A Life beyond Reason


There are vitriolic debates these days about who does and who does not hold the status of “persons.” What makes someone a human “person” and worthy of being sustained in life? The pre-born? The severely disabled?

Chris Gabbard, an English Professor from the University of Florida, takes up this question indirectly but movingly in an article about his son who “lives with cerebral palsy, is a spastic quadriplegic, has cortical visual impairment (meaning he is legally blind), is completely nonverbal and cognitively disabled, has a microcephalic head, and must wear a diaper.” Gabbard reflects on what it means to be an “intellectual” and to work in an academic context where intellectual aptitude is prized, despite the fact that his son lacks some of the most basic intellectual capacities.

Most surprising to me was Gabbard’s insistence that Martin Luther held the opinion that a child such as Gabbard’s —”merely a mass of flesh, a massa carnis, with no soul”—should be drowned. Can anyone confirm this?

(To be sure, Gabbard rejects this view (as would I), though I’m not a Luther expert and can’t confirm whether Luther actually taught this, or whether this was some kind of out of context statement. I did find an excerpt from which this account is taken here, but I’m not sure that there is enough detail to know what Luther was really talking about…Any help from some Luther experts here?)

Whatever the case, this is WELL worth the read. Thank you for your reflections, Dr. Gabbard!

HT: Dustin Resch