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Prescription Handguns?

December 6, 2008

 

Firing handguns can be difficult for folks with arthritis, as the recoil puts a good deal of stress on the wrist and hand joints, and squeezing the trigger can be impossible. Constitution Arms of Maplewood, New Jersey has created the pictured Palm Pistol, a double action 9mm single shot that supposedly is easier to control than traditional pistols by people with bad hands.

More. The device apparently is FDA approved and may soon be reimbursable under Medicare.

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100 Comments
  1. David Nickol permalink
    December 6, 2008 3:05 pm

    These would be very useful for shooting the caps off of childproof prescription bottles.

  2. December 6, 2008 3:26 pm

    Beautiful.

  3. December 6, 2008 4:18 pm

    How awful. Now they will be able to defend themselves. It can only lead to more old-people crime. We know they are shoplifters, now they will commit armed robberies. When will the old people stop the killing? Stop the killing, old folks! Get off the streets and start doing something meaningful with your lives! We need to pass meaningful gun control; and we all know that means keeping guns out of the hands of irresponsible, blood thirsty old people.

  4. David Nickol permalink
    December 6, 2008 4:37 pm

    Lizzie,

    Actually, this device is designed for the disabled and the elderly in the 48 states that have not legalized assisted suicide. Why should it be that only the 18,000 a year who have no difficulty handling regular guns get to shoot themselves?

  5. Policraticus permalink*
    December 6, 2008 6:04 pm

    I have no idea what or who Lizzie is trying to mock, but it appears to have something to do with her love of guns in the hands of the people.

  6. Mark DeFrancisis permalink*
    December 6, 2008 7:26 pm

    Outside is America:

  7. John Haydukovich permalink
    December 6, 2008 7:57 pm

    Good for the manufacturer of that gun.

    Guns are good.

    What the hell does this have to do with Catholic perspective on social issues?

  8. John Haydukovich permalink
    December 6, 2008 8:37 pm

    Catechism states ….

    2321 The prohibition of murder does not abrogate the right to render an unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. Legitimate defense is a grave duty for whoever is responsible for the lives of others or the common good.

    I believe it goes on to say that you may kill to protect yourself or your loved ones and that if in self defense and as long as killing was not “overkill” so to speak … that is is NOT MURDER! NOT A MORTAL SIN!

    It also talks about WAR … that solders killing to protect the Greater Good of society is NOT A SIN Not a violation of the 10 commandments as long as it is not overdone.

    Amazing stuff that catechism.

  9. December 6, 2008 9:21 pm

    Outside is America

    That record is so great. The sound is so american, and yet the critique they make of america is scathing. One of my top 10 favorite albums of all time.

  10. Policraticus permalink*
    December 6, 2008 9:46 pm

    John,

    Could you refresh me on what the Catechism says about guns, missiles, and bombs?

  11. David Nickol permalink
    December 6, 2008 10:35 pm

    It only fires one lousy bullet! You scarcely have a fighting chance if you have one in each hand. I would suggest something semi-automatic mounted on a helmet. Anyone who attacks an arthritic elderly person deserves to be blown to smithereens.

  12. December 7, 2008 12:52 am

    John – Learn to read quotes from the Catechism in proper context.

  13. Policraticus permalink*
    December 7, 2008 2:00 am

    Michael,

    As is so often the case with respect to those who blithely quote the Catechism in order to defend their particular positions on war, self-defense, and violence, they bring those positions to text, read those positions into the text, and then claim that their positions were actually derived from the text. So next thing you know, the Catechism supposedly justifies the deportation of migrant fathers, the Iraq war, and the Second Amendment.

  14. LCB permalink
    December 7, 2008 7:34 am

    To clarify:

    The second amendment is not in line in Church teaching? Ought it to be repealed?

  15. Lauren permalink
    December 7, 2008 9:33 am

    So, can you people just state it outright?

    Do you believe that it is contrary to the Catholic Faith to own a gun for the purpose of self-defense?

    A simple yes or no will do.

  16. blackadderiv permalink
    December 7, 2008 9:43 am

    It only fires one lousy bullet! You scarcely have a fighting chance if you have one in each hand. I would suggest something semi-automatic mounted on a helmet.

    Similar to one of those beer hats? I like it!

  17. blackadderiv permalink
    December 7, 2008 9:44 am

    Do you believe that it is contrary to the Catholic Faith to own a gun for the purpose of self-defense?

    A simple yes or no will do.

    No.

  18. Mr. Smith permalink
    December 7, 2008 1:01 pm

    I don’t think it is a matter of whether or not they believe, “that it is contrary to the Catholic Faith to own a gun for the purpose of self-defense?”

    The point is that the Catechism, when speaking of self defense, says nothing about the requirements of being allowed a gun in order to defend yourself. Self defense does not equate to gun ownership.

  19. Paladin permalink
    December 7, 2008 1:22 pm

    Lauren,

    It’s a breath of fresh air to hear a nice, clear, cut-through-the-murk question, in the midst of even such highly-refined “nuance” as is normally available here. I seriously hope you have a blog! :)

  20. December 7, 2008 1:53 pm

    David Nickol, you are plain, flat out, completely wrong when you say that this gun was designed to be used in the 48 states that do not have legal assisted suicide.

    Did you read the ad? It specifically states that it is useful for home defense and conceal and carry, and that its design helps seniors and the disabled use the gun in performance of those functions. In all 50 states. The post that is linked to here speculates that perhaps a paralympic sport could come of it. How awful for the human spirit that would be.

    I am for meaningful gun control laws, among them restricting access for people with mental illness, whether they are young, old, wheel chair bound or able-bodied. I assure you, Mr. Nickol, that there are many elderly and disabled people in all 50 states leading full, joyful lives, who are not mentally ill and have no intention of committing suicide. Actually they are far less likely to commit violent armed crime or act as irresponsible gun owners.

    Is it so horrible that people are designing guns for use by the elderly or disabled? What have the elderly or disabled done to have their gun ownership restricted? Gotten old? Had their bodies fall apart? Is that a crime nowadays?

  21. Mark DeFrancisis permalink*
    December 7, 2008 2:36 pm

    I am looking forward to the semiautomatics that can be activited with a couple of eyeblinks.

    It is so heartening to see the Bush administration sensitive to the plight of the elderly and disabled.

    Compassionate conservatism is for real!!!

  22. Brett permalink
    December 7, 2008 3:29 pm

    I hope the gun manufacturer also plans to supply bulls-eye contact lenses to help the elderly that are vision impaired as well as quick reflex pills so that they can move with the requisite nimbility to protect themselves.

    Here’s another way to defend yourself: treat your intruder like a human being. Offer them some food, give to those who ask without expectation of reward or return, and see what happens. Shoot love, ask questions later. Some might think this pie in the sky idealism, but I know several stories from my Los Angeles days that speaks to the power of welcome…even welcome to intruders.

    The Catechism may not prohibit gun ownership for self-defense, but I know for a fact that it mandates love of enemies, strangers, and the marginalized. So beofre you shoot, ask yourself, “Is this an act of love? Have I tried to love them?”

    The worst thing that could happen is that you die. Actually, the worst thing that could happen is that you kill someone who has not had the chance to repent of their sin.

  23. David Nickol permalink
    December 7, 2008 3:55 pm

    David Nickol, you are plain, flat out, completely wrong when you say that this gun was designed to be used in the 48 states that do not have legal assisted suicide.

    Did you read the ad?

    Lizzy Lizzy Lizzy,

    They can’t say in the advertising that it’s for suicide. We all know how to interpret ads. When we see an ad for bathroom tissue and they try to convince us it’s soft by showing some woman rubbing the tissue sensually against her face, we all know (hopefully) that when we get it home, we don’t rub it against our faces. We also don’t apply deoderant to the backs of our hands.

  24. David Nickol permalink
    December 7, 2008 4:09 pm

    Do you believe that it is contrary to the Catholic Faith to own a gun for the purpose of self-defense?

    Lauren,

    Having a gun in your home is not a sin. However, it is a near occasion of sin — as evidenced by the 18,000 gun suicides and 14,000 gun murders that occur in the United States each year — and we pledge to avoid near occasions of sin each time we say the Act of Contrition.

    I suppose that it could be demonstrated that private gun ownership for self-defense was justifiable if the number of lives saved by acts of self-defense with guns exceeded the number of gun deaths from suicide, murder, and accidents. Can you cite any statistics?

  25. December 7, 2008 4:18 pm

    For hunting? No. For “self-defense”? Yes. Do I think the latter is forbidden by “the Catechism”? No. I happen to think the Europeans who wrote the Catechism simply have no idea how insane U.S. gun nuts actually are.

    Is having porno magazines in your house sinful if you never look at them? Like if you use it for kindling or as a coaster? I mean, all porn is is paper, right?

  26. December 7, 2008 4:26 pm

    Mr. Nickol, I think your interpretation of this ad is simply wrong. Its sort of insulting to the elderly/disabled if you see an ad about a gun designed for them and then think about how obviously its made to help them commit suicide, because obviously the only reason they’d want to use a gun is to off themselves.

    By your logic about gun ownership being a near occasion of sin, I could say that the trampoline the kids jump on in my neighbor’s backyard is a near occasion of sin. Also the car parked in my driveway.

    The pills in my medicine cabinet could be an occasion of sin; women attempt suicide using pills at disturbingly high rates. But they are not an occasion of sin for me, because I am not suicidal.

  27. December 7, 2008 4:26 pm

    Porn is intrinsically evil. Guns are not.

  28. David Nickol permalink
    December 7, 2008 4:29 pm

    I see guns as a “life issue.” If we could totally ban private ownership of guns, we could prevent 14,000 murders and 18,000 suicides a year. Note the following:

    In the U.K. all gun owners must be licensed and all guns must be registered. Handguns are prohibited for civilians. The law makes no exceptions. Overall, four percent of households keep firearms. There are only 0.4 intentional gun deaths per 100,000 people. In Japan, where the laws are similar, the numbers are even lower. Firearms are present in only 0.6% of homes in Japan and the intentional gun death rate is 0.07% per 100,000 people.

    The rate in the United States is 11.5 per 100,000 or almost 29 times higher than the UK and 164 times higher than in Japan.

    Private gun ownership in the United States is evil, and gun manufacturers and dealers are participating in evil. Those who buy guns or otherwise support the gun industry are materially cooperating, if only remotely. But what is the proportionate reason that justifies this cooperation? Target practice is fun? Hunting is enjoyable? I don’t see how the pleasures that some derive from private gun ownership can justify the lives lost as the result permitting the private ownership of guns. It looks to me like the UK and Japan take the only justifiable approach.

  29. David Nickol permalink
    December 7, 2008 4:30 pm

    Coding error! The last two paragraphs in my above message are my words, and should not have been included in the blockquote.

  30. David Nickol permalink
    December 7, 2008 4:32 pm

    Porn is intrinsically evil. Guns are not.

    Machine guns and hand grenades are not intrinsically evil. Perhaps even nuclear weapons are not intrinsically evil. That does not mean they should be kept in the home.

  31. December 7, 2008 4:36 pm

    Brett:

    Stopping to ask oneself if one has made an adequate attempt to love an intruder is not a luxury that everyone can afford. If a person wants to risk their own lives that way, that is admirable I guess, if perhaps a little foolish.

    As a single woman, I can tell you that I am not going to ask myself that question about someone I think is trying to rape me. Maybe it is different for a man.

    People with children are obligated, under pain of sin, to defend them. I know of several single mothers who pack heat. If you break down their door, you will meet your maker on the other side. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

  32. Magdalena permalink
    December 7, 2008 4:39 pm

    Why, why do people get worked up about stuff like this?

    Owning a gun is not a sin. It is not against the law. Being old and owning a gun is also not a sin. It is also not against the law. Statistically speaking more lives have been taken by people misusing Hondas, Fords and Chevrolets than by people misusing guns.

    If it is a near occasion of sin for you, do not buy one. For some people I imagine it is not an occasion of sin, in fact if you compare the number of gun owners in the USA to the number of suicides and homicides it seems clear that to most people a gun does not pose a temptation. All souls are different – going to R rated movies is not usually a near occasion of sin for me because I am able to focus on the film as art, whereas my brother avoids most R rated movies because the sexual scenes pose a near occasion of sin to him.

    This kind of arthritis-friendly invention is not going to increase seniors’ suicide rates. Have you never known someone who used a rope? That is what men do when they can not 1. get a gun 2. afford a gun or 3. do not want to create a “mess” for their loved ones (ignoring the spiritual, financial, and emotional mess of course). When women have the same concerns, they overdose on their prescriptions. They are just as dead as the people who used a pistol and their deaths were not prevented by the unavailability of weapons.

    It’s ironic that you bring up Japan, which has a sky-high suicide rate, far, far higher than the U.S. rate. In fact it is one of the worst in industrialized society. Obviously suicide is a problem with roots far deeper than the presence of hand guns. And harder to eradicate, too :(

  33. December 7, 2008 5:19 pm

    Porn is intrinsically evil.

    Porn was clearly not included in the Catholic Answers list of intrinsic evils, so I don’t buy that one.

  34. blackadderiv permalink
    December 7, 2008 5:20 pm

    I see guns as a “life issue.” If we could totally ban private ownership of guns, we could prevent 14,000 murders and 18,000 suicides a year.

    I can see the argument here with respect to the murders but not with the suicides. People commit suicide using a variety of means, guns hardly being the most pleasant, and so it’s faulty to assume that those suicides wouldn’t occur if people didn’t have access to guns. (Japan, for example, manages to have a significantly higher suicide rate than the U.S., despite its lack of firearms).

    Even with respect to the murders banning guns is not a realistic option, as a total ban on private ownership is not feasible for the U.S. for reasons I detail here. We would be much better off spending our efforts trying to reduce the number of gun deaths within in context of large scale private ownership. Places like Switzerland and Israel show that this can be done.

  35. Brett permalink
    December 7, 2008 5:46 pm

    I’ve known real people with real stories (both single women and families with young children) where an intruder was stopped not by being blown away with a gun, but by invitation to stay. My only point is, the idea of having a gun seems to automatically mean that one is safe and everything works out okay if you own a weapon, whereas if you do not own a weapon, it is naturally assumed that only doom can happen when an intruder comes in to one’s home. Both assumptions are ridiculous, most of all because they leave out the working of God.

    Lizzy, what I am most astounded by is your opening remark. Keep the life, death and teachings of Jesus in mind and read this again yourself: “Stopping to ask oneself if one has made an adequate attempt to love an intruder is not a luxury that everyone can afford. If a person wants to risk their own lives that way, that is admirable I guess, if perhaps a little foolish.” Care to help explain how Jesus’ command to love enemies is a moral luxury or how His death is foolish?

  36. Brett permalink
    December 7, 2008 5:53 pm

    But back on task: a geriatric weapon for people with shaky hands, poor reaction times, and impaired vision is hardly a benefit to the elderly or a deterrent to criminals. If anything, it allows the myth that we can, for as long as we want, protect ourselves without throwing ourselves on God’s mercy. The elderly struggle with the pride of giving up their cars, now we extend the option to the arthritic NOT to get rid of hand guns. Brilliant! Let’s allow them to continue to be swollen with the pride that sends people to hell. Wonderful. There comes a time when people should give up even good things because we can’t use them well. Perhaps even the most ardent gun supporter can see when weapons fit into this?

    No wonder practical atheism seizes out lives.

  37. Magdalena permalink
    December 7, 2008 6:20 pm

    Personally I agree with Lizzy. I don’t think it’s foolish or a moral luxury to love our enemies, but I do think it’s foolish (and wrong) to promote the idea that a Christian woman’s only true option is to scream, or say an Our Father, or try and TALK an intruder out of raping her or hurting her children. If that were the case I would apostatize tomorrow! Luckily I don’t believe that’s the Gospel. “Loving our enemies” and “turn the other cheek” does not mean that we have to submit to sexual assault, or to any other form of violent aggression, as the Church clearly teaches. In spite of Dorothy Day etc. I’ve always kind of gotten the feeling there’s a reason most of the radical pacifists I’ve met have been men.

  38. David Nickol permalink
    December 7, 2008 6:36 pm

    I still would like to know the statistics for how many times a gun owned by a private citizen is successfully used for self-defense, and how the number of lives saved compares to the number of lives lost in gun murders, suicides, and accidents. I believe it’s the advice of law enforcement that people are safer not having a gun in their home for self-defense, at least if they are not very well trained.

    Also, there are a variety of nonlethal weapons that can be used for self-defense. Why is it so important to use deadly weapons?

    Americans (including myself, in many ways) love guns. If another Jason Bourne movie comes out with Matt Damon, and there are no guns in it, I for one will be disappointed. I grew up watching cowboys and cops on television, and without guns, they would have been very boring. But what I think is happening here is that often love is blind, and a lot of people here can’t make clear judgments about gun violence and gun ownership because they love guns too much. Otherwise there would not have been such a strong reaction from some quarters to my clearly facetious remarks about the real purpose the guns being for the elderly and disabled in states without assisted suicide laws!

  39. December 7, 2008 7:32 pm

    Mr. Nickol, I did not get that your remarks about the real purpose of guns for the elderly/disabled were facetious. I am sometimes dense, I apologize. Recently someone told me I said something smart, so now I’m waiting for God to do me the favor of taking me down a peg by allowing me to do something stupid. Perhaps I am going to be let off easy this time and this is it.

  40. December 7, 2008 8:05 pm

    I see guns as a “life issue.” If we could totally ban private ownership of guns, we could prevent 14,000 murders and 18,000 suicides a year.

    David,

    Let’s say magically that you could prevent all private ownership of firearms. Nobody, including criminals would be able to use firearms.

    This would put those who are small and weak at the mercy of those who were large and strong. Most notably, it would make any woman (who are on average 100 pounds lighter and much weaker in the upper body than a man) at the mercy of any man who had it in his mind to assault her or rape her.

    This device puts self protection in the hands of the weakest and most vulnerable of our citizens.

    Ever since guns have been banned in the UK, knife crime has exploded. The problem isn’t with the tool, it’s with the fallen nature of man.

    I prefer to be armed and able to protect myself from human predators, thanks. I also am glad the same opportunity is being extended to our elderly and crippled.

  41. December 7, 2008 8:09 pm

    I am looking forward to the semiautomatics that can be activited with a couple of eyeblinks.

    Spoken bravely by the guy who is probably not a quadraplegic.

  42. December 7, 2008 8:14 pm

    Also, there are a variety of nonlethal weapons that can be used for self-defense. Why is it so important to use deadly weapons?

    Because non-lethal weapons are not as effective as lethal ones. When I use a weapon, I want to be pretty sure the assailant will stop attacking me, my family or other innocent folks. I don’t want to use a non-lethal weapon that will probably just tick him off.

    You are welcome to choose to use a non-lethal weapon if you wish. You are also welcome to try and talk an assailant who is bent on attacking you out of it. But when it comes to me and my family, kindly butt out.

  43. December 7, 2008 9:15 pm

    america is sick.

  44. Brett permalink
    December 7, 2008 9:24 pm

    It’s interesting, as a radical pacifist who lives with other radical pacifists, most of them are women! And what they oppose most often are the clearly gendered questions asked of their husbands or friends: if your wife is being assaulted and you have a gun, you will kill him right!?!? No? Coward! As if the woman in the scenario is not her own moral actor, but requires her husband to act chivalrously (not that I am against chivalry, mind).

    I’m all for actively struggling (in ways physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological) to have intruders leave. I’m a pacifist because I am one wicked sum beech and my immediate instincts have been to kill someone. But I don’t want to kill people. And I don’t want to train myself to kill people (anymore). And the only people who should have a gun are people who at least want to put in the training.

  45. December 7, 2008 9:39 pm

    america is sick.

    Human nature is sick. That’s why Catholics worship Jesus, the Divine Physician.

    Other thoughts: Gun ownership is also clearly very different from pornography ownership. Clear distinctions are important for clear moral thinking. Saying two things are equivalent when they manifestly are not is just simply lazy thinking, even for a blog.

    Peter, the Chief Apostle, carried a sword. Scripture makes it clear that it was a habit; when Jesus was approached by Judas and the Roman soldiers, Peter was ready for defense of his Master. He was, of course, rebuked by Christ. But the rebuke was not about sword ownership; rather, it was about his improper use of it.

  46. December 7, 2008 9:58 pm

    Always one of the first to defend america’s honor, Zach. You certainly love your Mother.

  47. December 7, 2008 10:02 pm

    Peter, the Chief Apostle, carried a sword. Scripture makes it clear that it was a habit; when Jesus was approached by Judas and the Roman soldiers, Peter was ready for defense of his Master. He was, of course, rebuked by Christ. But the rebuke was not about sword ownership; rather, it was about his improper use of it.

    Interesting, isn’t it, that all you gun nuts defend your wacky views claiming “self-defense, self-defense,” and that’s precisely what Christ rebuked Peter for trying to do?

    So everything that the apostles were “in the habit” of doing must have been approved by Christ? Don’t you think you are reading a bit into the Gospels?

    Other thoughts: Gun ownership is also clearly very different from pornography ownership. Clear distinctions are important for clear moral thinking.

    Yes, exactly. Guns kill people. Porn doesn’t.

    Saying two things are equivalent when they manifestly are not is just simply lazy thinking, even for a blog.

    Who said they were “equivalent”? Misrepresenting your opponents is simply lazy (or worse), even for a blog.

  48. December 7, 2008 10:04 pm

    If I defend America, it is only a defense America deserves and nothing more. Or at least, that’s what I strive for.

    I was trying to address your perspective, which I see as irrationally skewed with hatred for America.

    You inability to see (or maybe admit) any good in American government and the free market is a great weakness and is why you will never persuade anyone of much.

    And America is not “My Mother”.

  49. December 7, 2008 10:08 pm

    Yeah I was wrong, you didn’t say they were equivalent.

    Pornography kills eternal souls – guns can’t do that.

    And no, I don’t think I’m reading too much into the Gospels.

  50. December 7, 2008 10:08 pm

    I was trying to address your perspective, which I see as irrationally skewed with hatred for America.

    Calling your opponents america haters is lazy as well.

    And America is not “My Mother”.

    Father?

  51. December 7, 2008 10:10 pm

    It may seem lazy to you, but I’m actually trying to provoke you. You don’t seem to realize how dogmatic your perspective is.

  52. December 7, 2008 10:11 pm

    Pornography kills eternal souls – guns can’t do that.

    Pornography is wrong, without a doubt. But this is perfect example of the way in which dualistic Christianity has completely screwed with our priorities and allowed us to defend the indefensible. You might as well say the same thing about abortion: pornography kills the eternal soul, but abortion tools can only kill the body. Pretty warped if you ask me.

  53. December 7, 2008 10:14 pm

    What’s more important – the body or the soul? I think the Gospels pretty clearly spell out that the soul is much more important.

  54. December 7, 2008 10:15 pm

    By the way, what is it that I’m defending that’s indefensible? Gun ownership for self-defense? There is no Catholic teaching that says gun ownership is immoral or even close to such a thing.

  55. blackadderiv permalink
    December 7, 2008 10:17 pm

    I still would like to know the statistics for how many times a gun owned by a private citizen is successfully used for self-defense, and how the number of lives saved compares to the number of lives lost in gun murders, suicides, and accidents.

    This is a matter of some controversy, with estimates ranging from 64,615 to 2.45 million times a year.

  56. December 7, 2008 10:22 pm

    What’s more important – the body or the soul? I think the Gospels pretty clearly spell out that the soul is much more important.

    I see reading Gutierrez did you a lot of good.

    Catholicism does not value one over the other. Do you not profess the same creed that I do? Remember that whole Resurrection of the Body thing? Remember the fact that the Risen Christ was not a ghost? Remember the Eucharist? Remember the Word was made flesh?

    To value one over the other is to fall into heresy.

  57. blackadderiv permalink
    December 7, 2008 10:27 pm

    I believe it’s the advice of law enforcement that people are safer not having a gun in their home for self-defense, at least if they are not very well trained.

    That’s a pretty big qualification, no?

  58. Brett permalink
    December 7, 2008 10:31 pm

    What does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his soul?

    This is not a soul vs body issue. This is killing a body thus making it impossible for him to repent and be saved…and thus potentially damning his soul to boot.

    If you feel you are willing to damn a soul to hell, go ahead and pull the trigger. The worst they can do to you (as I wrote earlier) is kill your body. The worst you can do to them is aid in their damnation.

    That said, even though I am a pacifist, I’d probably try to kick the crap out of him. I’m that bad of a pacifist.

  59. December 7, 2008 10:33 pm

    In terms of our salvation, the state of our soul is more important than the state of our body. And nothing is more important than our salvation. Jesus himself said so:

    “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

    To say that the soul is more important than the body is not to pit the soul against the body. To say X is greater than Y is not to say that Y is somehow opposed to X, unless you believe all hierarchy is immoral or something.

    Do you not believe there is a hierarchy in human nature?

  60. David Nickol permalink
    December 7, 2008 10:34 pm

    Pornography kills eternal souls – guns can’t do that.

    Zach,

    There are only bodies lost when there are 18,000 suicides and 14,000 murders a year with guns?

  61. December 7, 2008 10:36 pm

    David,

    The gun doesn’t pull its own trigger.

  62. December 7, 2008 10:38 pm

    In other words, the mere existence of pornography is immoral. The mere existence of guns is not.

  63. Gary Keith Chesterton permalink
    December 7, 2008 10:40 pm

    Where the hell is Gerald Naus when you need him???

  64. December 7, 2008 10:47 pm

    And Michael, I think Gutierrez does not do an adequate job assessing the significance of original sin in his theology of liberation. Maybe you can point to another work of his that does?

    After all, the Incarnation did not rid the world of the effects of Original Sin. For that, we have to wait until the realization of the Eschaton.

  65. Magdalena permalink
    December 7, 2008 11:06 pm

    Brett, I do not want to kill people either. And I realize that a gun is not a guarantee of safety – I don’t own one, myself, no do I ever expect to. But if a man tries to force himself on me I would like another option besides sweet-talking him or praying to Our Lady for a miracle. Yes, the “would you defend your wife” question is emotional blackmail. But given that women are moral actors themselves – what do your women friends who are pacifists say they would do themselves? Just scream and thrash around? Lie there and take it? Most law enforcement would probably agree with that approach (don’t fight, lie there and try to think of something else). Is it contrary to the Gospel to resort to violence to protect our bodily integrity? I know the Church doesn’t think so, but I also know the pacifist approach differs from the Church’s “official” stance in some instances.

    I remember seeing one of those 20/20 murder investigations about a man who broke into the home of an elderly woman. He raped her with a beer bottle. God forbid she had something like the “Palm Pistol” or whatever this thing is. Would that be a sign of America’s national sickness? I don’t know. Maybe. Leaving aside that the modern nation state is merely an administrative and legal entity and that it is actually cultures that become sick. I have to capitalize America in spite of the fact that there is a lot I don’t like about her, because when having a serious and mature dialogue it is the convention to capitalize names of people and places. M.I, do you see how you are just sniping at Zach? Can you imagine Jesus having the kind of conversation that you are having? He might agree with you but would He descend this way? You probably don’t intend to get like that and you wouldn’t behave like that in a face-to-face conversation, but that’s the internet for you. I hope you won’t think I am being a scold.

    Maybe it is wrong of me but if I had to kill somebody to prevent them from cutting me up inside with a bottle I would do it. I would use a gun if I had one. It would not be my first option but if I had to I would take that life. And I just don’t believe that Jesus would hold it against me at my particular judgment. It wouldn’t be a sin, in other words. “Pride, envy, lust. How many sins of omission? And here’s where you shot the man who was going to rape you. I understand you were frightened, but tisk, tisk.”

  66. December 7, 2008 11:26 pm

    And Michael, I think Gutierrez does not do an adequate job assessing the significance of original sin in his theology of liberation.

    You’re kidding, right?

  67. Paladin permalink
    December 8, 2008 8:26 am

    Michael Iafrate wrote:

    Interesting, isn’t it, that all you gun nuts defend your wacky views claiming “self-defense, self-defense,” and that’s precisely what Christ rebuked Peter for trying to do?

    Erm… I think you’ve overreached, here, into falsity-land. Christ had a specific mission–to die for our sins–which He couldn’t very well do if St. Peter had successfully fought off the guard, right? I don’t think you can rightly take something specific to the Messiah, and universalize it, like that.

    Beyond that, I’m not sure exactly what your point is, save that you don’t like guns (which is certainly your prerogative), and that you don’t seem to want anyone else to have them (which is *not* your prerogative). Re: Christ’s attitude on this, do you recall Luke 22?

    Then said [Jesus] unto them: But now he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a scrip; and he that hath not, let him sell his coat, and buy a sword. For I say to you, that this that is written must yet be fulfilled in me: And with the wicked was he reckoned. For the things concerning me have an end. But they said: Lord, behold here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough.

    I might also point out that neither St. John the Baptist nor Our Blessed Lord, when meeting members of the military (the good Centurion, etc.), insisted on their disarmament (or on their resigning their position, for that matter). All that was asked was good conduct, and avoidance of abuse of their position (cf. Luke 3:14, etc.).

  68. December 8, 2008 8:31 am

    Michael Iafrate wrote:

    Pornography is wrong, without a doubt. But this is perfect example of the way in which dualistic Christianity has completely screwed with our priorities and allowed us to defend the indefensible. You might as well say the same thing about abortion: pornography kills the eternal soul, but abortion tools can only kill the body.

    The body of the baby, yes… but aren’t you forgetting the death of the soul of the abortionist, and the souls of others who were involved in the murder?

  69. Joseph permalink
    December 8, 2008 9:22 am

    Too small for an accurate mid-range shot. Only good for a shot at point-blank range. 9mm round is deadly at point-blank. Small, easy to conceal. Somehow I don’t think the demographic that this weapon will be popular with is the ageing hippies who’d rather smoke marijuana to ease their suffering arthritic hands. Rather, there is a certain demographic who would enjoy a pistol that acts like a “shiv” alot more.

  70. David Nickol permalink
    December 8, 2008 9:53 am

    The gun doesn’t pull its own trigger.

    Pornography doesn’t look at itself.

  71. David Nickol permalink
    December 8, 2008 10:00 am

    The body of the baby, yes… but aren’t you forgetting the death of the soul of the abortionist, and the souls of others who were involved in the murder?

    Paladin,

    I do not believe that the vast majority of abortionists or the women who obtain abortions believe that abortion is murder. Therefore, even if the Church is correct that abortion is objectively the taking of an innocent life, for those who sincerely believe it is not, their souls are not lost.

    Of course, one of the problems in discussing abortion is that many “anti-aborts” seem to believe that everybody knows abortion is murder, and that those who are pro-choice are outwardly denying what they know in their hearts is true.

  72. December 8, 2008 12:12 pm

    Mr. Nickol, you said that pornography doesn’t look at itself. In order for pornography to exist, a woman must sell her body and someone else must purchase it .. If you buy the pictures and never look at them, you have still bought and paid for a woman’s body.

    Buying porn is always evil.
    Buying a gun is not.

    Using the porn you bought is evil
    Using the gun you bought MAY be evil

    They are apples and oranges.

  73. David Nickol permalink
    December 8, 2008 12:30 pm

    Mr. Nickol, you said that pornography doesn’t look at itself. In order for pornography to exist, a woman must sell her body and someone else must purchase it .. If you buy the pictures and never look at them, you have still bought and paid for a woman’s body.

    Setting aside the fact that there is plenty of porn without women, you have not come close to making a convincing argument against pornography. A model who poses for fashion photos or catalog photos is selling her body just as much as a woman who poses without clothes. A group of my friends who were artists used to chip in and hire models to pose nude so they could practice their sketching. The model was selling the use of her naked body, yet there was nothing wicked about what she did, nor were the sketches pornographic.

    You don’t need a woman in order to create an image of a woman. There can be sexually explicit cartoons or animated films in which no woman’s body is involved.

    Also, sharing pornographic pictures by trading them over the Internet may not involve buying or selling.

    Also, someone with an underwear fetish might find a Sears catalog highly erotic, but it won’t be the fault of the female models or photographers.

  74. Magdalena permalink
    December 8, 2008 12:59 pm

    That’s a different argument altogether – when does something become pornography instead of art. Who was it who said “I know it when I see it”?

  75. December 8, 2008 1:12 pm

    Jesus’ mission was not simply to die.

  76. December 8, 2008 1:25 pm

    … even if the Church is correct that abortion is objectively the taking of an innocent life —

    I don’t see what the Church has to do with it; abortion is the taking of a life, and I’ve never heard anyone claim it’s the taking of a guilty life.

    for those who sincerely believe it is not, their souls are not lost.

    That’s not how sanctifying grace works. “Oh, you sincerely hated the poor? Come right in! Halos on the left, harps down the hall.”

  77. December 8, 2008 1:55 pm

    David Nickol wrote:

    I do not believe that the vast majority of abortionists or the women who obtain abortions believe that abortion is murder. Therefore, even if the Church is correct that abortion is objectively the taking of an innocent life, for those who sincerely believe it is not, their souls are not lost.

    That’s *theoretically* possible… but I wouldn’t lay very good odds on it:

    “Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.”

    Think of someone saying, “But I didn’t know that raping and torturing my sister to death was wrong; no one ever *told* me!!” It’s theoretically possible, but not likely.

    Of course, one of the problems in discussing abortion is that many “anti-aborts” seem to believe that everybody knows abortion is murder, and that those who are pro-choice are outwardly denying what they know in their hearts is true.

    There’s some basis for that concern (see above), at least for the abortionists themselves–it’s rather hard to remove a tiny dismembered child, with her heart still beating, and not have at least some inkling that you’ve done something wrong. It’s also rather telling that so many abortion-tolerant people are so reluctant to view photos (or videos) of abortions…

  78. David Nickol permalink
    December 8, 2008 2:15 pm

    I don’t see what the Church has to do with it; abortion is the taking of a life, and I’ve never heard anyone claim it’s the taking of a guilty life.

    Tom,

    It hardly needs to be said by now, since it has been said so many times before, that many people do not believe a fertilized egg or a fetus in the early stages of development is a person, in much the same way that up until quite recently, many in the Church believed that the fetus became a person only 40 or 80 days after conception when quickening took place. If everyone believed that abortion was the unjust taking of the life of an innocent person, there would be no abortion debate.

  79. David Nickol permalink
    December 8, 2008 2:34 pm

    But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man.

    Paladin,

    You quote an interesting passage from the Catechism, but are we to understand, then, that Abraham knew himself to be morally culpable for having three wives? Also, Abraham’s wife Sarah was his half-sister. Was he guilty of both polygamy and incest? Or are we to understand that St. Paul knew slavery to be immoral and kept silent about it, as did the Church for at least the next 1000 os so years?

    It’s also rather telling that so many abortion-tolerant people are so reluctant to view photos (or videos) of abortions…

    I generally don’t watch open-heart surgery, and I was very careful not to watch the interview with Sarah Palin in which turkeys can be seen being slaughtered in the background. Few people would want to tour a slaughterhouse or meatpacking plant. I recently took a look at some of the anti-abortion photos and found it intensely disturbing. But I also remember well that at Ohio State University, one of the requirements of health education class was to watch a film of the birth of a baby. In every class there were a few people who had to leave, or got sick, or fainted. Just because something is disturbing to watch does not make it immoral.

  80. Jeremy permalink
    December 8, 2008 4:22 pm

    David,
    When do you believe a fetus becomes a human?

  81. December 8, 2008 4:29 pm

    It’s interesting, as a radical pacifist who lives with other radical pacifists, most of them are women! And what they oppose most often are the clearly gendered questions asked of their husbands or friends: if your wife is being assaulted and you have a gun, you will kill him right!?!? No? Coward! As if the woman in the scenario is not her own moral actor, but requires her husband to act chivalrously (not that I am against chivalry, mind).

    Brett, if your wife is being assaulted, and I am able to shoot the attacker to stop the attack (without unnecessarily endangering your wife), odds are I will. But that’s me. Some people don’t have the capacity for violence, and that is a good thing. They are usually kind and gentle people, and the fact that they are such should not be held against them.

  82. December 8, 2008 4:32 pm

    Yes, exactly. Guns kill people. Porn doesn’t.

    Hmmm. More people have died in Ted Kennedy’s car than have been killed by my gun, Michael. It must be defective. I’d better return it.

    Fact is, guns don’t kill people. People kill people with guns. A gun is a tool like a hammer, screwdriver or chainsaw. It is not bad in itself. It’s the use that fallen people put it to.

  83. December 8, 2008 4:37 pm

    Pornography doesn’t look at itself.

    But the sin isn’t just in the looking, it’s in the producing. Pornography would be sinful if nobody ever looked at it.

  84. December 8, 2008 4:55 pm

    You quote an interesting passage from the Catechism, but are we to understand, then, that Abraham knew himself to be morally culpable for having three wives? Also, Abraham’s wife Sarah was his half-sister. Was he guilty of both polygamy and incest?

    Out of curiosity: are you Catholic? Not meaning to be nosy, or anything… but it would help me better answer your question if I knew something about your starting assumptions (e.g. God’s existence, the authority of the Church Magisterium, etc.)…

    *** Disclaimer: The following is my hypothesis, only… ***

    If it were forbidden by God, yes… but by all indications, there was a necessary (though temporary) exemption from monogamy–and from avoiding incest of the second degree, as well–until the human race expanded (from two original parents) to the point where such a prohibition was finally possible. If you consider that Eve was formed from Adam’s very body, their sexual union constituted far closer of an interaction than any possible incest could manage… and the children of Adam and Eve would most certainly have needed to marry one another; given the current arrangement for reproducing the species, avoidance of incest wouldn’t have been possible. I will say, however, that monogamy and non-incest were always held as the ideal (cf. Genesis 2:24), and they were instituted as soon as it was feasible; once God withdrew the temporary “grace period” (cf. Leviticus 18, etc.), the prohibition was absolute. (See CCC 1610 for ref. on polygamy.)

    Or are we to understand that St. Paul knew slavery to be immoral and kept silent about it, as did the Church for at least the next 1000 os so years?

    St. Paul certainly knew that “ownership” of a slave, in the pure sense, was immoral–though I’d offer the fact that slavery under Mosaic law held very little resemblance to what you might have in mind (e.g. Roman slaves, black slaves in the USA in earlier centuries, etc.), and the Church has always condemned the “ownership” of any human in the “dehumanized” sense of “property”. Even the “mild” form of Mosaic slavery (in which “man-stealing and selling” was punishable by death (Exodus 21:16), was certainly far short of the ideal, and it was phased out as soon as possible.

    One image that might illuminate, re: the capture of foreigners as lifelong slaves: think of our own notorious criminals, whom we deprive of their freedom (in prison) and force to work (on road crews, etc.); those who swore war against Israel were certainly criminals, in the eyes of God… and life imprisonment was not, in the context of those things, unreasonable to demand. Again: I don’t say this as some sort of “certain” answer (I don’t know the answer, for certain), but I offer it as evidence against any absolutist claims of “the Church allowed people to be bought and sold”–which is nonsense.

    *** end of hypothesis section ***

    Re: your aversion to watching open-heart surgery: I confess, I expected that reply (and I regret that I didn’t have time to write an anticipatory answer, earlier). To that, I’d suggest that there’s a *qualitative* difference between watching a scalpel carve a human being’s body when you know it’s meant to heal and/or preserve life, versus a vacuum-assisted razor curette ripping a live and awake baby to shreds with the express purpose of ending its life in one of the most brutal ways imaginable. Reluctance to watch the first could be chalked up to mere “squeamishness”; reluctance to watch the second introduces a novel and dramatic level of true “horror”. I think that, were you to watch a full-grown man or woman under the scalpel, your reaction would change markedly if you were made aware that the “doctor” was in fact a professional torturer who was punishing an enemy of the ruling dictator… true?

  85. David Nickol permalink
    December 8, 2008 5:12 pm

    When do you believe a fetus becomes a human?

    You mean a human fetus? It is always human. The question I think is pertinent is when it becomes a person, with rights. One answer to that question is “at the moment of conception,” but I believe that is an answer based on religion (primarily Catholicism). Another religious answer, based on Judaism, would be “when it is born.” There are various other religious perspectives.

    Based purely on secular, scientific grounds — setting aside the idea of a soul — I would say there can’t be a person without a brain, so I don’t see how early embryos (the kind that would be used in stem-cell research) could be called persons, and I would probably also say you can’t have a person without at least some brain functioning, so that would put it at about 12 weeks. If you base it on significant brain functioning — when a mind is present — it would be considerably later.

    As I have pointed out a number of times, early embryos die by the millions, largely because they fail to implant. Without the idea of a soul infused at conception, it is difficult to think of these very short-lived early embryos as persons. And if they are ensouled, what is their fate? Why are there so many of them? They very likely outnumber those who are actually born.

  86. Jeremy permalink
    December 8, 2008 5:20 pm

    So you think there is some objective test a person should be able to pass before they have rights? What do you think that test should be?

  87. Jeremy permalink
    December 8, 2008 5:25 pm

    you can’t have a person without at least some brain functioning
    Why not? Are we only our personality? Does it matter that we know there will be a functioning brain? If some one get’s knocked unconscious, they don’t have a functioning brain, but they will. I assume you want the caveat that they must be unborn without a functioning brain to not have rights? Seems silly, but actually, seems even sillier to hash this over again. Bye.

  88. David Nickol permalink
    December 8, 2008 5:50 pm

    Out of curiosity: are you Catholic?

    Paladin,

    I was born into a Catholic family, and I attended Catholic school through high school. I am primarily interested only in Catholicism (although hope to know more someday about Buddhism). Anyone who looked at my bookshelves would conclude I was Catholic. The shelves where I keep my Bible-related books are dominated by authors like Raymond Brown, John P. Meier, and Joseph A. Fitzmyer (this probably counts against me as far as many Catholics are concerned, but they are highly respected Catholic scholars). I generally tend to read either Catholic authors or nonreligious authors in areas like bioethics. Most of the questions that I raise here I think I can give “standard” Catholic answers to, or I know where to look them up. But I have lots of doubts about those answers.

    Based on my understanding of Catholic teaching about intrinsic evils, of which incest is one, I don’t think even God himself could suspend the “rules” to allow Abraham to marry his half-sister. (I have doubts about the concept of intrinsic evil.)

    The extraordinarily disturbing abortion photos I saw were disturbing, I would say, because of what they looked like, not necessarily what I believed them to be. I don’t know that they would be any more or less disturbing if I were convinced one way or another as to the personhood of the fetus. On the one hand, the development from egg to fetus to baby is awesome, but on the other hand, I find pictures of fetuses creepy. I would certainly be more horrified if I believed a fetus to be capable of feeling pain, since I don’t like seeing any creature suffering. Part of my lack of comprehension for many in the pro-life movement is that I am more moved by the suffering of the “post-born” than the death of the unborn. I know this is a kind of heresy, but if I had a choice between providing care for a hungry or diseased child and preventing an abortion, I would provide care for the child.

  89. David Nickol permalink
    December 8, 2008 6:06 pm

    Seems silly, but actually, seems even sillier to hash this over again.

    Jeremy,

    You are correct that these arguments have all been made before, so in some sense it is pointless to keep having them. I have often thought that what needs to be done in forums like this is have one or two books that are required reading so people don’t keep reinventing the wheel. On the other hand, I occasionally learn something in these kinds of discussions from other participants, or discover something in the course of researching my own position. A case in point, although not about abortion, is the information above that Blackadder linked to about guns used in self-defense. I doubted such information was available, and I assumed if it was available it would not support the pro-gun case, but it appears to, at least in part. (Blackadder also made me laugh with his reference to a beer hat, and although I was almost certain I knew what he meant, I googled it, and this picture made me laugh again.

  90. c matt permalink
    December 8, 2008 6:37 pm

    The “brain activity argument” never really was very persuasive. Certainly, if a fully developed human being ceased brain activity, let’s say for 12 weeks, with a 99% probability of a full and complete recovery of brain activity, you wouldn’t argue that during that twelve week period they were not a person, would you? Would it be ok to conduct destructive experiments on him or cannibalize the body parts during that 12 week period?

    Most, if not all states, define death as the irreversible cessation of brain, circulatory and respiratory functions. Nothing irreversable about the brain, circulatory or respiratory functions of human beings from conception onward.

    Although I do appreciate your correct indication of what is the true issue: When do human beings acquire certain rights attributed to personhood. At various times and in various societies, many different criteria have been applied with the intent to restrict personhood. The question really is what is a person? A rational being? A being with the potential to be rational? Does that mean the severely retarded are not persons? A being in the class of those who are or can become rational beings upon natural development whether such potential is ultimately reached or fully exhibited? In other words, does personhood depend upon actual exhibit of certain traits, or upon belonging to a group that typically or potentially exhibits those traits by design, but b/c of defect or other reason is not exhibited in this particular instance?

  91. c matt permalink
    December 8, 2008 6:46 pm

    The problem with following scientific grounds for a definition of personhood is that science is not equipped to detect “personhood,” an essentially philosophical and metaphysical concept. Science can no more answer the question of personhood than it can answer the question of duty, beauty, what is art, and a host of other things. In fact, if you were to take a purely scientific/materialistic approach, there is no basis for privileging a more developed piece of meat (e.g, a 23 year old human) over a lesser developed one (a two minute old piece of meat). All science can tell is that piece of meat A is at X stage of development, and piece of meat B is at Y stage. It can’t make any value judgments between A and B.

  92. David Nickol permalink
    December 8, 2008 7:30 pm

    The problem with following scientific grounds for a definition of personhood is that science is not equipped to detect “personhood,” an essentially philosophical and metaphysical concept. . . . It can’t make any value judgments between A and B.

    c matt,

    Let me revise “secular, scientific grounds” to “secular and scientific grounds.” As I pointed out, different religions give different answers to when a developing human being becomes a person. Of course, there may be differing philosophical viewpoints as well, but if we are talking about the legality of stem-cell research and abortion in the United States, then, the determination of such questions must be made on a secular basis. There may be no scientific answer to what constitutes a person, but science can certain inform the legal and philosophical discussion with information about consciousness, brain activity, reflexes, and so on. Science can certainly tell us a great many differences between a 2-minute-old embryo and a 23-year-old human.

    Most, if not all states, define death as the irreversible cessation of brain, circulatory and respiratory functions.

    This is not really true. Brain death can be diagnosed while a person’s heart is still beating and while he is still breathing.

  93. December 8, 2008 10:37 pm

    Michael,

    No, I’m not kidding – please point me to the passage in Gutierrez where he discusses the implications of Original Sin?

  94. December 9, 2008 1:04 am

    How did Pillow-talk Tony’s comments get through?

    Zach – My copy of A Theology of Liberation is in my study carrel at the library. I’ll reply sometime on Tuesday with specific quotes. The idea that Gutierrez does not take sin seriously is laughable.

  95. December 9, 2008 1:07 pm

    Quite possibly because this isn’t your post.

  96. Paladin permalink
    December 9, 2008 2:23 pm

    David wrote:

    I attended Catholic school through high school.

    Oy. No disrespect meant to anyone involved, but: it’s been my (sad) experience that attending a Catholic school (at least, in our era) is one of the easiest ways to have your Catholic Faith shipwrecked. That explains a lot, actually.

    The shelves where I keep my Bible-related books are dominated by authors like Raymond Brown, John P. Meier, and Joseph A. Fitzmyer (this probably counts against me as far as many Catholics are concerned, but they are highly respected Catholic scholars).

    Well… and I want to ask this as delicately as I can: “respected by *whom*?” All of them are quite well-known as theologians who work toward a more “up-to-date” Church, with quite a bit of “demythologization” thrown in. Case in point: Nancy Pelosi is a well-respected woman in many circles… but I wouldn’t count on her to elucidate the Catholic Faith for anyone.

    Based on my understanding of Catholic teaching about intrinsic evils, of which incest is one, I don’t think even God himself could suspend the “rules” to allow Abraham to marry his half-sister.

    If something were intrinsically evil (i.e. evil under all possibly circumstances, by its very nature), that would be true. But there’s something of a difference between that which is certainly evil (under current circumstances) and that which is intrinsically evil (which Morning’s Minion pointed out–a point on which MM and I actually agree!). It’s analogous to saying that “It’s impossible for a human to lift a planet-sized object” vs. “It’s impossible for a whole number to be even and odd, at the same time.” Both are true, but the first is due to physical limitations, not logical ones; while the second is logically absurd (i.e. a contradiction), and not even infinite power could overcome that impossibility.

    Technically speaking, an intrinsic evil is that which violates the very Nature of God: that which not even God could possibly decree. For example: God could command that this-or-that person die for his sins, but He would be incapable of commanding that someone be tortured to death for no reason at all. Just so: God could conceivably allow intermarriage between brother and sister for serious reasons, but not for no good reason at all (such as mere lust, or other base motive); that suggests to me (above and beyond the fact that it apparently happened!) that incest–while certainly forbidden by God *now*, without exception–is not “intrinsically” evil in the absolute sense you might have in mind.

    (I have doubts about the concept of intrinsic evil.)

    *Confusions* about it make perfect sense; but there can be no doubt about the *existence* of intrinsic evil, in the abstract… unless you’re willing to throw all of ethics in the dustbin! If the very idea of intrinsic evil comes into doubt, then all moral certainty (and all religious certainty, for that matter) is undercut. If cutting off your neighbour’s finger “just for fun” is only evil because God “happened to say so”, then all morality is based on a capricious God (which is nonsensical–God is pure existence and pure act, and therefore purely good; evil is a lack of a good which should exist, so God cannot possibly contain any of *that*).

    The extraordinarily disturbing abortion photos I saw were disturbing, I would say, because of what they looked like, not necessarily what I believed them to be. I don’t know that they would be any more or less disturbing if I were convinced one way or another as to the personhood of the fetus.

    I’ll concede this much: it’s all too possible for people to settle their minds about this-or-that matter of ethics, based on mere emotion, sentiment, “feelings”, or personal tastes; as such, there are those who feel that it’s better to blow one’s own brains out than to suffer with a toothache for a week. Granted. But I was appealing to a more general and pervasive avoidance of the “abortion images media”, wider than a small handful of extreme individuals (such as the suicidal toothache-sufferer). The fact that virtually *no one* in the abortion-tolerant camp can bear even to look at videos and photos of abortions–while not airtight and conclusive–is strong evidence that there’s more here than mere squeamishness. After all: given 100 people who support open-heart surgeries, I can find at least a modest number of them who’d be willing to see photos (or even color videos) of one. Apparently not so, with abortion. That would make me somewhat suspicious, even if I were completely ignorant of the heinously evil nature of abortion.

    On the one hand, the development from egg to fetus to baby is awesome, but on the other hand, I find pictures of fetuses creepy.

    Understood. But do be aware: on the basis of the same sort of reaction, the extermination of Down’s Syndrome babies (and adults, at least in the Nazi regime) was justified… as was the extermination of African-Americans. Our personal impulses are some of the least reliable guides, when trying to discern true morality; even my appeal to “abortion picture avoidance” was for the purposes of raising awareness… not for any ill-advised attempt to “prove” immorality based on that.

    I would certainly be more horrified if I believed a fetus to be capable of feeling pain, since I don’t like seeing any creature suffering.

    Again, understood. (You might wish to read HERE for one cluster of data, on that idea.) But even that wouldn’t settle the moral issue… since some suffering is necessary (e.g. removing a splinter from someone’s finger, setting a broken bone, etc.), and animal suffering–while not at all desirable–is of a very different order than that of a human, regardless of where one stands on the “animal rights” issue.

    Part of my lack of comprehension for many in the pro-life movement is that I am more moved by the suffering of the “post-born” than the death of the unborn. I know this is a kind of heresy, but if I had a choice between providing care for a hungry or diseased child and preventing an abortion, I would provide care for the child.

    That’s understandable, but–with all due respect–that’s not morally sound. It’s a derivative of the “out of sight, out of mind” effect, where the screams of a loved one in pain moves us far more than the torture and deaths of millions of men, women and children in the Sudan, China, Rwanda, and the like… despite the fact that the latter is far more morally significant. We simply can’t allow ourselves to be “steered” by our personal feelings, passions, tastes, and the like, if we’re to be truly moral people.

  97. December 9, 2008 2:39 pm

    Brain death can be diagnosed while a person’s heart is still beating and while he is still breathing.

    That, I’d also add, introduces the possibility that the definition (and quite possibly the general concept) of “brain death” may have some not insignificant problems…

  98. December 9, 2008 3:34 pm

    Zach – The argument could be made that Latin American liberation theology takes sin more seriously than “traditional” theology.

    The strongest section on sin in Gutierrez’s A Theology of Liberation is pp. 102-3. Remember also that earlier in the book he discusses the three types of liberation that LT addresses, the third of which is liberation from sin, the root of all oppressions.

    You might follow your review of that book with a look at his book The Truth Shall Make You Free: Confrontations, particularly the discussions on pp. 30-1, 34-5 and 135-8. Some excerpts:

    “My starting point in speaking of liberation has been to recall that it is not only liberation from forms of social oppression and from other limitations on a full human life but also liberation from sin. Liberation from sin — the ultimate root of all social injustice — is an unmerited gift of the Father in his Son made man. I consider this to be a key notion of that book.”

    “I think I may say that if there is another I feel completely alien to me, it is any temptation to Pelagianism. My contact with St Augustine from the beginning of my theological studies made that impossible.”

    “As everyone knows, liberation from sin is a dominant theme in liberation theology and in my own contribution to it. i say this in all simplicity but also with conviction and clarity. In the treatment of some other themes, readers may find that one or another statement of liberation is unclear or needs to be put more carefully, but on this point there can be no doubt. Because sin is a breaking of friendship with God and others, it is the ultimate root of all injustice and all division among human beings; God’s grace alone can overcome sin.”

  99. David Nickol permalink
    December 9, 2008 5:36 pm

    We simply can’t allow ourselves to be “steered” by our personal feelings, passions, tastes, and the like, if we’re to be truly moral people.

    Paladin,

    A guy named Scott Neeson in 2003 went to Cambodia and was deeply moved by the poverty there in a community near Phnom Penh.

    After a 26 year-career in the film business, including tenure as president of 20th Century Fox International and a similar position with Sony Pictures International, Scott exited the industry to establish and oversee CCF (Cambodian Children’s Fund). He is now Executive Director and lives year-round in Phnom Penh.

    CCF was originally developed as one shelter providing a safe haven for 45 children in critical need. Within four short years, the CCF has grown to incorporate five separate facilities, where nearly 400 children receive nutrition and housing, as well as medical treatment, dental services and vaccinations.

    Do you think he is in some way morally deficient? I suppose he could have stayed in the United States and been a major player in the pro-life movement. Or he he could have tried to fight genocide in Darfur. But he saw something that moved him, and he dedicated his life to it.

    Don’t you think everyone has a right to do some good where ahd now they see fit, and not be required to have their agenda dictated to them? If someone feels deeply about animals, and they devote the majority of their efforts trying to get people to treat animals humanely, are they to be criticized for not taking on a cause that helps the unborn? I see the point you are trying to make, but there is a Catholic idea of having a vocation, and I think it extends beyond being “called” to be a priest or a nun. Can’t it be someone’s “calling” to care about the children in Cambodia, or the dying in Calcutta, or the lepers in Hawaii, or the dolphins that get killed by tuna fishers, or any one of a million things, without being told what they are “supposed” to care about?

  100. December 9, 2008 8:02 pm

    [account of Scott Neeson deleted for space]

    Do you think he is in some way morally deficient?

    Not in the least; what he did seems eminently praiseworthy.

    I suppose he could have stayed in the United States and been a major player in the pro-life movement. Or he he could have tried to fight genocide in Darfur. But he saw something that moved him, and he dedicated his life to it.

    Right; and I didn’t mean to imply that everyone was obligated to become a member of Priests for Life, or the lay equivalent; when I spoke of “not being led by passions”, I also didn’t mean that passions and feelings were somehow “evil” (how could they be, since God created them?). But our passions can sometimes become miscalibrated, so that they direct us to the wrong things (e.g. NAMBLA’s passion for legalizing and rendering socially acceptable the statutory rape of 8-year-old boys), or they can direct us to the right things in the wrong ways (e.g. pro-lifers taking out abortionists with high-powered rifles) or to the wrong extent (e.g. mortgaging your house and throwing your family on the street, so that you can donate all the money to Americans United for Life). It’s great to have a passion for any good effort; but it’s our *intellect* that makes the determination of “good effort” vs. “evil effort”. Many Americans, at least, seem to think that, if they feel strongly enough about an issue, that somehow “canonizes” it and makes it “good by definition”. To such a person, I say with G.K. Chesterton: “My friend, you are going mad.”

    My main plea, through all of this, is to say to everyone (including myself): “Passion is fine, in its proper place (i.e. not steering the “car” of your life), but don’t let your heart run away with your head!” That phenomenon certainly seems almost pandemic… or else, how would one explain the widespread acceptance of abortion?

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