A theocracy can loosely be defined as ‘A government ruled by or subject to religious authority.’ It seems clear that Italy is, in fact a theocracy by proxy.
Eluana Englaro has been in a vegetative-state since a car crash in 1992 and Italy’s top court ruled last year that she should be allowed to die. Eluana has severe brain-damage and last Friday her doctors began the process of allowing her to die with dignity at the behest of her suffering family. Her father has fought for 10 years based on his assertion that Eluana made it clear prior to the injury that she would prefer death, as opposed to the living-death she has endured for the past 17 years. This tragedy shares the same sordid and appalling link between religious interference and secular government as the Terri Schiavo case in the 2005. In a bid to keep Englaro alive, Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s (who is so confused about Eluana’s medical condition that it his contention that she should be kept alive as she is still able able to have children!) center-right government passed an emergency decree Friday saying that feeding and hydration cannot be suspended for patients who depend on it. There are even stories in the Italian press that Berlusconi embarked on a frantic phone call with the Vatican prior to the decision. President Napolitano, showing both empathy for family, and respect for secular law, informally expressed perplexity regarding the decree, stating that he would not sign it. There is now a race for Berlusconi to race the bill through the Italian Parliament so that the wishes of Eluana, and her family can be sacrificed on the alter of religious-inspired righteousness.
So here again we have religious dogma distorting secular government. It is true that euthanasia is illegal in Italy, but after a long battle Eluana’s father has managed to persuade the Italian court system that she should be allowed to stop keeping her alive via hydration and food. Clearly then, the legality of euthanasia in Italian law is now a moot-point. Eluana should be allowed to die with dignity, and not to linger with no hope of recovery – against her, and her family’s wishes.
Enter religion. The Catholic church, exercising all the skills of hyperbole at it’s disposal ensures us that Eluana has been ‘condemned to die of hunger of thirst’, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, the pope’s health minister, told La Repubblica that removing Englaro’s feeding tube “is tantamount to an abominable assassination”. Cardinal Antonelli said, “Eluana is in a ‘vegetative state,’ but she is not a vegetable. She is a person who is sleeping,” he said. “The person, also when she is sleeping or disabled, retains all of her dignity. The person is valuable in herself, not for what she produces or consumes, or for the pleasure or satisfaction she gives to others.” So this poor woman is only sleeping? I have been unable to find any neurological credentials in the good cardinal’s education resume, so it seems that he is not talking from an informed position – as an expert on cognitive function, and neurological damage, but from an ignorant position of religious dogma, a dogma that deals in absolutes. I would also invite the good Cardinel to sit besides a patient who cannot communicate and is only waiting for death, so he can enjoy for himself the dignity and mystery of the suffering. He might also ask Eluana’s family to describe to him the ‘pleasure and satisfaction’, they have enjoyed over the past 17 years before making such offensive comments.
But let us look for a moment at contemporary position of the RC ‘sanctity of life’ – which, when you consider that Christianity is nothing more than a death-cult is laughable. The head of the Catholic Church in Mozambique told the BBC in 2007 that he believes some European-made condoms are infected with HIV deliberately. Maputo Archbishop Francisco Chimoio claimed some anti-retro-viral drugs were also infected “in order to finish quickly the African people”. How many have died, (in a country where about one in six of the 19 million citizens are HIV-positive and about 500 people are infected each day) – how many children have been orphaned as a result of the Vatican’s position on contraception in sub-Saharan Africa? The sanctity of life was not a position to be concerned with when the RC church had control over Europe and routinely tortured and murdered for – well whatever the current superstition was.
Religious dogma should not still be infecting liberal, secular politics – just as I believe everybody has a human right to life, everyone also has a right to a dignified death. Euthanasia is an emotive subject. I would accept that people can have a reasonable,secular position on euthanasia both for and against – and we should engage in the discourse. But whatever moral authority religion deems itself to have is a well-documented myth, and religion has no right to dictate to a suffering family or a secular state – there can be no legitimate argument who’s central thesis comes from the bible and dogma. I think it clear that the ‘pro-life’ (when is suits) lobby is religious in nature and dogmatic in doctrine. It is not amenable to rational discourse or a change in position (except when it suits) – and the Italian government would be well-advised to keep their sanctimonious posturing closer to home. Berlusconi’s moral authority is at the very least, questionable, and I would have thought that the Italian government would have far more pressing things to worry about than intruding into the private misery of an already devastated family.
An excellent article on this subject can be found here.
Filed under: humanism |