The Pope said it, they won’t believe it

The Pope said it, they won’t believe it

It’s nice to know that Catholic theologians and ethicists are so willing and ready to listen when the Pope speaks on a matter of faith and morality. For example, the Holy Father recently said that food and water are never extraordinary means and it’s never right to deny them to someone who is comatose or in a “vegetative” state, a word that neither the Pope nor I like because it implies a loss of humanity.

So what do Catholic theologians, priests, ethicists, and hospital managers say in response? They’ll have to think about it, but many of them think the Pope should have stayed out of it. Just consider what one priest at Boston College has to say:

  • Hmmm. I wonder why many Catholics feels free to pick and choose what he or she will believe in.  I just can’t figure it out.

  • Hmmm….sounds like some folk forget who the keys of the kingdom were handed to….typical, thinking that theology and ethics profs are the actual source of definitive teaching….

  • The minute you meet or hear of someone who is described as an ‘ethicist,’ run!  All it means today is someone who tries to justify that which was previously considered immoral.  Further, today’s ethicists don’t even know what their ethics is based on.  It’s just whatever they themselves happen to believe is ‘good.’  They have serpents whispering into their ears, and a bright shiny apple above them, just waiting to be plucked…

  • As has been noted before, ethics divorced from morality is nothing more than politics.  Thus this sort of ethicist is just a little politician ready to lick the boots of the rich and powerful (read insurances companies) for whatever favors and money come of such licking.

  • The pope’s statement was addressed to a conference of physicians, wasn’t it? Not to episcopal conferences, or bishops, or the faithful. I think it perfectly legitimate, therefore, to want to study the status of its authority. (I have not BTW read the statement.)

  • The audience makes all the difference in the world. And, as a matter of fact, it’s not necessarily “binding” when the pope makes a “pronouncement” on a matter of “faith and morals”. Was it a prudential judgement or a doctrinal decision? Was it meant to be “binding”? Was he speaking in his capacity as universal pastor, or bishop of Rome, or private theologian? These questions need to be both asked and answered. You probably have a lot more experience studying these things than I do, but I myself would not expect an authoritative pronouncement on doctrine concerning faith and morals to come to the Universal Church through a speech addressed to physicians. AFAIK, that’s not the way these things usually work.