"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
Pope John Paul II
The annual World Day of Peace was observed on January 1, in the Catholic Church. In a message, dated December 8, Pope John Paul II said:
"At the beginning of the New Year, I once again address the leaders of nations and all men and women of good will, who recognize the need to build peace in the world. For the theme of this 2005 World Day of Peace I have chosen Saint Paul's words in the Letter to the Romans: 'Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good' (12:21). Evil is never defeated by evil; once that road is taken, rather than defeating evil, one will instead be defeated by evil.
"The great Apostle brings out a fundamental truth: peace is the outcome of a long and demanding battle which is only won when evil is defeated by good. If we consider the tragic scenario of violent fratricidal conflicts in different parts of the world, and the untold sufferings and injustices to which they have given rise, the only truly constructive choice is, as Saint Paul proposes, to flee what is evil and hold fast to what is good (cf. Rom 12:9).
"Peace is a good to be promoted with good: it is a good for individuals, for families, for nations and for all humanity; yet it is one which needs to be maintained and fostered by decisions and actions inspired by good. We can appreciate the profound truth of another saying of Saint Paul: 'Repay no one evil for evil' (Rom 12:17). The one way out of the vicious circle of requiting evil for evil is to accept the Apostle's words: 'Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good' (Rom 12:21).
Evil, Good and Love
"From the beginning, humanity has known the tragedy of evil and has struggled to grasp its roots and to explain its causes. Evil is not some impersonal, deterministic force at work in the world. It is the result of human freedom. Freedom, which distinguishes human beings from every other creature on earth, is ever present at the heart of the drama of evil. Evil always has a name and a face: the name and face of those men and women who freely choose it. Sacred Scripture teaches that at the dawn of history Adam and Eve rebelled against God, and Abel was killed by Cain, his brother (cf. Gen 3-4). These were the first wrong choices, which were succeeded by countless others down the centuries. Each of these choices has an intrinsic moral dimension, involving specific individual responsibilities and the fundamental relationship of each person with God, with others and with all of creation.
"At its deepest level, evil is a tragic rejection of the demands of love (1). Moral good, on the other hand, is born of love, shows itself as love and is directed towards love. All this is particularly evident to Christians, who know that their membership in the one mystical Body of Christ sets them in a particular relationship not only with the Lord but also with their brothers and sisters. The inner logic of Christian love, which in the Gospel is the living source of moral goodness, leads even to the love of one's enemies: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink' (Rom 12:20).
The "Grammar" of the Universal Moral Law
"If we look to the present state of the world, we cannot help but note the disturbing spread of various social and political manifestations of evil: from social disorders to anarchy and war, from injustice to acts of violence and killing. To steer a path between the conflicting claims of good and evil, the human family urgently needs to preserve and esteem that common patrimony of moral values bestowed by God Himself. For this reason, Saint Paul encourages all those determined to overcome evil with good to be noble and disinterested in fostering generosity and peace (cf. Rom 12:17-21).
"Ten years ago, in addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations about the need for common commitment to the service of peace, I made reference to the 'grammar' of the universal moral law (2), to which the Church appeals in her various pronounce-ments in this area. By inspiring common values and principles, this law unites human beings, despite their different cultures, and is itself unchanging: 'it subsists under the flux of ideas and customs and supports their progress. . .Even when it is rejected in its very principles, it cannot be destroyed or removed from the heart of man. It always rises again in the life of individuals and societies' (3).
"This common grammar of the moral law requires ever greater commitment and responsibility in ensuring that the life of individuals and of peoples is respected and advanced. In this light, the evils of a social and political nature which afflict the world, particularly those provoked by outbreaks of violence, are to be vigorously condemned. I think immediately of the beloved continent of Africa, where conflicts which have already claimed millions of victims are still continuing. Or the dangerous situation of Palestine, the Land of Jesus, where the fabric of mutual understanding, torn by a conflict which is fed daily by acts of violence and reprisal, cannot yet be mended in justice and truth. And what of the troubling phenomenon of terrorist violence, which appears to be driving the whole world towards a future of fear and anguish? Finally, how can we not think with profound regret of the drama unfolding in Iraq, which has given rise to tragic situations of uncertainty and insecurity for all?
"To attain the good of peace there must be a clear and conscious acknowledgment that violence is an unacceptable evil and that it never solves problems. 'Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings' (4). What is needed is a great effort to form consciences and to educate the younger generation to goodness by upholding that integral and fraternal humanism which the Church proclaims and promotes. This is the foundation for a social, economic and political order respectful of the dignity, freedom and fundamental rights of each person.
The Good of Peace and the Common Good
"Fostering peace by overcoming evil with good requires careful reflection on the common good (5) and on its social and political implications. When the common good is promoted at every level, peace is promoted. Can an individual find complete fulfilment without taking account of his social nature, that is, his being 'with' and 'for' others? The common good closely concerns him. It closely concerns every expression of his social nature: the family, groups, associations, cities, regions, states, the community of peoples and nations. Each person, in some way, is called to work for the common good, constantly looking out for the good of others as if it were his own. This responsibility belongs in a particular way to political authorities at every level, since they are called to create that sum of social conditions which permit and foster in human beings the integral development of their person (6).
"The common good therefore demands respect for and the integral promotion of the person and his fundamental rights, as well as respect for and the promotion of the rights of nations on the universal plane. In this regard, the Second Vatican Council observed that 'the increasingly close interdependence gradually encompassing the entire world is leading to an increasingly universal common good. . . and this involves rights and duties with respect to the whole human race. Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups and the common good of the entire human family' (7). The good of humanity as a whole, including future generations, calls for true international cooperation, to which every nation must offer its contribution (8).
"Certain reductive visions of humanity tend to present the common good as a purely socio-economic state of well-being lacking any transcendent purpose, thus emptying it of its deepest meaning. Yet the common good has a transcendent dimension, for God is the ultimate end of all his creatures (9). Christians know that Jesus has shed full light on how the true common good of humanity is to be achieved. History journeys towards Christ and in Him finds its culmination: because of Christ, through Christ and for Christ, every human reality can be led to complete fulfillment in God.
The Good of Peace and the Use of the World's Goods
"Since the good of peace is closely linked to the development of all peoples, the ethical requirements for the use of the earth's goods must always be taken into account. The Second Vatican Council rightly recalled that 'God intended the earth and all it contains for the use of everyone and of all peoples; so that the good things of creation should be available equally to all, with justice as guide and charity in attendance' (10).
"As a member of the human family, each person becomes as it were a citizen of the world, with consequent duties and rights, since all human beings are united by a common origin and the same supreme destiny. By the mere fact of being conceived, a child is entitled to rights and deserving of care and attention; and someone has the duty to provide these. The condemnation of racism, the protection of minors, the provision of aid to displaced persons and refugees, and the mobilization of international solidarity towards all the needy are nothing other than consistent applications of the principle of world citizenship.
"The good of peace should be seen today as closely related to the new goods derived from progress in science and technology. These too, in application of the principle of the universal destination of the earth's goods, need to be put at the service of humanity's basic needs. Appropriate initiatives on the international level can give full practical implementation to the principle of the universal destination of goods by guaranteeing to all — individuals and nations — the basic conditions for sharing in development. This becomes possible once the barriers and monopolies that marginalize many peoples are removed (11).
"The good of peace will be better ensured if the international community takes on greater responsibility for what are commonly called public goods. These are goods which all citizens automatically enjoy, without having consciously chosen them or contributed to them in any way. Such is the case, for example, at the national level, with such goods as the judiciary system, the defense system and the network of highways and railways. In our world the phenomenon of increased globalization means that more and more public goods are taking on a global character, and as a result common interests are daily increasing. We need but think of the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace and security, concern for climate change and disease control. The international community needs to respond to these interests with a broader network of juridical accords aimed at regulating the use of public goods and inspired by universal principles of fairness and solidarity.
"The principle of the universal destination of goods can also make possible a more effective approach to the challenge of poverty, particularly when we consider the extreme poverty in which millions of people are still living. The international community, at the beginning of the new millennium, set the priority of halving their number by the year 2015. The Church supports and encourages this commitment and invites all who believe in Christ to show, practically and in every sector, a preferential love for the poor (12).
"The tragedy of poverty remains closely linked to the issue of the foreign debt of poor countries. Despite significant progress in this area, the problem has not yet been adequately resolved. Fifteen years ago I called public attention to the fact that the foreign debt of poor countries 'is closely related to a series of other problems such as foreign investment, the proper functioning of the major international organizations, the price of raw materials and so forth' (13). Recent moves in favour of debt reduction, centred mainly on the needs of the poor, have certainly improved the quality of economic growth. Yet, because of a number of factors, this growth is still quantitatively insufficient, especially in relation to the millennium goals. Poor countries remain trapped in a vicious circle: low income and weak growth limit savings and, in turn, weak investments and an inefficient use of savings do not favor growth.
"As Pope Paul VI stated and as I myself have reaffirmed, the only really effective means of enabling States to deal with the grave problem of poverty is to provide them with the necessary resources through foreign financial aid — public and private — granted under reasonable conditions, within the framework of international commercial relations regulated with fairness (14). What is urgently needed is a moral and economic mobilization, one which respects agreements already made in favour of poor countries, and is at the same time prepared to review those agreements which have proved excessively burdensome for some countries. In this regard, new impulse should be given to Public Aid for Development, and new forms of financing for development should be explored, whatever the difficulties entailed (15). Some governments are already looking carefully at promising mechanisms for this; these significant initiatives should be carried out in a spirit of authentic sharing, with respect for the principle of subsidiarity. The management of financial resources destined to the development of poor countries should also entail scrupulous adherence, on the part of both donors and recipients, to sound administrative practices. The Church encourages and contributes to these efforts. One need only mention the significant contribution made by the many Catholic agencies dedicated to aid and development.
"At the end of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, I spoke of the urgent need for a new creativity in charity (16), in order to spread the Gospel of hope in the world. This need is clearly seen when we consider the many difficult problems standing in the way of development in Africa: numerous armed conflicts, pandemic diseases aggravated by extreme poverty, and political instability leading to widespread insecurity. These are tragic situations which call for a radically new direction for Africa: there is a need to create new forms of solidarity, at bilateral and multilateral levels, through a more decisive commitment on the part of all, with complete conviction that the well-being of the peoples of Africa is an indispensable condition for the attainment of the universal common good.
"May the peoples of Africa become the protagonists of their own future and their own cultural, civil, social and economic development! May Africa cease to be a mere recipient of aid, and become a responsible agent of convinced and productive sharing! Achieving this goal calls for a new political culture, especially in the area of international cooperation. Once again I wish to state that failure to honor the repeated promises of Public Aid for Development, the still unresolved question of the heavy foreign debt of African countries and the failure to give those countries special consideration in international commercial relations, represent grave obstacles to peace which urgently need to be addressed and resolved. Today more than ever, a decisive condition for bringing peace to the world is an acknowledgement of the interdependence between wealthy and poor countries, such that 'development either becomes shared in common by every part of the world or it undergoes a process of regression even in zones marked by constant progress' (17).
The Universality of Evil and Christian Hope
"Faced with the many tragic situations present in the world, Christians confess with humble trust that God alone can enable individuals and peoples to overcome evil and achieve good. By his death and resurrection, Christ has redeemed us and ransomed us 'with a price' (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23), gaining salvation for all. With his help, everyone can defeat evil with good.
"Based on the certainty that evil will not prevail, Christians nourish an invincible hope which sustains their efforts to promote justice and peace. Despite the personal and social sins which mark all human activity, hope constantly gives new impulse to the commitment to justice and peace, as well as firm confidence in the possibility of building a better world.
"Although the 'mystery of iniquity' (2 Th 2:7) is present and active in the world, we must not forget that redeemed humanity is capable of resisting it. Each believer, created in the image of God and redeemed by Christ, 'Who in a certain way has united Himself to each human being' (18), can cooperate in the triumph of good. The work of 'the Spirit of the Lord fills the earth' (cf. Wis 1:7). Christians, especially the lay faithful, 'should not, then, hide their hope in the depth of their hearts, but rather express it through the structures of their secular lives in continual conversion and in wrestling "against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of iniquity"' (Eph 6:12) (19).
"No man or woman of good will can renounce the struggle to overcome evil with good. This fight can be fought effectively only with the weapons of love. When good overcomes evil, love prevails and where love prevails, there peace prevails. This is the teaching of the Gospel, restated by the Second Vatican Council: 'the fundamental law of human perfection, and consequently of the transformation of the world, is the new commandment of love' (20).
"The same is true in the social and political spheres. In this regard, Pope Leo XIII wrote that those charged with preserving peace in relations between peoples should foster in themselves and kindle in others 'charity, the mistress and queen of all the virtues' (21). Christians must be convinced witnesses of this truth. They should show by their lives that love is the only force capable of bringing fulfillment to persons and societies, the only force capable of directing the course of history in the way of goodness and peace.
"During this year dedicated to the Eucharist, may the sons and daughters of the Church find in the supreme sacrament of love the wellspring of all communion: communion with Jesus the Redeemer and, in him, with every human being. By Christ's death and resurrection, made sacramentally present in each Eucharistic celebration, we are saved from evil and enabled to do good. Through the new life which Christ has bestowed on us, we can recognize one another as brothers and sisters, despite every difference of language, nationality and culture. In a word, by sharing in the one bread and the one cup, we come to realize that we are 'God's family' and that together we can make our own effective contribution to building a world based on the values of justice, freedom and peace.
"(1) In this regard, Saint Augustine observed that 'two loves have established two cities: love of self, carried to contempt for God, has given rise to the earthly city; love of God, carried to contempt for self, has given rise to the heavenly city' (De Civitate Dei, XIV: 28).
"(2) Cf. Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations for its Fiftieth Anniversary (October 5, 1995), 3: Insegnamenti XVIII/2 (1995), 732.
"(3) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1958.
"(4) John Paul II, Homily at Drogheda, Ireland ( September 29, 1979), 9: AAS 71 (1979), 1081.
"(5) The common good is widely understood to be 'the sum of those conditions of social life which enable groups and individuals to achieve their fulfilment more completely and readily.' Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 26.
"(6) Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 417.
"(7) Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 26.
"(8) Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 421.
"(9) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 41: AAS 83 (1991), 844.
"(10) Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 69.
"(11) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 35: AAS 83 (1991), 837.
"(12) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 42: AAS 80 (1988), 572.
"(13) Address to Participants in the Study Week of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (October 27, 1989), 6: Insegnamenti XII/2 (1989), 1050.
"(14) Cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 56-61: AAS 59 (1967), 285-287; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 33-34: AAS 80 (1988), 557-560.
"(15) Cf. John Paul II, Message to the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: L'Osservatore Romano, July 10, 2004, p. 5.
"(16) Cf. No. 50: AAS 93 (2001), 303.
"(17) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 17: AAS 80 (1988) 532.
"(18) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 22.
"(19) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 35.
"(20) Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 38.
"(21) Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum: Acta Leonis XIII 11 (1892), 143; cf. Benedict XV, Encyclical Letter Pacem Dei: AAS 12 (1920), 215."
Pope John Paul II addressed the key role played by the laity in the life of the Church in a meeting with bishops from the ecclesiastical provinces of Louisville, Mobile, and New Orleans on December 4. The bishops were making their ad limina visit to Rome. These visits are made every five years. The Pope told the bishops:
". . .I wish first of all to express my profound appreciation for the outstanding contribution which the laity have made, and continue to make, to the growth and expansion of the Church in your country, a contribution which I have personally witnessed and admired during my visits to the United States. I am convinced that, because 'the renewal of the Church in America will not be possible without the active presence of the laity' (Ecclesia in America, 44), an essential part of your pastoral governance must be guiding and supporting them in their efforts to be a leaven of the Gospel in the world.
"As the Second Vatican Council clearly stated, the exercise of the episcopal munus regendi by its very nature requires a recognition of the contribution and charisms of the lay faithful and their proper role in building up the Church's unity and carrying forward her mission in the world (cf. Lumen Gentium, 30-31). Each Bishop is called to acknowledge the 'essential and irreplaceable role' of the laity in the Church's mission (cf. Christifideles Laici, 7) and to enable them to carry out their proper apostolate, 'guided by the light of the Gospel and the mind of the Church, and impelled by Christian charity' (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 7).
"In your ministry of governance, you should consider it a clear pastoral priority to assist the lay faithful in understanding and embracing the munus regale which they have received by their baptismal incorporation into Christ. As the Church's tradition affirms, this kingly office is expressed first in that 'royal freedom' which enables the faithful to overcome the reign of sin in their own lives and, 'by serving Christ in others. . ., to guide them to that King whom to serve is to reign' (Lumen Gentium, 36). The lay faithful, however, exercise this kingly office in a specific way through their efforts to extend the Kingdom of God in and through their secular activity, so that 'the world will be imbued with the Spirit of Christ and more effectively attain its purpose in justice, in love and in peace' (ibid.).
"3. It follows that lay men and women must be encouraged, through sound catechesis and continuing formation, to recognize the distinctive dignity and mission which they have received in Baptism and to embody in all their daily activities an integrated approach to life which finds its inspiration and strength from the Gospel (cf. Christifideles Laici, 34). This means that the laity must be trained to distinguish clearly between their rights and duties as members of the Church and those which they have as members of human society, and encouraged to combine the two harmoniously, recognizing that 'in every temporal affair they are to be guided by their Christian conscience, since there is no human activity – even of the temporal order – that can be withdrawn from God's dominion' (Lumen Gentium, 36).
"A clear and authoritative reaffirmation of these fundamental principles of the lay apostolate will help to overcome the serious pastoral problems created by a growing failure to understand the Church's binding obligation to remind the faithful of their duty in conscience to act in accordance with her authoritative teaching. There is urgent need for a comprehensive catechesis on the lay apostolate which will necessarily highlight the importance of a properly formed conscience, the intrinsic relationship between freedom and moral truth, and the grave duty incumbent upon each Christian to work to renew and perfect the temporal order in accordance with the values of God's Kingdom. While fully respecting the legitimate separation of Church and State in American life, such a catechesis must also make clear that for the faithful Christian there can be no separation between the faith which is to be believed and put into practice (cf. Lumen Gentium, 25) and a commitment to full and responsible participation in professional, political and cultural life.
"Given the importance of these issues for the life and mission of the Church in your country, I would encourage you to consider the inculcation of the doctrinal and moral principles underlying the lay apostolate as essential to your ministry as teachers and shepherds of the Church in America. I also invite you to discern, in consultation with members of the laity outstanding for their fidelity, knowledge and prudence, the most effective ways of promoting catechesis and clear-sighted reflection on this important area of the Church's social teaching.
"An appreciation of the distinct gifts and apostolate of the laity will naturally lead to a strengthened commitment to fostering among the laity a sense of shared responsibility for the life and mission of the Church. In stressing the need for a theology and spirituality of communion and mission for the renewal of ecclesial life, I have pointed to the importance of 'making our own the ancient pastoral wisdom which, without prejudice to their authority, encouraged Pastors to listen more widely to the People of God' (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 45). Certainly this will involve a conscious effort on the part of each Bishop to develop, within his particular Church, structures of communion and participation which make it possible, without prejudice to his personal responsibility for decisions he is called to make by virtue of his apostolic authority, 'to listen to the Spirit Who lives and speaks in the faithful' (cf. Pastores Gregis, 44). More importantly, it calls for the cultivation, in every aspect of ecclesial life, of a spirit of communion grounded in the supernatural sensus fidei and the rich variety of charisms and missions which the Holy Spirit pours out upon the whole body of the baptized in order to build them up in unity and fidelity to the word of God (cf. Lumen Gentium, 12). An understanding of cooperation and shared responsibility which is firmly rooted in the principles of a sound ecclesiology will ensure a genuine and fruitful collaboration between the Church's Pastors and the lay faithful, without the danger of distorting this relationship by the uncritical importation of categories and structures drawn from secular life.
"Dear Brothers, in a spirit of gratitude and profound appreciation, let us commend to the Lord all the lay faithful of your particular Churches – the young people who are the hope of the future and even now are called to be a ferment of life and renewal in the Church and in American society, the married couples who strive to mirror in themselves and in their families the mystery of Christ's love for the Church, and the countless men and women who strive each day to bring the light of the Gospel to their homes, their workplaces and to the whole life of society. May they be ever more credible witnesses of the faith which has reconciled us to God (cf. Rom 5:1), the love which will transfigure the world, and the hope which looks forward to 'new heavens and a new earth, where, according to his promise, the justice of God will reside' (2 Pet 3:13). . ."
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
One way of building up "an authentic culture of life," suggested Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, is the donation of organs, "performed in an authentically accepted manner. . ."
In the name of fraternal charity, the Church encourages organ transplants. Under moral law, the Church, however, places restrictions on organ donations.
When discussing the Church's position on organ donations, there are two relevant types of organ transplants: inter vivos and postmortem.
An example in the first category would be a donation of bone marrow or of one or two healthy kidneys. Organ transplants such as these do not threaten the life or health of the donor.
On the other hand, organs which are necessary for sustaining life, can be donated only after the death of the donor. These would include such vital organs as the heart, lung, and liver.
As set out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 2296, there are three requirements. The first requirement is that there must be informed consent given by the donor or someone who can legitimately make such a decision.
Secondly, moral law requires that "the physical and psychological dangers and risks incurred by the donor are proportionate to the good sought for the recipient."
Thirdly, the Catechism teaches:
"It is morally inadmissible directly to bring about the disabling mutilation or death of a human being, even in order to delay the death of the other persons."
In other words, if the removal of the vital organs from the donor causes or hastens his death, then the organ transplant is morally wrong.
The natural moral law, as taught by Christianity for two thousand years, hold that evil may never be done that good might come of it. The end does not justify the means.
The removal of vital organs that would cause or hasten the death of the donor is intrinsically evil and no matter what "good" may be the purpose for the removal, it is morally unacceptable. The fact that the donor's death is inevitable and imminent does not morally authorize another to cause or quicken the death of that person.
Moment of Death
After death has occurred, the Church would not only permit, but encourage removal of any vital organs that could benefit those who are ill. However, the difficulty arises in the fact that many vital organs when taken from a person who is surely deceased, are then unsuitable for transplantation.
As the Holy Father teaches: "Vital organs which occur singly in the body can be removed only after death – that is, from the body of someone who is certainly dead."
The problem arises that if doctors wait to make sure that a person is "certainly dead" the vital organ may also die and is no longer beneficial.
Can it be determined with certainty that death has occurred prior to the vital organs deteriorating to a state where they can no longer be used for transplantation?
Writing in the Catholic World Report, Bishop Fabian Wendelin Bruskewitz and Bishop Robert T. Vasa, joined by members of the medical community, conclude:
". . .we maintain that the present human transplantation procedures promote the intrinsic good of the recipient while not preserving, but rather extinguishing, the life of the donor.
"However, the medical community knows that unpaired vital organs taken from a 'certainly dead' donor are unsuitable for transplantation.
". . .when healthy vital organs are taken in accordance with the legal common practice of medicine, the donor is killed."
In order to facilitate organ donations, there have been numerous attempts to define death in the law. However, these arbitrary definitions are frequently divorced from true biological death of the person. Bishop Bruskewitz and his co-authors warn: "Every transplant center agrees that death is whatever and whenever a doctor says it is."
Life, Life Support, and Death, co-authored by nine physicians and published by the American Life League argues:
"Brain-related criteria are flawed not only in scientific theory but also in application. In order to fulfill the current "brain death" criteria, the entire brainstem must not be functioning. In fact and in practice, however, often only some brainstem reflexes. . .are evaluated. . ."
Christians must not be misled by legal definitions of death. Just because a law, or an accepted medical "ethic" may define when death occurs, the definition can not change the reality when death does in fact occur. In determining what is right and what is wrong, an individual must look to reality, and not to a definition.
Even if the condition of an individual may result in that person being declared dead under a prevailing definition, if in realty, he is living, and vital organs are removed, causing his death, then he was killed. Ignoring the fact that someone is killed, in order to make available more organ transplants to those whose lives may be saved, is justifying an evil by arguing it will accomplish a good.
Organ donation will only build up an authentic culture of life if it first respects the sanctity of each human life, from fertilization to natural death.
Reunions. An opportunity to spend time with seldom seen friends and relatives. Is this a good thing or a boring exercise?
I've been to several holiday parties in the past month and it never ceases to amaze me at how people act in these gatherings. The evening is planned for everyone to enjoy themselves. Unfortunately, some people stay in one spot the whole night. It's as if their legs are broken. At family reunions they'll sit with their immediate family never venturing to the other side of the room except for a drink or something to eat.
The hall can be filled with relatives but these folks only talk to their brothers and sisters. How sad. You already know what your siblings have been doing, why not go over to that cousin you haven't seen since last years' gathering and see how life has been treating him? You know the one; you two were inseparable as kids. But now you couldn't name his children under threat of torture.
The second reunion was more of a party. We gathered to celebrate with some friends. Since they are popular, there was a group of current associates and a group of people with whom they used to run. It was almost as if there was wall between the two clusters. With the exception of a few brave souls, one crowd stayed on one side of the room while the rest planted themselves on the opposite side.
Still a third reunion brought together former students. There was some mingling, but not much. The attendees spoke to either the group they came with or the gang they bummed with while still in school. Even during the group picture, best friends stood next to best friends.
Why do we do this? We are missing out on a great opportunity to make new friends. It can be so exciting to discover that your second cousin is just as interested in your family tree as you. But unless you hold a conversation with him, you'll never know. When you find out that a former classmate is in the same business as you, you can share stories. Who knows, you might even pick up a new client. And by visiting with someone new, you just might learn something.
When we buried the patriarch of my mother's family this year, there were tons of cousins there whom I didn't really know. I had brought hundreds of pictures for all to see. Thank goodness one of my distant cousins came to talk to me. It seems that she had never seen a photograph of her grandfather until that party and she wanted to know if I had any more. I was able to put together a photo album for her with her grandpa at age one thru age seventy including high school shots. She was overjoyed and all because she crossed the room to visit someone.
So when you gather with family and friends, make it a point to speak with someone different. Really talk to them; you could be surprised by what hear! Just a few thoughts.
(On December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the 150th anniversary of the declaration of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception by Blessed Pope Pius IX, Pope John Paul II prayed this prayer before a statue of the Blessed Virigin topping a column honoring this dogma in the Piazza di Spagna in Rome.)
Once again we are here to honor you,
at the foot of this column
from which you lovingly watch
over Rome and the whole world,
ever since, 150 years ago,
Bl. Pius IX proclaimed
as a truth of the Catholic faith
your preservation from
every stain of sin
in anticipation of the
death and Resurrection
of your Son, Jesus Christ.
Your spotless spiritual beauty
is for us a living source of
confidence and hope.
To have you as Mother, Holy Virgin,
reassures us on the path of life
as a pledge of eternal salvation.
Because of this, O Mary,
we have recourse to you
Help us to build a world
where human life is always
cherished and defended,
every form of violence banished,
the peace of all tenaciously sought.
In this Year of the Eucharist,
grant that we may celebrate and adore
with renewed faith and ardent love
the holy mystery of the
Body and Blood of Christ.
At your school,
O Woman of the Eucharist,
teach us to remember the marvels
that God never ceases to work in
With motherly tenderness, Virgin Mary,
guide our steps always on the
path of good. Amen!''
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com