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Is Non-Creation the Same as Saving a Life?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Dec 05, 2006

OK, so you don’t have any idea what this headline means. It comes from a bumper sticker I saw this morning on my way to Mass: “My cat saves lives. It’s spayed!” Presumably this means that if there are too many cats in the world, more of them will be killed and discarded. Therefore, as night follows day, failing to reproduce saves lives.

There is another sense in which failing to reproduce saves lives, of course. This is the parsimonious sense of not spreading lives around needlessly. If lives are somehow stored up inside us, isn’t it a shame to squander them? Let’s save them for a rainy day. But, of course, lives are not stored up inside of us. We have the marvelous power to procreate new persons out of God’s grace and our own renewable resources. When a new person is created, it has the gift of life. Before that, this life does not exist.

Lives are not interchangeable. Each life is unique to an unrepeatable person (or, for that matter, an unrepeatable cat). I have heard it argued that contraception is a more grievous sin than murder because it prevents a new and immortal person from coming into existence, whereas murder kills only the body. This may be stretching the point, but even if the point shouldn’t be stretched, it is a point.

And the point is this: We don’t save lives by neutering our cats, or ourselves. We prevent them. I don't know about cats but, for people, that's a terrible waste.

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