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Culture of life

Culture of life

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The phrase "culture of life" is a term used in discussion of moral theology
Moral theology
Moral theology is a systematic theological treatment of Christian ethics. It is usually taught on Divinity faculties as a part of the basic curriculum.- External links :*...

, especially of the Catholic Church. Its proponents describe it as a way of life based upon the theological truth that human life at all stages from conception
Conception
Conception, or a concept, is an abstract idea or a mental symbol.Conception may also refer to:* Conception, or fertilisation, the fusion of gametes to produce a new organism.* Conception , an album by Miles Davis...

 through natural death is sacred. As such, a "culture of life" presumably opposes practices destructive of human life, often including abortion
Abortion
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

, euthanasia
Euthanasia
Euthanasia refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering....

, research on human embryonic stem cells, contraception
Contraception
Contraception is the prevention of the fusion of gametes during or after sexual activity. The term contraception is a contraction of contra, which means against, and the word conception, meaning fertilization...

, capital punishment
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

, unjust war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

, sadistic humiliation
Humiliation
Humiliation is the abasement of pride, which creates mortification or leads to a state of being humbled or reduced to lowliness or submission. It can be brought about through bullying, intimidation, physical or mental mistreatment or trickery, or by embarrassment if a person is revealed to have...

, narcissism
Narcissism
Narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings, depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural problem, or simply a personality trait...

, and excessive selfishness
Selfishness
Selfishness denotes an excessive or exclusive concern with oneself, and as such it exceeds mere self interest or self concern. Insofar as a decision maker knowingly burdens or harms others for personal gain, the decision is selfish. In contrast, self-interest is more general...

. Social conservatives in politics of the United States
Politics of the United States
The United States is a federal constitutional republic, in which the President of the United States , Congress, and judiciary share powers reserved to the national government, and the federal government shares sovereignty with the state governments.The executive branch is headed by the President...

 frequently use the term a "culture of life" in opposition to abortion and stem cell research. Economic liberals sometimes support their efforts.

Origins


Although various authors used the term from time to time, the expression "culture of life" entered popular parlance from Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

, who first used it in a World Youth Day
World Youth Day
World Youth Day is a youth-oriented Catholic Church event. While the event itself celebrates the Catholic faith, the invitation to attend extends to all youth, regardless of religious convictions....

 tour of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1993. Speaking to journalists at Stapleton International Airport
Stapleton International Airport
Stapleton International Airport was Denver, Colorado's primary airport from 1929 to 1995. At different times it served as a hub for TWA, People Express, Frontier Airlines and Western Airlines as well as a hub for Continental Airlines and United Airlines at the time of its closure.In 1995 Stapleton...

 near Denver, Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

, the Pope denounced abortion and euthanasia, stating that "The culture of life means respect for nature and protection of God's work of creation. In a special way, it means respect for human life from the first moment of conception until its natural end." Cardinal
Cardinal (Catholicism)
A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official, usually an ordained bishop, and ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church. They are collectively known as the College of Cardinals, which as a body elects a new pope. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College and...

 Bernard Law reiterated the theme, urging Americans to "spread the culture of life over the culture of death."

Beyond Holy Scripture, one possible source for this philosophy is the Didache
Didache
The Didache or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles is a brief early Christian treatise, dated by most scholars to the late first or early 2nd century...

, a first century Christian document which exposes the doctrine of two ways: the way of life and the way of death. This work is part of the Magisterium
Magisterium
In the Catholic Church the Magisterium is the teaching authority of the Church. This authority is understood to be embodied in the episcopacy, which is the aggregation of the current bishops of the Church in union with the Pope, led by the Bishop of Rome , who has authority over the bishops,...

 of the Catholic Church, and Popes often cite it.

The Pope returned to the theme in April 1995 through the encyclical Evangelium Vitae
Evangelium Vitae
Evangelium Vitae is the name of the encyclical written by Pope John Paul II which expresses the position of the Catholic Church regarding the value and inviolability of human life...

 (Gospel of Life):
In our present social context, marked by a dramatic struggle between the culture of life and the culture of death, there is need to develop a deep critical sense capable of discerning true values and authentic needs.


Some of the issues that are included in the Catholic Church's description of the culture of life include:
  • Opposition to abortion
    Abortion
    Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

  • Opposition to human sterilization
  • Opposition to human cloning
    Cloning
    Cloning in biology is the process of producing similar populations of genetically identical individuals that occurs in nature when organisms such as bacteria, insects or plants reproduce asexually. Cloning in biotechnology refers to processes used to create copies of DNA fragments , cells , or...

  • Opposition to contraception
    Contraception
    Contraception is the prevention of the fusion of gametes during or after sexual activity. The term contraception is a contraction of contra, which means against, and the word conception, meaning fertilization...

  • Opposition to human embryonic stem cell
    Embryonic stem cell
    Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent stem cells derived from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst, an early-stage embryo. Human embryos reach the blastocyst stage 4–5 days post fertilization, at which time they consist of 50–150 cells...

     and fetal research, coupled with support for adult stem cell
    Adult stem cell
    Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells, found throughout the body after embryonic development, that multiply by cell division to replenish dying cells and regenerate damaged tissues...

     research
  • Opposition to euthanasia
    Euthanasia
    Euthanasia refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering....

  • Opposition to murder
    Murder
    Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

     and suicide
    Suicide
    Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

  • Opposition to capital punishment
    Capital punishment
    Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

  • Opposition to unjust war
  • Promotion of agape
    Agape
    Agape is one of the Greek words translated into English as love, one which became particularly appropriated in Christian theology as the love of God or Christ for mankind. In the New Testament, it refers to the fatherly love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God; the term...

     love and charity
    Charity (practice)
    The practice of charity means the voluntary giving of help to those in need who are not related to the giver.- Etymology :The word "charity" entered the English language through the Old French word "charité" which was derived from the Latin "caritas".Originally in Latin the word caritas meant...

  • Promotion of matrimony, maternity
    Maternity
    Maternity or motherhood is the social and legal acknowledgment of the parental relationship between a mother and her child.It is specially related with the protection of the baby and the mother within and after the childbirth.-See also:...

    , fatherhood, life
    Life
    Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased , or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate...

    , chastity
    Chastity
    Chastity refers to the sexual behavior of a man or woman acceptable to the moral standards and guidelines of a culture, civilization, or religion....

    , fidelity
    Fidelity
    "Fidelity" is the quality of being faithful or loyal. Its original meaning regarded duty to a lord or a king, in a broader sense than the related concept of fealty. Both derive from the Latin word fidēlis, meaning "faithful or loyal"....

    , and virtue
    Virtue
    Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

  • Promotion of organ donation
    Organ donation
    Organ donation is the donation of biological tissue or an organ of the human body, from a living or dead person to a living recipient in need of a transplantation. Transplantable organs and tissues are removed in a surgical procedure following a determination, based on the donor's medical and...


United States politics


Following the promulgation of the Pope's encyclical, advocates of a culture of life founded Culture of Life Foundation and Institute in the United States to promote the concepts behind the Evangelium Vitae. Pope John Paul II recognized and blessed
Blessing
A blessing, is the infusion of something with holiness, spiritual redemption, divine will, or one's hope or approval.- Etymology and Germanic paganism :...

 the foundation in 1997.

The "culture of life" entered the mainstream of United States politics on 3 October 2000, during the U.S. presidential election campaign. Texas Governor George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 cited the term during a televised debate against Vice President Al Gore
Al Gore
Albert Arnold "Al" Gore, Jr. served as the 45th Vice President of the United States , under President Bill Clinton. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for President in the 2000 U.S. presidential election....

; Bush expressed concerns that Mifepristone
Mifepristone
Mifepristone is a synthetic steroid compound used as a pharmaceutical. It is a progesterone receptor antagonist used as an abortifacient in the first months of pregnancy, and in smaller doses as an emergency contraceptive. During early trials, it was known as RU-38486 or simply RU-486, its...

, then newly approved as an abortifacient pill, would cause more women to abort their pregnancies, whereas his goal was to make abortions more rare and to "promote a culture of life." Bush said:
Surely this nation can come together to promote the value of life. Surely we can fight off these laws that will encourage doctors or allow doctors to take the lives of our seniors. Sure, we can work together to create a culture of life so some of these youngsters who feel like they can take a neighbor's life with a gun will understand that that's not the way America is meant to be.


As the media then noted, Governor Bush directly borrowed this language from Pope John Paul II. They saw his invocation of the phrase as an attempt to gain support of "moderate" Catholics who dislike abortion, while not coming out so strongly against the practice that it would alienate voters. Some Catholics, however, criticized Bush for apparent inconsistency between his support of a "culture of death" and his strong support for the death penalty, which Catholic social doctrine does not forbid categorically. As Governor of Texas
Governor of Texas
The governor of Texas is the head of the executive branch of Texas's government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The governor has the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Texas Legislature, and to convene the legislature...

, Bush repeatedly authorized executions of convicted murderers. He returned to the same theme on a number of other occasions during his campaign, stating, "I think the next president must talk about a culture of life."

George W. Bush narrowly won that election for President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 and took office on 20 January 2001. During his eight-year Presidency, politicians repeatedly invoked the "culture of life." Notable instances included:
  • The summer of 2001, when a political controversy occurred over the position of the federal government on stem cell research, and President Bush faced accusations of backtracking on his earlier "culture of life" rhetoric;
  • March 2003, when the United States Congress
    United States Congress
    The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

     passed a bill prohibiting partial-birth abortion, which proponents cited as advancing the "culture of life";
  • The Unborn Victims of Violence Act
    Unborn Victims of Violence Act
    The Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004 is a United States law which recognizes a "child in utero" as a legal victim, if he or she is injured or killed during the commission of any of over 60 listed federal crimes of violence...

     in April 2004, which defined a violent attack on a pregnant women as two distinct crimes: one against the woman, and the other against her fetus. Politicians promoted this act as improving the rights of the "unborn", hence advancing the culture of life;
  • The US presidential election, 2004, when the Republican Party
    Republican Party (United States)
    The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

     incorporated the phrase into its official platform, referring to the opposition of the Party against abortion, stem cell research involving the destruction of human embryos, and euthanasia.
  • The Terri Schiavo
    Terri Schiavo
    The Terri Schiavo case was a legal battle in the United States between the legal guardians and the parents of Teresa Marie "Terri" Schiavo that lasted from 1998 to 2005...

     controversy of March 2005, when the phrase was used in support of legislative and legal efforts to prolong the life of a brain-damaged woman in an alleged persistent vegetative state
    Persistent vegetative state
    A persistent vegetative state is a disorder of consciousness in which patients with severe brain damage are in a state of partial arousal rather than true awareness. It is a diagnosis of some uncertainty in that it deals with a syndrome. After four weeks in a vegetative state , the patient is...

    .

Culture of death


As pro-life advocates, proponents of a "culture of life" sometimes compare their opponents to the perpetrators of the Nazi
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

. They claim that their opponents share the same disregard for human life.

Pope John Paul II popularized the opposing term "culture of death" in Evangelium Vitae
Evangelium Vitae
Evangelium Vitae is the name of the encyclical written by Pope John Paul II which expresses the position of the Catholic Church regarding the value and inviolability of human life...

(April 1995):
12. In fact, while the climate of widespread moral uncertainty can in some way be explained by the multiplicity and gravity of today's social problems, and these can sometimes mitigate the subjective responsibility of individuals, 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.' This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. Looking at the situation from this point of view, it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favoured tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of 'conspiracy against life' is unleashed. This conspiracy involves not only individuals in their personal, family or group relationships, but goes far beyond, to the point of damaging and distorting, at the international level, relations between peoples and States.


This encyclical uses the phrase "culture of death" twelve separate times, often in opposition to the "culture of life" that the Catholic Church promotes.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor reiterates Evangelium Vitae, for example, that without morals, "it is the strong who decide the fate of the weak," and "Human beings therefore become instruments of other human beings." That way lies eugenics
Eugenics
Eugenics is the "applied science or the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population", usually referring to human populations. The origins of the concept of eugenics began with certain interpretations of Mendelian inheritance,...

, and we know from German history where that leads. "We are already on that road: for what else is the termination of six million lives in the womb since the Abortion Act was introduced, and embryo selection on the basis of gender and genes?”

Advocates of a "culture of life" argue that a "culture of death" results in political, economic, or eugenic murder. They point to historical events such as the Holocaust or the Great Purges in the Soviet Union as examples of devaluation of human life taken to an extreme conclusion. In the United States, the term is used by those in the pro-life movement to refer to support legalized abortion and/or euthanasia.

The Catholic Church defends the right of life for all persons from conception to natural death. The Church consequently disapproves of certain medical procedures that may harm or kill a fetus, which the Church holds to be a person with an inviolable right to life. Some Catholic hospitals and medical institutions regularly obstruct such medical treatments. The Catholic Church also always opposes contraception and abortion. This can be verified in Humanae Vitae
Humanae Vitae
Humanae Vitae is an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI and issued on 25 July 1968. Subtitled On the Regulation of Birth, it re-affirms the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church regarding married love, responsible parenthood, and the continuing proscription of most forms of birth...

, the encyclical written during the papacy of Pope Paul VI in 1968.

Disputes surrounding the term


Like the term "pro-life
Pro-life
Opposition to the legalization of abortion is centered around the pro-life, or anti-abortion, movement, a social and political movement opposing elective abortion on moral grounds and supporting its legal prohibition or restriction...

," the term "culture of life" is not without its critics, who argue that religious conservatives
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 do not have a monopoly on valuing life, or that they devalue it themselves, or that by emphasizing quantity of life they devalue quality of life
Quality of life
The term quality of life is used to evaluate the general well-being of individuals and societies. The term is used in a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, and politics. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of...

. Two examples commonly raised are that politicians who say they endorse the culture of life are often supportive of capital punishment and war. Even the tenets of opposition to abortion and euthanasia as part of the culture of life are not undisputed. For example, Leonard Peikoff
Leonard Peikoff
Leonard S. Peikoff is a Canadian-American philosopher. He is an author, a leading advocate of Objectivism and the founder of the Ayn Rand Institute. A former professor of philosophy, he was designated by the novelist Ayn Rand as heir to her estate...

 argues that "Sentencing a woman to sacrifice her life to an embryo is not upholding the 'right-to-life'." Another example is Andrew Sullivan
Andrew Sullivan
Andrew Michael Sullivan is an English author, editor, political commentator and blogger. He describes himself as a political conservative. He has focused on American political life....

, a self-professed Catholic
Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 who opposed the religious right
Christian right
Christian right is a term used predominantly in the United States to describe "right-wing" Christian political groups that are characterized by their strong support of socially conservative policies...

 on the issue of euthanasia
Euthanasia
Euthanasia refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering....

 for Terri Schiavo
Terri Schiavo
The Terri Schiavo case was a legal battle in the United States between the legal guardians and the parents of Teresa Marie "Terri" Schiavo that lasted from 1998 to 2005...

.

Culture of liberty


In 2005, NARAL Pro-Choice America
NARAL Pro-Choice America
NARAL Pro-Choice America , formerly the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, then National Abortion Rights Action League, and later National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, is an organization in the United States that engages in political action to oppose...

 responded to the "culture of life" arguments with its own "culture of freedom" campaign that championed abortion rights on the basis of personal liberty. Bioethicist Jacob Appel
Jacob M. Appel
Jacob M. Appel is an American author, bioethicist and social critic. He is best known for his short stories, his work as a playwright, and his writing in the fields of reproductive ethics, organ donation, neuroethics and euthanasia....

 has taken this argument one step further, advancing a comprehensive "culture of liberty" that embraces "the acceptance of abortion-on-demand, physician-assisted suicide, gay marriage and diversity in sexual practices". In rejecting a "culture of life," which he compares to the Inquisition and the Crusades, Appel wrote, "In matters as intimate as reproduction and death, history favors freedom over the power of church and state."

External links

  • All Our Lives Group that describes itself as "pro every life" and "pro nonviolent sexual reproductive choice."
  • White House statement on Terri Schiavo "It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected..."
  • USCCB - The United States Council of Catholic Bishops Pro-Life site including many articles on the Catholic Church's varied aspects on the Culture of Life.
  • The Culture of Life Foundation & Institute
  • Schiavo and Republicanism: A Battle for the Soul of Conservatism by Andrew Sullivan
    Andrew Sullivan
    Andrew Michael Sullivan is an English author, editor, political commentator and blogger. He describes himself as a political conservative. He has focused on American political life....

  • A Culture of Liberty by Jacob M. Appel
    Jacob M. Appel
    Jacob M. Appel is an American author, bioethicist and social critic. He is best known for his short stories, his work as a playwright, and his writing in the fields of reproductive ethics, organ donation, neuroethics and euthanasia....

  • Bush Hails Progress Towards "Culture of Life" "President Bush told thousands of antiabortion marchers yesterday that his administration is making progress toward fostering a "culture of life" by enacting measures that limit abortion and stem cell research while expanding the legal definition of life."
  • 2004 GOP Platform pg.84