Spirituality for Today – July 2009 – Volume 13, Issue 12

Victim of Rights

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

The most lethal terrorists operating globally today could be one's rights. Incredibly, those cherished products of the political process are capable of delivering immense devastation. People think of their rights as a birthright, or even as divine extensions of their being human. If, however, the impetus behind a right is a twisted, self-serving, or psychotic need of power, the right is terribly wrong.

Photo of the American flag

The ethicists of the Third Reich felt no scruples in designing and carrying out a plan for the extermination of those people that they determined had no right to live. The existence of those individuals challenged by certain physical or mental disabilities, belonging to a particular ethnic background, holding specific religious beliefs, or in some way out of step with the Nazi program was forfeit. One might declare that in the twenty-first century nothing like that could happen. Human nature, however, remains human nature. The quest for power, pleasure, and riches can cause a human being to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the presence of many an abomination.

No matter how humane and beneficial a project may be, a society bent on its own selfish goals will reject and eventually destroy itself. In 1968, Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded and heavily funded the organization known as Special Olympics. Today, the program includes two and a half million participants throughout the world. A section of the Philosophy of Special Olympics states, "Special Olympics believes that through sports training and competition, people with intellectual disabilities benefit physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually; families are strengthened; and the community at large, both through participation and observation, is united in understanding people with intellectual disabilities in an environment of equality, respect, and acceptance."

Remember those words: equality, respect, and acceptance - as I report to you that over eighty-five percent of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. Would you not agree that our culture is saying that these people are unworthy of life?

Nancy Guilfoy Valko, president of Missouri Nurses for Life, highlighted these statistics in a recent article. When she gave birth to a daughter that had Down syndrome and what would prove to be a fatal heart defect, Ms. Valco was shocked by the negative and dismissive attitude of some in the medical field toward adopting an aggressive treatment of her daughter's heart problems. What constitutes a healthy child anyway? What is a healthful environment for raising a child? Nancy Valko would put it this way: "When my Karen was born, I was forced to think long and hard about what I wanted for each of my children. I discovered that the true bottom line was that I wanted them all to be good people and to get to heaven."

Living a life of goodness and reaching heaven speaks directly to the credo one holds regarding rights. Defining the good in the context of seeking heaven introduces God's truth into the process. The Western foundation of the idea of human rights and freedoms rests on the moral teachings of Christ. This cornerstone reflects the responsibility of acquitting one's self well before the God of creation.

Removing God from the political discourse leads to war, genocide, murder, abortion, and euthanasia.

– Bishop Samuel J. Aquila

Freedom, indeed, is a two-edged sword. One may aid as well as injure society through the use of one's freedoms or, shall we say, rights. History underscores the authenticity of this statement. A free society is vulnerable to the determined efforts of individuals or groups who would misuse bestowed rights by demanding those privileges for self-serving reasons that often are designed to deny equal rights to others.

In any political system, rights can provide benefits such as just treatment, opportunity, dignity, and hope to the citizenry or rights can be manipulated to achieve the opposite effect. If the latter situation is operative, then, ironically, a set of rights become acts of terrorism. Thomas Jefferson warned Americans of every age that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. It is up to all of us to examine the motives of lawmakers, neighbors, friends, and our very selves in establishing and defining what we call rights. If they be deemed true and just, we must take care to safeguard these rights especially for the defenseless and the powerless of our society.