Adam J. MacLeod

Judging human worth

Adam J. MacLeod
By Adam MacLeod
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May 24, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse.com) - Some of the great civil rights battles of our day are being waged in Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, and Montana this year. If you do not recognize those states as civil rights battlegrounds, you are not alone. While advocates for assisted suicide have targeted those states with legalization campaigns, residents may not fully appreciate what is at stake.

The connection between assisted suicide and the civil rights struggles of previous centuries is foundational. To claim that some human lives are not worth living is to deny the intrinsic and equal worth of every human being. It is, in other words, to deny the principle from which we derived our prohibitions against slavery and racial segregation. Pro-life scholars and activists would do well to make this clear, and may be assisted in their efforts by consulting the arguments of Emily Jackson and John Keown in their new book, Debating Euthanasia. Jackson, a law professor at the London School of Economics, marshals the arguments for legalization of physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, and Keown, the Rose F. Kennedy Chair in Christian Ethics at Georgetown University, defends their continued prohibition by law on both practical and principled grounds.

Central to Keown’s case is concern for the equal and intrinsic worth of all human beings. The “cardinal ethical principle” of the inviolability of human life prohibits the intentional killing of an innocent person, and it is precisely this principle that grounds the “equal and inalienable rights” that we enjoy “in virtue of our common membership in the human family.” The authors of the Declaration of Independence thought this principle self-evident. Keown points out that the principle also finds expression in the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and a 1994 report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics. Neither anachronistic nor novel, this idea explains the law’s insistence on protecting the lives of all, irrespective of age, stage of development, or condition of dependency. No one is better off dead, Keown maintains, “even if some patients lose sight of their worth.”

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It is precisely the failure to grasp the implications of intrinsic human worth that plagues arguments for decriminalization of physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, including Jackson’s. Jackson quite candidly rejects the inviolability of human life. “There is nothing independently valuable about being alive, other than that it enables me to live a life.” But to claim, as Jackson does, that the value of life is merely instrumental is to reject the immutably inherent and equal value of all human persons. On Jackson’s terms, any particular human life is more or less valuable, and thus variably worthy of legal protection, according to some standard of instrumental usefulness. But this raises the questions of how the value will be measured and whom the state will authorize to make the valuation.

Jackson recognizes this problem but seems unable to resolve it coherently. She insists that we should not accept the judgment of the lovesick teenager that her life has no worth, and yet we should accept the same judgment from the elderly or terminally ill person for whom “life has become an intolerable burden.” Jackson discounts outright the lives of persons in persistent vegetative states because of the “important difference between simply being alive, and having a life which is worth living.” But here, again, we are no closer to understanding what a worthy life consists of.

Jackson tries to resist the full implications of her own argument. She protests that “accepting that someone’s life has ceased to benefit them is not the same as saying they have no worth.” Family and friends of a suffering patient, she claims, can assent to the request for death without assenting to the judgment that the patient’s life is worthless. Presumably, the operative principle here is one of deference to the personal autonomy of the patient, but Jackson does not explain why deference is necessary. Given the high correlation between terminal illness and depression, deference would seem especially inappropriate in such cases.

Jackson’s conception of human worth becomes clearer in light of her analogy to animal euthanasia. “When it comes to animals,” Jackson observes, “most people accept that euthanasia is not only justifiable, but also often the right thing to do.” For at least some humans, she argues, the experience of dying is no different than a cat’s. Even allowing for differences between humans and cats, such as the practice of making wills and other provisions for resolution at the end of life, these differences do not “justify forcing someone to suffer intolerably.”

That Jackson considers this argument persuasive indicates that she has not fully confronted the claim that human beings have intrinsic and equal worth. Keown is quite clear that we should not force anyone to suffer, nor should we preserve life at all costs. “That would be ‘vitalism,’” Keown explains, “and morally indefensible.” The right to life is a “right not to be intentionally killed” (Keown’s italics). Animals enjoy no such right precisely because they are merely animals, and not humans. Acting with a purpose to bring about the death of a fellow human being is fundamentally unlike acting with a purpose to bring about the death of an animal.

Jackson fails to appreciate her interlocutor’s arguments in other respects, as well. An important corollary of the inviolability of human life is the principle of double effect, according to which it is sometimes permissible knowingly to bring about harms (as foreseen side-effects) that may never be intended directly. Jackson attacks this principle with a hypothetical:

If I visit my doctor complaining of mild stomach cramps, it would not be acceptable for him to give me a life-threatening injection of diamorphine, and he could not escape responsibility for my death by pointing to the doctrine of double effect. My doctor could not claim that his intention was merely to relieve my pain, and that my death was a foreseen but unintended side-effect.

It apparently does not occur to Jackson that the doctor’s disproportionate response to the pain would in fact supply a significant, perhaps conclusive, reason to infer that his intentions were not pure. She ignores what Keown expressly states, namely, that one of the conditions of the operation of double effect requires a “proportionate reason for allowing the bad effect to occur.” Far from excusing the disproportionate conduct that Jackson rightly condemns, the principle of double effect would rule out the doctor’s actions.

By contrast, Keown takes Jackson’s arguments seriously. (In one instance, he makes the effort to strengthen one of her arguments before refuting it.) Indeed, the book’s most glaring weakness is its asymmetry. The rules of engagement required each author to submit his and her contribution blindly, unable to predict precisely what arguments the other would deploy. Nevertheless, Keown and others have developed many of the pro-life arguments over a period of many years. If Jackson wanted to understand the arguments she was trying to refute, then she could have found robust statements of those arguments with little effort.

Despite this asymmetry, Jackson’s contribution to the book is well worth reading. She is often refreshingly candid, as when she acknowledges the limits of personal autonomy. She remarks that the choice of suicidal patients to end their lives requires the cooperation of others: “they are crucially dependent upon other people, namely healthcare professionals, to comply with their wishes.”

Jackson’s contribution also contains important reminders for opponents of decriminalization. Legalization proponents, like many citizens who are open to legalization, are motivated not by bias against the disabled but rather by compassion and respect. “It seems cruel to force someone to endure suffering they find intolerable,” Jackson’s argument goes, “and condescending to disbelieve them when they claim to be suffering so much.” Such advocates, therefore, tend to be unpersuaded by the common pro-life argument drawing analogies between contemporary legalization and Nazi euthanasia practices. As Jackson notes, the Nazis operated on social Darwinist theories of racial hygiene; their “motivation was never a compassionate response to individual suffering.”

Similarly, Jackson offers some insight into the relative inefficacy of “slippery slope” arguments. Accepting assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia does not, in her view, obviously set one on a course toward “the involuntary extermination of disabled people,” and therefore, a blanket prohibition seems to her “a peculiarly blunt approach to regulation.” Why not give carefully regulated legalization a try?

There are, of course, many good reasons not to try. Keown discusses the failures of regulatory efforts in Oregon and the Netherlands. Despite the prevalence of depression among those who request assisted suicide and euthanasia, fewer than 10 percent are referred for psychiatric evaluation. Oregon’s meager reporting requirements prevent any comprehensive study of abuse, but anecdotal evidence suggests that coercion by family members is sometimes a factor in the decision to commit suicide. And the speed with which the Dutch have moved from voluntary euthanasia of adults to non-voluntary euthanasia of infants should trouble even those who are unmoved by slippery-slope arguments. But for legalization proponents, these failures are insufficient reasons not to proceed with legalization, albeit with more rigorous regulations. Jackson herself criticizes the Swiss regulatory scheme for its lack of safeguards. For example, she favors rules that would require “thorough investigation of the person’s circumstances.” One has the impression that, no matter how many of these safeguards might fail in practice, Jackson will always be prepared to propose more, until reasonable concerns about abuse are satisfied.

Most importantly, Jackson has no answer to the moral argument against physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. And herein lies a lesson for pro-life advocates as they fight legalization efforts around the country this year: they should resist the temptation to avoid making moral arguments. They are our strongest resources. To skirt the fundamental moral question would be both unnecessary and, it seems, a strategic blunder. Pro-life activists should not give offense or recall images of swastikas. It is enough to point out that a nation committed to racial equality should, for the same reason, be committed to the intrinsic worth of the sick and the disabled.

Adam MacLeod is an associate professor at Faulkner University’s Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. This article reprinted with permission from thePublicDiscourse.com.

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Matt Fradd Matt Fradd

5 reasons it isn’t your wife’s fault that you use porn

Matt Fradd Matt Fradd
By Matt Fradd

As someone who used to watch a lot of porn, I have the utmost compassion for men who are really struggling to quit and can’t seem to find the willpower to do so. I love talking with and helping blokes like this.

That said, when I’m writing and speaking about the subject of pornography, I occasionally run into men who really believe their wives are the source of the problem.

These men, I have less respect for.

Please don’t misunderstand me. The struggle against objectification and lust is a fight most men face. If you are striving with all your heart to be a better man to your bride, I’m in the same boat as you.

But if you are more interested in justifying your porn use by shifting the blame, this article has been written to set you straight. I don’t write it as someone who thinks he’s in anyway above you. As Saint John Paul the Great wrote: “every man’s heart is a battlefield between love and lust.” The reason I’m going to be extremely frank in this article is because sometimes nothing less than unvarnished truth will wake us up to reality.

Are you ready? Good.

Now, in one sense, I get why some men think their wives are to blame. Pornography has the nagging habit of making a man feel like a man without requiring him to be one. Given enough time with porn, men can delude themselves into thinking if their wives were a little more _________, they wouldn’t touch porn.

I have five reasons for why this is a ridiculous argument.

1. Your wife’s so-called “frigidity” is not the catalyst for your habit. In fact, it might be the other way around.

Perhaps there are men today who don’t touch porn until after they are married, but I have never met one.

Most men start their porn habits long before they get married; so to blame a woman for the habit is clearly mistaken.

Furthermore, in nearly every case I’ve seen, what men interpret as a woman’s “frigidity” is actually a lack of initiative on the his part. A man might say, “But I ask my wife for sex all the time.” To which I reply, “When was the last time you really fostered an environment of romance in the home that would make your wife feel treasured and not just like a warm body?”

Unfortunately, porn trains this belief into us: sex should be on-demand—as quick to boot up as my web browser. Healthy intimacy, however, takes time, attention, and devotion to maintain.

2. Porn is cleverly edited, high-octane sex, and no woman can (or should) compete with this.

Everywhere women are told they need to be younger, prettier, and bustier. The last place they need to have that message reinforced is in their marriages. In the arms of their husbands they should feel beautiful—because they are.

But using porn not only communicates the opposite to a woman, it trains men to believe the opposite.

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Here’s an odd story to illustrate my point:

Back in the 1860s, Americans made the mistake of bringing the gypsy moth from Europe to Boston. Within 10 years, swarms of gypsy moths were devastating the forests and continued doing so for over a century. Attempts to eradicate this moth failed. But then in the 1960s scientists devised a new strategy. Biologists knew that the male gypsy moth found the female by following her scent—her pheromones. Scientists developed massive quantities of a synthetic version of this pheromone and then scattered small pellets of it from the air. The effect was overpowering for the males. Overwhelmed by the highly concentrated pheromone, they became confused and didn’t know which direction to turn to find the female, or they became desensitized to the lower levels of pheromones naturally given out by the female.

This is what porn is to men: a highly synthetic, industrial, commercial form of sexuality, pumped into our atmosphere and found in ultra-concentrated doses online. If overexposed to this high-octane sex, suddenly the subtleties of a woman’s natural mystique and beauty are lost.

This is why there are so many young, healthy men today who are experiencing what one Harvard professor calls, “porn-induced erectile dysfunction.” This is a real thing: young men, raised on porn from their teen years, have so hardwired their brains they can’t even get it up for a real woman when they want to.

Why porn causes this problem is dealt with in the next reason…

3. Porn is about sexual novelty and variety; marriage is about loving commitment.

The pornographic experience is one of constant novelty: multiple tabs open, endless clicking, browsing, and always searching for the next girl who will really send you over the edge.

It isn’t your wife’s fault she isn’t hundreds of two-dimensional Internet women. It isn’t your wife’s fault she isn’t as clickable and customizable as the endless parade of digital women. It isn’t your wife’s fault she doesn’t become sexually euphoric at the drop of a hat like the porn stars you frequent. She is a woman—a human being with sexual desires and feelings of her own.

A mind trained for constant sexual novelty and variety simply won’t take the time and effort to really connect with one woman in a truly intimate way.

4. Porn is objectifying and selfish; marriage celebrates your wife’s humanity.

Russell Brand is making waves right now with his recent video about pornography. After honesty admitting about his own struggles with porn, Brand says, “If I had total dominion over myself, I would never look at pornography again.” Why? Because he hates how porn is intricately linked to a culture of objectification. When we reduce sex to an extracted physical act, we allow ourselves to turn women into objects to be used rather than women to be loved and cherished.

Porn is consumer, Burger-King sex: your way, right away. You can handpick the exact women you want to see, down the smallest specification. The women in porn are dolled up to play to any stereotype or fetish you desire. All traces of humanity are stripped away until there is nothing left but misogynistic fantasy.

Porn is entirely selfish. By that I don’t mean that masturbation is a solo act—though that is true as well—I mean the whole point of porn is to play to a man’s desire for validation: the women are portrayed as sex goddesses that cater to the man’s every whim. They are objects to use for his pleasure.

A married man with a mind trained for objectification can only go one of three ways:

1. He will drag his wife into that objectification, not seeing sex as a giving act but as an opportunity to act out pornographic fantasies in real life.

2. He will ignore his wife to pursue more online objectification—or worse.

3. He will turn away from a culture of objectification and relearn what it means to make his wife his standard of beauty.

As my friend Luke Gilkerson wrote in his book Your Brain on Porn, “‘Free porn’ is a misnomer. Pornography always costs somebody something. And it’s the women and girls in our culture, surrounded by boys and men with porn expectations, who often end up paying the highest price.”

5. Porn is an insult to your marriage vows, so your wife has every right to feel betrayed.

When you stood before God and others, slipped that ring on your wife’s finger, and told her you would “forsake all others,” did you really think that sneaking off to masturbate to digital prostitutes would fit with the spirit of that vow?

Some men actually have the nerve to say, “I get my needs met with porn. At least I’m not going out sleeping with other women.”

Really? Is this what we’ve come to: the measure of your virtue as a husband is not sleeping around?

Deep down, despite all the excuses, this is not who a man really wants to be. Do you want to be the man who loves one woman well for the rest of your life, gladly sacrificing yourself for the good of another—experiencing an intimate sexual bond? Or do you want to be the guy who sneaks off to get a fix from your computer screen and your hand? Which one of these sounds closer to the wedding vows you spoke and the man you wish to become?

A Word to Wives

If your husband struggles with porn—and I mean that in the truest sense of the word…that he contends with porn like an adversary—then you can count yourself blessed. I wish that more men counted porn as an enemy.

However, if your husband is brazenly using porn despite your wishes, know this: you are not the problem. No matter what you have done or not done, no matter how you have contributed to marital strife, no matter how you look, your husband’s porn problem is his to own. No offense—real or imaginary—is license to sin again you.

Wives, We Need Your Help!

My friends at Covenant Eyes are getting ready to re-release their amazing book, Porn and Your Husband. They want to hear from you before they release it. Please fill out their one-question survey and let them know: What's the one big thing you hope they cover in the book, Porn and Your Husband?

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Lisa Bourne

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Alabama Supreme Court rebuffs federal court in ‘historic’ ruling: forbids marriage licenses for gay couples

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

MONTGOMERY, AL, March 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Alabama’s high court has upheld the state’s definition of marriage and ordered a halt to marriage licenses for homosexual couples in the state, while also criticizing its federal counterpart for striking down DOMA.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that “nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides” state judges’ duty to administer state law.

The all-Republican court also said the federal district court had employed a “judicial sleight of hand” in “conferring fundamental-right status upon a concept of marriage divorced from its traditional understanding.”

“Throughout the entirety of its history, Alabama has chosen the traditional definition of marriage,” the ruling said. “That fact does not change simply because the new definition of marriage has gained ascendancy in certain quarters of the country, even if one of those quarters is the federal judiciary.”

The ruling is significant in making Alabama the first state to directly resist federal imposition of marriage redefinition, with a great majority of the states having had their legal definition of marriage overturned by judicial order.

“The ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court is historic, and is one of the most researched and well-reasoned opinions on marriage to be issued by any court in the country,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Staver praised the order for upholding state’s rights and for resisting judicial tyranny.

“The legitimacy of the judiciary is undermined when a judge legislates from the bench or usurps the power reserved to the states regarding natural marriage,” he said. “This decision of the Alabama Supreme Court is very well reasoned, which is quite rare from today’s courts. The decision not only affirms natural marriage but also restores the rule of law.”

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade had struck down a constitutional amendment and an Alabama state law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman in a January 23 decision, saying the laws violate homosexuals’ due process and equal protection rights according to the U.S. Constitution. The ruling was on hold until the state’s appeal to the 11th Circuit.

Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore contested the judicial action to redefine marriage. He told the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples as it would violate state law. He also urged Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley in a January 27 letter to fight the federal decision. 

Moore wrote to all 50 of the nation’s governors in 2014 urging them to preserve marriage in the U.S. Constitution with an amendment. He was not part of the March 3 Alabama State Supreme Court ruling, and his absence was not explained, according to the SCOTUS blog.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined an application February 9 by the State of Alabama to stay the decision striking down the state's constitutional amendment and state law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, pending its ruling on whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex “marriage,” expected by the end of June.

The seven-to-one majority decision by the Alabama high court rebutted every argument made for same-sex “marriage” as a constitutional matter, the SCOTUS blog said, and “lambasted the Supreme Court for making a ‘moral judgment, not a legal judgment’ when it struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor in June 2013.”

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The order to stop issuance of marriage licenses to homosexual couples extends to all sixty-eight Alabama probate judges, some of whom have been issuing such licenses after the district federal judge’s ruling. Most of the state judges, those not not named directly in the case, were given five days from Tuesday to answer the challenge and argue why they should not have to observe the statewide order against licenses for homosexual “marriages.” 

The SCOTUS blog said that because the state court’s ruling is an interpretation of the federal Constitution, it is likely subject to direct appeal to the Supreme Court, if any state judge wanted to take it there. What’s not clear, it said, is whether same-sex couples could appeal it because they were not parties in the case, but the couples could probably bring a new lawsuit against any state probate judge who refused them a license in accord with the order.

Marriage supporters praised the Alabama Supreme Court decision.

"I applaud the Alabama Justices in their wise decision respecting the freedom of Alabama's voters to uphold natural marriage,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement. “In a refreshing change, Alabama's Supreme Court is using the law to determine their actions -- not a politically motivated opinion of a lower court federal judge.”

He pointed to recent polling that found sixty-one percent of Americans oppose the U.S. Supreme Court forcing marriage redefinition on all 50 states.

“If Americans were truly on board with this effort to redefine marriage, governors, state attorneys general, and other elected officials wouldn't bother fighting it.” Perkins said. “Instead, the Alabama Supreme Court reflects where the American people really are on the issue --and it is respecting the freedom of the voters to uphold natural marriage.”

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Cardinal George Pell John-Henry Westen / LifeSiteNews.com
Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

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The attack on Cardinal Pell: is someone trying to silence his voice for orthodoxy?

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By Hilary White

ROME, March 5, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Last week an Italian tabloid launched an attack on one of the most outspoken opponents of the so-called “Kasper Proposal” to abolish the Church’s discipline on refusing communion to Catholics in “irregular” unions. Based on leaked information from within the Vatican, the gossip magazine L’Espresso accused Cardinal George Pell of padding his expenses.

The Australian member of Pope Francis’ inner circle of nine cardinals serves as the head of the Secretariat of the Economy, charged with reorganizing the Vatican’s finances.

Some observers are saying the attack on Pell comes from opposition to his financial reforms. However, Pell was also a leading voice for doctrinal orthodoxy at last autumn’s Synod of Bishops, and some see that as a motivating factor as well.

L’Espresso published leaked documents that they said showed Pell spending money on refurbishing his apartment, on airline tickets, and on liturgical vestments from a high-end Roman ecclesiastical tailor. The story was picked up by the Sydney Morning Herald, a longtime opponent of Pell from his days as archbishop of Sydney, who accused him of “living it up at the Holy See’s expense.”

Father Federico Lombardi, the head of the Holy See Press Office, condemned the leak, saying, “Passing confidential documents to the press for polemical ends or to foster conflict is not new, but is always to be strongly condemned, and is illegal.” The statement said that the Secretariat’s expenses, around 500,000 USD according to the leaked information, remain below its budget allotment.

Pell is said to be “ruffling the feathers” of a deeply entrenched, and largely Italian, bureaucratic culture that has hitherto operated largely without scrutiny or rules. Recently the cardinal announced that his office had “found” hundreds of millions of Euros “tucked away” that had never been recorded in the official books. 

America’s leading Vaticanist, John Allen, suggested that the motive for attacking Pell was his financial work. Allen says Pell’s “pugnacious” personality has rubbed Vatican officials the wrong way, but also cites his hard-hitting reforms of official financial practices.

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The UK’s Damian Thompson also took this tack, saying, “Cardinal Pell is embattled because, from now on, Curial officials will have to account for their spending. He’s brought an end to a culture of fiddling your exes which makes 20th-century Fleet Street look like a Presbyterian knitting circle.”

However, Thompson also suspects Pell’s stand for orthodoxy played a part. “I knew a hit job was coming; and I was doubly certain when he spoke up for orthodox cardinals when their views were being trashed by the liberal organisers of the chaotic ‘Carry On Synod’ on the Family,” he wrote.

Mainstream newspapers have downplayed the cardinal’s high-profile support at the Synod for the Catholic Church’s perennial teaching on the indissolubility of marriage in the face of the ongoing crisis over Cardinal Walter Kasper’s notorious “proposal.” Cardinal Kasper and his supporters see the year between Synods as a time of campaigning for their program, and they are giving interviews and lectures around the world.

Pell was among those Synod fathers who joined the now-famous rebellion of bishops against the “manipulation” of the Synod in October. It was widely reported in Rome during the Synod in October that Pell directly and forcefully confronted the Synod’s organizer, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, over the apparent push for a change in the Church’s “pastoral practice” of withholding Communion from divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

In a video interview, Pell said the bishops would not capitulate to the machinations of “radical elements” in the Church.

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