Thursday, June 15, 2006

Terri Schiavo, Part 2

Over time I have lost my luster for Dennis Prager, the most well-known religious moralist on the right. This is a person who stands by a pro-life position on the Schiavo case, but on his radio program has openly admitted to being for early-term abortions, a contradiction right there. (see column for links)
Facts and Lies about Religion in the Terri Schiavo Case
The forces opposed to removing Terri Schiavo's gastric tube are almost uniformly religious in their perspective. Unfortunately for them, a significant number of those who support Michael Schiavo are also religious in their perspective. How can the Christian Right attack others in the usual manner, i.e. pretend that they are immoral and godless?

Dennis Prager rummages around in the trash and comes up with:

"[C]hances are that if you affirm Judeo-Christian values, you have opposed pulling the feeding tubes from the severely brain damaged woman's body. Why? Because if there is anything that Judeo-Christian values stand for, it is choosing life and rejecting death."

If this is even vaguely true, then why do most people in a population that is primarily Christian agree that they would want the tubes removed if they were in Terri Schiavo's condition and would act similarly to how Michael Schiavo has done? Why do so many people in a population that is primarily Christian make similar decisions about removing gastric tubes and ventilators every single day?

Perhaps Dennis Prager would argue that all those people don't "really" affirm "Judeo-Christian values" (because he's just the person to determine what qualifies as genuine and false adherence, genuine and false interpretations). Well, if anyone were to be thought of as affirming "Judeo-Christian values," it would probably be a Jesuit priest — right?

Well, here's what the Rev. John J. Paris, a bioethics professor at Boston College, has to say:

"The church doctrine, and it’s been consistent for 400 years, is that one is not morally obliged to undergo any intervention. ... What the right-to-lifers want to say is the pope said you must always use artificial nutrition and fluids for patients in persistent vegetative state—and there’s no exception. The Florida bishops say that’s not what the church has taught and that’s surely not what this means.

Richard McCormick, who was the great Catholic moral theologian of the last 25 years, wrote a brilliant article in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1974 called “To Save or Let Die.” He said there are two great heresies in our age (and heresy is a strong word in theology—these are false doctrines). One is that life is an absolute good and the other is that death is an absolute evil. We believe that life was created and is a good, but a limited good. Therefore the obligation to sustain it is a limited one. The parameters that mark off those limits are your capacities to function as a human."

I've caught Dennis Prager misrepresenting the truth before — he's not above ignoring facts in order to serve his religious or political agenda. His misrepresentations are naturally popular with religious conservatives who, it seems, don't bother to think critically about what he says.

In this case, the agenda is both religious and political: he and others need to portray themselves as the only ones defending "real" religious morality while their opponents are, by implication, godless and immoral secularists. They can't come right out and say that last bit because they know that most of the people opposing them are anything but godless or secularists, but they can push their position by claiming (without supporting arguments) that their position is the only truly moral one.

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