The Personalist Project

The 39th sorrowful anniversary of Roe vs. Wade is a good occasion for high-lighting an important paper by friend and fellow personalist, Peter J. Colosi.  In it he cautions pro-lifers against a growing trend in the movement, viz. a too exclusive reliance on empirical science to the neglect of deeper, philosophical issues.  He freely grants that scientific developments making it undisputably evident that even the tiniest zygote is a distinct and absolutely unique human being have been a great benefit to our cause.  

Nonetheless, the trend to use the force of that argument as the sole argument is dangerous, for it tends to miss important dimensions of reality related to the meaning of procreation, respect for women, and the meaning of personal existence. 

It is in drawing attention to and dwelling on these other dimensions of reality that personalists have an indispensable contribution to make.  

Colosi challenges Catholics who are tempted to treat the question of personhood as irrelevant to the moral question of abortion by showing compellingly that the Church herself grounds her prohibition not in biology, but in the value and dignity of persons.

to cast off the mysterious question of the personhood of the tiniest members of our species and to call that question irrelevant to the moral question represents another case of a portion of the pro-life movement drifting off to the “secure” world of empirical science, and it also represents a lack of attention to the texts of the Church on the matter. 

It's an academic article with extensive footnotes and some technical language, so it won't be to everyone's taste.  But it's not the only item he has at his website. If you're not going to the March for Life this year, may I suggest that a great way to mark the day would be by reading one of Dr. Colosi's articles or listening to one of his talks?  All of them reflect his personalist training, his profoundly personalist approach to bio-ethics, and his deep concern for growing the culture of life.

Comments (2)

Rhett Segall

#1, Jan 23, 2012 6:01pm

I too think it is critical to go beyond the biological in establishing the dignity of the person from the moment of conception. Psalm 139 is one of the most important scriptual texts  ("You knit me in my mother's womb") As I stated in a recent posting Paul Tournier, the Swis Physician who 's philosophy is "the medicine of the person" tells the following anecdote:

In his book "The Naming of Persons". A woman was distraught over being pregnannt and was considering an abortion. She came to speak with Dr. Tournier. In speeaking with her, Dr Tournier asked " Tell me, if you had planned to keep the child what names were you considering?" The woman was meditative for a moment and then looked at Dr. Tournier. She then said softly"Thank you" and got up and left.

Jules van Schaijik

#2, Jan 23, 2012 7:47pm

Thanks again for the earlier reference to that book. It arrived in the mail today. I have read only a few pages so far, but they are very good. The way, for instance, in which Tournier connects the name of a person with two opposite but paradoxically related truths about that person: his "solitude" on the one hand, and his "relatedness" on the other:

What separates and distinguishes me from other people is the fact that I am called by my name; but what unites me with them is the very fact that they call me. The movement of separation is what we understand by the formation of the self. Gradually the child must learn to recognize himself as distinct, first from his mother, then from other people... But the very fact that he is addressed and has to respond constitutes a movement of union.

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