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ArmyPatriot

The Pope's Contradiction

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This clip was in yesterday's TIA Daily. I thought I would post it after I got such a good laugh out of it, and I guess that not everyone is a subscriber.

4. The Pope's Contradiction

This is the only article I have seen that highlights a peculiar contradiction in the events surrounding the death of Pope John Paul II. His death came on the heels of the Terri Schiavo case, which was fueled largely by John Paul II's own statements that life in a persistent vegetative state must be preserved at all costs. Yet the pope himself in his last days refused medical treatment that could have extended his life.

http://tinyurl.com/6haa4

"Pontiff's Choice Was to Die Simply," Sebastian Rotella and Jeffrey Fleishman, LA Times, April 4

"John Paul's final hours, as described by doctors, churchmen and sources close to his inner circle, did not include aggressive efforts to revive him as his organs failed. No kidney dialysis machine was used in his apartment, and the insertion of a sophisticated feeding device in his stomach would have required a return to the hospital, sources said. Instead, doctors said, they relied mainly on antibiotics and a respirator.... Like many gravely ill people, the pope preferred to face death at home, not in the fluorescent glare of a hospital. His choice, according to a source close to papal aides, also reflected his keen awareness of church history and ritual: Popes die in the Vatican. That determination and the ensuing medical choices were consistent with church teaching about not prolonging life at all costs, according to theologians. 'He just didn't want to go to the hospital for a third time,' said Gerald O'Collins, a professor of theology at Gregorian University in Rome. '!

What would have happened if he had gone back? Aggressive treatment that might have kept him alive a few more weeks, but there's no moral obligation to accept this.' Nonetheless, the pope himself appeared to complicate the issue last year when he declared that the feeding and hydration of critically ill patients was in fact a moral obligation. He said that such treatment constituted a 'natural act' for patients such as Schiavo who were in vegetative states or comas. As the church struggles to keep its ethical teaching apace with strides in medical technology, the pope's statement surprised some theologians. They read it as a sign the church was moving toward an endorsement of extraordinary measures as opposed to previous doctrine stipulating a lesser threshold of reasonable efforts to save the lives of the severely ill. Indeed, Schiavo's parents, seeking to reinsert her feeding tube, cited the pope's views in legal papers."

These kind of observations are typical of the TIA Daily. Precisely why anyone who calls themself an Objectivist should be a subscriber.

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ArmyPatriot,

There is no contradiction. The Catholic Church does not require that a person undergo or continue medical procedures that are burdensome, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome (what falls under the category of "overzealous" measures). Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted.

The administration of food and water, even via a tube, is not considered an extraordinary measure by the Catholic Church.

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There is no contradiction. The Catholic Church does not require that a person undergo or continue medical procedures that are burdensome...

Does the church allow make any distinction between a procedure that will prolong life for a day, versus one that will prolong it for a year?

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plaintext,

That distinction is not made, as there is no way to address all situations. There are obviously going to be a lot of variables: to use your "one year" example, for instance: a middle-aged mother with children who is terminally ill might very well think it worthwhile to undergo an extraordinary medical procedure because of the year's worth of time with, and benefits for, her children and husband. However, a sick and elderly person who is terminally ill might not want to put themselves through such a procedure.

But again, the administration of food and water, however given, is not considered an "extraordinary medical procedure". There is no contradiction as is claimed.

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But again, the administration of food and water, however given, is not considered an "extraordinary medical procedure". There is no contradiction as is claimed.
Yes, I understood what you said, but was wondering about whether the duration would be relevant to a Catholic. I think you are saying that duration and quality of life are valid if one is deciding whether to remove one's life-saving equipment. You are also saying that to a Catholic, deciding to remove one's feeding tube is disallowed. So, the pope would be immoral by the Catholic standard if he asked that his feeding tube be removed. Since he did not ask that, his case is different from the Florida case. Am I understanding you correctly.

You probably realize that to an Objectivist, the distinction between feeding tube and another life-support device is meaningless. But, you were not arguing that point, you were commenting on the idea that a contradiction is involved.

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Plaintext,

Yes, I think you are understanding me correctly. In the Florida case, the woman was not terminally ill nor near death in any way---she would not have died if she had not been dehydrated/starved to death. In the case of the Pope, it is safe to say that his health was seriously failing. He had Parkinsons and a list of other ailments that had simply run him down: he was dying.

And I do understand that, to an Objectivist, the giving of food and water via an artificial means is equivalent to respirators and other devices.

Thank you for stating, "But, you were not arguing that point, you were commenting on the idea that a contradiction is involved." Yes. Thank you for seeing that---within Catholicism, there is no contradiction in the pope's actions. And, it should be noted, the woman in Florida was Catholic.

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Plaintext,

I forgot one clarification in my last post: you wrote "So, the pope would be immoral by the Catholic standard if he asked that his feeding tube be removed. Since he did not ask that, his case is different from the Florida case" In the face of immanent death, the Pope could have asked for his feeding tube to be removed if it was of no further value. In that case, the removal of food and water would not have been the cause of death (as it was in the case of the Florida woman), but simply a recognition that death is immanent.

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In that case, the removal of food and water would not have been the cause of death, ... but simply a recognition that death is immanent.
Okay, so you're saying that the Catholic standard is that feeding tubes cannot be removed if they are keeping death away, but they can be removed if they are prolonging death?

Delving deeper, does the Catholic church offer a reason for the distinction between a feeding tube versus blood or electric current or air to the lungs. What makes a feeding tube less extraordinary than other treatment. How would you state the standard by which the ordinary and extraordinary can be distinguished?

(As for the Florida woman being Catholic, I think that is one factor the courts should have considered in determining her intent. )

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Notice that, to the church, life can consist of the state of living death which Terri Schiavo existed in, hence removal of "water would not have been the cause of death" in the case of the Pope as it was for the case of Terri. Whether or not it's written down on some holy document, the fact of the matter is that, based on what they advocate as far as abortion and as far as Terri was concerned, the church defines "life" as anything that is in addition to human in form, "life" that is human in origin (brain-dead people) or potential (fetuses). As such, the church's position is actually an affront to <i>actual</i> human life--you can't be <i>for</i> human life (as it is actually defined) yet <i>for</i> other forms of "human life" which are against actual human life (notice that "protecting" fetuses requires the violation of the right to life of mothers, and that the "protecting" of Terri requires the violation of her right to choose to die).

Along with their position on capitalism, the church's position on "life" is also a contradiction. I think Mr. Tracinski was trying to make this point. That, if you are for "a culture of life," or for "all forms of life," if you are for "living on at all cost," then the Pontiff should've fought on till the end, regardless of whether or not death was eminent. In the case of Terri, <i>she was already dead</i>, yet the Pontiff advocated that she be forced to live on in this wretched sub-human state. There was no hope of living for Terri, she was already dead, yet the Pope asked that she be kept alive. Yet, when he still had a chance to live minutes or hours longer, <i>when he still remained alive</i>, he chose to let himself die. The contradiction is crystal clear, while with Terri he advocated keeping her in a state of living death, when his time came he refused to accept medical attention that would help him live on a little longer.

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plaintext,

No, it's not quite correct to say "Okay, so you're saying that the Catholic standard is that feeding tubes cannot be removed if they are keeping death away, but they can be removed if they are prolonging death?"

What I am saying is that starving and/or dehydrating a person to death is not ethically allowable for Catholics. If, however, a person is on the verge of death, there is no absolute requirement to give them food or water (unless, of course, it ameliorates their suffering) if the bodily organs are failing and could not make use of water and nutrients. One act causes death, the other does not.

You ask, "What makes a feeding tube less extraordinary than other treatment."

I'll have to find the document from the pope wherein he makes those distinctions: I haven't read it yet. But it seems rather obvious to me that a stomach tube is not that extraordinary or burdensome; a respirator or artificial heart is. I'll get back to you when I read the document.

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These are all technicalities. The fact is, to advocate that a woman that's already dead be kept alive, while refusing to accept medical help to stay alive a few moments longer, is a contradiction.

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Plaintext,

Some further thoughts on the distinction between "ordinary" and "extraordinary": in the case of a respirator or artificial heart, the organs are not functioning on their own and extraordinary measures have to be taken to make them function---or rather, function for them. In the case of a feeding tube, the digestive organs are, in fact, functioning: what is different is the means of delivery. I would equate a feeding tube with a tracheotomy in this regard: a family member's son had to have a trach inserted due to a congenital narrowing of the windpipe. It was not especially burdensome or extraordinary, and after the kid grew out of the condition, it was removed.

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Felipe,

How can, as you state, "a woman that's already dead be kept alive" ? If she's just a corpse, dead tissue, as you suggest, then why are you discussing how she is to be "kept alive"? Now THAT is a contradiction.

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No, it is not a contradiction. While Terri was already dead, her body lived on, without soul. I suppose you could pick on my word usage, but the conceptual understanding I'm conveying is clear: Terri Schiavo the human was already dead, the body that belonged to her lived on. I should've clarified and said "yet the Pope advocates that we keep her body alive" or something to that extent, instead of "yet the Pope advocates that we keep her alive." I assumed this was clear.

Edited by Felipe

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Felipe,

What is the basis for your statement "Terri was already dead, her body lived on, without soul"? When, precisely, does the soul depart, and what is your basis for determining that, beyond your particular opinion? I wonder what you make, then, of the numerous situations wherein people who have been classified as "brain dead" and comatose have recovered, sometimes after years. I am thinking particularly of the guy a year or so ago who came to after 15 years in a coma. His wife was told to remove the feeding tube, etc; as his condition was "irreversible", but she refused. Another case I heard about recently was a woman who was in the same state as Terri Sciavo, and recovered (by the way, she said that she could here all that was said around her). So, using your logic, did the soul leave them, and then come back? Where did it go in the meantime?

Earlier, you stated "if you are for "living on at all cost," then the Pontiff should've fought on till the end, regardless of whether or not death was eminent". You are ignoring the Church's teaching, which I gave in an earlier post. Here, straight from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of "over-zealous" treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted."

That you disagree with the Church's teaching on abortion is obvious, but that's a different topic and not relevant to this thread. But like it or not the Church is consistent: life, from conception to natural death, is to be protected. It is not viewed merely from a utilitarian perspective.

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Felipe can correct me if I'm wrong, but by "soul" I pretty sure he meant the thinking conscious human being that Terri once was, not the religous meaning of the term. According to Objectivism every man has a self-made "soul", his personality and thinking, the ego. It requires a intact conscious brain, something scientifically proven that Terri would never have again, which is meant by the term "living dead". Which indeed would be a contradiction in terms if taken out of context. For a person to be "alive" in the Objectivist sense the MUST retain their rational faculty, or what else is there but a corpse that isn't fully dead yet? Contrary to your assertion, there was no chance, zero, that Terri would ever regain consciousness and become the person the was once Terri Schiavo again, there is NO SUCH THING AS MIRACLES, and irrefutible SCIENCE said she was gone for good.

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RationalOne,

Thank you for your clarification. It's been a long time since I was reading Ms. Rand's books, so I had forgotten the concept of "soul" as understood by Objectivists.

But it doesn't change the point of my posts, which is that the Pope's actions are not contradictory as was claimed by the initial poster. Catholics, and most other people for that matter, do not accept the Objectivist definition. The Pope was acting consistently within his ethic.

As for your statement, "irrefutible SCIENCE said she was gone for good", I would add that there was considerable disagreement on that point in the case of Terri Schiavo. Also, science is hardly "irrefutable"---evidence being the cases I mentioned above, where people who had been classified by doctors (using SCIENCE) as being in an irreversible coma, or "brain dead", have come out of such states even after a period of many years (15 years, in the case of the guy who made the news a year or so ago). It seems reasonable to err on the side of continuing life. And, it should be pointed out, Terri Schiavo was a Catholic, not an Objectivist. However, it is straying off the topic of this thread. If I wished to dredge up the Terri Schiavo case in its particulars, I would have gone to that thread---I'd rather not get so far off topic.

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I find this thread particularly fascinating because it is not often that a serious religious philosopher ambles down our street!

AdAd, thank you for your patient explanations of your positions. Not sure what your intentions are in coming here, but I assume they're honorable and motivated by your strong convictions. I, for one, am curious as to how the church constructs and justifies its philosophy.

From what you say, it sounds like the Catholic church upholds biological "human" life and defines it as starting at the moment of conception and going to a moment when organs fail, lungs stop functioning, the heart stops, etc.

My questions:

1) Is this the way the Catholic church sees life?

2) By this, it would appear that the ban against contraception is not based on defending life, but on some other basis. If that would take the discussion too far from the current topic, let it go for now.

3) Does the Church have a reason for defining life in the way it does?

4) However the Church may define life, why does it defend life? What is the reason? Why is life of value?

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Good Christ! Felipe, Rational One, at least you guys know what's going on. I swear these other guys will be the end of me. One day I'm just going to read something that one of them posted... then "AAHHH!!!" And in one swift, firm yank I'm going to rip my eyeballs out.

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softwareNerd,

First off, I wish to thank you for your respectful tone. I appreciate that very, very much.

In answer to your questions:

1) Is this the way the Catholic church sees life?

No, it's much too limited, though accurate enough on a purely biological level. The Church's views on human life are rooted in the belief that a: God exists, which can be known by reason; and b: that man is made in his image. Because of this, man possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just a something, but a someone. Man is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession, and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. The Catholic Church rejects Platonistic dualism, which would have us as spiritual beings trapped in a useless body, which is happily gotten rid of as an impediment. The Church sees man as an integration of body and soul. It also rejects the Manichaean notion of "body bad, spirit good" (unfortunately some Protestant sects are prone to both of these ideas, which are destructive). One of the contributions of the late pope was an exposition on the revelation of the body known as the "theology of the body". Very illuminating. Some of it is quite dense (the pope was a scholar and philosopher of the first order), but it is being "unpacked", so to speak, by people such as Christopher West.

2) By this, it would appear that the ban against contraception is not based on defending life, but on some other basis. If that would take the discussion too far from the current topic, let it go for now.

It is based partly on defending life, but is actually much deeper than that, and is perhaps best explained by the theology of the body. I would recommend Christopher West's books for an explanation of that---it's hard to see how I could summarize that depth of philosophy into the space of a post on a forum. Basically, married couples are called to give themselves totally to one another, to "become one flesh". Spouses are called to love one another---all of the person, including that person's fertility---and not to use them (here, the opposite of love is not hate, but is the using of another for one's own purposes). Sex is seen, not just as unitive for the good of the marriage, but as a sign and pledge of spiritual communion (which is why, in the Catholic Church, marriage is a sacrament). Procreation is also seen as a sharing in the creative power of God. Artificial contraception, then, is saying, "I love you, but not 100%, because I sure don't love your fertility". The Church is not against Natural Family Planning and in fact recommends it---not every one can afford, either mentally or financially, many children. By the way, the divorce rate for couples who use Natural Family Planning (NFP) is about 2%.

3) Does the Church have a reason for defining life in the way it does?

Depends on whether you mean strictly biological life (that is, not dead), or "life" in the broader sense. I think I've probably answered the latter in some of my responses above; biologically speaking, life is seen as a continuum beginning at conception, which biology confirms (as well as common sense: ask a mother who has had a miscarriage and she will tell you that she lost her baby, not "I lost non-living tissue"). I really don't want to get into the abortion battle on this thread, though, as it truly is off topic.

4) However the Church may define life, why does it defend life? What is the reason? Why is life of value?

The Church defends life because it is seen as sacred, a gift from God. Man possesses an inalienable dignity that comes from that gift. I would add that it is the late pope's sense of, and proclamation of, that dignity and worth that people respond to, giving them hope. That is one reason why 2 million people will be going to Rome, and billions more are mourning his passing. Obviously, if one is an atheist (as I once was) none of this is relevant---but you did ask---and asked graciously---so I'm responding even though I expect the usual jeers.

Oh, about my intentions: yes, they are honorable. I don't intend to proselytize. I'm here because the kid of a friend is an Objectivist, and since it's been a while since I read Ms. Rand's books, I figured this might be a good forum to jog my memory (the better to discuss Objectivism). Mostly I have just read other posts, but I have jumped in when I've seen misconceptions regarding Christianity in general, Catholicism in particular. That ought not to perturb, as I am sure you yourself would not wish for false caricatures of Objectivism being attacked.

Edited by AqAd

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The Church's views on human life are rooted in the belief that a: God exists, ...; and b: that man is made in his image.

Is there a connection between those two or are they independent. If I assume that God exists, does it follow that man is made in his image? If so, how. If not, what is the brief reasoning for thinking that man is made in his image (in fact, what does "made in his image" mean?)

... even though I expect the usual jeers.
Jeerers do not move the world, even if they are right about what they jeer about. We can ignore them.

I have jumped in when I've seen misconceptions regarding Christianity in general, Catholicism in particular. That ought not to perturb, as I am sure you yourself would not wish for false caricatures of Objectivism being attacked.
Sure.

Your comment about the Catholic versus Protestant position on the mind-body dichotomy is interesting. I have lived in Ireland and in England and have thought a bit about what makes those two cultures so different. I always assumed (and still hypothesize) that the Protestant structure creates more pressure of individual responsibility while the Catholic structure is more forgiving of sin. It seems to me that the distinction between layman and priest is more pronounced in the Catholic church and actually gives laymen more leeway for sin (not in theory but in practice) as long as they repent later. This also (by the same hypothesis) frees laymen from constant doctrinal vigil and let's them be more "themselves". But... this is speculation..and quite a digression.

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softwareNerd,

Again, thank you for your respectful tone.

You asked, "Is there a connection between those two or are they independent"?

They are connected. If we reach the conclusion that God exists (which the Catholic Church maintains can be done by the light of natural reason), it then engenders a whole new set of questions, among which is the question, does God reveal himself to man? Why do we have a longing for the infinite; for beauty; for happiness? How is it that we have the desire to create? (Chesterton has an insightful quote: "Art is the signature of man".) Why do we have a conscience, and the ability (and tendency) to judge actions? These are signs that point us towards the idea that man is made in his image. If one goes further and comes to accept revelation, then the words in Genesis ("God created man in his own image") confirms this. In answer to your question, "what does "made in his image" mean?", I would say it means possessing, to some degree, some of God's attributes: man is capable of love; of self-knowledge; of self-expression; etc. Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man" is an excellent and intelligent exposition on this. However, it's late; I'm tired; and no doubt I will find better means to convey the answer to your questions tomorrow---so if my answer isn't entirely satisfactory, I will blame it on the hour.

Your comments regarding Protestant/Catholic structures are interesting...I will have to give them some thought. My initial reaction is that the opposite is true, based on my observations of and interactions with Protestants (indeed I considered myself one for a short while after rejecting atheism, but could not reconcile myself with what I saw as a fatal relativism and, in some denominations, anti-intellectualism). However, it's late, and I will chew on your ideas further with a fresh mind. I find it a very interesting topic, one that I've given a great deal of thought to over the years.

Edited by AqAd

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