Christian anthropology – Pope Benedict tackles the difficult issues

cor unumIn an address to the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum“on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI again referred to his Christmas address to the Curia – which caused such a stir in the Netherlands especially, as local media totally failed to report it correctly – and to the sensitive topic of marriage.

The main topic of the address was the Christian anthropology, or idea of what man is in his deepest nature, and how this should be used in works of charity, which is what “Cor Unum” is engaged in. Quoting the following passage from his earlier address to the Curia, “Man calls his nature into question … From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be”, he warned against an anthropology that is the result of a “materialistic vision of man”. Identifying such an vision as a “shadow that obscures God’s plan”, the pope warned that “[t]his is a radical negation of man’s creatureliness and filial condition, which leads to a tragic solitude.”

Christian anthropology, the Holy Father explained, is based on the idea of “man in his integral dignity, with respect for his twofold vertical and horizontal dimension”. And that is also the direction that the Church’s development programs, many of which under the auspices of “Cor Unum”, are oriented in.

rings“The Christian vision of man is, in fact, a great “yes” to the dignity of the person called to intimate communion with God, a filial communion, humble and confident. The human being is neither an individual subsisting in himself nor an anonymous element of the collective. He is rather a singular and unrepeatable person intrinsically ordered to relationship and sociality. For this reason the Church stresses her great “yes” to the dignity and beauty of marriage as an expression of a faithful and fecund alliance between man and woman, and says “no” to such philosophies as the philosophy of gender. The Church is guided by the fact that the reciprocity between man and woman is the expression of the beauty of the nature willed by the Creator.”

Those last lines, referring to both marriage and gender theory, are linked to the Christmas message, in which Pope Benedict spoke about gender and human nature as created by God (and not, as some would have us believe, about homosexuality and same-sex marriage).

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Cardinal Eijk on palliative care

Palliative care “does not add days to life, but life to days.”

Diakendag%202013%20kardinaal%20EijkJust some food for thought courtesy of Cardinal Eijk. He spoke them at last Saturday’s annual day for the deacons of the archdiocese of Utrecht, in an address about care at life’s end.

There’s more in the cardinal’s reflection that is worth some attention and reflection. A medical doctor himself, he rightly implies that society’s thoughts and opinions on life and death are by now so far removed from what they have been for centuries, and from what the Church today still maintains, that many today don’t even know what the Church teaches. They assume they know, but reality is different.

Likewise, many people assume that there are only two choices when faced with an incurable illness: unbearable suffering until the end, or ending a patient’s life. Reality is much more diverse: through palliative care we may remove the pain and suffering and endeavour to bring whatever ray of light we can into a person’s final days; “life to days”. In that way we not only ease a person’s suffering and respect the sanctity of his or her life but we also express the awareness that no person is alone, that no life exists in solitude. A life, even one in its final stages, even one marked by illness, has effects on other lives, and too often that effect is positive beyond our comprehension. We certainly can’t anticipate it.

And that is a far more realistic approach to life in general.