Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pro-life Youth Conference this Saturday

Alright, the Pro-Life Youth Conference that Sister Marie Andre roped me into is this Saturday! Barring any technical difficulties, you can actually watch it 3-8 pm streaming live at AirMaria. If there are trolls chewing through the wires and you can't catch all the great action, you can at least read the text of my talk about the dignity of the human person below.

God bless and please pray for a successful conference!

The Dignity of the Human Person

I find it astounding that our entire legal system is designed for the freedom and welfare of the human person, and yet the human person is not defined! Laws are written to account for fair trade between people, regulating what one can and cannot do in civil society. They help us to keep order and we make laws in order to shape the world in which we want to live. And yet, out from underneath us, the sand is eroding away very quickly. The structure that governs us all will collapse without the foundation that is the human person.

There’s a book that’s been out for some time now called Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives, by William Brennan. His study was simple: throughout modern history, language (and consequently, the law) have been used to dehumanize certain groups of people. He studied the plight of the Native Americans, blacks in the South, Jews in Nazi Europe, women, and more recently, the unborn and the elderly and handicapped. True to form, Brennan found that every single group was described by the same categories of words: non-human, animals, parasites, diseases. And when the meaning of these words took hold in the public consciousness, all sorts of heinous actions could be justified against these vulnerable and outcast people.

The pro-life community is not just against abortion, or euthanasia, or capital punishment, or embryonic stem cell research, though being pro-life encompasses all that. The pro-life community is and must be for building a culture of life, a culture that upholds and defends the dignity of the human person.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the human person as the human individual, made in the image of God; not some thing but some one, a unity of spirit and matter, soul and body, capable of knowledge, self-possession, and freedom, who can enter into communion with other persons—and with God.

Anyone who has studied the development of the human body and is honest about the facts that he or she has observed has to admit that the only point at which we can say with certainty that there now exists a distinct human person where a moment ago there was none is conception. At the moment when the sperm cell fertilizes the egg, all the DNA the human body will ever need to grow is already present. Cells begin to split, develop and differentiate almost immediately. In fact, the fastest rate that a human being’s body will ever grow is within the first few months of development in his mother’s womb. Human life begins at conception and ends, of course, in death. If we are to defend and uphold the dignity and rights of the human person, we must recognize, in language, culture, and in law that human life begins at the moment of conception and must be protected until natural death.

We fight against a culture of death, which attacks the premise of the definition of the human person, leaving disastrous consequences. It says that in order for a human to be a person, it must meet some qualifying criteria.
1. The stage of development
The culture of death says:
• Babies in early gestation are not human, but merely a blob of tissue, a human-like animal.
• Babies in middle gestation are not yet viable and so therefore are expendable.
• Babies in late gestation may be a threat, a disease, a parasite on the health of its mother.
2. Level of intelligence/ awareness
The culture of death says:
• Those who are senile or in a persistent vegetative state are no longer human and shouldn’t take up valuable resources.
• Such is a life not worth living.
• They are a burden, a drain, sucking the life out of family members (parasite)
3. Level of independence
The culture of death says:
• Mentally or physically handicapped patients are not productive members of society.
• Also take up too much valuable resources. (The Naxis called them “useless eaters” and killed them systematically)
4. Quality of Life (real or perceived)
The culture of death says:
• ¬¬¬A terminal illness should not be endured—and recommends physician assisted suicide.
• The elderly in long-term care are taking up too much of our time and money. It would be quicker, easier, and less expensive to kill them mercifully than to care for them. (Especially ominous with the prospect of universal health care and medical rationing)
• A baby shouldn’t be born into poverty or other bad circumstances; (every child a wanted child) for those unwanted, it would be better if we prevent her from ever being born.

These are the threats to a culture of life. Many of these threats already have the force of law in this country. Some of these threats are looming on the horizon. What can we do?

First, do not be fooled by the lies that qualify a person’s existence by other factors. A human person is inviolable as a child of God. Speak out and defend the dignity of all people, no matter their age, stage, or walk in life.

Challenge your friends, family, teachers when they have been duped by the lies of the culture of death. Show them that life must be guarded from the moment of conception until natural death. Explain why people are not commodities to be created in a laboratory and discarded.

Some of you here today will be going off to college soon, deciding what direction you’d like to take in life. Some of you may become writers, journalists, doctors or lawyers. Use your work to proclaim our need to respect life in our culture, our medical practice, our legal structure. Do not let the authorities of this age define some people as non-human, for if they have the power to dehumanize some of us, they have the power to dehumanize all of us.

Let me leave you with these two passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Paragraph 2273:

The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.

The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined….

Paragraph 1929:

Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society; which is ordered to him:

What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt.

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