Luxembourg, Luxembourg, Feb 24, 2008 (CNA) - The Luxembourg parliament has narrowly approved a bill that would legalize euthanasia and allow doctors to help patients commit suicide, Agence France-Presse reports.
Thirty of the fifty-nine lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, with nearly all the members of Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker’s Social Christian Party voting in opposition to the bill.
The bill must be approved at a second reading before it can take effect.
"This bill is not a permit to kill," said Socialist lawmaker Lydie Err, who helped draft the legislation.
"It's not a law for the parents or the doctors but for the patient and the patient alone to decide if he wants to put an end to his suffering," she added.
The legislation says that euthanasia will be strictly regulated and can be mentioned in a “living will.” Doctors will have to confirm with a colleague that the patient suffers from a “grave and incurable condition.” A national commission including doctors and officials would be created to review euthanasia requests on a case-by-case basis.
If passed, the bill would make Luxembourg the third European Union country to legalize euthanasia, following the Netherlands and Belgium.
World Congress of Families Global Coordinator Larry Jacobs reacted critically to the news, saying, "Europe is quickly slipping into a new Dark Age, in the words of Winston Churchill, 'made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science’."
"Euthanasia proponents always assure us that the act will be voluntary," Jacobs observed. "But the devil is in the details. Frequently, if a patient is unable to indicate consent, this life-or-death decision is made for them by a relative or a physician."
"We hope parliamentarians will have second thoughts about unleashing this lethal measure on the people they serve," Jacobs declared.
A 2005 report by the Dutch government concluded that in 2004 an estimated 550 individuals who were comatose or otherwise unresponsive were killed in the country.
Boulder, Colo., Feb 24, 2008 (CNA) - George Weigel, Catholic thinker and biographer of Pope John Paul II, delivered a lecture on Thursday on religion and world politics in which he argued that Pope Benedict XVI has provided a unique model for global understanding between Christianity, Western secularism and Islam.
In the lecture, Weigel also called on Muslim leaders engaged in inter-religious dialogue to acknowledge and vigorously condemn the specific abuses of human rights and religious freedom found among some Muslim nations.
During the lecture at the University of Colorado at Boulder, sponsored by the Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought, Weigel said that Pope Benedict XVI was uniquely suited to addressing world conflicts grounded in religious differences. Weigel believes that the Pope, especially in his 2006 Regensberg lecture, provides a “grammar” to world leaders that could help them understand and reform both the relativism of the secular West and the violence of Islamic extremism.
At his 2006 lecture at the University of Regensberg, the Pope said that religious violence and compulsion are rooted in the idea that God is pure will instead of a rational, loving being. He said that Christianity’s belief in a loving, reasonable God has helped Christians reconcile themselves to Enlightenment values of religious freedom and human rights, while aspects of Islamic theology have hindered such reform among Muslims.
Weigel countered the media portrayal of the speech as a “gaffe” for its perceived insult of Mohammed. Far from being a gaffe, he argued, the Regensberg address was an important reflection that considered questions important to world policy today. These questions included:
“Can Islam be self-critical? Can its leaders condemn and marginalize its extremists, or are Muslims condemned to be held hostage to the passions of those who consider the murder of innocents to be pleasing to God? Can the West recover its commitment to reason, and thus help support Islamic reform?”
Weigel argued that no one other than Pope Benedict could have framed the discussion in such a way. “No president, prime minister, king, queen, or secretary general could put these questions in play at this level of sophistication before a world audience,” Weigel said.
Pope Benedict’s lecture has given the world political community “a grammar for addressing these questions, a genuinely transcultural grammar of rationality and irrationality.”
“Far from being an exercise in theological abstraction, the Regensberg lecture was a courageous attempt to create a new public grammar capable of disciplining and directing the world discussion of what is arguably the world’s greatest problem,” Weigel continued.
Weigel also criticized some of the reactions to the Regensberg lecture. Though acknowledging that Muslim critiques of the West are often “not without merit,” Weigel argued that the October 2007 letter from the 138 Muslim leaders “sidestepped” the questions raised by the Pope’s lecture.
Muslim scholars addressed the letter, titled “A Common Word Between Us and You,” to global Christian leaders in pursuit of inter-religious dialogue. Many observers considered the letter an important breakthrough.
Weigel said the letter had spoken at length about the “Two Great Commandments” to love God and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. However, Weigel claimed, the letter said nothing applicable to relevant issues of “faith, freedom, and the governance of society,” such as death threats against Muslims who convert to Christianity or the prohibition of Christian worship in Saudi Arabia.
He challenged the Muslim leaders to be more specific in future dialogue:
“Do these 138 Muslim leaders agree or disagree that religious freedom and the distinction between spiritual and political authority are the issues at the heart of the tension between Islam and the West, indeed between Islam and ‘the rest,’ and even more within Islam itself. Would it not be more useful to concentrate on these urgent issues of classical reason, which bear on the organization of 21st century society, than to frame the dialogue in terms of a generic exploration of the Two Great Commandments, which risk leading to an exchange of banalities?
“Why not get down to cases?” Weigel asked. He further asserted that authentic dialogue requires a “precise focus” and a commitment to “condemn by name the members of their communities who murder in the Name of God.”
Weigel also criticized the “secularization thesis,” which claims that countries become less religious as time advances. He argued that in fact the secularization of the West was the exception, rather than the rule. The secularization thesis, he said, has clouded the analysis of Western thinkers and politicians who cannot understand the religious basis of many world movements, including Islamic extremism.
The centuries-long Catholic encounter with the positive Enlightenment values of religious freedom and human rights, Weigel thought, could be a model for Christian-Muslim dialogue. While not compromising with what Weigel called the “chaff” of Enlightenment scientific atheism, past Catholic mistakes and successes could help Muslims navigate reforms of their own religion.
Weigel cited Pope Benedict’s 2006 Christmas address as evidence the Pope approved of a similar strategy. In that speech the Pope said:
“In a dialogue to be intensified with Islam, we must bear in mind the fact that the Muslim world today is finding itself faced with an urgent task. This task is very similar to the one that has been imposed upon Christians since the Enlightenment, and through which the Second Vatican Council, as the fruit of long and difficult research, found real solutions for the Catholic Church.”
Weigel’s lecture drew its content from his recent book, “Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism: A Call to Action.” The lecture was co-sponsored by the St. Thomas More Society of Colorado.
Vatican City, Feb 24, 2008 (CNA) - St. Peter’s Square was filled to overflowing on Sunday as pilgrims awaited Pope Benedict XVI's Sunday Angelus. Before praying the noon-time prayer, the Pope called on all Christians to imitate the Samaritan woman who responds to God’s thirst for her faith and love.
Students, parents and educators, who came to hear the Holy Father's discourse on education on Saturday listened as the Pope began his reflection on today's gospel.
Benedict XVI urged all those present to personally read and mediate on the story of Samaritan woman by identifying themselves with her and discovering the meaning of the passage for them. St. Augustine, he added, was fascinated by this text and wrote many notable commentaries on it.
The Holy Father then offered his own insights into the story of the Samaritan woman.
Jews, he said, did not recognize Samaritans, and much less so women. Thus, when Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, it was indeed highly unusual. But even more unusual was that he demonstrated to the woman that he knew her, and then revealed himself to her.
"Give me something to drink, he said, leaving her astonished. It is in fact highly unusual for a Jew to speak to a Samaritan woman, the most unrecognized. The miracle of the woman was the destiny that arose: Jesus spoke of a living water that has the capacity to extinguish thirst and become in her a fountain rising up to eternal life. He demonstrated that he knew her own personal life and revealed that the hour was coming to adore the one true God in spirit and in truth. Finally, he confided in her something most rare, that he was the Messiah."
Pope Benedict noted that the point of departure for all of this was the experience of real thirst. The theme of thirst, he added, appears throughout the Gospel of John: In the encounter with the Samaritan woman, in the great prophecy during the Feast of Tabernacles (Jn. 7:37) and finally at the Cross, when Jesus, before dying said, in order to fulfill the words of Scripture, "I thirst" (Jn. 19:28).
"The thirst of Christ is a gate of access to the mystery of God, who is in fact made thirsty to satisfy our thirst, as one made poor so that we might become rich (2 Cor. 8,9). Yes, God is thirsty for our faith and our love. "
He added, "The woman of Samaria represents the existential dissatisfaction of one who has not found what she is looking for. She had ‘five husbands’ and now lived with another man. Her coming and going to the well to draw water expressed a life that was resigned and repetitive.”
“But all of that changed for her that day in her conversation with the Lord Jesus, who turned all of that around and led her to leave her jar at the well, and run to tell the others in the village. ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done. Could this be the Messiah?’ the Pope said quoting the woman’s words.
In the same way, Pope Benedict said that we can also meet Jesus when we open our hearts and receive his word faithfully.
"As with the Samaritan woman, we will meet Jesus, who will reveal to us his love and say, this Messiah, your Savior, it is I who speak to you. Let us ask this of Mary, the first and most perfect disciple in whom the Word became flesh."
After the Angelus, the pope welcomed all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Angelus.
"As we continue our Lenten journey may our resolve to follow closely the path of Jesus be strengthened through prayer, forgiveness, fasting and assistance to those in need. I trust your visit to Rome will increase your understanding of the faith and deepen your love of the universal Church. Upon all of you and your dear ones, I gladly invoke the strength and peace of Christ the Lord."