The Suicide of Civilization

Author: John Mallon

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 in :

"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 State."

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 reality?"

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 of life.

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!