Category : Life Ethics

(Commentary) Sohrab Ahmari–When ‘Freethinkers’ Persecute the Faithful: Soft totalitarianism

The State Department on Tuesday released its annual International Religious Freedom Report, and the grim upshot was that people of faith face persecution around the globe. This year’s report, the first under President Trump, called out usual suspects such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia. It also notably used the “G” word–genocide–to describe Islamic State’s crimes against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq.

Authoritarian regimes and jihadists aren’t the only ones who mete out anti-religious repression these days. Nominally free societies, particularly in Europe, are increasingly guilty of it as well. Yet because it is less visible, carried out by governments with impeccable liberal credentials, such persecution receives far less attention, including in the State report.

Consider tiny Belgium, which has been roiling with controversy this month over whether Catholic hospitals can be required to permit euthanasia on their premises. Belgium’s pro-euthanasia lobby and its political and media allies seek to bring to heel the country’s last bastion of opposition, the Roman Church.

Read it all.

Posted in Belgium, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture

(AP via CBS) Euthanasia deaths becoming common in Netherlands

Euthanasia has become a common way to die in the Netherlands, accounting for 4.5 percent of deaths, according to researchers who say requests are increasing from people who aren’t terminally ill.

In 2002, the Netherlands became the first country in the world that made it legal for doctors to help people die. Both euthanasia, where doctors actively kill patients, and assisted suicide, where physicians prescribe patients a lethal dose of drugs, are allowed. People must be “suffering unbearably” with no hope of relief — but their condition does not have to be fatal.

“It looks like patients are now more willing to ask for euthanasia and physicians are more willing to grant it,” said lead author Dr. Agnes Van der Heide of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, The Netherlands, Theology

7 Bishops based in Melbourne writer to the Premier of Victoria about the Proposal to legalise Euthansia

Dear Premier
We, the undersigned leaders of faith communities in Victoria, commend much of the work of the recent Victorian End-of-Life Choices Inquiry, which identified the need to improve the quality and accessibility of palliative care for all Victorians.  However we strongly reject the proposal to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia in Victoria.

Better care – not killing

Human dignity is honoured in living life, not in taking it. Even though an act of euthanasia or assisted suicide may be motivated by a sense of compassion, true compassion motivates us to remain with those who are dying, understanding and supporting them through their time of need, rather than simply acceding to a request to be killed. It is right to seek to eliminate pain, but never right to eliminate people. Euthanasia and assisted suicide represent the abandonment of those who are in greatest need of our care and support.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Tablet) The Australian R Catholic Church opposes Victoria euthanasia legislation

Archbishop Hart commended efforts to strengthen and better resource Palliative Care but said that was a minimum necessity.

“While the report recommends what it calls safeguards, the truth is that these safeguards are never going to be enough and that there are no flawless medical procedures,” he said. “All procedures and interventions can have complications. I have watched supporters of this proposal and they are going out of their way to convince us that assisted suicide is acceptable, seeking to lessen our human, moral and natural distress because of suicide.

“It seems that on the one hand we are seeking to lessen suicide in our society – an admirable aim – but here we have this report looking to normalise it. When viewed from the perspective of the whole Victorian community these two objectives cannot be reconciled.”

The archbishop said the legislation would impose extraordinary and unreasonable responsibilities on medical professionals, who would be called upon to determine which patients were eligible and how the safeguards were to be applied. This then became a matter for decisions by medical practitioners and not the patients for whom they were required to care.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology

(TheArda) David Briggs–Studies: How clergy can help believers die a ‘good death’

One of the studies was a national survey of more than 1,000 clergy. The other involved in-depth interviews with 35 ministers from five states. The research raises three critical areas of concern:

• Too much faith in miracles: More than three in 10 clergy in the national survey said they would strongly agree with a congregant who said, “I believe God will cure me of this cancer.” Eighteen percent affirmed the belief that every medical treatment should be accepted “because my faith says to do everything I can to stay alive.”
• Lack of knowledge: In the in-depth study, spiritual leaders showed little knowledge of end-of-life care, including the benefits of palliative care and potential harms associated with invasive interventions. “Many grossly overestimated the benefits of aggressive medical procedures at the end of life,” researchers reported in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. Three-quarters said they would like more training in end-of-life issues.
• Fear of overstepping boundaries: The default position of many clergy, even those who personally believed it was against God’s will to suffer unnecessarily, was to merely support the decisions of dying congregants and their family members.

But even such passivity has consequences, researchers said, in that it can enable congregants to seek potentially nonbeneficial treatments that are associated with increased suffering.

The larger problem was summarized by one study participant: “We have not done a good job…on preparing people to die–that they don’t need to live the last days of their lives under terrible and excruciating pain.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology

(The Goodbook) Vaughan Roberts on assisted dying, dignity and dependence

How should Christians bring our perspective into the public debates about assisted dying?

Well for a start, we need to make sure that we are involved in these discussions, even if it’s just closer to home—in our offices, in our communities, among our friends, as well as in the national debate. We’ve got good news to share—so let’s get engaged. So much of this discussion assumes that some lives are just not worth living—and Christians need to say, no, every life has dignity.

Second, we’ve also got something important to say about suffering. Our culture can’t cope with suffering—it wants to reduce suffering as much as possible and at all costs. Christians say suffering is bad—it’s a result of the fall—but God can be wonderfully at work in and through it.

And third, I think one key assumption underlying the argument for assisted suicide is that there’s just nothing worse than being dependent on others. But a Christian worldview says that actually our dependence on God and on one another is fundamental to our humanity. It’s a good thing! Illnesses brings that dependence to the fore, and that can be mutually very uplifting—for the carer and the one being cared for—even in the midst of very hard times. My father found the loss of independence the hardest aspect of his illness to cope with. At the very end of his life he was paralysed and unable to speak. Those last few days were intensely sad and yet also, in a strange way, profoundly beautiful. He had given so much to us and now we in the family had the privilege of caring for him, stroking and kissing him, singing his favourite hymns and praying. Such dependence is not undignified. This is being human.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Books, Children, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Theology

NYT: How one Christian School Dealt with a Teenager who bravely chose to Keep her Baby

Ms. Runkles’s story sheds light on a delicate issue: how Christian schools, which advocate abstinence until marriage, treat pregnant teenagers.

“You have these two competing values,” said Brad Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia who directs the National Marriage Project, which conducts research on marriage and families. “On the one hand, the school is seeking to maintain some kind of commitment to what has classically been called chastity — or today might be called abstinence. At the same time, there’s an expectation in many Christian circles that we are doing all that we can to honor life.”

Navigating that balance is exceedingly difficult for Christian educators, and schools respond in various ways, said Rick Kempton, chairman of the board of the Association of Christian Schools International, which represents about 3,000 schools in the United States and many others overseas.

“There’s a biblical term that many Christian schools use, and it is the whole idea of grace: What would Jesus do?” Mr. Kempton said. Of Ms. Runkles, he added: “She’s making the right choice. But you don’t want to create a celebration that makes other young ladies feel like, ‘Well, that seems like a pretty good option.’”

Read it all.

Posted in Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Teens / Youth, Uncategorized

(Gallup) Americans Hold Record Liberal Views on Most Moral Issues

Americans continue to express an increasingly liberal outlook on what is morally acceptable, as their views on 10 of 19 moral issues that Gallup measures are the most left-leaning or permissive they have been to date. The percentages of U.S. adults who believe birth control, divorce, sex between unmarried people, gay or lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage, doctor-assisted suicide, pornography and polygamy are morally acceptable practices have tied record highs or set new ones this year. At the same time, record lows say the death penalty and medical testing on animals are morally acceptable.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sociology

(NYT) Dutch Fertility Doctor Swapped Donors’ Sperm With His, Lawsuit Claims

Twelve people who were conceived with sperm from a Dutch fertility center have filed a lawsuit asserting that its longtime director is their biological father, and that over several decades, he swapped donors’ sperm with his own.

The 12 people, and 10 mothers who suspect that their children were conceived using the clinic director’s sperm, filed a lawsuit on Friday asking a court in Rotterdam to give them access to the DNA of the clinic director, Dr. Jan Karbaat, who died last month at 89.

“I’m hoping that the judge will allow us to extract the DNA so we can use it to find out if we are his children,” one plaintiff, Moniek Wassenaar, 36, said in an interview. The 12 people are 8 to 36 years old. Some of the 10 mothers in the suit conceived children who are still minors.

From 1980 to 2009, Dr. Karbaat ran a sperm bank in the rear of his stately yellow brick house in the Bijdorp section of Schiedam, near Rotterdam. He became well known in the field of assisted reproduction. About 10,000 children are estimated to have been conceived at the clinic.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Science & Technology, The Netherlands

(CNS) Belgian brothers to allow euthanasia for nonterminal psych patients

A group of psychiatric care centers run by a Catholic religious order in Belgium has announced it will permit doctors to undertake the euthanasia of “nonterminal” mentally ill patients on its premises.

In a nine-page document, the Brothers of Charity Group stated that it would allow doctors to perform euthanasia in any of its 15 centers, which provide care to more than 5,000 patients a year, subject to carefully stipulated criteria.

Br. Rene Stockman, the superior general, has distanced himself from the decision of the group’s largely lay board of directors, however, and has told Belgian media that the policy was a tragedy.

“We cannot accept that euthanasia is carried out within the walls of our institutions,” said Stockman, a specialist in psychiatric care, in an April 27 interview with De Morgen newspaper in Brussels.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, Belgium, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Roman Catholic

(Globe+Mail) Sheema Kahn–Cultural sensitivities must never override gender equality

While Canada has legislation against the practice of FGM, there are no laws that prosecute parents who send their daughters abroad to have the procedure done. In contrast, France and the United States have outlawed “FGM tourism.” It is time for Canada to follow their lead.

And while Ottawa has moved to address FGM, our governments have failed to address female feticide. They ignored the call by Dr. Rajendra Kale, in 2012, to ban disclosure of the sex of a fetus until 30 weeks (after which point an abortion is difficult). South Korea banned such disclosures in 1988, helping to reverse gender imbalance.

Finally, there can be no change unless there is opposition within communities. There will be pressure to circle the wagons in wake of negative media coverage. I still remember an Ottawa community leader telling a local congregation, following the “honour killing” of Aqsa Parvez, that the media were trying to make the Muslim community look “bad.” Outrage was not directed at family violence, but at the media for covering that violence.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Politics in General, Violence, Women

(Globe and Mail) Unnatural selection: Babies in the genetic technology age

The notion of tinkering with an embryo’s DNA – let alone creating designer babies – makes many of us recoil. But let us not forget the shock and horror at the news of the first “test-tube baby,” Louise Brown, in 1978.

After her birth, her parents received blood-spattered hate mail (and a tiny plastic fetus). Now we call it IVF, and no one bats an eye.

Technologies that allow parents to pick and choose embryos based on genetic testing are already a quarter of a century old. But the dawn of CRISPR, a technology that can “edit” mutated DNA at the embryo stage, has raised the spectre of Nazi-era eugenics and identikit babies out of a sci-fi thriller.

What if laws were in place to forbid scientists from using technologies to create the superrace we fear? What if we had consensus, and an ethical framework, to decide which embryos should live, and which should die?

Such questions are the beating heart of science journalist Bonnie Rochman’s new book, The Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies are Changing the Way We Have Kids – and the Kids We Have, published in February.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology

Ed Stetzer—Being pro-life means caring about all of human life. That includes being pro-refugee

First, evangelicals have been involved with refugee resettlement for a long time and in a lot of churches. Many evangelical leaders have advocated for refugees, from all different faiths, for years. They know the program, and they know the refugees — and they know it’s safe and a good way to show the love of Christ.

Second, evangelical leaders, knowing the facts, are emboldened to speak when alternative facts may be holding sway elsewhere, particularly when those alternative facts are hurting the most vulnerable. In the Christian tradition, we call that speaking prophetically — like prophets in what Christians call the Old Testament, we have to sometimes speak to our own people and remind them of what is right.

Third, many evangelical leaders have had an uneasy connection with the Trump administration. Yes, they know that white evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for President Trump, and many strongly agree with Trump’s stated concerns about religious liberty, the Supreme Court, and more. But they want — and even need — room to disagree with a president who has said and done many things contrary to their beliefs. Speaking up for refugees is one of the areas where many believe they can.

Read it all from Vox.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Immigration, Life Ethics, Uncategorized

(Economist) Gene editing, clones and the science of making babies

It used to be so simple. Girl met boy. Gametes were transferred through plumbing optimised by millions of years of evolution. Then, nine months later, part of that plumbing presented the finished product to the world. Now things are becoming a lot more complicated. A report published on February 14th by America’s National Academy of Sciences gives qualified support to research into gene-editing techniques so precise that genetic diseases like haemophilia and sickle-cell anaemia can be fixed before an embryo even starts to develop. The idea of human cloning triggered a furore when, 20 years ago this week, Dolly the sheep was revealed to the world (see article); much fuss about nothing, some would say, looking back. But other technological advances are making cloning humans steadily more feasible.

Some are horrified at the prospect of people “playing God” with reproduction. Others, whose lives are blighted by childlessness or genetic disease, argue passionately for the right to alleviate suffering. Either way, the science is coming and society will have to work out what it thinks.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology

The full Text of the Evangelical Alliance Statement–The Reformation, evangelicals+Roman Catholicism

Same-sex relationships and marriage. Drawing especially on the biblical creation narrative (Gen. 2:23-4) and on the teaching of Jesus and Paul (Matt. 19:1-12; Eph. 5:22-3), evangelicals and Catholics have widely co-operated in recent times in the promotion, support and defence of marriage as a one-flesh union of one man and one womanfor life. Marriage in this sense has been presented by both as the foundational institution of human society ”“ a corollary to the common good which delivers better outcomes overall for spouses, children and communities than other forms of co-habitation. Alongside this convictionabout monogamous, heterosexual marriage, evangelicals and Catholics have also agreed in highlighting biblical representations of sexually active same-sex unions as falling outside God’s purposes for human relationships and human society. In more recent times, this has meant widespread joint action to oppose legislation approving same-sex marriage. Where same-sex marriage has been legalised, it has meant working together to protect the rights of churches and their ministers to reaffirm heterosexual marriage, and to retain the right to conduct only heterosexual marriages. At the same time, however, evangelicals and Catholics have worked more closely together on welcoming same-sex attracted people and same-sex couples in the church context, and on dialoguing with LGBTI groups to ensure mutual respect and understanding in this contentious area of Christian ethics, ministry and
pastoral care.

Read it all (8 page pdf).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Evangelicals, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology