Interview: Fr. Robert Spitzer - Equipping the Church to Combat the Culture of Death
'Ten Universal Principles' Focuses on Reason in the Battle for the Unborn
America has stopped reasoning and principled thinking. That is my conviction after reading "Ten Universal Principles" by Fr. Robert Spitzer. Fancy word crafting, personal attacks and other techniques can't hide the shallowness of the culture of death - particularly with regard to life.
The 10 Universal Principles he outlines form the bedrock of natural law, reminding humanity of our inalienable rights and moderating essential behavior in society - how we approach life, how we treat others, how we should expect to be treated and how we should frame the laws that govern us.
Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D. wrote this book to strengthen the reason side of the Catholic argument for life, but the implications of his work extend much further. As a philosopher, educator, author and former President of Gonzaga University, Father Spitzer has dedicated his life to helping people attain an approach to life built upon faith and reason.
I recently talked with Fr. Spitzer about his book and what he sees for the future of the pro-life movement, particularly here in America. His most recent work provides new ammunition to the pro-life movement in the war of words where the battle for life is currently being waged.
"Ten Universal Principles," which was written in a very easy-to-read manner, was published for two main reasons. "We have to use a vocabulary," he states, "that will be accepted in secular society. Our opposition is in a dogmatic slump. Their principles are not the great principles of civilization. Once you throw out justice or other principles then anything is possible."
For this reason he begins with the basic philosophical principles that everyone can agree upon - the 10 universal principles of civilization. This provides a common ground for discussion.
Secondly, he sees that the current generation of young people is truly scared of being accused of naivety or stupidity. People have pretty made up their mind that there is no rational justification for our Catholic position and this mindset needs to be challenged.
"Our young kids are not accustomed to doing this kind of rational discourse; we have to give them ammunition that is sophisticated. We have to help them formulate some arguments; we have to take the high road back from secular culture. When our kids start presenting these extremely nuanced and sophisticated arguments, that's going to give them a ton of ammo, particularly in college."
Spitzer begins with a detailed presentation on the three principles of reason.
1. The Principle of Complete Explanation, which states that the best theory is the one that explains the most data.
2. The Principle of Noncontradiction, that valid theories cannot contradict themselves.
3. The Principle of Objective Evidence, which says that non-arbitrary theories are based on publicly verifiable evidence.
"You can't assume anymore that people have a notion of objective truth," Fr. Spitzer explains. "And, furthermore, you can't assume anymore that people are willing to say that one opinion is better than another opinion. So you have to start at the very basic level of non-contradiction, complete explanation and objective evidence."
"You can't assume anymore that people have a notion of objective goodness, that some things are good and some things are evil."
He also outlines the Principles of Ethics, Principles of Justice and Nature Rights, followed by the Fundamental Principle of Identity and Culture.
For example, Principle 4 is the Principle of Nonmaleficence, which states that we are to avoid all unnecessary harm and, if harm is unavoidable, it should be minimized.
Spitzer says, "If you can't agree with that principle, truly you are sociopathic. Everyone in the philosophical world agrees that's ethical minimalism. It's the whole idea of when in doubt you can't cause unnecessary harm to somebody if you're in doubt. As the Supreme Court admitted, 'Gee, we're confused when personhood begins,' as if it were a biological state.
"It's like hunting with your buddy. He goes in one direction and you go in another. You hear rustling in the bushes and you say, 'Well, gosh, it could be my friend or it could be the dear. I may as well shoot. You know, maybe I should have taken enough time to find out if it was my buddy.' When in doubt, don't shoot!
When it comes to the issues of life and personhood, the burden of proof has been shifted 180 degrees. "Now you have to prove that you are a person to be defended rather than the burden of proof being: prove that he or she is not a person."
This shift is dangerous when dealing with the values of intrinsic human rights. From the moment of conception these right should have been in place "when they are a full human being with a full human genome," as Fr. Spitzer describes it, "as a unique human being and nothing other than a human being like a chimp.
"We know scientifically that's this is what ...
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