That is a direct quote from an article by Jeff Israely for Time magazine. The article describes the assertion, in an article in an Italian magazine, by Italian medical professor Lina Pavanelli that Pope John Paul II was euthanized.

The quote is also stupid, simplistic and misleading.

If Jeff Israely’s characterization of Catholic reverence for life were valid, Catholics should be in the forefront of the battle, for instance, to expand embryonic stem cell research as a way to prolong life — yet the opposite is the case.

Catholics are enjoined to respect the dignity of human life, from natural conception to natural death. Sometimes that respect is seen in a refusal to abase human life to false doctrine — which can lead to martyrdom.

Here is another, more accurate, statement: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” (Turtullian, Third Century Christian)

Return to the assertion that JP II was euthanized. Dr. Pavanelli’s assertion is based on the late insertion of a feeding tube:

In a provocative article, an Italian medical professor argues that Pope John Paul II didn’t just simply slip away as his weakness and illness overtook him in April 2005. Intensive care specialist Dr. Lina Pavanelli has concluded that the ailing Pope’s April 2 death was caused by what the Catholic Church itself would consider euthanasia. She bases this conclusion on her medical expertise and her own observations of the ailing pontiff on television, as well as press reports and a subsequent book by John Paul’s personal physician. The failure to insert a feeding tube into the patient until just a few days before he died accelerated John Paul’s death, Pavanelli concludes. Moreover, Pavanelli says she believes that the Pope’s doctors dutifully explained the situation to him, and thus she surmises that it was the pontiff himself who likely refused the feeding tube after he’d been twice rushed to the hospital in February and March.

Refusal of medical treatment — in this case, the feeding tube — is neither euthanasia nor suicide. Here is §§2278-2279 of Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

2279 Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such, it should be encouraged.

From the description, JP II had accepted his approaching death and was competent to make the decision. There was no act of direct euthanasia.

Moreover, the Catholic Church deems it of importance to prepare for death, as JP II surely had. Here is §1014 of Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death. In the litany of saints, for instance, she has us pray: “From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord”; to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us “at the hour of our death” in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death.

Here is Thomas a Kempis in The Imitation Of Christ:

Every action of yours, every thought, should be those of one who expects to die before the day is out. Death would have no great terrors for you if you had a quiet conscience… Then why not keep clear of sin instead of running away from death? If you aren’t fit to face death today, it’s very unlikely you will be tomorrow…

And here is St. Francis of Assisi in Canticle of the Creatures:

Praised are you, my Lord, for our sister bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe on those who will die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they who will be found
in your most holy will,
for the second death will not harm them.

[cehwiedel also writes at cehwiedel.com]

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