Posts tagged: end of life

Organ Donations- Catholic?

By , January 27, 2012 4:46 am

When I was a kid in the middle of the last century, Catholics were constantly asking themselves this question: What does the Church say about that? What is the Church’s teaching on that? What does the Church say?

The question might be about a new movie, a best selling book, some unusual conduct or activity present in our society. We had great faith in the Church and looked to her for moral guidance on everything from minute aspects of daily living to profound theological questions.

Because the Church’s moral standing has been so badly damaged by recent scandals, her members, still faithful to the basic teachings, such as about Jesus Christ and the sacramental life of the Church, are, however, somewhat more hesitant to accept the Church’s answer on every aspect of daily living, especially when new situations develop that have not existed in the past.

One example of this would be organ transplants. Remember when that South African doctor, for the first time, successfully transplanted a human heart? Since then, medical science has gone forward at a terrific rate of speed, and awesome things are being accomplished and the donation of organs presents a major aspect on the medical scene. For the most part, organs are donated in one of two ways. When a person dies suddenly one or another of his organs, if removed quickly, can be salvaged to be given to a person who is alive but in need of such a transplant. Another is that friends and family occasionally give one of their own healthy organs to someone they love or care about. For example, this often happens in the case with kidneys.

What does the Church say about that? In this case, it is a positive answer. This development in modern medical science is to be commended and the donors, especially those making a gift from their own body, should be praised for their extraordinary generosity and concern for others. In all of these cases, the intention is not to deform the human body but to stretch its possible accomplishments to a greater extent. Such cases are almost always examples of heroism of generous friends and relatives.

What does the Church say about that? May God bless those who make this possible.

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An Extra Job for Saint Joseph

By , March 8, 2011 6:34 am


In the Roman Catholic tradition, Saint Joseph is the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the foster father of our Divine Lord Jesus. Most people would consider that enough work but Church tradition has gradually given him yet another assignment, and that is that he is the patron of “a happy death.”

Happy death? Yes, Catholic moral theology has always stressed that our eternal salvation is decided by our relationship with God at the time of our demise. Therefore, traditional Catholics want to be prepared, want to be ready, want to be in what is called the “state of grace.” Since death can come suddenly, it is necessary to be prepared, to always live a good moral life and to respond to the love that you know that God has for each of us. Thus, the tradition built up that Saint Joseph, who Christian tradition assumes died with Jesus and his mother both present (although there is no mention of that in sacred scripture) that this would have been the happiest of all deaths, to have Mary, the mother of the Lord, and our Lord himself praying over you as you took your last breath.

In my opinion, this is all a pious and good tradition and I think most people are in a good relationship with God at the time their life ends. What about other factors connected with the end of life? Until 100 years ago, almost everyone died at home, surrounded by family and prayer. Today, many of us are dying in the intensive care rooms of our hospitals, chained or fastened to various tubes, pipes, wires, and other mysterious contrivances. Strong resistance against this is developing and the hospice ministry is part of that but, nevertheless, those tubes are still here for many.

Today, the end of life issues are growing more complicated and difficult. Doctors are notoriously inadequate for assisting families with the actual act of dying. The clergy have been more involved but not necessarily more effective. How do we work our way through all of the complexities that surrounds that awesome moment as our bodies fade and we flow into eternity?

I will come back to that issue.

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