Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
I would like to thank all of you who remembered us in your prayers as we proclaimed the Gospel of Creation, Redemption and Sanctification in the shadow of the Smithsonian’s “temple of evolution” in Washington, D.C. We even invited a gorilla to join in our demonstration!
He assured the passersby that even a gorilla knows that the ENVIRONMENT cannot change a tree-dwelling creature into a land-dwelling one – no matter how many mythical millions of years one wants to assign to this fabulous process. He also encouraged them to think for themselves and to look at the evidence – both the evidence for the supernatural creation of the human body and the evidence for the supernatural resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the God-Man, as recorded in the Holy Shroud of Turin.
While we met with many indifferent, hostile, and condescending responses, we thank God for those who were willing to look at the beautiful displays on the evidence for creation, on the miraculous character of the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and on the forensic evidence from the Holy Shroud that identifies it as the burial sheet of Our Lord Jesus Christ and a witness to His Glorious Resurrection. We hope and pray that Our Lord will use these exhibits to turn the thoughts of those who saw them away from the distractions of this present life – to God and to eternity.
Death without Dignity
On a recent trip to a nearby city, I overheard a conversation that drove home the importance of this apostolate to souls enmeshed in the prevailing spirit of the world. I was waiting for my car to be repaired and working at a picnic table at a sort of farm-to-table cafe’ when a young woman sat down with her boyfriend at the other end of the table and began to tell him about a recent tragedy. A young man of 27 years, in perfect health, had been found in a coma in his apartment by his fiancee’, a personal friend of the narrator. The young man was, in the words of the narrator, “‘brain dead,’ and he’s going to die.”
I left the two of them to go to a nearby Catholic church to visit Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. But when I began to pray for the “brain dead” young man, I realized that it was God’s Will that I return immediately to the café’ and offer to put the fiancee’ of the “brain-dead” victim in touch with doctors whom I could identify through the John Paul II Academy of Human Life and the Family who are experts in the treatment and rehabilitation of “brain dead” patients. I hurried back to the café’ as quickly as I could and found the woman and her boyfriend still there.
Begging their pardon, I explained that I had overheard their conversation and that I had felt compelled to come back to tell her that there are doctors who are experts in treating the so-called “brain dead,” often helping them to return to consciousness. The woman who had related the tragic story took my name and email address and promised to send it to her friend, but she hastened to tell me that she could not guarantee that her friend would make use of the information. Her statement proved to be accurate. Her friend’s betrothed lay in a coma, and, when someone offered to help her find treatment for him, she declined the offer. How unbelievably perverse!
After asking Our Lord and the Blessed Mother to take me in spirit to the bedside of that 27-year old victim so that I could pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet for him, I reflected how many Catholics simply accept a verdict of “brain death” as a final death sentence, without any serious examination of the evidence from a Catholic point of view. In our publication GMO Food: Boon or Bane? we highlight the egregious failure of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to uphold an authentically Catholic perspective on scientific and medical matters of life and death. In this newsletter, I will explain how the development of the bogus “brain death” criteria for determining human death depended entirely on the presumed truth of the microbe-to-man evolutionary hypothesis. I will then describe how the PAS has ruthlessly upheld the “brain death” criteria, while censoring faithful Catholic scholars who try to expose the absurdity of these criteria, as commonly applied, from the perspective of theology, philosophy and natural science.
The Soul is the Form of the Body
In the last papal encyclical devoted to the topic of origins, Humani generis, Pope Pius XII reminded the bishops that the Church’s philosophical tradition must be maintained in any discussion of origins. In the Church’s metaphysical tradition, created reality can be understood in terms of the four causes of Aristotle: the formal, final, material and efficient. In this tradition, it was understood that the formal cause is that which meaningfully arranges the material elements of an entity. So thoroughly were the four causes integrated into the theological activity of the Church that in 1312, an ecumenical Council in Vienne defined that “the soul is the form of the human body.” With this definition, the Church defined once and for all that it is the soul that meaningfully arranges all of the material elements, including the organs and physiological systems of the human body, and makes them, specifically, a human body. In the light of this dogmatic definition, it is obvious that man’s humanity cannot be reduced to one or the other part of his body. His soul gives form to the whole body and to all of its physical components. It is not “a ghost in a machine” made up of material units that act according to their physical characteristics without a unifying principle of coordination.
Pope Pius XII wisely linked the acceptance of evolutionism to a denial of the Church’s traditional philosophy. Indeed, historians of philosophy have noted that from the time of Descartes and Bacon, natural scientists in Europe began to dispense with formal and final causes, and to focus exclusively on material and efficient causes. This philosophical revolution led eventually to the acceptance of the Darwinian notion that the different kinds of living things evolved part by part, through natural selection, over millions of years. In the traditional philosophy of St. Thomas, it was understood that plants, animals and men each had a formal cause that meaningfully arranged and coordinated the physical elements of their bodies as an integrated whole. In the new Darwinian evolutionary framework, it was assumed that the only things worthy of a scientist’s attention were the quantifiable ones, things that could be measured by some kind of physical measurement. In this view, man, in particular, was assumed to have evolved from a lower life-form through a long series of small changes, part by part, organ by organ. Within this framework it was understood that the “part” that set man apart from the apes was his brain and it was assumed that the brain had evolved last in man to differentiate him from his subhuman primate cousins.
The folly of this line of reasoning flows from the assumption that the whole body of man could have been cobbled together piecemeal. In reality, the more natural scientists have learned about the marvelous design of the human body, the more obvious it has become that the traditional philosophy of the Church was correct and that the human body could not have come into existence part by part. The definition of the council of Vienne was a tremendous gift from God to the Church on the eve of a philosophical revolution that attempted to reduce man to a collection of material parts subject to chemical and physical laws, but not organized into a harmonious whole by a divinely created organizing principle, the human soul. The acceptance of this evolutionist, reductionist, materialist philosophy by men of science and medicine has led directly to the idea that a man whose brain no longer functions above a certain level of activity ceases to be human and should be pronounced “dead.” This, in turn, has led to the large-scale extraction of organs from living human subjects with pulse, heartbeat, normal temperature, and exchange of gas through the lungs, often requiring the sedation of the “dead” patients so that their valuable organs can be harvested without undue protest!
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences’ Scandalous “Brain Death” Advocacy
Mercedes Wilson, formerly of the Pontifical Academy of Life, now a member of the newly-founded John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family, has described her efforts to organize a conference under the auspices of the PAS to discuss the pros and cons of the “brain death criteria” for human death within the framework of Catholic theology, philosophy and Magisterial teaching. Wilson writes:
[In 2005] I submitted to the Academy a list of potential presenters that included scientists, physicians, philosophers, and theologians, all of whom are in agreement with the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
The Academy submitted its list, the makeup of which was quite alarming. Some of them had been notorious opponents of the teachings of the Catholic Church. In fact, one of the presenters admitted to me moments before the conference began that “brain dead” donors are alive, but since their quality of life is so poor, it was better for their organs to be used to save someone’s life. I asked him, Do you believe in God? And he replied, No! What’s more, some of the presenters at the conference were personally involved in the business of vital organ transplantation.
Some of the doctors who were to address conference participants were actively transplanting organs. The conflict of interest was as obvious as it was serious. I suggested that the presenters should have impeccable credentials in the field of science, philosophy, and theology and at the very least be supportive of the teachings of the Magisterium, which respects life from the moment of conception until its natural end.
My list of presenters awakened a contentious period of negotiations. I was flatly told that if I did not agree to accept an even number of presenters, the meeting would not take place. Wanting the conference to convene in the hope of getting the truth known, I reluctantly agreed to that condition. I was later told that I would be required to fund at least 70% of the cost of the conference. If I did not agree to do so, the important and potentially historic conference would not take place.
Wilson goes on to describe how she raised the funds to organize the conference only to find that the Academy refused to publish the proceedings:
During the conference, there were heated debates between the two forces. . . . Our presenters emphasized that the leadership of the Catholic Church cannot support a declaration of true death unless there is no doubt that the soul has separated from the body. Pope John Paul II stated in his written remarks, February 3, 2005 (read in his absence due to illness), to the participants of this Pontifical Academy of Sciences conference entitled “The Signs of Death”:
Within the horizon of Christian anthropology, it is well known that the moment of death for each person consists in the definitive loss of the constitutive unity of body and spirit. Each human being, in fact, is alive precisely insofar as he or she is ‘corpore et anima unus‘ (body and soul united) (Gaudium et Spes, n. 14), and he or she remains so for as long as the substantial unity-in-totality subsists.
At the end of the conference, a majority of the participants concluded that “brain death” is not true death. As long as the heart is beating, the donor is alive and his soul has not departed from the body. The chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences asked to review the papers of all the participants, as he intended to include their individual contributions during the discussions, in order to publish them as part of the proceedings.
Sadly, two months later, April 2, 2005 our dear Holy Father John Paul II died. The proceedings of the conference, however, were prepared by the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and were ready for publication in November 2005. Soon thereafter, much to our surprise, we were informed that the proceedings would not be published by order of “higher authorities” within the Vatican. Nevertheless, the presenters who concluded that “brain death” was not true death, agreed to publish the proceedings themselves with the assistance of the National Research Council of Italy. The title of the book is FINIS VITAE: Brain Death is NOT True Death.
Most Catholics would be scandalized by this report. But, sad to say, the story gets worse. Wilson concludes her testimony with this:
Surprisingly, on September 11, 2006, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences was asked by “higher authorities” to convene another conference with the same title (“The Signs of Death”) and had the audacity to relegate the conference of February 3-4, 2005 requested by His Holiness John Paul II as a “pre-conference.”
Only two of the participants who had opposed the “brain death” criteria of the 2005 conference were invited to participate at the new conference. The rest of the participants of the September 11, 2006 conference were notorious supporters of “brain death” criteria and some of them were involved in the marketing of human organs. Curiously, the 2006 conference and proceedings were highly publicized and fully funded by the Vatican. The published proceedings of that conference recognized “brain death” as true death.
We encourage all readers of this newsletter to read GMO Food: Boon or Bane? to learn how the Academy’s handling of the arguments for and against the evolutionary hypothesis and GMO food as a solution to world hunger appears to have been even more partisan and unbalanced than its handling of the brain death controversy. In light of the evidence just presented, I hope that it is clear that the same anti-culture of death that has taken over the hearts and minds of so many of the citizens of our nation’s capital has also taken over the hearts and minds of many of the Catholic scientists whose duty it is to give good counsel to the Popes in matters pertaining to natural science.
Through the prayers of the Mother of God, may the Holy Ghost grant us all the grace of true repentance and guide us into all the Truth!
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata,