It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Pope Emeritus, Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict XVI was an outstanding human being, a man who truly personified and exemplified all the characteristics of a true devout Christian. Here was a man who devoted his life to Jesus and to Christ’s universal message of love and truth.
A man of compassion, kindness, courage, charity, forgiveness and love, a man who lived to kindly instruct and teach the ways of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, a selfless, altruistic, intellectual colossus, one of the finest, most gifted minds of the last century, a man who walked and lived the life of the gospel. This was a man who history will be much kinder to and more honest and accurate in appraising than many of his contemporaries in the hostile, biased realms of secularist academia and the secularist media.
This was a man of immense gifts which he unselfishly shared with the world, along with his talents and virtues. His erudite, enlightening didactic writing on ethics, universal truths, history, morals, God, The Church and the many challenges and tragedies of modern 21st Century life in the West, were prescient, accurate, compassionate and showed a breath taking intellect and scope; brilliantly pinpointing downsides to the West’s zeitgeist of individualism and the void left following the collapse and rejection of Christianity in the West.
It was Pope Benedict XVI who rightly sighted the disease or in his words the ‘dictatorship’ of relativism as the greatest threat to life and liberty in the West. In his assessment and thesis he was one hundred per cent correct and wrote in detail about this malaise long before most of the academic world caught up and agreed or mistakenly refuted or ignored Pope Benedict XVI’s incontrovertible, ineluctable findings, assessments and conclusions.
With the death of Christianity comes a moral wasteland of relativism, everything is relative, therefore there are no set moral standards on anything, people are their own moral arbitrators, if someone thinks it’s ok to do something then why isn’t it? No one, priest or parent has the right to say otherwise, there are no absolute moral truths, coupled with this is a vacuum of despair left as a result of the death of faith, this was and is a recipe for disaster and gradually and eventually leads to a complete breakdown of society and community, and we are living in its wreckage. It has left generations of people deracine, without root and crucially without hope. Look at the tragic levels of suicide and self- harm amongst our young people in Ireland today, they have never been as high, look at the levels of drug and alcohol abuse, might there not be a connection with the collapse of religion and faith, and the subsequent collapse and disappearance of the resilience and hope that religion and faith traditionally helped create and maintain in people to offer solace and meaning in times of adversity?
Might this loss of faith and hope and belief be part of the reason why such suffering and pain manifest in these tragic symptoms of living in a Godless society of despair and no hope? Without hope and other beliefs or anchors to root us and help us weather times of adversity and flux, life becomes so much harder. Without God and the belief that we are all made in the image of God and hence all human life is sacred and should and must be protected and respected, without that, life for many becomes too hard and many hearts harden, many other hearts break, if life becomes a survival of the fittest, the most popular, the richest; then life leaves many casualties in its wake. Without God- compassion, kindness, mercy and crucially forgiveness become relics of the past and they do disappear.
Without Christian beliefs and teachings, and Christian virtues- like charity and caring for the sick and vulnerable, society and its populace quickly revert to the law of the jungle, where might is right, look at modern 21st Century Ireland, we as a people and a nation picked choice and expedience over the right of a baby to continue breathing, growing and living in its mother’s womb, think about that. We decided to remove the rights of the most vulnerable in society, the unborn, that decision set a terrifying precedent, we choose expedience over an innocents right to live and exist. That is not a compassionate society, quite the opposite. We as a society and people either believe all human life is sacred or we do not, and with the referendum result we do not. There is a new value system in Irish society, some in society and the community have the right to exist; others do not, in fact some people now have the legal right to end innocent life if they choose to.
What does that say about Ireland today, what does it say about us as a people? And I know one out of three of us voted to save the Eighth Amendment, but the Rubicon has been crossed, the precedent set.
Now the worshippers of Death are on a new mission to make legal assisted suicide, the Angel of Death cannot come too quick for some politicians; again this is dishonestly or at best inaccurately being cited as a call for compassion to allow terminally ill patients to die with dignity. What is dignified about telling someone if life feels unbearable due to physical and or crucially mental pain, that they should and must have the right to end their own life or more accurately for someone else to carry out that decision ‘for’ them? If reading this you cannot see the potential Pandora’s Box of problems and potential pitfalls with passing this proposed Assisted Suicide Bill, what can I say? Hatred of the idea of terminal illness and human suffering should not blind you to the fact that a terminal patient is still a sacred, unique, human being; built in the image of God and thus, must be cared for with complete compassion and love, who amongst us can say with complete authority that a life lived with pain is not worth living?
No one has the right to decide when another human being’s life is no longer of worth! A person may wish to have their life ended, predicting when they believe they will be ‘too far gone’, or in too much pain and suffering, but the final, terminal decision is carried out when that person is no longer capable of relaying their precise wishes, i. e. they are no longer able to communicate to change their mind and their decision if they so wish, this is a crucial, overlooked point of fact, that at the crucial moment of killing, in a ‘mercy killing’, the patient has no say in the decision and has no way of reversing the decision.
Traditionally we have relied on the compassion and professionalism of our trained doctors to act appropriately and humanely in such circumstances. We do not and should not change that sacred patient- doctor relationship on the demands of non-expert lobbyists, be they politicians or otherwise. We should not leave such a fateful, life or death situation to be decided by an uneducated, opinionated mob of amateurs- the so called citizen’s assembly, as we did with the issue of abortion.
As Pope Benedict XVI might teach and advise, quoting Christ, ‘what you do to the least of us, you do unto me’. The cure for relativism and its devouring despair is to return to God, humanity, family and community. We are the Church and we need to change and do more to help each other. In helping, respecting and cherishing each other, we respect and cherish ourselves.
In the words of a man I have no doubt was a living saint and will be canonised in time.
‘Morality- which begins with the look directed to the other, is the custodian of the truth and the dignity of man! Man needs morality in order to be himself and not lose his dignity in the world of things’
May he rest in peace. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis