Friday, September 28, 2007

Thorough Glimpse at JPII

Thanks again to John Allen, another fine (but long) article in response to the continuing discussion noise on JP the Great's death.

Please read it here. You probably will be asked about it.

Interesting snippets from the article (if you can't read it all):

First, while Pavanelli's article may raise legitimate questions about medical decisions made with regard to John Paul II, charges of euthanasia seem a stretch. Taking into consideration the pope's two extensive hospitalizations, plus the round-the-clock care given to him in his private apartment from March 13 through his death on April 2 by a whole team of physicians (most of whom were not on the Vatican payroll), it's hard to conclude that routine efforts to preserve his life were neglected.

Further, the first person to have resisted more aggressive measures earlier in 2005 might have been John Paul II himself - and not because he wanted to die, but because he insisted upon living. Throughout his two hospitalizations, the pope repeatedly demanded to return to the Vatican in order to resume at least a minimal level of activity. He also insisted upon making public appearances, even when he couldn't speak. Most famously, he appeared at his window overlooking St. Peter's Square on Easter Sunday, March 27, struggling to deliver a blessing, but in the end remaining mute. The pope stayed at the window for 12 minutes and 15 seconds, and at two points pushed away aides who tried to wheel him back inside.

Dr. Corrado Manni, who treated John Paul II after the assassination attempt in 1981, expressed sympathy for anyone trying to persuade the pope to accept treatments that would further restrict his activity: "I understand the difficulties his aides must have in dealing with such a situation … the Holy Father is difficult."

Second, it's hard to escape the impression that the controversy is less about a close medical examination of John Paul's treatment than broader political debates over euthanasia.

That hunch was bolstered by the fact that at the Wednesday press conference in Rome, Pavanelli was flanked by the widow of Piergiorgio Welby, an advanced muscular dystrophy patient who became a national cause célèbre in Italy in 2006 when his pleas to be removed from a respirator and allowed to die triggered anguished national debate. Some have compared the case to American controversies in 2005 over Terry Schiavo, though Welby remained conscious until the end.

Officially, the Catholic church took a strong position against Welby's decision to discontinue life-sustaining treatment. When a Rome parish planned a funeral Mass for Welby following his death in December 2006, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, at the time the pope's vicar for the Rome diocese and president of the Italian bishops' conference, stepped in and refused permission. An outdoor secular ceremony was staged instead on Dec. 24, in a spot adjacent to the parish, with some in the crowd of several thousand chanting "shame, shame!" at the church. Welby's 91-year-old mother declared: "They continue to insult him after his death."

In that context, the suggestion that the church did not walk its own talk in the case of John Paul II carries obvious political significance - explaining, perhaps, both why Micromega has played up Pavanelli's piece, and why the Vatican has gone to such great lengths to refute it.


On his blog for Thursday, Accattoli [an seasoned Italian Journalist] published what he described as "three polemical conclusions" about the debate set off by Pavanelli and Micromega. (For those who read Italian, the entry may be found here.) Accattoli wrote that he does so as someone who covered the pope's illness in first person.

First, Accatoli said, while a diagnosis at a distance may raise interesting questions and generate hypotheses, it cannot provide a basis for the certainty that Pavanelli apparently wants to claim - in particular, her assertion that John Paul II "must have" refused a feeding tube earlier in his illness, because there's no other explanation for why one wasn't used.

Second, Accattoli charges that Pavanelli simply didn't do her homework. Had she bothered consulting the periodic updates on the pope's condition released by the Vatican, he says, she would have found several references to his nutritional intake, all of which are consistent with a picture of slow degeneration matched by increasingly aggressive attempts to arrest the slide.

Third, Accattoli asserts that underlying the positions advanced by Pavanelli and Micromega is a caricature of Catholic moral teaching on end-of-life issues, which makes it sound as if any patient who isn't hooked up to every possible machine is somehow committing mortal sin. That, he suggested, fails to do justice to the church's careful moral reasoning in such cases.

I thought you might enjoy this, or at least find it useful.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Time is on a roll...

I read about this Tuesday or Wednesday but didn't know it was a hot topic in the U.S. yet. Time has an article claiming that Pope John Paul the Great's doctors euthanized him. You can read Time's take here.

If you read it, make sure you read at least one of these three responses.

A short one by Jimmy Akin on his blog (though a little angry too, not that I blame him)

A thorough response by Fr Jonathan Morris on

A deeper background piece on the Italian issues by John Allen.

You see that the Time piece sensationalist journalism with a captial S. There is very little fact checking of the Catholic perspective on end of life issues. The Italian doctor who originally posted the idea in an Italian paper had no access to any medical records of the actual case. She is writing solely from press releases and T.V. footage. Even House doesn't diagnose that way.

Regarding the Catholic position it is quite reasonable. In the Time article's second paragraph there is a reference to Pope John Paul the Great's letter Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life, read it here thought it is quite long). Evangelium Vitae makes no "dictum" that we must use all modern means available to avoid death. Hogwash.

Temper flaring, work not getting done, I think I'll quite this post while I still don't have to go to confession (for that at least).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pope is Popular

From the ever smooth and erudite John Allen:

Nearly three-quarters of Americans, 73 percent, who say they’re familiar enough with Pope Benedict XVI to offer an opinion have a favorable view of the pontiff, according to a new poll. Benedict scored well not just among Catholics, but also white Evangelicals, black Protestants, and mainline Protestants.

The survey, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and released today, offers the pope good news ahead of a projected 2008 visit to the United States.

To a considerable extent, the pope’s popularity crosses the normal American partisan divide. While 84 percent of Americans who describe themselves as conservative Republicans have a favorable view of the pope, 59 percent of self-described liberal Democrats also give Benedict XVI high marks. Benedict scored well among virtually every ideological subgroup, from a 68 percent approval rating among independents to 79 percent approval among conservative and moderate Democrats.

John goes on to explain and expound those numbers a bit in the full article which can be found by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Heroes Premiere

The new season of my surprise favorite from last year, NBC's Heroes started last night. Many threads going on, many story lines diverging from their convergence last season. Will they come together? I don't know. Will they genuinely raise questions about the meaning of human existence, power, and the place of morals? I don't know, but I hope so.

One complaint. Quite the Nissan plugs, for crying out loud! "Dad, you mean I get the Rogue!"- Claire. Shameless product placement. I feel as violated as when I first discovered product placement in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie of 1990.

Starbucks + Joni Mitchell + Catholic=???

Thanks to a THE Minnesota Catholic Blog, Stella Borealis:

Joni Mitchell is back after nine years, and she’s on the attack. In the title track to her new album, “Shine,” Mitchell takes a nice swipe at the Catholic Church by name.

“Shine on the Catholic Church/And the prisons that it owns,” she sings. “Shine on all the Churches/that love less and less.”

Mitchell was never one to mince words, but in her triumphant return on Starbucks’ Hear Records, she doesn’t give an inch.

Mitchell’s album will be something of a revelation to young people who might buy it at Starbucks when it’s released Tuesday if they listen to it and read the lyrics.
I already let one "Starbuck-aholic" know. Thought I'd let you know. I have no problem with artistic freedom. There is a need for avenues in society to discuss truth, beauty and goodness. This seems corporately myopic and disingenuous.

By the way, what prisons does the Church own?

Care to talk back to Starbucks? Click Here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Not that you'll notice...

I'll be on retreat this week. So the already sparse posting will not exist until after Friday, September 21st. Your prayers for a good retreat are appreciated.

I'll be at BroomTree Retreat Center outside Irene. A great place, check out their men's or women's retreats!

The retreat is run by Sr. Briege McKenna O.S.C. and Fr. Kevin Scallon C.M. under the title Intercession for Priests. I am excited as this is the first time in a while that I'll be going into a retreat with little idea what to expect. All I really want to do on retreat is encounter the Mystery of the Father through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Is that too much? I hope not.