Sunday, October 21, 2012

Reflections on my Appearance on Ancient Faith Today

Click here to listen to my chat with Kevin Allen and fellow guest, SbDn. Basil Hinkle.  The subject of our discussion is “Faith Informing Politics”.  In this post, I offer some brief reflections on last night’s lively discussion.
Regarding my Comments on Euthanasia (a sanitized version)
As I explained early in our discussion, my decision on whether or not to support a particular public policy is determined by whether it:
(1)   Violates the rights of others;
(2)   Affects their spiritual well-being; or
(3)   Jeopardizes the stability and continuity of society.
Our subsequent discussion on euthanasia revolved mainly around Point (1).  I still hold to the view that euthanasia – an otherwise immoral act, according to the Church – does not necessarily violate the rights of others (of course, we can imagine situations in which insurance providers might opt to cover the cost of euthanasia over potentially more expensive life-saving treatments), as it directly affects no one other than the person authorizing it.
Soon after the interview, I pondered more about Point 2 (Point 3 is perhaps a subject for future reflection).  There is certainly a salvific quality to suffering, in the midst of which our awareness of, and utter reliance on, God grows.  Further, the very experience of suffering helps to purify one’s soul.  As St. Syncletica put it, “If you are righteous and suffer, you grow to a higher sanctity.  Gold is tested by fire.”  To his credit, SbDn. Basil addressed this point quite well.
I would agree, then, that legalizing euthanasia would tempt one to forego the sanctification that suffering can bring.  It may even produce broader effects on society – knowing that there’s a legal, yet deceptive “easy way out”, people may perceive less of a need throughout their lives to seek or grow closer to God.
In short, I suppose that I did not apply my own decision-making framework consistently enough!  So, I would like to state that, after a mere 24 hours of reflection, I have abandoned what I did say was a tentative view: that I would not presently oppose the decriminalization of euthanasia.  Nevertheless, in contemplating such horrific diseases as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (i.e., Lou Gehrig’s disease), I cannot say that I hold to my new view with as much certainty or fervency as others – and I freely admit that this may be due to a weakness of faith on my part.
On Welfare and the Family

I did not get the opportunity to address an excellent question raised by host, Kevin Allen, on whether American welfare policies have undermined the family.  In my view, there is evidence that supports the idea that welfare policies have the potential to stabilize the family.  We can cite, for instance, the research of University of Minnesota professor, Shirley Zimmerman (e.g., click here, as well as here for a list of more recent publications), whose findings indicate that states that spend less per capita on public welfare had, among other things, higher teen birth rates, higher suicide rates, and higher divorce rates than those that spent more.  It is quite arguable, then, that reducing inequality is very much a pro-family policy.
Thanks to Kevin and SbDc. Basil for an exciting and civil discussion!