“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Next blog posting will be Tuesday October 2nd 2007. Thanks and check back.

Mark Pickup

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

To read Mark Pickup's latest blog "Shine on the Catholic Church -- Joni Mitchell" go to http://markpickup.blogspot.com

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pro-Choice Catholics ?

A few years ago I heard about "Catholics for Choice" regarding abortion. There’s even an organization called Catholics For a Free Choice (CFFC). I found their website at http://www.catholic4choice-canada.ca/.[1] The website stated:

“We are pro-choice Catholics who can speak up for reproductive rights and for the primacy of conscience. The position of the institutionalized Catholic Church on abortion and birth control does not reflect the moral beliefs of most of its members. Notwithstanding this, the Catholic Church seeks to impose its views on public institutions and in the law and public policy of this country and Internationally. It is essential that a pro-choice Catholic group exists, in order to demonstrate that the Catholic Church hierarchy does not reflect the majority view of “Catholics in the pew.””
Counterfeit Catholicism

My first thought after reading such audacious statements was that the tone was wrong. There’s something false and counterfeit to a historic Christian mindset! The diatribe carries an attitude of divisiveness and rebellion contrary to the fruits of true Christian love and charity. The Catholic prohibition of abortion has remained unchanged throughout two thousand years. Abortion was condemned beginning in the first century (see Catechism of the Catholic Church. No. 2271). According to Canon Law (1398), abortion is such a serious sin against human life, dignity and freedom that the person who procures it is automatically excommunicated (latae sententiae). It would seem that the modern term “pro-choice Catholic” is an oxymoron.

Catholics For a Free Choice claimed that most Catholics do not agree with Church teaching on abortion and birth control. That’s quite a claim! How did they know that? Were the world’s 1-billion Catholics polled, or even Canada’s 12.4-million Catholics surveyed? No, of course not. It’s wishful thinking. Catholics for a Free Choice wanted to believe their puny organization speaks for Catholics more than the Vatican and its bishops (what CFFC refered to as “institutionalized Catholic Church” and its “hierarchy”). Call it what you wish, there is only One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church: They are the four marks of the Church. There is no fifth mark called pro-Choice.

Heresy means choice

It should be noted that by definition the word heresy means "choice." Protestant Biblical scholar W.E. Vine’s famous Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (1981) defines Heresy thus:
“denotes (a) choosing, choice (from haireomai, to choose); then, that which is chosen, and hence, an opinion, especially a self-willed opinion, which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of sects;…”
The Eastern Orthodox Church says,

“By definition heresy means "choice," and a heretic is one who chooses what he wants according to his own ideas and opinions, selecting certain parts of the Christian Tradition while rejecting others. By his actions, a heretic not only destroys the fullness of the Christian truth but also divides the life of the Church and causes division in the community." (http://www.oca.org/OrthFaithPrintable.asp?ID=6

The Catholic Encyclopedia online states this about heresy:

The subject-matter of both faith and heresy is, therefore, the deposit of the faith,
that is, the sum total of truths revealed in Scripture and Tradition as proposed to our belief by the church. The believer accepts the whole deposit as proposed by the Church; the heretic accepts only such parts of it as commend themselves to his own approval.”


The “sum total of truths revealed in Scripture and Tradition” includes Church teaching against abortion. Its position comes from revealed truth not public opinion, majority votes or wishful thinking of dissenters like Catholics For a Free Choice..

Repository of Christian truth

What attracted me to Catholicism is its clarity. Catholicism is not a buffet of ideas for people to pick and choose according to personal preferences or individual opinions. It is the repository of Christian truth. Some pluralist may shrug and say, “What is truth?” Don’t go there—Pilate already asked that question (John 18.38) even as he looked at Truth incarnate (John 14.6.).

Authentic Christianity demands our first allegiance. It must colour all we do and say. Genuine vital Christian Faith is not a private matter to be kept behind closed doors hidden from public view. Just prior to His ascension, Jesus said:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.19-20. Also see Acts 1.8.)

What did Jesus command? He said, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” (John 15.12). He repeated it again in verse 17. And how does Jesus love us? Inclusively! His love extends to all humanity throughout the ages, in every state of the human condition, and stage in the life spectrum. To deny this is to deny Christ’s boundless love. To deny this is to reject the “sum total of truths revealed in Scripture and Tradition”. And that would be to deny one’s Catholicism.

Catholicism is not a buffet of doctrines from which real, authentic Catholics can pick and choose whatever they like and discard the rest. There’s no such thing a pro-Choice Catholics.

Mark Pickup
[1] A recent Google search of this website drew a blank.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What gives human life value?

Let me begin this blog by saying that objectively speaking, I am nobody of significance. I have no letters behind my name, no university education. Most of my adult life has been marred and scarred by degenerative disease (multiple sclerosis). It cut short my government career at 38 years of age. For so many years, I’ve watched life pass by my window as disease slowly yet relentlessly transforms me from able-bodied to paraplegic to triplegic and perhaps quadriplegic next. My MS is relentless and aggressive.

I have only one limb remaining unaffected by disease (I’m typing this blog with my left hand). In short, I am what the Nazis called a “useless eater.” I am eminently qualified to speak to issues revolving around the sliding scale of human value in a bioethical era.

Cogito, ergo sum

RenĂ© Descartes (1596-1650) said, “Cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am.)[1] It was the starting point for his philosophical system. Descartes is generally considered the father of modern philosophy.

He begins by doubting everything – save his own existence – and builds toward certainties. That’s how it supposed to work. Unfortunately politically correct moderns often behave as though Descartes’ starting point in philosophy was its conclusion. And that is very dangerous, not only for philosophy but real actions impacting real lives.

Nowhere do we see this more plainly illustrated than in the world of bioethics, futile care and end-of-life situations or cases involving people in persistent vegetative states (PVS). To many bioethicists, comatose equals non-existence. Modern bioethicists take Descartes proposition to a next stage: They make cognition the basis of criteria for the right to live.

Under this perverted bioethical criteria -- that has discarded the sanctity of human life ethos and abandoned Hippocratic medicine -- the secular bioethicist looks at a comatose patient and concludes: “He is comatose, therefore he is not thinking, therefore he falls below our new criteria for the right to exist.” The patient must produce something (thought) in order to retain the right of existence.

He is starved and dehydrated to death.

Religious mumbo jumbo

In a 1983 essay for the prestigious medical journal Pediatrics, Australian bioethicist Peter Singer effectively outlined the deconstruction of the sanctity of human life ethic (which he dismissed as “religious mumbo jumbo”) with two blows. The first blow to the sanctity of human life ethic he identified was the rise of abortion acceptance throughout the Western world. Then he identified the second:

“A second blow to the sanctity-of-life view has been the revelation that it is standard practice in many major hospitals to refrain from providing necessary life-saving treatment to certain patients. . . .”[2]

According to Singer’s reasoning, patients in persistent vegetative state would certainly not be considered worthy of medical treatment – even though increasing numbers of pvs patients are emerging from their comas since Singer's essay.

In a 2006 British study, a 23 year old pvs woman stunned doctors by responding to certain commands asked of her. The results were displayed in brain imaging that showed more was going on in her head than met the eye.[3]

What if my multiple sclerosis begins to attack the little grey cells of my brain that control cognitive thinking? It often does with this disease. As I mentioned earlier, my MS is increasingly aggressive. What if I end up in a “locked in” state or sink into a coma as the MS ravages by brain and brain stem? It happens. Will I lose my right to exist under the Brave New World of modern bioethics?[4]. Will the observed ability to think, or the quality of my thinking, jeopardize the status of my humanity according Cartesianism?

What gives human life value?

Descartes said “I think, therefore I am.”

I say “I am, therefore I matter.”

The two statements mean vastly different things to someone like me who is slowly being destroyed by catastrophic disease. The first sets up criteria to exist, the second assumes the right to exist. The first is based upon subjective truth that worth is earned while the second presumes Objective unalienable truth that human life has a right to exist. The first statement is a proposition for existence while the second is the basis for certainty.

All human life matters and has equal worth to God, not because of what we are capable of doing or achieving but simply because we exist. This is not the wishful thinking of me --a man slowly being destroyed by disease -- it is foundational to the idea of universal and inalienable human dignity and universal human rights.

Mark Pickup

[1]René Descartes, Discourse on Method, (1637).
[2] Peter Singer, “Sanctity of Life or Quality of Life?” Pediatrics, July 1983, pp.128-129.
[3]Steven Ertelt, “Terri Schiavo’s Father Reacts to Woman in Vegetative State responding,”, LifeSite News, September 10, 2006. http://www.lifenews.com/bio1760.html
[4] Brave New World was the title of a 1932 novel by Aldrous Huxley about a fabled world based upon a scientific caste system. Human beings were graded from the highest intellectuals to the lowest manual workers.