Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Written on the Heart, Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fr. James Schall, one of my favorite writers these days, has a review of a new book by Fr. Robert Spitzer on the Roe v Wade case and it’s intellectual merits. Fr. Schall writes:

The fact is, as Spitzer points out, from Blackstone and previous decisions of State Courts, legal precedent existed that the human fetus at all its stages was a human person. The Court simply ignored this background.

The Court’s effort to make a distinction between a “human being” and a “person” was spurious from the beginning. Spitzer’s analysis of the legal, linguistic, and metaphysical use of the word “person” in every instance identifies it with a human being protected both by natural and constitutional law. Why the Court could not find the word “person” in previous Court decisions was simple. The issue never came up before. It would be, Spitzer suggests, like saying that because the old maps did not show the existence of the American continent, therefore, it did not exist.

This background also leads to the issue of the scientific status of the human fetus. No longer is there any doubt that the fertilized human zygote from its beginning is an independent human life separate from the mother. Spitzer cites the work of Jerome Lejeune on the DNA of the human fetus. This work became known a few years after the decision, but the Court has not recognized its force. The Court equivalently said that, if it is in doubt about whether a thing is human, we can assume that it is not. This is a principle directly contrary to reason. If in doubt about a thing’s humanity, we do not act until we find out.

Fr. Schall goes on to point out that a constitution doesn’t stipulate all of the conditions under which people live in society. There are laws that people should know and live by that exist in their hearts. In other words, to take an innocent life is always and everywhere wrong, a sin, and a person can know that “in his heart,” without the need to have it written in a constitution. I think I’ll need to add this book to my Kindle collection pretty soon.

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