Bioethics,  Catholic Spirituality,  Culture of Death,  euthanasia,  Evangelization,  Pro Life,  relativism,  sin

Gorillas, internet mobs, and the culture of the living dead

“The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual . . . what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”

So reads an excerpt from a 2012 study from the Journal of Medical Ethics, edited by Prof Julian Savulescu, (the director of Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, who will presumably have his ass kicked by CS Lewis at the moment of his death. But I digress.)

Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons,” the study explained: “Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’.

Simcha Fisher wrote a piece last month that resonated deep, and wiped the last vestiges of hope from my brain that Western civilization could be rehabilitated, wholesale. We’re beyond that. Once death becomes an option, Simcha reasoned, then it becomes the only option. For there will always be a perfectly reasonable explanation for culling the herd of humanity for someone else’s sake.

When our lives cease to be acknowledged as divine in origin, the claim to any sort of inalienable right falls on deaf, progressively aloof ears.

How can a clump of cells be valuable, except to the host who carries it in her womb, and even then, only to the extent that she desires it?

How can a tangled, palsied mess of stiff limbs and a vacant stare be valuable to parents who signed up for a baby, doesn’t matter boy or girl, “as long as it’s healthy,”?

How can a defiant, aggressive, self or sibling-harming 2 year-0ld (most of whom are borderline feral, as any honest parent will admit) be anything other than a mistake we could perhaps scrub from the roster and make another go at?

How could an ailing, demented parent with glaucoma and the first stirrings of Alzheimer’s be worth keeping, to the tune of $20,000 a month, in an assistant living facility, fading in and out of twilight and burning through the grandchildren’s  inheritance?

How, indeed.

How, any of us?

Who among us is universally convenient. Useful. Pleasant. Smart. Sweet-smelling.

Who among us has never been a burden to another human soul, and can solemnly swear to avoid the near occasion of burden for all their days, so long as they live?

People have become so very disposable. And real love, the 21st century reasons, means learning to say “I’d kill you” should the circumstances demanded it.

(Oddly enough, real, live disabled people – or differently abled, as it were – don’t seem to share that opinion.)

A 4 year-old falls into a gorilla enclosure because his reckless, negligent mother had the audacity to lose him in a crowded zoo, and the world falls to pieces over the death of, wait for it … the ape. The mother of the nasty little boy who I presume ought to have been left to face the consequences of his own poor choices, Hunger Games style, is now receiving death threats by the hundreds and angry, internet-fueled hate missives by the thousands.

The two leading presidential candidates for the United States of America have either tacitly or explicitly endorsed the wonderful work done by Planned Parenthood, that behemoth of death, again and again.

We’re not sure if we want to live any longer.

We’re not sure if it’s worth living any longer.

Welcome to the dictatorship of relativism. Welcome to an existence so tentatively fixed in reality that one rough semester of junior high could determine whether you live to see your high school graduation, and which locker room you’ll use to change into your cap and gown, should you begin as Brad but end up as Brittany.

Everything is fluid, nothing is certain, and a subjective emotionalism seems to have swept into the vacuum left by our collectively-vacated common sense. Can a society survive the complete abdication of reason? And is it possible to maintain peace without an objective standard of goodness to which we all of us citizens aspire and cling?

I’m not talking about multiculturalism or pluralism, because of course, civilizations have flourished in their diversity, and precisely because of their diversity. But even pluralistic societies tended to be composed of citizens who hold to objective moral truths and adhered to a shared moral order, something along the lines of “don’t kill, don’t cheat, don’t steal.”

We’re beyond that, now. We’ve thresholded to a new echelon of humanity, where the old stodgy moral norms of the Abrahamic religious traditions can at last be swept away like so much patriarchal tartar, built up over millennia of brainwashing.

We have new gods: convenience and technology. All the rest can be jettisoned.

This is depressing as hell to read, isn’t it?

Because it is hell. This is actually what hell is like: an utter disregard for the good of the other, a complete rejection of God, and profound, terminal selfishness. So when you look up, bewildered, from another spiraling news cycle and wonder what in the hell is going on in the world, you’re on the right track.

Hell is precisely what is going on, in the world.

And that is why He came. That is why He’ll come again.

Jesus is the only possible solution to a world as broken as ours. And whether or not it’s broken any worse than Nazareth circa 2 BC is up for debate. But He is and has always been The Only Possible Solution.

It’s not a nice story. He’s not a happy, aspirational character from the annuls of history. He came so that we might have life, and life in abundance.

Because without Him? There is only death.

Look around.

zika

30 Comments

  • Marianne

    Girl . . I would seriously love to be able to have a cup of coffee with you. You. Are. Da. Bomb. Love, an older mom who doesn’t blog.

    • Deana Rudolph

      This might be the most beautiful paragraph ever. I hope if you don’t mind if I share it everywhere:
      Everything is fluid, nothing is certain, and a subjective emotionalism seems to have swept into the vacuum left by our collectively-vacated common sense. Can a society survive the complete abdication of reason? And is it possible to maintain peace without an objective standard of goodness to which we all of us citizens aspire and cling?
      Is “MamaLovesCoffee” an acceptable credit, source for this?

  • AnneMarie

    Thank you for this reflection, so timely with the movie’s release in theaters this week! I especially love how you ask, “Who among us has never been a burden to another human soul…?” because it is so important and eye-opening to utilize that perspective-to see that we are just like those who we might deem “useless” or “unimportant,” and that we all have value and need to have a shot at life.

  • Michelle

    Thank you for this. Everything in your article was just spot on. But as I read articles like this, that point out just what a troubling mess we are in, I wonder, now what? Beyond prayer what are we to do? Maybe that is all we do. I’m afraid it is only going to get much worse. How do we arm ourselves against the onslaught?

    • Jenny Uebbing

      Yeah, I think daily Mass as often as you can, the rosary, loving your family well, and not being afraid to speak the truth even to the mob of the internet, or, even tougher for me, to the neighbor, the cashier, the casual acquaintance, the people in your immediate sphere of influence whom you interact with every day.

    • Frank

      As I do more adult formation in my parish, I hear a lot of folks asking what they can do. Jenny’s response is spot on. I’d just add that there are more people than we sometimes think that see how insane our culture has become and that Christ has given us the Church where we can be sheltered with our brothers and sisters from satan’s power. Knowing this, a small group has started the site below to show our Solidarity. I encourage you to have a look:

      http://www.solidarityinprayer.com/

  • Questioner

    Is it not true that realize that Jews and heretics were so very disposable in medieval Europe? Is it not true that traditional Christian culture has plenty of blood on its hands? What about Franco? What about the Ustashi? What about bisops who actively cover up sexual abuse by priests and hire lobbyists to block survivors? Is it not true that millions more fingers point back at the institutional Church? Is it not true that the institutional Church needs to gets its own house in order before it can convincingly claim to promote the Gospel of life?

    • Jenny Uebbing

      Yes, of course. We sin, we are all sinners. And now we are a piece of a larger culture which is glutted on sin, which worships sin, which knows no sin, but that which it enshrines as fashionable and suddenly and perversely virtuous. The Church is full of saints and sinners, like the entire world. And her flaws and failings stem from our common humanity. Which is why Jesus came, why He still comes to us in the Eucharist, why we desperately need Him in reconciliation, in the Mass, in each other. The Church’s flaws and shortcomings are not proof that God does not love Her and entrust Her with the means of our salvation, but rather, proof that She does not love Him well enough. Over and over again.

    • jeanette

      There is an actual difference between complete disregard for the truth and failing to live up to what you know to be the truth. When you point fingers at the failure of particular members of the Church, you are merely pointing to individual sinners who failed to live up to the truth of what we believe. The message of Jesus Christ as we know it is what we are to aspire to, and keep aspiring to, even in spite of personal failures. Jesus message was not one calling us to perfection without taking into account our fallen nature which enables us to sin. He offers the remedy of grace and salvation that comes to us through the Church to whom He entrusted that mission, sinful though man is. One cannot separate Jesus from the mission of the Church and conclude that the Church is somehow flawed because of miscellaneous examples of human failures. One also cannot cite flaws and fail to cite successes and get a true picture of anyone. The overwhelming evidence of the good which flows from the Church is out there for anyone to see: it is not a hidden secret, it is a powerfully public witness to Jesus Christ. One need only open their eyes to that truth.

    • Deb

      Unfortunately, the Church is holy, but her members are not. Christ is the Head of the Church and in spite of those who have fallen, the Church will always go on to protect the Truth of Christ. Could there be any organization with over a billion members and every one of them be perfect. Please, we are all fallen. The Church will be here until Christ comes again. You may attack the Church all you want, but She is not responsible for the horror that is our society. That would be the secular world and the religious institutions that were started by man who have gone alone with them. The Church is always the one attacked, but usually by those who do not want to live Her message. You cannot have Christ without His Church and sadly, that is obvious when you look at our society.

  • Drusilla Barron

    Spot. On. Thank you.

    What are we to do?

    We must reject hell. We must insist on life. And truth. And smile at those who are stumbling, raise them up, and say, “It’s my pleasure to support you.” And we must keep doing it not because we will change the world (we may), but because we may help those tottering on the edge to sanity.

    • Mira

      This is such a great comment!

      I always want to change the world. Then I realize I can’t and get depressed. But that’s not my job!

      My job is – as you so very well said – to support those who are struggling. I can do that! 🙂

  • jeanette

    Jenny: I once heard a homily from a priest whom I respect that reminds me of the portrait you are painting of the world (true though it may be). He called it “gloom and doom” thinking and discouraged it. I think if we look at the world as hell, it leads us to living life in fear. But the death and resurrection tell us that Jesus overcame the power of hell, and that is all we really need to know about our world. You rightly state that we have to bring the Christian message to our sphere of influence. It is the calling of the laity to bring Jesus into the everyday lives of the people around us. The first and foremost way of doing that is to perfect ourselves in the Christian life and be a sign of love to others.

  • Laura Rose

    So true. It IS depressing, but thanks for the reminder that there is ALWAYS hope because we have Christ and his sacrifice on the cross and love for us. Thank God (literally).

  • Jane

    At Fatima, our Lady said, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” Keep on praying with faith and trust.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      Literally the best comment I’ve ever received – or could hope to receive. I can hang up my keyboard now.

  • John S.

    Give your children a classical education, one that includes the study of philosophy, real history and the REAL liberal arts.

    Why do we lack a culture that values, seeks, knows and lives by the truth? Because we no longer give our children the tools to do that.

    • jeanette

      You are correct about the training in the classics and genuine liberal arts being valuable, however, even with those tools to draw from, kids still have the same basic ability to lose their sense of truth by adopting the ways of the culture. They are, after all, children. They are inexperienced with everything the world is going to throw at them. Social “fitting in” and the whole package offered in the realm of being accepted by peers is sometimes more powerful than the pull of the truth.

      I think a child must also understand that Jesus is the Truth, and with their whole heart seek to follow Him. That gives a motive for being grounded in the truth, even when everyone around you rejects truth. For the most part, our culture promotes hedonism, not truth. Family lifestyle must be countercultural in order to reject that. So, education must go hand in hand with the example and disciplines of the home. There are no guarantees of any outcome. Our children do have a free will. But proper formation of the mind, as you suggest, is the first step towards grappling with the truth.

      • John S.

        “You are correct about the training in the classics and genuine liberal arts being valuable, however, even with those tools to draw from, kids still have the same basic ability to lose their sense of truth by adopting the ways of the culture.”

        Absolutely. The trick is to give them a genuine liberal arts education so that, when they do chose to search for the truth, they have the tools to do so.

        Yes, children can leave the right path. We can counsel them against it, but in the end, the best thing we can do for them is to teach them the proper use of a “map and compass” so that when they get sick of stumbling over dead falls, they can chart a path home.

        “Social “fitting in” and the whole package offered in the realm of being accepted by peers is sometimes more powerful than the pull of the truth.”

        I totally agree.

        “I think a child must also understand that Jesus is the Truth, and with their whole heart seek to follow Him. That gives a motive for being grounded in the truth, even when everyone around you rejects truth.”

        Yes. But that’s kind of my point: to know the Truth, one must be trained in how to discriminate between Truth and Falsehood. Part of that social pressure that you speak of is the lack of belief in such basic things as truth, justice, beauty and love. There are many simple truths that, when spoken today, will shock our fellow citizens. To the point of needing to retreat to “safe spaces”, in some cases.

        1 Peter 3:15,16. To be able to do that at more than the level of feelings requires education in the scholastic tradition that is absent from public schools, precisely because that tradition is in opposition to the unspoken but very real secularist agenda of modern public education, all the way through college.

        “For the most part, our culture promotes hedonism, not truth. Family lifestyle must be counter cultural in order to reject that.”

        I totally agree. My complaint rests in what appears to me to be the deliberate destruction of our culture and the very heart of what an education is supposed to be about. I’m prepared to say, at this point, that the experiment of public education as currently formulated in our country has failed.

        I’m a convert to Catholicism. I converted because it is true; my conversion was primarily an act of reason. Sadly, to be able to convert I had to basically give myself nearly a complete liberal arts education: philosophy, some of the other sciences, a crash course in “art”, a whole raft of literature considered to be “racist and misogynist”, formal linguistics, a lot more history (and a lot less skewed) than I was given, a lot more and a broader study of the natural philosophy, and one heck of a lot of arguing with people who graced me with their time and effort.

        This should have been an inescapable reality of my formal education, not something that I had to prise out of the hands of self-righteous teachers that were more interesting in “social justice change”, than in teaching me the foundations, institutions and structure of our culture.

        Yes, I am a bit bitter. 🙂

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