MASS TIMES and Newsletter
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Deir Mar Musa el-Habashi Monastery
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Links for St. Anthony of Padua Parish
Abortion, Contraception, Sex Outside Marriage, Euthanesia
All the above issues are inter-related and cannot be separated. They are all about life. This, of course, depends very much on how you define ‘Life’. Your definition of ‘Life’ shapes your appreciation of when life begins and of the quality it should have. According to the teaching of the Catholic church:
v Life is more than this physical life. A person’s identity cannot be determined by his name, body, usefulness … This does not mean that the Church advocates ‘life after death’. It is the mission of the Church to bear witness to the gift of ‘eternal life’, not a ‘life after death’.
v God alone is the author of life – both physical and eternal. Life begins with God who exists in eternity. He is not confined to time or space although he is in time and space.
v The gift of life is not something other than God. It is the gift of his life and himself. Cf. ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.’ The giver and the gift are one, i.e. It is God’s nature to be self-giving. Anything or any creature that bears the image of God must reflect this nature of self-giving. Consequently, you receive in order to become one with the giver, i.e. the gift of life comes with a mission. You are born, saved, sanctified for others, not for yourself. Nobody is an island. All are related.
It is obvious that a denial of God would guarantee the denial of the above statements. In the light of the above principles, let us now examine our moral issues:
|Many Christians have no problem with accepting that abortion is an act of murder. It is a disrespect to the sanctity of life. However, many have been convinced that a human being can only be defined as a person after birth. Their argument is that in order to enable a person to grow properly you need to give them a quality life. It is better for the mother to have an abortion if social environment is not healthy enough or unfavourable, i.e. if the child cannot be properly looked after. People convince themselves that a consented artificial termination of a pregnancy is not an act of murder because you are not dealing with a person, but a foetus. The flaws with this policy are:
The pro-abortion people forget that a plant has to grow from a seed, a living thing has to develop from a single cell. Without that single cell, the fertilised egg, in the mother’s womb, there would not be a human being, these pro-abortion people would not be around either. Every single one of them was once a single cell in the womb of their mother and has grown into a recognisable person. The fertilisation of the egg is no accident at all. Rather, a life is given and given for a purpose.
It follows that the identity and dignity of a person are determined by the supreme author of life from the moment of conception, and they must be respected. The person, whose identity is enclosed in this single cell, deserves to be protected and nurtured so that he/she can grow. The suitability of the environment is not a factor to determine whether the foetus deserves a chance to develop or not. It is a sacred duty for the surrounding people to prepare and make the environment favourable for the birth of the child. Your refusal to take on this duty would convince you that it is not your fault (nor your party’s fault) that the environment is not suitable; and to stop this from becoming a problem for you, you must advocate abortion which is an act of terrorism, a violation of human rights.
Many are convinced that although abortion is wrong it is the answer to child pregnancy. The fact is, statistics have shown that the number of abortions performed on girls under 16 has increased as society becomes more tolerant to this form of murder. The only solution to child pregnancy is to stop it from happening in the first place. Chemicals in food and pollution have been regarded as factors that lead to earlier puberty which urges children to experience sex too soon. This is partly true but the key factor is the manipulation of children’s curiosity in those movies and advertisements which incorporate wanton sex and render the human body an android. The people who tolerate and/or want to exploit teen prostitution insist that by teaching children safe sex you can minimise child pregnancy, and by allowing abortion you can relieve children or teenagers from a responsibility for which they are not ready. Such people do not respect either themselves nor their victims. In short, they have no respect and appreciation of life.
Some women argue that they have right to their bodies and since a foetus is alien or foreign to their bodies they can do with it whatever they like. It is true that everybody has right to their body, but these only have meaning in relation to the surrounding people. Would you talk about these rights if you were all on your own? These rights are only mentioned because they should be respected by others; and this is not a one-way but mutual respect. The fact that somebody have not matured enough to speak for themselves, or to have their social status recognised, does not mean that they don’t deserve these rights. Also, if you accept that nobody is an island, that you are related to others, then your physical body must have some relation with others. A person has a body so that he/she can do ‘good’ for others. Whatever he/she does and whatever happens to him/her affects others as well, although they may not feel it physically or emotionally. If this is true to two people who are not biologically related, how much truer should it be to a mother and her child.
You may ask: What about the pregnancy that results from a rape?
The support that the rape victim deserves is that which brings healing to the violation over her body. Abortion is an attempt to pay evil with evil.(The term ‘evil’ is used here as one of religion. It does not have the same meaning as people commonly use in their daily conversation. Very often, the word is used to label a person, e.g. when Regan called Gobachov an evil man before the latter showed any indication of reform. In religion, ‘evil’ is used to refer to anything that destroy a person, i.e. it refers to the sin rather than the sinner.) Abortion definitely cannot bring healing to the victim. Naturally, the child would remind her of the sad incident, her crucifixion. Abortion would give her the choice to opt out of this crucifixion, to avoid the problem. The Church’s teaching is meant to lead her through it with Christ. A fundamental factor that many people tend to forget is that each person is unique. Although you inherit something from both parents, you are a unique person. It would not be right for somebody to take their anger over someone else out on you. The same applies to the innocent child in the womb.
What about therapeutic abortion? Surely, it is justifiable to kill the baby to save the mother?
The job of the doctor is to save both the mother and the baby. If the doctor has this intention in mind, whatever happens to the baby does not really matter. Be very careful what you learn from the media. They tend to deliver a very distorted message, e.g. the case of Jodie and Mary - the Siamese twins who had to be separated. One of the doctors who did the operation was a Catholic. Before the operation, he prayed and sought advices. It was neither his nor the operating team’s intention to kill one of the twins. Their intention was to save both but the limit of modern science did not allow them to do so and the death of Jodie was inevitable. This was never mentioned by the media because that is not what they want you to hear.
The Church’s definition of contraception is that it is a refusal to accept a gift: Contra = against; ception = reception. Conception happens when man is open to the gift of life. Man is called to participate in God’s work of creation. It is in participating in this divine task that man become fully created. This means that man is meant to be pro-life, pro-creation. However, to be pro-life or pro-creation is not to reproduce irresponsibly. In other words, pro-life is not the same as pro-irresponsible reproduction. A child is given to a family and society as a gift. The child’s parents have a responsibility to nurture and help the child to grow as a ‘fully’ human being. They are to provide the child a healthy environment for growth and this involves social, physical, psychological and spiritual factors. For this reason, the Catholic Church encourages parents to plan their family, i.e. they have to anticipate the possible, necessary and quality support they can give to their children. This is what the Church calls ‘family planning’. It requires both parents working together.
For different reasons, people are against the Church’s teaching on this matter. One of these is that the world is becoming over populated, and we are facing a food problem. The fact is there are enough resources but not equal distribution. The powerful like to manipulate global economy and be at ease with their conscience or at least, they would not like others to think of them as selfish people. It is also a fact that proper development of a country naturally sorts out the population. At the beginning of the development, the country would experience an increase in birth rate and a decrease in death rate. Gradually, the birth rate reaches its peak and begins to drop. However, many are convinced that when you help a country to develop naturally and properly you nurture your own rival; and only a crazy person would do such a thing. The only way to secure your superiority is to make sure that the development is imbalanced and un-natural. But, to do this without revealing your negative intention you must promote it in positive terms. Nevertheless, the manipulation of nature would have a knock-on effect on you.
In spite of all the negative things about artificial contraceptive devices, there is something positive about them. For therapeutic purposes, they can be used to help some women with the balance of the hormones in their bodies.
Sex Outside Marriage
|Many have been wrongly informed that the Church is against sex, that she regards it as something dirty. It has never been in the core of the Church’s teaching that sex is dirty. The Church does not allow wanton sex because she believes that:|
Sex is a sacred seal on marriage. Canon law states that a marriage which has not been blessed with this seal, i.e. no consummation, can be considered as invalid, if it has to be dissolved.
In the bible, we have many images of marital relationship used to describe the bond between God and his people. Within these images, God is described as the faithful spouse who never goes back on his word. This commitment from God’s side is a public thing, known also by the pagans. When God decides to commit himself to his people he takes the risk of being betrayed. The question one may like to ask is: ‘If God is ‘wise’ (in human sense), would he not choose to make his covenant conditional so that he could go back on his word? People would laugh at his ‘stupidity’ when they know that he takes the risk of making such a public commitment to an unfaithful people.
One may say that sex has nothing to do with marriage, i.e. it is purely physiological, a natural urge of the physical body. Many can say the same thing about their ‘natural needs’ for alcohol, drugs, gossiping, selfishness … Sexual stimulation does not result from a fixed system. It is not just a simple chain of biochemical reaction. The option for sex outside marriage is not humanly natural. It is an attempt to nurture the ‘self’. Some say that they are natural sex-addicts, i.e. without having sex, they find something missing. The fact is these have been conditioned or programmed to believe so. If you asked who they would like to have sex with, the answer you get would not be ‘anybody’, but ‘somebody of their taste’. It is their taste (without responsibility and self-giving commitment) that motivate them to have a sexual relationship, not their physiological demand. You may be aroused biologically but you are totally free to decide whether to enter a sexual relationship or not. Once you’ve chosen to have sex outside marriage, you empower your ‘self’ and become enslaved by it, i.e. you become addicted to it and it becomes your ‘natural’ need.
Like drugs, alcohol, and many other things to which people can become addicted, sex can be used creatively. The place for this to happen is within marriage. In marital relationship married people find their vocation of reflecting God’s faithfulness: people take a risk when they enter into marriage. This does not mean that you do so without prudent discernment. When you discern you don’t put yourself first. Nor do you try to please anybody. The only question you should ask is: ‘Who can help me to grow in love and this person must also be the one to whom I will give myself?’
When sex outside marriage is out of the question, there is no need to ask whether or not it is suitable to use artificial contraceptive devices in a non-marital genital relationship. However, it is not the Church’s aim to prove people wrong in having sex outside marriage or using contraception in such a relationship – just as in the parable of the prodigal son, the father saw no point in convincing his second son that he was wrong. All he could do was to wait for the return of the son and that is what the Church doing: waiting for those who wish for her death to return.
|(Cf. Safer Home, No. 216 Spring 2002, MJR Print, ‘How Do We Face Up To Euthanasia’, Dr. Xavier Mirabel, Cancer Specialist, p 23-32.)One of the most convincing argument for euthanasia is that you allow people to die with dignity. People tend to forget that a cry for death is a cry for help. When people feel useless or depressed they want a relief. The question is ‘Is depression a physiological problem?’ If the answer is ‘yes’ then euthanasia is an indication of man’s failure to solve a physiological problem. If the answer is ‘no’ then it is obvious that death would not solve depression. The approval of euthanasia is a denial of man’s limits and of a hope that such a problem can be solved in the future. It is an indication of man not being true to himself, i.e. he refuses to admit that life is something beyond his control. The result is that when something gets out of his control, he tries to terminate or get rid of it.
What about people who persistently ask for euthanasia? ‘The first reason is poorly controlled pain. It is (taken for granted) nowadays that pain must and can be effectively managed for all patients: even where it is not possible to control the pain totally, it is no longer acceptable to see patients suffer so severely that they ask for their lives to be shortened. The second reason is without doubt that which most frequently occurs, the lost of dignity by the patient. The loss of independence, not being able to see to one’s own bodily needs, the sense of rejection and the feeling that others are turning away, can all put a patient in an intolerable position. He or she no longer feels accepted as a human being, and so can be driven to asking for euthanasia.’ The third reason is that they have been convinced by others that euthanasia would solve their problem. If it is possible to cheer somebody up with a smile, it is possible to convince somebody that there is no future for them, that they are useless, they are a burden for their families or society and that they would better be dead. Once they’ve been convinced so, you can legally kill them under the name mercy killing.
It is a fact that the request for euthanasia ‘comes most frequently from the care-team or the family. The underlying cause for such a request is usually the impotent pain one feels in the face of the sick person’s suffering and the desire to do something to help someone for whom the situation seems to have become intolerable.’ There is no simple answer to suffering, but we would be more true to ourselves to accept our limits and ‘change the way we see the patient, to create a genuine climate of love, which will give the (suffering patients) back their personal dignity.’
There is, however, a difference between respecting life and manipulating life. When a person is in a process of dying a natural death, one is not supposed to keep their body functioning. Any attempt to do so would only prevent the bodily death from happening and that would be a disrespect to the person in question.
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