Ethics: March 2005 Archives

I admit it: I'm impressed. Here's Frances D'Emilio, an AP reporter covering the Pope's illness and his recent statements on medical ethics, and doing a solid, accurate job of describing what the Catholic Church believes and teaches on these matters.

Later that day, the Vatican announced he had been fitted with a feeding tube in his nose to help boost his nutritional intake.

The use of the feeding tube illustrates a key point of Roman Catholic policy John Paul has proclaimed: It is morally necessary to give patients food and water, no matter their condition.

As Parkinson's disease and other ailments have left him increasingly frail, the pope has been emphasizing that the chronically ill, "prisoners of their condition ... retain their human dignity in all its fullness."

The Vatican's attitude to the chronically ill has been apparent in its bitter condemnation of a judge's order two weeks ago to remove a feeding tube from Terri Schiavo, the severely brain-damaged American woman who died Thursday.

Vatican Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, reacting to Schiavo's death, denounced the removal of her feeding tube as "an attack against God."

Although different, some see parallels in the two cases.

Under John Paul, Vatican teaching on the final stages of life includes a firm rejection of euthanasia, insistence on treatments that help people bear ailments with dignity and encouragement of research to enhance and prolong life.

A 1980 Vatican document makes the distinction between "proportionate" and "disproportionate" means of prolonging life. While it gives room for refusal of some forms of aggressive medical intervention for terminally ill patients, it insists that "normal care" must not be interrupted.

John Paul set down exactly what that meant in a speech last year to an international conference on treatments for patients in a so-called persistent vegetative state.

"I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory."

John Paul's 26-year papacy has been marked by its call to value the aged and to respect the sick, subjects the pope has turned to as he battles Parkinson's disease and crippling knee and hip ailments.

High taxes are not a family value


I finally got around to opening my Fairfax County real estate tax assessment today. It was sitting in a stack of papers for a couple of weeks, and it has not improved with age.

They don't actually come right out and saw how much you're going to pay. No, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is coy about that subject, though they helpfully included a pamphlet explaining why assessments are completely justified and rational. Another shows the county budget that explains how they're going to spend $3 billion (that's right, with a "b") in fiscal 2006.

But we peasants should rejoice! The good people on the Board are cutting our taxes, you see: to offset the obscene tax increase, they are lowering the tax rates, from $1.13 per $100 of value to $1.03. I did the math that they didn't want to show us, and I see that what for us would have been a tax increase of $1,150 is "only" about $700.

In other words, I ought to shut up because my real estate taxes only went up 17% instead of 28%, and our county is such a wonderful place to live. But I can't help but ask the question: if the county was wonderful when it was getting $4,000 last year from the Johnsons, why does it need the extra 700 bucks next year? Inflation, sure — that accounts for about $100. There aren't 17% more students in the schools, and (thankfully) the cops don't have 17% more criminals to catch. The firemen aren't putting out 17% more fires. Et cetera.

To our family, the increase alone represents almost a month of groceries. Now I have to work for three weeks out of the year, just to pay my real estate taxes, mostly to support schools that my children do not attend. Those taxes are more than our phone, water, electrical, mobile phone, basic cable TV, and Internet connection bills combined.

It doesn't stop with real estate. My federal taxes will probably be more than all of those things I just listed, plus all of our grocery expenditures. Aside from our rather substantial mortgage — itself a result of the Board keeping a lid on the county housing supply — our biggest expense is paying The Man in all his guises.

And you wonder why suburban parents vote for Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin?

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Ethics category from March 2005.

Ethics: January 2005 is the previous archive.

Ethics: July 2005 is the next archive.

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