Over the past few days, through global TV coverage, the world witnessed the passing of Pope John Paul II, and that of one of the ~ 1 billion members of his global flock, Mrs Terri Schiavo. These events were epochal, and so they help us achieve that understanding of our times that will help us know what we should do. [Cf. 1 Chron 12:32.]
- As John Paul passed away, we saw a curious blend of responses. On the one hand, there were accolades to a great man who first resisted Nazi tyranny in his native land, Poland as a nineteen-year-old youth. Then, across a long career as a priest, Bishop, theologian-philosopher, and finally, Pope, he helped liberate hundreds of millions of victims of Communist tyranny in Eastern Europe and reached out across ancient enmities, quarrels and hurts to bring healing and seek reconciliation. But at the same time, while the New York Times could easily find sharp critiques it was reduced to an all too revealing inadvertently published line in its online obituary: “need some quote from supporter.” Why? Simple: the late Pope was a Traditionalist, especially on morality.
- Similarly, Mrs Schiavo suffered brain damage fifteen years ago, and her husband won a million-dollar settlement intended to maintain her for fifty years. However, she was starved and dehydrated to death on court order at the request of Mr Schiavo (who for the past ten years has been living with another woman by whom he has fathered two children). This was done despite serious questions from competent medical personnel about the accuracy of her “persistent vegetative state” diagnosis – for which not even a MRI scan has been done. Why? Because “progressive” legal thought no longer permits us to consider the point that such blatant adultery is an abandonment of the marriage, so Mr Schiavo retained his position as legal guardian. On his orders, key tests simply were not done. His argument was clear: Terri would not wish to live with such a low quality life, so food and water should be withheld till she died. And so, over the strong protest of her family and many others, that is just what was done. Chillingly, we know the underlying concept all too well from the recent, grim history of the late Pope’s motherland: “life unworthy of life” was Hitler’s rhetorical basis for euthanasia -- and it soon became the operating principle of the infamous Nazi death camps, such as the most infamous of all: the one they built in conquered Poland, Auschwitz. Thirteen millions perished in those camps, including six million Jews, but already we are forgetting the lesson.
In a region where some 25% of both employment and National Income come from tourism, that clash between morality and economic interests is a serious, immediate concern. For, as we saw last year in our own local controversy over the proposed Gambling Act, we are now increasingly being offered a false “choice”: between prosperity and adherence to sound principle. “[A] false choice”? Yes, for sound society is rooted in principled restraint of our desires, agendas and passions. So, if we seek prosperity at the expense of moral principles rooted in respect for liberty, order, opportunity and justice based on our being equally created in God’s image, there can be no foundation for rebuilding our nation as a healthy, wholesome, truly democratic, God-blessed community.
Thus, the big challenge ahead is quite plain: how can we develop our nation without fatally compromising the moral principles that give us a community worth living in? To that issue, we must now turn our thoughts.
So now, let’s talk . . . AMEN