Schiavo, the Pope, and "moral obligations"

"I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory."

The words of John Paul last year to an international conference on treatments for patients described as being in a persistent vegetative state. He was clarifying a 1980 Vatican document that distinguishes between "proportionate" and "disproportionate" means of prolonging life. The Pope allowed for the cessation of some forms of aggressive medical intervention for terminally ill patients but the Church and the Pope maintain that "normal care" must not be interrupted.

In the Schiavo case, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano compared the removal of the feeding tube to capital punishment and said of her, "But Terri has committed no crimes, if not that of being `useless' to the eyes of a society incapable of appreciating and defending the gift of life".

That seems to be pretty clear. Too bad the Church isn't as clear on unprovoked war (did the civilians or "collateral damage" in Iraq commit any crimes?), and too bad the Pope hasn't been as clear on the Administration's budgetary policies that call for social safety net cuts affecting the young, the poor, and the old. What crimes have they committed?

What about the homeless or those thrown onto the streets with severe psychological problems who are left to fend for themselves? Where is their "feeding tube" that would be considered a "natural means of preserving life". What crimes have they committed other than of being "useless" to the eyes of society?

His voice, the authority of the Church, and the insightful commentary of L'Osservatore Romano would be of great assistance for all those in this country trying to carry out the work of the one for whom all three of them (Pope, Church, and its newspaper) claim to work for.


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