Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 64(3) August 2014


Torture and the right to life.
Reframing children as agents of torture.

pictire of babyA new attack has opened up on the Church from those who dislike her defence of the dying and the unborn (as well as her position on contraception). The Church is now being held to account by the United Nations Committee Against Torture for torturing women [1]. That Committee claims that the Church tortures women this by denying their “reproductive rights” which they define as access to abortion and contraception.

These are grievous accusations which we can expect to be made more loudly in the coming years. The Church, while showing the deepest love and care for the most vulnerable people on earth, is portrayed as cruel. And legally, the Human Right to Life is effectively subordinated to the supposed ‘right to chose.’ The effect of all that is that one person may be killed to make another person’s life easier. And the Church will never accept such a claim. We are bound to see that whatever the term used (abortion, euthanasia or physician assisted suicide) the effect of all of these is that someone is killed. And we will be shocked especially by the accusation that not allowing the killing an entirely innocent person is a form of torture.

 Perhaps even more bizarrely, Stephen Mosher of the Population Research Institute reminds us that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child stated in January that the “current position of the Church violates the human rights of children.”

Of course you cannot allow (or require) the killing of one innocent person to prevent the suffering of another. To call that torture is a lie and a grave deception. Remember that Hitler ordered the widespread "mercy killing" of the sick and disabled; an act which Cardinal Galen rightly described as plain murder [2]. The Nazis claimed that given the suffering of the disabled, it was kinder to kill them. But that suffering had been created by the Nazis themselves through a system of neglect. The disabled and elderly  needed support and respect, not killing. The solution to their difficulties was not to be killed.  

Likewise, the solution to the distress of an unwanted pregnancy is not to kill the unborn child. Having legalised the killing of the unborn, it is utterly wrong and deceptive to claim that protection of an unborn child’s life is a form of torture. No person may be killed because of a false claim that their life is a torture for another. We must support both parties but never see killing one person as the solution for the troubles of another.

And in care of the elderly and the dying, when we resist physician assisted suicide we will be told we are cruel. And yet if we allow it, vulnerable people will be offered the option of death as an alternative to being a burden on others. The increasing societal portrayal of illness as a loss of dignity will cause yet more people seek death out of fear and shame. Baroness Warnock has already stated that the elderly have a duty to die, because they are a burden on others. In other words, elderly people who need care, may be guilty of torturing other members of society.

The Church has always celebrated her most vulnerable and precious members. St Lawrence died and gave his life, toasted on a spit for that [3]. As we defend ourselves and the Church against the next attacks upon Holy mother the Church, we must remember the unique dignity and worth of all people. One life must never be taken for the convenience of another. And we must always cherish, dignify, palliate and protect those who are frail and dying.

The ability to describe opposition to killing a child as torture has required not only the suppression of justice, reason and conscience, but also the anaesthetization of the imagination. Legally, we cannot allow the right to life to be subordinated to false accusations of torture. Beautiful babies must not be misrepresented as agents of torture.