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Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Follows is an abridgement of a posting I made last November, its purpose made clear after it.

A commenter on Whitehall links to a piece in the Daily Mail (UK) about a bishop in the Church of England, the Rt. Rev'd Tom Butler of Southwark, who officially speaking for the Church proposes that doctors be allowed to let sick newborn babies die: that "there are occasions when it is compassionate to leave a severely disabled child to die." While this may seem a reasonable point of view to the compassionate, if casual, thinker, in reality it is a dangerous notion and, unfortunately, all of a piece of the New Religion: that God should serve the individual, not the other way around; that if a dogma results in suffering, the dogma is faulty and must be revised, for God does not intend for us (me) to suffer. Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

As Christians, we must believe life is a gift, the greatest gift, from God, as recounted in Genesis. If God is omniscient and omnipotent, as we believe Him to be, we cannot dictate the terms of His gift to us, otherwise we are questioning His supernal qualities and making Him one of us. If He really is one of us, however, we really don't need Him, do we? We can handle matters quite well without Him, can't we? If we do so, however, we are playing God ourselves, and unfortunately we are just not that good at it . . .

I have a cousin who was born paralyzed from the neck down but blessed (or cursed) with a first-class mind. The difficulty of her life I cannot begin to fathom but she bears her burden well and manages to possess a wicked sense of humor. Still, I wonder if +Butler, upon witnessing the protracted suffering my cousin has gone through in her life would think that it would have been better she had not been born or allowed to live. I hope, at least, he would ask her first.

My cousin died last week. In sixty-two years of an unimaginable life she put up with the damnably unfair hand she was dealt with nearly unfailing grace and good nature. In the end she may have decided (she never discussed it with anyone) she had had enough and stopped eating and, in her last days, drinking. Her caretakers had strict instructions not to use extraordinary actions to keep her alive when the end was near and they did not, much to their credit. Was what my cousin did wrong? It is beyond my ken and frankly I do not care, it is now in God's hands. I do know my cousin's life was a blessing and she touched many souls. At her behest the funeral will be held at the institution where she lived, she being much loved by the other residents as well as the staff. I also know I must offer thanks to almighty God for my cousin's life and pray for the repose of her soul. I do so as well as for my late aunt and uncle who, from the moment their only child was diagnosed in her infancy, devoted themselves at huge personal sacrifice to ensure a reasonably comfortable life for her when they were gone.

Thanks be to God for His creatures and for those who cherish them.

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