Friday, June 17, 2011

When is Life Life?

With non-Catholics I often suggest that life begins at 60, or some societies it began when one had served in the army, or when one had produced one's own offspring or at puberty or at the age of reason, basicly I try to get them to think that Life beginning at birth is a bit of an arbitary choice, then I tend to point out other cultures, principly Jews and Muslims, tend to believe it begins at "quickening" but really the only logical conclusion is Life begins, as every Catholic knows, at conception.

I was reading a post on the Bones, about George and Diane, a Brighton couple, in my parish, who have just been made homeless by the local authority. The latest episode is they have been locked out of the home, seperated from Diane's medicines, which she needs, and from their mobile phone, which them is their main contact with the world. They have been offered housing in Brighton's "Crack Central" a seafront hostel for drug users, which isn't that helpful considering Diane's mental health and previous drug problems, as a result she is having a breakdown.

For me it raises lots of ethical issues. Some societies decided on "Life" on an age basis after conception or birth, other societies based it on class or race, wealth or intelligence or some other factor. Geneticists like Marie Stopes and Julian Huxley led campaigns that tried to implement laws that would remove the right to life of various groups such as the "the Negro races", "the feeble minded", the poor, the indigent, the sickly and in the case of Stopes, the short-sighted! In Germany the horror of this type of thinking was the basis of the Nazi regime's policies of euthanasia but the sterilisation of the poor and the feeble-minded took place elsewhere, notably in the the US. Geneticists want to grade human beings according to some criteria, tied into this are those who push for euthanasia, I have sympathy with those who decide their own life is a burden but it opens the door so easily to those who might decide someone else's life is a burden or not worth living.
From there Pandora's box is open and departing from there we end up in a total mess. All life human is sacred is the only answer.

In the case of George and Diana and so many "challenging" people like them, it strikes me that they are being treated as though they are less than human, a problem to be dealt with, a source of irritation for the community. They are being forced out of their home, thrown onto the streets and housed in place they consider physically, morally or psychologically dangerous. Is there a trait within all of us that tends towards grading human beings in some way, seeing them than less human and therefore able to be deprived of human dignity.

For Catholics, ALL human life is sacred, from conception to the grave but also from the poorest to the most wealthy, the most sinful to the most holy,  the most mentally feeble to the brightest, including the most immoral, the most deviant, the most depraved, the most etc etc etc.


Michael Petek said...

If this went to court, there's no doubt that a judge would throw the book at the Council.

shadowlands said...

'Is there a trait within all of us that tends towards grading human beings in some way, seeing them than less human and therefore able to be deprived of human dignity.'

Yes there is, I recommend twenty minutes meditation on the fourth sorrowful mystery to help be shown where our prejudice lies and also to see the person we are degrading in Jesus as he walks to the Cross, filthy, bleeding, thirsting, mocked.

He didn't go through that for any reason He had caused. He did it for us, to show us, that no matter how far down we think we are, He has been there, even to the pit of hell.

If we despise the old, the poor, the addict, the sinner through some perceived virtue of our own (we have none other than that which He gained for us)we despise Christ for loving and saving that person, by refusing to love them, as He has loved us.

It is OK to admit to not being able to 'feel' positively about sinners, but it's a good idea to be aware of what's going on in your own heart.
I used to look down on mothers who drank too much, would you believe? I certainly had the mirror turned round to face me on that one!

Isn't Mercy wonderful? Where would I be without it?

Anonymous said...

this is a well thought out post and I agree that all human life is sacred from conception to natural death. But sadly, life is graded and judged more or less worthy of protection. I have seen this assessing of life happen with some of my close family members in hospital when near death. Only the presence of caring children prevented the hastening of death by unnecessary sedation.

We Christians must try to be careful and vigilent not to allow ourselves to be affected by this disrespect of human life. 'God gives and God takes away'.

Best regards
John Oliver.

Anne-Marie said...

Marie Stopes eugenics were, it is true, so extreme that I believe she rejected her son when he chose to marry a girl who wore glasses for short-sight.
This was a genetic fault that needed to be erased from the species.
It is difficult to imagine a mother driven by such fanaticism.
Utopian dreams of perfecting human society by denigrating and seeking to eliminate the physically and mentally different can never succeed in this fallen world.

nickbris said...

This country is widely seen as the safest haven for refugees and by and large we bend over backwards to make them welcome.Unfortunately there is a sub-culture of the indigenous people led & encouraged by Nazi types and the Daily Mail who are jealous and enraged by these natural kindnesses.

It appears that refugees are mainly better educated and prepared to work at anything to show their gratitude for being rescued and are less likely to be picked on.

On the other hand if you are weak and defenceless in this country then you have had it,it is very sad but if you can't look after yourself you are not likely to find many people who will especially the local authorities.

The homeless couple should contact a squatter group.

Richard said...

Being involved in social housing, as a volunteer, I can see that this is a very difficult issue.

Obviously all we have to go on is what 'Bones' has said on his blog. So this is merely an analysis of the case as he has presented it - there may be other relevant facts of which we know nothing.

It seems that these people were in temporary accommodation, so possibly without the legal safeguards that a more secure tenancy would give.

'Bones' also says that complaints of 'anti-social behaviour' (including noise) have been made against the couple by other residents.

Those other residents, who have complained, have a legal right to "quiet enjoyment" of their homes.

Whilst this may have been handled badly, the landlord is put in a very difficult position, because he could be sued by the other tenants if he allows a nuisance to continue.

My view is that there is a group of people who fall between two stools. They struggle to live alongside other people in the modern world, and there needs to be some sort of way to help them, but the system isn't working - and hasn't done for centuries.

The old system put them in asylums, which was usually wrong. Then for the last few decades we have given them money but largely left them largely to organise their lives for themselves.

Neither system seems to work.

We probably haven't got it right since the monasteries were closed. But this is a growing problem and it needs to be addressed.

Doodler said...

But what is anyone DOING about it?

Michael Petek said...

Nickbris, the couple should contact Shelter via its free helpline. They should also make a complaint to the police, as it's a serious offence for a landlord or his agent to change the locks on the door.

Ella, once hospitalized thro noise, said...

@ nickbris
"If you can't look after yourself you are not likely to find many people who will..."
Father Ray's appropriate description of the couple as "challenging" applies to many who find themselves in this position.
How much easier it is to offer our sympathy and aid to the suffering sweet elderly neighbour, the battered wife or the abused child.
Not so when the neighbour directly affects one's life with unbearable noise and abuse, maybe unaware of their anti-social actions.
We are called to love the unpleasant neighbour as ourselves and in some cases this means society must intervene, provide hostels and professional carers.
I trust the MP is fully involved in this. He/she knows there is a statutory duty to house the homeless adequately.
Prayers for the couple and the well-being of their former and current neighbours.

Laurence England said...


May I say that Diane and George are just the latest people to be evicted from that fact. The neighbour downstairs evicted the last tenant, a woman with her child, because the baby cried at night.

I think before you judge the couple you need to talk to them about it. The neighbour across the door from them has been very supportive of them. He thinks it is totally unjustified.

The tenant downstairs, from what I have heard is a bully and uses his influence to put down others.

Michael Petek said...

The tenant downstairs might end up defending a claim of harassment.

Richard said...


I wasn't blaming them at all. Just saying that it can be a very difficult position for the landlord, stuck in the middle of a dispute between tenants (whoever is right).

But it's terrible that the only alternative is a drug users' hostel. We need a different sort of service, somewhere that people can live and be given help, rather than left to fend for themselves or shoved out of the way into a hostel or B&B.