“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, November 29, 2004

U.S. Catholic Bishops part 3

The following is from the "Doctrine and Pastoral Practices" website sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This is available at http://www.ncbuscc.org/doctrine/disabilities.htm

"3. Our defense of life and rejection of the culture of death requires that we acknowledge the dignity and positive contributions of our brothers and sisters with disabilities. We unequivocally oppose negative attitudes toward disability which often lead to abortion, medical rationing, and euthanasia."

The notion of a culture of death has been well described by Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger. He uses the term "deathmaking" to refer to a wide variety of programs, positions, laws which would in total contribute to the Bishops' notion of a culture of death. I will go into Wolfensberger's notion of deathmaking at another time. The defense against the culture of death, I believe, does begin with recognizing that there is such a culture in our society. The culture of death can be related to actual physical death, or perhaps more commonly more of a "social death" in which a person with disability is relegated to life situations different from the mainstream but common to many of those with disability. Perhaps a defense of life is made when we acknowledge the diginity and positive contributions of persons with disabilities, however, I always wonder about who those to whom such a defense must be made, are. Are they even convinceable? On what basis would they see persons with disabilities as anything other than worthy of dignity? There is an evil here which must be labeled for what it is.

The notion of positive contributions once again gets back to my last entry about this statement. Somehow, we need to see positive contributions, abilities, in persons with disability in order to make the case for their lives. We need to see abilities, apparently on some scale of worth, which will move the balance of the scale toward the defense of life and the rejection of the culture of death. Honestly, I refuse to play that game because of the evil behind it which requires one to prove someone's worth. I will not argue about someone's worth. I am given a glimpse into the soul of the person I am speaking to, when I hear that they feel worth must somehow be proven. Of course those who would challenge the worth of another assume they themselves have worth.

I too, unequivocally oppose negative attitudes toward persons with disability, in particular those which lead to abortion and other forms of death making (I do share the negativity persons with disability often have toward their own disability: I would prefer that persons with cerebral palsy, for example, not have cerebral palsy). However, there are other forms of negative attitudes which don't directly lead to death which should also be condemned.

I never cease to be amazed at the negativity I see in church people. An instance arose in my own church a couple of weekends ago. Someone who is a wonderful man of God made a decision affecting adults with disability in a very discriminatory fashion, and probably never even saw what he did as being discriminatory. Somehow, he feared the impression of others in the church, in terms of turning them away, or limiting the spiritual experience he was attempting to develop. I would respond by asking, "How can you have an experience with God, when you begin the experience by excluding persons whom God loves on the basis of their disability?" Yet somehow, this seemed logical to him.

I appreciate the Bishops' strong statement in defense of life, however, we must be careful to avoid situations where even our participation in the discussion somehow provides support for those who would detract from the humanity of persons with disability.


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