Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Fr. Larry Richards Confession (Live)

The reality of the Crucifixion [not for the squeamish] [a repost]

{Fr Ray Blake has opined that the evangelists were sensitive enough to be reticent in describing the brutality Our Lord went through on Good Friday}

I'm not sure if I should really say anything but I had to research crucifixion and roman scourging for my work on the Marcan Passion Narrative and it refutes many contemporary dismissive conjectures and fantasies regarding what truly happened during those three days of the Easter Triduum.

Please remember that the moment Our Lord was condemned to death by crucifixion he became a non-person
[it's also one of the theories about why Barabbas is called Barabbas - there's possible illegitimacy [i.e. his [unknown] father's son] ; but it could be his father was executed and therefore unnamable by judaic as well as roman law so Barabbas was called 'his father's son' ]
Non-persons were subject to the full villainy of the Roman soldiers' hyper-violent malice, contempt and hostility - with no reprisals - they could do anything - and I mean anything - to the criminal.

On scrutiny of  Matthew's Passion many commentators believe it has undergone some revision and editing - there are absences within the regular pericopal structure - merely enough to emphasise the extreme poignancy and bitterest of ironies of the kingship, the messianic identity, the Godhood,  are all sysstematically mocked.
I cannot remember where it is [probably Justin Martyr ?] where there is a reference to possibly the Q or M sources where there is a brief more brutal depiction which seems to be a proto-gospel quotation.

Remember too that our imagery and artistic portrayals surrounding the crucifixion is simply wrong

[ironically everything we know about contemporary crucifixions is verified by the shroud of Turin - e.g. the arms over the crossbeam , the hemlock wedged in to hold the nails in place; the extension of the feet nail holes indicating the pivot to prevent long-term diaphragm respiration without tearing of the feet etc.]

The top of the cross was barely seven feet above the ground - the reason we imagine Crosses  to be high was the Gospel reference to reaching with a sponge on the hyssop stick - the stick was to prevent fingers being bitten off by the dying victim - not for reasons of height.
Remember too that Golgotha was a rubbish dump -an open sewer - vermin cared little if their food source was dead yet - the body was not placed as the JPII cross imagines but the knees were raised to the side and the body contorted -and the pains involved are unimaginable - the direct shredding of nerves, the excruciating rapid muscle death, the poisoning of limbs with tetany, oedema fluid flooding the pericardium and drowning the heart from without...

...yet death does not come !!!
The body dies around the person before they ultimately expire....there is a no more sadistic form of death - it's there as a form of proselytism to enemies - " so die the enemies of Rome".

Hanging from a tree was the punishment in Judaism for a false prophet - again a non-person - there could be no reprisals for any degree of humiliation or malevolence one inflicted upon the dying....

We are not informed of this because we could not cope with it; even in the Mel Gibson bloodthirsty Hollywood debacle it was nothing compared to what truly happened....

When we read speculative academics like Barbara Thiering or the da Vinci code conspiracy theorists speaking of Christ surviving the crucifixion we must understand this is an impossibility. Crucifixion was not like the filipino emulations - the victim - even if taken down within a few hours would not even be able to crawl upon their bellies - the muscles and fascia would have been damaged and poisoned irreparably; neuropathy would be the predominant sensation -no feelng except for agonising electrical short-circuiting in the limbs - heart damage would prevent even the slightest physical exertion - brain damage would cause intermittent convulsions and fits.

So in your wildest imaginings never, ever, ever imagine that the Resurrection was not exactly as it was - it simply could not have been Christ having a cataleptic fit on the cross and being presumed dead in the haste for Passover preparations; being placed in the tomb only to recover later.
Make no mistake: Our Lord and Saviour died on that cross -it could not have been any other way...

Hence comes the awkward, unsettling fact of the Resurrection.
Jesus was dead - and if He was seen thereafter either every witness lied - or Jesus truly rose from the dead.

The testimony of  Mary Magdalene , of the Apostles and Evangelists, of those travelling to Emmaus, of the five hundred...of all those martyred for one single reason - their refusal to deny they witnessed and communed with Jesus after his execution and death at Roman hands...must all be lies - or must be true - there is no speculative middle ground open to us!

All too often we tend to shy away from history out of fear that the gospel stories aren't true - in abject fear we are reticent just in case Church dogmas aren't real, and there's the possibility that the whole of our faith is a lie [we're told such every five minutes by new 'evidences' for the historical Jesus by some academic - every Easter there is some new 'groundbreaking' TV documentary ]

But Ladies and Gentlemen: It really happened !!!
He did die - He is risen - do not run away from it because the weak and fearful world cannot face the fact of it....

P.S. A tiny warning that any historian will tell you. Truth is invariably stranger than fiction. The 'hardly likely' is more often the case than the 'axiomatically obvious'.
As with all history - we should always be careful what we assess as credible and what is more 'evangelistic licence' - yet ironically it's the facts which are 'hard to find feasible/tenable' that are the most corroborated by external sources!

Take for instance the Passion account that at the death of Christ there was  'darkness over the land'
[incidentally even an amateur astronomer would inform you an eclipse was an astronomical impossibility]
...and the earthquake?
Surely these are simply poetic licence - mythical melodramatic symbolism for emphasis?
The historians Thallus[AD52], Phlegon[AD137] and Africanus[AD221] confirm the darkness and earthquake happened !

[Certainly they may all be wrong ; but can we be so dismissive when we realise so much of Our History from fewer and more remote sources ; we take for granted that Suetonius was telling the truth that Caesar crossed the Rubicon 110 years after the event, and we firmly rely on Arrian and Plutarch on Alexander the Great 400 years after he died - so why are we so dismissive of the events surrounding our redemption?]

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Ladies & Gentlemen: Infanticide is already here...[The Struggle for Personhood]

The BMJ's latest article on After-Birth Abortion has led to a storm of outrage among Catholic Bloggers, Journalists & Commentators. Most see this as a natural consequence of lax abortion laws without really understanding that the issue of Personhood has been around for decades and only been biding its time before it became the next guest to arrive at Western Culture's 'Dance of Death' - waiting in the wings.
We have travelled so far down the slippery slope that overt infanticide had to inevitably make its entrance; especially considering it is being performed, even as we speak; covertly in hospitals across the land.
Yet there is also a secondary, more subtle ideological position slipped into the BMJ article that many commentators have either missed or seen as somewhat irrelevant to the issue; but believe me it is this secondary aspect which is the more deadly...and is being placed among us as a ticking timebomb.

Personhood [as opposed to mere human 'being'] is seen as the determinant of designating moral worth upon the individual - to modern sentiments the 'non-person' embryo or foetus may be experimented upon or aborted, the mentally handicapped 'non-person' may be eugenicised by clinical treatment withdrawal; the injured, elderly or terminally ill 'non-person' may be euthanised...but who determines what constitutes a person? Most arguments naturally revolve around stages of embryonic and foetal development:

Arguments for when Personhood begins

a] Pre-existence - various philosophies [e.g. Plato] & religions [e.g. Judaism]

b] Fertilization, the fusing of the gametes to form a zygote

c] Meiosis - where genetic codes [alleles] from independent gametes within the zygote form a new genetic code [from 2 cell stage]

d] Genetic integration, removal of any extraneous genetic material - e.g. after 2 sperm penetrations [24-48hrs]

e] Genetic integrity - i.e. not being a hydatiform, choricarcinoma or a blasted ovum

f] Implantation, the start of pregnancy, occurring about a week after fertilization

g] Segmentation & Individuation , after twinning is no longer possible. 14days

h] Development of the 'primitive streak' 14days

i] When the neural cortex connects to the spinal cord  17 days

j] When the heart starts beating 23-25days

k] Closure of the neural tube [thus allowing forebrain development & preventing anecephaly] 23-26 days

l] The time of foetal movement, or "quickening"

m] When the foetus is first capable of feeling pain

n] When it can be established that the foetus is capable of cognition, or neonatal perception

o] Neuromaturation, when the central nervous system of foetus is neurobiologically "mature"

p] Foetal viability

q] Birth

r] The Personist position of when a child is "capable of desiring to continue as a subject of experience and other mental states" i.e. possessing rationality, autonomy & self-awareness...[arguments vary from 5 weeks after birth to 2.5 years!!!]

s] The Age of Discretion  argues for personhood beginning in a child at around the age of  7 [when it achieves conscientious recognition of right/wrong, personal responsibility and culpability]

t] The Age of Abstraction  - Personhood only begins when the individual is able to transcend their own socio-cultural positivist behavioural boundaries [Contrary to most parents perceiving this present in children around the age of two] - Piaget and his educationalist acolytes attest that this does not become manifest until the age of 13!!!

Now US Pro-Life activists recognise the situation in US Law that a child from conception is a human being [and thus any offences against it afford criminal prosecution] but it is NOT a human person [hence Roe v. Wade was permitted] Therefore they seek to change the law regarding personhood as beginning at conception - failing to realise that the term 'personhood' has been running round the ethical academic scene for nearly fifty years - and to 'philosophers' like Peter Singer and Michael Tooley personhood is a very different scenario - to them a person is a conscious thinking being aware that it is a person and able to respond accordingly . Prof T.I. White has the criteria for personhood as

(1) is alive,
(2) is aware,
(3) feels positive and negative sensations,
(4) has emotions,
(5) has a sense of self,
(6) controls its own behaviour,
(7) recognises other persons and treats them appropriately, and
(8) has a variety of sophisticated cognitive abilities

Singer, Tooley and MANY [make no mistake - it is many] modern ethicists are concluding that this does not occur until a child is nearly three years old.
And  for some children born mentally handicapped with learning difficulties - they will NEVER achieve personhood and may thus be disposed of accordingly.
[if they are unwanted or cause mental distress to presumptive carers - being non-persons they may be left to die by not being allowed 'clinical treatment ' - like nutrition and hydration - they are starved/desiccated to death]

This already occurs in Western hospitals to Downs' syndrome children with twisted bowels - or severely brain damaged children - or children born with lethal ailments like a hole in the heart
[yes surgical intervention may save their lives - but the present diagnostic discernment procedures - after the Bland determination - state that any child who can not survive on their own at birth without surgical intervention - may be euthanised!]

So please - Get this into your heads - INFANTICIDE IS HAPPENING NOW!!!

Now at present it is only the mentally impaired and the seriously ill being murdered...

ASIDE :  I'd strongly advise everyone to refer to James Rachels's arguments regarding what is actually occurring and the potential dangers within modern society and 'medical ethics forums'  merely accepting passive over active euthanasia - and that these conclude that active euthanasia - and the proposed infanticide which is at present causing all the furore - will axiomatically happen!!!
1. As active euthanasia immediately stops pain and suffering ; and passive allows a further short-term period of pain and suffering - if the justification for passive euthanasia is to prevent pain and suffering ; surely active is better ?
2. We are legally allowed to withdraw treatment from any newborn Downs syndrome babies with duodenal atresia [twisted bowel] ; whereas a non-Downs baby must undergo minor surgery to save their lives. As we are allowing the Downs baby to die for no other reason than because they have Downs , this leads to two consequences:
either a] we can kill/allow to die all Downs children ; or b] All Downs babies should and must be treated.
3. Two brothers wish their nephew to die : If one brother drowned him in the bath , or in another scenario the other brother saw the child slip in the bath, bang their head and drown without rescuing him . What is the ultimate ethical difference if both consequences result in the death of the child ? [This is known as the 'in absentia corollary'. In the first case the child would not be dead ; in the second he would have died anyway; only if there was a duty of care could there be deemed any legal cupability; moral culpability is of course very different]

4. Allowing to die vs. Direct intervention to end life. When a doctor withdraws treatment are we fooling ourselves that the doctor is not making a direct action to end life ? If there is a duty of care, and a doctor abrogates that responsibility; is this not a direct act of omission ? The doctor IS actually doing something in refusing to provide further treatment. [rather than one of commission which active euthanasia requires].

But now the BMJ has published a proposition by Giubilini & Minerva that:

"Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus' health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled."

Now this is arguing 2 principles [many commentators have missed the second]
a] the notion of personhood
b] the 'rights of the foetus'

This second principle [where adoption is not in the best interests of 'actual people' - echoes of Polly Toynbee who sees adoption as the gravest of all moral evils] something which looms on the horizon...

"The Right to Foetal Dignity"
Now this principle has been pervading the halls of ethical academe for over a generation but it's slowly inveigling its way into the public forum - and is going to be a significant weapon used by the pro-abortion activists to argue for the elimination of those children who would be born deprived of these rights.... be born free be born healthy be born into a safe and secure environment be born wanted be born with all the mental and physical capabilities to engage in personal development/flourishment comparative with one's peers

Do you see the irony? This so called agenda for rights of the unborn is actually a eugenicist's manifesto!

Pro-Choice activists are slowly realising that biological equivocation and mendacity regarding foetal devlopment is rapidly being disproven via 4d imaging etc.
That in this realm of 'battle for rights' the so-far predominant overriding rights of the woman to self-determination regarding her own body MIGHT lead to potential legal appeals to rights of post viability and ultimately post self-reflective sentience within the foetus countermanding a 'woman's rights'....

[NB. Recent comments by 'Voice for Choice' on the 'gendercide' issue seems to indicate that there remain a few pro-abortion activists who fail to see this emerging paradigm - their position of 'foetal sex-selection is not gender discrimination' has left many - even among their own ranks - incredulous in its inanity and insensitivity to the prevailing situation and diconcerted public opinion]

So the next strategy will be the above 'right to dignity for the unborn'.
One already witnesses it more in the increasing removal of new-born children from drug addicted, homeless, mentally unstable or 'unfit' mothers.
One can see it that one of the first policies of the west when it comes to areas of armed conflict in the developing world is to immediately send in the mobile abortuaries... 

The 'moral arguments' will move from aborting for our own benefit towards the mephistopheleanly mendacious aborting for their own benefit!! The prevailing mantra will become

"Nobody would be want to be born unwanted by their parents, or into financial hardship, or the insecurity of war, ill-health or mental incapacity...." 

Which will rapidly become  a mandate for only certain individuals being deemed fit by the state to have children...with abortion becoming mandatory for those not fitting that criteria. [We have already witnessed enforced abortions occurring within the remit of the Mental Capacity Act [2005] ]

It's not enough to state Life begins at Conception: 
We must be scrupulously accurate in our Philosophical Construct of this statement.

Primarily caution is necessary when one says  life begins at conception; one requires philosophical and ontological grounding as a first principle - the unique essence in potential which if no direct external force is applied it is internally directed...
[even if incapable of actuating it]
...towards becoming a human being.

This is the only tenable point in time when one cannot equivocate away this internal directing force.

[This may seem almost childishly obvious; but if one veers from this path even for an instant - for the best of all intentions - it can become disastrous; as happened with Blessed John Paul II's teaching on 'ensoulment' in his Theology of the Body]

a] Ever wondered why there is a 14 day limit on embryo experimentation ?

You'd be stunned at the answer - and utterly astounded that Baroness Warnock was considered a great intellect at the time.
14 days is deemed the time when it can be determined visually if there is either one or more embryos [twinning or recombination].
Therefore as it cannot be shown that there is either one or more it is impossible to say that 'ensoulment' [or unique psycho-personal individuation] occurs before this time.
i.e. Because you cannot tell under a microscope whether it's a single embryo or twins + ; it's morally acceptable to experiment on them before this time - because if there is such a thing as ensoulment it must occur after this !!!
Insane ?
Most assuredly - but that's the grounds for the law of this land !

[and if you think this is a position only held by insensitive, irreligious secularists - check out Professor Anthony Kenny on the notion of Individuation!!!]

But supposing some pro-choice person was to corner you with this hypothetical:

Identical Twins - a fertilised embryo splits in two:
Now was there one individual who became two replicas?
Or one individual who suddenly had an adjacent replica?
Or one individual who perished and became two new entities?
Or one individual divided between the two entities?
How do you apply individuality and ensoulment in this regard ?
[head spinning yet ?]
This is what happens when you try and rely on tenuous scientific support without reasoning the principles through first.

b]  Understanding the Embryology.

There are problems with 'conception' per se in that it isn't as cut and dried as everyone presumes.
Beware of stating the 'presumed case' because others may fallaciously attempt to destroy your case by applying exigent facts which don't disprove the philosophical case but they do hack away at the groundwork when one unnecessarily over-relies on the science.

For a start regularly more than one sperm penetrates the ovum - and in order to ensure genome integrity all other genetic material must be expelled from the ovum - evolution has made provisions for this and ensured that the actual genetic integration between the sperm and ova to form a zygote occurs between 24 and 48 hours after sperm penetration.

c] The 'Germaine Greer fallacy' 

We do not know why around 30% of all fertilised concepti do not implant and are ejected [ you'll hear a lot of pro-choicers double this figure ; but there are many decent research papers out there which confirm the c.1/3 figure] - assuredly some are genetically defective [blighted ova] and would never develop so are expelled as an expediency for further potential to conceive - but regarding a significant percentage of those 'spontaneously' expelled they do not appear to be defective - we have no idea why this 'natural abortion' occurs.
Consequently you have the quite offensive and specious corollary of Germaine Greer that according to catholic sentiments regarding conception a priest should be holding requiem masses for sanitary towels.

d] Non-Integrated Concepti

You'll also hear of pro-choicers speaking of hydatidiform moles and choriocarcinoma as a [fallacious] substantive proof that sperm and egg do not axiomatically mean life ; therefore one can do what one wishes with all fertilised ova.
Pro-choicers equivocate the 'necessary' condition of fertilisation as being invalid by its 'insufficiency' - which is as logical as saying dynamite isn't explosive because the fuse sometimes fizzles out.

 e] The Implantation Fallacy

This argument  is used quite liberally [sic!] by 'liberal catholics' to justify the use of iuds, the morning after pill and even the contraceptive pill itself.
the idea is one of the fertilised embryo 'interfacing' with the mother - implanting and transmitting signals for the production of hormones triggering subsequent development of the four [misnomered] 'foetal membranes' .
The seed not being a real seed unless it's in the soil.
The embryo not being alive until it's implanted.
Imagine this notion as the tree falling in the woods not making a noise if there's no-one to hear it - grossly ridiculous epistemology deriving its justification from bastardised enlightenment idealism - you'll see the same fallacious reasoning all over the place - something doesn't exist until it makes its presence known ! Aristotle is spinning in his grave.

f] The Nucleic acid problem 
& When is a Soul not a Soul?
& Splitting a Soul: More complex than splitting the atom??!!.

I've already mentioned when fertilised an embryo can split into twins,triplets etc and this allows arguments condemning the notion of ensoulment.
Does each twin get half a soul?
Or does an extra soul pop up or descend from heaven?
And what happens to the second soul if recombination [a regular risk in IVF] occurs?
Does one human being contain two souls or does the soul vanish ?

Lets enter Frankenstein territory:
Supposing we separated the embryo up cell-by-cell at an early stage and implant this genome into many irradiated ova - thus producing dozens of siblings.
Does the multicell embryo contain one soul per cell in order to ensure each of these new embryos is ensouled?
Or do these souls pop into existence when the new embryo is formed?
If so what happens to the original soul ?

Yes, this is obscene speculation - but it's all grounded in that single comment of His Holiness of blessed memory...get my point ?

Let's go to the ultimate proposition:
Every cell in one's body could potentially produce a clone.
Supposing in a nightmare future billions of clones were made from a single human.
From where would their souls derive unless the soul was not inherant within each and every cell ?

Utterly ridiclous of course - alien and anathema to all we were trying to morally and ontologically defend.
Within the unique individual deriving from conception
- who must be afforded all the rights and dignity as an entity
- which is directed towards a fully fledged living human being and person external from the womb
- and be deemed as essentially human life without exception ; irrespective of the accidental consequences occurring to it which may not allow this to be completed.

What is a soul ?
How are we ensouled ?
Are we even ensouled or is the process even more spiritually and supernaturally mysterious ?
Or is the issue that we are not ensouled - WE ARE SOULS and rather we are embodied into a holism of soul and body - as St Thomas reminds us....but when?
Or is this a specious question and there is not a time when the soul is not and the embodiment is immediate at conception?

We don't know !

Therefore we must always as a moral categorical imperative err on presumptive caution that irrespective of any scientific or metaphysical speculation - the conceptus is axiomatically a unique aspect of creation to its fullest extent which includes being created in God's image to its fullest extent regarding its possession of a soul - or more accurately - with the greatest respect to Blessed John Paul - a soul in possession of a body.

We must NEVER transgress this principle by conspiring with presumed corollaries or corroborating scientific evidence which seem to justify our ontological and moral principles - it's building a house on sand; and sadly this is what Pope John Paul II, in all innocence and wondrous faith in the divine; inadvertently became embroiled in; by allowing his statements regarding our faith to be analysed out of context as scientific phenomena.

So I repeat: Beware!
Rely on our fundamental moral principles and construct one's arguments accordingly - not on presumed scientific phenomena which seem to vindicate it.

Spend a decade arguing with pro-choice 'christians' who ground their morality on obfuscatory pro-choice propaganda built from mendacious embryological "old wives' tales" [e.g. no brain function before the brain cortex comes online at 32 weeks!! ] and you'll see why I'm so frustrated.

g] When the Pro-Life arguments are inadvertently non-holistic and lead to further problems:

Please don't think this is merely a secularist  issue - Religious ethicists or people one would naturally presume would be on our side in the pro-Life issue make big mistakes too!!!

If you think I'm being specious please allow me to take one example from The Anscombe Centre's Helen Watt's article on pre-implantation diagnosis.

Within it she assumes [I contend she presumes] [for argument's sake]
...that the entity before twinning is destroyed completely and the twins formed are entirely new entities.

Understand so far ? [Anthony Kenny's Individuation paradigm enters the fray again] 

Whether one agrees, or not, or simply has no idea isn't that important [however metaphysically earth-shattering]...

....but that which follows IS important:

...not real unless becoming...

"If, on the other hand, the conceptus does not have developmental potential in any environment, then it is not a human embryo, and not a human being."

She then proceeds further along this line of development 'as act' as being of axiomatic mandatory import.

Notice the far from subtle danger in all this ?
Consider the phenomena of spontaneous abortion of the apparently non-defective embryo ?
Or for that matter the defective?

Extrapolate this to congenital or developmental defects within the embryo or foetus which make its viability impossible - travel farther along this line of argument and consider anencephalic foetuses .

Is Ms Watts implying that only that which develops or maintains the potential to develop is solely human ?
[Notice the affinity with the seed/soil corollary I mentioned earlier ?]

It would appear so ; and if she was it would be utterly contrary to Catholic moral teaching [inherent since the Didache, but absolute since Pius IX] regarding the embryo from conception ; irrespective of its implantation or its spontaneous abortion - it possesses a full share of human dignity and authenticity in what von Balthasar and Benedict XVI refer to as 'a democracy of essence'.

But more than likely this statement was a mere oversight , never intended to be considered on its own ; but as an exigent aside to the main thrust of the argument relating to the dignity of pre-implantation embryos by clinicians.

Inadvertently in attempting to argue one case , she takes a little less care in qualifying her side-points and lets slip through an argument which if taken out of context could destroy everything she is attempting to argue.
Normatively this wouldn't matter one jot ; because the informed reader would immediately overlook the potential unintended consequences and see it solely in the light for which it was intended.

But let's supposing someone slightly less informed of the Catholic principles were to read the article ?
And they had suffered miscarriages of embryos who through an internal fault would never reach full term ; or bore an anencephalic foetus ; and then read that comment ?
They would presume Ms Watts was saying their child was never a human being !
Or suppose a secular biologist directly seeking ethical loopholes to dismiss or destroy Catholic principles as contradictory, irrational, fallacious or contrary to scientific evidence - caught sight of this sentence ?
Imagine what a Dawkins or Robert Winston would do with this nugget ?

Are we so presumptuous to conclude that 'blighted ova' which would never develop into embryos past the zygote or blastocyst stage aren't fully fledged souls in Heaven when we have no idea what's in the mind of God or His providential will ?

We must always err on the side of caution [as Ms Watts wondrously concludes elsewhere] ; and maintain that prime moral principle of Human Life from conception as a categorical imperative ; we dare not consider anything else without the potential of contravening God's will.

h] Always stick to the fundamental principles - yes Humanae Vitae IS enough!

Do you now see what I'm saying ?
I'm not talking about the ethics of an issue.
I'm talking about how to argue from our Ethical standpoint; not inadvertently using reverse induction of effects providing causes, as Chesterton puts it, 'thinking backwards'.

The late, great Fr Robert Noonan [OFM [cap]] declared that regarding Catholic morality - "lest ye become like little children" is the most crucial of scriptural considerations.

Yes we must be as cunning as serpents and exercise the graces of our intellect and wisdom to their fullest extent ; but the principles intrinsically bear an innocence ,and adamantine simplicity of Truth [devoid of gnostic mystagoguery and obfuscatory complexity] Truth - the Person of Christ.

Human Life is Sacred - a gift from God.

Human Lovemaking is a gift from God in which we share in God's life and love [it invokes inseparable unitive and procreative aspects].

Human life begins at conception.

Three principles : with due concern to Original Sin tell me a single ethical argument pertaining to life and sexuality to which these cannot be applied; and in doing so manifest the totality of the catholic position.
Simple in context: Profound beyond our human consideration in discernment and deliberation - Divine Mystery.
Apply these fundamental principles and we have the promises of Christ given to Holy Mother Church that we cannot err.

When we attempt to argue outside this remit in any other way using any other grounds we are prone to failure ; and have our own arguments turned against us.

Hence when it comes to the very notion of Personhood and infanticide - we have a moral duty to prove without a doubt that this occurs significantly earlier than Birth and Peter Singer, Michael Tooley etc are in grave unscientific error as well as being in an obscenely immoral one

When in human development is it concretely valid to determine and classify the embryo/foetus as 'not a person' ?

Well you've probably all seen intra-uterine photos of 12 week old foetuses who look almost identical to sleeping infants - appearances may be deceptive - so I don't suppose any of you will use 'looking human' as a determinant.

What about intelligence ?

We already use that criterion to switch off the severely brain-damaged's ventilators ; and if the vital organs function we'll dehydrate them and starve them.
The same goes with abortion of the brain-damaged foetus.
To move from the concept of Brain death to Brain Life?

Yes, Intelligence - with its presupposition of self-awareness and autonomy in order to actuate that intellect seems an adequate determinant for 'personhood'.

Extraordinarily the time when a human has the highest amount of active and interactive neurons and is at its optimum learning capacity with the highest IQ it will ever accrue... seven months after conception !
[an analogy which blows most people away is that the foetus at this stage has an equivalent of triggering neurons giving them the IQ equal to all 2,500 members of the staff of Harvard!]

You may be aware that before 22 weeks a foetus's brain has yet to develop folds in order to increase its mental capacity - what you may not be aware of is that even at this stage the foetus has the intelligence and learning ability of a seven year old child !

Regress further week by week and you'll discover that a significant amount of foetal abortions happen to human beings of an intelligence quotient equivalent to ourselves and greater than any adult primate or cetacean [for whom we have so much sympathy - and Personists like Singer/Tooley declare should be afforded quasi-human dignity ] could ever achieve!
We need to travel many many weeks further back to arrive at an 'insignificant' level of even human intelligence, let alone the animals we treat with 'human-like' sensibilities.

Do any of you remember that bitterly ironic day when the Liberal democrat party voted for the motion proposing abortion on demand and subsequently voted for the banning of the use of goldfish as fairground prizes on the grounds of cruelty ?
Who says evolution and civilization isn't a wonderful thing ?

Ok what about walking away from the brain thing and see what the biologists and geneticists say.

How about working out the life-cycle of the human being and discerning how brief this embryonic development is in the totality of human development ?
Nine months versus three score years and ten - surely this will prove something?

Well ! If you remove the temporal length of stages one discovers that our life is more redolent of a mayfly than we'd believe.
Out of the 41 stages in the human cell-life cycle we undergo 37 of them in the womb.

If one accepts that past half-way is nearer the whole; technically the embryo is long past middle-aged before its mother knows she's pregnant !

What about the foetus/embryo feeling pain ?
It's illegal to inflict pain on sentient animals.
I kick a cat [or place one in a wheelie bin] and I could end up in prison - some think it's barbaric to kill a spider and to not humanely dispose of it in some other way.

Well the developing neural cortex attaches to the developing brain stem at 17 days after conception - the embryo certainly feels pain from that point...
...but is it aware of it ?

Maybe we should move onto sentience ?
There must be a time during human development where there is no self-awareness whatsoever?
Maybe embryology will give us an answer?
Then the abortion debate may become clearer - even if the embryo is undergoing a painful death surely not being aware of it or actually 'experiencing it' with self-awareness, cognition, memory etc might make it tenable to consider this as the killing of a non-person ?

Surely sentience and higher brain function, the ability to express oneself, portray emotion ,dream etc can't happen until well into pregnancy, maybe the last few weeks?
Or even the last few months?
Possibly it begins around or before the abortion limit of 24 weeks ?
Maybe slightly before but surely not earlier than say 18-20 weeks ?

All of these 'guesstimates' are far from accurate.
It's impossible to determine when it actuates, 
but the mechanism for its functions cannot preclude its absolute absence; 
when the organ is present - we cannot presume it is not already functioning
so we must be willing to face the possibility that it occurs at the beginning of the organ's development - when it goes online as it were:

This may shock/amaze/astound some of you:
During the fourth week of development after conception the heart starts beating, blood starts to flow around the body to and from the yolk sac, buds start to turn into hands, the eyes are developing lenses....and
the brain divides into five separate vesicles... of these is the telencephalon!
What's that?
Only the beginnings of the cerebral cortex...
[controlling memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness]
...and the basal ganglia
[controlling motor control, cognition, emotions, and learning].

In other words it is IMPOSSIBLE to determine if any of these functions have not commenced by this developmental stage.
No matter how ill-formed or 'embryonic' - it is still present and potentially as active as every other aspect of the embryo.
Yes, higher brain function development begins at less than a month into pregnancy!

But this is not the end of the story - or even the beginning of the wonders of embryological development:

In order for the brain vesicles [and especially the telencephalon] to form and function it requires morphological and molecular transient 'segments' known as neuromeres.

These neuromeres are already functioning in order to combine and differentiate and form a co-ordinate system.

These neuromeres - the spark of our whole psyche, awareness , intelligence, will - all that makes us a 'person'....

[wait for it]

...begin to develop on the 18th day after conception.

What am I saying ?
Am I daring to make the ludicrous, preposterous suggestion that this lump of cells is self-aware, sentient and capable of the minutest form of cognitive function with a direct purpose and even a determined will towards actuating an end other than a simple form of chemical processes genetically engineered by its DNA ?

Well  I'm actually going further and beyond this !

What's all this massive fascination with stem cells ?
Why are they the new miracle on the block ?
Why are they almost treated like some magical elixir that can solve all the world's medical ills ?

It's not so much what they do ; it's what they are !
They function beyond what we would seem credible to our common sense - to the point that we may feel compelled to call them miraculous or magical !

Go back to the 3rd week after conception and cut-off the cells which would form the embryo's head above the forming notochord - well, that which is destined to ultimately become a head - and flush it down the sluice!
Then take the bunch of cells which are already developing into a proto-form of the lower body and place it where the head should have been.
What happens ?
A head develops - with a fully functioning brain!
In other words there's a self-directing entelechy within the organism itself external to the genetic code [whether it's controlled by nucleic acid concentrations pre-determined by the genetic code makes little difference - the self-directing motivation is now inherant within the organism]

This entelechy aims itself towards self-preservation and development to the point of self-repair and redirecting itself [changing legs into a head to replace a lost one - love to see Paul Daniels try that one!]

Even if it's all basic biochemistry we're talking about an entity which from the very start is not developing into something which will eventually develop self-preserving , self-regulating and self-directing attributes - it already possesses them to the extent that within the first few weeks it's not the amorphous blob as insignificant as an amoeba , nor is it something many months away from brain function, self-awareness, cognition, emotion ; rather once it enters the foetal stage it's barely a month away from smiling, dreaming, mnetically reacting differently to varying sounds and sucking its thumb - all within twelve weeks - half the abortion limit !

Is it a person at twelve weeks ?
Most assuredly: YES!
When wasn't it before this ?
Want me to go through it all again ?
We simply cannot tell !!!!

There's no embryologist who can irrefutably claim that thought [no matter how primitive or merely motor-regulating] does not possibly commence as early as the 18th day after conception when those microscopic neuromeres emerge - and who knows what processes led to this and when they began ?

We're never dealing with a mere bunch of inchoate cells...

All this available information - and it doesn't alter Catholic principles one iota; because we have fundamental moral principles that Life - AND PERSONHOOD [however potential and requiring all manner of necessary things to become all it is designed to be] commences at conception ; because from that moment we can never know what wonders may be wrought within the womb and beyond in that entity's regard.

So where does Personhood begin?
Most definitely NOT after birth, so any argument proposing the killing of any child at that time  is automatically invalidated - and any who according to their own criteria determine that the severely mentally or physically handicapped are 'non-persons'? Well I suggest they are guilty of the severest self-delusion and mendacity - and they should require a mirror to find the only non-humans in the room...

But I strongly urge people to not forget the second underlying principle inherent in this BMJ proposition - the eugenic charter duplicitously depicted as rights to dignity for the ideology which may destroy vast swathes of humanity...because the storm clouds are gathering - the nightmare scenario of Huxley's  'Brave New World' of licences to have children [with financial/psychological/social criteria] is no longer imaginary...but only a matter of time....