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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Murder as Mercy

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Nancy Fitzmaurice Nancy Fitzmaurice

Many of us were shocked to read the news headline, Mother Wins Case to Kill Her Disabled Daughter, which made the rounds just days ago. As LifeNews reported on October 29th:

Two and a half years ago, Dr. Phil advocated for the mercy killing of people with disabilities. Well, Dr. Phil would be happy to know that his dream has now become a reality — one mother successfully petitioned the court to kill her severely disabled daughter.

Nancy Fitzmaurice, born blind with hydrocephalus, meningitis and septicaemia, could not walk, talk, eat or drink, the Mirror reported.

Her health was so poor she required 24-hour care and was fed, watered and medicated by tube at London’s Great Ormand Street Hospital. Her health deteriorated and as she grew she would scream in agony for hours despite being given morphine and ketamine.


Her mother, Charlotte Fitzmaurice Wise, knew the pain her daughter was suffering was too much for the 12-year-old to bear. She deserved to be at peace and had the right to die, knew her heartbroken mother, who had given up work as a nurse to be with her.

…“The light from her eyes is now gone and is replaced with fear and a longing to be at peace.

“Today I am appealing to you for Nancy as I truly believe she has endured enough. For me to say that breaks my heart.

…Her application was granted immediately, setting a precedent. It is the first time a child breathing on her own, not on life support and not suffering a terminal illness has been allowed to die in the UK.

The judge praised Wise for her “love and devotion” towards her daughter… which was shown by her fight to kill Nancy. The judge ruled that she had no quality of life anymore, and therefore, she should be killed by refusing to give her any food or water until she died. It took her 14 days to die…

Upon reading this story, I felt a strong need to respond. My hope was to write a piece that exposed the twisted logic of our age, which cloaks murder in the virtuous trappings of love and mercy. I wanted to be able to explain how modern society could come to the point where killing a disabled girl is an acceptable practice. Then I realized that this article had already been written….in 1978.

It was written by none other than Dr. John Senior in the first chapter of his magnum opus, The Death of Christian Culture. This book is, in my humble opinion, the best diagnosis of what is wrong with our age that has ever been written. In it, Dr. Senior analyzes an astonishingly similar case to that of Nancy, above, which took place over 36 years ago.

What follows is an absolute must read. In the following excerpts from The Death of Christian Culture, Dr. Senior makes sense of this tragedy in a brilliant poetic style that only he is capable of. Without further ado, I give you Dr. John Senior…Chris Jackson

…Through the hideous litany of Egyptian and Mesopotamian gods, Baalim, Ashtaroth, Thammuz, Dagon, and the rest, Milton proceeds to the slimy prince of Sodom:

… then whom a Spirit more lewd
Fell not from Heaven, or more gross to love
Vice for it self: To him no Temple stood
Or Altar smoak’d; yet who more oft then hee
In Temples and at Altars, when the Priest
Turns Atheist, as did Ely’s sons, who fill’d
With lust and violence the house of God.
In Courts and Palaces he also Reigns
And in luxurious Cities, where the noise
Of riot ascends above thir loftiest Towr’s,
And injury and outrage: And when Night
Dark’ns the Streets, then wander forth the Sons
of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.

But read the daily newspaper:

Liege (UPI) – The prosecution demanded Thursday a guilty verdict for a young mother, her family and a doctor charged with murdering her armless infant … Mrs. Van Put admitted feeding her seven-day old daughter a lethal dose of honey and barbiturates.

“Sweets to the sweet, farewell!” The following day the headline read: “Doctor’s Attorney Brings Court to Tears”:

Liege (UPI) – A lawyer defending the doctor accused of prescribing drugs used by a young mother to kill her deformed infant daughter, brought the court to tears Friday … Hundreds of spectators wept openly when attorney Jacques Henry turned to the doctor and said: “You have acted like a man and I am extremely proud that I may call myself your friend.” Henry told the jury in his summation that he had known Dr. Casters for thirty years and had grown up with him. He said Dr. Edouard Weerts, the physician who delivered the deformed child, had limited his sympathy for the shocked mother to giving her a sedative and a chair to sit on after she had pleaded with Weerts to kill the infant, named Corinna. “If I had to choose on the moral question, I would rather be in the skin of Dr. Casters than in the skin of Dr. Weerts,” Henry said.

“Come, Corinna, come!” – honey on a spoon. And they brought the court to “tears of sympathy.”

Defense pleas opened with an appeal to the jury to consult their consciences rather than the articles of the penal code … Arguments developed by the prosecution cannot be appreciated on the basis of the penal code. Your conscience should be your only guide. Speaking in a quiet almost monotonous voice, [the defense attorney] sketched the early life of [Mrs. Van Put] and then described the moment when [she] was first shown her baby. “We all know what a difficult time this woman had giving birth to this child,” he said. “We know how terribly she suffered … The few hundred yards she had to walk from her room to the place where her baby was kept have been a real Calvary.”

Stabat mater dolorosa. A Calvary indeed, where the Virgin Mary feeds her Son barbiturates and honey? Thoreau said of the then impending crisis that the Mason-Dixon line was across not Virginia but Boston – more accurately, it is drawn across each heart. It is here in each of us, having to do with principles, definitions, penal codes, conscience, and the life and death of little girls. It is no accident that decadence has always led to the hatred of children; no accident that Herod slaughtered the Holy Innocents, that Moloch and the gods of D. H. Lawrence drink human blood in hideous envy of the Eucharist they see with their intelligence but cannot love. It is, of course, no accident that Christ is adored – by the shepherds and Magi, the simplest and the most learned – as the Child, who is always present, especially in the thin disguise of an armless infant born in pain. Barbiturates and honey. 

Another headline: “Mother, Four Others Are Acquitted.”


Liege (UPI)—An all-male jury Saturday night acquitted a young mother and four other persons of the mercy killing last May of the woman’s week-old thalidomide-deformed baby girl. A great roar of approval greeted the verdict in the heavily guarded court when the 12 men voted not guilty after deliberating less than two hours. The court president pounded for order, but joyous bedlam reigned.

Jubilation. But not that of the angels and the stars as they sang together on Christmas morning. If there is no room at the inn, is there none in the stable either? Is there no one who could have loved this little girl and understood what a blessing she might have been? The function of the garden of souls is to cultivate not only the great, publicly canonized saints, but the hidden life of sanctity in everyone according to his gifts. This little child had gifts also. It is not that some should live at the expense of others, but that all should be enriched by everyone. This is the economy of the private enterprise of love: it generates. Love is fecund. Love is not only a means to an end, like a road, but is a kind of propulsion. It is like walking up an escalator, or swimming with the current – to beget children, to love children, to encourage their growth, to ease their sufferings, and to suffer oneself with them even to our death. How could they have said, “Kill her, kill her!” And the court concurred, the mob roared its approval, and “joyous bedlam reigned”? No child was ever so deformed as that mother, those doctors, that court, and that crowd. And now the universities and the mass media feed poor girls honey and barbiturates day and night, injecting all the bitter, anti-Christian doctrine of lethal liberation, killing warm, admiring, youthful hearts, to leave the husks of lesbians and amazons who hate to cook and sew, whom no young man can love, for whom a child, if it occurs, is called a parasitic growth, scraped into a refuse pail, and rendered into soap. 

To beget children, to love her lord in marriage – a woman’s work is propelled by joys unsurpassed on earth. They are a figure of the love of the soul for Christ, by which we not only grow but increase and multiply.

senior cover
Want More John Senior?

The Remnants: 
The Final Essays of John Senior
Available Here from Remnant Press

…In the ordinary daily life of men in Christian culture, who work not only in the sweat of their brows, but for the love of their families, there is also love of work. When men cut wood or go to war or make love to their wives, and when women spin or wash and reciprocate that love, they are working not only to get the job done so that children will be born and grow and have clothes to wear and food to eat. They are working so that those children will one day be saints in heaven. They are working as the very instruments of God’s love to create a kind of heavenly garden here and now in the home, by which each axe becomes a violin, each loom a harp, each day a prayer, each hour a psalm. 

The skeptic says, “Show me.” And we reply, There. There, everywhere on farms, workshops, homes, even in universities and even – especially – in little cribs where the crippled children lie. This judge, this woman, this doctor, this father – where was the father? Where was that poor, distracted woman’s husband, who might have said, “This is my beloved,” when the Belgian court, amid a “joyous bedlam,” drank her blood?

 …In the absence of culture you do not get lovely wild grass. If you cease to cultivate, you rot. Belgium is rotting. The whole Christian West is rotting. The romantic dream that “consenting adults” left to themselves will come to good is rotten nonsense, contradicted by the continuous experience of history and everyday life. Nor can we solve the problem of the poor by misconstruing the dictum that men cannot live by bread alone to mean that they must have cake. Liberal Christianity is death by socialism. Without the Bread of Life – barbiturates and honey. 

The restoration of Christian culture is the restoration of all things in Christ and especially the restoration of the spirit of Christ: poverty of heart, fecundity in our loins.

To put the choice in another example, let us consider a pitifully misguided – one hopes forgivable – young man who confused the love of God with a vicious sentimentality, and in the name of one of the greatest saints.

The first from an essay in a popular religious magazine by an ex-seminarian who left the Jesuit order because, he says, “Every Jesuit, according to the eleventh rule of the summary of the constitutions, is required to share in the contempt and the cross of Christ.” This means, he says, that every Jesuit must therefore literally “be a scandal to his own brethren and even be cast out of the Society as a madcap. To be Christlike means to be disowned by our own community, to be, as it were, disinherited by heaven.” Of course we are back – what a bore it is – once more at a contradiction: to be a Jesuit one must be a non-Jesuit; to be a Christian, one must be a non-Christian. In the peroration of this essay, the ex-seminarian says that

God’s “is a holiness that transcends the distinction ‘saint-sinner.’” And there we have that total contradiction in parody, which always must result in jubilations like that of the Belgian court – the smiling face of what seems like a forgivable sentimentality stripped to its true horror and death. The transcending of real distinctions in disobedience to the law of contradiction is one of the major marks of Modernism. It is not only a denial of philosophic truth; it is a denial of the Truth Himself. It is satanic, obliterating good and evil. If you transcend the distinction between saint and sinner, you commit sin. Our ex-seminarian and ex-Christian concludes:

No man will want to go to heaven if heaven is a place where we have to stand on needle-points before the Universal Emperor. Which soldier would like to be always in the presence of his commanding officer?

The answer is, of course, the good soldier, and certainly the Jesuit soldier of Christ – custody of the heart, as St. Ignatius explains, is precisely standing “always in the presence” of the Universal Emperor.

Which seminarian would like to spend all his years under the nose of his bishop?

The answer is the seminarian who, like St. John, leaned on the breast of his
beloved Lord.

If people revolt against the idea of God as a monarch in whose presence the subjects cannot be at ease, it is nothing surprising. If they are not enthusiastic about a heaven where they have to stand at attention or march with “eyes right” it is quite understandable. The plain truth is, that is not God; that is not heaven. God is He in whom our hearts find rest … It is in love that one can be at ease … I have seen pictures of saints with their eyes cast down, or fixed in a stare. If heaven is a place where we have to keep on staring at God, it is certainly a loathsome place.

Sanity, Frank Sheed says, is the health of the intellect. It is seeing what is really before us, as sanctity is the health of the will, loving what we really see; and theology, he says, is the science of sanity. We can see in the confusion of this wretched young man the attempt to love God without intelligence, with emotions only. Ars sine scientia nihil. Art, including the art of sanctity, is nothing without knowledge. The attempt to reach a mystical identification with God without theology is at best quietism and at worst the total wreck of religion as it is found in Hinduism and Buddhism, with their doctrines of universal sympathy and the transcending of real distinctions. Love is based on a distinction. Love is a relation not of identity but of will. Man is a creature; he is not God, just as a husband is a man and his wife a woman and neither can “play the role” of the other. A father is an adult and not a child, and all men, women, and children are creatures put on earth, as Blake says, “to learn to bear the beams of love,” whose dimmest success is a brilliant clarity in which distinctions are made, not broken.

Dr. John Senior, 1978


Last modified on Monday, November 3, 2014
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