Euthanasia By Stealth

Is the equal dignity of all men (homines) founded in nature or in grace? Both. Matter is the principle of individuation and the highest operations of the intellect do not occur through a material organ. The capacity of the intellect to make use of man’s lower faculties, such as the imagination, may be impeded by the imperfect subjection of the body’s matter to its form (the soul) which results from the loss of the preternatural gifts but this privation (a consequence of the Fall) afflicts all men. Moral (and therefore political) questions appertain to the will and intellect as such and thus there can be no pretext for the founding of civil rights and their variation upon supposed biological variation between ‘races’. Any attempt to do so is pagan and materialist.’ Sexism and Racism are false de jure and de facto. Imagine an orchestra of identical musicians with differing instruments. In bodily terms the musicians are identical but they have only ever played, studied and practiced with the individual instrument they play in the orchestra. Their habits and the development of their bodies are entirely framed by the instrument they have grown up with. Nevertheless, each is possessed of the same theoretical capacity and with a perfect instrument and ideal training  unlimited potential. In this fallen world no one is possessed of a perfect instrument and ideal training but it will not always be thus. In fact, in the order of grace everyone is possessed of a perfect instrument and ideal training for “to them that love God, all things work together unto good”. In an unfallen world the equality of all men would be an absolute. In this world (and all possible worlds) it is essentially preserved. Under grace this essential equality is transformed into differing eternal rewards determined by charity. “In the Evening of Life, We will be Judged on Love Alone.” Of course when God crowns our merits He crowns His own gifts but though founded upon grace and the principle of predilection that judgement is not unjust. God’s grace does not conflict with the freedom of man. When we have run the race to the finish it is the equality of our starting place that displays the justice of God. That starting place is nature.

One of the frescoes of the Ecumenical Councils...

I’ve been looking at The Church in Council by Norman Tanner SJ. Fr Tanner is perhaps the leading authority on ecumenical councils in the English-speaking world. It’s curious, therefore, that he seems keen to get rid of as many as he can. Vatican II, he says, extended the meaning of Church beyond ‘the Roman Catholic community’, and therefore made it a moot point whether any council could be called ecumenical without the participation of ‘other Christian churches and communities’. The Eastern Church, we learn, was not represented ‘in any proper sense’ at any post-1054 council – a fact which would no doubt have surprised the Byzantine Emperor and the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1439, not to mention the other bishops and patriarchal delegates who had gathered at Florence. Trent, Vatican I and Vatican II don’t even reach the dignity of general councils of the Western Church; since the ‘churches of the Reformation’ were absent, they are better seen as ‘general councils of the Roman Catholic church, rather than of the Western Church’. This ‘removes the necessity of Trent and Vatican I being given an absolute status’ (but apparently not of Vatican II being given it!) So much for the holy Sacrifice and for papal infallibility; they will apparently have to enjoy only a ‘relative status’, whatever that might be.

He is quite keen on the role of the emperor in the early councils, as it provides a precedent for lay involvement. Likewise, in the Empress Irene at Nicaea II, as a precedent for female involvement. Likewise in the fact that the early councils were held in ‘Asia’. And he also likes the fact that Constantine wasn’t baptised at the time of Nicaea I, as this provides a precedent for influences on ecumenical councils from outside the visible church.

I can’t help wondering if his ideal council would be one held in Mumbai under the presidency of a Muslim woman, and which would solemnly condemn Humanae Vitae. But I may be wronging him.

LCPSo, the Liverpool care pathway is on the Liverpool care pathway. The Catholic Herald editorial this week highlights the public split between Catholics on the issue. The editor suggests there are two groups: those who thought the LCP itself was sound, but badly implemented, and those who thought it was flawed and generated abuses, even when correctly implemented. This summary clearly begins the inevitable slippage, that until this week, the former category mostly thought the whole thing was splendid.

Catholic doctors who opposed the LCP had their expertise and credibility questioned. The Bishops issued a generally complementary document (although not in fact written by the bishops!) and now  look rather silly, that it took a liberal female rabbi (who might actually be sympathetic to euthanasia) to scrap the entire affair.

Now would be a good time to swap sides and cheer the scrapping as magnificent!