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In favor of death for Eluana February 9, 2009

Posted by dorigo in news, personal, politics, religion.
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The case of Eluana Englaro, a woman in irreversible coma since 1992, is causing an institutional conflict in Italy, as well as a pitiful example of “insolence of office”.

The story is long, and if you have not followed it on the newspapers, it is hard for me to summarize its salient points. However, here is a speed attempt.

A jury has decreed that the father has the right to ask for a stop of the forced nutrition, thereby allowing Eluana to die as was her wish in case of such an infermity. The vatican screamed of homicide, and the minister of health tried to stop the transfer of the body to a clinic where the procedure could be implemented, getting to the point of publically threatening the clinics officials. Then, a suitable place was found in Udine, and Eluana was transferred there. In a crescendo of drama, while the stoppage of nutrition and hydratation of the poor body was getting started, the italian government rushed to try a urgent decree which would prohibit such a procedure. The decree, to be executive, had to go through a signature of the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano; but Napolitano had already expressed his negative opinion on such a unmotivated urgency in a matter -the rights of a person to refuse to be cured- which would have required much analysis.

Today we are assisting at several other attempts at “saving the life” of Eluana by the italian government, which is nothing than an execution of Vatican orders: a full-fledged law is being rushed through the Senate (it is just the decree rejected by Napolitano, so one wonders what difference it could make); the Police force is threatening to take possession of the rooms where Eluana is resting in the clinic, claiming that the site is non-compliant to specifications; judges are investigating on the clinic itself. In the meantime, stand-offs of pro-life and pro-choice activists take place in front of the clinic. On the right, pro-choice activists; below, pro-life activists.

I am thoroughly disgusted at the sight of a State that cannot life a life independently of its religious appendage. But disgust is not the end of the story: I am also quite alarmed by the reactionary moves of the Berlusconi government, which shows for the umpteenth time to not care for the democratic rules and the constitution, whose predicaments their decree was neglecting. Berlusconi is ignoring Napolitano’s pledge for a pacate, unrushed discussion on a law for the “biologic legacy”, which should govern the rights of citizens in matters concerning the end of life, forced cure, and related topics. By forcing a law on such matters through the parliament, Berlusconi aims at exacerbating the conflict with the head of the State, in order to create the conditions for a change of the italian Constitution, which would allow him to take Napolitano’s seat with greatly increased powers.

In the meantime, Eluana is finally dying, as she would have wanted to do 17 years ago. However, while this is happening we are assisting at pro-life fanatics claiming that the family does not really know the real intentions of their daughter, in a desperate attempt to “save her life”. Let me be clear on one thing here: if for accident or illness I fall in a persistent vegetative condition, it is my will that my life be terminated, by whatever means are found appropriate. It is my will that no forced feeding and hydratation be continued without aim if there are no reasonable chances to ever return me to a conscious state. And, being a scientist, by “reasonable” I mean 5%, not one in a million!

UPDATE: Eluana died one hour ago. Would you guess this made people silent ? Nope.  Accusations of homicide flew around in the italian Senate, catholic personalities felt the urge to express their feelings, the government claims they will bring forward their law “such that Eluana’s sacrifice has not been vain”. The disgust continues. I think it will last four more years.

UPDATE: a few links in English on the matter:

The State is laic February 7, 2009

Posted by dorigo in history, personal, politics, religion.
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The other day, while waiting for my turn to operate the automatic coffee machine in the basement of the physics department, I read a small newspaper clip hung by somebody on the bulletin board in front of the machine. It was a comment by Michele Serra, who sarcastically thanked an italian archbishop of the catholic church, for clarifying in an interview that the Church’s rules, to a christian, come before the ones of the State. In other words, Serra clarified, catholics should not follow laws, in case those collide with the predicaments of the Church. So catholic physicians, for instance, are justified if they do not prescribe the “day after” pill against pregnancy: the State demands them to do it, but Christ comes first.

We of course have very clear and present in our minds how religious fundamentalism is dangerous to the civil world, thanks to recent terrorist actions in the US, in Spain, and elsewhere in the world. It still surprises, however, to read it clearly from the words spelt by a high mushroom in the catholic hierarchy.

And today, I was reading a book on the young catholics in Italy after WWII, their organization (GIAC, the catholic action movement), and their attempts to make sense of the conflicting needs of being a good catholic and a good citizen. My father was a member of this movement in the years immediately following 1948, when Italy was a young democracy and the relationship of State and Church needed to be rethought and rewritten (he became an atheist a decade or two later, after observing for a while the fundamentalism of catholics from a vantage point).

The book, by Francesco Piva, is titled “La gioventu’ cattolica in cammino… Memoria e storia del gruppo dirigente (1946-1954)“, ed. Franco Angeli 2003. I thus found a very interesting quote by Umberto Eco, who was to become a famous italian novelist and professor of Semiotic, and back then was a member of the GIAC along with my father. On page 205 Piva clarifies things in this revealing quote:

Eco insiste sul fatto che l’educazione cattolica era tutta concentrata sul sesto comandamento perche’ era impregnata di antistatalismo e non aveva alcuna sensibilità verso i doveri sociali: “Non dimentichiamoci che l’educazione cattolica che si riceveva era: il contrabbando e l’evasione fiscale non sono peccato, perché sono contro la legge dello Stato che è contingente, non sono contro la legge divina. (…) Il problema era che uno non commettesse atti impuri: se poi fregava lo Stato…

Here is a tentative translation:

Eco insists on the fact that the catholic education was thoroughly concentrated on the sixth commandment, because it was filled with anti-statalism and it did not show any sensitivity towards social duties: “Don’t let’s forget that the catholic education that one was given was: smuggling and fiscal elusion are not a sin, because they are against the law of the State which is accidental, they are not against the divine law. (…). The problem was avoiding committing impure acts: if one then fucked the State…

Enlightening. It transpires that the archbishop mentioned by Serra in his article is not a white fly: they all have this belief deeply implanted in their roots. That, to me, is a clear reason for any politician, right or left, believer or atheist, to reject any ingerence in political decisions from the Vatican. This is another State trying to influence the law making in ours!

Pope Benedict for regime change January 8, 2009

Posted by dorigo in history, news, politics, religion.
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As the israeli offensive in Gaza intensifies, and the body count surpasses the 600 units -most of them civilians, as is unfortunately common to all contemporary wars, despite the “high moral standards” of the israeli armi and the “intelligence” of its bombs- talks for a truce are getting nowhere, and it is plain to see that the IDF will not stop until they reach their goals, whatever those are.

In the meantime, we record Pope Benedict pitching in to ask for regime change, the rationale being that these leaders cannot sit at a peace table:

It is very important that, in occasion of the crucial electoral dates for many inhabitants of the region in the forthcoming months, capable leaders can emerge, who can further with resolution this process and to guide their peoples toward the difficult but necessary reconciliation, to which it will be not possible to get without adopting a global approach to the problems of those countries [...]. (Translation by TD)

A reasonable thought but, being the sarcastic SOB that I am, I cannot help wondering if the Vatican is going to follow words with facts. Regime change is something we have heard George W. asking insistently for Iraq, before deciding for a direct action. After the probable failure of the Pope’s auspices, will the Vatican send troops as they did less than a millennium ago ?

The Vatican against french proposal to legalize homosexuality December 1, 2008

Posted by dorigo in news, politics, religion.
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Just a quick note to say I continue to be disgusted by the catholic church. Answering to France’s announced proposal to universally depenalize homosexuality, the Vatican shows a huge amount of hypocrisy today. Celestino Migliore, a permanent UN observer for the Vatican, says it would bring new discrimination, since countries that do not recognize gay unions would be placed in a pillory. Here are his words:

“Per esempio, gli Stati che non riconoscono l’unione tra persone dello stesso sesso come “matrimonio” verranno messi alla gogna e fatti oggetto di pressioni”.

(As an example, countries that do not recognize the union between people of the same sex as “marriage” will be placed in a pillory and be subjected to pressure)

What can I say… I said it already: please go on like that. The catholic church is going to marginalize itself by taking such idiotic stands. Migliore, be my guest.

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