — the Republican Party — currently defends the unborn in an official capacity. Democrats would do well to embrace and promote the principle of the sanctity of life so that defense of life might be considered an American “agenda” rather than an “agenda of the GOP“.
The Catholic Church has, for two millenia, in keeping with the Incarnation, defended the dignity of all human beings. One example of this is the Papal Bull issued by Pope Paul III in 1537, Sublimus Dei, regarding the “enslavement and evangelization of Indians“.
The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God’s word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.
We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.
This is an inconvenient truth for those who would have us believe that Christopher Columbus’ Catholicism had something to do with the mistreatment of Native Americans after the arrival of Europeans to North America. Indeed, though men may fail, the teachings of the Church never have, never do, and never will.
Just as the Church defended Native Americans 474 years ago this month (May 29, 1537), so today the Catholic Church continues to defend — through Her very clear teaching — the most vulnerable of all, the unborn child. Just as in the time of Sublimus Dei there were Catholics who protested the Church’s guidance, so today there are Catholics who deny the humanity and dignity of the innocent unborn child.
Most, if not all, Americans today understand the evil of slavery precisely because of the good work of Christendom, but most particularly the Catholic Church which stands as a visible beacon to the world. Satan devises his manner, but the Light continues to shine. So it is that I have hope that some day, Americans will look back upon this time as the brutal age of abortion, and Catholic politicians who did not stand against it will have the most shameful place of all in the annals of history.
In the face of an ever-emerging “culture of death,” the ancient truth that death is a mystery and not a “problem” is needed more than ever. To designate death as a problem implicitly suggests a need for a remedy, which underlines the modern assumption of possession of the resources necessary to exercise technical mastery over the “problem”—in this case, death. The predominance of the technical solution over the respectful awe rightly due in the face of something greater than us puts mankind in quite a predicament.
The Church, as Pope John Paul II attentively reminded us in Redemptor Hominis, is the guardian of transcendence. This image of the Church is particular fitting in dealing with complex ethical questions of life and death. In recent times, the very mystery of death—real death—has been debated extensively as it relates to the theory of “brain death,” which is effectively interrelated to ethical questions regarding organ donation.
Catholics see death in the light of divine revelation. Death, the fruit of original sin, now exists as the means by which we participate in the Passover of Our Lord, passing from death into new life. Death is not the end of our human existence; to say otherwise would be an embrace of the fallacious pagan trap of modern philosophical thought overflowing with agnostic existential anxiety over this very unsettling question.
“We Want To Exterminate The Negro Population”
– Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. 
Dr. Peter Pronovost is a distinguished physician known for his efforts to decrease the frequency of deadly hospital-borne infections. His remedy to the problem is surprisingly simple: a checklist of ICU protocols that directs physician sanitary practices (e.g. hand-washing). Hospitals that have put Pronovost’s checklist into practice have had immediate success, reducing hospital-infection rates somewhere between (estimates vary) well over a third to a whopping two-thirds within the first few months of its adoption. Yet as the story goes, many physicians have rejected this solution and Pronovost has struggled to persuade hospitals to adopt his reform.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 100,000 American deaths are caused or contributed to by hospital-borne infections. Blood clots following surgery or illness are the leading cause of avertable hospital deaths in the U.S., which by the most liberal estimates might contribute t o the death of almost 200,000 patients annually. Given such a hideous fact, why exactly does a doctor need to travel about and emphatically seek to persuade other medical institutions to adopt, in effect, a cost-free idea that could save so many lives?
How is that an industry which stridently decries the high cost of liability insurance or the absolute injustice of our tort system(which does need reform) need such petitioning to embrace such a simple technique to save thousands of lives? Moreover, in the United States it is not unheard of for a whole business to shut down due a single illness from some suspicious food—yet, we tolerate the killing-via-negligence on such a grand scale in our hospitals? Medical mistakes and institutional carelessness do not qualify as some must-be-accepted inevitability.
This reality has been almost entirely been neglected in the discourse on health care reform. Beyond the structure and financing troubles of our medical system, the institutional practice and governance of hospitals are in need of severe criticism. For example, in what alternate dimension does the peculiar scheduling of hospital work shifts in any way benefit the patient? A few weeks at the hospitals virtually guarantees a never-ending string of new personnel assigned to one patient’s care. If this can be avoided, should it not? It seems quite reasonable to presume that passing patients off from doctor to doctor, or nurse to nurse, might increase the chance of someone making a mistake? The effect of changing such a seemingly small problem could be huge. Or, take for example, the “sanitary” environment of hospitals in general, which contribute to the nearly 100,000 annual American deaths. Anyone who has ever worked in “corporate America” or in a large building in general might note that the trash is picked up once daily. Is it any different in a hospital? It takes some sort intellectual schizophrenia to insist on ICU sterility in a building if one has not the slightest care over how many times trash (never mind what is in it) is picked up in a day.
Any array of complaints about institutional malpractice must lead to the inevitable question: how is it that the most technologically advanced medical institutions in the industrialized world miss out on a just as modern, just as recent, revolution of quality control and customer-service that has pervaded every other consumer-based industry? The answer to this question is telling. Continue reading
Health care reform has been at the forefront of the American political discourse in the past few months. One of the most difficult tasks in this debate is to discern an authentically Catholic approach to reform efforts. The Catholic Church takes no official position as to how a health care system ought to be structured, but rather presents enduring moral principles that must be present in public policy.
Adhering to the richness of Catholic social teaching, the ultimate goal for Catholics must be to establish a system that is capable of universal access and coverage for all American citizens, one way or another. Any number of schemes might achieve universal health insurance and preferences will differ based on political philosophy, but the end result seems to be a Catholic moral obligation. In this sense, no Catholic ought to oppose universal health care, if it means achieving coverage for all Americans citizens either through market schemes, government assistance, “third sector” non-profit organizations, co-operatives efforts (co-ops), or some combination of these depending on the social need, the ethical principles at stake, and the resources each solution offers.
Catholic social teaching treats health care as a profound social interest and essential for the common good. Health care, because of this, ought not to be viewed as a mere commodity. The poor and vulnerable, by default, are immediately disadvantaged as health care costs increase. The United States, we are told, has the most technologically advanced and best quality medical care. But, one must inquire: at what cost? Other consumer “goods” are not essential safeguards to the indispensable good of human life in the same way as medical care.
Health care markets that are laissez-faire, an inherently utilitarian mechanism, do not necessarily yield nor are they ordered toward natural justice. Natural law theory is alien to such a mechanism— it is not intrinsic to it, neither is solidarity or preferential option for the poor, though these things are not necessarily excluded by it.
It is self-evident that different spheres of society appropriately employ different standards of distribution. College professors assign grades based on merits of achievement; athletic competition employs the same principle. Parents might distribute slices of cake at a birthday party to strict equality. In the same way, numerical equality governs votes in a democratic society. Food, clothing, shelter, electronic goods, clothing, automobiles, jewelry, etc, receive unequal distribution by market mechanisms—sometimes justly, sometimes not.
Need is one of those principles of distribution (and one of those things often argued about) recognized in some spheres, but not others. Need is terrible for distributing grades, but the proper principle for distributing emergency food supplies. Need, arguably, is a proper principle for the distribution of health care. Health is necessary for a community’s proper functioning. Justice, in terms of health care, will require a redeveloped way of distributing health care based on personal responsibility, collective interest, and legitimate need—the weakest and most vulnerable among us first and foremost.
Many important areas of life must resist “commodification,” at least in the same sense as dispensable goods. This could not be more evident than by the fact that people are becoming commodities to other people. Children are the prime example of this, from abortion to assisted reproduction. Fundamentally, justice demands that we re-examine our consumerism for it is the heart of the issue and I believe, the life-source of the “Culture of Death.” Continue reading
I wasn’t sure whether or not to post this as an update to my earlier post on John Holdren, but I thought it was interesting enough to warrant its own posting.
I’ve read some of the scanned pages of Ecoscience, the 1977 book co-authored by Holdren that calls for horrifying coercive measures for population control. Interestingly, Holdren & Co. felt the need to address pro-life arguments in their book. Their moral reasoning only proves, yet again, how dangerous (not to mention illogical) some ‘scientists’ can become when they venture into moral philosophy. This provides us an opportunity to take a tour through the inhuman humanism condemned by Pope Benedict in Caritas in Veritate.