Belgian Archbishop Seeks Euthanasia Opt-out for Catholic Hospitals

Arcchbishop Jozef De Kesel. Image via REUTERS/Eric Vidal/RNS

Belgium is embroiled in a religious freedom controversy after the new head of the country’s Roman Catholic Church demanded that faith-run hospitals and nursing homes have the right to refuse euthanasia to patients.

A 2002 law decriminalized euthanasia for terminally ill adults and it has the support of a large majority of public opinion and politicians. But opposition in this historically Catholic country has grown as lawmakers extended the practice to including terminally ill children and people with severe psychological problems.

Afghan Survivor of U.S. Hospital Bombing: ‘God Will Hold Them Accountable’

Khalid Ahmed. Image via Dr. Hakim.

“I feel very angry, but I don’t want anything from the U.S. military. God will hold them accountable,” said Khalid Ahmad, a 20-year-old pharmacist who survived the U.S. bombing of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on Oct. 3.


Bishop Michael Curry Recovering From Surgery

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Image via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

The presiding bishop released a video Dec. 6 from his hospital bed, from which he asked a nurse to explain his condition. The nurse said that because of the subdural hematoma, Curry had some “word-finding difficulty” but should be in “great shape” as soon as the end of the week.

The medical setback for the church’s leader comes as the 1.9 million-member faith group released new statistics indicating its continuing slide in membership and participation.

There has been an almost 20 percent drop in active members in the last 10 years and a 25 percent drop in the average Sunday attendance in that same period. More than half of Episcopal parishes — 53 percent — have seen a decline in average Sunday attendance of at least 10 percent in the last five years.

Reading Ayn Rand at the Hospital

About love she was all wrong,
the old capitalist, patron saint
of the self-made rich. How well
she misunderstood the paradox deep
as mothers’ grief: that finding our self
requires losing it, that love and loss
make one truth, not two. Objective
as granite in relationships, her hero
never collapses into cancer with a wife,
never drops into death with a brother.
No, Howard Roark, fountainhead
among architects, never really suffers
because he never truly loves. He relates
in a Randian arithmetic of negation:
one self living for another self equals
no self. Devoted to one ego alone, his
will is rigid as the steel girders he
sketches across the vast unknown. I
turn another tedious page, count
what’s left to read, then gaze
out the window to worry
what my wife’s biopsy will mean.
Beside me since sunrise, our daughter Mary
sets aside a limp issue of People,
ruffles my hair, then pours me coffee,
strong, steaming—just as John Donne
in slippers hustles his IV pole
down the corridor, his free hand clutching
the breezy back of a worn hospital gown. He
hurries to our chairs, bows to Mary
with metaphysical flourish, then whispers
through a painful grimace to me,
“Look, son: for your wife’s sake
lose that damned book!” Ducking
behind a lush fern to avoid his nurse,
the ailing Dean of Meditation 17
grabs my sagging shoulders, leans
in that long English face to declare,
“Now listen, you: Ayn Rand’s all wrong.
Got that? No man’s an island. Period.
And you can take that to the bloody bank.”

Mark Hiskes teaches English at Holland Christian High School in Holland, Michigan.

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Brought Together

I spent most of September 1983 in the waiting room of Georgetown hospital's cardiac unit. Millie Bender, a longtime member and pastor at Sojourners, had a heart attack on Labor Day. Double by-pass heart surgery followed, and the weeks at the hospital turned into a vigil.

A hospital waiting room can become a kind of community. A particular sort of bond develops between those who are sharing many of the same emotions and find themselves spending hours and days together. The loved ones of waiting-room companions also become important to you.

The night we rushed Millie to the hospital, a young man was in the waiting room. He and I and Joyce Hollyday were the only ones there all night. No words were spoken that first night, but a connection was made. We later learned that his 20-year-old sister was suffering from a rare blood disease that was threatening the functioning of her heart.

In the days that followed, we met the mother, father, and other members of the family. We never had long conversations, but we would often ask how the young woman was doing, and they shared concern for Millie. Without a lot of talk, there was real compassion and support for one another.

Right in the middle of our hospital vigil came the "arms bazaar." The Sheraton Washington Hotel was hosting the annual Air Force Association's huge weapons exposition, and we had been planning a large protest for months.

Inside the hotel the weapons of modern warfare were on display--Pershing II and cruise missiles, the B-l and the MX, lasers and fighter planes--and all the buyers and sellers were gathered for the deadly auction. Outside, 1,000 church people assembled in the street for a Sunday worship service that would begin a week's vigil for peace and justice in the shadow of the hotel.

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