Friday, December 28, 2007

Abortion in Spain

A journalist in Spain has gone undercover with a hidden camera and exposed the gruesome nature of abortion in Madrid.

In the video we witness two abortions of about the same gestation: 20 weeks. These second trimester abortions are done intact. Still, not for the faint of heart. (If you don't understand Spanish, just fast forward to the 9 minute mark.)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

100 reasons to not be a feminist

Just push play.

More goofy clergy. Just what the Church needs.

I am not old enough to remember the embarrassments of Archbishop Hunthausen. More a political activist than apostle, His Excellency is remembered for withholding half his income tax to protest Reagan's policies at the height of the Cold War. (The IRS was in no mood for games, and simply garnished his wages.)

In a speech opposing the Trident Missile program, Hunthausen once declared, “Trident is the Auschwitz of Puget Sound.”

Mind you, the work I do here at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is in direct support of Trident Submarines. I suppose to his mind that makes me something of a concentration camp guard.

In a rare move, the Vatican forced Hunthausen to resign some 16 years ago. Yes, he was that bad. But do not for a moment think we are today spared the foolishness of Hunthausen-esques. A thorn in the side of the Church, these prelates seem to revel in a reputation marked by an air of rebellion. I imagine them something like a spoiled teenager who never ceases to push the envelope, who never responds willingly to correction and at intervals employs good use of the silent treatment.

Take for example Bishop Cappio of Brazil. CWNews relays:

A Brazilian bishop ended a 23-day hunger strike on December 20.
A bishop fasting for 23 days? I don't know I've ever heard of that before in the history of the Church. This must be some noble cause; an end to abortion perhaps, or, or, opposition to legalized euthanasia? What could it be that drives his excellency with such conviction, such passion?

[He] had abstained from food since November 27 to dramatize his opposition to a development project
That's right. Now, if you would simply flip open your Bibles to Matthew chapter five you will find opposition to development projects significantly nearer the top of the beatitudes than you at first thought.
Bishop Cappio had lost nearly 18 pounds since beginning his fast. He was hospitalized on the same day that Brazil's top court overruled a lower court order, and said that construction could proceed on a plan to divert the flow of the Sao Francisco river.

The bishop has argued that the project will cause ecological harm, and provide disproportionate benefits to corporate farmers. The Brazilian government counters that the project will provide irrigation for millions of acres of parched land, bringing benefits to over 10 million Brazilians.

Bishop Cappio vowed to continue his fight against the project, despite ending his hunger strike. Earlier in the week he had received a message from the apostolic nuncio in Brazil, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, who was conveying the Vatican's order to end his fast. The Congregation for Bishops had sent Bishop Cappio a similar message in October 2005, when he was engaged in an earlier hunger strike against the same development project. The Brazilian bishop has never given any public response to the Vatican's orders.
Perhaps Cardinal Biffi was right when he warned the Holy Father of an Antichrist who "presents himself as a pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist."

"Today, in fact, we run the risk of having a Christianity that puts Jesus with his cross and resurrection into parentheses," Biffi said.

There are "absolute values such as the good, the true and the beautiful. One who perceives them and loves them also loves Christ, even if he does not know it, because Christ is the truth, beauty and justice."

But there are also "relative values such as solidarity, love for peace and respect for nature. If these are given an absolute value or uprooted from or placed in opposition to the proclamation of the fact of salvation, then they become the basis for idolatry and are obstacles on the path to salvation."

Bishop Cappio wasn't listening. I think he may have been too busy trying to give Rome the silent treatment.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Living...only not really living

The black hole in which my time is swallowed up.

"Right. They [scientists] just determine what's alive and a human being and what is not." -Tom

"Once more, they determine what's "alive" biologically; they don't determine what's alive in terms of the societal value placed upon life." -Brad

Okay. Let's recap.

We both agree that at the moment of conception we have a new human being. No question there. I side with embryologists and biologists who say it is alive; you argue that it may be "biologically alive" but since there is no brain activity in the first 12 weeks or so, it can't really be said to be "a living human being." You base your argument on the Uniform Determination Of Death Act, which defines death as the "irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem." A six week old fetus has no brain activity, therefore it should have the same moral worth (read: none) as a brain-dead human being.

Let me know if you feel I've mis-stated your position here.

And I'll start off by saying that, on the surface of it, your position seems both consistent and plausible. But I also think that upon closer scrutiny it quickly falls apart.

First of all, the UDDA has made sure to use the word "irreversible" in its description of the loss of brain function. To my mind, this is key because were a patient able to reverse his state of brain-death (or, more likely, if we were able to reverse it for him), I think you and I would agree he was never really dead to begin with. I don't know if any such case exists, but in the hypothetical thought experiment it would look much like the real-world case of a man whose heart stops beating. Once upon a time total heart failure meant certain death. That's not necessarily the case anymore, and we've had to modify our definition of death because of it.

Now, what of the 6 week fetus? We know that under normal circumstances he will develop a fully functioning brain within a matter of weeks. His condition is most definitely not "irreversible," and for this reason alone I think any argument appealing to the UDDA collapses and it wrong to declare him "not alive".

Secondly, I think it is important to understand the purpose behind the Uniform Determination of Death Act. Its name is clear enough: to determine death. But it's a fairly modern Act (circa 1980). Why should we need such a definition at all? I mean, haven't societies prior to 1980 been getting along just fine -- knowing full well who among them is alive and who is dead? Yes, but with modern science we're finding that even when someone *appears* dead, there may be a chance he isn't. We might still save him from death. How do we know who is save-able, and who is lost? Today, the best indicator is brain activity.

But the whole *purpose* of the Act is to determine whether or not a person who was once living and breathing on his own has any hope of recovery. It's purpose was not to determine whether or not a 12 week old fetus was a "living" human being. I think you're trying to fit a square block into a round hole here in questioning whether the unborn meet the standards of an Act whose express purpose was wholly different from how you are now choosing to apply it.

It would be something like NASA discovering a Martian -- a creature who for the sake of argument uses something else in place of brainwaves to live and move and breathe -- and declaring, "Nope, he's not alive because he doesn't have a brain stem, and the UDDA says if you don't have a functioning brain stem you're not alive." That's not why the UDDA was drawn up. And we shouldn't be forcing its application onto circumstances for which it was never intended, be that the case of a Martian or of an unborn child.

Thirdly, I've never heard any philosopher, any MD, any professor of biology, any surgeon, or any text remind us that a fetus is a living human being only in the sense that he/she is "biologically alive", and should not be confused with what is otherwise commonly known as "a living human". You are the first person I've met to make the distinction.

Lastly, in the quote above I think you are conflating two separate ideas which, tangled together only make a mess of the argument. We have to untangle them, and keep them that way. The first consideration is whether or not a human being is alive (brain dead patients would not qualify according to medical science; a growing embryo would). And the second idea is the value judgment which society chooses to pass on a particular group of living human beings. With regard to the first point, science is unequivocal. A zygote is a living human being. Period. (I hope, but have serious doubts, that I've convinced you there ought to be no distinction between "a living human being" i.e. a fetus, and "a living human being" i.e. a toddler. They're both "living human beings" -- a phrase which has but one meaning -- and the criteria found in the UDDA should not be applied to the fetus per the three reasons listed above.)

Now, with that in mind we can move forward and address the second notion. Namely, what sort of value society should place on particular living human beings. As for the unborn, our modern American society says "not much". And I see the value-judgment as fundamentally the same mistake made 200 years ago with regard to blacks. In those days we discriminated against human beings based on skin color. Today we do it based on level of development. But discriminating between any two groups of innocent human beings and then declaring one group expendable strikes me as the height of injustice. And the basis on which you choose to discriminate is entirely irrelevant as human rights ought not be reserved for select human beings only. All human beings should qualify.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Panis Angelicus

St. Thomas expresses what I have always sensed interiorly:

"Because out of reverence towards this sacrament, nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hands, for touching this sacrament." - St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica