Friday, November 27, 2009

We Own The Poor and Infirm: They are Most Susceptible to Our Beliefs.

Because Catholic and other churches have long claimed represent and care for the "least of these," westernized governments around the world have allowed them to speak for the mentally ill, the poor, and minorities. It's old turf for religion to claim compassion in the face of infirmity.

From The Catholic Herald, a bishop addresses the British government's necessary review of the existing suicide laws to comply with the summer's decision in the Debbie Purdy case, asserting that the church knows what's best for the suffering:

They said Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), was creating categories of people whose lives would be legally considered less worthy of protection than those of others in society.

The bishops said his interim policy for prosecutors in cases of assisted suicide stigmatised the disabled and the mentally and terminally ill and could send out the message that it was acceptable to help such people to kill themselves.

Mr Starmer was exceeding his powers by ignoring the will of Parliament, they said, which has rejected two attempts in the last 18 months to change the law on assisted suicide and euthanasia.

"A sick or disabled person's life should merit the same degree of protection by law," said the bishops in a submission to the public consultation into the draft proposals, which they made public on Friday last week.

But often these religious bodies are not working to raise up the poor, ill, and infirm to be equal members of society. They are counting on them to be forced, by need, to comply with church doctrine, to become believers. Suffering has long been the door through which faith walks. Fox holes, hospital beds, and gutters have long been better than pulpits for winning hearts to God. Find a man who's hungry and you find a desperate soul willing to barter his faith for bread. Find an ill child and you get a believer in gratitude for healing medication.

For example, take the Christianization of Africa during and after colonialism. US and European churches sent millions of missionaries to the continent who offered westernized medicine, materials, food, and support in exchange for belief in God, capitalizing on those with nothing to lose to expand church influence and membership. Giant swaths of the continent were paternalized by the church. And the local governments were not about to stop the influx of aid, often because it came with hefty pay-outs and protection of rulership.

To me this is the great lie of missionary work, both here and abroad. After all, the same case is made again and again these past weeks in the US and Britain regarding Catholic hospitals and the so-called conscience clause and end of life choice. While studies show that these entities do no more charity work than other non-profit or public hospitals, they have long claimed to speak for the least of society. Want to stop provider refusal of services at Catholic hospitals and we will pull out of health care, they say. We are the church and we don't compromise for patients' rights.

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