As we all know Ronald Reagan died on June 5th 2004 at the age of ninety- three. He was our longest living President. Tragically his last ten years were spent debilitated because of Alzheimer’s disease. So he was lost to the public during that time. I’m sure that Mr. Reagan, had he been healthy, would have made a significant contribution to our society and the world after he left the White house in much the way Jimmy Carter has.
Mr. Reagan died while President Bush was in Europe to speak at the D-Day ceremonies in France. However, while in Europe President Bush first went to see the pope. Pope John Paul who is in his eighty-fourth year, and in poor health, suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Ostensibly Bush met with the Pope to award him the Medal of Freedom. The pope granted a world wide publicity event to Mr. Bush which is sure to sway Catholics in the United States of the bona fides of Bush in the up coming elections.
This event occurred despite the Pope’s statement that he was displeased by the continuing presence of the United States in Iraq. In what was surely an uncomfortable moment for Bush the pope spoke about his concern in what amounted to a public admonishment before he accepted the Medal.
These things don’t happen on the spur of the moment. Someone didn’t just say we are going to Europe for D-Day let’s stop off and see Pope John Paul and give him the Medal of Freedom. He will get the Medal and we will get a favorable public relations event. These things are planned and there is a quid pro quo involved. The Pope just doesn’t see a politician before an election unless he sees some benefit coming out of the meeting in terms of world Catholicism and more broadly to what he perceives to be best for human welfare in general.
Why is Mr. Bush publicly meeting with the Pope and conferring the highest civilian medal on him while uncomfortably sitting through a public rebuke on Iraq? Votes that’s why. Mr. Bush and his chief strategist Karl Rove see conservative Catholics as a natural group to include in their core constituency of faith based fundamentalist Christians.
Pope John Paul has banned abortion, birth control, euthanasia and biological research involving embryonic stem cells or any acts that harm innocent life and the Christian fundamentalists are in agreement with him. All this is fine so long as it does not become a way of inserting faith based beliefs in our governmental policies. These issues are moral issues best left to the individual and his religious advisors on a personal level.
Mr. Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s disease before his death. The
Pope is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Both these diseases might be cured expeditiously if stem cell research was funded by federal money, which Mr. Bush is refusing to release. What strange bedfellow’s politics makes! A Protestant fundamentalist politician joins with a Catholic Pope. Pope John theoretically dislikes Capitalism as much as he dislikes Communism. The Pope believes Capitalism and Communism both foster materialism, selfishness and secularism which takes peoples mind off piety and contemplation of the afterlife and focuses it on temporal pleasures and comforts. The Pope sees these influences as causes in the dissolution of family bonds and allows for such temporal evils as divorce, birth control, abortion and euthanasia. “The culture of death,” as he describes it.
The Pope also believes that humans cannot achieve happiness in this life (veil of tears) and that their only salvation is prayer and faith. Thats why denying family planning to poor, ignorant and hungry Latin American and African Catholics causes him no moral pain. Bush similarly has denied family planning as a part of foreign aid because it might include abortion counseling or the advocacy of the use of condoms.
The Pope is a very powerful man politically as well as morally. He is credited as being influential in the downfall of Stoessner in Parguay, Pinochet in Chile, Marcos in the Philippines and of course the Soviet Union. Thus the Vatican is not naïve when it comes to politics. Therefore it was not unusual to witness the Pope receiving Mr. Bush in an election year. It was obvious the Pope was making a political statement to the American Catholics that George Bush was all right in the eyes of the church while at the same time some of his bishops are refusing the sacraments publicly to Catholic politicians, like Bush’s opponent John Kerry, whom are pro choice and for using government funds for stem cell research. It would be nice if the Catholic Church refrained from interfering in the internal politics of our country which was founded on the principle of separation of church and state.
We now have the paradox of two faith driven men who are probably the two most powerful men in the world inhibiting scientific stem cell research that might save millions of lives and prevent misery and sickness from afflicting millions more. Both men are more interested in saving souls for the afterlife than providing the immediate benefits of biological science to the people of the world.
Further the embryonic stem cells that scientists want to use, according to Michael Kinsley in a Time Magazine essay, are the extra microscopic clusters of cells that remain as they are of no further use to the donors who have already had the children they want from other stem cells created at the same time. So the extra stem cells will be either kept frozen or discarded and will never see life or be of further use unless they are donated for stem cell research. I suppose the scientists who created these microscopic cell clusters to aid in the creation of life should have never called them embryos in the first place, but pre-pregnancy cell clusters instead and we might have avoided the religious issue and preserved our political integrity from foreign and domestic faith based decision makers.
Yorick’s fate has befallen both men whose final years may have been more productive and prolonged had not G. W. Bush and The Pope blocked stem cell research.