Saturday, December 5, 2009

Jessica Mitford and Ethics.

I just started reading "Decca's" The American Way of Death, originally published in the early 60s and revised in 1995 just before her death. So far I am humbled by the wit, humor, and tenaciousness she brings to a seemingly macabre subject, my subject, and one about which I often write with a dour and hyper-serious tone. She is light, scathing, yet grounded. As I work through edits on my own book proposal, I need to remember not only her tone but her gravity and self-assuredness. It's about death and it's a good read!

Anyway, I post to capture this one fragment of a sentence which we seem - which I seem - to forget so often when discussing death, patients' rights, separation of church and state, provider refusals, end of life care, bioethics, and health care reform:

"To be 'ethical' merely means to adhere to a prevailing code of morality...."


Subsidiarity is that principle by which we respect the inherent dignity and freedom of the individual.

"Subsidiarity is that principle by which we respect the inherent dignity and freedom of the individual by never doing for others what they can do for themselves and thus enabling individuals to have the most possible discretion in the affairs of their lives."
- Archbishop Naumann and Bishop Finn, A Joint Pastoral Statement

Sounds good to me. Yet, what the bishops are encouraging, of course, is that individuals only have this right to do for themselves so long as the Catholic Church approves of what they are doing. Here's an excerpt from their statement from September that makes the superiority of their morality quite clear:

A Renewal Built on Principles

We claim no expertise in economics or the complexities of modern medical science. However, effective health care policies must be built on a foundation of proper moral principles. The needed change in health care must therefore flow from certain principles that protect the fundamental life and dignity of the human person and the societal principles of justice, which are best safeguarded when such vital needs are provided for in a context of human love and reason, and when the delivery of care is determined at the lowest reasonable level. The rich tradition of Catholic social and moral teaching should guide our evaluation of the many and varied proposals for health care reform. It is our intention in this pastoral reflection to identify and explain the most important principles for evaluating health care reform proposals. No Catholic in good conscience can disregard these fundamental moral principles, although there can and likely will be vigorous debate about their proper application.

I. The Principle of Subsidiarity: Preamble to the Work of Reform

This notion that health care ought to be determined at the lowest level rather than at the higher strata of society, has been promoted by the Church as “subsidiarity.” Subsidiarity is that principle by which we respect the inherent dignity and freedom of the individual by never doing for others what they can do for themselves and thus enabling individuals to have the most possible discretion in the affairs of their lives. (See: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, ## 185ff.; Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1883) The writings of recent Popes have warned that the neglect of subsidiarity can lead to an excessive centralization of human services, which in turn leads to excessive costs, and loss of personal responsibility and quality of care.

Pope John Paul II wrote:

“By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.” (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus #48)

And Pope Benedict writes:

“The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. … In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live ‘by bread alone’ (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)—a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est #28)

While subsidiarity is vital to the structure of justice, we can see from what the Popes say that it rests on a more fundamental principal, the unchanging dignity of the person. The belief in the innate value of human life and the transcendent dignity of the human person must be the primordial driving force of reform efforts.

II. Principle of the Life and Dignity of the Human Person: Driving Force for Care, and Constitutive Ground of Human Justice

A. Exclusion of Abortion and Protection of Conscience Rights

Recent cautionary notes have been sounded by Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chair of the U.S. Bishops Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William Murphy of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Domestic Justice and Social Development, against the inclusion of abortion in a revised health care plan. At the same time, they have warned against the endangerment or loss of conscience rights protection for individual health care workers or private health care institutions. A huge resource of professionals and institutions dedicated to care of the sick could find themselves excluded, by legislation, after health care reform, if they failed to provide services which are destructive of human life, and which are radically counter to their conscience and institutional mission. The loss of Catholic hospitals and health care providers, which currently do more to provide pro bono services to the poor and the marginalized than their for-profit counterparts, would be a tremendous blow to the already strained health care system in our country.

It is imperative that any health care reform package must keep intact our current public polices protecting taxpayers from being coerced to fund abortions. It is inadequate to propose legislation that is silent on this morally crucial matter. Given the penchant of our courts over the past 35 years to claim unarticulated rights in our Constitution, the explicit exclusion of so-called “abortion services” from coverage is essential. Similarly, health care reform legislation must clearly articulate the rights of conscience for individuals and institutions.

B. Exclude Mandated End of Life Counseling for Elderly and Disabled

Some proposals for government reform have referenced end of life counseling for the elderly or disabled.

An August 3, 2009 Statement of the National Association of Pro-Life Nurses on Health Care Legislation, in addition to calling for the exclusion of mandates for abortion, the protection of abortion funding prohibitions, and the assurance of conscience rights, insists that the mandating of end of life consultation for anyone regardless of age or condition would place undue pressure on the individual or guardian to opt for measures to end life, and would send the message that they are no longer of value to society.

The nurses’ statement concludes, “We believe those lives and all lives are valuable and to be respected and cared for to the best of our abilities. Care must be provided for any human being in need of care regardless of disability or level of function or dependence on others in accordance with the 1999 Supreme Court Decision in Olmstead v. L.C.” (

Recently, Bishop Walker Nickless of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, commented on the dangers inherent in the establishment of a health care monopoly, drawing a comparison to the experience of HMO plans in our country, where individuals entrusted with keeping the cost of health care at a minimum may refuse to authorize helpful or necessary treatment for their clients. (See Bishop Walker Nickless, Column in The Catholic Globe, August 13, 2009)

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USCCB Action Alert on Hatch-Nelson.

The press release from yesterday:

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

3211 FOURTH STREET NE • WASHINGTON DC 20017-1194 • 202-541-3160
WEBSITE: WWW.USCCB.ORG/healthcare • FAX 202-541-3339

December 4, 2009

Support the Hatch-Nelson Amendment to Stop Abortion Funding in Health Care Reform!

The full Senate is considering their health care reform bill. The bishops are strongly urging the Senate to
incorporate essential changes to the Senate’s health care reform bill to ensure that needed health care
reform legislation truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all. The amendment to
maintain the prohibition on federal funding of abortion could be voted on as early as Monday,
December 7. Please contact your Senators today!

Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) have submitted an amendment that like the
Stupak amendment that was included in the final House bill, prevents this legislation from mandating
abortion coverage or providing federal funds for coverage that includes elective abortions. Those
wishing to purchase abortion coverage may continue to do so with their own private funds, but not in the
government-run health care plan (“community health insurance option”) or with the help of federal

Senate: On November 18, Senate leadership unveiled its health care reform bill, The Patient Protection
and Affordable Care Act. This bill has been brought to the floor by inserting its text into H.R. 3590, an
unrelated House-passed tax measure. Debate and votes have begun and may continue until the
Christmas recess.

In a November 20 letter to the U.S. Senate, the U.S. bishops urged essential changes in the Senate bill:
to retain federal policy on abortion funding and conscience protection; to protect access to health care
for immigrants; and to provide for adequate affordability and coverage standards. The bishops said:
“Sadly, the legislative proposal recently unveiled in the Senate does not meet these moral criteria.” The
bishops specifically said that if the bill’s serious defects on abortion are not corrected, “the current
legislation should be opposed.”

ACTION: Contact Members now through e-mail, phone calls or FAX letters. 1) Send an e-mail at 2) Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’
local offices. Full contact info can be found on Members’ Web sites at and

MESSAGE—SENATE: “Please support the Hatch-Nelson Amendment to uphold longstanding
policies against abortion funding, and please protect conscience rights in health care reform.
WHEN: Senate floor debate on the amendment may begin the week of December 7.

WATCH FOR ADDITIONAL ACTION ALERTS! As the Senate continues to consider amendments
to the health care bill on abortion funding, conscience protections, improving affordability and coverage
and protecting immigrants’ health care, the USCCB will send Action Alerts to update you on advocacy
needed to support health care legislation that protects the life and dignity of all people from conception
until natural death.

For more information, please visit Thank you for your advocacy!
emails may be sent by going

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It's Wrong 'Cause They're Christian Science.

From the New York Times today, an article on the provision proposed for the health care bill that would cover prayer for the sick, submitted by the Christian Science church:

Although the Christian Science measure calls for reimbursement for some basic forms of care for the sick, like helping them eat and bathe, the prayer component has drawn fierce opposition from various civil liberties groups and child-protection advocates. They say it would violate the separation of church and state and could endanger the lives of minors whose parents turn to prayer rather than medicine when their children are ill.

In the past, some members of the church, formally known as the Church of Christ, Scientist, have been prosecuted for allowing children to die instead of treating them medically. But such cases are rare. And while healing through prayer remains their central belief, church officials say they do not forbid conventional medical treatment.

The church has had powerful allies. Earlier this year, its reimbursement measure passed two committees in the House and one in the Senate.

The Senate health committee acted at the behest of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, where the church has its headquarters, and Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a Utah Republican who is a Mormon and has said the measure would ensure that the health legislation “does not discriminate against any religion.”

In the end, critics said it was unconstitutional, and the measure was dropped from the final House bill and from the Senate version being debated now.

Of course it's unconstitutional to allow the Christian Science church to insert their faith-based prayer coverage into health care cause they're well, unAmerican, a cult, you know, not real Christians. But let every other tax-exempt Catholic or evangelical backed group push to limit reproductive rights, gay rights, elder rights and well, it's ok?

Senator Nelson said this week that he is waiting for the USCCB to weight in on his Stupak-Pitts-like anti abortion amendment before he poses it to the Senate. Perfectly fine and constitutional, right? The title of the article is, witlessly, "To A Divisive Debate, Now Add Religion." As if religion is only making an entrance when it is backed by the Christian Science church?

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Tony Perkins Calls Louisiana.

From Jonathan Tilove at, an article about efforts by the Family Research Council to defeat health care reform. Makes you wonder about their tax exempt status and how they can so directly campaign against government legislation, no?

If you live in Louisiana and have a land line telephone, expect to get a call fromTony Perkins, the former state representative from Baker who is now president of the Christian conservative Family Research Council.

tony_perkins.JPGTony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council.

The automated call from Perkins, which FRC plans to place to every household in the state, will offer a tendentious rendition of the Senate health reform bill as a formula for higher taxes, rationing and euthanasia, and suggest if that doesn't sound good to you, you should call Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and tell her to vote against it. The call will then, helpfully, provide Landrieu's office number.

The calls began this week and will run well into the new year, hoping to reach as many of the more the million households with landlines as possible.

"My finger's got blisters on it already,'' Perkins said Friday from his office in Washington. FRC released a part of the script in which Perkins says: "National health care changes being pushed by President Obama, Senator Reid, and Speaker Pelosi would institute rationing of medical care by an unelected board that can reject surgeries, drugs, or therapies which you or your loved ones may need. There are also great concerns about euthanasia. Do such documented facts make you want to stop changes to our health care system?"

Church, State, and Marriage in New York.

Mitchell Bard, in a post at HuffingtonPost, takes down New York State's recent refusal to grant same-sex couples the right to marry. The decision is unconstitutional, he says:

Marriage has two essential elements to it. First, it is a union recognized by most of the world's major religions as being between a man and a woman. Second, and completely separate from the issue of religion, marriage is a contract between two individuals recognized by the 50 states. You will note that I identify the second element as completely separate from the first one because of a nifty little amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the first one, in fact) that reads, in relevant part:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

Thanks to more than a century of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, we can safely conclude that, among other things, the First Amendment prevents the government (states are bound by the First Amendment via the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified after the Civil War) from enforcing religious decisions in carrying out its business. As such, it is not incumbent on the states to enforce religious laws on marriage, nor may the states force religious leaders to carry out certain policies that violate their faiths.

So there is religious marriage (based on the rules of a couple's faith) and state marriage (essentially a civil contract under which certain rights and responsibilities become enforceable under state law).

Now, there is no doubt that many American religious leaders feel that the marriage of two men or two women violates the rules of their faiths. While I can't support their bigoted views, I would be quick to defend their right not to marry two men or two women. That is a decision the state has no place getting involved in. And religions are not bound by any responsibility to treat their followers fairly or to extend them equal rights. If Catholics do not want to let women become priests, or if Orthodox Jews do not want to allow women onto the bimah (altar) during services, or if any other religion chooses to extend fewer rights under the rules of the faith to one group or another, that is the right of those religious institutions to do so. It's up to the members of the religious institutions to decide if they want to be part of a religion that discriminates in these manners.

But the government doesn't enjoy the same leeway as the religions. In fact, the Constitution, federal law and state law are filled with provisions that assure just the opposite, that every American should be treated equally under the law. So if a state decides to grant the right of two men or two women to marry, that is the state regulating state business (and I would argue it's both the legal and moral obligation of the state not to pick and choose to whom it extends these rights and responsibilities). The state isn't telling any priest, reverend, rabbi or imam to marry two men or two women, nor is it requiring the religions to accept the couples as being married under their faiths (in the same way that if a Jew and a Baptist are married by the state, the state doesn't require Orthodox rabbis or Baptist ministers to recognize the marriage in their faiths).

In other words, religious marriage is the domain of the religions, and state marriage is the domain of the states. And under the First Amendment, the states are not supposed to force religious rules on its people, nor are they to interfere in the beliefs of the religions. Seems simple enough.

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Subsidiarity: The Latest Catholic Approach to Shaping "Moral" Health Care Reform.

On Thursday I noted an interview on Minnesota Public Radio with Minnesota Archbishop John Nienstedt. What I linked to and posted was a written article about the interview. Here you can find at least most of the interview.

The Archbishop states the church's five objectives for reform:

1. "Health care is an essential for the human life and dignity for every individual person."

2. Abortion has to be excluded, a Stupak-like amendment is necessary in the Senate version

3. Is skipped by the Archbishop but all sources assume that this point is: no funding for "euthanasia" or, absurdly, systematic killing of the elderly, disabled, comatose or otherwise infirm; the term euthanasia is stragegically used to conflate aid in dying with such killing.

4. Conscience clause that prevents persons of faith from performing services they morally object to

5. The Principle of Subsidiarity: the concept that health care should be "administered, determined, and coordinated at the lowest possible level in society. Government ought not be involved in the determining and application of health care. That should be left to the private sector."

In an August 17 article for TheCatholicSpirit, Nienstedt writes:

At present, the secretary of Health and Human Services is Kathleen Sebelius, allegedly a practicing Catholic, but an aggressively pro-choice politician. It is hard to imagine that her selection of candidates for membership on that council would be willing to restrict access to abortion services.

Of course, none of this should come as a surprise to anyone. Speaking to the Planned Parenthood organization during the presidential campaign, then Sen. Obama made clear his thinking on this matter, which was backed up by his voting record in the Senate.

He stated: “In my mind, reproductive care is essential care, basic care, so it is at the center, the heart of the plan that I propose.”

(In this context, “reproductive care” is a euphemism for “abortion.”)

Until now, federal agencies or programs (as well as state or local governments receiving federal funds) are forbidden under the Weldon amendment, approved by Congress each year since 2004, to discriminate against individual or institutional health care providers or insurers who decline to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortion.

The new health care program, as now proposed, would change all that. That is why an explicit statement in the bill is needed which asserts that government insurance would not cover abortion services.

In addition to Bishop Murphy’s four points, I would add a fifth. I believe that it should also be explicitly stated that euthanasia, either actively prescribed or passively encouraged, should not be permitted.

This quote confirms a number of things:

*point number 3 of his interview with MPR is indeed euthanasia (in the article, sounding like a more articulate Palin, Nienstedt goes on to describe that seniors are in danger of being killed or neglected, their care rationed)

*the church and Nienstedt assume that "reproductive care" means abortion, under which assumption they are able to group other services they oppose, like sterilization, fertilization, tubal ligations, contraceptive use and other non-controversial services with the highly contested issue of abortion, thus hamstringing any discussion of an array of reproductive services (smooth political move, archbishop!)

*then he lists, like other advocacy organizations, the numbers of senators (for democratic action) and the USCCB website (for the church's opinions about reform, all letters to the House and Senate).

In the interview, the Archbishop notes that the church is not attempting to flex political muscle (I'm in the midst of researching what exactly bishops are doing to pressure senators, though we know of RI Bishop Tobin's recent harassment of Kennedy) and that they speak out for moral reasons, assuming that Catholic morality is the only morality, asserting the moral argument that "pro-life" groups have made regarding abortion and reproductive rights for decades.

Patients' rights advocates have long since given away the morality argument (see Kathryn Joyce's pertinent article at therevealer). With the possible exception of disability rights, women's rights, LGBT, and end of life rights advocates have been unable to popularly assert that their advocacy is moral. Human rights, individual rights have not been enough of an assertion to take back from the church a claim to moral rectitude, nor has the government in effective ways stood up for patients' rights.

Nienstedt writes in another article for the TheCatholicSpirit, dated September 23:

Reading the commentaries of my brother bishops, I realized that I did not mention another essential Catholic principle that should have been included in my last column: subsidiarity, which posits that health care ought to be determined, administered and coordinated at the lowest level of society whenever possible.

In other words, those intermediary communities and associations that exist between the federal government and the individual must be strengthened and given greater control over policies and practices rather than being given less and less control.

To usurp this “hierarchy of communities” is terribly damaging in the long run, both to society as a whole and the individual citizen
(See Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1883,Compen dium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 185 ff).

Papal insights

Two quotes from Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are instructive in this regard:

Pope John Paul II has written:

“By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending” (Pope John Paul II, “
Centesimus Annus,” No. 48).

Pope Benedict writes:

“The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person — every person — needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need . . . . In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live ‘by bread alone’ (Mt 4:4; cf.
Dt 8:3) — a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human” (Pope Benedict XVI, “Deus Caritas Est,” No. 28).

To neglect the principle of subsidiarity inevitably leads to the excessive centralization of human services, which leads to higher costs, less personal responsibility for the individual and a lower quality of care.

In a summer of 1996 article for Religion & Liberty (
posted at Catholic priest David A. Bosnich criticizes the USCCB for not more strongly adhering to the principle of subsidiarity regarding the Clinton health care plan. He writes:

One of the key principles of Catholic social thought is known as the principle of subsidiarity. This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the passion for centralization and bureaucracy characteristic of the Welfare State.

This is why Pope John Paul II took the “social assistance state” to task in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus. The Pontiff wrote that the Welfare State was contradicting the principle of subsidiarity by intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility. This “leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.”

In spite of this clear warning, the United States Catholic Bishops remain staunch defenders of a statist approach to social problems. They have publicly criticized recent congressional efforts to reform the welfare system by decentralizing it and removing its perverse incentives. Their opposition to the Clinton Administration’s health care plan was based solely upon its inclusion of abortion funding. They had no fundamental objection to a takeover of the health care industry by the federal government.


As our founding fathers made clear in The Federalist Papers, the U.S. Constitution was designed to leave many issues of great importance in the hands of the states. The federal government was to do only those things which the individual states could not effectively do for themselves. The subsidiarity principle was at work in the foundation of our nation. But from the New Deal era onwards, there has been a steady growth in federal power at the expense of the states. This has sparked a renewed interest in the Tenth Amendment, which reserves all powers not delegated to the federal government to the states.

But there is another area of Alexis de Tocqueville’s thought which runs directly counter to Monsignor Higgins’s argument. Higgins is defending the Welfare State, the prospect of which Tocqueville dreaded. Tocqueville described the system which he foresaw in terms which are chillingly similar to modern society. He predicted that modern democratic government would degenerate into a huge, paternalistic state which would guide the individual in all of his affairs and insure that all of his needs were met. “For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances; what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?”

Tocqueville strongly opposed this system because it kept the citizens in perpetual childhood. Pope John Paul II criticized the Welfare State in Centesimus Annus for the same reason. However, Monsignor Higgins does not even address the Pope’s critique. He makes one passing reference to it before directing the attention of his hearers elsewhere. Higgins cites Gregory Baum’s argument that the principle of subsidiarity has been complemented by the principle of socialization, first elaborated by Pope John XXIII. Baum defines subsidiarity as “de-centralization” and socialization as “centralization”. In other words, in this view, Catholicism teaches the principle of de-centralization and the principle of centralization simultaneously!

The absurdity of this argument is clearly revealed by taking a closer look at the meaning of socialization. In reviewing John XXIII’s encyclical Mater et Magistra, Father Robert Sirico observes that the Pontiff’s desire was to strengthen mediating institutions in order to protect the primacy of the human person. Far from advancing any form of collectivism, Pope John wanted to “multiply social relationships” so that the individual would be free to pursue the common good. Socialization does not mean centralization. Rather, it refers to the voluntary associations which Alexis de Tocqueville praised as being a vital part of American freedom in the 1830s.

The principle of subsidiarity is both thoroughly Catholic and thoroughly American. The U.S. Catholic Bishops should be leading defenders of it. That they are not is due to intellectual currents which go beyond the partisanship of scholars such as Monsignor Higgins. The Bishops have not learned the key lessons of the 1980s: the success of free market economics and the failure of collectivism. The top-down, centralized planning of the Soviet system could not succeed because it contradicted the subsidiarity principle. When producers and consumers are not allowed to bargain freely, prices cease to reflect meaningful information and become arbitrary dictates of the bureaucracy. The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote, “Without the basis for calculation which Capitalism places at the disposal of Socialism, in the shape of market prices, socialist enterprises would never be carried on, even within single branches of production or individual countries.”

Apparently Nienstedt has since learned the lesson of Subsidiarity. The benefits of the free-market 80s have been clearly debunked. The Tea Party noise of the summer brought discussion of small government and federalism to the fore. Despite Nienstedt's argument that the church does not wish to be a political force, there are distinct reasons why he now brings up subsidiarity.

As Bosnich notes, "The federal government was to do only those things which the individual states could not effectively do for themselves." One of these things individual states cannot do for themselves is protect citizens rights. Again and again, states have proven ineffective at combatting slavery, poverty, poor education, disease and discrimination. Precisely because their regionality isolates them from viewing human rights as a whole, separate from local prejudice. Protecting rights is the role of federal government, law enforcement entities, world governing bodies, in short, large centralized organizations that can exert laws that protect individuals while viewing local cultures with relativity.

Morality is the imposition of segmented ideals over the broader community. The church has recognized, the current climate, that their assertion of Catholic morality is best done through their "grass roots" organizers, church congregations. Or in the case of health care, through the use of conscience clauses to allow workers within health care to impose morality on the rights of individual patients,; through institutional conscience protections such as those allowed all 620 Catholic hospitals in the US to determine what services are provided patients.

Beyond the fact that centralized enforcement of individual rights is grossly maligned by the church's efforts to control the morality of federal reform of health care - they rely on the government to assert moral code (laws) regarding abortion, for instance - they see a need to engage the recent noisy, motivated rump of the Republican party devoted vocally (though clearly not actually) to smaller government and federalism.

It's a two front approach to defeating any health care reform that does not include the moral teachings of the Catholic church: work subsidiarity to maintain the backing of anti-centralized government agents such as the Republican base and Catholic constituents, to continue moral imposition at hospitals in communities where states have failed to protect individual patients' rights, and motivate congregations; and work the Senators to legislate morality at the sake of individual patients' rights by pressuring them with visits, letters, calls and threats of excommunication.

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Obama's Bioethics Under Fire for Not Imposing Ideologically Driven Science.

From Catholic News Agency:

Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, President of Human Life International has called for Americans to be watchful of President Obama's appointments to the new Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, claiming the unlikelihood of the advisors to share the pro-life sentiment of the majority of Americans.

On November 24, President Obama signed an Executive Order creating the new Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, whose purpose is to advise the President on concerns emerging from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology.

"As our nation invests in science and innovation and pursues advances in biomedical research and health care, it’s imperative that we do so in a responsible manner," said President Obama. "I am confident that Amy and Jim will use their decades of experience in both ethics and science to guide the new Commission in this work, and I look forward to listening to their recommendations in the coming months and years."

Obama is referring to Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania to and James W. Wagner, president of Emory University, who will serve as chair and vice-chair of the new commission, respectively. Research on the two found that many of Gutmann's publications regard democratic theory, while Wagner studied engineering and materials science before becoming involved in academic administration.

The other 11 appointments to the commission have yet to be announced.

"Does anyone think that even one person on this commission will strongly represent the majority of Americans' pro-life views?" said Fr. Euteneuer. "We saw what the president thinks of bioethicists who disagree with him when he fired the previous presidential bioethics commission the day after they lodged a complaint about his policies."

Last June, Obama suddenly and without warning disbanded Bush's bioethics commission, who's charter was set to expire in September, without allowing the scheduled final meeting of the council. In March, the council had released a statement disagreeing with Obama's position on stem cell research.

Last Wednesday, Obama authorized embryonic stem cell research for 13 lines of stem cells obtained from the destruction of fetuses "left over" from IVF treatments.

"We already know what the president is going to do. He is going to find eleven utilitarians who will carefully furrow their scholarly brows as they tell us that we just have to get used to the idea that some lives aren't worth as much as others," said Rev. Euteneuer. "Then he is going to find two 'pro-life Christians' or other religious types who provide religious-sounding rationalizations for this assault on life."

Euteneuer noted that every one of Obama's current advisors who has written on bioethical issues "is pro-abortion, pro-embryonic stem cell research, pro-euthanasia, pro-assisted suicide. Bioethicists like this strive to create a ‘Brave New World’ for the weakest and most vulnerable of those created in God’s image: those who doctors used to swear an oath to protect."

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Christian Opposition to the Manhattan Declaration.

From LighthouseTrailsResearch, a post about the creeping spirituality in the Manhattan Declaration and it's sources. I recommend you read the entire article (and note the many supporting articles listed at the bottom) but here is a clip:

What is puzzling is that if these Evangelical leaders want to raise up morality in America, why have so many of them openly endorsed the emerging/contemplative spirituality in one aspect or another, which overall ignores or downplays a stand against homosexual marriage, abortion, and other moral issues that the Manhattan Declaration speaks of? Are they repenting? No mention of that. Many of them STILL are promoting the contemplative/emerging spirituality that will continue to remove traditional morality from our society. It seems rather distorted when these leaders are being seen as taking a stand for morality when all along they are promoting a spirituality that ultimately undermines it. We could give you example after example of the New Spirituality’s move away from morality (and we have in many articles these past seven years), and we could give you example after example of Christian leaders’ promotion of the New Spirituality and its cohorts (and we have also done that over and over again). Are these signers of the Manhattan Declaration truly concerned about the present moral condition of the United States? Probably most of them are. But it’s going to take a lot more than their signatures on a document–God will require much more. For one, he is going to want them to renounce the heretical teachings of the New Age/New Spirituality.
via M'Kayla's Korner


Why The Case of Rom Houben Resonates.

Wesley J. Smith writes today about why he thinks the case of Rom Houben, the Belgian man thought to be in a coma for 23 years and recently discovered to be, according to scientists, "locked in" and fully conscious, resonates with the public.

He ties in Terri Schiavo, stating that she is still with us and that her story is the subtext of the Houben story. It's a disingenuous remark to a story that makes Schiavo the subtext.

Smith is close with the Schindler family, Schiavo's mother, brother and sister (their father died earlier in the year) who run the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation dedicated to preventing removal of severely disabled patients from life support. The family have stated that the Houben discovery vindicates their fight for Schiavo's life - and presumably their work to end other such occurrences.

Smith writes:

I have an article in the current Weekly Standard on the Rom Houben case. I find it fascinating that that Terri Schiavo–and what happened to her–is the subtext of the entire event. From my article:

The case of Terri Schiavo–who died five years ago next March, deprived for nearly two weeks of food and water, even the balm of ice chips–continues to prick consciences. That may be one reason the case of Rom Houben, a Belgian man who was misdiagnosed for 23 years as being in a persistent vegetative state, is now receiving international attention.

When Houben was injured and misdiagnosed, the idea of dehydrating him was unthinkable. No more:

During the years that Houben was thought unconscious, society changed. Bioethicists nudged medicine away from the Hippocratic model and toward “quality of life” judgmentalism. Today, when a patient is diagnosed as persistently unconscious or minimally aware, doctors, social workers, and bioethicists often recommend that life-sustaining treatment–including sustenance delivered through a tube–be withdrawn, sometimes days or weeks after the injury.

I discuss the notorious Haleigh Poutre case, (about which I wrote more extensively here), the little girl who would have been dehydrated but for the time it took to get the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s approval, allowing her the time to wake up. I discuss the controversy over whether he is not actually communicating. And I point out something that I think is just beneath the surface of the entire discussion:

In any case, why the sour response to a good news story? It is hard to shake the feeling that the emotional crosscurrents stirred by Terri Schiavo have been stirred again. Timereported that Schiavo-type “legal fights are likely to become more common as classifications of brain-injury severity are revised.” According to ABC, Schiavo’s family “felt both heartbreak and vindication” about the story.

And so, it seems, Terri Schiavo remains very much with us. Indeed, every time we hear about the newest “miraculous” awakening, we find ourselves wrestling again with the moral import of all that happened; haunted it seems, by her beautifully smiling face.

I've been watching this "pro-life" scene for a while now and I'm only haunted by Schiavo's smiling face in that it is used, she is used, a sentimental storyline of Schiavo's life, trauma, diagnosis, surrounding court battles, media drama, overreach of a Republican government set on using Schiavo as a martyr for their political cause, is used to make a martyr of Schiavo. Note my post a few days ago of a fundraising email the Foundation sent out on her birthday. Note the autopsy, readily available online, that confirms that Schiavo had no cognitive abilities. Note my report form the PA Pro-Life conference in October where Bobby Schindler, Schiavo's brother, used his sister's story to proclaim his faith and my account of the sad, unnatural, sentimental, perpetual state of grief he is in. Note the horrified numbers of Americans who not only winced at the 2005 legal fiasco that became Terri Schiavo's death but the numbers of Americans who ran out to file advance directives saying they did not want to be Schiavo. And not the numbers of Americans who felt the Republican government had no role in working to prevent her death.

Whether the resounding reaction was to government intervention or to the disgusting use of a young woman's life to make a spectacle of private medicine, to the loss of privacy, to the horrors of our realization that we too could be kept alive by modern technology long after our mental state has disappeared.

Terri Schiavo's life and death resonate over these last 5 years because they represent what is wrong with medicine, state law, and church doctrine interfering with private medical decisions. She resonates with us because "pro-life" groups continue to lobby for her martyrdom, have made a passionate mockery of her suffering, because ideology tried to win a moral battle and the courts didn't didn't let it.

And because we are horrified by the way medicine has not only enabled us to live longer but die longer. The hypocrisy of the church clinging to science when it enables artificial prolonging of suffering but denial of it when it allows mothers autonomy over their reproduction or the terminally ill to choose medical treatments.

And the Houben case, despite what Smith says, works in the same way partially because we don't believe he is communicating by typing, because we recognize that being "locked in" for 23 years is as horrifying as being buried alive, because we see behind the sentimentally sweet denial of death his mother has lived in for 23 years, the great encroachment of medicine, the use the church makes of such a man, the use the Terri Schindler Schiavo makes of such a man, and the great myth-making the media has spun to once again play on our horrors, our fears, our beliefs, and our guilt. The mockery of the church claiming adherence to "natural death" when such does not exist for a patient like Schiavo or Houben.

Yesterday I reminded my medical proxy of where my advance directive is. I pray - yes I do - that should I be in a car crash, like Houben was so many years ago, I would be removed from all artificial life support. Not kept around for my family and friends to fawn over, not artificially locked inside a deformed body, in isolation for 23 years, not told by medicine or the church or the state how I am to life.

This is not a show of my "'quality of life' judgementalism," not depression or self-loathing, not discrimination against Houben or other disabled members of society, not an expression of my "culture of death" membership, not denial of God's power, not disdain for the move medicine has made from the Hippocratic oath (total bunk), not fear of being a burden, not fear of having my ass wiped by a nurse, not anything those who work to impose their righteous piety on patients call disrespect for life. It is my moral right. And I am no less a lover of life, all life, for it.

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