The Demonic Voice Behind the “Right to Choose”
Robert P. George, disagreeing with Cornell law professor Eduardo Peñalver over whether Catholics and other pro-life advocates could support the Democratic party, indicated that at the heart of their dispute were two questions: first, whether human embryos are human beings or not, and then, “whether every human being, irrespective of age, size, stage of development, or condition of dependency, possesses profound, inherent, and equal dignity.”
The first question, Dr. George held, is a scientific one, answered affirmatively by embryological standards. The second is philosophical:
In this question the demonic character—and I don’t simply mean by this “very bad,” but “from evil spirits”—of what is being dealt with here becomes evident. Our opponents view the essential value of the human being as a quantity, not a quality: specifically, a quantity of active intellectual life. They measure the value of the human body only so far as they can perceive it serving as a vehicle for intelligence, hence the devaluation of all life, young, old, or impaired, and, at least by implication—although this is currently unfashionable to admit—inferior, in which this power is small or difficult to detect.
The manifest potential of nascent life is, as a rule, ignored for the sake of expedience, although this is irrational. The principal reason why children are condemned to death in the womb is that they are inconvenient, but philosophical justification of the killing nearly always involves devaluation.
The First Symbol
But a mortal body—and by mortal I mean not only “susceptible to physical death,” but also “susceptible of everlasting life in the resurrected Son of God”—is the first, the intended, and the irreducible symbol of the quality of humanness, and so of the potential that demons, being pure spirits, do not have. This potential is clear in the human embryo, but is also, we believe, in the elderly (the dying seed of new life) and in those with damaged or inferior minds, all of whom bear the sign and quality, from conception, of humanity—a human body—and thus bear every human potential as they await the hand of God in their further, infinite, development.
Where mere intellectual life and power are regarded as the essential value of human being, men are defined as devils define and value themselves, according to the hierarchy of values by which they wish to remake us after their own image—the body, which God stubbornly persists in perpetuating, be damned.
The holy angels exult in the order of service for which they have been created, not only by the power of their intellects, but by the measure of their obedience, which they doubtless see simply as the office toward the Infinite God that is their continual joy and the meaning of their existence—thus, one would think, exposing themselves to demonic contempt as simple, servile, and undeveloped—a contempt the faithful also know from their dealings with wicked men.
Having given up obedience for autonomous self-actualization, the demons have lost the offices for which they were made, along with their joy and meaning. They substitute for these an absolute valuation of their created essence, that is, their intelligence and power—what remained to them when their original telos and its glory departed.
The Origin of Choice
It is this into which they wish to draw us by exalting intelligence toward the negation of its incarnation—thus their joy in death, and their encouragement of self-realization through futile and destructive exercises of intellect. The “pro-choice” campaigning we know has its origins in a deeper and older choice, an ancient self-abortion into which the devils wish to draw the human race through the devastation of its peculiar glory, the perfection of which they thought to accomplish in the destruction of the flesh of God’s Son.
— S. M. Hutchens, for the editors
S. M. Hutchens works as a reference librarian in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He holds a doctorate in theology. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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“Self-Abortion” first appeared in the January/February 2007 issue of Touchstone. If you enjoyed this article, you'll find more of the same in every issue.
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