March 25th, 2005

Loyola Faculty Portrait

Personal--Jitters Re-lapse

I'm sitting here, scanning through Cyprian of Carthage's letters, trying to look impressive and academic to anyone who might be watching through my windows. And I've got Four Weddings and a Funeral on in the background. In the first wedding, as Hugh is remarking about being a bit nervous about giving his Best Man speech, just the sheer memory of doing the same at Kevin and Frannie's wedding back in January has knotted my innards up to the point where I wonder if I'll be able to sleep. Now that's a powerful memory!
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    wired, freaked out, amused
Loyola Faculty Portrait

Theological Notebook--Jesuit bioethicist on the Schiavo case

Here's an interesting interview from Newsweek's online edition that might give a more nuanced reading of the Catholic understanding of what's happening in the Schiavo case. Or at least provides an example of the variety of readings of what's going on.

March 23 - Despite congressional intervention, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit refused to order the brain-damaged Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube reinserted, intensifying the fight over the fate of a woman who has become a symbol—some say pawn—for both the right-to-life and the right-to-die movements. Schiavo’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, said Wednesday that they plan to appeal one last time to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, peripheral players and pundits weighed in on a case that is drawing wall-to-wall cable coverage. From Washington to Rome, leaders of the religious right have repeatedly called for American courts to protect Schiavo—a Roman Catholic woman whom medical experts say is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery—from certain death if her feeding tube is not replaced. The Vatican’s leading bioethicist called such a death a “pitiless way to kill” someone.

But much like in the United States, where consensus is a rare commodity, even the Roman Catholic Church is not unified in its stance on Schiavo. The Rev. John J. Paris, a bioethics professor at Boston College and an expert on the intersection of law, medicine, and ethics, believes that past statements made by the pope have been taken out of context, misrepresented as church doctrine and applied to the Schiavo case. He says Schiavo, who has a moral right to die, has been exploited by the religious right to further its agenda—and if the pope himself, who has no known living will, were in a similar situation, it would be “an invitation to open chaos” at the Vatican. Paris spoke to NEWSWEEK’s Brian Braiker about euthanasia, high-tech life support and moral obligations. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: The church has said that providing food and water does not constitute an extraordinary way of sustaining life.
John J. Paris:
What you’re quoting is a statement that was issued by the pope at a meeting of [an] international association of doctors last year in Rome. This was really a meeting of very right-to-life-oriented physicians. It was an occasion speech. The pope meets 150 groups a week—a group comes in and the pope gives a speech. If the pope tells the Italian Bicycle Riders Association that bicycle riding is the greatest sport that we have, that doesn’t mean that’s the church’s teaching, that the skiers and tennis players and golfers are out. It wasn’t a doctrinal speech.
So it’s been taken out of context?
It has to be seen in the context. This has to be seen in the context of the pope’s 1980 Declaration on Euthanasia, which says that one need not use disproportionately burdensome measures to sustain life. Even if the treatment is in place, if it proves burdensome it can be removed. The terms you’ll hear them talk about all the time are “ordinary” and “extraordinary.” Well, those words are so confused in the minds of the public that they no longer serve any useful purpose. People think of extraordinary as respirators or heart transplants. Extraordinary never referred to technique or to hardware—it referred to moral obligation. What are we obliged to do?
What is the church doctrine?
The church doctrine, and it’s been consistent for 400 years, is that one is not morally obliged to undergo any intervention. And, of course, 400 years ago they weren’t talking about high technology. Here’s the example one of the moralists of the 16th century gave: if you could sustain your life with partridge eggs, which were very expensive and exotic, would you be obliged to do so? The answer is no, they’re too expensive. They’re too rare. You can’t get them. They would be too heavy an obligation to put on people.Collapse )
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Loyola Faculty Portrait

Theological Notebook--The Florida Bishops' Statement re: Terri Schiavo

From the website of the Florida Catholic Conference, here are two statements they've given out regarding the Terri Schiavo case. These were referenced in the previous article I posted.

Edit: I've also thrown in a very interesting piece from Bloggerman, part of which is an interview with the professor who had been Terri Schiavo's appointed independent representative.
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