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“Without a guaranteed right to life, all other rights are legal fictions”

by | Aug 31, 2018

By Dave Andrusko

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

Editor’s note. My family and I will be on our vacation through September 7. I will occasionally add new items but for the most part we will repost “the best of the best” — the stories our readers have told us they especially liked.

Happily for me, earlier today I ran across a guest column written by the Rev. Charles Chaput, the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for the Delaware County Daily Times, a Pennsylvania newspaper. Naturally, his column was exquisitely reasoned, brilliantly composed, and wonderfully persuasive.

Archbishop Chaput, as he often does, ponders the “meaning and dignity of the human person,” and begins with a conference he attended decades ago on the theme of “supercomputing and the human person.”

What leads him to a discussion of particular interest for us begins with his remembrance that “the nickname for the human body among the attendees was ‘wetware,’ or more crudely, ‘meat puppet.’” However, he reminds us, “Our flesh is not morally neutral. It’s not simply ‘wetware’ or raw meat or modeling clay for the will, but a revelation of God’s glory demanding reverence and stewardship.”

After I repost his next paragraph, I will offer three brief comments:

This makes us witnesses to a meaning and dignity of the human person that puts us at odds with the spirit of our age, an age perfectly captured by the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision and its license to kill the unborn. The cultural civil war triggered by Roe and its enshrinement of permissive abortion has never abated, and it continues full force (and rightly so) today. The stakes are high. Without a guaranteed right to life — a right that includes and recognizes the humanity of the unborn child — all other rights are legal fictions.

#1. “The stakes are high.” Why? For the same reason that the right to life is the first of “certain unalienable rights.” To put it in the negative, without the right not to be killed, all other rights, including “Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” are, in Archbishop Chaput’s perfect description, “legal fictions.”

#2.There truly is a “spirit of our age.” Whatever its origins—and they are legion—the underlining ethos is a refusal to see the uniqueness of each and every human being.

If we are nothing more than glorified (or not so glorified) “meat,” what follows? For starters, that we are essentially interchangeable. For another, to firmly avow that you, I, all of us are of transcendent value invites the listener who is a captive to the spirit of the age to roll his or her eyes in disbelief.

#3. I have often quoted the following passage from the late Rev. Richard John Neuhaus: “Thousands of medical ethicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on its way to becoming the justifiable until it is finally established as the unexceptionable.”

The unthinkable eventually becomes the unexceptional because the creed of contemporary bioethics begins with the rejection that any one of us, let alone all of us, is exceptional in any way that matters.

For us, the equality of life ethic means each man or woman, boy or girl, born or unborn is of equal/inestimable worth. Notice how the bioethicist, almost all of whom are secularists, twists the equality of life ethic to mean we all are equally unexceptional.

The idea (to quote Archbishop Chaput) that we are an embodied “revelation of God’s glory demanding reverence and stewardship” is not only unintelligible but an offense to them.

That is the Spirit of the Age which we combat every day. It is a battle for our culture that we cannot afford to lose.

Too many powerless people, born and unborn, are counting on you and me.

Categories: Life
Tags: life