Resurrection in Texas?

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Did you read the story about Zach Dunlop the 21 year old who was pronounced dead in Texas and 4 months later gained consciousness? That is so freaky. He even heard the doctor saying that he was dead.  It certainly raises some tough questions.

I believe in a consistent “life-ethic” which rejects abortion, poverty, capital punishment, euthanasia and other anti-life forms of descrimination and injustice. As a Catholic, I’m also not a “vitalist”. In other words it’s not life at all costs.  Death is not the worse thing that can happen to me.  It’s ok to die… and it’s ok to allow people who are dying, to go. That’s the genius of our Catholic moral theology. 

I have also signed my “organ donor” card and it’s marked on my health card. But now I’m beginning to wonder.  I don’t mind dying…. well, I guess I do right now. But you know what I mean. If my time is up, my time is up. But at the same time I would like to have an opportunity to heal if that’s what is possible.  Can you imagine being like that man, and hearing doctors declare you dead, or even worse beginning to harvest your organs. Ouch!

As  a priest visiting hospitals, and especially critical care departments, I wonder how the doctors make the determination that a person is “brain dead”. Is it a consistent, scientific diagnosis? It does not seem so. 

On the other hand I would not want to have no brain function and have either a machine breathing for me, keeping my body alive, nor would I want artificial nutrition and hydration keeping my body alive. I know that Pope John Paul II and the Holy See are against the removal of hydration and nutrition. And I understand the point. However, personally, I would not want to have my body kept alive artificially.

This is an important discussion to have, especially as governments tell us that funding is difficult for healthcare and we see people getting moved out of hospital quickly. This discussion also has a huge impact on organ transplants which are so necessary.

Please feel free to comment, BUT… this is a “family” discussion. We are all pro-life and sharing our thoughts and feelings.  Also, this is my blog. Please keep the lengths of the comments in keeping with the length of the initial post.

Read the story at AOL News.


  1. I wounder who is correct.
    “I know that Pope John Paul II and the Holy See are against the removal of hydration and nutrition. And I understand the point. However, personally, I would not want to have my body kept alive artificially.”
    Maybe they are both correct. No both can’t be correct. Neither can both be wrong. So one is correct and one isn’t.
    Which would be correct?
    Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict?
    Or father Rick?

  2. One has to very careful with the consistent “life ethic” because it takes its impetus from Cardinal Bernadin’s “Seamless Garment” doctrine. that idea sates that it isn’t enough to oppose abortion, to be consistent, you have to “defend life” on every front, icluding the death penalty, poverty, racism, homelessness, “discrimination,” war, environment, globalism etc.

    Technically this is true, and each of the above ussues has a moral dimension in which the Church needs to be heard. But there is a problem. The consistent life ethic is an initiative which arises from the ranks of the US hierarchy, not the Church, per se. That being so, intrinsic subjectivism becomes a fatal flaw because “life” is left undefined and “anti-life descrimination” becomes a protean, politically variable concept. I have seen the consistent life ethic used to justify same sex marriage based on the idea that two men in a “committed relationship” could provide a stable home (life) for an adopted child. I’ve seen it also used to promote the expansion of the welfare state which violates the Catholic principle of Subsidiarty. Finally I’ve seen it used to suggest that western democracies have no moral right to protect their citizens by monitoring, hunting down and arresting those individuals who stated goals are to terrorize and kill as many of us as possible. Clearly, the Church teaches nothing of the kind.

    The case which Friar Rick cites here–of Zach Dunlap’s recovery from his coma –is timely and something all Catholics need to meditate on. In this case, the INconsistency being introduced into the “consistent life ethic” is the scientific yardstick which measured Zach’s value as a function of his mobility and alpha brain-wave function, weighed against the economic factors of an occupied hospital bed and a waiting list of organ recipients.
    The Church, on the other hand says: Zach, you are one of God’s children. City of God, City of Man…

    Science is driving the morality here, and that, paradoxically, is how a democratically voted upon “consistent life ethic” can actually work against Jesus Christ. Morality can never be defined by a vote. Morality as truth happens only when it’s defined by the church acting under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

  3. Wondering Who is Right? I would err on the side of caution and side with the Vatican. No offense Fr Rick, but one has to be careful with this issue. I’ve read that these types of recoveries are more common than we here. As well I don’t believe that we should be preping people for harvest. As we all know in Canada we have a health care system that is being hit by an aging population. This in turn will be leading doctors to decide who is viable and who isn’t. The health care system is as much about economics as it is healing. Why else would it be such a political issue. Lets not muddy the waters.

    I believe that Michael raises some good points and we should turn to what the Holy Father has to say on this.


  4. I don’t think I set this up as a “who’s right” question. I’m not setting myself up as a challenge to the magisterium (which by the way, includes the bishops of the U.S.). I was just saying that although I understand and value the Church’s teaching, I am left still uncomfortable with the idea of having my body artificially maintained.
    BUT… I am also growing concerned about, as Mobius says, the impact of economics on making decisions for health care.

  5. Fr Rick,

    I’m not comfortable with a great many things. One of them being that I must be humble and charitable to my enemies. But the Church teaches that I must. Therefore to be in God’s good graces I act accordingly.

    Also we should look back to the case of Teri Schindler. According to her “husband” she was in a permanent vegatative state. However friends, family, doctors and Fr Pavone said otherwise. It is not a good idea to think the end is nigh just because all seems bleak. I pray to God you will never find yourself in that situation Fr. Rick, myself included. But should that ever happen I trust my wife will follow the Churches teaching, and seek the aid of our parish priest, who is well versed in end of life ethics.


  6. Friar Rick here’s my personal conviction:

    For me life is always precious in whatever form it maybe. To the point that my view makes me very impractical. If I will apply practicality, I might as well support the “annihilation” of the Talibans that U.S. government views them giving burden to the whole world, or even the removal of the ‘fetus” from the womb that is found to be a deformed human being for it only gives burden to the family/useless to the society.(excuse me for using this term)

  7. I have an idea: lets all just do whatever the Pope says and never question anything uttered from his infallible mouth. I think Benedict should bring back the indulgence and see if right-wing Catholics, like yourselves, will accept it as the undisputed will of God.
    Stop following your faith blindly. Fr. Rick is simply stating his opinion on modern papal teachings. I would rather have a priest who thinks for himself than a mindless puppet controlled by the papacy.

  8. Thanks Eric. My personal conviction is mine, has nothing to do with Friar Rick’s conviction. Since this blog welcomes other opinions, then, that’s mine.

  9. Eric is it to hard to believe that I have thought things through. That I have weighed the facts before me. Having watched my father suffer from cancer and eventually succumb to it I have some experience in this area. I’m not blindly following the pope as a mindless right winger. I’ve just reached the same conclusion as the church. Maybe Eric, you could reflect more on this issue. Its seems you have a bit of anger in your tone by tossing out the label “right winger”.

  10. If death is not the worst thing that can happen to you… what is? what comes after death? no one knows. there is no guarantee that there is anything at all after death. how can something be worse than ending everything you ever knew?

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