Wednesday, March 17, 2010


If you think living a good Catholic life is challenging you haven’t seen anything yet. Try dying Catholic. The whole concept of what it is to be dead or when it is time to die is becoming rather nebulous. Technology is taking off more quickly than ethicists can follow, healthcare protocols morph right before our very eyes, and – this is very important – health care professionals are less and less trained in what Catholics need to know about life and death and in some cases don’t care as we have seen with certain institutions in our area.

There are some very good places – outstanding places. There are also those that do the bare minimum and even less but none-the-less claim that they have “Catholic services” so that they can check the little box off on their list of services.

I said Mass at one place recently in a room divided by a fabric screen. We have to constantly send people to the other side of the screen to try to kindly ask staff persons to stop talking at the top of their lungs. The room is a major highway for foot traffic. It opens onto the kitchen, a stairwell, as well as two major hallways. As people burst out of the kitchen or the stairway clamping their hands on their mouths once they saw what was going on we tried to carry on with the Mass. I kept telling myself, “John Paul could deal with such distractions so can I. Just pray.” But every time I told myself that it would be Okay it seems the interruptions stepped up a notch. It was all I could do to hold my temper when sheets of drywall were carted through the back of the room.

But what are you going to do? Stop having Mass and punish the residents?

But I digress.

Back to dying: All of a sudden you as a family member are faced with a decision about the life of a loved one. The doctor has given you the diagnosis and has asked you to make a decision. The suggestions that he supplies may or may not be not be in keeping with Catholic beliefs. It may be more in keeping with hospital administration wishes. So what do you do? Call a priest? I hate to tell you that priests are not always that well informed in this rapidly changing field. Take a class? Well, it’s too late now. And to be honest Catholics are not great about wanting to learn about such things until they are actually facing them – and then it is often too late.

Or there is the case of one institution not too about a half hour from here where the chaplains were told to practice Raiki on their patients even if they did not desire it. It was for their own good of course. But Catholics avoid this because we are becoming involved in something and dealing with powers we want nothing to do with. (But because a person is dying it’s Okay to force it one them for their own good?!?!)

I’m a little hot today.

We are contemplating trying to find a way to help alleviate this problem at least at this parish. Thoughts are bubbling about having a seminar about Catholic bioethics for health care workers in the parish. It would also be swell to start a help line of trained bioethicists but there is the problem of funding. Who will pay for the staff, the phone, and the materials? We can’t pay by the answer like some websites. “For the answer to this problem log on and send us your credit card number.” Meanwhile grandma needs your help.

This is a bit scattered I know but there is a lot going on out there and not a lot of people on which to rely. Hopefully you will deal with a good and sympathetic institution – but just as likely you won’t. You simply have to know your stuff. But how do you prepare for any possible event? If you have suggestions they would be appreciated.


Kat said...

The answer to something like this might be a website (suprisingly there isn't one place with a userfriendly format) that condenses the information provided by the bishops:

Anonymous said...

Father, Regarding your difficulties offering Mass in a non-church setting, the thought of "spiritual warfare" came to mind. St. John Vianney heard noises at night and knew who was causing the disruption. You must be doing something very good at that place for all the ruckus that it stirred up.

Anonymous said...

I use NCBC.
I noticed they had resources available too.

These are things you really want to know before you are in the middle of it. Because your head does get muddled, and priests do go on vacation, occasionally I hear.

melody said...

Father- so glad to hear that you are treating this topic with the gravity it deserves. Could any of these pamphlets help at the parish level?

Anonymous said...

hi ho i'm back---still dancing though in the wake of health care reform----so lets stir up this blog alittle----regarding Reiki----i don't get it --whats the objection?--let me brace myself for an onslaught of information---however the international center for reiki training's description of the practice does not indicate in any way that it is a Dark Art---to the contrary--the description tells us that reiki is an idea based on an unseen "life force energy" which flows through us and is what causes us to live (i know theres trouble in that statement)--it goes on to tell us though that reiki is based on two japanese words--Rei which means "God's wisdom" or the higher power--and Ki which is "life force energy."---so reiki is actually "spiritually guided life force energy." it is not based on any religion---now i'm not a fan of reiki---i prefer modern medicine----but i don't see the harm in it---n.---your out the closet leftwing flaming proud liberal.

Kathleen said...

My baby boy died in an accident at home in August 2009. He was 2 years, 7 months and 1 day old. I don't know where I would have been without the help and support of my parish priest. Fr LaHood prayed with me, reassured me, he even cried with me at times. The hospital sent two different chaplains to visit. Neither was christian. The chapel had every religious symbol known to man but no cross or crucifix. I'm so thankful and grateful for my Catholic faith and the fact that I can rely on a priest in times of need. I don't know how other people manage without Christ. I truly don't. It seems that hospitals don't cater to Catholics or christians anymore. Where I grew up (Scranton, PA), all the hospitals had real Chapels where a priest could read Mass. What happened?

Anonymous said...

i'm feeling like an idiot---here i am going on about reiki---which has basically nothing to do with the gravity of the "real issue" yes i think catholics need to learn more about these very important issues--i am so happy priests at St. Sebastians are thinking about how to go about dealing with these issues---also my heart goes out to the lady above---n.