22 January 2008

Roe @ 35.

Patristics scholar Mark Aquilina points out that there is nothing new under the sun:

But who belongs to our society? Who belongs to our world? For the last generation, Americans have tried to place certain classes of humans beyond the protection of the law, outside the definition of personhood. It began with the fetus, the preborn child. Court decisions placed arbitrary limits — at the first trimester, or second, or birth. But does anyone take these seriously? What is it about a day of development — or a week or two weeks — that changes the baby so radically as to make her a different sort of being? Which is the event that confers personhood?

Again, different ethicists propose different answers: self-consciousness, the ability to feel pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and so on. But these, too, fail. The most honest pro-choice thinkers put the matter baldly: what confers personhood is the will of the mother.

The Church Fathers were familiar with this line of thinking. In pagan Rome, a child did not achieve personhood until recognized by the head of the family, the father. When the mother had given birth, a midwife placed the child on the floor and summoned the father. He examined the child with his criteria of selection in mind.

Was the child his? If the man suspected his wife of adultery — ancient Rome’s favorite pastime — he might reject the child without so much as a glance.

If the child was an “odious daughter” (the common Roman phrase for female offspring), he would likely turn on his heel and leave the room.

If the child was “defective” in any way, he would do the same. As the philosopher Seneca said: “What is good must be set apart from what is good for nothing.”

Life or death? It all depended upon the will of a man. Human life began when the child was accepted into society. A man did not “have a child.” He “took a child.” The father “raised up” the child by picking it up from the floor.

Those non-persons who were left on the floor — while their mothers watched from a birthing chair — would be drowned immediately, or exposed to scavenging animals at the town dump.

Against these customs, the Church consistently taught that life begins at conception and should continue till natural death. In such matters, Christianity contradicted pagan mores on almost every point. What were virtuous acts to the Romans and Greeks — contraception, abortion, infanticide, suicide, euthanasia — were abominations to the Christians.

Here's the whole thing. Via Amy Welborn.

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton and co-author of Embryo is interviewed on the legal "reasoning" and ramifications of Roe, concluding with this call to prayer:
First and foremost: Pray. Pray for the unborn victims of abortion and for women who are, so often and in so many ways, truly abortion's "secondary victims." Do not judge them, but rather pray for them and love them. Pray for those who have dedicated themselves to working in politics and the culture for the pro-life cause. Pray for our leaders at the state and federal levels—including judges—whose actions will literally determine who lives and dies. Pray for those whose hearts have been hardened against the unborn, and who defend and even promote abortion. And pray for those who perform abortions. God has already turned the hearts of some such people. Bernard Nathanson, a prominent abortionist and one of the founders of the pro-abortion movement in the United States, was converted to the pro-life cause by the loving witness and prayers of pro-life people. Who knows how many other abortionists and defenders of abortion will follow his path? Let's give up on no one. Let us treat everyone, even our opponents in this profound moral struggle, with respect, civility, and ungrudging love. Loving witness is something all of us can give. And lovingly witnessing in our churches and communities to the sanctity of human life is something all of us are called to do.
Here's the whole thing.
 

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