Monday, June 29, 2009

The Enduring Tragedy of Michael Jackson - The Kids

This piece is a little bit out of my comfort zone as somebody who is neither a celebrity-watcher nor a Catholic. Here, I cite the Vatican against Michael Jackson and ex-wife Debbie Rowe. Consider yourself warned.

I found myself disgusted with one-time Michael Jackson wife Debbie Rowe after reading the News of the World interview (since removed from the website, summary here) in which she stated her complete disregard for the children she bore. According to the NOTW interview, Rowe claims Jackson wasn’t the biological father of her children, that she was artificially inseminated through an anonymous donor, that their marriage was a loveless, sexless facade, and that the children were “gifts” to Michael Jackson.

The AceShowBiz blog, citing NOTW:
"Michael was divorced, lonely and wanted children. I was the one who said to him, 'I will have your babies'," she testifies. "I offered him my womb - it was a gift. It was something I did to keep him happy." Debbie opens up further, "I was just the vessel. It wasn't Michael's sperm. I got paid for it, and I've moved on. I know I will never see my children again."

"But after the second birth had so many problems, he knew I couldn't have kids any more. He didn't want anything to do with me. He took the kids," she goes on revealing. "The settlement was written up, and he just wanted me to be quiet."

Rowe further stated, “I know I will never see them again. I was never cut out to be a mother - I was no good. I don't want these children in my life.”

Now, regardless of one’s view of the Catholic church or any specific teaching of the Vatican, the Church has established the grounds for debate on any number of theological and moral issues. It is simply impossible to discuss certain topics without bumping into arguments established by the Catholic framework.

And so I find myself reading Humanae Vitae (regarding contraception), and then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s Instruction on Respect for Human Life, in which in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination are argued against.

Humanae Vitae, Section 17:
Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

“...a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires...” - Though in a clearly different context, this is exactly what Rowe was for Jackson. And certainly without any “care and affection”.

In his Instruction, Ratzinger laid out a number of situational categories of fertility treatments for analysis. Though he ultimately bars any IVF, he is not unaware of the noble desire of loving, “conjugal” married couples to have children. Nevertheless, the prohibition is absolute.

Ratzinger (Section II-4(c)):
Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person. In his unique and irrepeatable origin, the child must be respected and recognized as equal in personal dignity to those who give him life. The human person must be accepted in his parents' act of union and love; the generation of a child must therefore be the fruit of that mutual giving (45) which is realized in the conjugal act wherein the spouses cooperate as servants and not as masters in the work of the Creator who is Love. In reality, the origin of a human person is the result of an act of giving. The one conceived must be the fruit of his parents' love. He cannot be desired or conceived as the product of an intervention of medical or biological techniques; that would be equivalent to reducing him to an object of scientific technology. No one may subject the coming of a child into the world to conditions of technical efficiency which are to be evaluated according to standards of control and dominion. The moral relevance of the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and between the goods of marriage, as well as the unity of the human being and the dignity of his origin, demand that the procreation of a human person be brought about as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses... [italics in original]

As stated before, I’m not Catholic. I’m not even necessarily opposed to IVF or artificial insemination. But I do find the Church’s moral framework to be informative, if perhaps not definitive.

As a recently disgraced Governor has learned, “God’s law is indeed there to protect you from yourself, and there are consequences if you breach that.” Cavalier relativists often say rules are meant to be broken. For those of us trying to live somewhere between absolutism and chaos, I prefer the maxim “know why you are breaking the rule.”

In analyzing the Jackson-Rowe union, it seems they broke all the rules for all the wrong reasons. We are confronted with the fact that their relationship was neither loving nor conjugal. It had no apparent redeeming moral value. Both Jackson and Rowe blithely violated Kant’s categorical imperative against using other people as mere means. They each used each other, and they used Rowe’s children. And indeed, there are consequences for that.

Rowe has no interest in her own children. Words cannot express my disgust, but there should be little wonder about how everything turned out so wrong.

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