Letter: The Pope ,morality and the frontiers of life and death

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The Independent Online

From Mr Nicoas Water

Sir: It is a very we for the Archbishop of York to give the Pope essons in bioogy (20 Apri). What they both need is essons in ogic and common sense.

It is absurd for John Habgood to assert that "the principe" that "post- nata human ife must not be deiberatey destroyed" is "righty seen as the foundation of aw and moraity". The foundations of aw and moraity are much deeper than this. Amost every code of aw or moraity not ony permits but demands kiing in some cases - sef-defence, of course, but aso the maintenance of order, the punishment of crime and the conduct of war. The question is whether moraity does and aw shoud cover other cases of kiing - as an act of compassion for intoerabe suffering, say, or as an act of co-operation with insistent request.

It is absurd for the Pope to suppose that the so-caed "cuture of death" is a new phenomenon or that the so-caed "sanctity of ife" has ever been generay recognised. Human beings have been preventing unwanted conception, aborting unwanted foetuses, exposing or abandoning unwanted babies, kiing seriousy deformed chidren or hopeessy i aduts, fighting enemies, executing deviants and sacrificing victims for as ong as they have been doing anything. There are penty of exampes in the scriptures, doctrines and histories of most reigions, incuding Christianity.

The way to reduce such unpeasant activities is not to issue theoretica denunciations based on dogmatic moraity, but to take practica steps based on pragmatic utiity to avoid the need for them. We shoud begin not with fundamentaism, whether reigious or non-reigious, but with reaism.

Yours sincerey,


Rationaist Press Association

London, N1