The Rape Issue and the Raped

Someday we will wonder: How did rape become Sensational Campaign Issue #1 in 2012?

I for one imagine that this fact causes some pain to anyone who has to confront bad memories whenever she hears the word—i.e., a person who has been raped.

Dear sister, I don’t like the strange, shamelessly self-serving hue and cry any more than you do. Nor do I offer apologias for any maladroit Senate candidates.

But I would like to point out one fact about the cause. I mean the cause for rape becoming shallow-public-policy-debate fodder.

Why would rape be the subject of a question at a senate-candidate debate in Indiana, or any other state, in the first place?

Because of abortion. Because of surgical and chemical abortion. Because there are people who kill unborn children with sharp instruments and/or poisons.

Would that it were not so. Would that everyone looked squarely at the scientific facts. Would that everyone involved in abortion paused for a moment to reflect on the fundamental principles of medical ethics.

If they had done this, we wouldn’t be here. The pain of rape would not be a political football, pounced on by every 300-pound lineman in sight.

But, Father! Wait! If no one practiced surgical or chemical abortions, then, if I had gotten pregnant when I was raped, I would have had a baby.

That is true.

…I am no politician. But I think I may safely observe that a televised political debate does not provide the wisest forum for making points about how God tolerates evil in order to bring good out of it. Even St. Thomas Aquinas’ subtle eloquence got strained to the breaking point when he dealt with that subject.

So let’s just leave it with the simple facts. People who know rape first-hand could be spared the weird, bone-crunching pain of Jay Leno and the President discussing it on The Tonight Show, if only everyone who had anything to do with abortion looked at the evidence for fifteen minutes and then spent thirty minutes sitting quietly to think about it.

And yes, if you were pregnant then, your baby would be kicking around on earth somewhere now, maybe at a Halloween party.

Come, Let us Reason Together…

anselmToday is the Memorial of St. Anselm, champion of the freedom of the Church, of reason, and of human rights. St. Anselm saw to it that the Council of Westminster condemned slavery in 1102.

In honor of St. Anselm’s feast day, here is a little essay about faith, reason, and human rights…

Continue reading “Come, Let us Reason Together…”

No Starving People to Death

Can you be dead before you die?
Can you be dead before you die?

Twenty hours before my father died, the doctor came to us and recommended that his feeding tube be removed.

He was dying. He could no longer digest anything. All his organs were shutting down.

I did not hesitate to agree that the tube should be removed. There is no sense in pumping fluid into someone who can no longer benefit from it.

My dad did not starve to death on his hospital bed. He died a beautiful death and departed for the heavenly country in peace. I wish he could have stuck around a little bit longer, but that is another matter…

Five years ago, our whole country watched Terri Schiavo slowly starve to death after the court ordered that her feeding tube be removed. She was NOT dying. She just needed someone to feed her.

We can hope that Mrs. Schiavo died in the friendship of God. But her death was not peaceful for everyone else. There has yet to be a full reckoning of what happened. In Italy right now, there is a similar case.

Continue reading “No Starving People to Death”

How to Make Good Decisions


Is it okay to cut the heart out of a newborn baby with severe brain damage, so that the baby’s heart can be transplanted into a baby who has a bad heart?  Is it okay to perform an abortion on a pregnant teenager, or on a pregnant woman with a serious health problem?  Is it okay to lie to make other people feel better?


There are things that people do, and many smart people approve, but these things do not seem to be right.  I would like to put in my two cents about what exactly is wrong.


When people do bad things, it is almost always because they convince themselves that they are doing something good.  They convince themselves of this by attempting to measure the effects of what they propose to do.  In the case of the two babies, the doctors involved convince themselves that they are doing good because they are saving the life of the baby with a bad heart, and the one with brain damage would die soon anyway.  If the good effects outweigh the bad effects of an action, it must be a good thing to do.

(The question of how to know precisely when someone dies, including a baby with severe brain damage, is a tricky one–let’s acknowledge that.  It is okay to transplant organs from a corpse, provided they will benefit someone else.  Good people disagree about the criteria for establishing when someone is dead.  There are doctors these days, though, who are not concerned with establishing death definitively; they regard it as an unnecessary question.)

Measuring potential outcomes is a good way of making decisions, given one very important proviso:  All the options have to be good.  If I have the choice between giving extra money to charity, or saving it for a rainy day, or giving it to a family member, the best thing for me to do is to weigh the effects of all these options, because they are all perfectly good things to do.


But there is one effect of my acting that outweighs all others, so much so that it makes an option impossible to choose.  That effect is this:  I become someone who has knowingly and deliberately done something evil.  No other effect can make this effect worthwhile, even if the potential effect appears to be very good to me right now.  (Fr. Martin Rhonheimer taught me everything in this paragraph.)


The greatest thing that a person can be by their own devices is a moral person.  Everything else is a matter of fortune or Divine Providence.  I cannot control anything completely—except my own actions.  If my actions are good, then I am moral.  If they are not, then I am immoral.


So it is wise to weigh the potential outcomes of my actions (understanding, of course, that I cannot really know them definitively).  But first and foremost I must consider the act itself.  Is the act itself okay?  Or am I in danger of doing evil with the idea that good may come of it?  If I try to do evil that good may come of it, the following consequences will ensue:  Good things may happen outside of me, or they may not—there are a lot of variables, and I should have the humility to admit that I do not know them all, even if I am very knowledgeable about the matter at hand.  On the other hand, if I do evil, I will have made myself a bad person, an immoral person.


To this argument, some people will say:  How selfish!  How can you worry about something like your own soul when the life and death, or the health and well-being of others is at stake?  Keep your moral scruples to yourself!  At least let us do what we think we ought to do, without trying to force your religion on us!


The problem with this objection is that it is ultimately self-contradictory.  Obviously, it is not a case of crass disingenuousness:  If those who objected to moral scruples were only interested in robbing banks or seducing women, then we would not be in danger of being persuaded by them.  But they claim to be on the side of the angels, on the side of fostering human life and well-being.


This is where the self-contradiction comes in:  You say that you are on the side of human life and well-being.  You say you want to do the things you propose to do to save lives, or make lives more healthy or pleasant.  Why?  What is the point of saving a life, or improving someone’s health, if not for the sake of that person becoming good and not evil?  Isn’t moral success the ultimate goal of life?  What does it mean to thrive as a human being?  To laze around in the basest pleasures?  To pile up the biggest stash of stuff?  To breathe, eat, and sleep?  To thrive as a human being is:  To do good and avoid evil, to be moral, to fulfill the potential we have to make good choices, and to work for the good of those we love.


So it makes no sense to kill the one baby to save the other, so that someday the other can grow up to have the moral insight and self-control to see that this was a bad thing to do.  Instead, just do every good and reasonable thing that can be done now to save them both.  That’s all we can do; we are not the masters of life and death.  We are not here on earth to control everything; we are here to do good and avoid evil.


In order to approach decision-making this way with confidence, we need to trust God.  I will undertake to consider the relationship between faith and morals at some other time.  Stay tuned!