According to Pope John Paul II, “the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral.”i Although this concept appears to be self-evident in that it supported by conscience and a constant a testimony of Western Society, rooted in the biblical prohibition on murder, modern advanced societies tend not to place such an absolute value on the sacredness and dignity of the human person. John Paul states,
“A new cultural climate is taking hold which gives crimes against life a new-and if possible-even more sinister character, giving rise to further grave concern: broad sectors of public opinion justify certain crimes against life in the name of rights of individual freedom, and on this basis they claim no only exemption from punishment but even authorization by the state, so that these things can be done with total freedom and indeed with the free assistance of health-care systems.”ii
This radicalization of the absolutely autonomy of the human person to do what he or she wants, without consequences, so much so that the lives of the most innocent and vulnerable are put at risk, is the motivating factor for the creation of this pro-life blog. Because many claim that the universal right to life of the human person is not founded in reason, but is a matter of subjective opinion, I recognized a need to articulate the fact that the right to life of the unborn can be demonstrated rationally, and that the dictates of reason absolutely defend this right. What is more, a sound Natural Law philosophy provides the most profound way of defending the weak, and the innocent.
The process of creating this blog, and systematically thinking through the philosophy of Natural Law and its pro-life consequences has taught me several important things. First, I learned a great deal about Natural Law in all of its details. Without this project, it might have been easy to go on in my studies with a more limited grasp of the Natural Law. However, now I have understanding of how Natural Law is derived all the way back to the first principles of reason and metaphysics. Second, I have a greater understanding of the metaphysics of Aquinas, particularly the concepts of essence, form, nature, and final causality. By reading through Aquinas’ On Being and Essence, I learned that not only is “nature” a synonym for essence and form, but it’s synonym that has a specific connotation. It is the essence in so far as an essence is directed to the proper acts and ends of a being. As for final causality, I a have deeper understanding of what it means, and how it can be defended from skeptics. In the Summa theologiae, Aquinas argues that things necessarily act for an end, or else one thing would not follow from the actions of an agent, more than another. For example, two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atoms always combine to form water, and never anything else. This is simply a realistic view of the world. Third, I learned that while Aquinas did not specifically speak of “natural rights” his philosophy is a solid foundation for these rights, through the recognition of the dignity of the human person, established in his supernatural purpose. Finally, while I always had an understanding that immorality of abortion and the killing of a fetus is established in reason, through this project this conviction has been strengthened and confirmed by thinking through these things more thoroughly.
Through the study of Natural Life and pro-life issues, I was struck by John Paul II’s consistent appeal to the fact that the Natural Moral Law is knowable by reason. For example, he states,
“Even in the midst of difficulties and uncertainties, every person sincerely open to truth and goodness, can by the light of reason and the hidden actions of grace, come to recognize in the natural law written in the heart the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree.”iii
This unequivocal affirmation is repeated else where in his encyclical letter Evangelium vitae. For example he states, “I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon the unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his heart.”iv The same view is reflected throughout his other works such as Veritatis splendor and Fides et ratio. This is applicable for me in two ways. First, because I am a co-host on a radio talk show here in Albuquerque, NM. When discussing moral issues, I can appeal to the Natural Law, through rational analysis to demonstrate moral and immoral nature of some acts that are relevant to current news stories. Second, and perhaps more import, if I decided to explore the possibility of writing a thesis, I might want to address John Paul II’s view that the Natural Moral Law is accessible by reason. There is certainly a great deal of material to support this. What is more, Blessed John Paul II’s view on this matter is of particular value because of the banishment of ethics to the realm of the relative and the subjective on the part of modern philosophy and jurisprudence. In all, this project has provided a great deal of thought for future work in my degree program, and in my professional endeavors.