Matters of Life & Death
A Catholic Guide to the Moral Questions of Our Time
By Gerard M. Verschuuren
Angelico Press, 2018
210 pages, $16.95
To order: angelicopress.org
The state of perplexity and the need for guidance have long been characteristic of human beings.
Rabbi Moses Maimonides wrote The Guide for the Perplexed in the 12th century to help his people reconcile religion with science. In 1977, E.F. Schumacher published A Guide for the Perplexed for those who lost sight of the vertical dimension of life and were suffocating in materialism.
Gilad Atzman penned a 2001 novel entitled, A Guide to the Perplexed. Whether one is confused, perplexed or bewildered, one needs guidance, a map, a moral compass.
What perplexes people today is far more complex than it ever was. Gerard Verschuuren’s Matters of Life & Death: A Guide to the Moral Questions of Our Time tackles an array of contemporary problems and offers common, realistic answers that are helpful not only for Catholics, but for all thinking people.
On his list of perplexing problems are contraception, in vitro fertilization, abortion, eugenics, euthanasia and gender issues. He treats them with the objectivity of a scientist diagnosing an ailment, the sympathy of a healer seeking a remedy, and the skill of a writer who labors to make his case convincing.
Verschuuren, who is both a scientist and a philosopher, is well aware of the gravity of the current situation. The issues he discusses are, without exaggeration, matters of life and death; hence, their paramount importance. He begins at the same starting point shared by St. Thomas Aquinas, with that natural-law principle written on our hearts: Do good and avoid evil, an axiom that accords with common sense rightly understood.
The combination of the natural law with the Golden Rule offers Verschuuren a solid methodology by which he can disabuse people of perplexities they need not maintain. The fake philosophies of relativism, reductionism and skepticism dissolve under the light of reason and common sense that the author brings to bear on his subject.
Verschuuren is but one voice in a chorus of voices that includes Aquinas, St. John Paul II, G.K. Chesterton, Dr. Jérôme Lejeune, Ralph McInerny, John Finnis, Dr. John Willke, Father Benedict Groeschel, Albert Einstein and Alice von Hildebrand.
Buttressed by a panoply of clear and reliable thinkers, he has no reason to be intimidated by political correctness. For example, he cites Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, whose ambition was “to create a race of thoroughbreds” through contraception and abortion and wanted to keep silent about her more sinister aims: “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” He exposes the bogus “scientific research” of Alfred Kinsey and the dishonesty of pro-abortionists who regard the unborn human being as merely “a clump of cells.”
I heartily recommend this book. The need is urgent for people of intelligence and knowledge to provide enlightenment for a world where perplexity about life-and-death issues has reached a critical point. As Verschuuren states, while modestly deflecting attention from himself, “Just as science needs geniuses like Newton and Einstein to discover laws no one else has seen before them, so morality needs ‘geniuses’ such as prophets and saints to uncover moral laws to which others are blind.”
We are indeed indebted to prophets and saints, but without losing sight of the important contributions made by knowledgeable people of common sense.
Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus of St. Jerome’s University and a senior fellow
for Human Life International. He is the author of 32 books.