Do No Harm: More Evidence of the Slippery Slope

SlipperySlopeIn his most recent post, Didymus shared these words from the Old Testament’s Book of Sirach: “The path of sinners is smooth stones that end in the depths of the nether world” (Sir 21:10). Conservatives are often mocked by their opponents for citing the proverbial slippery slope to rationalize not budging on key issues: if any  seemingly little thing changes, the culture will slide into the abyss and civilization as we know it will be in danger.

This “sky is falling” characterization is true at times and might be humorous if the abyss were not yawning before us as we scramble for a foothold.

Last April I shared a post about the world’s first known “married” lesbian threesome as evidence that the pressure to redefine marriage would not stop as same-sex couples. You could regard this threesome as a fringe element outside the mainstream and you would be right  — but what of that?  The line has been redrawn on marriage, no longer in stone, blood, or even ink. It’s a thin, grey, and dusty pencil line from a tremulous hand that has shown its weakness and lack of clarity. It’s is easily rubbed out, and now that we’ve shown a willingness to shift the line, those who find themselves on the backside of it will continue to push against it.

And now this week, First Things shared a piece pointing to a similar slippery slope on the transgender front. The writer, Wesley J. Smith, asserts that we appear to be headed for “A Fundamental Right to Personal Recreationism.” I would have advised a hyphen in the final word to eliminate the Beastie Boys’ “right-to-party” appearance — what Smith suggests, in fact, is that we are redefining disorders that were once considered mental illnesses as normal and telling people who suffer these disorders that they can be whatever they want to be and that, as a society, we will help them get there. Hormone therapy, gender reassignment surgeries, and transgender-friendly public policies on everything from preferred names and pronouns to use of public restrooms and locker rooms are becoming the norm — rendering the word “normal” meaningless in any sense other than “it’s all good.”

What’s next? Smith points to Body Integrity Identity Disorder, in which persons “are convinced—they know—that they inhabit wrongly intact bodies, that their real and true identities are as amputees or even as paraplegics or quadriplegics” (language and links from the article itself). Within the last decade, medical journals and at least a few doctors have begun to suggest that “elective amputation” may be the appropriate treatment in at least some of these cases. The Hippocratic principle of “do no harm” seems headed for the door — for in what world is the removal of a healthy limb not considered harm?

Smith goes on to discuss transhumanism, and the possibility of normalizing and supporting body modification beyond what is considered human at all — which may seem far-fetched if we couldn’t see the intermediate steps already being taken.

By sounding the alarm, Smith and others who share his views are  said to lack empathy. Christians who don’t go along with these changes will be called uncharitable hypocrites. And our downward momentum is such that we are skipping from stone to stone now, toward the pit. It might seem imprudent at this point to stick our necks (or any other extremity) for fear of being re-created ourselves.

We are all disordered on some level, so to treat each other with true charity, the greatest of the virtues, is paramount. But charity cannot be grounded in lies. We most hold to the Truth. If prudence, in the traditional sense, is clearly perceiving reality and acting in accordance with it, than it is incumbent upon virtuous men and women to insist that we recognize the normal and the abnormal, the ordered and the disordered. Only then can we act with true charity toward those who suffer from them.


  1. Meddlesome says:

    The practice of mutilation in modern medicine is hardly new. What is chemical contraception but a form of mutilation? Or, more obviously, tubal ligations and vasectomies? These are medical procedures and the administration of drugs that alter the body from a perfectly healthy, natural state of being into a state of disorder procured through the willful intent to harm the body. Truth be told, it’s no different than the adolescent girl who cuts herself. I’m just surprised to see people are no longer limiting this acceptance of mutilation to genitalia.

    • Timshel says:

      True, Meddlesome. I see two differences between the forms of mutilation you describe and the forms discussed in the article, however.

      First, chemical contraception and surgical sterilization are easier for faithful Catholic and non-Catholics alike to ignore, because they are invisible. We know they happen all around us, but unless someone tells us about them or we take particular/conscious interest, we are unlikely to be forced to confront these realities. Gender reassignment is a bit harder to ignore. I know people with friends and family who have switched “gender identities” — and it is impossible to ignore. We will be forced to deal with this issue on a personal, as well as a policy, level whether we want to or not.

      Second, in the cases of gender or “body integrity,” it’s more than damaging a healthy, functioning body — it seems to me to be damaging a healthy body at the expense of treating a troubled mind…a double tragedy.

      • Meddlesome says:

        I completely agree, Timshel. As in all categories of sin, the slippery slope just continues to delve deeper and deeper into its perversity and its consequences become more and more damaging to both the sinner and the world.

        I do wonder, though, whether the examples I cited do not also consist of a troubled mind. If a man entered into a doctor’s office a couple hundred years ago asking for a vasectomy, I suspect he would have been thought to be crazed on some level. Now we’re so accustomed to a hostility towards procreation that we no longer recognize it as a mental problem, even though it seems quite honestly to be one.

  2. Didymus says:

    By coincidence this morning I stumbled across an article about a person trying to advance the tender beauty of incest, in this case for a father with his 16-year old daughter. Smooth stones, smooth stones….

  3. J. Thorp says:

    This just in: Red Skull sighting: — apparently the med school dropout responsible for these modifications has confirmed that “Henry aka Red Skull is a physically and intellectually healthy person. He’s an excellent son, husband and father, who has an extreme taste for body modification.”

  4. […] recently discussed here and here, the craze for redefining our humanity is picking up steam (I use craze in the proper etymological […]

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