.- In response to the commotion caused by the death of Chilean woman who was a Jehovahâs Witness and refused a blood transfusion, Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua explained that ârespecting the conscience of each personâ does not override the duty âto safeguard respect for life.â
Bishop Goic, who is president of the Bishopsâ Conference of Chile, lamented the death of Edith Morales, a 52 year-old Chilean woman who died in Rancagua of leukemia after refusing to receive blood transfusions, which she said went against her religious beliefs, despite efforts by her family members to persuade her to accept them.
Bishop Goic expressed condolences to her family members and noted that Morales âbelonged to the Jehovahâs Witnesses, who totally reject blood transfusions as a means of treatment.â Their belief, he said, is based on their interpretation of some passages in the Old Testament which prohibit blood transfusions.
âWhat do we say about these interpretations? Jesus Christ taught us that the old prohibitions of food have no meaning in the New Covenant. âThe Kingdom of God is not a matter of food or drink, but of justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spiritâ (Rom. 14:17). It is not clear how the Jehovahâs Witnesses deduce from the prohibition against eating the blood of animals in the Old Testament the prohibition against blood transfusions that are precisely aimed to save human life,â the bishop said.
âThe Catholic Church accepts transfusions,â he emphasized. âThe Sacred Scriptures are not opposed to this kind of therapy that, on the other hand, was unknown in the times of Jesus. Jesus Christ teaches us that giving oneâs life for others is the greatest show of love,â Bishop Goic said.
âIn the vision of the Jehovahâs Witnesses, there are three important elements to consider: religious freedoms, respect for consciences and laws,â he added.
âFor the Catholic Church, the position of the Jehovahâs Witnesses is what we call one of an erroneous conscience. That is, they believe something that is mistaken. This is part of their profound convictions, and therefore it merits respect in their decision making. Religious freedom invites us to respect the conscience of each person. What we must safeguard is the respect for life. In response to this, many laws dealing with minors in danger of death allow for the will of the parents to be overridden, not because children have more rights than parents, but because their lives are in jeopardy (Spain, Canada, to name of few).â
âGod is the God of life. For Jesus life is something precious and âsaving a lifeâ prevails over the law of the Sabbath (Mark 3:4), because âGod is not a God of the dead but of the livingâ(Mark 12:27),â Bishop Goic stressed. âWe are followers of Jesus Christ. In the example of Christ, we can give our lives out of love of neighbor. âNo one has greater love than he who lays down his life for his friendsâ (John 15:13). Therefore, we strongly affirm âlife, alwaysâ,â the bishop said.