Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

Quick Hits II: The autonomous individual who creates himself and kills himself

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 14, 2016

  • Robert Reilly can write with impressive authority on a variety of topics. He is the author of what might be the best currently available books on radical Islam (The Closing of the Muslim Mind), modern music (Surprised by Beauty), and the campaign for acceptance of homosexuality (Making Gay Okay). He returns to the debates on human sexuality with a powerful essay for Catholic World Report on The Metaphysics of the Bathroom. Reflecting on the notion that individuals should make their own decisions about their gender identity, Reilly traces that argument back to Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and their idea that man’s great challenge lies in “somehow creating his own essence.” (One recalls the infamous line of Justice Kennedy, in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”) There is no such thing as human nature, according to this view. Reilly observed: “However, if we have no nature, there are also no grounds left upon which to say that we should not turn ourselves into monsters, so long as we ‘self-identify’ as ones.”

  • Jennifer Lahl, the founder and president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, spends most of her time exposing the exploitation that is inherent in surrogate parenthood. But she switches her attention to another front in the same battle—the struggle to defend the dignity of human life—with a review of Me Before You, a film that is a sympathetic treatment of assisted suicide. The movie, she reports, is a “a tale of autonomy run amok—a result of the radical and ludicrous idea that we do not live connected to, dependent upon, or in relationship with others.” Here to the autonomous individual reigns supreme, deciding for himself what life means, and when it ends.


Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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