Posted tagged ‘pope francis’


July 7, 2017

The recent news involving President Trump and the Pope raise questions not often discussed in the popular media. What are the relevant ethics around preserving life? For the Pope this is no surprise, for President Trump it might be a bit out of character.

This controversy involves a British couple whose infant son was born with a rare genetic disorder where the child cannot move or produce enough energy to keep his own organs functioning. Fifty years ago, the child would have simply gotten weaker and weaker, and died a natural death. Today, doctors have advanced diagnosis techniques and have managed to keep the child alive using heroic means (life support and special feeding). Without these measures doctors say the child would have died.

In the case of this infant with a “un-curable”genetic order, the hospital’s argument is somewhat different. The hospital contends the child’s situation is hopeless and continued heroic efforts, in essence, will be both fruitless and take medical resources away from other sick patients who could use them. In other words, the ethics of continuing heroic efforts is “unethical” towards others. Why, because the patient’s life is not viable on its own and continued medical care is highly unlikely to change the condition.

Oddly President Trump and the Pope have offered help to keep the infant alive.

Many of us are familiar with certain religions who argue that all efforts should be employed to keep life going, and less frequently, others which do not believe in medical healing, let alone heroic measures. For these latter religions, prayer alone is enough.

Consequently hospitals often have to go into court seeking the right to proceed with life saving treatments which the individual or his/her guardian has opposed. The hospital argues that science and medical ethics compels them to seek court approval to treat.

In general, this type of medical situations bring out advocates on both sides. IMO, those choosing no medical intervention, for example for themselves, when making an informed decision, are on ethically sound footing. Those choosing to deny (or employ) medical methods for others, however, must be viewed cautiously around what right do they have to intercede.

In the case of the British child, the Hospital seems on sound grounds to deny continued heroic efforts but why should the parents not be able to seek heroic methods from other sources? Hmmm.

One way to resolve this dilemma is to ask, will the child’s life meet a “viability” standard, that is, could the child now, or in the foreseeable future, be able to live without heroic measures? If the answer is no, then the hospital should be completely in the clear to deny heroic measures. But does it follow that the parents are free seek other hospitals to take over?

The simple answer should be, yes they should be able since they are the guardians. But, as humans, the “viability” ethic standard ought to apply to them too.

Unless the State steps in and makes the calculated decision that parents have no right to use limited resources, namely heroic medical care, especially if there is no hope of attaining viability, then a dependent child is subject to what ever the society (family, local government, or higher government unit) decides.   Politics could be a real factor.

Love and blind hope are powerful stimulants.  The British parents are holding out against the odds that their child might be saved.  And, who knows, maybe a cure might be found.  But the odds do not support this hope.  In a world of limited resources, both the seeker and those provided with life saving resources must consider where these resources will be most productive.

President Trump is most likely looking for a positive reaction from his supporters and nothing more.  The Pope is most likely motivated by his religious beliefs but may also want to send a dogmatic statement about life in general.  Economics, which are inescapable, sends the warning of how important it is too allocate scarce resource.



Man Of The Year

December 12, 2013

Pope Francis was named Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” yesterday.  This is a marketing game so there is no need to examine the selection relative to the other finalists.  The Pope is certainly not a bad choice and arguably he might be the most worthy for a meaningless prize.  The reasons for his selection, however, are worth commenting upon.

The Pope was sighted as having spoken out and having made sincere gestures towards the poor.  The Pope was also recognized for wondering out loud why the Church hierarchy obsessed so much about family planning and homosexuals.  (The Pope has subsequently clarified his wonderings saying those subjects were part of Church dogma and still valid).

The Catholic Church is much like the Queen Mary.  It does not turn on a dime.  Maybe Pope Francis can only fight one battle at a time, this time for the poor.   This is not a bad choice.  It is just an insufficient one.

The ironic part is that every step he takes in bringing the church clergy round to dealing with the forgotten poor, he will be shining a light on other equally great contradictions like women’s homosexuals’ rights.  The notion that Catholic Charities or Parochial Schools would not employ someone if that person obtained a same sex marriage license is as mean spirited as it comes.  But there’s more.  How is it ok to deny any employee of a church affiliate certain parts of the Affordable Care Act?  These two say it all.

Pope Francis needs to do more to earn the title Man of the Year but if he does, he would deserve at a minimum “Man of the Decade” status.


The Pope Speaks, Is Anyone Listening?

September 25, 2013

Pope Francis spoke recently about the Catholic Church being fixated on little things.  It all depends how you personally view sexual matters as to whether they are little or not.  But in the Pope’s view, making the Church open to everyone was a big matter and sexual issues were small in comparison.  In comparison to his predecessor, Pope Francis’ words were earth shaking.

Apparently, however, the earth has not shaken in Providence, Rhode Island.  There, Providence College, a Dominican liberal arts college, “uninvited” John Corvino, Professor and Department Head at Wayne State University from delivering a talk titled “The Meaning of Gay Marriage”.  The invitation withdrawal was attributed to an older resolution by the American College of Catholic Bishops which said that church affiliates should not recognize anyone who holds view opposite to accepted church dogma.


Of course, the Pope did not speak of new Church law or teaching.  He just gave his opinion.

American Bishops have been trapped in “no win” (and non-sensical) positions relating to sex, reproduction, family planning, and marriage for some time.  Surveys have shown most Catholics do not agree with Church teaching in these areas.

The “head scratching” part of this event is that Providence College prides itself in educating the student.  How is it possible that a Department Head from another respected University does not qualify (1) as an educated person, and (2) one worthy of sharing a point of view.  Hearing other views does not make them correct, for sure, but denying differing views is intellectually dangerous and educationally inhibiting.  The Providence College “educators” should know this.

As they say, there is no free lunch.  Gay marriage is here to stay regardless of what some church leaders would like.  More to the point, time will show that gay marriage are no better, or no worse than heterosexual ones.  Some same sex marriages will last and their partners will thrive and contribute, just as in heterosexual unions.

What will change, however, will be the Providence College graduates who grow to see the shortcomings and pettiness of Catholic dogma.  It may take a few more years but the church are most likely to have plenty of room when Pope Francis’ “Home For All” message finally sinks in.