Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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Abp. Chaput on “Politics and the Devil”

April 12th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput recently delivered the keynote address at the University of Notre Dame’s student-organized Right to Life lecture series.

All law in some sense teaches and forms us, while also regulating our behavior. The same applies to our public policies, including the ones that govern our scientific research. There is no such thing as morally neutral legislation or morally neutral public policy. Every law is the public expression of what somebody thinks we “ought” to do. The question that matters is this: Which moral convictions of which somebodies are going to shape our country’s political and cultural future—including the way we do our science?

The answer is pretty obvious: if you and I as citizens don’t do the shaping, then somebody else will. That is the nature of a democracy. A healthy democracy depends on people of conviction working hard to advance their ideas in the public square—respectfully and peacefully, but vigorously and without apologies. Politics always involves the exercise of power in the pursuit of somebody’s idea of the common good. And politics always and naturally involves the imposition of somebody’s values on the public at large. So if a citizen fails to bring his moral beliefs into our country’s political conversation, if he fails to work for them publicly and energetically, then the only thing he ensures is the defeat of his own beliefs.

The moral and political struggle we face today in defending human dignity is becoming more complex. I believe that abortion is the foundational human rights issue of our lifetime. We can’t simultaneously serve the poor and accept the legal killing of unborn children. We can’t build a just society, and at the same time, legally sanctify the destruction of generations of unborn human life. The rights of the poor and the rights of the unborn child flow from exactly the same human dignity guaranteed by the God who created us.Of course, working to end abortion doesn’t absolve us from our obligations to the poor. It doesn’t excuse us from our duties to the disabled, the elderly and immigrants. In fact, it demands from us a much stronger commitment to materially support women who find themselves in a difficult pregnancy.

All of these obligations are vital. God will hold us accountable if we ignore them. But none of these other duties can obscure the fact that no human rights are secure if the right to life is not. Unfortunately, abortion is no longer the only major bioethical threat to that right in our culture. In fact, the right to life has never, at any time in the past, faced the range of challenges it faces right now, and will face in the coming decades. Physician-assisted suicide, cloning, brain-computer interface (BCI) research, genetic screening of unwanted fetuses, genetic engineering of preferred physical and intellectual traits, cross-species experimentation, and developments in neuroscience—these things already raise serious questions about the definition of “human nature” and the protection of human dignity in the years ahead.

Much more here.

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