MANASSAS, VA, July 31, 2008 (CNSweb) –
Articles about end-of-life ethics by two college professors, including
a bioethics professor at Loyola University of Chicago, have prompted a
rare public correction by the leading American bishops responsible for
pro-life activities and Catholic doctrine.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia and chairman of the
Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn.,
chairman of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, raise their concerns in
the August 4 issue of the Jesuits’ America magazine.
The bishops write that two previous America articles by John Hardt,
assistant professor of bioethics at Loyola University of Chicago’s
Stritch School of Medicine, and Thomas Shannon, emeritus professor of
religion and social ethics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, “appear
to misunderstand and subsequently misrepresent the substance of Church
teaching on these difficult but important ethical questions” about “our
moral obligations to patients who exist in what has come to be called a
‘persistent vegetative state.'”
Both professors argue for exceptions to Church teaching, thereby
allowing the removal of a feeding tube and hydration from such patients.
In his January article, Hardt cites a 2007 statement by the Vatican
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which teaches that
artificial nutrition and hydration may be withheld from a patient when
“in some rare cases” the treatment “may become excessively
burdensome.” Using the example of his father, who has asked
not to receive artificial hydration and nutrition should he enter a
vegetative state, Hardt writes, “[M]y father has judged that the burden
of persisting in a vegetative state far outweighs the benefit of being
sustained that way. This, in my view, is a very Catholic way
Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Lori respond that Hardt wrongly defines
excessive burden as “a simple dislike for survival in a helpless
state.” In fact, the bishops write, “that claim has no
foundation in the text [and] is actually contradicted” by the CDF.
Glad they reacted to this since these
type of article certainly must be addressed especially in a magazine
put out by a religious order whose founder’s Feast Day is today.