I am not much of a TV watcher anymore and no I am not going to say I only watch the History and Discovery channel (channels added to networks so people could admit to watching TV). I mainly watch things such as Cartoon Network, Sci-Fi’s channel series, Monk, House and a few others. I did start watching Fox’s 24 this year figuring that it would be good escapist-adventure fair that I could relax to. Unfortunately now you just can’t seem to escape the glory of euthanasia as increasingly preached by Hollywood. Last night’s episode had a mother who was sick and within range of a possible meltdown of a nuclear reactor. She tells her son how much better it would be for her to basically kill herself rather than to suffer through radiation sickness. Now this was no real plot point and the planned suicide to avoid suffering could have been eliminated and still left the plot tension of the son wanting to save the mother. It is bad enough when ole Dirty Harry starts making message movies advocating how heroic it is to kill people who are suffering. The gospel of utility has been preached in Hollywood increasingly over the years. That pulling the plug is shown as a heroic act that sadly must be hidden. I watched an old Peter O’Toole movie the other day called Lord Jim. In it one of the helpers of a group of men raiding a village for a treasure gets injured. They then discussed what they called an act of compassion by shooting the man and said that this "Compassion was bad for him, but good for us." This reminded me of a survey a couple years back where family members were much more open to euthanasia then people who are terminally ill. I am not sure how it is heroic to putting an end to someone’s life and not having to be present or to visit that person anymore. To me it seems much more heroic to spend time with your loved ones as they die. I know how difficult it was for me to see my mother ravaged by cancer and spending time with her just before she died. As myself and many others have mentioned is that the word compassion actually means suffering with not the end of suffering.
The gospel of utility has been working for quite a while to attack both the start and end of life and whatever in-between it deems as not useful anymore. Where we are not defined by our dignity as given us by our creator in his image and likeness. We are instead seen by more of a ‘what are you doing for me now" attitude. They declare that the developing child in the womb as not yet having a fully developed intellect can thus can be killed. The terminally ill person with either declining physical or mental abilities can also be killed. Anybody not fully functional in this utilitarian view can be dispensed with.
Terry Schaivo can have court after court decide that she can be simply starved to death because here husband says that is what she would have wanted. In the last week there was a case of a woman who woke up after twenty years in a coma. These examples of people coming out of a coma have been used as reasons why Terry Schaivo should not be killed. Yet I say even if Terry Schaivo never becomes fully conscience there is still not reason why her life should be ended. Her dignity as a human person is not based on her current medical state.
In a post-Christian society it is no surprise that the message of redemptive suffering seems to be either lost or ignored. The surprise is that it also has been lost by many Christians. The name it and claim it view of theology sees no purpose in suffering. Too many see suffering as either punishment or a sign or prayers not answered. Now as Catholics we might hear the phrase "offer it up", but do we really understand what this means? This is one of the reasons I so love the Holy Father’s witness to the world. Catholic truths are always needed though at this time the message of redemptive suffering seems to be needed all the more. The Pope and his witness is the necessary corrective to the disposable view of the sick and the elderly that our culture engenders. I remember a story that Blessed Mother Teresa told of going into hospitals and telling those within about redemptive suffering. That they could offer their pain as a prayer for others. The people she spoke to were so happy that their suffering was not useless and in fact could be useful. This is the true heroism to go beyond your own pain and to think of others who are in need.
The beginning of the Pope’s apostolic letterSalvifici Doloris starts with:
1. Declaring the power of salvific suffering, the Apostle Paul says: "In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church"(1).
These words seem to be found at the end af the long road that winds through the suffering which forms part of the history of man and which is illuminated by the Word of God. These words have as it were the value of a final discovery, which is accompanied by joy. For this reason Saint Paul writes: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake"(2). The joy comes from the discovery of the meaning of suffering, and this discovery, even if it is most personally shared in by Paul of Tarsus who wrote these words, is at the same time valid for others. The Apostle shares his own discovery and rejoices in it because of all those whom it can help—just as it helped him—to understand the salvific meaning of suffering.
The Pope has moved from writing about redemptive suffering to living it.