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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Capitalism and the Free Market

Many people are under the false impression that "free market capitalism" is the only kind of capitalism there is. This is, of course, absurd.
"Capitalism is an economic system where private entities own the factors of production. The four factors are entrepreneurship, capital goods, natural resources, and labor. The owners of capital goods, natural resources, and entrepreneurship exercise control through companies." 
Capitalism is about the private accumulation of capital, and that's it. 
Supporters of capitalism insist that true capitalism requires small government, but that's not true. Consider how capitalism works. It is a given that if we have a truly free market, then some people will be more skilled at accumulating capital than others. Those more skilled people will accumulate more capital than the less skilled people. The more skilled people will soon discover that, in most cases, cooperation is more efficient at accumulating capital than competition is. The more skilled capitalists will find ways to cooperate with each other in order to increase their individual stashes. 
Thus, they will necessarily create a governing body, or series of governing bodies, to build their wealth. This is the point of creating everything from "industry standards" to cartels. These governing bodies cut down on competition and increase capital accumulation for the participants. Obviously, if there is an already existing governing body, the more skilled capitalists will co-opt it, because that "governing" body helps them cooperate efficiently. Besides, it is more efficient to take over an existing body than it is to re-invent the wheel, and capitalists are all about efficiency.
So, when I point out that capitalism necessarily co-opts government and increases its size, people deny this. They deny it despite the fact that we can see the revolving door between government and business in operation every day. This revolving door is a necessary consequence of capitalism at work - the successful capitalists use every means at their disposal to accumulate wealth, and one of those means is cycling their employees through government offices in order to control the rules and thereby increase their wealth.
Not only do people deny this perfectly obvious natural consequence, they then attempt to refute the big government point by saying big government is not conducive to capitalism because big government takes capital from people by force or threat of force via taxes. Well, sure it does. That's the point. But violence and the threat of force is not antithetical to capitalism. The point of capitalism is to accumulate capital. That's it. How you get the capital is a matter of indifference. 
This is the point people don't seem to get. They insist a free market is necessary to capitalism. That's simply false. A free market might be inherently capitalistic, but capitalism does not require a free market. While a free market is often the most efficient way to gather capital, it is not always the most efficient way to gather capital. Capitalism just cares about capital accumulation. How you get that capital is a matter of complete indifference. Just get it. 
There are endless examples of violence being an efficient way to gather capital. For instance, people forget that one of the reasons the US and the Soviets did so well economically after WW II, is that the winners STOLE virtually every industry that war-time Germany built. Now, obviously, the US did better economically than Soviet Russia, but Soviet Russia bought itself another four decades by being on the winning side, and that was due in no small part to successful use of violence. As part of WW II war reparations (yes, Germany had to pay WW II reparations), the Germans were forced to make in-kind payments to the US of $23 billion in 1945 dollars. This was paid in machinery and manufacturing plants. That's right. We got free machinery and manufacturing plants of leading German technology, factories dis-assembled in Germany, re-assembled in the US and used for decades by the US to increase our manufacturing capacity at Germany's expense (the Soviets did the same). Does anyone really want to argue this activity did NOT increase American capital accumulation? Seriously? War or peace, capitalism works fine, regardless. 
If an entrepreneur can find a way to get everyone to pay a portion of their income to him, then he accumulates capital, he is a successful capitalist. Whether the people WANT to hand over the money is completely irrelevant to the successful capitalist. Whether the threat or fact of violence is involved is also completely irrelevant. As Clausewitz rightly points out, war is just the continuation of politics by other means. The corollary is obvious: violence is just the continuation of capitalism by other means. This is why capitalists have no serious objection to war. It is also  why the US has been involved in nearly continuous conflict since pretty much its inception.
Now, is socialism any better where violence is concerned? No, obviously not - in fact, it is MORE violent. But, from a capitalist point of view, the problem with socialism isn't its violence as much as it is the fact that socialism just isn't very good at accumulating capital.
Socialism uses economic tools (whether those be violent or not) inefficiently. Efficient use of violence is perfectly in harmony with capitalism, and whoever uses the various economic tools available most efficiently (which is defined as, whoever accumulates capital most efficiently) is, by definition, a great capitalist. Sometimes violence, or its threat, is going to be the most efficient way to build capital, as the corporate use of government to gather funds via taxes clearly demonstrates.

So, capitalism breeds big government. Government, big or small, is a perfectly legitimate economic actor. A free market is not necessary to the accumulation of capital, so arguing that government taxes interferes with the free market may be true, but it has no bearing on the discussion. Insofar as big government efficiently accumulates capital, every good capitalist will want his or her corporation to be a line item in big government's budget so s/he always get a cut of the accumulated capital in the pot.

The free market may lead to capitalism, but efficient capitalism does not lead to, or even necessarily want, a free market. Anyone who insists on having both at the same time, by that fact, necessarily insists on HINDERING one method to accumulate capital. In that sense, "free market capitalism" is a contradiction in terms. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Three Questions

Some people are upset because Pope Francis reportedly told a homosexual "God made you like this and loves you like this". For those people who are upset, I have three questions for you:
  1. Did God make you?
  2. Do you suffer from the consequences of original sin?
  3. Does God love you, even though (2) is true?
If you can answer "yes" to all three of those things, then... how is this man different from me or you in that regard?

The MSM doesn't understand how this all works, so they draw the wrong conclusions. They incorrectly think that just because God loves the broken me, He doesn't want me to be healed. God loves me too much to want me to stay in this condition. He wants me to change. That is what the sacraments are for.

The MSM thinks Pope Francis is saying homosexuality is fine.
In fact, Pope Francis is reminding the man that the whole world is broken, and that we are part of that broken-ness. We all need to be healed.

That is the point of religion.
That is the point of Catholicism.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Silence of the CABs

Catholic-American bloggers are strange beasts. Many of them went absolutely bonkers about Alfie Evans. They were insanely set on an amazing set of ideas:

  • parental rights are absolutely absolute, 
  • the state has no right whatsoever to step between a child and his parents, 
  • parents have the right to take their child to any country in the world if those parents believe there is even the smallest chance of improving the child's life. 
  • Even if the travel puts the child at grave risk of death, SCREW IT! Those parents have the right to do it!
So, Father Longenecker, EWTN, National Catholic Register, Rod Dreher (alright, he isn't Catholic, but still)... all of these and many, many more went absolutely bonkers insisting on some or all of these points. Anyone who even quietly attempted to moderate a single one of the points above was immediately attacked as a pro-abort, socialistic Democrat anti-Catholic hate monger who wanted a nanny state to replace legitimate parental authority.

Well, Catholic-American bloggers are nothing if not consistent. When the news came out that President Donald Trump's MAGA government explicitly and emphatically
  1. denied that parental rights are absolutely absolute
  2. insisted the state has every right to step between the child and his parents, 
  3. reviled the idea that parents have the right to take their children to other countries
  4. and argued that the very trip itself was simply too dangerous for the child, so the government has the right to actively kidnap the child and keep the parents from ever seeing their own child again...
... well, of course the Catholic blogosphere exploded! Articles came out in, National Review, National Catholic Register and Reporter. EWTN's Raymond Arroyo castigated the president as an out-of-control socialist. Rod Dreher attacked Trump's assault on the family. Father Longenecker lamented the putrid anti-Catholic malfeasance flowing like an open latrine from the Oval Office.

Right? Right!?!

Wait... What.....???

What do you mean all of those CABs are silent as the grave?
But... but.... but... consistency!
Catholic values!
Parental RIGHTS!?!?!

What about parental rights?
I mean, even the British didn't take Alfie away from his parents. They just wouldn't let Alfie on a plane, lest he die... too dangerous, in the government's view. But even the British never denied the parents access to their own child.

Trump, on the other hand, is actually snatching the kids, separating the families, making sure the parents never see their own children again. And doing this not just to one child, but thousands of children, not just one set of parents, but thousands of parents, not just one family, but thousands of families. The regular snatching of children away from their parents is now an exercise of official American government policy.

Sooo.... what happened to all that noise about Catholic Family Values (tm)?
Where did those click-mongers disappear to?

Oh... that's right.

For "conservative" Catholic Americans, Catholic values are disposable horseshit compared to the value in protecting Trump's legacy. That's what American Catholic Bloggers think. That's how they treat the Trumpian nightmare versus Alfie's nightmare. Trump is kidnapping the children of a bunch of Catholic Mexicans, but screw our brothers and sisters in the Faith. We support TRUMP, dammit, not a bunch of sniveling brown-skinned Catholics!

People sometimes question why I never read anyone in Catholic media.
The blow-up over Alfie vs the silence over Trump... yeah, that's why.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Prostitutes and Liturgy

So, some people are getting all worked up about the Met Gala Catholic theme. Seems a lot of Hollywood types dressed up in Catholic liturgical garb and pranced around in it as if it were Halloween.

I will ignore the easy gasp of "cultural appropriation!" and stab a bit deeper.

Consider the Catholics who habitually host a seder meal during Holy Week. Do you honestly think that puts an indulgent smile on the face of any orthodox Jew? Why aren't Catholics equally outraged at Anglicans? The Anglicans have, for centuries, been doing the same thing Hollywood just did. Anglicans dress up in Catholic liturgical garments, pretend to have a valid Mass, put women in liturgical garb and call them bishops, Anglicans essentially ape Catholic sacraments and liturgy. For centuries, we Catholics have let the Anglicans slide, so it's hard to see why we should get worked up about Hollywood. After all, it isn't like Hollywood is holding a fake Mass or attempting to ordain women. As travesties go, this is pretty tame.

Besides, lots of people dress up like the Kardashians, get their hair done like Jacqueline Kennedy, or make themselves up to look like Taylor Swift. They do this because they like something about those people. Even the black-face minstrel shows were an homage to the musical talent in the American black community.  Heck, Barack Obama was essentially eight entire years of a white guy in black face playing to a minstrel show crowd, and nobody even noticed.

America does this kind of thing all the time. Sure, this time Catholics were the meme. Next week, it will be blacks or Indians or Jews. That's just how our elite rolls. They say they hate population X, they say population X is not relevant, it's old-fashioned, it's out of step, it's archaic, yada. Then they spend part of their lives trying to be X.

Reminds me of the prostitute who boarded a ship filled with men on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. She seduced every man on board, got to the holy city, saw a vision of Mary, converted, became a desert hermit and eventually a saint, Saint Mary of Egypt. True story.

And if she had been forbidden to board that ship filled with Catholic pilgrims, she might never have converted. Things don't always work out the way you think.

So, let 'em dress up.
But go long on tickets to a cave in the wilderness.
God has plans.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Equality: A Uniquely Christian Concept

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;
Many people consider these stirring words from the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence to be the centerpiece of Western civilization. They are not wrong. It is the centerpiece of Western civilization because the phrasing is virtually a direct quote of Christian Scripture.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28). 
Up to the appearance of Christianity, no culture on earth held all of these ideas together at the same time. For instance, every human culture in existence, including the Jews, held slaves. Every human culture, including the Jews, considered itself specially endowed. Every culture considered all other cultures inferior, not equal. Most cultures even had a hierarchical system of categorizing its own population, the most well-known being the Hindu caste system. But the Hindu system was certainly not unique, it has simply proven to be the among the most strict and long-lasting.

There was only one pre-Christian attempt to assert the equality of individuals. Buddha's philosophy held that all were equal. Unfortunately, Buddha said individual equality was attained only because individuals really didn't exist at all. From the Buddhist perspective, there is no such thing as a human soul nor a Creator. Personal existence is an illusion. The goal of Buddhism is to attain the Buddhist version of nirvana, in which even the illusion of the individual ceases to exist at all. Buddhism is about self-annihilation - that is how it attains ultimate equality.

So, the Declaration of Independence summarizes a uniquely Christian set of concepts:
  1. "all men are created equal..."  (You are all one in Christ Jesus, Galatians 3:28)
  2. "they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."  (Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Psalm 82:3)
  3. "among these are Life..."  (God is the author of life - Acts 3:15)
  4. "Liberty..."  (Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Cor 3:17)
  5. "and the Pursuit of Happiness..."  (With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:3)
The phrases in the Declaration resonated with the West because these phrases were just paraphrases of Scripture itself. Catholic Faith and the Christian Scripture written by the Church are the foundation of Western Civilization. But because the Declaration's phrases are paraphrases, we tend to lose sight of Scripture's point: Scripture was most assuredly NOT describing some kind of physical equality between individuals. Rather, it was describing a uniquely Christian theological idea: everyone has an equal chance at salvation.

Again, no theology had ever said this before, and none have since either. Consider: the afterlife is not a source of major concern for Jews, because it is a given that all Jews, no matter how bad, will rejoin the nation of Israel. For the Jews, that is heaven. Only Jews get resurrected. Righteous Gentiles are, at most, ghost-like beings who can watch the joy of the re-unification of Israel without being able to fully participate. Similarly, all Muslims go to Paradise, even if they have to spend some time in hell to atone for their sins.

For Hindus and Buddhists, the point of the afterlife is to be obliterated, annihilated, to lose all sense of individual self. Hindus get absorbed into the single, all-pervading Being, Buddhists evaporate into nothingness.

Jews and Muslims rejoin their respective nations, Buddhists and Hindus disappear, but none except Christians assert the ability to live with God Himself. Only Christians do that, and only Christianity says everyone has the same opportunity to do that.

But what about physical equality? Yeah, no. Christian Scripture recognizes what everyone else recognizes: there is no such thing as physical equality no is there physical equality of outcome. As anyone with breath in their body knows, there is a hierarchy among men that cannot be airbrushed away:
And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. (1 Cor 12:28)
Our lives are bound together, but we do not have the same abilities, no matter whether one considers physical or spiritual abilities:
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Cor 12:15-26).
One of the great mysteries that Christ Jesus resolves is this: He manages to provide the possibility of equal salvation outcomes even though we all are acknowledged to start with absolutely unequal physical, and even unequal spiritual, abilities.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4)
Yet while we are all united with God in heaven, even there we see a hierarchy.
I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of rushing water or a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. They were singing [what seemed to be] a new hymn before the throne, before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn this hymn except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been ransomed from the earth.These are they who were not defiled with women; they are virgins (Revelations 14:2-4)
There are hierarchies among the angels (nine ranks of angels, with the seraphim being the closest to God) and among men. We have an equal shot at salvation, but even the saved have different rankings, different outcomes.

The problem Jefferson and other Enlightenment thinkers faced, the problem that they simply couldn't resolve, is now obvious: if you deny that God exists, or deny that Christ is God, then you are stuck with a concept, "all men are created equal and endowed... (the ellipse is important here) with certain inalienable rights." But, if there is no God, that sentiment cannot possibly be true.

It is absolutely obvious that all men are NOT physically, intellectually or spiritually equal. Some people are stronger, others weaker, some smarter, others less, some have more patience, kindness, virtue, others have less of all of these... well, I would have said "gifts", but if there is no God, then these aren't gifts, so... others have more or less of these "characteristics." If there is no God, if there is not "the same Spirit", then it is manifestly stupid and absurd to say "all men are created equal." You have absolutely no evidence for the proposition, and every comparison between any two people is evidence against.

Only the insane would argue all are created equal physically or spiritually.

"Well," the liberal might reply, "all persons have the same rights, at least!"
Why would they?

If there is no God, then it is equally impossible to argue that everyone should have the same rights. After all, if God created all of us and God has the same intention for all of us (union with Him), then we can argue that we all have the same rights. In fact, God will have given us all at least one right that is identical: the right to secure a place in heaven has to be identical, and therefore any right that helps us secure that place has to be identical to all. We must all have those rights necessary to attain our single goal.

But if there is no God... that changes everything. If there is no God, then only an insane man or a comic would even present the argument that all men are, in any way, created equal. Even Monty Python's Flying Circus recognized that fact:

But insanity was Thomas Jefferson's way. The author of the Declaration of Independence simultaneously insisted that he was a good Christian, a good follower of Christ Jesus while also insisting that Christ was not God, but merely an excellent moral teacher. As C.S. Lewis points out, those two ideas cannot be held simultaneously. Christ was either a liar, a lunatic or the Lord. If He was not the Lord, then He was not a great moral teacher because His assertions become ludicrous. If Christ is not God, then Christ's teachings become impossible to logically reconcile together.

Unfortunately, Jefferson followed the great Protestant tradition of cutting out all those parts of Scripture he didn't like. Jefferson was also prudent enough to refrain from telling very many people that he didn't believe Jesus was God. Thus, Jefferson was never required to face how ludicrous his position actually was. Unfortunately, because he never faced his lunacy, most other people haven't recognized his lunacy.

As a result, everyone who has subsequently built within Jefferson's Potemkin village has faced the problem Jefferson refused to recognize: without the context of Christian belief, the Declaration of Independence is an absurd document. If Christ is not God, then the Declaration, and the Constitution that was built upon it, deserves to join Marx, Engels and Lenin on the ash heap of history.

The US Constitution, the oldest founding document in the world, is built on the principles espoused in the Declaration of Independence. If we abandon the Christian belief system that provides the Constitution its foundational support, then Justice Ginsberg is correct to say the Constitution should likewise be abandoned.

Antonin Scalia vigorously defended the Constitution because Antonin Scalia was a devout Catholic.  He had the necessary background and context to understand how the Constitution should be applied. He had the foundation in Christ necessary to make sense of both the Declaration and the Constitution.  Thus, we see the basic tension between Scalia and Ginsberg. Christ is the Word who binds together a broken world (Scalia). Without Christ, the broken world is absurdist, impossible, surreal (Ginsberg). Both positions are absolutely correct. In that sense, there is absolutely no difference between what Scalia says and what Ginsberg says. They simply start from different unspoken premises, but their respective conclusions are inarguably accurate.

Those who do not accept Christianity are faced with Jefferson's paradox: how to apply the healing balm of "all are equal in Christ Jesus" to a fallen world wherein they refuse to admit "Christ Jesus" yet wish to retain "all are equal".  Jefferson, Marx, Lenin, Obama, Clinton, Trump - they all beat their head against the atheistic wall they have built. As long as the wall stands, the world will not be healed. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Myths About Alfie Evans

Myth 1: The doctors all thought Alfie would die as soon as he was taken off the ventilator. 

No, the doctors did not all think he would die immediately after being taken off the ventilator. There was a lot of professional disagreement about how long he would last, but that is common among medical professionals. 

Alfie had been removed from the ventilator three different times over the last year, lasting at one point 13 days before the doctors put him back on the ventilator. This is the fourth time the ventilator has been removed. The idea that the doctors all expected immediate death is an absurd lie promoted by ignorant and/or malicious Catholic pundits to drum up clicks from angry Catholics. 

Myth 2: The hospital was going to refuse Alfie palliative care:

The hospital was not going to refuse him palliative care. Remember, Alfie went into hospital as a result of an infection and failure to thrive in December 2016. He's been in hospital ever since, on a ventilator since at least July 2017, and receiving palliative care the entire time. The hospital has been giving Alfie palliative care every day for the last year. That's why he's still alive - the hospital kept him alive. 

Hours after being removed from the ventilator, Alfie's own father publicly said:
"Alfie’s receiving food, water, oxygen as well as all the standard drugs for his belly."
For a period of about six hours after he was taken off the vent, no food or water was given. But that was due in part to the fact that nutrition and hydration have been delivered by a nasal tube directly into the small intestines. Alfie can't eat. He doesn't have enough muscle tone to swallow his own saliva.

Six hours is not a long time to go without food or water. After removal, there may well have been some disagreement about exactly whether Alfie was actively dying, whether it was worthwhile to reinsert the nasal tube if he was actively dying or whether that would simply disturb the parents' last hour(s) with their dying child, etc.

Once it became clear that Alfie was not giving up, the food and water were given to help him fight.

Myth 3: Socialized medicine is taking away parental rights

No one has taken away anyone's parental rights. The parents still have full custody of Alfie. It's just that no one, anywhere - not even the Catholic Church - has ever said parental rights are absolute. Everyone agrees the state can exert its own authority when danger to a citizen, in this case, a child, is perceived. 

Right now, what the state conceives as its duty to care for its citizens is not in harmony with what the parents conceive as their duty to care for their child. The rights of the two actors are not in harmony, but the both the parents and the state are trying to get them back into harmony - that's what the court cases have been about.

And, incidentally, Italy's medicine is just as socialized as Britain's, so if you want to use Britain's example is an argument against socialized medicine, you may want to reconsider your premises.

Myth 4: Transport to Bambino Gesu hospital offers hope!

Bambino Gesu hospital does not offer hope, and its own doctors state that they do not offer hope. 

As the British judge points out, it was the Italian doctors sent by the Pope from Bambino Gesu who expressed concern that Alfie would die during transport due to constant seizures. It was on the basis of the Italian doctors' professional medical testimony that the British judge nixed travel. The British judge didn't want to risk killing Alfie by attempting transport. 

The Italians stated that they would only be offering palliative care. The only difference between the English and Italian care was the addition of a tracheotomy by the Italians. All the Italian doctors offer is palliative care. British palliative care is essentially indistinguishable from Italian palliative care. Why would anyone risk killing Alfie in transport just so he can get exactly the same care he is already getting?

Myth 5: The judge is an anti-Catholic LGBT supporter who is trying to kill a Catholic child and destroy a Catholic family!

Read the judge's summary and judgement. While the judge may be an LGBT supporter, he is decidedly not anti-Catholic, anymore than the openly gay Milo Yiannopoulos is anti-Catholic. In fact, in his ruling, the British judge extensively quoted from a papal address to the Pontifical Academy for Life and followed by saying, "I regard the above as a comprehensive answer..."

Myth 6: The Pope has said the boy should be transported! The authorities are deliberately disrespecting the Pope! 

Pope Francis' wishes were scrupulously obeyed by the hospital. Pope Francis said, "Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.”

Every medical professional the parents asked for has had access to Alfie for personal medical examination and examination of all of Alfie's records. Every medical professional has said the same thing, "Your child is dying. There is no treatment, only palliative care."  The parents desired to seek for new treatment, they brought in doctors to identify the new treatment, and they found out that no one has any new treatment. No one. 

No one.

Not a single doctor who has examined Alfie and read through Alfie's complete medical history has held out hope even for a halt to the progressive degeneration, much less a reversal. Every single medical professional has said the same thing: the only thing left is palliative care. There is no known treatment for Alfie's condition, not even experimental.

Barring a Lourde's style miracle, Alfie will never get better.
Every medical professional expects Alfie's condition to continue to deteriorate.

Myth 7: He could be treated at home. He didn't need to be in a hospital at all.

Well, his parents didn't feel that way. As the Italian doctors and Alfie's own physiotherapist testified, the boy has been undergoing constant seizures for the last several months. In his summary, the judge outlined all the different drug regimens that had been tried: none controlled the seizures. The parents wanted him in hospital for the whole of his treatment because they didn't feel they could handle the seizures. 

Myth 8: The hospital and the British government are acting SATANICALLY!

Alfie's own father testified on numerous occasions throughout his court appearances and again in a signed, public statement, that he had the highest regard and gratitude for the professionalism of the hospital. If you read the judge's ruling, in which all of the history is summarized, it is obvious the judge is trying very hard to do the right thing by Alfie and his parents. The judge didn't remove parental rights, he didn't remove custody, he spent the entire opinion trying to reconcile sometimes divergent testimony into a coherent whole that both the parents and the hospital could accept.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Choosing Martyrdom for Someone Else

Everyone is interested in making Alfie Evans the poster boy for their personal cause. The causes range the gamut from decrying the entrenched evil of socialized medicine to decrying the entrenched evil of parents who refuse to accept that their child is dying.

What a lot of people don't realize is that EVERY doctor who has been consulted about Alfie agrees that Alfie cannot be treated. He can only be made comfortable as he dies. CNN reports:
"At that time, it was suggested that Alfie could be transported to Rome's Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital, a Vatican hospital and the main pediatric hospital serving southern Italy, for treatment.

However, a subsequent visit to Alfie and consultation with his doctors led the Roman doctors to conclude that the child's condition is irreversible and untreatable, according to a statement from Alder Hey....

Professor Dominic Wilkinson, a consultant neonatologist at the John Radcliffe Hospital and director of Medical Ethics at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, said, "In Alfie's case, none of the foreign experts have offered any new treatment or any new outlook for Alfie. The Italian specialists have apparently indicated that they believe that his care should be palliative."
A lot of people also fail to realize that Alfie's father agrees with this assessment:
"“Mr Thomas Evans does not seek treatment. He seeks palliative care in line with his Catholic faith principles,” says his barrister Paul Diamond,"

"Alfie’s receiving food, water, oxygen as well as all the standard drugs for his belly."
Also, many of Alfie's supporters in England do not disagree with this assessment:
Pamela Jacuniak who suggested members of Liverpool’s Polish community rally under Alder Hey Hospital, told little Alfie has a right to live.
She said: “As Poles, we believe the little boy has a right to live and it is up to the parents to decide where Alfie needs to be treated.
“If we believe there is a chance he can live on then it must be used to 100 percent.
“Each and every one of our hearts are breaking because the judges have ruled in a barely humane way to end Alfie’s life.
“There are patients similar to Alfie in Poland whoa re palliative patients and receive full healthcare until the moment of their death.”
Clearly, at this point, Alfie is receiving the palliative care his father and all the doctors agree is appropriate. Would that have happened without all the publicity? I don't know. Certainly no one expected Alfie to survive without a ventilator. Remember, his parents were originally fighting any attempt to remove it. Since it has been taken away, they have had to resort to mouth-to-mouth a couple of times in order to keep their boy breathing. No one... let me repeat that... NO ONE intimately familiar with his case thinks Alfie can be treated. He can only be made comfortable as he dies. As long as the hospital is supplying hydration, nutrition and oxygen, there is no reason to fly the boy to Italy. Again, it is possible the hospital wouldn't be doing this except for the publicity.  Or it is possible that they would have done. I honestly don't know. But it is not the case that Alfie's situation demonstrates the entrenched evils of socialized medicine, nor is it the case that Alfie's situation demonstrates the parents are evil for wanting palliative care.

Whatever led up to the current situation, it is clearly true that Alfie is currently being cared for as well as can be expected given his horrific medical condition. Food, water and oxygen are ordinary care, not medicine, not extraordinary. The Catholic Church is quite, quite clear on this.

But keep in mind that Catholic teaching denies the necessity to undertake extraordinary care. And, yes, there does come a point in every dying process where those extraordinary measures might actually have turned into torture. The courts have a very legitimate Catholic right to be concerned about that. As the brilliant Dominican theologian Fr. Robert Barry once told me, "You can choose martyrdom for yourself. But you cannot choose martyrdom for someone else." Alfie's parents do not have the right to choose martyrdom for him, and they appear to understand that they do not have that right. Unfortunately, it isn't clear that all of Alfie's supporters understand that.

Now, how do we know Alfie is getting palliative care? The news sources do not agree in all details. Yes, there are contradictory sources out there concerning the exact details of how Alfie is being treated. But I notice the "sources" that say Alfie is not getting palliative care have no direct quotes from the parents, while the sources who say he is getting palliative care are directly quoting the parents, who say that he is.

Whenever you read about cases like this, or news about something the Pope is supposed to have said, or really any case that seems designed to get you angry, remember, there are people who make money off of you when you are angry. There are a lot of news sources interested in stirring up a feeding frenzy so they can gorge on the clicks generated by their click-bait. Don't feed the trolls (I'm looking at YOU, LifesiteNews).

The charge has been laid that this essay does not deal with the question of parental authority. Alright, let's deal with it. Certainly a parent has authority over his or her own child except when the parent is abusing or neglecting that child, at which point other authorities have a duty to step in. But that's precisely the problem. 
What constitutes "abuse" or "neglect"?

This is where it gets hard. Let's say there is a parent who believes his/her child is possessed, and further believes that severe beatings will relieve the child of the demonic possession. Should "parental authority" permit the parent to "treat" the demonic possession by severely beating the child?

What if the parent hired someone else to beat the child? Is that ok? What if we substitute "illness" for "demonic possession" and the people hired were doctors?  It is a prudential decision to figure out what constitutes appropriate exercise of parental authority. What if the doctors hired to beat the child, examined the child and said, "No, not only are we not going to beat this child, we are going to make sure you don't get anyone else to do it either." Are those doctors violating parental authority?

When Jehovah Witness' parents refuse blood transfusions for their children, should the state force the blood transfusion anyway? What about vaccinations? What about restricting movement during mass outbreaks of illness? Is it reasonable to move a child a thousand miles just so the child can receive exactly the same food, water and oxygen? We all assume that none of the medical professionals are thinking clearly, but what if it is the parents who are not thinking clearly?

This is a serious problem. Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy is a psychological disorder in which a caregiver, usually a parent, seeks attention by acting as if his or her healthy child has a long-term or otherwise debilitating illness. The caregiver's self-image is bound up in being a caregiver, and s/he can't afford for the child to be healthy, because that threatens the caregiver's self-image. But what if the caregiver also can't afford to let an ill child die, because that same psychological disorder also threatens the caregiver's self-image? If the child is dead, the caregiver loses the self-image of caregiver just as surely as if the child were to recover.

What if the parents are suffering from a form of Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy, and dying Alfie is the focus of their pathology? Isn't that a possibility as well? And what happens to parental authority if that is the case?

These are hard questions. A lot of prudence and care have to be taken to make sure the child is not being victimized by anyone - not the doctors, not the parents, not the media, nor any of the people speaking out about the case. I don't know any more details than what I read in the news. Neither do you. Doctors who have personally examined Alfie have all reached the same conclusion: he's dying.

Clearly, there was an argument about palliative care. It is quite possible the hospital has only provided food, water and an oxygen tube because of public pressure. But we are simply ignoring the facts if we think (a) anyone knows how to treat Alfie or (b) he is not being given food, water and oxygen.

The fact is, no one who has personally examined Alfie is offering anything but palliative care. His own father is quoted as saying he expects only palliative care. He is getting palliative care. So, it looks like parental authority is being honored. Perhaps it is only being honored after public outcry, but it is being honored.

Some argue that the UK should just hand the child over to Italy and be done with it. Since Alfie is a British citizen, the British courts have an interest in overseeing care. They can relinquish that interest to Italy, but apparently they don't want to. Similarly, Alfie's parents could just relinquish their interests to the state, but Alfie's parents don't want to. I don't blame Alfie's parents for not wanting to do that, so I can't very well blame the UK courts for displaying the same sentiment.

Update II
Find the court case testimony on Alfie here

And Alfie's parents admit the charges that the hospital staff were evil was mostly a hoax.