Quadriplegic Priest Challenges a Pro-Euthanasia Film (Part 1)
Interview With Father Luis de Moya
PAMPLONA, Spain, SEPT. 13, 2004 (Zenit) - A quadriplegic priest, Father Luis de Moya, had the opportunity to visit Ramón Sampedro a year and a half before the latter, also a quadriplegic, took his own life in 1998.
That encounter inspired "Out at Sea," a pro-euthanasia movie that was presented at the Venice Film Festival.
The movie by Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar ridicules "the intervention and words of a priest, who is also a quadriplegic, pigeonholing him in ever exacting theoretical schemes of Catholic morality," Vatican Radio said last weekend.
In this interview with us, Father de Moya recalls the meeting he had with Sampedro. The physician-priest has been in charge of several chaplaincies at the University of Navarre.
Part 2 of this interview appears Tuesday.
Q: There are critics who have pointed out the caricatured, cruel, anti-Catholic and historically false character of the scene in the film in which Ramón Sampedro is visited by a priest who is also a quadriplegic, whose words and intervention are ridiculed. Did you know Sampedro personally? Could you recount your meeting with him?
Father de Moya: If that truly comical situation -- which unleashes unanimous laughter in the hall -- in which a supposed Jesuit priest shouts in the most unreasonable way possible, trying to convince a quadriplegic of his error -- was an invention of Amenábar, it could be regarded as reasonable in a film like so many others, which neither pretend to be historical nor, much less so, recall a well-known event, as is this case, which affects in the first person thousands of individuals of the country.
It is not scientifically impossible, of course, that Ramón Sampedro should be visited by a quadriplegic Jesuit in a van accompanied by some youths, and that the tenor of what happened was so ridiculous as depicted in the film.
In my opinion, however, it is a falsehood, and how I wish I were mistaken for the good of Alejandro Amenábar. I say this because I, who am not a Jesuit, but belong to Opus Dei -- and Ramón Sampedro was well aware of this -- did visit him with other persons, transported in my van, and, like the Jesuit, I was also unable to go up to the patient's room.
As for the rest, what really happened is an anecdote recounted and published by me on numerous occasions, especially as a result of Ramón Sampedro's death.
Q: What made you visit Sampedro?
Father de Moya: When I had the opportunity to go to Galicia, we had already known one another for years, although always in an indirect way, through the media, by post or at most in a telephone conversation.
In any case, we both had quite a precise understanding of our respective points of view on life and about the meaning of life in our particular situation.
My visit was meant to be, and in fact was, of absolute cordiality. We spoke on the telephone early in the morning, specifying details of our meeting, in a tone that was more than kind on his part, and I ventured to make the visit still doubting if I would succeed in entering his room.
I was taking advantage of a free morning in Santiago. In the afternoon I had to give my talk to the congress, "The Value of Suffering," the reason for my trip.
Q: Ramón Sampedro was bedridden for 29 years. He did not use a wheelchair or leave his room, unlike other quadriplegics. From your experience, also a quadriplegic because of an accident, is a reaction of this sort usual? Can this state of mind be overcome? What supports do you think are necessary to do so?
Father de Moya: The case of Sampedro, who refused to use a chair, is really unusual as people know very well who are involved in the world of substantial injuries. Especially unusual, moreover, given the level of the injury -- a very manageable quadriplegic -- which he had after the accident.
Ramón had sustained substantial damage at the C-7 level, as he himself confirmed to me by word. Suffice it to say that with that injury he could have, if he had wished to, drive a car, as many others do.
I don't think Ramón Sampedro was lacking in human support. He received exquisite care from his family, especially from Manuela, his sister-in-law. And I said this to her in a letter, admiring the healthy look of the patient after so many years of disability.
But the decision on life is always the individual's and, not infrequently, apart from influences, supports or incentives. But was Ramón Sampedro then a normally balanced person? He said he was. Some specialists, however, doubt it.
Q: As portrayed in the film, Ramón Sampedro considered his life unworthy of being lived. What is your opinion in this respect?
Father de Moya: Undoubtedly -- I think I have the ...
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