Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Divine Beauty: The Byzantine Liturgy - The Blessing

Nope, they aren't 'Orthodox' - they are as Catholic as anyone, but merely follow their own distinctive (and gorgeous) liturgical and other traditions. These so-called Eastern Catholics also elect their own Bishops and follow their own legal code, all in perfect harmony with the Patriarch of Rome (that's the Pope for you). Here, some of their Bishops are seen blessing the congregation with the dikirion and trikirion, candlesticks with two and three candles, respectively, with which he makes the sign of the cross:

The trikirion symbolizes the Holy Trinity and the dikirion the dual nature of Christ: God and man.

On a related note: this evening I will be attending the annual meeting of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius in Copenhagen. The fellowship exists to promote unity between Eastern and Western Christians - mostly Orthodox and Anglicans/other traditional Protestants, respectively, but I'll try to have some Catholic viewpoint thrown in. In fact, the unity which the fellowship seeks is already effected in the Catholic Church, where Eastern and Western Christians are even now under the same roof, united in doctrine and with equal rights and dignity - but unfortunately most of those involved in the fellowship don't realize that that unity is already there and just waiting for them to join in.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Obama's Stall on Stupak Betrays His Duplicity

I thought the Stupak Amendment deserved a post for itself. This bill, introduced by pro-life Democrats, attempted to exclude most (though by no means all) abortion coverage from the health care bill of the US House of Representatives. I am not betting that it will get past the Senate, especially since President Obama is seeking to roll it back - this despite the fact that all polls show that the American people were overwhelmingly in favour of the amendment . He even has the gall to claim that it violates the status quo on abortion - which it does, but in the opposite direction of what he claims: since the status quo is that no federal money whatsoever goes to abortion (at least not inside the US), by allowing federal insurance to cover abortions in case of rape and incest it will in fact expand federal funding for abortions infinitely. But even this is not enough for the President, whose rhetoric about seeking 'common ground' on abortion rings more hollow by the minute.

His assertion that the amendment "restricts women's insurance choices" is a red herring since he is putting up a system that will create federally-sponsored health insurance ex nihilo; even if they do not cover abortions, they still will expand insurance coverage to many people who have never had it, so where is the restriction? Ah, unless of course he is betting on a great number of people who now have private insurance trading it for the public option - something left-wing legislators are hoping will eventually lead to a single-payer European-style system, a system which Obama has previously supported but now publicly claims he is not working for.

Either way, it just goes to show that the man can't be trusted. No more than your average politician, anyway. This is a guy who calls himself a 'Democrat' but doesn't care what the majority of the population wants or does not want.

(Actually, the amendment part aside, it was remarkable that the bill could get through the House at all since 72% of the US public opposed it in its current form. Not surprisingly, since the Speaker wanted to hide from them what was in the bill before it was voted on - even breaking a clear promise to publish it.)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Life Issues Update

Lots and lots of things have happened in the bioethical world since I last wrote, judging from my foremost pusher of bioethics news, the excellent Wesley J. Smith. First of all, the UK Department of Public Prosecution has issued new guidelines on prosecuting assisted suicide, effectively decriminalizing cases which it is not deemed "in the public interest" to prosecute, viz.: where the victim has a "terminal" or "severe and incurable" or "severe degenerative" disease and expressed a desire to be killed. This is not humane. It is a blatant abandonment of the weakest and most vulnerable in society; the people who have the greatest need to hear confirmed, over and over again, that their life is valuable, that things would not be better if they were gone. And it does nothing to ensure that these vulnerable persons are not subjected to insiduous erosion of their will to live ("You know, darling, I really love you, but I can see you are suffering so much... You know, you don't have to do this. There is a way out... I can help you...")

And more from the UK: a severely disabled baby boy with congenital myasthenic syndrome has been taken off his ventilator and allowed to die, even though he was awake and cognitively well-functioning. To be sure, CMS is a terrible and irreversible condition - but there is no way around concluding that this child was killed.

Canada has set up a 6-member commission to investigate the issue of euthanasia. Shock and horror, the Chairman and at least 2 other members are ardent euthanasia proponents, one is a Dutch euthanasia researcher, and the last 2 seem not to have any special interest in the issue. Selection bias anyone?

The UK is on a roll these days: a man has died after he was apparently starved and dehydrated to death in a hospital. Sound horrifying? That is in fact now an accepted and common procedure in the UK these days, it turns out. Certain terminally ill people, instead of being actually cared for at a hospice, are subjected to a 'care pathway', entailing that not only all medical treatment (except painkillers) but also all food and fluids are withheld from them and they are sedated for the last part of the ordeal (which can take weeks). As far as I am concerned, this is simply cynically speeding up their death to save costs. But in this case, things went even more wrong: what was thought to be a relapse of a lung cancer turned out on autopsy to be a simple pneumonia. As if the procedure wasn't bad enough in itself. And it most likely is not the first such incident.

Former leader of the Human Genome Project Francis S. Collins, who has written a decent book on the relationship between science and religion and is a Christian (Epsicopalian, I think), has been appointed to head the NIH in the US. I was convinced by the sincerity of his religious beliefs in his book, but I thought he was wishy-washy on some issues. Indeed, he has stated that he supports therapeutic cloning, embryonic stem cell research and even eugenic abortion. Which begs the question, has the great scientist found a way to determine that embryos are not human or merely a way to determine the fastest way to gaining the top biomedical job in the US?

On a more positive note, assisted suicide bills have been defeated in South Australia (by the narrowest possible margin - one MP had a change of heart at the last minute, citing a troubled conscience) and New Hampshire. Also, a former Director of a Planned Parenthood facility resigned her post and began working for the pro-life cause after she viewed an ultrasound of an abortion (she also claimed that the facility were being told to aggressively push for more abortions rather than conducting prevention programmes since abortions generated more income). Finally, Switzerland may outlaw suicide tourism, even though assisted suicide will probably still be legal for Swiss citizens.

The war for the dignity of human life is raging on all fronts (also ones that are not covered here, of course, but since I am a medical person, these are my special concerns). Next summer, I will probably be joining the fray. I hope that I will be allowed to get on with my job and save some lives in my own country and abroad, but it is becoming increasingly probable that I will one day find myself being forced to act against my conscience for the sake of some phoney 'right' dreamed up by a biased committee. If it so happens that I am persecuted for this, I will gladly accept it to expose the illiberality of our supposedly tolerant society.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Gearing up again...

Well, time to get this blog up and running again. I am ashamed that it has been almost 2 months since I last wrote a post - I have been extremely busy, and on top of that I suddenly developed an awful distaste towards writing posts myself, even though I've been quite active on other blogs. I have even been admitted onto the authoring panel of the, if I may say so, excellent Danish blog Katolsk Tradition which aims to help restore authentic Catholic Christianity in Denmark.

Most of all, I am amazed to see that in my absence I have gained two followers - of whom one is the Caveman himself!!! VSC, you are very welcome but damn, that's something to live up to. (The other one is of course a nutter who runs a completely ludicrous blog which screwed up my browser when I checked it out, so I will block him if he attempts to write anything.)