Mayor Bloomberg: Let Them Suffer? The Perils of Secularist Humanism
matter in his book, Life Is Worth Living. He begins with a quote from Karl Marx: "Persons of and by themselves have no value. An individual has a value only inasmuch as he is the representative of an economic category, 'the revolutionary class'; outside of that, man has no value" (56).
In response to Marx, the Archbishop says, "Man is then likened to lower forms of life in which an individual fly, an individual gnat, an individual ant is of no consequence; what is of importance is the species . . . . Once admitted, it follows that what happens to an individual person is of no concern . . ." (57).
He also says that communism is not good humanism because "Once you start with the principle that the person has no value . . . , then liquidation becomes inevitable." Consequently, Archbishop Sheen calls upon us to "recognize the evil of this communist philosophy and begin affirming, in the United States, the worth of a person as a creature of God" (57).
I am not saying that political leaders such as Bloomberg and Obama are like Russian communists. No doubt, they would denounce communism and its atrocities; yet their comments and their use of state power reflect a humanism which is similar to the communists in certain important respects.
Bloomberg put bans on the size of soft drinks, trans-fats and smoking outdoors. This past summer, he said "If government's purpose isn't to improve the health and longevity of its citizens, I don't know what its purpose is." He wants us to believe that he cares about people, yet he intends to restrict pain medication and allow people to suffer. Even the fifth-century B.C. pagan Hippocrates realized the importance of primum non nocere, "first do no harm." He included it in what we call the Hippocratic Oath, and it became a dictum for over 2400 years.
President Obama apparently believes the elderly should be denied certain medical treatments and given pain pills instead (I hope they don't live in New York City). Yet, even the 2006 Declaration of Geneva--which, among others, replaces the original Hippocratic oath and no longer forbids abortion and euthanasia--forbids age discrimination. It states, "I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient."
Even though Obama, Bloomberg, and others like them want to use the power of the state for what they believe is good, they are often harming people. Constantly regulating the law-abiding public rather than focusing on the crime and the criminal often does a kind of violence to people. It can also be an indication of hypocrisy and arrogance.
For instance, while Bloomberg's restrictions on pain medication may cause some people to suffer, he will not have to suffer. He will get all the pain medication he ever wants. It is the same with President Obama. While others may be denied certain medical treatment, he and his family will receive all the medical treatment they ever want. What's more, I understand that he and his family, among others, are exempt from his healthcare legislation.
When I think about the kind of humanism which seems so popular among our leaders these days, it reminds me of a quote by Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip: "I love mankind; it's people I can't stand." If that was all there was things would be pretty bleak, but there is an alternative. It is Christian humanism.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "In keeping with the social nature of man, the good of each individual is necessarily related to the common good, which in turn can be defined only in reference to the human person" (1905). In other words, the individual person and the group are not in conflict or opposition. Therefore, public policy must account for both. The popular notion of a higher ethic based on some abstract idea of humanity and systems over individual flesh and blood persons is false. Thus, "In the name of the common good, public authorities are bound to respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person" (1907).
This kind of humanism has been part of the Catholic Church since its beginning. We read about it in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter four, verses 32 through 36. And we witness it throughout history. I have noted some examples below:
In his book, Rediscover Catholicism, Matthew Kelly tells us that when Jesus was alive, there were no hospitals. The sick would huddle along the side of the road and on the outskirts of town because they had been abandoned by family and friends who feared that they too would become sick. Kelly says, "The very essence of healthcare and caring for the sick emerged through the Church, through the religious orders, in direct response to the value and dignity that the Gospel assigns to each and every human life" (17).
Not surprisingly, the first medical facility in Europe, the School of Salerno, was founded by the Benedictines around the 10th century. They educated physicians for all Europe. Saint Vincent de Paul reportedly did far more for the sick and the poor in the 16 century than many cities and states of his time.
The Church also played a significant role in the abolition of slavery. And it appears that the Church saved more Jews from Hitler's clutches than anyone else, other than the allied armies. In our time, we have the extraordinary example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta known around the world.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Sirach 15:16: "There are set before you fire and water; to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand." I do not want to be subjected to secular humanism, therefore I choose Christian humanism for myself and for my neighbor. What do you choose?
Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.-----
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Bloomberg, New York City, Doctor, Public hospital, Pain medication, Obamacare, Humanism, Michael Terheyden
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