You do not have a “right” to “chose your time of death”

The pro-Euthanasia lobby is inventing human rights, just as the pro-homosexual lobby is. The latter is inventing the “human right” for same-sex attracted persons to “marry”, and the former is inventing a “human right” to “choose one’s time of death”.

If the language of “human rights” is not to become a devalued currency, we must agree that you can’t just mint brand-new shiny “human rights” according to whim. The Catholic Church teaches that true “human rights” are those that arise from the dignity of what it means to be human. Of course, the question there is “what does it mean to be human?” and that is where the argument starts. It is an argument for a different time. But one thing we can say for now is that part of the definition of “human dignity” has to do with the human being as a social being, and with human community. An out-of-control libertine individualism is not good for human society and thus “my business and no-one else’s” cannot be cited as a basis for a “human right”.

In relation to this, I wish to draw your attention to this article in The Australian today: “Choosing one’s time of death is a basic human right”, by Nigel Gray (former director of the Cancer Council of Victoria). He writes:

I AM distressed by the confusion and disgruntlement surrounding the discussion of euthanasia. Even the admirable Paul Kelly gets it wrong (The Australian, September 29). He refers to euthanasia as "legalised killing", implying that those who support euthanasia want someone to do something to someone else. The word kill occurs seven times. If we take away the labels such as euthanasia, kill, murder, suicide, we can look at the issues.

I disagree very strongly. If you take out these words – which are NOT “loaded” words, or fuzzy words, but words that are clear and have a deliberate and objective meaning – THEN you in fact obscure the issues rather than clarify them.

The people who join the Dying with Dignity movement simply want to die with dignity. This ought to be possible under Victorian law, but it is not surprising that people want to be sure of getting their wishes.

To die with dignity is, I would agree, a “human right” – but in a secondary sense: ie. everyone is entitled to that “dignity” which is due to them because they are a human being in BOTH life and death. The question is: what do you mean by “dignity” in this context? Japanese warriors and Jihadist Terrorists both had/have ideas about what a “dignified” death is. We disagree with both their accounts. We disagree with Nigel Gray’s too.

My wishes are also simple. I want the right to choose the place and time of my own death. I do not want to transfer the responsibility to someone else. The place will be in my own bed, with Louis Armstrong playing in the background. The time: not yet imminent.

The “someone else” who has the choice of the place and time of one’s death is not a human being. Whether you believe in God or not, no human being – including oneself – has a “right” to chose when and where they will die. The very unpredictability of death is one of its greatest mysteries, but we do not have a “right” to solve that mystery by taking our own life or the life of others.

The whole thing could be much simpler and less disturbing if, for example, the law allowed the following two options. All that follows necessarily requires everyone involved to be willing participants. No one could or should be forced to participate, and the service should be free.

Ah yes. If only that difficult and disturbing thing we call “death” could be made “simpler and less disturbing”… Note that “could” and “should” are, of course, two different things.

Option one: The person (I have not said patient) presents to the nearest (willing) pharmacist a form signed and witnessed (as is any will or power of medical attorney) that requests the pharmacist to provide a lethal dose of Nembutal with instructions for use. The person goes home and takes it. At the moment, the family then has to waste the time of a practitioner to certify death and the coroner has to inquire to see that someone was not murdered.

“Waste the time of a practicioner”? “not said patient”? Is he in fact arguing for the right of any and all human beings to commit suicide whenever and for whatever reason they choose? If this it is indeed a “human right” for all human beings to decide the place and time of their death and to carry it out by their own action, does this not mean that it is immoral to try to prevent suicide?

Option two: A charitable organisation, called the Earthly Angel Service, accommodates the person’s wishes. The person provides a form, signed and witnessed as above. The EAS then provides an authorised (registered and licensed) staff member who has some simple skills, and an independent witness. The EAS visitor: Slips a needle into a vein and sets up an intravenous drip. Draws up a lethal dose of morphia and slips the needle into the drip. Hands the syringe to the person. The person, not anyone else, presses the plunger of the syringe. The morphia flows and permanent sleep follows. The EAS visitor then determines that death has occurred and provides a death certificate. With such a law, no one else is required to do something to someone else.

“Earthly Angel Service”? Note that the article is headed with the by-line “EMOTIONAL terms obscure the facts of euthanasia”. If this isn’t “emotional”, I don’t know what is. Anyway, such an “angel” would be nothing other than an “Angel of Death”. And what kind of “charity” would this be? Not the kind that Church understands. Not the kind of “charity” that the good Samaritan showed.

All the labels are pejorative and obscure the real issues: individual choice, no transfer of responsibility to another person (which is, after all, a tough responsibility to transfer), no bureaucracy, and no need for a terminal disease, so no need for a doctor.

As I said: Suicide as a “human right”. Gray is certainly in a “gray” area here. The result would be a moral obligation on everyone to do everything we can to assist the suicidal to achieve their aims. Also note the emphasis on “choice” and “individual”. We have seen this before in the abortion debate, we see it again here. Remember: since a human being is a social and communal being, “individualism” cannot provide a basis for determining true human dignity.

The reason for wanting choice is that this is one’s own business, no one else’s. We should not have to give reasons. It may indeed be a terminal disease and one may have consulted a doctor, or one may have gone bankrupt, or the wrong team may have won the grand final, but these are not relevant to anyone else. A personal decision, which is made as a human right, is all that is required. The necessary legislation should be simple enough.

Sorry mate. It isn’t your own business. “No man is an island”, and all that stuff. This is individualism taken to an extreme. It is the death of human society. Gray and his ilk are inventing a new “human right” and yes, I want him to give REASONS why he thinks suicide is a “human right”.

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75 responses to “You do not have a “right” to “chose your time of death”

  1. Matthias

    Nigel gray fallen sucker to the Euthanasia movement led by Nitschke and Brown. I would rathe be cared for by Disability support Workers ,many of whom i trained ,than my fellow nurses because if I could not get into a catholic run hospice such as caritas christi or cabrini
    1/ They advocate for their clients strongly
    2/ they collectively have a pro life stance
    3/they have just as good assessment and communicaiton skills as a nurse
    4/They care for clients in their own homes rather than in an a institution,almost up to when the client dies
    5/ They do not have access to drugs of addiction and are against the medical model of care

    • Reluctant as I am to mention it again, I have had years of experience with both.

      My first job was as a nurse working in an institution — albeit a very modern one for those times — for people with intellectual disabilities.

      There were staff there who were absolute heroes in the way that they fought against the old ‘hose ’em down before tea and lock them in a padded cell’ mentality (of ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest‘ fame). This was definitely a time when the ‘medical model’ was under challenge!

      Then I worked as a librarian in another organisation for people with physical disabilities. Again it was a time of great change and a ‘shrinking’ of the medical model and many long-term staff were very challenged by that. Some saw the benefit of the new — if you’ll forgive the term — paradigm and made real differences in the lives of people who were otherwise society’s ‘discards’.

      Disability support workers were becoming more common in that time of change because people with disabilities were not ‘sick’, they just needed support.

      Some were hopeless and just took the job because it was easy to get into. Others, again, were extraordinarily committed and wonderful people who, often despite very poor pay and conditions, just soldiered on.

      My experiences of hospice nurses in the last 10 years is mixed too, but I’ve found the vast majority good to great.

      The hospice is also a deep challenge to the ‘medical model’ because patients aren’t there to ‘get well’ — they are their to die.

  2. Henrietta

    A fantastic read David.

    I just wish others can pull the whole issue apart as well as you have done.

  3. Tom

    An excellent point; now to convince the last 2 centuries of human history that individualism is not a valid basis for the meaning of human…

    • There in lies the rub, Tom.

      David’s post was good but, IMO, it was preaching to the choir. Once you get to ‘… according to whim …’ I suspect you’ve lost anyone except those who agreed with you in the first place.

      It’s not just individualism either. We live in a culture that bends over backwards to relieve suffering. So many of us are in an almost permanent state of anesthesia or, at the smallest sign of pain, stand ready to reach for the pill jar.

      It is a naturaly human reaction to not want to see people suffering and modern medicine has meant that for most people suffering is not necessary. When we are confronted with the suffering of a loved one who is dying, it is not just a ‘whim’ that motivates us to want that to stop.

      But you’re right in the sense that the march of individualism, combined with the medicalisation of (almost) everyday life — not to mention the beginning and end of life — makes the argument against euthanasia that much more difficult.

      • Louise

        When we are confronted with the suffering of a loved one who is dying, it is not just a ‘whim’ that motivates us to want that to stop.

        True.

        But “mercy killing” seems more about mercy towards the onlookers. It’s wrong to kill innocent people to solve our problems.

        “Euthanasia” is a “good death” for the people who are pained or inconvenienced by the person’s suffering.

        • Tony

          Louise,

          But “mercy killing” seems more about mercy towards the onlookers. It’s wrong to kill innocent people to solve our problems.

          Firstly, I don’t know what you base that on and, secondly, it’s not a strong argument anyhow because it’s so speculative.

          Those charged with the decision to withdraw unreasonable medical intervention — in accordance with church teaching — may also be motivated, to some extent or another, by their own distress at watching the suffering of a loved one.

          It’s one of those things that we can distinguish quite easily in theory, but when you’re in the situation, that kind of clear thinking is often very difficult.

          I strongly recommend the SBS Insight program aired recently. Here’s the intro:

          Modern medicine is keeping us alive for longer than ever before. But sometimes drugs and machines can extend life to a point where there’s little more than suffering for the patient and for their families. Every day people wrestle with how far to take treatment in the face of a terminal illness and that’s what we are talking about tonight. Not euthanasia but how modern medicine is dealing with the end of life.

          • Tony

            NB: Perhaps by way of a warning, the Insight program is tough viewing but I do think it addresses the reality of this topic.

            • Gareth

              What is the reality of someone intentionally ending someone life against God’s will?

              At the end of the day as Christians surely after all the gobbly-gook about the issue being presented as ‘complex’, the ultimate conclusion is that things are pretty simple – it is a grave wrong.

              • Tony

                So, did you watch the program, Gareth?

                Did you see a lot of gobbledegook and simple choices?

                • Gareth

                  One could watch 100 Latelines programs to see how ‘complex’ things are, but that doesnt take away from the fact that intentionally ending someone’s life is against God’s will and a grave wrong.

                  Things are not that complex.

                  • Tony

                    Again, I invite you to watch the program, Gareth.

                    I think you’ll see that even when euthenasia isn’t even contemplated, people are confronted with very difficult dilemas and hard choices.

          • These are important issues. It is also important – for the sake of clear thinking – to maintain in theory the distinction between motivation and the objective nature of an act. In Church teaching, in order for an action to be a “sin”, the intention of the one doing the act must be sinful. It is conceivable therefore than an action which in itself is not “intrinsically evil” may become a “sin” when done with sinful motivation. On the other hand, acts which in themselves are “morally grave matter” or “objectively disordered/evil” remain so even if the intention of the one doing the act is not sinful. We are able, ethically, to judge the objective moral quality of an act, even if we are unable (and in fact forbidden) to judge the one who is doing the act (because we do not know their motivation). Thus we can say of someone who kills another person that they have committed murder (courts judge these kinds of things all the time), but not judge the state of a person’s soul vis a vis the question of sin (which is God’s domain, not ours).

            • Tony

              Quite right, David. But again, if you look at the issues faced by the families even that amount of ‘clear thinking’ is problematic.

              The case of Fred Pham and Don Mudge are poignant illustrations full of grey areas (on the Insight program). Both are likely to get to a stage where a family member is going to have to make a decision. Both have expressed views that inform that decision.

              One is determined to fight on beyond what the other might consider unreasonble means.

              My understanding is that both positions are consistent with what the church teaches, but the decisions made will be very different.

              Fred’s wife could concievably withdraw medical support prematurely according to Fred’s wishes. She could do that because of the distress his suffering causes her and her children and, conciously or unconciously, put his wishes second. To the extent that she could be held responsible for that (morally), it could be a sin.

              Don’s wife could keep him on life support long after she knows he would not have wanted it, because of her own fear of death and because she really can’t let go. To the extent that she could be held responsible for that (morally), it could be a sin too.

              For both of them, the ‘line in the sand’ (unreasonable intervention) could be very difficult or very easy to judge and they may have to weigh lots of considerations at time when clear thinking is very difficult.

              But Fred and Don are the exceptions. They’re obviously families that communicate well and both Fred and Don have come through a time of reflection with reasonably clear ideas of what they want and can articulate that to a loving and supportive family.

              Many decision-makers don’t have the luxury of time and are thrust into a situation that has, for them, competing demands and their own emotional reactions to contend with.

              The bottom line, again, here is that these coal-face situations are often not simple (even if you take euthanasia out of the equation) and the increasing medicalisation of our lives (and deaths) makes the borderline between withdrawing unreasonable intervention and euthanasia more and more grey.

          • Louise

            it’s not a strong argument anyhow because it’s so speculative.

            Well, any time euthanasia is mentioned people talk about the suffering of the person and the suffering of the people watching the person. So, it’s not that speculative. But even granted that the motives and emotions of the people and the sufferer cannot be known, the arguments for euthanasia are always about trying to solve the problem of pain. Whether it’s our pain or the patient’s pain is neither here nor there, the principle still holds: that we cannot kill innocent people to solve our problems. (Even if that innocent person is ourself).

  4. Louise

    Put simply, a “right to die” is not compatible with “a right to live.”

    Also, my right to live means your obligation not to kill me. Good.

    But if I have a right to die then someone else has an obligation to kill me. Anyone can see why that’s bad.

    Rights always confer an obligation upon others and that’s why we can’t go making them up.

    • Yes, the connection between “rights” and “responsibilities” has often been discussed. However, one thing that is not often noticed is that it is this very connection between “my rights” and “your responsibilities” (or vice versa) that demonstrates the communitarian or social nature of the language of “rights”. Without a social context, a context where I am in some relationship with someone else, the language of rights has no meaning. Therefore, to posit an extreme individualism as the basis of “human rights” is ultimately self defeating.

    • Tony

      I find the discussion about ‘rights’ a little hard to get a handle on, but …

      But if I have a right to die then someone else has an obligation to kill me. Anyone can see why that’s bad.

      … how does that follow? Nobody has an obligation to kill you.

      If I can find someone to help me take my life then that person would not be prosecuted as long as they followed the law. It doesn’t imply that they have to help me.

      By way of analogy. The church still says society has a right to execute a criminal in certain (now very rare) circumstances. Does it follow that each citizen is potentially obliged to pull the trigger?

      • Gareth

        The church still says society has a right to execute a criminal?

        When did the ‘Church’ last SAY that?

        • Tony

          2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

          …the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent”.

          From the Second Edition English Translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which includes the corrections promulgated by Pope John Paul II on 8 September 1997.

          This, to the best of my knowlege, is the current version of the CCC.

          • It is interesting that those who framed this passage thought that the phrase “teaching of the Church” required a qualifier “traditional” in front of it.

            It is almost as if they were trying to say “Yes, we know we cannot deny that the Church has traditionally taught the right of the State to use the death penalty, but given that the necessity of capital punishment is almost non-existent and given the great value that the Church places on human life in her social doctrine, today the Church cannot be said to support this form of punishment.”

            • Gareth

              Hi David,

              In my opinion and in some commentators minds, there are many such ‘oddities’ in the new version of the CCC.

              The church’s ‘stance’ on this particular issue in recent years has been strange (and some would argue contradictory) to say the least, compared to its ‘stance’ as little as thirty years ago.

              For all the media attention for those that are disillusioned with the Church on the ‘left’ side of the fence, there is also a certain minority who are frustrated with the Church on the other side of the perspective and who would rather pay respect to what they can find the Church taught in the past as opposed to some of the inconsistiencies that have come from the Church, even the Popes, in recent decades.

              On the issues of the manner in receiving Eucharist, the Church’s liturgy, the requirement of religious to wear religious habits, the form in which Church sacraments are to be undertaken, the Church’s views on burial, the Church’s views on the state of life after death, the Church’s issuing of ‘anunlnments’, capital punishment etc etc etc – can not the Church at the very least be consistent.

              Is this not a reasonable question to ask?

              • Actually, I think this is a real case of the Church (not the Catechism writers – the catechism is an accurate account of the Church’s current teaching) trying very hard to be consistent where in the past it could have been accused of inconsistency. Against the background of the horrors of the 20th Century, the Church has amplified its pro-life teachings, its teaching on the dignity of every human life, no matter what their creeds, actions, moral character etc. may be. It was not possible to amplify this side of the Church’s teaching without questioning to some degree the traditional support of capital punishment. The solution to the dilema was to continue to uphold the teaching that capital punishment exercised by authentic authority is licet, while introducing a new note of caution concerning whether it is desirable or even necessary.

                • Gareth

                  David,

                  I know where you are coming from, but I am not sure if I agree in your defence of the Church here.

                  The hard truth is that many aspects of the modern catechism or the Church’s ‘stances’ on certain issues are simply contradictory and have confused many, many Catholics.

                  What I mean here is just how on earth can an organisation or body say something is completely wrong or right and then as little as twenty years later completely discard what it previously said? A classic example is that only thirty years ago, according to the Church, cremation of the body after death was one of the worst offences to God imaginable, yet today we have ‘Ashes Walls’ within Church grounds. Just how does that work?

                  On the matter of capital punishment, the contradictions continue.

                  There was nothing inconsistent about the Church’s traditional teaching as it faithfully repeated simply what the Bible and Church theologians had to say.

                  The new Catechism does not appear to do this.

                  The hard truth is that the Church has never previously viewed capital punishment as having anything to do with the issues of abortion, euthanasia or the sanctity of life and it should never have been lumped into the same ‘category’ to begin with.

                  Neither shoud the catechism dictated to society the circumstances it thinks it is apporpiate (one person’s definition of ‘rare’ could be very different from another person’s).

                  I have actually viewed Catholic dogma and previous Catechisms teaching on the matter and compared this to the modern 1994 version, and I find it hard to believe that the new Catechism simply issues a new note of caution whether it is desirable.

                  Traditional Catholic dogma and the section in the 1994 version are like chalk and cheese – it appears that previous Catholic dogma was close to absolutely discarded.

                  The 1994 version of the Catechism seems to have confused many people in the Church as well as I have heard it said publicly Bishops (yes Bishops) that the Church has blanket opposition to capital punishment. This is simply a heresy and contradictory to the Bible.

                  If one was to take a survey of church members and what they thought the Church taught on the matter, I am sure you would find that they think the Church teaches something contradictory to what Catholic dogma says.

                  I am not sure why people just can’t simply admit that on this teaching, John Paul or someone cleverly worded the passage to fit their own humanist views and subtlety changed the Church’s stance as much as possible without explicitly outlining this in writing.

                  Like I said before, with stances such as the above – it is little wonder there is a minority of Catholics that simply ignore what the Church has to say today and instead turn to their old Catholic books – at least they were consistent or said something and stuck to it, instead of changing it without legitimate explanation.

                  • What I mean here is just how on earth can an organisation or body say something is completely wrong or right and then as little as twenty years later completely discard what it previously said? A classic example is that only thirty years ago, according to the Church, cremation of the body after death was one of the worst offences to God imaginable, yet today we have ‘Ashes Walls’ within Church grounds. Just how does that work?

                    The answer is simple, even if you do not find it palatable: the change in context. Your example with regard to cremation demonstrates this. The Church has clearly (just recently reaffirmed in the Melbourne policy on funerals) taught that the problem with cremation is not the burning of the body as such, but the fact that this ancient way of disposing of the body (now horribly modernised and industrialised) could be taken as showing disrespect for the image of God in the human body and as a denial of the resurrection. IF (and it is a big if, if you ask me) the practice does not involve either of the these, but is chosen for economic or social reasons, then it is permissable. In effect, the context has changed (in this case, the situation of limited area for burial in large cities and the increased expense of burial compared to cremation), then the way in which the teaching (in this case the teaching is not primarily a teaching about cremation but the teaching of the dignity of the body and the doctrine of the resurrection) is expressed may also be legimitately changed. The history of Catholic dogma demonstrates that this is quite a normal process; there is nothing particularly unusual about it.

                    In the case of capital punishment, my argument was the the context has changed which requires a different way of stating the teaching. The teaching about the authority of the State to carry out capital punishment has not, in essence, changed, but the Church’s advice to States is that it should refrain from exercising this authority unless absolutely necessary in today’s changed context.

                    The 1994 version of the Catechism seems to have confused many people in the Church as well as I have heard it said publicly Bishops (yes Bishops) that the Church has blanket opposition to capital punishment. This is simply a heresy and contradictory to the Bible.

                    “Heresy” is much too strong a word. And as for “contradictory to the Bible” – well, in contradiction to the bible we don’t stone people for adultery anymore either. In fact, as I point out, the Church’s teaching has not changed with regard to the authority of the State to carry out capital punishment in the cases of undeniable necessity, but the Church urges States to be clement in this matter and to seek more humane means of punishing crimes. Surely you would not say that it is “heresy” for the Church to oppose unneccesary executions, nor to urge clemency and mercy? And again, as for the Bible, does it not say (Ezekiel 18:23) “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?” How can they “turn from their ways and live” if we execute them?

                    • Gareth

                      David: Your example with regard to cremation demonstrates this.

                      Gareth: C’mon David.

                      The Church as little as thirty to forty years ago would even go so far as to incur ex-communication on anyone that dare be cremated and viewed it as a totally alien and pagan practice (although admittedly the practice was not as widespread in western countries) and yet today even in my own parish, we have a ‘Wall of Ashes’ right next door to the Church and parishoners are encouraged in our parish newsletter to buy a block for future needs??

                      I am not sure how the Church on one hand can give instructions on the respect for the human body and preparing our bodies for resurrection and then be totally dismissive of or in the case above actively encourage the widespread practice of Catholics being cremated on the other hand.

                      In my opinion, I think this is an example of the Church at the micro level simply totally disregarding their previous stance rather than the context being changed. Well I know in the city in which I live there is adequate space to be buried and am not really sure that this plays a role in the context of the matter being changed.

                      David: but the Church’s advice to States is that it should refrain from exercising this authority unless absolutely necessary in today’s changed context.

                      Gareth: I understand the valid point being made, but questioning this I would say how much REALLY has the context changed in the past thirty years??

                      What I mean here is that how can a Pope (Pius XII) as little as far back in history of the 1952 outline the Church’s stance and explanation on the issue and then in as little as 42 years later, the ‘context’ has changed so much as to render Pius XII arguments invalid.

                      I am just not convinced by the argument that things can change so much in 42 years as for the Church to make definitive suggestions on the particular circumstances it thinks a moral act may take place.

                      David: Surely you would not say that it is “heresy” for the Church to oppose unneccesary executions.

                      Gareth: But there is a hole in this argument.

                      What I may personally deem necessary or what you may deem necessary or what the highest legal authority on earth, Justice Scalia deems necessary or what the Pope deems necessary may all be very different things.

                      That is why it I think traditionalists Catholics may be peeved off with John Paul’s stance on the issue, it takes the view that what John Paul personally deems necessary and presents it as what every Catholic should believe. The Church at the very least should acknowledge there may be a diveristy of belief on what constitutes necessary rather than dictating to society what it thinks.

                      In reality, it is the State’s responsibility and not the Pope to decide what precisely constitutes a ‘necessary’ execution. And indeed that was always the stance of the Church before recent times.

                      David: And again, as for the Bible, does it not say (Ezekiel 18:23) “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?” How can they “turn from their ways and live” if we execute them?

                      Gareth: Having a Protestant background, I am sure you are aware that from the Catholic perspective, quotes from the Bible need to be firstly put into context and secondly weighed up against other quotes.

                      That is also why we have the Catholic magisterium, so singular quotes from the Bible can be put into perspective and not taken out of context.

                      On the issue of capital punishment this is probably a good thing as the Bible is rich with examples of God actually ordering people’s executions or striking them down dead. Indeed, the actual Catechism of the Catholic Church for many hundreds of years quoted from David of the wicked being put to death to justify capital punishment.

                      So it is wiser to use a variety of Biblical quotes when justfying a position, rather than grabbing one’s favourite one liner.

                      As per your question of how can they “turn from their ways and live” if we execute them, I’d say simply imagine if you asked this very question 50 years ago?? Obviously the Church has always been concerned about reform, but capital punishment was the law of the land without question on behalf the Church.

                      The question also ignores that the fact that the State having such a law in place may have implicit redeeming consequences for society at large.

                      Also, even though the Church supports /champions reform, this does not detract from the Church’s traditional stance that God gives States the authority to the State to have recourse to apply the ultimate penalty, albeit in with serious terms of reference.

                      For those that disagree – God made it that way.

              • Louise

                I get the impression that the Church is saying that, given the recent atrocities of the 20th Century, it’s probably best if capital punishment be generally avoided, though it is morally permissable.

                I have now reached a point where I believe capital punishment is morally permissable (and even perhaps required for the common good), but given that Caesar seems to be suffering early onset dementia, I’m not sure I really trust him with this power.

            • Tony

              Trouble is, David, the door is ajar. Speak to any of the supporters of the death penalty who are Catholics (mostly in the USA in my experience) and the door is more than ajar.

              Alternatively they say that the CCC was just the personal opinion of JPII and not a reflecting of church teaching.

              I’m not sure the church can be (or needs to be) more explicit than this because it is still not beyond our imagination that in some circumstances taking the life of a criminal to protect the innocent would be possible. But pro-death penalty zealots drive a truck through the loop hole while often showing no such ‘flexibility’ about abortion.

              • Gareth

                Tony,

                One can not be a ‘supporter’ of the death penalty? One can only ‘support’ it under certain circumstances or conditions.

                The issue is not so much whether people support it or not, but whether they see its use under certain circumstances as immoral as not.

                The Church has always taught and will forever teach (in accordance with the Bible, Church Fathers, Councils etc) that the State has an authority to exercise has the right to exercise authority in the name of God and execute criminals.

                You have again categorised other peoples opinions wrong. The point you make about ‘personal opinion’ is not about the CCC as whole, it is about the section where John Paul provides his personal opinion on why he thinks the circumstances in which capital punishment may take place may be ‘rare’ (which could mean anything).

                There is nothing wrog with disagreeing with the private opinion of a Pope. The Pope is not God and his subject to Catholic dogma. The current Pope has even confirmed that Catholics may disagree with this very sentence.

                I disagree with your thoughts that it is beyond our comprehension that capital punishment may be administered. In fact there are very good examples where (who would argue that it is logical to ‘reform’ Martin Bryant) the best case scenario and for the benefit of society to apply the death penalty.

                People that do not see the use of capital punishment as immoral per se are not zealots (indeed your own bigotry comes into play here – a bit ironic after preaching to all of us about not categorising others).

                Indeed some internayionally known people that support its use are devout and faithful Catholics (example Justice Scalia) .

                Above all, there is NOTHING in the Catholic magisterium to suggest that there stance is wrong.

                I think if you want hypocrosy I would rather look at people that support abortion or euthanasia, which are immoral under all circumstances and yet point the are anti-war/capital punishment.

                • Tony

                  Once again Gareth, you either misread what I say or contradict it then argue against it!

                  I disagree with your thoughts that it is beyond our comprehension that capital punishment may be administered.

                  This is what I said, Gareth:

                  … because it is still not beyond our imagination that in some circumstances taking the life of a criminal to protect the innocent would be possible.

                  In fact there are very good examples where (who would argue that it is logical to ‘reform’ Martin Bryant) the best case scenario and for the benefit of society to apply the death penalty.

                  The church’s position is not based on the possibility of ‘reform’ it is based on ‘defending the innocent’ if there’s no other way. So there is no wiggle room in regards to Martin Bryant.

                  Notwithstanding that, on what authority do you assume Bryant is incapable of reform?

                  People that do not see the use of capital punishment as immoral per se are not zealots …

                  Probably not. I was referring to my experience and ‘zealot’ is appropriate. I was not making a grand statement about all people who support the death penalty.

                  (indeed your own bigotry comes into play here – a bit ironic after preaching to all of us about not categorising others).

                  Again Gareth, read what I said, not what you think I said.

                  • Gareth

                    Tony: The church’s position is not based on the possibility of ‘reform’ it is based on ‘defending the innocent’

                    Gareth: That is simply wrong and this is a classic example of how the modern Catechism has implictly contradicted Catholic dogma.

                    Traditional Catholic dogma states that that society has the authority to inflict punishments upon its members, and even to deprive a criminal of his life, for the necessity of the common good:

                    1. to vindicate the moral order and expiate the crime.
                    2. to defend itself
                    3. to deter other would-be offenders
                    4. to reform the criminal or deter future crime.

                    The modern catechism (quite deliberatly, I would say) only made a point of number 2.

                    Hence the creation of so-much confusion in the Church about the issue and and how traditional Catholic dogma and the arguements presented in the 1994 Catechism could appear to be so different.

                    This makes my point even more valid that Catholics would be of better reading traditional Catholic dogma in all its entirety, instead of skipping straight to the dumb-downed 1994 version, which will probably be out of date soon anyway.

                    There is no way out of it – on this issue the Church is inconsitent – if it wants to acknowledge traditional Catholic teaching, why not present in its full entirety instead of skipping the majority of previously held points of reference?

              • It may have been John Paul II’s “personal opinion” but its inclusion in the Catechism – a document of magisterial authority, and not simply a compendium of doctrines put together by an unauthorised editor – means that what was John Paul II’s “opinion” is now Catholic teaching. Furthermore, although I do not want to suggest that broad acceptance of a teaching of the Church by the Catholic faithful is a criteria which establishes the authority of the Church’s teaching, it does confirm that the Holy Father’s judgement and the Catechism’s teaching is correct in this circumstance.

                • Gareth

                  David,

                  One has to be specific when using the term ‘private opinion’ in this case.

                  In this scenario, people are refering to the sentence on the modern penal sentence being developed as far as to render the circumstances in which capital punishment to be carried out in ‘rare’ circumstances (notice the Church didn’t define rare), not the whole section per se.

                  Obviously it is a fair call to define this particular sentence on penal systems as a ‘personal opinion’ as the last I checked the Church is not an expert in matters as such – surely this is the domain of a country’s judicial system not the Church. And not to mention, penal systems may differ vastly depending on world countries and regions.

                  Anyhow, it is interesting to note that the current Pope has given his opinion on whether the assessment of the contemporary situation advanced in the 1994 Catechism is binding on the faithful.

                  In 2004, Cardinal Ratzinger as stated that:

                  ” If a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion.

                  While the Church exhorts civil authorities to to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about applying the death penalty,
                  (but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia).”

                  Again I stress my point that it is sometimes wise to revert to traditional Catholic dogma as opposed to anything we hear from modernist Bishops, church agencies or even Popes. They can and do get it wrong.

                  Traditional Catholic dogma will more accurately traditional Church teaching.

                  • ‘While the Church exhorts civil authorities to to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about applying the death penalty,
                    (but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia).’

                    This, to me, is where the church presents a confusion to world (not just the so-called ‘faithful’).

                    A consistent, coherant, culturally challenging ethic of life is something I think is capable of being understood and accepted on its merits, not by recourse to spurious notions of ‘biblical tradition’ (have you read Leviticus lately?) or other specifically religious reasoning.

                    On that basis, the CCC is quite consistent, whereas the quote above from Ratzinger muddies the waters.

                    When you add that to the fact that in the US — a place with a well-resourced and well-established legal system founded on the presumption of innocence — estimates of around 10 per cent of death penalty victims are later found to be innocent, the kind of wiggle-room Ratzinger offers is incomprehensible. (And that’s not even considering the legal systems of other death penalty champions like China and Saudi Arabia!)

                    Abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty do have in common one fundamental thing and that is that they are about one human taking the life of another as a deliberate, considered choice.

                    Beyond a ‘clear and present danger’ self defence argument in terms of the death penalty, the arguments for each of these life issues should be the same and prosecuted with the same vigour.

                    • Gareth

                      Tony: A consistent, coherant, culturally challenging ethic of life is something I think is capable of being understood and accepted on its merits, not by recourse to spurious notions of ‘biblical tradition’.

                      Gareth: You can dismiss the Bible as ‘spurious notions’ all you desire but the fact of the matter is that as God’s children, we must attempt to listen to what He has to say to us and understand what moral actions are permissible or not.

                      The hard truth is that the Bible includes MANY confirmations of capital punishment.

                      Those that argue otherwise do not have a leg to stand on – the Lord even confirmed in His own words and even suggested it in some passages of the Bible.

                      There is simply no way out of it, as Catholics we believe that God permits capital punishment, provided that this comes with a (strict) term of reference.

                      Tony: On that basis, the CCC is quite consistent.

                      Gareth: NO it is not, I don’t think you understand that God permits capital punishment and it is NOT a violation of the Commandments.

                      My basis for it being inconsistent was it totally ignores past aspects of Catholic dogma, but Cardinal Ratzinger’s quote quite rightfully puts this into context.

                      Tony: When you add that to the fact that in the US — a place with a well-resourced and well-established legal system founded on the presumption of innocence — estimates of around 10 per cent of death penalty victims are later found to be innocent.

                      Gareth: Firstly, I find this wacky and wild statistic hard to belief.

                      Secondly, if it is the case then this is a matter for the judicial system, not a matter of theology.

                      Tony: Abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty do have in common one fundamental thing and that is that they are about one human taking the life of another as a deliberate, considered choice.

                      Gareth: But you have muddied the waters again.

                      I am not sure which part people don’t understand that God condemns abortion and euthanasia under all circumstances and is a violation of the Commandments, but he permits capital punishment?

                      Heinous criminals are not innocent persons (like unborn children), but are objectively guilty in natural law of grave crimes against the common good.

                      As explained in an excellent quote by Pope Pius XII:

                      “Even in the question of the execution of a man condemned to death, the state does NOT dispose of the individual’s right to life. It then falls
                      to the public authority to deprive the condemned man of the good of life
                      in expiation of his fault after he, by his crime, has already deprived
                      himself of his right to life.”

                      Tony: the arguments for each of these life issues should be the same and prosecuted with the same vigour.

                      Gareth: that is not the Catholic view, please see above.

                    • You can dismiss the Bible as ‘spurious notions’ all you desire …

                      Even when you cut and paste my words, you then reorganise them to say something I didn’t actually say. It’s a great technique, Gareth, but I won’t defend a statement I didn’t make.

                      The hard truth is that the Bible includes MANY confirmations of capital punishment.

                      And the ‘hard truth’ is the bible is pretty friendly towards slavery and stoning too. (Even when Jesus intervened in a stoning, he didn’t actually condemn it as wrong of itself, he condemned the hypocrisy of the stone throwers.)

                      So, does that mean we should restore stoning and slavery because it was OK in the bible?

                      There is simply no way out of it, as Catholics we believe that God permits capital punishment, provided that this comes with a (strict) term of reference.

                      And the ‘terms of reference’ are in the CCC, which last time I looked, more of a guide to what is or is not a ‘way out’ for ‘Catholics’. So far we only have your opinion to counter that with nothing like official references.

                      Gareth: Firstly, I find this wacky and wild statistic hard to belief.

                      There are plenty of good reference on the net. Perhaps the most dramatic illustration of the doubt about the death penalty came in 2000 when the, then, Governor of Illinois declared a moratorium on executions in his state with these words:

                      “I cannot support a system which, in its administration, has proven so fraught with error and has come so close to the ultimate nightmare, the state’s taking of innocent life… Until I can be sure that everyone sentenced to death in Illinois is truly guilty, until I can be sure with moral certainty that no innocent man or woman is facing a lethal injection, no one will meet that fate.”

                      Secondly, if it is the case then this is a matter for the judicial system, not a matter of theology.

                      Nonsense. The opening sentence of the CCC says ‘Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined …’

                      Heinous criminals are not innocent persons (like unborn children), but are objectively guilty in natural law of grave crimes against the common good.

                      The sacredness of life is not dependent on the guilt or innocence of the victim.

                      As explained in an excellent quote by Pope Pius XII …

                      Well I guess if you can dismiss the published views (in the CCC) of PJPII, I can do the same for PPXII.

                    • Gareth

                      Tony: So, does that mean we should restore stoning and slavery because it was OK in the bible?

                      Gareth: I just find this a babyish argument.

                      There clear facts of the matter is that he Bible outlines that God permits capital punishment and that is where the Church’s traditional teaching is based upon. If He forbid it, it would say so.

                      But it doesn’t and hence we have the traditional teaching of the Church.

                      Tony: So far we only have your opinion to counter that with nothing like official references.

                      Gareth: Sigh,– what I was quoted was the traditional Catholic magesterial teaching which can easily be found in past versions of the Catechism and teachings of past Popes, Councils, Fathers etc.

                      Tony: The sacredness of life is not dependent on the guilt or innocence of the victim.

                      Gareth: Sigh again, which part don’t you understand, abortion and euthanasia are always sins and violations of the Commandments. Capital punishment is not. It is pointless having a conversation if you can not at least acknowledge and accept this.

                      Tony: Well I guess if you can dismiss the published views (in the CCC) of PJPII

                      Gareth: Sigh again. No Tony, I do not ‘dismiss’ the views of JPII.

                      I simply quite rightfully recognise that sometimes when a Pope issues a prudential judgment, it is wise to reference Catholic dogma.

                      Prudential judgements are NOT on the same level as Catholic dogma or official pronouncements about faith and morals.

                      Surely when assessing Catholic moral teaching, it is wise not to weigh up on one or two paragraphs from an encyclical (which is probably outdated now anyway) but take into account the two thousand years of traditional teaching.?

                      Tony: I can do the same for Pius XII

                      Gareth: I think you have made a good point here.

                      Popes come and go.

                      What John Paul II said about the death penalty now carries no more weight than what Pius V, Pius X and Pius XII said. On the other hand, future Pope Benedict XVI wrote as recently as a few years ago that there is a legitimate diversity of opinion on war and the death penalty, but not for abortion and euthanasia.

                      This all comes back to my original point – consitency and Catholic dogma

                • Louise

                  The Church is not saying in the CCC that capital punishment is immoral, so there’s really no problem here, is there?

                  • Gareth

                    Hi Louise,

                    I think the issue some Catholics have with this particular issue is that in past years in many Catholic circles, publications, official Bishop’s statements etc – capital punishment is lumped in with abortion and euthanasia as contravening “the evangelical teaching of the right to life”.

                    The problem with this is that the three issues should not even be in the same category to begin with.

                    Abortion and euthanasia are always wrong under all circumstances and violate the commandment ‘thou shall not kill”.

                    Capital punishment is simply another kettle of fish.

                    Secondly, some people may view that the 1994 Catechism whilst giving a quick one-line spin acknowledging the Church’s traditional teaching, does not pay attention to the unanimous teaching of popes, councils, and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church on the matter. This is quite weird considering so many other topics in the 1994 Catechism do actually pay great attention to all of the above.

                    Thirdly, it is of personal frustration that so many Catholics do not really know the Church’s traditional stance. I will readily admit that up until someone pointed it out, I thought that the Church had a blanket opposition to this and was unaware of previous Catholic writings on the matter.

                    Like so many things, delving into what the Church traditionally taught as opposed to what is preached at parish level or the bloody staments from the Bishops Conference or even worse ‘Catholic Peace societies’ brought a surprise.

                    • Louise

                      Yes, it is frustrating, Gareth. Capital punishment is in a separate class from abortion and euthanasia. I don’t mind people being against capital punishment, but when they start to speak as though Catholics must be against it, then I get cross.

                    • I find it frustrating too, L.

                      I have no idea what ‘separate class’ means in this context. A life is a life. A life at its beginnings, its end, or in the middle (guilty or innocent) has the same ‘class’, ie, it’s sacred.

                      Once you start saying one case of deliberately taking life has a different ‘class’ to another, you weaken the whole pro-life ethic, IMO.

                      In my experience the people who say the death penalty is a ‘must’ for Catholics, is more prevalent than those who say Catholics ‘must not’ believe in it.

                      The bottom line for me is that while I agree with Gareth in the sense that the church does present an ambiguous message, to me (no ‘musts’ here) the CCC represents a more coherant pro-life view and places the death penalty in the same context as other life issues — where it should be.

                    • Gareth

                      Tony: Once you start saying one case of deliberately taking life has a different ‘class’ to another.

                      Gareth: But Tony, using your whole logic that ‘things are often grey, not always black and white’, your logic does not make sense.

                      When it comes to the taking of human life, things are most often or not grey, rather than black and white.

                      This is why law courts in democratic countries may distinguish between pre-mediated murder and manslaughter.

                      Who would not argue that deliberatly taking one’s life during warfare is a different kettle of fish than the taking of human life during peacetime.

                      The Church most sensibly does not and should not compare the taking of human life of an unborn child with a person guilty of a grave crime, which God has ordained that the state may have recourse to take the ulitimate penalty in response.

                      There is nothing much else to say on the topic besides that to be consistent we must weigh up what appears in the 1994 Catechism with two thousand years of Catholic teaching.

                    • Tony

                      Gareth: But Tony, using your whole logic that ‘things are often grey, not always black and white’, your logic does not make sense.

                      Not content with actually changing my words, now you use them in a different context.

                      When it comes to the taking of human life, things are most often or not grey, rather than black and white.

                      Possibly. It’s the times that they are grey that I’m concerned about though.

                      This is why law courts in democratic countries may distinguish between pre-mediated murder and manslaughter.

                      Relevance?

                      Who would not argue that deliberatly taking one’s life during warfare is a different kettle of fish than the taking of human life during peacetime.

                      Not me. Never have. The thing that distinguishes war and the death penalty is that there is a self protection provision. But these are still ‘Life’ issues and are quite legitimately part of the broad ‘Life’ issues agenda of the church.

                      The Church most sensibly does not and should not compare the taking of human life of an unborn child with a person guilty of a grave crime, which God has ordained that the state may have recourse to take the ulitimate penalty in response.

                      So you say. I regard the CCC’s view as more coherant.

                      There is nothing much else to say on the topic besides that to be consistent we must weigh up what appears in the 1994 Catechism with two thousand years of Catholic teaching.

                      By all means, Gareth, say no more. I’ll stick with the CCC on this one.

                    • Gareth

                      I will be laughing when the CCC gets updated in a few years time and that sentence is deleted.

                    • Don’t hold your breath, Gareth.

                    • Tony

                      I will be laughing when the CCC gets updated in a few years time and that sentence is deleted.

                      Not a problem, Gareth.

                      In the unlikely event that that should happen, I’ll be inspired by your example of quoting past Popes.

                      It’s printed now so it’s a part of the ‘tradition’.

                      😉

                    • Louise

                      I have no idea what ‘separate class’ means in this context. A life is a life. A life at its beginnings, its end, or in the middle (guilty or innocent) has the same ‘class’, ie, it’s sacred.

                      It’s another class of problem, not a class of person. A person who commits a serious crime being punished by being executed is a separate class (or kind) or issue to that of a (legally) innocent person being killed.

                      It only weakens the pro-life position in a society like ours, in which people are not taught to think clearly.

                      What I really can’t understand is how the average gliberal can support abortion, but oppose the death penalty. E.g not support the death penalty for rapists, but effectively support the death penalty for the children of rapists.

                    • Gareth

                      To the tradition of the dust bin soon, like all Vatican II novelties that didnt quite work.

                    • Tony

                      What I really can’t understand is how the average gliberal can support abortion, but oppose the death penalty. E.g not support the death penalty for rapists, but effectively support the death penalty for the children of rapists.

                      Similarly L, what I really can’t understand is how the average [insert suitable perjorative here] can oppose abortion, but support the death penalty …

                  • Louise

                    “is a separate class (or kind) OF issue”

                    • Gareth

                      Tony,

                      I am not sure which part you dont understand that God views abortion as evil and the innocent of taking life always, but gives states the right to impose capital punishment?

                      Which part of that don’t you understand because it is immature, babyish or just plain dumb to call people a ‘suitable perjorative’ when all they are doing is following this simple formula that God has outlined in His Word and Catholic tradition.

                      Take it up with somone else if you don’t get it..

                    • Tony

                      Gareth … maaate!

                      The bit I really don’t understand is, ‘There is nothing much else to say on the topic …’!

                      Take it up with somone else if you don’t get it.

                      In this context I guess I’ve ‘taken it up with’ PJPII and the current CCC. Get it?

                      There is, of course, the possiblity that PJPII didn’t understand ‘tradition’ as well as you do, but you’ll have to forgive me for doubting that!

                      😉

                    • Gareth

                      Good response Tons,

                      Showing you are behind the times as usual with your offer to take it up with JPII.

                      I hate to break it to you, but JPII has been 6 feet under for the past 5 years…

                      Man also landed on the moon in 1969 and the Dodo became extinict a few hundred years ago.

                    • Tony

                      Still going on about it Mr ‘There-is-nothing-much-else-to-say’?

                      Showing you are behind the times …

                      And Pius XII and ‘2000 years of tradition’?

                      The more you ‘say’ the more you shoot yourself in the virtual foot, G-man.

                      The church’s position is reflected in the current Catechism not the one you think might get modified in a few years and not the position commented on by Ratzinger before he was Pope.

                    • Gareth

                      As I have said Tony, I have no problems with the Catechism of the Catholic Church or Catholic dogma.

                      I don’t see eye to eye with prudential judgements of Popes which are not part of the official Church’s teaching on morals and faiths. Every Catholic knows this is acceptable besides maybe you.

                      You shoot yourself in the foot with all this talk about being faithful to the Pope, when your proven track record on the Church’s teachings (sorry you hang out with the queer guys and couples that contracept and you have a different
                      ‘perspective’) is not
                      excactly in accordance with anything the Pope says.

                      People in glass houses…

                    • Tony

                      I don’t see eye to eye with prudential judgements of Popes which are not part of the official Church’s teaching on morals and faiths. Every Catholic knows this is acceptable besides maybe you.

                      Well I think David defended the current position pretty eloquently here too:

                      It may have been John Paul II’s “personal opinion” but its inclusion in the Catechism – a document of magisterial authority, and not simply a compendium of doctrines put together by an unauthorised editor – means that what was John Paul II’s “opinion” is now Catholic teaching.

                      I guess that makes at least two of us, eh?

                      Ping! There goes another toe!

                      You shoot yourself in the foot with all this talk about being faithful to the Pope …

                      I should no longer be suprised at the words you seek to put in my mouth, G-man but, suffice it to say, I’ve never used that expression in relation to myself.

                      Ping! There goes another toe!

                    • Gareth

                      Youre cracking me up now T-Train.

                      By youre reckoning, one sentence in the Catechism in which is quite obviously to everyone is a prudential judgement which is not binding on Catholics and in which the current Pope has confirmed as not binding on Catholics is according to the Tonster binding on Catholics because you think David and the dead Pope said so.

                    • Youre cracking me up now T-Train.

                      Put the gun down G-man, you’re getting delierious.

                      By youre reckoning …

                      Will this be my reckoning, I ask myself?

                      … one sentence in the Catechism in which is quite obviously to everyone …

                      Everyone? Repeating it makes it a fact?

                      … is a prudential judgement which is not binding on Catholics and in which the current Pope has confirmed as not binding on Catholics is according to the Tonster binding on Catholics because you think David and the dead Pope said so.

                      Ah … thought so. I’ve never made a comment about what’s ‘binding’ on any issue, let alone this one.

                      Ping!

                      How many years has Pius been dead, G?

                      Ping!

                      ‘Current Pope’, G?

                      This is a printed medium, G, and these are your words: ‘In 2004, Cardinal Ratzinger as stated that …’

                      Now the words you refer to are those of a ‘current Pope’?

                      Ping!

                      (One foot to go I think)

                      Now, of course, if the current Pope was to, say, put these words in the next CCC I’d take comfort from your own example and disagree with him!

                      😉

                    • Gareth

                      I suppose they will leave that one sentence in the Catechism in order to compensate the poor lost sheep from Adelaide who only agrees with one sentence from the Catechism.

                      Don’t ever say the Church does nothing for you with charity like this.

                    • Tony

                      One sentence, Gareth?

                      Once again you misrepresent me!

                      I think there’s a good chance that there’s at least two sentences.

                      :-p

      • I think Louise has left something out of her conclusion. Let me make it a little clearer:

        1) If you have a “human right to life” then I, as a fellow human being, have the duty and responsibility to protect, nurture and support your life.

        2) If you hae a “human right to choose when and how to die”, then I, as a fellow human being, have the duty and responsibility to protect, nurture and support you in your decision making in this regard. The outcome of this is, that if you really do have a “human right” to kill yourself, I am obligated to assist you in the exercise of this right. I might not actually directly be the one killing you, but it would be wrong of me to do anything other than assist and support you to carry out your choice – IF it really is a “human right”.

        The situation is not that far removed from an idea almost enshrined in our laws here in Victoria that a woman has a “right” to an abortion, such that while a doctor may personally refuse to carry out the abortion, he is obligated by law to refer the person requesting the abortion to another doctor who will not have such qualms.

        • Tony

          The situation is not that far removed from an idea almost enshrined in our laws here in Victoria that a woman has a “right” to an abortion, such that while a doctor may personally refuse to carry out the abortion, he is obligated by law to refer the person requesting the abortion to another doctor who will not have such qualms.

          Which supports my point. The doctor wasn’t obliged to perform the abortion him/herself.

          • But the doctor is obliged to assist the person making the request for an abortion to attain it by referral. And in any case, this is not entirely analogous, as in fact the State of Victoria has not yet fully defined an abortion as a woman’s “human right”. It simply shows the direction in which it could tend, not where things have yet ended up.

            Let me suggest to you that the idea of people being able to “opt out” of assisting another human being to attain what is truly a “human right” is problematic. IF it is conceded that someone may legitimately have a conscientious objection to carrying out a particular “service” for another human being, then that “service” cannot strictly be regarded as a “human right”.

            • Louise

              Let me suggest to you that the idea of people being able to “opt out” of assisting another human being to attain what is truly a “human right” is problematic.

              Well said. And that does seem to be the thrust of the heinous abortion laws in Vic – the law is now saying in effect that abortion is a “right.”

      • Louise

        You miss the point in your analogy, Tony. Society has a right to execute criminal, but society is not obliged to do so. IOW “X” has a right, but “X” does not have an obligation.

        But I was saying, if “X” has a right then “Y” has an obligation. There’s the difference.

        I’m saying that rights, of necessity, always place obligations on others. Always. It’s in the nature of a right.

        If you have a right to die, Tony, then *someone* (not necessarily me) *must* kill you. They must.

        • Tony

          If you have a right to die, Tony, then *someone* (not necessarily me) *must* kill you. They must.

          As I said, I struggle with this rights stuff, but I just can’t see how that logic follows at all.

          If there are 10 people in the world and they agree that, in their world under specific circumstances, a person has the right to ask to be put to death, that doesn’t oblige anyone to fulfill that right.

          The other 9 might just say, when it comes to the crunch, ‘I can’t do it’ and I can’t see how they are obliged to.

          • Louise

            Then it is not a right, is it? How can it be, if no-one will fulfill this right?

            • Louise

              IOW all you’ve shown is that a “right to die” is not a right at all.

              • Tony

                Phew! To quote my daughter when she was a toddler, ‘this makes me a headache!’

                I have the right to vote.

                Does that mean another citizen, or someone acting as an agent of the state, has an obligation to take me to the polling booth and, if necessary, force me to exercise my right?

                The only thing I’m obliged to do — and even then the sanction’s not exactly onerous — is to turn up and have my name crossed off.

                That doesn’t make my right to vote any less than a right. Yes?

                • Louise

                  you have the right to vote, therefore someone (in this case the state itself) has the obligation to provide polling booths

                  you don’t have to cast a vote

                • Tom

                  I think what Louise is trying to point out is that the language of rights makes sense when we talk about it in regards to those things that NNLT talks about as ‘the basic goods.’ The basic goods (a list of 7, such as life, sociability, knowledge etc.) are defended as “basic reasons for acting” – IOW, all actions, at heart, are for one of these 7 ‘goods’.

                  Rights that protect things like ‘life’ (do not kill me) or ‘sociability’ (do not compel me to associate against my will), or even religion (do not compel me to worship against my will), make sense in that they oblige others to respect you in regards to their own action.

                  The problem with talking about a ‘right to die’ (as the euthanasia argument is going) is that it confuses the language of rights, because what it really wants to do is co-opt the legitimacy of a right without it actually being a right (in the intelligible sense of the word).

                  Rights, as Louise pointed out compel action from another. One’s right to life compels others not to kill them. When we start stretching the language of rights to the point that we talk about things like ‘a right to die’ we change the intelligibility of the term ‘right’ because what a right is, at heart, (once more as Louise pointed out) is a compulsion on others. If I have a right to be free to associate, then the government has a legitimate case to compel others (with force if necessary) to prevent me being forced to associate against my will.

                  A right to die suggests that the government has a legitimate case to compel, with force if necessary, the actions of a person to execute another. To use the language of rights in the context of Euthanasia is disorienting, because while it can be seen on the surface as being a ‘right’ it is only because the language of rights has been distorted.

                  A right can only be intelligible if we can attach a corresponding obligation to it; my right to life, your obligation not to kill me, and so on. A right to die cannot be intelligible, unless we are willing to say that if someone wants to die, our society (that means a citizen in our society) is compelled to kill that person. That is what a right to die MUST necessarily mean. Otherwise it is not (as Louise pointed out) a right in the intelligible sense of the word. A right must have something attached to it, if it is to be more than a rhetorical device.

  5. Louise

    what I really can’t understand is how the average [insert suitable perjorative here] can oppose abortion, but support the death penalty

    Well, let’s see. Gliberals support the killing of innocents but not the killing of hardened criminals who have committed unspeakable crimes.

    Whereas, I and others, at least can cope with the idea of killing hardened criminals who have committed unspeakable crimes, but do not support the killing of innocents.

    One pair of positions is understandable, the other is not.