Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bishop Olmstead and Sister McBride

The circumstances in Arizona do seem quite compelling. I don't have a good grasp of the facts. I have, however, seen respected commentators raise questions about whether the abortion was in fact necessary to save the life of the mother. (See the comment by John Hass here.) But even assuming that the abortion was necessary to save the life of the mother, I think Bishop Olmstead was correct to defend the moral principle involved--that one may not directly take the life of an innocent human being.

In the context of assisted suicide, I wrote something a few years ago that addresses this same point. The principle (noted above) holds even if the actor has a good motive. "The basic idea is that one cannot  do evil that good may come from it. So, it has never been regarded as permissible to kill an innocent human person for some good reason (to see their suffering--and that of their loved ones--come to an end; for research purposes; or to prevent their sizeable estate from being squandered on futile medical expenses). The acceptance of exceptions--even supposedly narrow ones--is devastating. As John Finnis has stated: 'If appropriate circumstances and good intention can sometimes justify choosing to kill an innocent, the lives of each of us depend on everyone judging, at every moment, that in the circumstances no greater good would be achieved, or greater evil avoided. by killing us....Once itis is allowed that a 'proportionate reason' can justify choosing to kill an innocent person, the genie is out of the bottle and exceptions cannot be contained.'" See.

Richard M.


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