From the Office of Common Sense
Have you ever seen those crazy instructions written on various items you buy at the grocery store or at Wal-Mart? You know, things like "Do Not Iron Clothes on Body" when purchasing an iron or being told "Do Not Use in Mouth" when buying firecrackers? The only reason those types of instructions exist is because someone, somewhere did those dumb things and tried to sue the company making the product.

That's what I thought of when I read the latest instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about the use of artifical hydration and nutrition in certain circumstances.

Like a father instructing his young child not to stick his fingers in the electrical outlet for the 10th time, the Congregation slowly and painstakingly goes through the very obvious reasons why artificial hydration and nutrition should be the norm in most circumstances and they lay out clearly what the rare, small exceptions are.

Reading through it is almost tiring. I mean, this has been explained over and over so many times that I wonder why in the world it has to be repeated so often.

Here's what I mean:

"Is the administration of food and water to a patient in a 'vegetative state' morally obligatory except when they cannot be assimilated by the patient's body or cannot be administered to the patient without causing significant physical discomfort?"

The answer to this question should be obvious to anyone who reads it, but here it is:

"Yes. The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented."

Isn't it sad to see otherwise highly competent and intelligent men who have to lower themselves to become an Office of Common Sense? They not only have to tell you that certain behaviours are wrong, but why they are wrong in the first place. A first-grader could understand this.

I'm not complaining about the CDF here. I am saying that it's sad that men with years of theological and philosophical training find themselves compelled to repeat over and over that you cannot and should not starve and dehydrate innocent human beings but yet, people keep doing it anyways.

The comparison is like writing this in an instruction manual for a hand gun: "When putting the gun to your head, refrain from pulling the trigger, in this way death is avoided." Or how about this for a drivers manual: "When driving down the highway at a high speed, refrain from striking the concrete divider, in this way a gruesome accident with needless death is avoided."

This would make just as much sense and is probably just as necessary. Welcome to the Office of Common Sense.



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