Thursday, September 17, 2009

Death Movement A "Cult", Not A Culture

I believe the death movement in the world to­day does not deserve the title “culture,” but rather merits only the designation of a cult. Why? More on that in a moment.

For some years now, Catholics have become ha­bituated to referring to the abortion- infanticide- eu­thanasia- contraceptive agents and movements in our culture under the label “ culture of death.” This phrase found its way into the parlance of the Church in great part because of the very effective leadership of Pope John Paul II who galvanized and strengthened the forces for family and mar­riage within the Church and among those in the wider culture who share the scriptural teachings and Christian Revelation about the dignity and rights of the human person.

Pope Benedict, also, has been known to share a preference for this phrase as a way to categorize all the elements in our culture aligned against the dignity and sanctity of the human person from the moment of conception until natural death, in all its stages and conditions.

I could not and would not question the wisdom of those far wiser and more experienced. I do, how­ever, think that the agents and elements in soci­ety, the academy, and the government aligned against life would be better labeled a “cult” and not a “culture.” I argue so because the word “cul­ture” itself is a pro-life term.

The word “ culture” originates from the Latin cultura stemming from colere, meaning “ to cultivate.” One cannot cultivate dead beings — only living things can be nourished, fed, and guided toward their natural end. The word “ cult” better denotes what we mean when we refer to the death movement. Cult is defined as “ a religion or reli­gious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an uncon­ventional manner.” This is true of the death move­ment because of its adherence to the taking of in­nocent, unborn human life and its aggressive pur­suit of abortion on demand, no matter the dangers to and damaging effects on the mother of the abort­ed child, including the risk of breast cancer. Cult, the worship of a false god and the offering of sac­rifices to appease the false deity, applies very well to the motivation and mission of the agents of death.

The idea that the anti- life proponents better de­serve designation as a “cult” rather than as a “cul­ture” is reflected in a 2004 article at MelaniePhillips. com. Writing in the
Daily Mail, Phillips employed the phrase “ cult of death” to de­scribe the extremist doctrine of Baroness Warnock, in which this public philosopher “ went far beyond even euthanasia, commonly thought of as a ‘right’ to expect doctors to end a life. It was instead, she said, the duty of people to kill themselves — not only if they were terminally ill, but merely frail — in order not to be a burden to others.” This lends credence to a belief in the growing ba­nality of evil and the power of the cult of death that such unhinged advocacy for killing no long­er shocks people, even though it is a page lifted right out of Hitler’s doctrine.

Margaret Sanger, also, reflected this “worship” of death, so characteristic of cult behavior, in her advocacy of killing those human persons whom she designated the “ unwanted undergrowth.” Few would need a philology lesson in order to under­stand that this vague phraseology could quick­ly be twisted to justify ending any life for any reason whatsoever, simply through the hegemo­ny of the strong over the weak. It is, however, the orientation toward death as a good in itself for those individuals judged useless or undes­ired that best shows the cultic nature of the death movement.

The culture of life draws upon all the forces for good to provide a societal and family life that re­spects the dignity of every human person and seeks in justice to defend every life. These elements are necessary for any environment or society that nour­ishes life, at the heart of which must be enshrined true “ cult”: the worship of the one, true God. This the Church offers as a service to every human per­son, to the family, and to the world. It is only nec­essary that the Church begin by engaging those who would reason together and recognize the right to life as fundamental, the precondition for every other right and responsibility.

Mary Ann Glendon, the former U. S. ambassador to the Vatican, gave a very public witness to the culture of life, as founded upon basic principles of justice, when she explained her reason for declining the Laetare Medal at Notre Dame, when the university hosted President Barack Obama. She witnessed, as we all must do, that the right to life is not “ marginal” as the world defines matters of religious faith. Rather, human life is the founda­tion of, and starting point for, every other condi­tion for the flourishing of human persons and be­longs at the heart of the culture of the world, which must be a culture of life and for life at the service of the good of every human person without dis­tinction.

-- ((((..))))

This article appeared in the 17 September 2009 issue of The Wanderer newspaper. Visit the website of The Wanderer for information about subscribing to the on-line or print editions here.

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1 comment:

Ibid said...

Fr. Cusick,

You are right to note the life-giving aspect of the Latin word cultura, the origin for culture, in the discussion of the Culture of Life. However, I think the reason "Culture" is used by John Paul II and his intellectual followers is not because of its life-giving attribute, but its lifestyle attribute.

In today's language, "culture" means "a way of life." A "Culture of Life" counters the "Culture of Death," in that the former emphasizes the beauty of life, while the latter emphasizes a path against life, ultimately leading to destruction. In using the phrase "culture of death," John Paul II is saying that the people who follow this have made death their way of life (or death), that death is their end. He states in Evangelium Vitae the following:

"It is no less true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable 'culture of death.'"

The culture/way of life of the modern world is united with this culture of death, the late Holy Father argues, and it is a fair use of the term.

As you noted, however, the phrase "Cult of Death" works as well, since those who unfortunately fall into this "culture" have convictions and devotions towards death that usually overpowers any remnant of religion remaining in their life. This is clearly seen with pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

God Bless,

Matthew Rose

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