Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bonhoeffer and abortion

Richard John Neuhaus quotes Bonhoeffer on abortion after describing the historical context in which he wrote:
The Nazi doctrine of Lebensunwertes Leben (life that is not worthy of life) had the widest possible applications, from euthanasia to the elimination of the handicapped to the mass killings at Auschwitz. While the Third Reich opposed the abortion of the "genetically superior," Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood that the logic of abortion was integral to a regime that presumed to exercise total power over life and death. Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the regime in April of 1945, spoke of four divine "mandates" in the ordering of human life: family, labor, government, and Church. The following passage from his Ethics occurs in a discussion of the family:
"Marriage involves acknowledgment of the right of life that is to come into being, a right which is not subject to the disposal of the married couple. Unless this right is acknowledged as a matter of principle, marriage ceases to be marriage and becomes a mere liaison. Acknowledgment of this right means making way for the free creative power of God which can cause new life to proceed from this marriage according to His will. Destruction of the embryo in the mother's womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder. A great many different motives may lead to an action of this kind; indeed in cases where it is an act of despair, performed in circumstances of extreme human or economic destitution and misery, the guilt may often lie rather with the community than with the individual. Precisely in this connection money may conceal many a wanton deed, while the poor man's more reluctant lapse may far more easily be disclosed. All these considerations must no doubt have a quite decisive influence on our personal and pastoral attitude towards the person concerned, but they cannot in any way alter the fact of murder."

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