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Selfhood (letter)

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 Contents - Sep 2003AD2000 September 2003 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: The future of the Anglican Church - Peter Westmore
New auxiliary bishops appointed to the Sydney Archdiocese - Michael Gilchrist
News: The Church Around the World - AD2000
Dissident US group establishing a foothold in Australian parishes - Mary-Ruth Monsour
Catholic summer conferences in the United States: signs of hope - Richard Egan
Culture: Second 'Carnivale Christi' Catholic arts festival scheduled for Melbourne - Michael Gilchrist
Events: Hearts On Fire Vocations Congress for Melbourne Archdiocese - Joanne Grainger
Understanding the Catholic Liturgy since Vatican II - Dom Alcuin Reid OSB
Pope John Paul II calls for greater use of Latin - Denis Murphy
Homosexual conduct: how Gospel teaching can be distorted - Bill Muehlenberg
Letters: Not closing ranks (letter) - Alan Gill
Letters: Hidden agenda (letter) - Dr Arthur Hartwig
Letters: Liturgical choices (letter) - Marguerite Fennell
Letters: New Mass (letter) - Philip Robinson
Letters: Converts (letter) - Kevin Tighe
Letters: Selfhood (letter) - Robert Prinzen-Wood
Letters: Prophetic words (letter) - Errol Duke
Letters: Freedom to be born (letter) - George F. Simpson
Abridged Papal encyclicals available - Fr M. Durham
Letters: Correction - Chris Hilder
Books: OLD THUNDER: A Life of Hilaire Belloc, by Joseph Pearce - Scott J. Bloch (reviewer)
Books: Some Fell On Rock, by Fr John O'Neill - Fr Peter Joseph (reviewer)
Books: The Practical Preacher: Handy Hints for hesitant homilists, by Paul Edwards SJ - Anthony Cappello (reviewer)
Books: Great books at the best prices!
Reflection: A Christian response to bereavement: Jesus' ministry to the sick and dying - Fr Dennis Byrnes

I was amazed to read that Father Norman Ford in his book The Prenatal Person promotes the idea that human beings in their early embryonic stage are only "potential persons."

That view does not appear to be consistent with Catholic teaching.

In a mistaken belief that one can reduce the person to subjectivity, certain Catholic personalists following Scheler and other phenomenologists and existentialists believe that our existence as persons begins with the beginning of subjectivity - and an unborn baby has little or no subjectivity.

However, other phenomenologists, including our present Pope, make the fundamental existential distinction between ontological personal selfhood and the selfhood lived through in self-presence and in other forms of subjectivity. The "substantial being" - to use a Thomist expression - exists in advance of any self-presence or other form of subjective life.

To use simpler language, we could say that the "self" we had when we were first conceived is the very same "self" we have now. We are simply at a different stage of growth. It does not depend on our ability to actualise our consciousness of self. In other words, my personal being was already embodied in the embryo long before the awakening of personal subjectivity and consciousness.

Chambers Flat, Qld

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 16 No 8 (September 2003), p. 16

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