The Suicide of Civilization
By John Mallon
John Mallon is editor of the Sooner Catholic, the newspaper of the
Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, where this article appeared as the
editorial March 9, 1997.
(c) 1997 by John Mallon
I just found out the other day that the United States has
committed suicide as a civil society. It happened in 1992 when the
United States Supreme Court ruled on I realized this surprising fact while listening to Dr.
Russell Hittinger speak to a combined gathering of the Catholic
Physicians Guild and the Catholic Lawyers Guild of the Archdiocese
of Oklahoma City. Professor Hittinger explained that Justice
Kennedy, a Catholic, who therefore should have known better, wrote
"At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept
of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of
human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the
attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the
So what's wrong with that? Sounds pretty reasonable, open minded,
liberal, live-and-let-live, doesn't it? Or does it?
I asked Dr. Hittinger during the question and answer session, that
if it were true that the Supreme Court ruled that everyone had the
right to invent his own meaning of existence, didn't that
automatically abolish ? He answered, "Yep!" I pushed
further, "Doesn't that make subjectivism the law of the land?" He
answered, "Yep!" I asked, "Where does that leave the Catholic
Church which purports to make claims about the nature of objective
Clearly it places the Catholic Church on a collision course with
the political order - or in this case, the political disorder.
"Why should this be so?" you might ask. Because in the process of
building the bridge from legalized abortion to physician assisted
suicide the Supreme Court jumped off the bridge by undercutting
all of its own authority and thereby committing suicide itself.
Why should this follow? Because if everyone has the right to
define the nature of existence, who is the Supreme Court to tell
anyone what to do?
If I can make up my own meaning of the universe I can make up my
own laws, and who is to say if my laws infringe on the lives and
well-being of others? Should you - or anyone - object to the laws
of my universe, what do I care? I don't recognize your authority -
or the authority of any state - to reign me in. At that point we
can cry, "Let the killing begin!" and we have anarchy because law
itself has been outlawed. Why should this surprise us? The whole
direction of this legal process has been for just that: to let the
killing begin via physician assisted suicide. Do not think it will
stop there. Abortion didn't. Killing has a way of spilling over
its prescribed boundaries.
In 1973 the Supreme Court gave mothers the right to use lethal
force against their unborn children for any or no reason.
Now, with physician assisted suicide, for which has laid
the groundwork, Dr. Hittinger argues, that the state is offering
what he calls the "power of the sword,"-that is, the authority to
use lethal force- to another segment of society, namely
physicians. Formerly such power was only in the hands of the
state, but not any individual.
Most doctors I know are quite uncomfortable with this idea.
Imagine being sued for malpractice because you refused to end
someone's life. As Dr. Hittinger said, not even policemen have
this power. He said you can't run up to a policeman on the street
and demand that he shoot you because you're having a bad day, are
depressed, or have a terminal illness. Why not truck driver
assisted suicide? Dentist assisted suicide? Why not? What is to
stop it if everyone is free to invent his or her own universe with
its own rules?
This sort of makes you want to pay more attention to Pope John
Paul II's alternative vision for the third millenium - a culture
But, will it be against the law (or whatever passes for law) to be
a follower of Christ under this system?
There are precedents.
Have a nice day!