Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chaput and the Gospel of Life

I've done a poor job of posting this month.  My apologies.  I do hope that all of you had a great Thanksgiving!

Several weeks ago, Archbishop Chaput gave an address at the University of Pennsylvania.  You can access the text HERE.  My comments follow.

Chaput does a nice job here, working through the philosophical fallout that got us to this position.  He moves from the shredding of traditional moral principles, objective Truth and pursuit of a universal good, and into the new position of dominance science has attained.  But, science without morality is destructive.  His quote from Postman is fantastic.  This relationship (or lack thereof) between morality and science is brought up in a different light at the very end of his article - "Laws without morals are useless."  The emptying that Chaput brings up in the first point is present throughout the article. 

As a result of this "moral emptying," man's life loses its transcendent value, and life becomes mechanistic and defined by utilitarian standards.  And, the constitution begins to float on air...protecting who exactly?  Protecting what?  An empty good?  A people without meaning or essential value?  JP II touches on this in Evangelium Vitae:

Man is no longer able to see himself as "mysteriously different" from other earthly creatures; he regards himself merely as one more living being, as an organism which, at most, has reached a high stage of perfection.  Enclosed in the narrow horizon of this physical nature, he is somehow reduced to being "a thing," and no longer grasps the "transcendent" character of his "existence as man."  He no longer considers life as a splendid gift from God, something "sacred," entrusted to his responsibility, and thus also to his loving care and "veneration." 
Recognizing once again the tremendous value of human existence, rooted in a spirit of wonder, seems to put man back into his proper place of exercising a true reason (as opposed to the limited one we often employ) and true freedom (as opposed to the false notion of autonomy we hold in its place).  From this renewed understanding, Chaput's fourth point makes sense - the reasonableness of the pro-life position.  He quotes from Bonhoeffer:

“Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed on this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.”
Bonhoeffer's line of thinking, is echoed by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in its document Declaration on Procured Abortion: 

What is at stake is so important that, from the standpoint of moral obligation, the mere probability that a human person is involved would suffice to justify an absolutely clear prohibition aimed at killing a human embryo.

These lines from the CDF, and the ones above from Bonhoeffer, only make sense in light of this renewed vision, this sort of resurrection of proper philosophy about man and his place in the universe.  But, much work remains to bring about this type of renewal.  Chaput provides us with an outline, a road map, and in his typical fashion, he seeks to send us out on a mission to uphold and proclaim truth, which in this case really is the Gospel of Life.

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