The Roman Catholic Church

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First I will start with definitions of three key words in the question. These three words are abortion, sacred and euthanasia. The type of abortion I will talk about in this coursework is procured abortion. Abortion is the termination of the life of a foetus; procured abortion is the termination of the foetus with outside help. The word sacred means, consecrated, blessed by god, given by god, therefore most holy (hallowed). In terms of human life, it means, human life is precious because it is a gift from god.

Euthanasia means ‘easy death’ without severe suffering, today the word is used to mean ‘mercy killing’ because it puts an end to extreme suffering, it prevents abnormal babies growing up, it ends the life of the mentally ill and it can prevent the incurable from having a miserable life. There are two types of euthanasia that I should be aware of. There is voluntary euthanasia and non – voluntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is where a person with a painful terminal disease who, unable to do anything for themselves, asks someone else to kill them painlessly, for example, the doctor gives them a lethal dose of painkillers.

Non – Voluntary is where a person is not kept alive because they are regarded as having a worse life than death, but cannot make any decisions for themselves. The meaning of abortion and euthanasia are quiet clear from their definitions. As far as different views are concerned mostly all groups of Christianity are against the concept of abortion, there are humanitarian groups, which are in favour of it, they have their own views that are totally different then the religious views.

Although the catholic church does teach abortion and euthanasia wrong, full stop, not all people in the catholic church believe this and may feel there are special exceptions, for example if someone has been raped and got pregnant, it may be excepted by some people in the church to have an abortion. There are varied views of people as a society for both abortion and euthanasia. The Roman Catholic Church teaches strictly that both abortion and euthanasia are wrong. What the church may say to someone may be different to what the church teaches. Some of the priests may allow abortion or euthanasia in certain cases.

Almost all the priests would offer guidance and help the person, most would sympathise and say how bad what they’re going through is, but the church strictly teaches abortion and euthanasia to be wrong. Some of the reasons the catholic church give for abortion being wrong are, since the first century, when the church first began, the church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This early teaching has not changed and probably wont, the church sees this teaching as a tradition, the church believes that life begins at conception, so having an abortion is in theory killing a human or in other words, murder.

The catholic trust society gives their reason for opposing abortion as: ‘We have been created by the almighty God in his own image and likeness. No pregnancy is unplanned because no baby can be conceived unless almighty God intends that conception and has willed that particular unique and completely individual new person into existence. What has actually happened in our society is that clever arguments has convinced those with no anchor of belief in God to cling to, that merciless slaughter of unborn babies is morally unjustifiable, and even essential for the happiness of the individual and good of the society. ‘

The Catholic trust says that the conception of baby is due to will of God and a human being has no right to kill that baby, it is ethically unacceptable and morally wrong. This statement is, I think, a very good argument against abortion, hearing this, I think a lot of people who have been considering an abortion won’t have one, because the words are so strong, it may even help a person regain their faith. Before 1967 abortion was illegal in Britain. So why in 1967 did abortion become legal? Abortion became legal because parliament wanted to put a stop a stop to the unfortunate situation that had arose over the years leading up to 1967.

About 60 women each year died as a result of ‘back-street’ abortions. Other women were left seriously injured and thousands were made infertile. The abortions were carried out by unqualified people and performed in unclean conditions. The Abortion Act was passed by parliament providing that: * Two registered doctors aggress that an abortion can legally be carried out. * It is carried out before ‘the time of viability’, i. e. the time when the body can exist on its own outside its mothers womb. This was originally set at 28 weeks of pregnancy but was reduced to 24 weeks in 1990. Continuing the pregnancy would involve a greater risk to the mother, or any existing child in the family. * A termination is necessary to prevent permanent physical or emotional damage to the mother. * There is a real risk that the baby will be born physically disabled or with learning difficulties. Those who support abortion say that the 1967 Act confronted the realities of the situation. Whereas the opponents of abortion argue that the Abortion Act has virtually created ‘abortion on demand’; abortion without any real restrictions.

The Roman Catholic Church believes that all abortions are a form of murder on the basis that human life is sacred, God gave life and only God can take life away. The church teaches ‘… Never under any pretext, may abortion be resorted to, either by a family or by a political authority, as a legitimate means of regulating births. ‘ ‘Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception. Abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes’ Gaudium et Spes, Second Vatican Council These statements show us that the church has very strong opinions towards abortion and believes that it is serious moral sin.

The church believes that at the moment of conception there is a new human being and therefore abortion is murder. The teaching of abortion of the Catholic Church is shown in ‘The Declaration on Procured Abortion (1974)’. This document points out that respect for human life is not just a Christian duty but something implanted into our hearts and minds. In the twentieth century people have been especially aware of human rights (the rights that all human beings). ‘The first right of the human being is his life’ This means no matter what, if you’re a human being you have the right to live.

This is the declaration’s teaching about when human life begins: ‘From the time that life is begun, which is neither that of the father nor the mother. It is rather the life of a new human being with its own growth. It would never be made a human if it were not human already. ‘ This piece of evidence shows us how/why the church believes life believes at conception. I also think this statement is saying that life has begun when a life is able to grow to be human, because the human can’t just appear from nowhere. In violation of the historical record, the church teaches that its current position has remained unchanged.

St. Augustine (345-430) reversed centuries of Christian teaching, and returned to the Aristotelian concept of ‘delayed ensoulment’. He wrote that a human soul couldn’t live in an unformed body. Therefore, early in pregnancy, an abortion is not murder because no soul is destroyed. Now, however the churches teaching is quite clear. Abortion is murder. The bible from where the churches teachings are based on appears to be silent on the topic of abortion. John Connery (1977) said: ‘If anyone expects to find an explicit condemnation of abortion in the New Testament, he will be disappointed.

The silence of the New Testament regarding abortion surpasses even that of the Old Testament. ‘ On the other hand, there are Biblical passages that might be interpreted as referring to the worth of a fetus. But just because there are no direct references to abortion in the bible does not mean that the bible does no show us that we should respect and have compassion and love for the life God gives. Jesus showed us this in the way he always cared for and helped the sick, elderly and handicapped. He obviously thought that everyone mattered and should be respected.

However, opposition to abortion appears to have been a concern within the early Christian Church as evidenced by the Didache (teaching of the twelve apostles), this is shown in chapter 2, 2. 2: ‘… thou shalt not kill a child by abortion, neither shalt thou slay it when born… ‘ The Roman Catholic Church says about euthanasia that those whose lives are diminished or weakened in any way should be treated with special care. In particular, the sick, the handicapped and the elderly should be helped to live as normal a life as possible.

Whatever its motives euthanasia does mean putting a premature end to the lives of such people. In any civilized Society it is morally unacceptable to even contemplate the possibility. Four reasons for it to be unacceptable are: – Euthanasia is murder, and one of the Ten Commandments is: ‘Thou shalt not kill’. Euthanasia is contrary to the dignity of human beings; Euthanasia destroys the respect that is due to God, the Beginning and End of all life, there is a clear difference between discontinuing treatment and actively killing someone. There are certain situations in which one simply cannot prevent the eventuality of death.

These must be recognized and the decision to end treatment taken in consultation with the patient, if at all possible. If not, then the closest relatives should be involved. Catholics believe that: ‘We are made in the image of God and therefore human life is God’s gift to us and is uniquely precious – we are not the owners of life, but it’s minders’ We belong to God because he made us. Many religions follow this belief; so do not believe in suicide and assisted dying. Jesus said: ‘Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one sparrow is forgotten by god. Even the hairs on your head have all been counted.

So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows! ‘ I think what Jesus meant by this was all life deserves respect. No matter who you are or what you do, you deserve respect; a human life must be protected and respected form the moment of conception. Life must be guarded with the greatest care. The statement is referring to the sanctity of life, which just means humans were created in the image and likeness of god, and so life is god’s creation and is sacred and holy, and as such should not be meddled with.

This would be an argument for both abortion and euthanasia. In 1 Corinthians 3. 6 -17 it says: ‘Surely you know that you are gods temple and that gods spirit lives in you! So if anyone destroys god’s temple, god will destroy him. For gods temple is holy, and you yourselves are his temple. ‘ This quote means that life should not be destroyed. Once again this refers to the sanctity of life. This quote warns people who maybe considering euthanasia that if they carry out this act of suicide, then god will destroy you. Here humans are being referred to as gods temple, and saying that gods temple is holy is also saying that human life is sacred and should not be ended under any circumstance.

There are many other viewpoints on the issues of abortion and euthanasia. The views between different groups of Christians differ on abortion and euthanasia. Majority of religions disapprove Euthanasia, Christianity disapproves it according to the belief that, human beings have a special place in God’s heart, eyes and creation: ‘For you created my inmost being; you (God) knit me together in my mother’s womb’ (psalm 139) In the Methodist church the view on abortion is that it’s impossible to know when the life of a human begins, saying this they believe that the importance of the embryo being a human increases throughout pregnancy.

The 1976 Methodist conference statement says: ‘It is always an evil, to be avoided if at all possible by offering care to mothers. However, there are circumstances when abortion will be the lesser of the two evils’ For example if the mother was raped, rape is a greater evil than abortion so therefore an abortion would be allowable. The Methodists viewpoint on euthanasia is strongly against the idea. This is because of practical difficulties faced by doctors and medical staff. Also there is a risk if made legal, that it would be misused.

The Methodists state that what god has given, we cannot take away. We are called to use all gods gifts responsibly and to find in every situation the way of compassion. ‘ The Orthodox Church has similar views as the Catholic Church although with the Orthodox Church they do allow abortion in rare cases, like if the mother’s life was at risk. This view is similar to the Church of England view, also the Church of England would the like that the abortion law should be applied more strictly in order to reduce the amount of abortions. The orthodox view on euthanasia is that it should be considered as murder. Saying this they are aware of the need for comfort and care for the patient.

The Orthodox Church has clear guidelines on the right to life: ‘We have the responsibility to maintain, preserve and protect our on lives, and those entrusted to us. In case of illness, we are obliged to use every method available to us, to restore health. Life is so precious that it must be respected even when health cannot be fully restored, it should be protected and maintained. ‘ The Orthodox Church is basically saying here that, life is so precious and should not be ended for any reason at all even if you are terminally ill, you are still alive.

The Salvation Army believe that any competent person in certain conditions should be allowed to ‘choose to die’ although they oppose to any idea of legalising euthanasia. The Church of England also opposes the legalisation of euthanasia because they think if euthanasia were allowed, then the value of human life would be undermined, they say we should offer special care to those who have disability or vulnerable through illness. They also believe doctors do not have an obligation to prolong life. The views of other groups and organisations on abortion and euthanasia differ greatly.

The groups in favour of abortion are mostly humanitarian groups the have their own point of view, according to National Abortion Campaign: ‘The decision to terminate pregnancy is so important that it can only be made by the person most involved- the women. Women must always have a choice and never have the decision forced upon them. Free abortion facilities should on the NHS for every woman who needs them. We believe that the right of women to control their own fertility is a fundamental human right.

Women will not be able to take a full and equal part in the society when we can all decide for ourselves whether and when to have children. ‘ National Abortion Campaign states the basic right of women to control its own fertility, they say that women have a full right to choose when they want to have children. Humanist Dipper supports abortion by suggesting that Humanist regards abortion better than bringing unwanted humans into the world. It is a mistake to say that Humanist are in favour of abortion; no one can be in favour of abortion, which, except in unexpected circumstances, is result of failed contraception: We think there will probably always be a certain number unplanned pregnancies and that the mother concerned should have the complete choice of either complete abortion, or keeping the baby. ‘

Euthanasia, at the moment is illegal throughout the world apart from in the State of Oregon in USA, where there is a law specifically allowing doctors to prescribe lethal drugs for the purpose of euthanasia. In the Netherlands it is practised widely, although, in fact, it remains illegal. So the alternative to euthanasia in Christianity is ‘Hospice movement’. The hospice movement is an alternative to euthanasia.

Dame Cicely Saunders, doctor and founder of the hospice movement says: ‘I’m against euthanasia for a positive reason; I have seen people achieve so much in the ending of their lives – times that their families would have missed. It’s often time after they might have asked to opt out when they perhaps would have gone in bitterness, whereas they finally go in peace and fulfilment’ The kind of care hospice give to the patients is very distinctive for they offer tender loving care. The three aims of hospices are: – To relieve pain, to enable patients and families to face up to death and to care for emotional needs of the relatives.

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