Monday, March 21, 2005

George's Thoughts on Schiavo

Recently, National Review interviewed Princeton professor of law Robert George, who is a member of the President's Council on Bioethics. He spoke to issues of justified killing and particularly to the issue of denying Terri Schiavo food and water. Here are some of his thoughts:

"It is pointless to ask whether Terri Schiavo had somehow formed a conditional intention to have herself starved to death if eventually she found herself in a brain-damaged condition. What's really going on here — and I don't think we can afford to kid ourselves about this — is that Terri's husband has decided that hers is a life not worth having. In his opinion, her continued existence is nothing but a burden — a burden to herself, to him, to society. He has presumed to decide that his wife is better off dead.

"Even if we were to credit Michael Schiavo's account of his conversation with Terri before her injury — which I am not inclined to do — it is a mistake to assume that people can make decisions in advance about whether to have themselves starved to death if they eventually find themselves disabled. That's why living wills have proven to be so often unreliable. One does not know how one will actually feel, or how one will feel about one's life and the prospect of death, or whether one will retain a desire to live despite a mental or physical disability, when one is not actually in that condition and when one is envisaging it from the perspective of more or less robust health.

"Consider the case of a beautiful young woman — an actress or fashion model perhaps — who is severely burned in a fire. Prior to actually finding herself in such a condition, she might have supposed — and even said, if the subject had come up in a conversation — that she would rather be dead than live with her face grotesquely disfigured. But no one would be surprised if in the actual event she did not try to kill herself by starvation or some other means, and did not want to die.

"In any event, it is clear that the only reason for Michael Schiavo's decision is that he considers Terri's quality of life to be so poor that he wants her to be dead. He claims that she would want that too, which I don't grant, but even if he's right about that, we should treat her like anyone else who wants to commit suicide. We rescue, we care. We affirm the inherent value of the life of every human being. Our governing principle should be always to care, never to kill."

In responding to the criticisms of intervention by the government, George said:

"The other thing that Congress is being accused of is interfering in a family decision. Now look: Terri Schiavo has been abandoned by her husband. Michael Schiavo took a vow to be faithful to Terri "in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, 'til death do us part." But he has not been faithful; he has not forsaken all others. He has set himself up in a marriage in all-but-name with someone else, a woman with whom he already has two children. He has disrespected Terri and, indeed, forsaken her. Now he is seeking to bring about her death by starvation. Notice something wrong with this picture? Terri's parents and siblings, by contrast, have never abandoned her. They are prepared to shoulder all the burdens, including the financial burdens, of caring for her. They want to provide the therapy that many medical people who have observed Terri, whether at the bedside or by videotape, believe can help her. No one expects a full recovery, but it may be possible for her to make genuine progress. That possibility will be foreclosed, however, if she is killed by deliberate starvation before it can begin."

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Terri Schiavo and Christ's Passion

Yesterday was a sad day for America. Terri Schiavo's killing began. And it began partly because of a judge.

A court in this once-great land issued a death warrant, an order to kill, and since she is an innocent person, an order to murder. To take away food and water, basic goods, from someone who has not verifiably expressed such a wish is to violate her basic rights. Added to that is the fact that there are so many questionable "facts" and issues related to her case only makes the request on behalf of her husband all the more suspect. She has not even had the appropriate testing done to see if she is in a persistent vegetative state (pvs). The judge will not listen to reputable doctors who disagree with the husband and the judge's own death-oriented views.

It is no coincidence either that this happened on the Friday before Holy Week. As Terri is starved, she will undergo increased pain and suffering. She will truly be walking with Christ as Good Friday approaches. And if she dies as expected, if her murder happens when they think it will, she will have been killed on or around not only the day we remember the death of Christ but ... appropriately enough ... the Resurrection of Christ. May she be comforted in His Grace as she is slowly murdered and may her suffering and eventual death be redemptive. Her family ... or I should say her "loved ones" because not all her family is apparently loving her ... will need the comfort of this to persevere through the mayhem that continues in their lives.

I recently read the above letter to the editor in The Tidings (March 11), the newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, that utterly misrepresented the Ten Commandments and Christian moral tradition.

Well, here are my thoughts (which The Tidings chose not to publish ... for whatever reason):

Letter writer Mike Wisniewski (March 11) betrays his own ignorance of the Ten Commandments as he tries to criticize other Catholics for what turns out to be their deeper and more accurate understanding of God's Word. Wisniewski says "there are no exceptions listed with" the fifth commandment. However, what he apparently does not understand is that the commandment to "not kill" literally says "Thou shall not murder." (Check your Hebrew.) Since there is a difference between murdering and killing, i.e., since not all killing is murder, this commandment actually does suggest an exception to killing. This commandment says one should not murder, and thus allows for continued and justified forms of killing. For proof of this, check out the second command God gives in the Bible, a command before he has formed the people of Israel (and thus not one subject to claims that it only applies then and to them): Genesis 9:6 says "If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed for in His (God's) image did God make man." God actually commands humanity to put to death those who murder. This is one reason why the Church will never condemn outright the moral justification of the death penalty, however limited she says its use should be.

Now, I am not saying that the death penalty is perfect nor am I saying that we should not find other forms to punish and keep murderers from the rest of society. The only point is that advocating the death penalty is not "hypocritical" for Catholics, for as things turn out these proponents actually have a strong case, both biblical and moral, for advocating such a measure, however limited they would like to see its application.

As well, Wisniewski suggests that war is counter to the fifth commandment. Well, since not all killing is proscribed, resort to war may still be justified. When we look at the evil of the Nazis, what other measure does Wisniewski suggest to stop the atrocious terror committed by a strong and morally-bankrupt regime like Hitler's? With a name like his, Wisniewski should know better. War is not the answer? Well, sometimes it is. Sometimes it is the only thing that will stop evil men from continuing to pillage, rape, murder, and torture innocents around the world. Sometimes it is the only thing that will stop genocide. War is sometimes the answer, and therefore killing is sometimes justified. It is only too sad that people like Wisniewski not only are ignorant about the Word of God and their alleged faith (especially when they are public about it) but that they also apparently have no gratitude for the sacrifice of thousands of men and women who have died fighting so that others could be free and live in relative peace and safety. As Mill said, yes, war is ugly, but what is uglier is the "decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war .... The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." I thank God for these men (and those who continue such sacrifices). Without them, if we survived, we would all be speaking German! Posted by Hello

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Jesuits and False Teaching?

In a recent article in First Things about his entrance into the Catholic Church, R. R. Reno recalls one of the problems with Catholic universities, and education in general (at least in the sense of common sense and any positing or even honest consideration of an objective morality and for lack of a better word "traditional" or conservative political thought):

"The Catholic Church did not deliver me from apostasy and false teaching. I teach at a Jesuit university [enough said?!], so I am not naive about just how insouciant about orthodoxy priests can be."

Friday, March 11, 2005

Terrorists amongst Us

In an interview with National Review, Barbara Newman, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, reveals some startling info about the continued threat of terrorism, this time not so much from al-Qaeda as from Hezbollah, the group responsible for murdering 241 U.S. Marines in Beirut back in 1983 all through one "suicide" bomber. She is the co-author of the new book Lightening Out of Lebanon: Hezbollah Terrorists on American Soil.

Some of Barbara Newman's responses:

"I almost lost my breakfast Thursday, which luckily I hadn't eaten yet, when I saw the New York Times page-one report today that Kofi Annan is encouraging the acceptance of Hezbollah as the preponderant power in Lebanon and the United States is thinking of yielding to this and France's pressure to do just that.

"But the unvarnished truth is that Hezbollah is the most dangerous terrorist group in the world. It has about 25,000 armed members and as we saw in the pro-Syrian march in Beirut, it can muster a million in the streets.

"The Iranian Revolutionary Guards started training what became Hezbollah in Baalbeck in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon in 1979, right after Khomeini came to power in Iran. Iran supports Hezbollah with about $100 million a year but Hezbollah has enough businesses and is a powerful fundraiser in its own right. Iran helps Hezbollah by putting at its disposal its diplomatic prerogatives, letting Hezbollah use its security apparatus for communications and shipping of equipment.

"How can we forget the fact that in 1983 a Hezbollah suicide driver crashed a one-thousand-pound bomb into the Marine Barracks in Beirut and killed 241 of our best and brightest? What about the hostages they took and tortured? What about the CIA Beirut station chief William Buckley who they kidnapped and slowly drowned to death by forcing a pipe down his throat and flooding him with water? They made tapes of his agony and sent it to the CIA. I'm told that former CIA Director William Casey almost went crazy when he heard them, and this propelled him to Iran-Contra, to try to free the hostages.

"Hezbollah has been operating inside the United States. Since the 1980s, the FBI has deported hundreds of members and had dozens of cases. Mostly, in these years, the Hezbollah cells were busted for criminal activity such as insurance fraud, credit-card fraud, counterfeiting clothes such as Levi jeans, phony marriages which they arranged to get green cards, and cigarette smuggling. Though these are sort of under-the-radar crimes, they raised millions of dollars which were sent to Hezbollah coffers in Beirut and in some cases used to buy highly sophisticated 'dual-use' equipment in Canada such as very sophisticated computers, cell phones hooked up electronically to be capable of remotely controlled explosions, and intelligence drones.

"They have not hit us here but the FBI and CIA thinks if we push them to the wall, cut off their ability to raise funds, get tough with them in Lebanon, they easily could hit us here.

"Remember, they are very tough and sophisticated. Their soldiers don't do solo operations. Think of them as a pistol aimed at our head, which can be shot at will."