Pope: Accept Death at ‘Hour Chosen by God’

Pope Benedict says that those suffering from debilitating illnesses must not seek the easy way out but to die “at the hour chosen by God.”

People must accept death at “the hour chosen by God,” Pope Benedict XVI told ailing pilgrims Monday in an anti-euthanasia message at Lourdes, the shrine that draws the desperate, sick and dying.

At the chilly open-air service outside the sanctuary reputed for its curative spring water, some faithful lay on gurneys, tucked into quilts and comforters. A few breathed with oxygen tanks. The 81-year-old pontiff administered the sacrament of the sick to 10 people, most in wheelchairs, gently anointing their foreheads and palms with oil.

While several European countries permit euthanasia, the Vatican vehemently maintains that life must continue to its natural end. The pope said in his homily that the ill should pray to find “the grace to accept, without fear or bitterness, to leave this world at the hour chosen by God.”

Presumably, this only applies to taking measures to hasten death rather than to postpone it.   It’s not clear to me why this should be the case, however.   If the point is to die “at the hour chosen by God,” wouldn’t that preclude medical treatment of any kind?  If not, why not?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. I’m no expert in theology but suicide and murder have always been sins in Christian theology. And I’m pretty sure that Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead, while never once suggesting that anyone would be better off dead. Perhaps the pontiff is most worried about the slippery slope that will follow once society decides that some people are just too much trouble or expense to take care of.

    Perhaps Dr. Sensing would be a good source to ask.

  2. hpb says:

    If the point is to die “at the hour chosen by God,” wouldn’t that preclude medical treatment of any kind? If not, why not?

    I don’t have an immediate answer, but I would begin any attempt at one here.

  3. Michael says:

    I’m no expert in theology but suicide and murder have always been sins in Christian theology.

    I don’t believe suicide was ever specifically called a sin.

  4. You may be correct Michael, though I’m certain Dante considered it one. I seem to remember being taught it was a sin, but that was a long time ago.

  5. Perhaps the question of suicide being a sin is definitional. Is it, as its etymology suggests, self murder? If so, then it is a sin.

  6. Michael says:

    You may be correct Michael, though I’m certain Dante considered it one.

    Yes, well, as much as people confuse Dante and Milton with actual gospel, they are no more authoritative than anybody else who isn’t considered a prophet.

  7. Michael says:

    If the point is to die “at the hour chosen by God,” wouldn’t that preclude medical treatment of any kind? If not, why not?

    Moreover, if you believe that everything that happens is due to the will of God, then whenever and however you die would necessarily be “the hour chosen by God”.

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    The catechism of the Catholic Church, which is authoritative, forbids suicide.

    In recent years the Church has distinguished between ordinary medical care and “heroic measures”. The latter, especially when inconsistent with human dignity, are not always required. However, the issue is not always completely clear-cut and may call for fine ethical judgment.

  9. William d'Inger says:

    The very idea of a logical religion is oxymoronic, so you’re wasting time seeking rational answers to anything the Pope does.

  10. PD Shaw says:

    If the point is to die “at the hour chosen by God,” wouldn’t that preclude medical treatment of any kind? If not, why not?

    I’m not sure that is the point. I think the point is to not give into the despair that suffering causes.

    As Dave also suggests, that’s a different, but potentially overlapping issue with a person’s individual autonomy in choosing whether a form of medical treatment should be utilized, particularly where the “treatment” does not cure the condition, but simply maintains body functions.

  11. Floyd says:

    William,
    The “Rational” Atheist must logically conclude that man is nothing more than primordial ooze, diluted with sophistry.
    Therefore, any utterance,by such,amounts to swamp gas![lol]

  12. William d'Inger says:

    How puerile, Floyd.

    Dr. Joyner was drawing, or attempting to draw, a reasonable model for human behavior based on the Pope’s “Hour Chosen” comment. I contend he’s wasting his time since Church doctrine is not wedded to logic. If you can refute that, I’d be happy to hear you out.

    I happen to believe that man created God in his own image and that, like the bow and arrow, God is an obsolete invention which can still prove lethal in the wrong hands.

  13. Michael says:

    The “Rational” Atheist must logically conclude that man is nothing more than primordial ooze, diluted with sophistry.

    You made the statement, now back it up with reason.

  14. Brian says:

    The “Rational” Atheist must logically conclude that man is nothing more than primordial ooze, diluted with sophistry.
    Therefore, any utterance,by such,amounts to swamp gas![lol]

    Like always, Floyd, I don’t agree with the sentiment, but at least you have to good grace to be funny;)

  15. DL says:

    “…wouldn’t that preclude medical treatment of any kind? If not, why not?”

    Because he’s not referring to “ordinary” medical treatment which is required of all Catholics. He is talking about euthanasia – the interference with God’s will. People may chose extraordinary care to try to stay alive or not, but they must do nothing aimed at the deliberate ending life.

    God is the author (authority) of all things including life.

    It requires faith and grace as he says.

  16. Fence says:

    the slippery slope that will follow once society decides that some people are just too much trouble or expense to take care of.

    Uh, that was decided a long time ago. Ever been to Calcutta? Or noticed how many Americans don’t have health insurance?

  17. dutchmarbel says:

    I saw an interview with the archbishop from Utrecht last week. He was a medical doctor and wrote a paper about euthanatia, from the conservative RK POV. He said (when discussing passive euthanatia) that the key was *disproportionate* means to stay alive.

    I am a secular humanist and I believe that if there is one thing that people should be able to decide about, it is their live. It is their choice. If you want to hand that choice to your god that is your choice too. But I am very happy that we have legalized the choice at least a bit (the rules are rather strict, so many people who want euthanatia don’t get it). I’ve seen the peace of mind it gave dying people, that they had the option to end it even if they didn’t use it. And last year I was told about the last day from someone I knew who actually chose for euthanatia, told how he was counting the minutes till the doctor would come by. I am glad that he didn’t have others decide for him that he had to suffer a few days more before they would allow him to die.

  18. Floyd says:

    If you’re going to legalize euthanasia, then at least don’t let the doctors , who are sworn to preserve life, do it!!They would just charge thousands of dollars that could be better spent on beer at the send-off party!
    Anybody should be able to set up a clinic, right next to “Geno’s Pizzeria”….. Start a franchise!
    Call it “Dr. Kevorkian’s Die-eria”
    $50 a head… or the “$100 dysfunctional family special!”
    Afterall how much does running a chainsaw cost anyway? Even at $4 a gallon!

  19. Floyd says:

    Or how about “Sweeney Todd’s Pie Emporium” featuring the “Soylent Green” upper crust, for those with good taste??