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If life is not sacred...



Some weeks ago I wrote about the taking of human life and of the loss of its sacred connotations. I argued that the decisive consideration governing recent legislation in such issues as abortion and assisted dying has been the appeal to individual choice, supported by compassion for people who suffer from their denial. Whether we welcome this trend or regret it, as I do, we all have an interest in asking what effect it will have on society. In this article I would like to explore this question in a way that opens rather than closes conversation.  

I should begin by acknowledging the complexities of this discussion. There are significant differences between abortion and assisted dying. Those who defend assisted dying acknowledge that it involves taking a life. Many who defend abortion deny it, seeing the foetus as part of the woman’s own body. That argument recognises in part the unique status of the foetus. It begins and grows in a woman’s body, and so can be seen as part of her body. It is, however, a unique part of her body in that it has and develops the potential for independent life. To that extent it is also a living being in its own right. This double status of the move from dependence to independence of the foetus means that there is a physical difference between removing a foetus early in term, late in term and taking the life of a child after birth.

Whether those differences makes an ethical, and so should make a legal, difference is the point in dispute. In most Australian States abortion is available for up to twenty weeks when it is conducive to the health of the pregnant woman, and also later though subject to further restrictions. At this stage the foetus can move and hear. It seems reasonable to describe abortion at this stage as taking life, allowing for strongly held conflicting views on its ethical value.

The focus on the individual choice of the person who is pregnant or who seeks assistance to die is also part of a more complex picture. It prioritises one of many relationships involved in a person’s life and death. In the case of abortion these include the relationship to the man involved in conception, to family and friends, employers and fellow workers, and doctors and nurses participating in the abortion. In the case of assisted dying they also include family and friends, and participating doctors, nurses and hospital staff involved. More broadly in each case they include the relationship to society as a whole through the effects that individual decisions have on social attitudes. Many people have an interest in the taking of life.  Whether the choice of the pregnant woman and the person who seeks to have their life ended should be decisive, and if so with what qualifications, is the ethical question in dispute in both cases.

In this exploration I do not enter these ethical considerations, though I see them as the most important issues. In both cases the move in society and consequently in legislation is to privilege individual freedom of choice. The exercise of this right trumps countervailing claims ultimately based on the sacredness of life. By sacredness I mean the conviction that each human being and consequently their life, has such a high value that it forbids them and others from deliberately taking life for pragmatic reasons.


'If this move to privilege individual choice over the claims of the sanctity of life continues and becomes more pervasive, what will be the effects on society?'


This evaluation of human life underlay the serious penalties against murder, the stigma attaching to suicide, and past legislation against abortion and euthanasia. Such legislation did not prevent abortion. Not did it prevent people who wished to die from arranging it. But it did initially express the shared conviction that murder, abortion and assisted suicide were destructive of society. The strong emphasis on the sacredness of life, however, often resulted in a stigma being attached to suicide and to abortion that could cripple the lives of people who were already heavily burdened. Public awareness of such suffering has fed the compassion that underlies the popular support for legislative change.

This popular and parliamentary support means that the sanctity of human life is no longer seen as a value that overrides other values. In certain circumstances individuals may take their own or others’ lives to secure other competing goods. They may choose to be killed rather than to live with dementia or in pain, for example, or to abort a foetus because of the burden imposed by raising a child to financial survival, to career, family relationships or reputation. Society may ensure that such decisions are free, informed and duly regulated, but has no higher interest or responsibility. The logic of individual choice will result in regulation being loosened or ignored over time. Think of profit making through financial chicanery, gambling, pornography and drinking.

If this move to privilege individual choice over the claims of the sanctity of life continues and becomes more pervasive, what will be the effects on society? They are unlikely to be immediate or dramatic. In every society many people have terminated pregnancies and many others have chosen to end their lives. Legalising abortion and assisted dying is unlikely to cause rapid growth in numbers.

The more significant effects of the emphasis on individual choice on the taking of life, however, lie in the nature of individual choice. Because the choice is individual it is inevitably open to conflict with the choice of others. In the case of abortion and assisted dying, the choice of the pregnant woman to abort a child or of persons who wish their lives to be ended may conflict with the choice of relatives, doctors, nurses and the owners of hospitals not to be complicit in the abortion or assisted dying. These kinds of conflict then need to be resolved by legislation. In this way the free choice of one group of people will be privileged by the exercise of power that limits the freedom to choose of other groups. This inevitably strengthens the power of the State and of its agents in matters of life and death.

The dangers of this can be seen in the way in which in Australia and elsewhere the State handles its responsibilities for taking life through its military actions in other nations. The will of the Executive prevails without reference to Parliament, is buttressed by secrecy, has no consideration for the effects of war on the people affected by it during the military action or after it is called off. Respect for reason, for the value of each human being and for the common good is trumped by the exercise of power for strategic and economic interests.


'Once governments have assumed the power to decide matters of life and death, and have in place structures that allow its educated agents to make those decisions, the pressure to assist them unknowing to die as part of good economic management will increase.' 


It is to be feared that in time, the power of the State and its agents to regulate whether people live and die will be exercised in a similarly overbearing way that limits individual choice. The recent switch of the Chinese Government, with its increasing use of technology to control individual lives, from tacitly allowing abortions in support of its one child policy to actively discouraging them in the interests of economic growth, is a straw in the wind.

When individual choice becomes king in society, the groups most vulnerable include people who are deprived of choice by age or by marginalisation. They have no access to power. These include classically the unborn and the intellectually handicapped, but also significantly the increasing number of elderly people who suffer from dementia. Once governments have assumed the power to decide matters of life and death, and have in place structures that allow its educated agents to make those decisions, the pressure to assist them unknowing to die as part of good economic management will increase. This could be commended by an appeal to compassion for their diminished condition and for their relatives who must observe it.

This is a dyspeptic vision of a future in which freedom of individual choice reigns. It need not come about. But can it be avoided without arriving at a more deeply grounded sense of human dignity and giving a higher priority to the relationships that shape individuals into persons? 




Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

Main image: Three people holding hands together. (Getty Images)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, life, sacred, abortion, euthanasia



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Existing comments

In support of the theme of this article, the sacredness of human life, I would like to offer a real time, real life example, Andy. My wife, who is in her mid-60s, has suffered from irreversible, deteriorating Alzheimer's for at least the last 5 years, when she was diagnosed. I was her carer for 4. She should have gone into care 3 years ago, It is about a year since she went in. I am beyond exhaustion and being 10 years older than her, will have to relinquish some of the 'hands on' assistance I used to give and hand over the liasion with care providers to her Support Coordinator. I shall still visit and have overall care of her affairs. In a country like Belgium or Holland, I could ask for euthanasia. I wouldn't. What worries me is, as the self-considered righteous politicians proceed down the slippery slope of making euthanasia easier and more supposedly 'compassionate', will the right to live be taken away from those like my wife who have no relatives or carers? I can see a Brave New World dawning.

Edward Fido | 07 October 2021  

This must be one of Andrew Hamilton's most persuasive essays. He touches on so many different issues while never forgetting the main thrust of his thinking.
In his opening paragraph he states the laudable aim of exploring this question "in a way that opens rather than closes conversation." Without being able to match his literary precision, I too have tried to approach this question, through the odd book review and panel membership, in a similar manner. Never once have I felt comfortable with the product of my response. Without exception I believed the pro-choice people on the other side of the debate were genuine and clearly removed from self-centred indulgence and superficiality. I am not certain that I ever fully communicated this to them. Father's approach is close to what I hoped to achieve and, so far, have not. He has provided a model that is informed, compassionate and empathetic. Go thou and do likewise I say to myself hopefully.
Over recent years I have worked on the assumption that medical science generally accepted that life began at conception. This article gives the lie to that. I am sure the author would not want me to accept his view without further research. However, obviously, I need to do this and at a deeper level.
"If Life Is Not Sacred" opens so many other doors through which the treatment of this important topic must pass. I have touched on only two. I thank Andrew for his superb analysis of an issue that is deserving of such a gifted approach.

grebo | 07 October 2021  

When the assisted dying legislation was passed it had the safety clause that the person involved had to give " informed consent". At the time I wondered about those who, for one reason or another, cannot give informed consent. I estimate that sometime in the near future there will be a major push to allow a family member/ doctor/ carer the right to request a government appointed agent make the choice for them.

Brian Leeming | 07 October 2021  

Thankyou, Andrew, for a thoughtful article. And I appreciate your inclusion of war into the issue.
I am amazed at how often the only lives that right-wing conservatives consider as sacred are embryonic human lives in the womb and dying human lives on the death bed. You at least add the lives lost to war. The image comes to mind of Iraqi fathers walking the streets with plastic garbage bags picking up pieces of their dead children shredded by a US drone attack.
But there are many other issues where the state/markets/public policy kill people - capital punishment, climate change, neoliberal capitalism, social inequality, unemployment, government funding cuts to health and welfare, the war on drugs, motor vehicles, gun ownership, selling alcohol, anti-refugee policies. We see a ludicrous example of this in the US at present, where states like Texas and Florida bring in harsh anti-abortion laws, but let Covid rip through the community (in the name of 'freedom'), killing tens of thousands of people.
Why does the sanctity of life apply only to abortion and euthanasia, and not to these other causes of not only death, but much suffering. After all, Jesus seemed much stronger on compassion than with a simplistic sanctity of life.

Peter Schulz | 07 October 2021  
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The Tradition of the Church is that there are four ‘sins’ which ‘cry to Heaven for vengeance.’ There is no cafeteria picking and choosing between them and, to that extent, it is a puzzle as to why Greg Abbott or Ron deSantis would want to narrow the distance between themselves and Cecile Richards.

roy chen yee | 08 October 2021  

A powerful writing style that employs techniques which impinge the eristic; the modes are (1) ad rem, (2) ad hominem and/or ex concessis. The introduction and subsequent 3 paragraphs discuss ethics, then para 4 abrogates: "I do not enter these ethical considerations..." which creates an interesting twist. Given the gravity of the topic, a quick grab for the human rights delinquencies of (said) China then a vague, imputed carry-over of the general to the specific to western (our, implied) democracies which brings the consideration closer to home for the reader than was fairly established. But yeah, it's on the right track. Thanks.

ray | 07 October 2021  
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As always, Ray, your's epitomises the 'style-queen' approach from a pontificating armchair. That said, its nice, I suppose, that you enter the conversation: proof, in the end, that Andy has made his extremely valuable, direly necessary and devastatingly deft mark.

Michael Furtado | 12 October 2021  

Michael, Andy's topic is under hot debate at the best of times but probably currently approaching a political and social nexus; being armed with concise writing to support a case is imperative. In all likelihood, the ability to influence/empower readers and persuade others will come down to the minutiae of the syntax and precision of arguments. Case in point, a recent article on ES by Frank Brennan which elaborates the wording of a Bill taken to parliament ultimately made the law ineffective; as simple as parliamentarians misunderstanding the legal imperative of the words obliged and obligation. Bluster like the first four paragraphs (which Andy dismisses himself) might cut it in social palaver but won't pass prudential muster; struck. The imputed carry-over could be too easily dismissed as conjecture as wrote but can be persuasively reconstructed to be reasonable foreseeable risk. I'm not here to pester writers on grammar but give constructive structural criticism... if they're satisfied that's the best they can deliver in appeal on the topic of sacred lives it's their option. So what's my options here on the matter of human life? Do nothing or say "that'll do..." but think otherwise? cheers.

ray | 13 October 2021  

I always think you mean well, Ray. I was at Oxford with Andy and where he had the reputation of being a communicator par excellence. People widely recognise this medium as his metier. To 'read' him as a debater is to miss the nuances of his style which, to my way of thinking is eclectic as well as persuasive in ways that I associate with women writers and some ethicists like Martha Nussbaum. While I think this comes from his Jesuit formation he is no polemicist and, I note, his work actively encourages engagement with his thought processes unlike, say, many of us here, who write with a sense of hypermasculinity that pretty much succeeds in turning away middle-of-the-roaders (and, that said, there are some very bright women on this site, as you may care to observe). This doesn't k.o. Frank Brennan, whom I regard, as you do, as a formidable speaker and orator. I have heard Brennan debate the WA Premier Sir Charles Court, himself a forceful speaker, on ABC RN, and Brennan trounced him. But he did so on behalf of scandalously disenfranchised and put-upon Aborigines! That's the rub, Ray. Are we here to trounce or to persuade?

Michael Furtado | 13 October 2021  

‘Are we here to trounce or to persuade?’ ‘Trounce’ is the bleat of a wounded ego. Wounded egos obstruct truth.

roy chen yee | 15 October 2021  

If society's ideal is to be whole and complete then valuing people is paramount. People on the pro-choice side of the debate, both in abortion and euthanasia, are not necessarily self-serving. It takes two people to conceive a child and, in some cases, one person who has used force and violence. It is the woman who often has to face consequences alone in both those circumstances. More compassion and support and less judgment can bring wholeness back into lives. In circumstances of end of life situations much more financial and human support for high quality palliative care is an imperative. Edward's story of his great care for his wife highlighted what can happen in the situation where no relatives or carers are there to advocate for a loved one. Our full expression as a society of wholeness and completeness can be demonstrated in the difficult issues of abortion and euthanasia only when we realise the gift of every life.

Pam | 08 October 2021  
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‘face consequences alone’ This is the variable. Change that and the issue goes away. Every problem is meant to be solved and when you have only two solutions, one of which is icky, there’s no question except for what logistics are needed to fulfill the other solution.

roy chen yee | 08 October 2021  

Thanks roy. From Mandy Beaumont's "Pack a suitcase": Pack a suitcase/and find me.

Pam | 08 October 2021  

Perhaps that’s the logistic to be changed. Poetry isn’t poetry to those who say what it is unless it’s noir. Poetry which is picket fence is not poetry. No mood power. But noir is the ineffectual limping bellhop. Or Lloyd Webber’s ‘existentialist’ Another Suitcase in Another Hall. Picket fence is Brian Mathews’ ‘incredibly handy father-in-law’ who immediately begins ‘constructing or adapting all the necessary gear’ (The satisfactions of homeliness, October 6). Who wouldn’t know poetry if it jumped out from behind a tree and bit him on the ass.

roy chen yee | 08 October 2021  

The future wherein "freedom of individual choice reigns" overtook Western Civilisation and its life-protecting law with the revolution of the 1960s. The rapidity of decline with the abandonment and persecution of Christianity (sadly by many nominal Christians themselves) is stunning. We are already living in the future you conceive, Fr Andy,

john frawley | 08 October 2021  
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Yes John Frawley and the foremost leader in this attack and his single handed successes in rewriting church policy on: teen gender orientation, late term abortion, "voluntary" assisted dying, is the Victorian premier.

Francis Armstrong | 09 October 2021  

Aren't we, all of us selective hand-wringers and doom-sayers on this site, collectively to blame for these unilateral judgments, John & Francis? After all, the 60s also unleashed the great volcano of consciousness about the importance and value of human and civil rights. As a result we have civil rights in the US, the fall of apartheid, the end of colonialism, the decriminalisation of homosexuality and, above all because it affects half of humanity, the interrogation of male attitudes towards women. Maybe, back to topic is what's in need here. I don't see Andy taking a vituperative stance against abortion and euthanansia. But he sure as hell induces us to think; no?

Michael Furtado | 12 October 2021  

I am someone who has an orthodox ethical objection to abortion and euthanasia and I thank Andrew Hamilton for his analysis. My reservation about punitive sanctions in law, certainly against abortion, is that they may well be meant to embody the presumed moral consensus of society on the inalienable nature of life, but that it will inevitably be applied in a completely counter-productive deterrent spirit (see Texas), given the frequent political advantage sought by governments in a law-and-order stance. The stark truth is that this society wants it both ways: freedom of individual choice, so long as it remains subordinated to unfettered economic efficiency (which IPA neoliberal really wants to "waste" public resources on disability services? NDIS, anyone?). Apart from that arrant hypocrisy, I do not think that criminalisation is proper in a society wherein considered arguments (not that I think them ethically compelling or agree with them) currently can be advanced for abortion, in actual good faith. Neverthless I was deeply bothered today by a piece from the ABC describing how families were pressured into aborting pregnancies with evidence of Down's syndrome. It evidences how an almost eugenics-like ideology of pre-emptive relief from a "burdensome" child is already cutting across the illusory freedom of choice much vaunted by libertarians.

Fred Green | 08 October 2021  
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On the nail, Fred, with your persistent and unerring mallet! I've a friend who got pregnant when newly MMR vaccinated. She was then persuaded by her doctor to terminate with the ultimate in saccharine inducements whispered into her vulnerable ear: 'Think of it as no more than a pesky headache, my dear, which I'm here to remedy.' The ultimate descent to shady mealy-mouthed medical sophistry!

Michael Furtado | 12 October 2021  

And now in NSW we have a Premier who puts economics above human life, seemingly putting Economic growth above the risk of killing people to Covid. Again not a direct paraell to Assisted dying or Abortion but more a model of morality as it suits.

John Crimmins | 08 October 2021  
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And he's an Opus Dei man, John! So much for their pious virtue-signalling!

Michael Furtado | 12 October 2021  

Andrew, do you believe that there can never be any circumstance in which either an abortion or a decision to seek assisted death may be justified?

Michael Leahy | 08 October 2021  

Thanks Andrew, I'll need to read this yet again, but after two readings it appears to be a very important contribution to conversations and better policies... slightly countercultural perhaps, but engaging, caring, deeply thought through...

John Honner | 08 October 2021  

A very well written and argued article. Firstly I would like to say that in order to be Pro life you cant just be anti abortion or anti euthanasia. You have to so much more. You have to be pro adoption, you have to anti death penalty etc.I am very aware that this is a fine line we walk but I am always struck when this topic comes up that we don't really talk about any life. We talk specifically about human life. This disturbs me because I understand all life to be God given. I am a dog owner and have nursed two dogs toward death in my life and have been privileged to be there when the decision was made that things had gone too far and that for their sake their life needed to end. I would very much like the capacity to make that decision for my own life. I am struck that the advances in medical science have sometimes led to what I might see as an unfair extension of life for both people and other animals. Often this is generated by a form of love. But if you love something or someone then you have to be able to let them go

geoff Duke | 08 October 2021  
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‘I would very much like the capacity to make that decision for my own life.’ A Satanic counterfeit is something that very much looks like the truth. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t. To make a monumental decision that has an equal probability of being a monumental stuff-up adjacent to the moment of judgement is not something that an insurance actuary would recommend. This where the ‘conscience is an individual thing’ rubber hits the road. When the Church has authoritatively declared that an idea cannot be held in conscience, it can’t. The idea when migrating from the Church Militant is not, at the dock, to choose a boat which might sink before it gets to the Church Triumphant.

roy chen yee | 10 October 2021  

So if the church has declared that Women cannot be ordained we cant think otherwise Roy? That canon law supersedes civil law? That the Pontifical secret is not a pretext for cover up? According to the "Secreta continere," a canonical instruction issued by the Secretariat of State in 1974, those bound by the pontifical secret take an oath at the beginning of their service in the Curia or the diplomatic corps, promising to "in no way, under any pretext, whether of greater good, or of very urgent and very grave reason," to break the secret. What blither and nonsense! If we have to believe that sort of rubbish then this church is simply not worth belonging to.

Francis Armstrong | 12 October 2021  

‘So if the church has declared that women cannot be ordained we can’t think otherwise?’ In matters where the Church declares there must be obedience in mind, you can think about why your mind is attached to being disobedient. If Eve had thought about that, we might be in a better elsewhere today. Actually, being a semi-perfect being, much like Lucifer before his fall, she probably did put her considerable wits to the matter but decided to go differently.

roy chen yee | 13 October 2021  

Pull your head in, Roy! With the 'divil' always up your polemical sleeve you could do heaps better by alluding to Church rules as handy clothes-pegs or pointers upon which to rest complex and difficult-to-make decisions. Doesn't it ever occur to you, mate, that there are people on this page who are suffering? Try enrolling for that June Dally-Watkins Charm School PhD instead. People might actually then buy the high-value product you're spruiking!

Michael Furtado | 12 October 2021  

There are four sin-sectors which 'cry to heaven for vengeance.' In two of them, the Church has compulsory rules, in the others, it gives helpful clothes pegs to help with decisions. Abortion, contraception, euthanasia and homosexuality go in the compulsory rules baskets. You’ll have to take up why with the Basket Weaver, who is also the Chief Consoler of the Suffering. We can only do what we’re told (if that’s what we’re told). It’s not my fault the Holy Spirit who does the telling doesn’t have a PhD so maybe you can take that up with him, although I take considerable comfort from what John Frawley says about palliative care.

roy chen yee | 13 October 2021  

I'm stunned by Ray's bizarre 'critique' of this fine, intelligent article. He writes as if he were a comic professor demolishing a paper by a student in Philosophy 1A. They were much kinder to us in that subject at the University of Melbourne. He made me laugh: he was absurd. Peter Schulz is quite right to be worried about the obscenity of modern warfare. In some militaries, even the language is bowdlerised to eliminate words like 'killing'. The euphemism I hate is 'collateral damage'. The amount of chemicals dropped on Southeast Asia is unbelievable. The war in Afghanistan was horrific and then we deserted its people to barbarians who actually follow no moral code, despite their pretence of being good Muslims. One of the training grounds for the British Army is the smouldering conflict in Northern Ireland. So many atrocities there will continue to remain unpunished. Life is sacred, as all the Great World Religions say. Sometimes people in abject poverty, such as in India, see more value in human life than those in far richer circumstances. One of the things which horrifies me is the unacceptably high levels of suicides among all groups in Australia. If that is not devaluing life, you tell me what is.

Edward Fido | 08 October 2021  

If life is not sacred....from the womb to the tomb.

What are the words to Psalm 139?
Woven together within the womb [Psalm 139]

Woven together within the womb, Fearfully, wonderfully made;
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

What about the intervening years life was still sacred.

Lynne Newington | 09 October 2021  

It is possible to share Andrew's affirmation that human life has a sacred dignity, directly derived from the Source of Life and, consequently, watch current political resolutions of beginning and end of life issues with concern, but, not concur that the prevailing discourse is adequately framed in a contest of opposites – choice versus the sacredness of life. It is certainly true that choice has been enabled in recent state legislative acts. But, perhaps, a second look is warranted?

Choice is an everyday constituent of human experience – as are limits to choice, in their myriad manifestations. Further, societies which value the achievements of scientific inquiry regularly review past taboos, prohibitions and penalties in the light of relevant discoveries. And these revisions frequently involve minor or major modifications to prior wisdom: the medical arena being replete with exemplars of this process. Secondly, the adherents of the sacredness of life position do not speak with one voice. Some supporters blur the boundaries of civilised discourse with their belligerent modes of advocacy. Others, who ordinarily share an allegiance to the Judeo-Christian ethic of human life – alongside members of other world religions – are willing to consider exceptional circumstances which permit setting aside the prohibition and allow deliberate, radical human intervention. Those of us who had the benefit of learning from the likes of Bernard Haring CssR and Richard McCormick SJ see value in a careful examination of these arguments, lest we fall into an instance of Bernard Lonergan SJ's “scotosis”

Since the time of Augustine of Hippo, Christians witness to a capacity to reinterpret absolute prohibitions in favour of a modified and partially permissive position. We may well continue to vote as citizens opposed to current political initiatives in beginning and end of life issues – while taking careful cogniscance of dissenting opinions by citizens who proceed from a platform of good will.

Bill Burke | 10 October 2021  
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My contribution was simply Scripture born, easy to read and easy to understand... ..not from theologians, academics or notaries.

Lynne newington | 10 October 2021  

‘platforms of good will’ > ‘taboos’ > ‘scotosis’. A diagnosis of scotosis can be a reprieve by grace. Perhaps the best example of it in the New Testament is the attribution of scotosis and a subsequent plea to the Father for forgiveness for what seems to be a clear-sightedness by Caiaphas and his colleagues that on balance, it was better for one man to be murdered than a people, and we see this sustained by their response to Judas where they affirm that the money, even for that so-called better purpose, cannot be returned to the Temple. However, it may be testing God to hope to draw that same ace by hoping for similar attributions to ourselves. Who is to say that the idea of ‘on balance, better this than that, say we, washing our hands’ is not the essence of this disquisition which dissolves into ‘On balance, so the kid dies’? A taboo is a quick way in the culture for those who don’t spend a lot of time on philosophy because they have other useful things to do like maintain a supply chain to know that some so-called platforms of good will look like good will because they are satanic counterfeits which very much look like the truth. Like tares and wheat, a personalised Evil can look like a truth, and philosophers who refuse to believe in a personalised Evil rob themselves of a useful instrument for their trade of assessing the correct and the incorrect.

roy chen yee | 11 October 2021  

Roy, Salman Rushdie superbly parodied you when he wrote 'The Satanic Verses'. Stop being a gargoyle, Roy! There are too many of them still to be found, generally crumbling in cathedrals, mosques and cemeteries. Chesterton wrote illuminatingly about them, but styles have changed as should your 'Islamist' polemic if love and justice is to eventuate.

Michael Furtado | 12 October 2021  

Perhaps, in a liberal democracy (or perhaps only in a French liberal democracy), you might find a Muslim inscription attached to a gargoyle on a cathedral but it is unlikely you would find a jinn with a Christian inscription (or just even a jinn), even in a liberal democracy, carved onto the side of a mosque, even, one daresays, in a French liberal democracy.


Meanwhile, feel free to refute the details of the post to which you react but not respond.

roy chen yee | 13 October 2021  

Good grief, a reasoned discourse from you Bill Burke! Perhaps a wee bit long in the tooth and padded with names of (only) Catholic divines for me. I can see where, in many cases, palliative care under the most favourable conditions, is the only ethical medical option. We all have a time to die. I am not one for either unnecessarily shortening nor unnecessarily prolonging life, but I would take advice on what the medical situation actually was from a decent medically trained person. There is, I believe, a theological case, where, in order to save a woman's life, an operation may take place which may result in the loss of a baby. This is a very exceptional situation and not open permission to perform an abortion. I believe, in the past, certain doctors would certify that a woman's mental health would suffer if she had a baby, thus justifying an abortion. I do not think this is necessary under current legislation. One of the things I think our legislators do not do is to ask older people who want to live, not be euthanised, what they actually need to live out the natural course of their lives. Euthanasia and abortion are often 'one size fits all' solutions.

Edward Fido | 12 October 2021  
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‘Euthanasia and abortion are often 'one size fits all' solutions.’ Taking a stand on a cliche is unwise. Non-abortion and non-euthanasia are also 'one size fits all', as is the Great Commission.

roy chen yee | 12 October 2021  

Edward Fido. You are quite right in saying that there are medical situations where treatment to save a mother's life may result in the loss of a baby, very rarely as you say and typified by, for example. a cancer of the uterus or cervix in a pregnant woman which requires total excision of the uterus to save her life. The intrauterine life will be lost in the surgery because the uterus in this situation is removed with the pregnancy undelivered. This is a completely different situation from procuring abortion in a healthy woman threatened by a mental disorder where removal of the uterus or the baby it contains is not the treatment of the disorder.

john frawley | 12 October 2021  

I totally agree with you, John Frawley. There are always alternatives to a normal, healthy woman aborting a foetus. The 'mental health' grounds was, IMHO, in most cases a copout. Look, I'm going to go against conventional Church teaching and say here that if people do not want children they should use birth control. In fact, I think the Vatican should review this nondoctrinal issue urgently.

Edward Fido | 12 November 2021  

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