John Paul was a decent enough fellow. He spoke often and eloquently for the cause of peace and justice. He opened new avenues of dialogue with Muslims, Jews, and other world religions even as he reaffirmed the centrality of Jesus as the Light of the World.
He also showed himself to be nothing more than a paper tiger in the wake of the priestly sexual abuse scandal here in the U.S. and around the world. He had an opportunity to take a firm, zero-tolerance stand that would have sent a clear message to would-be and already affirmed Catholics (and others) that holiness involves sexual purity, not sexual deviance. He punted the opportunity.
Here’s hoping the next Pope is less world-renowned politician and more focused on doing “the right thing” to rebuild the trust and faith of Catholics throughout the United States. The last Pope may have been a nice enough guy, but he showed himself to be distant and disinterested when it came to expunging the slime that had crept its way into the leadership of the U.S. church.
The greatest tragedy in the passing of Terri Schiavo is not the seemingly gruesome death she suffered. The truth is that up until the invention of feeding tubes and life support people died “natural,” horrible deaths all the time, often starving and dehydrating, but not always with the benefit of pain management tools like morphine pumps. There is nothing dignified about death. Medical science has come closer to helping manage the pain, but the end result is still the same.
I fully expected that once sanity broke through the media frenzy and upheaved the intentionally martyred PR spin put forth by the Schindler family, Terri would one day die in the fashion she did. I, like many, shed a few tears as I put myself in her shoes. To think of oneself being confined to a hospice bed, unable to comprehend fully the world around you, slipping inexorably toward blackness, is nightmarish. Without an entrenched faith in a beautiful, eternal paradise the realities of the present are almost too much to bear.
Nevertheless, as great a tragedy as Terri’s passing was, it was not the most tragic aspect of her story.
The greatest tragedy is that we continue to ignore the cautionary messages at the core of the controversy. Medical science may be able to resurrect a person from the dead, as the EMT’s who resurrected Terri after far-too-long a time without oxygen managed, but it is ill-equipped to handle the heart-wrending fallout that will inevitably follow. Terri was in fact dead once before. Her heart had stopped. Not only that, but her brain had been deprived of oxygen for far too long to resurrect her without significant trauma to her cerebral cortex.
As a nation, as a compassionate people, we must put reigns on our own zeal for life at all costs and say “enough is enough” when a person has been down for the count for too long. It is time for a national standard of resurrective restraint. I am not sure what that standard should be, but if a person has been clinically dead, without a pulse, without oxygen to the brain, for too long, we must resist our temptation to play God and let them pass peacefully.
I suppose you could consider this my public DNR order, friends.