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Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Baby and The Archbishop

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Baby CharlieBaby Charlie Gard

When the European Court of Human Rights (George Orwell, call your office) denied the parents of little Charlie Gard the opportunity to take their 10-month-old from Great Britain to the United States in their last-ditch effort to save their child’s life, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia had some interesting things to say.  Paglia, of course, is he of ‘homoerotic painted-selfie’ fame, and bears the shiny new Papa Francesco mint mark as the head not only of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, but also of the Pontifical Academy for Life (recently repopulated with activists and scholars who are anything but).  Paglia seems kind of busy to take on the leadership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as well, but who else is the Holy Father going to get, who reflects his views so transparently and carries out his wishes so faithfully?


Charlie, on the other hand, is the once-in-a-cosmos priceless human being made in the image and likeness of God, who is stricken by an extremely rare disease but who may have survived just the same, given a fighting chance.  But instead of allowing his parents to try to save his life, the Court has blocked them--and only the sound of peaceful, prayerful crickets is to be heard from the vicinity once known as Catholic Rome.  Would the high-risk treatment have saved little Charlie?  No one knows for certain.  It is entirely possible that he might have died just the same.  The real problem is that no one can be sure he wouldn’t have lived, either. 

People of good will, of all races and faiths, are up in arms about this travesty.  And there is His Excellency Vincenzo Paglia, Pope Francis’ right-hand man on all things bioethical, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the population he most loves to listen to.  As was stated just the other day:

Your Archbishop will not cease to protest against the killing of the innocent.

Oh, wait.  My bad!  That wasn’t Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia at all, but rather His Excellency Michael von Faulhaber, the archbishop of Munich from 1917 to 1952!  The wider context of this quote, dated March 22, 1942, is as follows: “With deep horror the Christian people in Germany have learned that, by order of the state, numerous mentally weak people . . . have been deprived of their lives as ‘unproductive members of the community.’  Your archbishop,” et cetera.  But soon you’ll understand how I could have confused the two, given the striking similarity between them  when it comes to both perspective and tone…

Sending Charlie by airplane Across the Pond, not to mention footing the bill for experimental treatment of the mitochondrial depletion syndrome of which the little guy is only the world’s sixteenth known victim, would have cost a pretty penny.  But because his condition has left him brain-damaged already, the implication is that the money would be better spent elsewhere.  And regarding this aspect of the Gard case, here is the public pronouncement of the happy-go-lucky prelate sporting a pair of rainbow sunglasses and hoisting a specialty drink:

vincenzio paglia 600

We declare ourselves ready to meet all expenses with regard to the further care of all patients who are to be put to death.

You’ve got to be kidding me.  Not Vincenzo, again?  Evidently, that quote would be correctly attributed to His Excellency Konrad Gröber, Archbishop of Freiburg, who stood before the secular authorities of his time (namely, the bureaucrats of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin on August 1, 1940) and so testified.

The question of the age is, of course, “Who Should Decide”--reechoing the seminal query “Did God Really Say . . .?” as hissed into the ear of our first mother, Eve, concerning the harvesting of some local trees. It is wrong to call into question what is already known without a doubt; and calling into question the word of God is what the Bergoglian consensus-seekers are doing when they imply that their “questions” don’t have unqualified answers already.  Why can’t Charlie’s parents decide--parents who, like Bob and Mary Schindler before them, want desperately to do all they can to help their child survive, and to offer him self-sacrificially the highest ‘quality of life’ he can manage, whatever the snobbish Sangerians may think?

But instead, the Court has “imposed its (lack of) morality” on the challenged toddler, not to mention everybody else.  Thank goodness Archbishop Paglia has been proclaiming so loudly that the perpetrators have had to cover their collective ears:

No state, no government has the right to order the killing of those called ‘unworthy to live’ or ‘unproductive,’ . . . and no doctor has the right to take part in that killing. . . . As the Holy Scripture says, ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked!’

No need to be concerned, in other words, that the head of the overhauled Pontifical Academy for Life is in any way attempting to plagiarize the verbiage of His Grace Franz Rudolf Bornewasser, Bishop of Trier when he actually did say this on September 14, 1941. 

What, then, actually is Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia’s (and, presumably, Pope Francis’) point of view?   Here is an excerpt from the translation of the statement of the current President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, as provided for us at the Vatican Radio website:

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued a statement today that recognizes above all the complexity of the situation, the heartrending pain of the parents, and the efforts of so many to determine what is best for Charlie.  The Bishops’ statement also reaffirms that  ‘we should never act with the deliberate intention to end a human life,’ . . . but that ‘we do, sometimes, however, have to recognize the limitations of what can be done, while always acting humanely in the service of the sick person until the time of natural death occurs.’ 

The proper question to be raised in this and any other unfortunately similar case is this: what are the best interests of the patient?  We must do what advances the health of the patient, but we must also accept the limits of medicine and, as stated in Paragraph 65 of the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, avoid aggressive medical procedures that are disproportionate to any expected results or excessively burdensome to the patient or the family . . . Dear Charlie, dear parents... we are praying for you.

But Paragraph 65 of Evangelium Vitae doesn’t really justify the medical-neglect-unto-death of little Charlie at all.  It only holds, in part, that:

Certainly, there is a moral obligation to care for oneself and to allow oneself to be cared for, but this duty must take account of concrete circumstances.  It needs to be determined whether the means of treatment available are objectively proportionate to the prospects for improvement.  To forego extraordinary or disproportionate means is not the equivalent of suicide or euthanasia; it rather expresses acceptance of the human condition in the face of death.

Nowhere does John Paul II either state or imply, as Paglia attempts with Bergoglian brazenness to misrepresent, that extraordinary treatments are to be positively avoided; only that they may be morally foregone if there is no reasonable expectation of improvement as a result.  Also, as the former Holy Father of happy memory makes undeniably clear, he is speaking here about establishing medical parameters for medical decision-making “when death is clearly imminent and inevitable.”  But in little Charlie Gard’s case, death is only definitely inevitable because the Human Rights Court has decreed it to be so.
Charlie Gard and his mom
Is this euthanasia?  It is well to remember that this crime against humanity may be accomplished not only by commission, but by omission as well.  Back in the day, the Father O’Rourke’s of the world were trying to get denial of nutrition and hydration included under the umbrella of the “extraordinary,” and they almost got away with it.  Now, the bishops of England and Wales want to acquit themselves of this charge by recognizing that nutrition and hydration are always to be provided--which is awfully nice of them, given that that isn’t the issue in the Gard situation.  Where were they when Terri Schindler Schiavo was being starved and dehydrated to death?

If what is happening to Charlie is nevertheless properly categorized as euthanasia, however, it is because the Church recognizes that this act is to be identified both by the intention and by the means used.  The logically ineluctable motive of the Court which has ensured that this little boy is going to die no matter what makes his imprisonment in a British hospital the moral equivalent of holding a pillow over his face until he expires.  In papering over this decision with Christian-sounding terms, as we have seen, the members of the hierarchy aren’t exactly channeling their august and solidly Catholic predecessors.  But there are some people they’re starting to sound a lot like, instead.

There’s the noted team of Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche, who opined in their co-authored treatise, “The Release of the Destruction of Life Devoid of Value,” that “the elimination of pain is also healing.”  It was the National Socialists, naturally, who took this work from the 1920s and ran with it, putting into practice the idea that the most aggressive military and medical approaches are simultaneously the most “humane” (a term lifted straight from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, in any number of places), because not being alive at all was considered preferable to enduring an existence marked by suffering either literal or metaphysical (defined, mirabile dictu, as any existence which the Nazis themselves did not approve of).

Archabortionist and situational ethicist Joseph Fletcher, in his book “Humanhood” from the 1970s, also set great store by the notion that all other considerations should be subordinated to the “humane and rational,” which is the justification he offered for eugenic infanticide, among other things.  So now we hear that the bishops and the Archbishop want to see to it that everybody ends up acting “humanely in the interest of the sick person” where the Gard case is concerned, is that it?  Well, truth be told, Your Excellencies, that’s what they all say.

There’s Magda Denes, the sociologist whose volume In Necessity and Sorrow documents her time investigating the inner workings of an abortion clinic in America in the late twentieth century.  Despite holding pro-abortion views herself, Denes had the intellectual integrity to relate her findings honestly.  Among them is included the following sanguine assessment:  “(We) take it for granted that we are in the business of death, here.”  Yes, the Church does allow for economic considerations to come into play in making medical determinations, but not in such a way that lucre is permitted to eclipse the intrinsic and inviolable value of the patient himself, which is of an entirely different and supernatural order.   Where do we find, in all of Paglia’s talk about “avoid(ing) aggressive procedures that are disproportionate to any expected results,”  the idea that human beings are worth investing in, worth being given the benefit of the doubt, even if they are never grow up to wear pairs of rainbow sunglasses and hoist specialty drinks with the cool kids?  We don’t.  That idea just never gets any air time at all--an omission that ought to concern every last one of us, very deeply.

So, as the stomach-turning spectacle known as the Bergoglian pontificate continues to unfold before our very eyes, we might do well to remember what an authentic Catholic archbishop actually looks and sounds like.  Peter Singer, after all (friend and collaborator of Nigel Biggar, the high-profile, pro-abortion appointee to the Paglia-led PAL), is far from the first one to compare human beings with animals, and to find the former sadly lacking.  Clemens August Graf von Galen, who was later made a Cardinal by Pope Pius XII but who was still the Archbishop of Münster when he delivered his famous series of homilies during the summer of 1941, had the following to say about Singer’s ideological predecessors:

It is judged that (victims of the euthanasia program, by either active or passive means) can no longer produce riches, and that they are like old machines which can no longer work, like an old horse which has become incurably lame or like an old cow which can no longer give any milk.  What does one do with such a machine?  One destroys it.  What does one do with an old cow or any unproductive cattle?

But I do not wish to push this comparison too far.  The justification of this comparison and the light it throws on the situation is too terrible.  We are not here dealing with machines or horses or cows . . . If this horrible doctrine is tolerated, admitted, and practiced, it is impossible to imagine to what depths of depravation it will lead.  . . . Woe to men and woe to the German people if we transgress the sacred commandment Thou Shalt Not Kill which was given to us by God on Mount Sinai in thunder and lightning and which God, our Creator, engraved on the human conscience from the beginning of time.  Woe to the German people if we not only tolerate this crime but allow it to be committed with impunity.

And woe to us, if we do not follow in the footsteps of this courageous and faithful shepherd when we see the rights not only of God’s own creatures, but even of God Himself, being violated in our own day, and by His chosen and anointed ministers at that.

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Last modified on Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Helen M. Weir

Helen M. Weir is a freelance writer who holds a Master's Degree in Theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville.  She belongs to the Militia Immaculatae movement of Total Marian Consecration founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe, the Hero of Auschwitz.