In many ways, demented patients present the greatest challenge to the question of what makes us human. Victims of dementia seem to lose all power of reason, recognition, speech, and memory. Their minds disintegrate, and all that seems to be left is the physical form. That, too, rapidly fades. Because of this, we tend not to see them as humans, but as something inhuman or formerly human—merely masses of flesh to be tossed aside. But this is a mistake.
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.
Does the sexual depravity of Martin Luther King, Jr. negate his work and witness in the cause of racial justice?
Every child’s existence is a gift not simply to the mother and father but to the entire human family. Adoption is the institutional way of upholding the gift of the child, whether his or her biological parents recognize that child as a gift or not.
It makes no sense to claim that laws restricting abortion tread on the free exercise of religion because they do not allow abortions to be performed by people who have no religious objections to them. No serious interpretation of religious liberty allows people to do whatever they want simply because their religion allows or promotes it.
It’s not enough to teach our children that life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death. We must also teach them to declare the truths of our faith in the public square. Inside the loving embrace of the family, the faithful need to raise a new generation of Christians that stands up for life and boldly proclaims their faith, understanding that no one, not even an elected official, has the right to stand in their way.
There are a number of praiseworthy provisions in the Vatican’s new rules, which are meant to root out abuse by bishops and prevent further cover-ups, but there are glaring problems and omissions as well. Troublingly, the new rules apply only to coerced sexual acts, not consensual ones. In addition, while reporting abuse is now mandatory, investigations will still be conducted by the Church hierarchy, not lay people or civil authorities.
In his new book, Letter to a Suffering Church, Bishop Robert Barron provides a necessary mixture of teaching and empathetic rage. Barron is right: we should refuse to be mollified by pathetic excuses and baseless claims that everything is fixed. Yes, we need to pray and pursue holiness, to safeguard those parts of the vineyard that are in blossom. But we also need to root out the vermin and destroy their lairs.
In the wake of last month’s decision, the only remedy left to the people of Kansas is to pass a constitutional amendment to declare that there is no “fundamental right to abortion” in the state’s constitution and to allow the legislature to make reasonable laws about abortion.
Terry Eagleton attempts to offer us a gentle revolution, a soft “transition” from Catholicism to Marxism. This is as theoretically and theologically impossible as it is historically unprecedented. Any “radical sacrifice” on anything other than God’s terms will lead to mass bloodshed and human suffering, as it has whenever and wherever such a project has been tried before.
For the first time in American history, it has become respectable to publicly oppose religious liberty and its supreme value in our polity. This unprecedented turn is ominous. It will not only diminish our constitutional law. It will remap our common life, for religious liberty has always been a linchpin of our political culture.
The divide between the “two cultures” of the sciences and the humanities is a well-known problem in education. The discipline that we need in order to unify them is natural philosophy.
The remarkable growth of Jewish Orthodoxy, evangelical Christianity, orthodox Catholicism, and devout Islam in this post-secular age demonstrates that many people are seeking to recover a sense of meaning that transcends the material.
Robert Wilken’s new book convincingly demonstrates that the concept of religious freedom has its origins in Christianity. Unfortunately, in today’s political climate, that may actually be viewed as an argument against religious freedom.
The American Nurses Association Draft Position Statement on nursing and assisted suicide completely upends the proper role of nurses, leaving those who object without support.
The pro-life movement is really asking for a moral revolution. If the child lives, the mother’s life will not be the same, because if we accept the principles that allow the child to live, none of our lives can be the same. There is no way to guarantee a world safe for the unborn child that is also a world of total sexual and economic autonomy. In any world in which autonomy is the highest ideal, the child—that incarnate sign of our dependence and existential poverty—must go.
Technology promises to solve our problems, but it also creates new ones. That’s because we have failed to apply human-centric approaches to technology. We think in terms of productivity instead of human flourishing; connectivity instead of community. As a result, our tech use leaves us worse off than we were before—less free, less rested, less peaceful.
When my wife and I mourned the miscarriage of our child, we were not mourning the loss of “potential life.” Hope for a potential life is what we had when we dreamed and prayed for pregnancy; hope for the potential of an existing life is what we had during the pregnancy. When our pregnancy ended, we mourned the loss of a life, of an irreplaceable human person whose particular genetic composition will never be repeated.
The early Church saw challenges to truths about God, the Reformation-era Church saw challenges to truths about the Church herself, and today’s Church is confronted by challenges to truths about man—the being made in the image and likeness of God whom the Church is tasked with protecting. This essay is based on Ryan T. Anderson’s inaugural lecture as the St. John Paul II Teaching Fellow at The University of Dallas.
Without a Christian framework, but with a strong sense of sin, seemingly minor wrongs and slights are seen as representative expressions of the injustices of society as a whole. But there is no one to grant absolution to the repentant, or to redeem the world from its fallen state. Each wrong is indelible, and so there is only sin and punishment. Forgiveness becomes impossible when every discrete wrong is bundled into a secularized version of original sin.
Elizabeth Anscombe’s philosophical investigation of man’s spiritual nature offers a much-needed antidote to the materialism of our times. For Anscombe, to search for the spiritual is not to look somewhere obscure, but to look at the everyday facts of human life, institutions, and history.
The Vatican’s recent Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church failed to produce any new reforms. Cardinal Cupich’s proposal would leave decision-making power in the hands of those authorities that Church members trust least: the bishops and the Vatican hierarchy. Instead, the Church needs to take investigatory and disciplinary processes out of the hands of local bishops and assign them to a national panel with lay members.
The authors of The Terror of Existence: From Ecclesiastes to Theater of the Absurd clearly feel an urgent existential imperative to grapple with the question of how we should live. It is, as they point out, a question even the nihilist must eventually answer.
Far from being an exercise of self-expressive freedom, as some suggest, pornography binds internally, its addictive properties consuming its consumer under a tyranny of license both brutal and total. It denies our humanity as well as our liberty by moving us away from human speech and toward bestial voice.
To live in the world as a pilgrim is to hold things, and places, and even people, lightly—enjoying them all in God, not as gods. For the nature of sin is not that we love bad things, but that we love good things as if they were final things.
For many college students today, to say that man is made for the knowledge (and perhaps even love) of God suggests that those who do not acknowledge God are somehow inadequate, incompetent, or ignorant. For them, such a claim amounts to condescension. This generation distances itself both from the vitriol and virulence of “the new atheists” and the naivete and fundamentalism of religionists in the pursuit of otherwise serene and humane existence.