This case is really getting to my heart – I haven’t become this spirited about an issue for quite some time. Michael Schiavo, Mrs. Schiavo’s husband, is allowing her to slowly die since he removed her feeding tube. So far, it’s been three days since she went off the tube. Her parents are desperately trying to save her life. President Bush and both houses of Congress have become involved.

Two issues are of relevance in this case:
1) The precedent of federal intervention in a case like this. Yes, I think it’s generally bad when the federal government intervenes in a case that ought to be decided by the state. But that’s a secodary issue. The primary issue is why courts are deciding values questions such as this. The courts are not elected by the American people (in many cases). Our country, whether liberal elitists like it or not, is a rule of the majority. This case, involving such deep and crucial moral questions as the right to live, should not be a matter that the courts alone decide on. We are a nation ruled by the people and the people must decide on how the Schiavo case turns out. Let our elected officials decide the matter. If Mrs. Schiavo is allowed to die, it sets a dark precedent for our future.

2) The culture of life vs. the culture of death. It’s amazing to me the amount of people who (thoughtlessly and unreflectively) would want to die if put in Mrs. Schiavo’s position. We understand so little what life really is. Cases like this reveal our beliefs, and many (especially the “academics” who make up our courts) seem to think the human person is just a body. When it ceases to function well, why don’t we just kill it? (Notice the impersonal “it.”) Rather, the human person is body and soul. Mrs. Schiavo is alive. Her soul still functions and she may communicate. That is holy and beautiful. We can’t let her adulterous husband put her to death.

Let us pray that Mrs. Schiavo is resurrected as we celebrate the Resurrection that gives us hope…

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Posted by Andrew Selby

14 Comments

  1. Andrew wrote: Our country, whether liberal elitists like it or not, is a rule of the majority. This case, involving such deep and crucial moral questions as the right to live, should not be a matter that the courts alone decide on. We are a nation ruled by the people and the people must decide on how the Schiavo case turns out.

    I find this defense of majoritarian morality surprising, given the Christian perspective advocated on this blog.

    Put it this way: if a plebiscite were held today and 51% of Americans voted to remove Schiavo’s tube, would your ethical position change?

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  2. Jim wrote: I find this defense of majoritarian morality surprising, given the Christian perspective advocated on this blog.

    Put it this way: if a plebiscite were held today and 51% of Americans voted to remove Schiavo’s tube, would your ethical position change?

    To believe that the majority of common men should have the ability to create and apply laws to deal with moral questions is not to say that the majority creates morality. It merely recognizes that the decisions and beliefs of the common man are generally and probably a truer compass in moral issues than those of an academic elite. It hopes that the broad masses of humanity will not so quickly or easily stray from the path of moral truth as small pockets of various special interest groups.

    If 51% of Americans voted to remove Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube, it wouldn’t make it right–but it would make it consensual, rather than allowing a few judges from applying laws in a manner that may be inconsistent with the intentions of the people who first created the laws. If 51% voted to starve her, the many would stand guilty for this immoral action rather than the few. Of course, the hope is that 51% of all Americans have not so strayed from common sense and moral truth that they would collectively condemn a disabled woman to die because of her disabilities.

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  4. No, you missed my point. I am arguing that legal decisions such as the Schiavo case that carry so much moral weight, ought not be decided by courts – legally speaking. The legislators that we have elected to represent us should definitely have the final say in the matter, not the quasi-religious Supreme Court (or other federal or state courts). Right now the courts seem to be dictating from on high the moral standard – legally speaking – of our culture. A majority vote on an issue is foolish. That is why we have a republic form of government in which we are represented.

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  6. Tex:

    First unsupported assertion: “…the decisions and beliefs of the common man are generally and probably a truer compass in moral issues than those of an academic elite.”

    I could easily assert the opposite; “the decisions and beliefs of considerate, unelected, unbullied, a-political justices are generally and probably a truer compass in moral issues than those of a pliable group of politicians.” This, if equally unsupported, is equally plausible. The masses are as manipulable as the few. The death threats Michael Schiavo has received ought to give us pause.

    Second unsupported assertion: Judges have been “…applying laws in a manner that may be inconsistent with the intentions of the people who first created the laws.”

    I have seen no evidence for this anywhere; unless there is a vast conspiracy in the entire legal system to murder Terry Schiavo, the consistency here has to be significant. Are court after court, justice after justice (including the Supreme Court) wrong about the law?

    At what point do we simply throw out “separation of powers?”

    At any rate, I’m glad to see that Platonists do not entirely rule Mere O.

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  7. Andrew writes: “Our country, whether liberal elitists like it or not, is a rule of the majority. This case, involving such deep and crucial moral questions as the right to live, should not be a matter that the courts alone decide on. We are a nation ruled by the people and the people must decide on how the Schiavo case turns out. Let our elected officials decide the matter.”

    And then writes:

    “A majority vote on an issue is foolish. That is why we have a republic form of government in which we are represented.”

    If we are truly “represented,” then why would the results of a plebiscite be any different from a vote in Congress? Or are Congressional representatives just another form of an “elite” who make decisions that may contradict the will of the people?

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  8. “At any rate, I’m glad to see that Platonists do not entirely rule Mere O.”

    Eh?

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  9. This is two eh’s in four days. :) Plato was anything but a majority-rule will-of-the-people small-d democrat.

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  10. “If we are truly “represented,” then why would the results of a plebiscite be any different from a vote in Congress? Or are Congressional representatives just another form of an “elite” who make decisions that may contradict the will of the people?”

    See, Jim, this is why Plato is so good! What we really need is the just man to rule us. That would just solve a whole host of problems. Yay for benevolent monarchies!

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  11. The purpose of my comment was to offer an explanation as to how someone could argue that we should leave pressing decisions about morality to a large body of individuals rather than to an elite group without falling into the error of believing that majority rule creates moralilty.

    My main point being that to think that a large body of Americans might be better fit to pass moral judgements rather than a small body is not to think that large bodies, or small bodies for that matter, CREATE morality. There is a difference between discussing the best means to ensuring that a nation behave morally and discussing the nature or creation of a Moral Law that a nation might be obliged to follow.

    That said, I’ll respond to a few of your points.
    1. I suppose that my belief that “…the decisions and beliefs of the common man are generally and probably a truer compass in moral issues than those of an academic elite,” rests largely on the same reasons that I find a democracy more palatable than an oligarchy or monarchy (unless the oligarchy/monarchy were/was composed of competely just men—which I don’t think will happen this side of the New Jerusalem). I tend to trust the common sense of a broad spectrum my fellow citizens more than the opinions of a few citizens who have been groomed and trained in an educational system that typically propounds ideologies and philosophies that are mostly accepted only by other citizens who are products of the same system. Why? A large spectrum of humanity is going to allow for balances to any possible aberrant views that various small pockets of citizens may hold to. Of course, as your link shows, every age has its blindspots and even a robust democracy may still legislate errors—this only goes to show that there may be no one fool-proof system to getting it right every time.

    2. I never asserted that “[judges have been]…applying laws in a manner that may be inconsistent with the intentions of the people who first created the laws.” I did assert that leaving this decision to elected representatives rather than to some of Florida’s judges would alleviate a possible problem, viz., judges misapplying laws. Now for what it’s worth, my opinion is not that there is some mass conspiracy to kill Mrs. Schiavo—rather I think that Mr. Schiavo is manipulating and hiding behind various laws to allow him to kill his wife. I am not qualified to comment on whether or not the Florida judges are justly upholding the laws that Mr. Schiavo and his lawyers are skillfully manipulating to legalize the murder of his wife—I hope that they are being just in upholding the laws and not seeking to legislate from the bench; although I don’t think it too far-fetched to consider the possibility that a group of more liberal judges may be consistently misinterpretting the law. However, if our laws are such that they enable the execution of unjust ends, it may be necessary to revise the laws or issue a private law that would prohibit citizens from using the laws to carry out injustice.

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  12. Matt,

    A benevolent monarch is an autocrat with training wheels.

    Tex,

    Previously you wrote, “If 51% of Americans voted to remove Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube, it wouldn’t make it right–but it would make it consensual, rather than allowing a few judges from applying laws in a manner that may be inconsistent with the intentions of the people who first created the laws.”

    I read that as an assertion that such was currently the case. Thanks for clarifying.

    I am in complete agreement that the agent of moral action does not create morality. But that’s tangential; we are talking about a life-or-death moral action, an application of disputed moral principles. Who decides? You set up a dichotomy between the people and “elites,” but have no evidence to support the claim that the justices in question are a like-minded monolith. The 11th Circuit is generally considered to be conservative as federal courts go.

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  13. “A benevolent monarch is an autocrat with training wheels.”

    Hah!

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