OK, here’s a weird situation

On the one hand, it’s an interesting article about the reverse situation where some parents with genetic defects are actually using artificial procedures to choose the “defective” child, which is obviously wrong, since it’s reverse eugenics and it’s still artificial.

However, Mark Shea does not attack the eugenics of it, but rather the desire of disabled people to have children who share their disabilities. So far, two readers agree with him. I already know Jimmy Akin, Kevin Miller and Greg Popcak do. I know most “Catholics in the pews” do, because I know how they’ve treated me all their lives: like I’m a freak, like my health problems inconvenience *them*. After I had my heart surgery, when I’d have some problem or other pop up, dad would ask for prayers, and people would say, “I thought we were through with all that.” Heck, when I was getting married, my brother admitted–as I always knew in my heart–that my siblings always thought of me as a hypochondriac.

Meanwhile, I turn to my fellow “Marfs,” and I get consolation on my day-to-day problems, but find that most of them favor eugenics.

I am so glad I have at least a few people who support me in this, and that several of them are priests, as opposed to laity with advanced degrees who think they’re the arbiters of the Magisterium since they happen to have written popular books, hosted popular TV series or run popular websites. The likes of Akin, Popcak and Shea ought to take a lesson about such hubris from Deal Hudson and Bud MacFarlane.

Just because a person is a good and sincere Catholic who has some good thoughts on certain key issues and generally has a good manner of insight into more ambiguous areas does not make that person a “Guru of Everything.” One of the reasons I love C. S. Lewis is that he is fully willing to admit when a subject is outside his area of expertise, or when he’s just expressing a personal opinion. That is also true of Socrates, St. Paul and St. Teresa of Avila, among others. On of the things that turns me off to St. Thomas Aquinas, as much as I like him, is that he tends to treat every opinion as an expert one, even on the subjects where we know (at least now) that he’s dead wrong.

Take the Immaculate Conception, for example. There is nothing wrong with Aquinas being wrong on this. Obviously, it was not yet dogma when he lived, so he isn’t a heretic. But it *was* something that had happened historically and that many others had solid arguments in favor of, so that makes him *wrong*. of course, one does not have to be infallible to be a doctor of the Church or a saint. But if we look at his arguments *against* the Immaculate Conception, they are based upon several other faulty ideas or arguments.

Today’s “Catholic Gurus” make a very similar mistake–and most of them are big fans of Aquinas, so it’s understandable. They start with a bunch of premises about Catholicism (in this context, the premises are the importance of health and the idea that Original Sin totally corrupted all of nature). Then they build a logical argument *purely* from *those* premises without consideration of other factors–both other logical premises and also what Karl Adam calls the “psychological” element of a theological issue. They are guilty of what Dietrich von Hildebrand calls “incomplete truth,” exaggerating one aspect of Catholic teaching and ignoring any other dimensions to it. At the same time, they are not being fully logical–as it is impossible for any of us to be 100% logical, even Aquinas. Their reasoning is based heavily upon their “bias” as “healthy people.”

I am always struck by the fact that very few, if any, canonized saints had severe birth defects. Most of the Saints regarded as models of disabled people (e.g,. Alphonsus Liguori) had disabilities that came on *later* in life.

There are a couple prominent Blesseds who make the exceptions that prove my point: Margaret of Castillo and Hermanus Contractus (author of “Salve Regina” and one of the greatest scholars of his day, to whom the greatest minds of Europe came for consultation, but he was severely disabled and lived his entire life in a monastery).

Thus, the Church’s entire theology about “corruption of nature” and suffering is based upon the inherent bias of theologians, bishops and saints who are themselves fairly healthy or at least grew up in healthy conditions–people who have no idea what it is to be crippled or ill from the moment of birth.

The person who is born with an obvious “birth defect” has quite a different attitude about his or her condition from the person who develops problems later on or is diagnosed at a later age.

To that extent, I can forgive the “gurus” their ignorance. But their refusal to listen to a contrary voice–from someone who’s actually *experiencing* it–is upsetting.

And it was Mary, my physically “normal” wife, who, when we were first discussing these issues before our engagement, said, “I’d always hoped to have a special needs child.”

4 responses to “OK, here’s a weird situation

  1. I read the Times article, and the reaction to it, and what struck me the most was I had heard prejudiced people say the same things about interracial children: “If two adults want to subject themselves to hatred and difficulty by choosing to live in an unnatural relationship, that`s one thing, but I feel sorry for the children of such a union. Why force an innocent child to be born with such a burden?”

  2. John C. Hathaway

    Good to hear from you again!
    That’s what makes this particular article/situation so fascinating. Here you have the “healthy” people on the one hand, saying that it’s vain to choose to have a disabled child, and cruel to “force” a child into such a life.
    On the other hand, from the deaf perspective, it would be cruel to a hearing child to allow that child to be born into a deaf family, especially given the reactive hostilities that many in the “deaf community” have towards the hearing.

    For me, there’s something similar at work when it comes to athletics and Marfan syndrome. Because I live under a completely different paradigm, I find sports to be boring, and there is a lot that I dislike about organized athletics, especially violent sports like football.
    I have a *great* appreciation for true athleticism and physical fitness, but I dislike violent competitiveness and I despise those who are physically fit and then destroy their bodies for the sake of sports.
    So I refuse to allow my children, regardless of their genetic make-up, to participate in certain sports.

    Now that I have a son, and he appears to be fairly “healthy,” his grandfathers and uncles are already trying to peg him as a football player/fan, and mold him into that image despite my principles. When I protest, they say, “Well, he should be athletic,” and I say, “Yes. And things like gymnastics, swimming, golf and dancing are all very athletic.”

  3. I like Jimmy Akin. I read his blog regularly. Can you please point out to me the posts where he says what you imply of him?

  4. Those posts are referred to specifically in the archives of this blog. When I have challenged him directly, he or someone else points out his “rule” about not challenging his judgement on “pastoral” matters in the comboxes. He strikes me as a very arrogant person.
    In any case, he has specifically taught that people who are coughing or sneezing should not go to Mass for fear of the “guilt” of infecting someone else.
    He also has stated that, while he disagrees with embryonic stem cell research, he thinks it would be acceptable to use treatments derived from it, just as he believes it is permissible to use vaccines derived from fetal tissue research (it is not, except under certain extreme conditions that do not exist in the United States).

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