Talking about MSNBC – ‘No Moral Sense’

The interview with Boston Jesuit priest, Fr. Paris, in the Newsweek article MSNBC – ‘No Moral Sense’ has many serious fallacies in it.  Below is my comment to a friend, regarding this article.


Thank you for sharing the article with me.  However, I have some serious misgiving with the opinions expressed by Fr. Paris.

For starters, as Fr. Paris said, "It has to be seen in the context."  The context of this priest’s opinion is 1) it appears in Newsweek magazine, a periodical with a definite liberal slant (by their own admission, not my opinion. The slant is particularly obvious by the dig on the President’s Social Security plan – something that has nothing to do with Terri Schiavo.); 2) he is a member of academia in Boston, MA – a diocese with a very checkered recent history (financial and sexual scandals) in a very liberal state; and 3) that he is a priest, not a bishop or the Pope – therefore, he does not speak with infallibility on such moral teachings. 

Don’t get me wrong – there is a place for liberalism, but morality and theology are not the place for it.(This is has recently been labeled "liberation theology" – the practice of teaching that each person’s view of God and his teachings is valid.  However, even a cursory examination of liberation theology reveals the flaws pretty quickly. It is not possible for everyone to have a different view and all be correct.)

For myself, I question why they devote 90% of the article to the opinion of this "expert on the intersection of law, medicine, and ethics", when they admit right up front that The Vatican’s leading bioethicist disagreed, calling "such a death a “pitiless way to kill” someone."

The fact that he states that the Pope’s words must be taken in the context of what type of meeting he is at would suggest his belief that the Pope’s views (and that of the Church) change from time to time, a version of "moral relativism", which the Church actually denounces.  I don’t believe that if the Pope were speaking to some group opposite of "right-to-life" that he would have minced words.  This is the same man who has spoken boldly to dictators.  I doubt his views, no less the standard teaching of the Church, changes because of who is being spoken to.

As for the "partridge egg" argument, food and hydration have already been defined by the Vatican as *not* being extraoridinary care.  Respirators, dialysis, and chemotherapy are, however, consider "aggressive" (partridge eggs) and are therefore not mandatory.

Finally, the state of the Church in America has always been rocky.  It has a lot to do with the "spirit of indepence and democracy" that makes Americans think that they can dictate policy and doctrine in the Church.  Sadly enough for many Americans, the Church is not a democracy and does not bow to the prevailing winds of the times – otherwise it would never have been able to stand for the past 2000 years.  It may seem like the Church shifts positions, but that’s only a relative measure, because the world is always shifting toward a "new progress".  It is very much like a pendulum – from the perspective of the pendulum, the ground is moving up and down and side to side, when in reality, it is the pendulum swinging madly from side to side.  This is why American Catholics are more and more being called to be Catholic first, Americans second – patriotism and belief in the ideals of America are nice, but they won’t necessarily get us to Heaven, and sometimes they are directly contradictory to that goal.

Back to Fr. Paris, when he states that the 2 heresies of our time are that life is always good and death is always bad, his supporting explanation shows that he has obviously not read or simply disregarded the papal encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" (The Gospel of Life) – []. In it, the pope explains that the good news Jesus came to give us was that His death (no one elses) was to give life to the world.  Hence the teaching in Deutoronomy "I present before you life and death.  Choose life…"; hence God’s question "What have you done?" to Cain after he killed his brother and the denouncement of Cain’s excuse "Am I my brother’s keeper?" (Gen 4:9); hence Jesus’ own words "A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly." (John 10:10). 

We are very much each other’s keepers, especially when it is a matter of life and death.  Death entered the world because of Original Sin – just because Jesus could turn death around and make it work for Our Father’s plan of salvation does not mean that death is therefore good. "Shall we persist in sin that grace may abound? Of course not! How can we who died to sin yet live in it? Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life." (Romans 6:1-4) We are called to live, while we are able, so that we can live as members of Christ’s mystical body to do His work on earth.

To put it another way, life is difficult, "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak", and our bodies sometimes seem like prisons for our souls.  Is this an adequate excuse or reason to end our lives?  Terri Schiavo can do nothing dead, but while she lives, she gives opportunity to others to reach beyond themselves to help another, less fortunate than themselves.  She can also offer her own sufferings, joined with Christ’s sufferings on the Cross, for the good of the world. 
Finally, the assertion that "if the pope himself, who has no known living will, were in a similar situation, it would be “an invitation to open chaos” at the Vatican," is ludicrous.  I think the Pope’s position on how he should die is pretty obvious to all those with clear eyes.

So, long story short (too late!), I disagree with the opinions of this priest, and I hope his bishop has words with him about this interview he gave.

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