Have you watched ‘The Prestige’? I watched it years ago, but it made a strong impression on my mind and heart, and for a while I couldn’t pinpoint why. SPOILER ALERT SERIOUSLY IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO WATCH THIS MOVIE DON’T READ ON. In brief, it was about the rivalry between two stage magicians. One is apparently the protagonist, and you begin to see how he one-ups the antagonist with his tricks, unexplained to us, the audience. You keep waiting for the secret of how he did what he did, but when you reach the end, everything changes in a chilling way, as you realize that the person you thought was the protagonist was actually the villain (sort of). Excellent story-telling.
But here’s the secret of his amazing disappearances and re-appearances. He had once found a way to tap into some mysterious way of cloning himself. (I’m a little hazy on the details of how he did it- using some electrical energy?) Anyway, the chilling part is when you realized that he would clone himself, and mysteriously appear in a different spot, to the wonder of his audience, while he KILLED his original self by dropping into an upright coffin size locked tank of water where he would drown himself. The movie ends with a view of a big room filled with rows and rows of tanks of water with a corpse in each one. Brr.
But what it made me think of was the morality of his action (yup, back to the Catholic INTJ’s mind)- since it was a clone of himself, did he have the right to kill it? Since he created it, couldn’t he also dispose of it?
And of course that comes back to the pro-choice argument- my body, my choice. Of course it’s more complicated in The Prestige, because it seems like almost suicide. Which is of course, the perfect example of ‘my body, my choice’, and which is becoming legal in some places.
For suicide in general, the reason why Catholics do NOT believe it is a valid moral choice is because your life is not really your own. You DIDN’T create yourself, life is a gift loaned to you, and you are not the final arbiter of your own life or death (or anyone else’s). Obviously for many people who do commit suicide, it happened under great mental strain, sometimes brought on by a long struggle with depression. The Church entrusts those people to the Lord, knowing that HE knows. BUT we believe that where there is life there is hope, and no matter how much suffering a person is going through, life is never to be thrown away.
Which brings us to The Prestige and pre-born babies. If it was my act that caused this life to exist in the womb, then is it not my right to dispose of it as I wish? But of course, that comes from a warped idea of personhood, or seeing other persons merely as a means to some kind of end, or their value only connected to the way they affect one’s own life. The Prestige protagonist created life and destroyed life (even his own) just as if human life was any other kind of resource.
But the Catholic perspective is that there IS something different about a human life. We are not just resources. Every life is precious, valuable, whether or not it is ‘wanted’ by the co-creators, which is all parents really are. Every ugly and cruel society comes from forgetting this basic truth. Think of the Holocaust, or any other genocide, the child soldiers of Africa, sex slavery, even colonialism. It comes from the evil of forgetting the worth, the unrepeatable value of every human being, and choosing to use them, abuse them or dispose of them, according to the perceived way they affect one’s own life.
The Prestige reminded me of how common that worldview is, and how chilling.