Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Father John Paris SJ

Much is being said lately about the need to have a living will to provide instructions for those who will have the responsibility for providing for our medical care.

If I am ever found to be in a persistent vegetative state I want to be treated by physicians in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Not the teachings as enunciated by American Jesuit Father John Paris, a professor of bioethics at Boston College, interviewed by the CBC last Wednesday, who argued (quite erroneously in Terri Schiavo's case) that Catholic teaching over the past 400 years justifies the removal of her feeding tube.

Fr. Paris premised his position with the (correct) view that the constant teaching of the Catholic Church for at least 400 years is that no one is obliged to undergo medical treatment which is disproportionately burdensome, or that doesn't?t offer expectation of restoration of health.

He implied that his view (on the acceptability of removing the feeding tube) was the "mainstream" Christian view (as opposed to the view of the Christian right) and that he was being consistent with Church teachings promulgated by Pope John Paul II on Euthanasia and in another papal encyclical that I did not catch. Fr. Paris omitted to note, however, that a year ago the Pontiff had this to say about feeding tubes.
A year ago, Pope John Paul II wrote that doctors have a moral duty to preserve life. "The administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural way of preserving life... not a medical procedure."
Father Paris also ignored (three extraordinary) recent pronouncements from the Vatican that clearly indicate that provision of food and water via a feeding tube cannot be considered heroic medical treatment which can be refused by caregivers.
Statement of Cardinal Renato Martino
President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Vatican City 7 March 2005

The courts have ruled again and again. Unfortunately, the deadline for the removal of the tube delivering food and water to Terri Schiavo is quickly approaching. I am sorry to have to use the word "deadline" but this is the most accurate way to describe what will happen. Without the tube which is providing life-giving hydration and nutrition, Terri Schiavo will die. But it is not that simple. She will die a horrible and cruel death. She will not simply die; she will have death inflicted upon her over a number of terrible days, even weeks. How can anyone who claims to speak of the promotion and protection of human rights - of human life - remain silent? ...

Cardinal Martino first spoke out in February, saying, "If Mr. Schiavo succeeds in legally causing the death of his wife, this not only would be tragic in itself, but it would be a grave step toward the legal approval of euthanasia in the United States."
And this:
A top Vatican official, Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, also criticized the ruling, saying it legitimized a "cruel" death by hunger and thirst for Schiavo. Sgreccia, who heads the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Vatican Radio that he hoped the ruling wouldn't be repeated in other cases.

"It's not euthanasia in the literal sense of the word," Sgreccia said. "It's not a good
death, it's a death provoked by a cruel act. It's not a medical act," Sgreccia said.

"I confirm the moral judgment doesn't change, because it remains an illicit and serious act - even more serious since it appears the decision over who lives and who dies has become a question for a court," Sgreccia said.
Father Paris also failed to address the fact that Terri is not making the decisions on her treatment, but that her conflicted husband is. I have no doubt the producers of CBC's "The Current" were very pleased to find such a compliant Jesuit to misrepresent Church teaching so well.

Should I, at any point be declared to be in a persistent vegetative state, I want the real Catholic teaching (verses Father Paris's sloppy theology) to be applied in my treatment. Don't let the death cultists starve me or withhold water. I'm prepared to accept a twilight state in this vale of tears and if I must suffer, don't let it be because some earthly judges value judicial process over human life. Please don't let Father Paris SJ near my hospital bed. When Jesuits are good they are very, very, good, but when they are bad they are horrid.

By the way, this is not an invitation for God to strike me with a disability like Terri Schiavo's. I fear such a thing as much as the next person and pray I never have to undergo such things. But if such be my fate, let me die as a Catholic, clinging to the cross for however long it takes, in the sure hope of my resurrection to come.


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