Given the ongoing evolution of abortion law in the United States, it makes sense to engage and evaluate the constitutions and laws of other jurisdictions. Although these sources and materials do not determine the meaning of our Constitution, they can illuminate our scientific, medical, and ethical debates. A particularly valuable resource, which explores abortion jurisprudence across a variety of legal contexts, is Unborn Human Life and Fundamental Rights: Leading Constitutional Cases under Scrutiny, edited by William L. Saunders and Pilar Zambrano.
Pillar: The Human Person
The first pillar of a decent society is respect for the human person, which recognizes that all individual human beings have dignity simply because of the kind of being they are: animals whose rational faculties allow them to know, love, reason, and communicate. It also recognizes that human beings are persons, members of the human family who flourish in a community that respects their fundamental rights and who long to discover transcendent truths about the nature of reality.
In Part I of this essay, I outlined the key tenets of critical race theory and showed how popularized versions of this controversial theory have made their way into many public schools across the nation. Today, in Part II, I explain why the teaching of CRT-inspired ideas in public schools is contrary to parental rights; I propose school choice measures as a crucial part of the solution.
The age of digital media has unleashed a profoundly threatening human experiment. By drawing us to waste not only our time, but our attention, social media seduces us to waste our souls. Our brightest engineers have trained our most powerful technology to act with the psychological craftiness of demons. Neuroscience helps us understand how digital media is changing us, but we need a more classical language about the soul to understand, and protect ourselves from, the most ominous of these changes.
Many Catholics have found their consciences rattled by COVID vaccine mandates and are seeking conscience protections and exemptions. But to champion conscience for its own sake, without appreciating what forms and informs it, is to err on a fundamental level. Any consideration of conscience must be aided by the virtues, those firm dispositions of the soul that enable us to act well in every circumstance—no matter how complex or challenging.
Several Catholic dioceses have conflated the teaching of the Church with scientific or prudential judgment about the common good during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led many bishops to dismiss legitimate concerns about COVID vaccines felt by individuals with sensitive consciences. In so doing, these bishops ignore the Church’s teachings about the grave duty to obey one’s conscience.
The collapse of traditional, external anchors of identity—perhaps most obviously those of religion, nation, and family—explains the attraction of the turn inward. The rise of technology feeds the notion that we can bend nature to our will, that the world is just so much raw, plastic material from which we can make whatever meaning or reality we choose. We no longer think of ourselves as subject to the world’s fixed nature, or of it as having an objective authority or meaning. We are the ones with power, and we are the ones who give the world significance.
Perhaps the end of the pandemic is not a matter of eliminating COVID-19 but rather coming to terms with our own mortality. We need to learn how to survive and thrive in the pandemic, even as we try to mitigate the effects of the virus. For guidance, we can turn to Tolstoy’s Ivan Ilyich, who was delivered from his anxious, tormented bondage by conquering his fear of death and adopting selfless concern for others.
Freedom is certainly a value conservatives cherish, but its application has limits. It is not conservative to assert an individual right to act without considering the welfare of his community. Conservatives should choose to get vaccinated and boosted because doing poses almost no risks to their health and is in their community’s interest.
Two bioethicists, Greg F. Burke, MD, and Emanuela Midolo, PhD, debate whether or not healthcare providers should require COVID-19 vaccines for organ transplant recipients.
The only way to avoid a posthuman future is by affirming the goodness of being human in both our personal choices and social and legal institutions. Most importantly, we should recommit to the virtue of religion: giving God His due. Religion teaches us to value the ontological goodness of our creatureliness, exhorts us to take steps to preserve it, and gives us the confidence to do so. When we’re steeped in a religious mode of being, we’re content just to be human; we have no need or desire to grasp for more.
Part I addresses the threat that technology poses to human dignity because of the threat it poses to humanity itself—both elites and non-elites. Transgenderism is the first step on the road to a miserable posthuman future. Part II argues that we must recommit to the virtue of religion if we’re to resist this technologized, posthuman threat.
When Christianity enters a society, it provides an understanding of inherent and equal human dignity that lifts up those whom that society has considered unworthy. But what happens when Christianity recedes? Christian human dignity is not founded on maximizing fairness or autonomy, but on the fact that all human beings are made free and in the image of God. If it becomes detached from that principle, then human dignity no longer makes sense.
“I want to give people hope, people living with mental illness as well as family members of people living with mental illness, that not only can they survive their illness, but they can also reach their greatest potential. Sometimes, in fact, they reach their greatest potential not despite the illness, but because of the illness.”
For a conscience coddled by a culture of self-definition and consent, choice cloaked as grace will always look preferable. But hard, engraved truths such as fatherhood offer rescue from the hell of interminable deliberation—which, as Alasdair MacIntyre has argued, is the hallmark of modern moral theory.
“Post-revolutionary men and women are living in ways that are profoundly unnatural for the ineradicably social creatures that we are; and many are suffering as a result, at times without even knowing the name of what ails them. This preoccupation, and the desire to do something about it, continues to shape my work.”
I think PD is doing important work in addressing modern spiritual challenges: even just acknowledging such problems from an explicitly religious perspective can hopefully get us closer to mitigating them. Both Judaism and Christianity also engender a kind of humility, as we look to the past for wisdom and acknowledge our indebtedness to those who came before us.
There are likely vanishingly few individuals who apply the rigorous ethical criteria they use against the COVID-19 vaccine to the rest of their medical and personal decisions. Such inconsistent application of religious freedom principles in the COVID-19 vaccine debate threatens to significantly weaken desperately needed protections for Catholic medical practices.
Most Catholic priests in the United States perceive a conservative shift among younger priests. But progressive and conservative priests agree that the Catholic Church is not doing well, even if their reasons for saying so might be different.
People from Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) cultures differ vastly in psychology from people from non-WEIRD cultures. Thanks to the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage and family, WEIRD psychology eventually gave rise to free markets, inalienable rights, and democracy.
If the New Atheists were able to convince people to leave, then we too might be able to convince some to come back. Ideas and writing can change lives. If the New Atheists did it, then we Christian writers can be a saving remnant and help write people back into the faith.
Texas’s refusal to choose between the mother and her prenatal child, despite some important questions about the method used to achieve their goals, constitutes a blueprint for the pro-life movement. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, many more vulnerable women across the country will be without the access to abortion our throwaway culture has diabolically forced them to rely on. Pro-lifers must follow Texas’s lead and be at the ready to assist these women. We must make good on our claims that their legal and social equality does not require redistributing oppression to another vulnerable population.
Jordan Peterson’s project is not, at root, about biblical interpretation, metaphysics, theology, or even free speech. It is therapy for people bereft of meaning and purpose. Peterson may not be a prophet, but he is something just as rare: a bloody good clinical psychologist grounded in Christian archetypes and values and focused on treating the existential despair in our society.
The most foundational evidence for the value of the human person is the child in the womb, whose life creates beauty and obligations, possessing all the hope of humanity. When life in the womb has an ambiguous civil, social, and legal status, how can the fabric of our civilization hold together? The unborn child is the most singular affirmation we possess that our existence is not pointless.
Church is not just a place to sing, listen, think, or emote. It is where God delivers Christ and his forgiveness through Word and Sacrament into the whole human person. Privatized, digital worship services subtly spurn physicality and community, unintentionally endorsing a mind–body dualism that runs counter to Christianity’s holistic view of the human person.
The great paradox of late-stage feminism is that it attempts to establish women on equal footing with men by robbing them of their life-giving nature. It’s time to reject this damaging and dangerous lie. Fertility is not a limitation. It is a gift.