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What makes a human being a person?

What makes a human being a person?

In the blog world, there is a report from Campbell County, Va., that investigators did not charge a woman whose newborn baby had suffocated.  Regardless of whether the mother was at fault or not, this is what the blog states: “Investigators said because the mother and baby were still connected by the umbilical cord and placenta, state law does not consider the baby to be a separate life.”

Another blogger commented on this event: “What makes a human person a human person, according to our law, is whether its mother wishes it to be – at least up to such time as it’s alive and kicking apart from and independently of her.”

This kind of ingrained and legal demeaning of any kind of human life is always the basis of the demeaning of all life. In this issue of FAITH you have read the heart-rending story of a victim of holocaust. Whenever Jewish life was or is demeaned, as it was even at times in our own Catholic history, but certainly to a most base level by the Nazis, it demeaned all life. This made it possible and acceptable for so many to participate in the actual annihilation of so many of our Jewish sisters and brothers, in addition to many Poles and many who were mentally or physically handicapped in Nazi Europe.

As you read in Hely’s story, this kind of genocide was not unique to the Nazis, we have seen altogether too many of these kinds of attacks on whole classes of human beings in the past century, from Armenians to Central Africans to those in Cambodia. Prejudices and the devaluing of human beings always lead to this. We humans really like our scapegoats; we like to take out our difficulties on others. The Christian message is quite to the contrary – pour out our lives for others in love.

We have become way too comfortable in our own day with the slaughter of the unborn, just as we were way too comfortable in our historical past with the enslavement of our African sisters and brothers and the wholesale conquest of the Native Americans. When will we learn the simple lesson that an attack on any human life is an attack on all human life and ends up demeaning all of us?

This month, and every January, we remember with great sadness the decision of the United States Supreme Court that the determination of whether a baby in the womb is to be a human being is up to the woman and is a private matter: she has the right to say yes or no to that human life much as the Roman emperors so long ago did by giving a thumbs up or thumbs down in the arena.

While we still must engage in the political arena to attempt to protect all human life, even more we must use our love and persuasion and promises of assistance to convince our fellow citizens that human life is defined by itself, that it is a given, not something to be classified by us. Each of us is a gift from God.