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Medical expert finds growing secular support for Catholic teachings
By David Kerr
Dr. Carlo Bellieni
Dr. Carlo Bellieni

.- A Catholic medical expert says he finds growing support for Church teachings among non-believers in the field of pediatrics, as shown by a recent secular journal that expresses love and care for the disabled.

The publication—“Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care”—dedicated an entire edition this year to the question of “The Quality of Life of Young Children and Infants with Chronic Medical Problems.”

“The edition is beautiful as it expresses in easy words the sense of love and acceptance of the life of the sick and disabled,” said Dr. Carlo Bellieni, a consultant for the Pontifical Academy for Life.

“And I think it’s particularly important as the articles are largely written by atheists and non-Catholics and yet they express what the Church teaches on abortion, accepting disabled babies and so on.”

Bellieni is a Director of the Neonatal Intensive Therapy Unit at Siena University Hospital and is an internationally recognized expert in the field of neo-natal care.

In a Nov. 2 interview, he explained the significance of some of the articles to CNA.

“For instance,” he said, “Antoine Payot of the University of Montreal shows that the consequences of being born severely premature are not so disastrous as those who support neo-natal euthanasia say.”

Other experts featured in the publication are drawn from the universities at Stanford, Duke, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Kansas. 

Professor Felicia Cohn of the University of California wrote about the quality of life enjoyed by her disabled daughter.

“Amanda is now a sweet, smart, giving little girl, who, like others her age, regularly cries ‘no fair!’ in response to the distribution of toys or dessert,” she said.

From her daughter, Cohn said she has learned “what justice might look like—a world in which all children may benefit from medicine as she did and all families are supported in making the difficult decisions about what constitutes that benefit—and that I have an obligation, as a health care professional, to work toward that vision.”

Bellieni said he believes the debate in medical ethics has moved on from simply “pro-life” versus “pro-choice.”

He said the divide is now between those who believe in “solidarity” and those who prioritize “autonomy.” The latter option, he said, is not in fact freedom but merely “a form of loneliness.”

“The Church is not only pro-life but also pro-solidarity—a word much loved by John Paul II and Benedict XVI,” he said.

A “woman who chooses abortion has been left alone, therefore her decision is not free, and the person who chooses to withdraw treatment from newborn is often alone too,” Bellieni explained.

Those “who believe the highest law is autonomy want to leave people alone—they want people to be left alone to choose in loneliness.”

“So they would say the answer to the sick baby or sick fetus is to give you a sheet of paper with the option on it for you to put an 'x' next to your choice,” he noted. “They call this autonomy but, as I said, this is actually loneliness. We say the true law is love and the true manifestation of that love is solidarity.”

Bellieni also highlighted another paper written by Professor Peter Ubel of Duke University, who summarized the arguments running through the edition.

Prof. Ubel observed that the “compelling stories presented here suggest that the real borderline between moral and immoral” is in fact the “space between empathy and obliviousness.”

Bellieni said he believes this view reflects a growing trend among medical workers in the Western world. “All this is very encouraging and inspiring, and should be highlighted,” he said.


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