Archive for January, 2009
Prostitution: Legal Work or Slavery?
A Failed Attempt at Defending Women’s Dignity
By Father John Flynn, L.C.
ROME, OCT. 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Legalizing prostitution is under debate in a number of countries.
Hungary recently decided to legalize it, apparently in part due to the government’s desires to exact revenue from an activity they calculate could generate around $1 billion a year, reported the Associated Press, Sept. 24.
Bulgaria, however, took a step in the opposite direction, reversing a plan to legalize prostitution, according to the New York Times, Oct. 6.
“We should be very definite in saying that selling flesh is a crime,” Rumen Petkov, the interior minister, said during a recent forum on human trafficking, the article reported. The New York Times also commented that last year, Finland made it illegal to buy sex from women brought in by traffickers, while Norway is reportedly planning on imposing a complete ban on purchasing sex.
Italy, meanwhile, is considering how to deal with the widespread practice of street prostitution. Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said the government was thinking about measures such as fining clients, reported the Italian daily Avvenire, Sept. 26.
Prostitution is also under debate in Britain, where a new television series, “Belle de Jour,” presents a glamorized view of the sex industry — a portrayal strongly criticized by Emine Saner in an article published Sept. 20 in the Guardian newspaper.
“Of the estimated 80,000 women who are sex workers in the U.K., the vast majority do it because they have drug problems or families to support and have no other viable way of making money,” Saner commented.
Moreover, she argued that two-thirds of sex workers have experienced violence, including rape. Government data also reveal that at least 60 sex workers have been murdered in the past 10 years.
Guardian commentator Madelaine Bunting returned to the debate with an article published Oct. 8. Around 90% of prostitutes want to leave their activity, she said. At a time when sex trafficking is booming as one of the most lucrative forms of organized crime, we don’t need a fairytale story about prostitution, argued Bunting.
Countries debating whether or not to legalize prostitution could learn from what occurred in the Australian state of Victoria. The state government legalized prostitution in 1984 and since then, the sex industry has flourished. With over 20 years of experience, many of the promised benefits of legalizing prostitution have not, however, materialized, according to a book published earlier this year.
A detailed examination of the situation in Victoria was authored by self-declared “feminist activist” Mary Lucille Sullivan, in her book “Making Sex Work: A Failed Experiment With Legalised Prostitution,” (Spinifex Press).
“Victoria’s legalized prostitution system assists in maintaining male dominance, the sexual objectification of women, and the cultural approval of violence against women,” is her thesis.
Normalizing prostitution, as if it were merely some kind of employment, has also undermined women’s workplace equality and contradicts other government policies aimed at protecting women’s rights, accused Sullivan.
Too often, she added, the pressures today to treat prostitution as just another job stem from a neo-liberal vision of the free market, which sees women and girls as a commodity. Some feminists who supported the legalization of prostitution, Sullivan continues, were also influenced by a libertarian outlook and a misplaced desire to establish the “rights” of prostitutes. For its part, the state saw economic advantages in legalization, since it could tax a heretofore underground and illegal activity.
Legalization in Victoria, Sullivan explained, was also defended under the guise of minimizing the harm to the women involved, by bringing about formal regulation and legal protections in the sex industry.
This has not occurred, she affirmed, because attempting to portray prostitution as an occupation to be put under the control of health and safety norms ignores the intrinsic violence of prostitution and the fact that sexual harassment and rape are indistinguishable from the product clients buy.
Moreover, legalization itself has introduced a new series of damaging consequences for women, Sullivan argues. Among these is, ironically, a further expansion of the illegal side of prostitution. In fact, the phenomenon of curbside prostitution, far from disappearing with legalization, has continued to grow in Victoria.
Likewise, legalization, far from removing the influence of organized crime, has instead fueled the role of illegality by introducing greater economic incentives for trafficking in women and girls for both legal and illegal brothels. Sullivan also quoted experts in organized crime who allege that the legalized prostitution industry in Victoria still has strong links to underground criminality.
With regard to this human trafficking, Sullivan draws attention to international studies that put at billions the profits made from this modern form slavery. Estimates of the numbers of women and girls who are trafficked range from 700,000 to 2 million each year.
The legalization of prostitution in Victoria has not done anything to reduce illegal sex trafficking, Sullivan argues. In addition, since legalization, child prostitution continues to be a problem.
We are now in a situation, Sullivan pointed out, where the media, airlines, hotels, the tourist industry and banks all seek to promote and expand the industry of prostitution. In addition, legalization has brought an encroachment of prostitution in public life.
According to data cited in the book, by 1999, annual turnover in Victoria’s prostitution industry reached $360 million (Australian), which at the current exchange rate would be US $323.3 million . Overall in Australia, 3 states and one territory have legalized prostitution. A business information service cited by Sullivan put at $1.780 million (Australian) the turnover in the financial year 2004-05.
Instead of legalization, Sullivan recommended following the example of Sweden, where the law criminalizes the buying of sexual services and does not penalize the women and children. Sweden also helps women who have suffered violence as a result of prostitution.
Legalization of prostitution, Sullivian concluded, makes a fundamental mistake as it enshrines as a man’s “right” the ability to buy women and girls for sexual gratification. Once this is done, it becomes much more difficult to control the industry or prevent the exploitation of women.
“Prostitution is a form of modern slavery,” commented a recent document of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, issued June 16. The publication, “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road,” attracted media attention due to its ten commandments for drivers, but its content also includes a section on street prostitution. (Nos. 85-115)
“The sexual exploitation of women is clearly a consequence of various unjust systems,” commented the Pontifical Council. Causes such as a need for money, the use of violence, and human trafficking contribute to trap women into prostitution.
“The victims of prostitution are human beings, who in many cases cry out for help, to be freed from slavery, because selling one’s own body on the street is usually not what they would voluntarily choose to do,” the document added.
The council called for greater efforts to help free women from the abuses against human dignity that result from prostitution. Catholic institutions, the declaration added, have often helped women to escape from this situation. Women need to be aided so that they can regain their esteem and self-respect, and to be reintegrated into family and community life.
“Customers,” on the other hand, “need enlightenment regarding the respect and dignity of women, interpersonal values and the whole sphere of relationships and sexuality,” the document said. The exploiters also need to be enlightened regarding the hierarchy of the values of life and human rights, it recommended.
“Committing oneself at various levels — local, national and international — for the liberation of prostitutes is therefore a true act of a disciple of Jesus Christ, an expression of authentic Christian love,” the council concluded. Surely a far better answer than legalizing what is nothing more than sexual slavery.
Debunking the Papal “Euthanasia”
Doctor Assails Claims Surrounding John Paul II’s Death
ROME, OCT. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a response written by Doctor Renzo Puccetti, specialist in internal medicine and secretary of the Association Science and Life of Pisa and Livorno, Italy, to claims that Pope John Paul II was euthanized.
He responds to the article of Doctor Lina Pavanelli, medical anesthesiologist and professor at the University of Ferrara, titled “La Dolce Morte di Karol Wojtyla” (The Sweet Death of Karol Wojtyla), which appeared in the May edition of the bimonthly Italian magazine Micromega.
Time Magazine reported on Pavanelli’s statements in the Sept. 21 story titled “Was John Paul II Euthanized?”
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An article that recently appeared in the Italian political magazine Micromega has attracted some attention in the medical community, mostly because of the relevance of the person whom it discusses.
According to this article, Pope John Paul II is supposed to have died as the result of an omission in medical care that the Pontiff himself had desired as a patient. The author of the article, Lina Pavanelli, an anesthesiologist and political activist, says that her findings are not the result of firsthand knowledge of the clinical situation of the events and the patient — she had never paid a direct visit to Karol Wojtyla — but stem from an Internet news search and the reading of a recent book by the Pope’s personal physician, Renato Buzzonetti.
We can divide the article into two parts. In the first part the author furnishes a personal evaluation of the last weeks of John Paul II’s life based on the above-mentioned sources. This is a reconstruction that, at least in intention, should be technical and scientific. In the second part of the article this reconstruction becomes a point of departure for a kind of bioethical evaluation dealing with the issues surrounding end-of-life care and euthanasia.
We will attempt to show how, using the same research methods, it is possible to arrive at conclusions that are diametrically opposed to those of article under discussion. The thesis advanced by the libel can be summarized in the following way: Because the Pope’s Parkinson’s had caused him to have difficulty swallowing it would have been necessary to insert a nasal-gastric feeding tube and start artificial nutrition much earlier than had actually been done.
According to the author, who holds that any omissions on the part of the medical personnel who cared for the Pontiff were “improbable,” the delay in starting the artificial nutrition is to be imputed — as the only “plausible” hypothesis — to Pope Wojtyla himself, who, despite being “informed” and having “understood” “the gravity of the situation and the consequences of his decision,” is supposed to have “refused”; such a procedure was allegedly understood by the patient himself as “aggressive medical care.”
And yet this decision of the Pontiff to not be fed supposedly brought on the fatal crisis prematurely by weakening the defenses of the Pope’s immune system. The author has no doubts: “Karol Wojtyla would have been able to live for a long time, but he rejected this option.”
It is claimed that the naturalness of the Pope’s death was only an appearance, “sweetly false.” John Paul II was supposedly “sweetly accompanied along an easier route, toward a less dramatic end than he would have met.”
From this assertion and from various Church documents that indicate that hydration and artificial nutrition are normal and obligatory, the author goes on to accuse Catholics and the same Pope of inconsistency — it is probably not by chance that Matthew 7:3 is cited at the beginning.
According to Catholic moral teaching, in fact “when a patient consciously refuses life-saving treatment, his action, along with the compliance or omission of the physicians, must be considered as constituting euthanasia, or, more precisely, assisted suicide.” This is why, according to the author, there is no difference between the case of Piergiorgio Welby and the death of Karol Wojtyla: “The only difference is that [Welby] had breathing support removed at his request, whereas [Wojtyla] chose not to have support in the first place. Both patients died on account of their not having the necessary apparatus to keep them alive.”
We have multiplied the citations so as not to incur misunderstandings. From here we would offer an alternative analysis of the facts. In regard to the presumed delay in starting artificial nutrition through nasal-gastric feeding tubes, the author speaks of the necessity of this measure in “the last two months of [the Pope’s] life” — therefore, from the beginning of February, postulating a two-month delay in medical treatment, pointing to March 30 as the day in which the feeding apparatus was installed. The Holy Father was allegedly malnourished for almost two months, from the beginning of February to the end of March. And yet there are a number of elements that contradict such an assumption, some are related by the author herself.
On the evening of Feb. 1 the Pope was at dinner, thus, he was able to eat, but having difficulty breathing, he was hospitalized at Gemelli, where he remained until Feb. 10. On Feb. 3 the Vatican spokesman, Joaquín Navarro Valls, referring to the general condition of the Holy Father, adds that “he eats normally and alternative forms of nourishment have been excluded.”
This claim does not convince Pavanelli, who suspects that already at this time, contrary to the official statements, malnourishment had manifested itself, making the nasal-gastric feeding tube necessary. Pavanelli’s hypothesis is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the difficulty in swallowing in question often regards not only solid food but liquids and is accompanied by the danger of aspiration pneumonia. This would be a situation in which the positioning of a nasal-gastric feeding tube, even for preventative purposes, would have been necessarily urgent; the supposed refusal by the patient is incongruous with his later agreement to the more invasive tracheotomy procedure.
That the Pope’s nutritional problems need not have been grave can also be adduced from the fact that on Feb. 23, the eve of his last hospitalization, the Holy Father was at dinner, and from the Feb. 24 statement by the director of the Parkinson’s Center at the Milan Istituti Clinici di Perfezionamento, Gianni Pezzoli: The Pope “recovered very well after his first stay in the hospital.” Immediately following the tracheotomy, sources report him eating again — a caffe latte, 10 small cookies, a yogurt — it is hard to imagine a sudden recovery of the capacity to swallow after having lacked it for nearly a month.
So knowing the skill of the medical personnel at Gemelli and the long-established relationship of confidence between them and John Paul II, along with his absolute and total abandonment to the Mother of God, it is hard to imagine a negligence in vigilance in regard to symptoms of solid-food swallowing problems over the whole period of the Pope’s last hospital stay until March 13. Doctor Buzzonetti subsequently clarified that the Pope was outfitted with the nasal-gastric feeding tube from Monday of Holy Week, that is, March 21, and that during the Via Crucis [on Good Friday] the Pontiff was lying on his back precisely for this reason.
The presumed omission, then, would not regard a whole two months but, in the worst case, only eight days, an interval of time in which it is possible and likely that the doctors were waiting and watching in hopes of a possible improvement in the ability to swallow, an improvement which, when it did not present itself, it is possible that the medical personnel decided on the feeding tube. It is, moreover, difficult to understand how Pavanelli can infer the reduced efficaciousness of the tube from brief interruptions of a few minutes that occurred when the Pope appeared at the window of his Vatican apartments. I cannot but admire Pavanelli’s ability in two different articles to define the same removal and re-application of the tube first as “not at all risky,” “simple and not traumatic,”, and then as a torment.
But Pavanelli’s consideration of the concept of natural death in this context is even more stupefying, if this is possible. It is stupefying that she interprets Pope Benedict’s XVI’s expression “natural passing away” as a death without any modification to the natural course of the illness and not rather as a death that takes account of man, of his ontologically rational nature, respecting him, a death that takes place in the presence of reasonable care, or, more exactly, care that is proportionate to the situation.
On many points Pavanelli seems to want to advance the idea that trying from time to time to patch up the malfunctioning organs of a gravely sick organism, one can put off death almost indefinitely[5; 17], almost as if, with the nutritional problem being resolved, Pope Wojtyla would have certainly lived for a long time.
Unfortunately, the scientific literature teaches that after 10 years of sickness, despite all the modern medical helps available, patients suffering from Parkinson’s continue to have a mortality rate 350% greater than that of others the same age who do not have the disease.
In the end, the author’s position seems to be strongly influenced by a retrospective reading of the events, forgetting — at least this appears to be the case — that often in medicine the nature of the actions and omissions is revealed only by the time decreed by the consequences. It is a consideration that renders the difference between the Welby case and Pope Wojtyla’s evident. In the Welby case the consequences of disconnecting the patient from the ventilator were well-known — it was a consequence that was desired, wanted by the patient, and accepted by the physician.
In the Pope’s case honesty forces us to recognize that the theoretically possible, although improbable and undemonstrated, delay of some days in the start of artificial nutrition was dictated by contingent situations unknown to us, perhaps with a view to the opportune moment for the placement of a PEG tube (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy), or in the hope of the patient’s functional recovery.
This leads us to the, so to speak, bioethical interpretation that the author gives of the events, an interpretation that uses in an inappropriate way official texts of the Church and the magisterium together with the resolutions of authoritative bioethical consensuses and Catholic authors to argue that any omission of life-saving treatment must be considered as euthanasia and as such implicates the patient who voluntarily refuses such treatment along with the medical personnel who consent to his refusal. Such a perspective completely distorts the content itself of the documents of the Church, which always, along with the clear indications of general norms, take care to underscore the necessity of specifying the subject and the circumstances in the moral judgment of the actions to which conscience is called.
Furthermore, Doctor Pavanelli completely fails to consider the content of the agent’s intention. In a 1980 document titled “Iura et Bona,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith defines euthanasia as death procured “with the purpose of eliminating all suffering.”
As Pessina observes, there is a difference between a request for death and putting one’s life in the service of others through the category of “sacrifice.” If one is not able to see the difference between euthanasia and the conduct of John Paul II, then one is unable to see the difference between taking and giving. What we have here is a choice that unites those who, while they consider life a primary good, do not consider it the absolute good, who remember that “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), who have not refused Jesus’ example, but have followed it to the very end: “Totus tuus.”
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 Lina Pavanelli, “La dolce morte di Karol Wojtyla,” Micromega. May 2007: pp. 128-140.
 Ibid., p. 129.
 Ibid., p. 137.
 Ibid., p. 132.
 Ibid., p. 135.
 Ibid., p. 136.
 Ibid., p. 138.
 Ibid., p. 133.
 Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, “Una vita con Karol,” Rizzoli. 2007: p. 219.
 Lina Pavanelli, op. cit., p. 131.
 E. Alfonsi, et al., “La disfagia oro-faringea nelle sindromi parkinsoniane. Aspetti clinico-elettrofisiologici e terapeutici,” Oral presentation at the XXXIII National LIMPE Congress, Stresa. Nov. 15-27, 2006.
 Ibid. 9, p. 220.
 “Pope Breathing Well After Tracheotomy,” ZENIT. Feb. 23, 2005.
 Luigi Accattoli, “Quel sondino che nutriva Wojtyla,” in Corriere della Sera. Sept. 15, 2007.
 Lina Pavanelli, op. cit.
 Ibid. 1, p. 132.
 Ibid. 1, p. 134.
 Chen H, et al., “Survival of Parkinson’s Disease Patients in a Large Prospective Cohort of Male Health Professionals,” Mov Disord. July 21, 2006: Vol. 7:1002-7.
 “Papa, niente udienza del mercoledì e si parla di un nuovo intervento,” La Repubblica. March 29, 2005.
 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Iura et Bona,” (Declaration on Euthanasia). May 5, 1980.
 Adriano Pessina, “Eutanasia. Della morte e di altre cose,” Cantagalli. 2007: pp. 49-51.
 Ibid. 9, p. 221.
WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 11, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI’s Regensburg lecture not only pinpoints the heart of the current international situation, but also reality itself, says Father James Schall.
In the third and final part of this interview with ZENIT, Father Schall, a professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University, comments on what he says is one of the most important discourses of modern times.
Q: How do you see the Regensburg lecture in relation to John Paul II’s encyclical “Fides et Ratio”?
Father Schall: What Benedict XVI sees is the fundamental importance of “Fides et Ratio” on a world scale, not just with Islam, which was something new in John Paul II’s time.
John Paul II was rightly taken up with fascism, Marxism and the moral status of the West. John Paul did collaborate with Muslims in several U.N. conferences — Cairo, Beijing — especially about the family, in spite of the differences between Muslim and Christian views on what the family is.
“Fides et Ratio” is the consequence, as it were, of the other two stages of de-Hellenization in Western thought. The second step was with von Harnack who took the consequences of denying that Jesus was divine. He was just human, a nice man. He was a leader or prophet or voice, but he was not the God-man, not the incarnate “Logos.” Thus we did not need theology to understand him; rather, we need the social and historical sciences.
Benedict XVI, as he indicates in his book “Jesus of Nazareth,” is often concerned with the claim of scholarship to unearth the fundamentals of faith by science’s own methods alone. All it can unearth is what is known by the methods, so more and more fundamental things are left out as such scholarship claims priority.
“Fides et Ratio” is a long, incisive analysis of modern philosophy alongside of the question of what kind of philosophy will enable us to understand what is really revealed.
The very notion of a “Christian philosophy” arises from the need to understand in terms of reason just what was said in revelation. The use of a Greek word, not a scriptural word, at the Council of Nicaea, as the Pope said, indicated that under the pressure of understanding revelation, the philosophical experience could be fundamental.
Faith and philosophy are not in contradiction, but are related to grasp the whole of reality. Both are necessary. This is why pure Scripture is not enough even to understand Scripture’s own positions. As Chesterton remarked at the end of “Heretics,” it would be revelation, not reason, which, in the end, said that the grass is green, that reason in faith alone would affirm the ordinary things of reality that the modern philosophers could no longer comprehend.
Q: In your book, and in the Holy Father’s lecture, there is no effort to “turn back the clock” and deny the achievements of modernism. In what ways do you see an integration of the old and the new?
Father Schall: First of all the term “modernism” is generally meant to be a declaration of independence of modern thought from what is past, Greek or scholastic. However, thought in modernity more and more loses its moorings in an ordered reality.
As the Pope points out, the third de-Hellenization is what we call “multiculturalism,” a belief that there is no real truth in any culture so that there are no fundamental issues between civilizations or religions, only a kind of tolerance about truth’s impossibility.
Despite the claim that multicultural tolerance does not involve violence, its very system contains within itself a tradition within history that does claim that violence is in fact justified by voluntarist premises. In other words, on a purely multicultural theory, there is no reason why voluntarism is not a legitimate position as there is really nothing to oppose it except power.
The Pope repeats several times that he does not want to “go back,” but he does wish to distinguish what is good and what is not in modern thought and culture.
Rommen said that the natural law is perennial, that is, it keeps coming back when we reach positions within a culture that normal men of common sense can see clearly wrong. The objective standard keeps calling disorder and injustice to our attention. The Regensburg lecture is an intellectual challenge. This is why it is precisely an academic lecture and not an encyclical; it insists we face the truth and falsity in any culture on the basis of “logos,” of reason.
You will notice that the Pope brings in the notion of the fascination with mathematics that we found in Plato. He addresses the scientific mind directly and tells it that its discoveries are based on the fact that mathematics and its many sophistications work in reality. There must be a correspondence between principles of reality and principles of mathematics.
Why is there this correspondence if there is not a realistic philosophy to explain why? And if there is this correspondence, why is there not an ultimate mind that orders all things found with mathematics as well as with its own systems? Much current literature is based on the claims of a new kind of atheism, one that often lacks the intellectual rigor of more classic forms. The confidence of modern atheism does not face the strange correspondences between mind and reality that even science cannot avoid.
The problem with science is not only what it is, but what are we going to do with it? The classic Greeks were said to have known all sorts of inventions but chose not to pursue them because they understood the dangers they might entail for human living itself.
The Regensburg lecture gives science and technology their due by pointing out that they are not everything, but what they do is valid for a certain aspect of things. They can only explain what falls to their competence.
Philosophy, ethics, theology and poetry all reach to realities that are not direct objects of science, to things that are essentially spiritual and nonmaterial. The human intellect transcends its own being to be concerned with all that is.
We are bewildered if we think that science can explain everything, but this does not mean that what it cannot explain is therefore not explicable. It rather means that other insights and ways of knowing have their own validity.
The word of the Pope to science is not “don’t be scientific” in the proper sense. It is rather to stop limiting itself to only one concept of reason, a very narrow concept. This concept is good as far as it goes. But it is one that excludes by definition most of the important things men are concerned with.
The Regensburg lecture takes us to the heart not only of current events, but also to the heart of reality itself. Philosophy and revelation are not enemies of each other, but are directed at one another. The exaltation of man by revelation does not imply that he is not what he is created to be, a rational animal, one who does all he does by “logos,” by reason.
Man is the glory of God in the sense that God can address his word to him and he can know and comprehend because he is created with the power to know the truth of things. The moral and political life of man is designed to enable us to know what is addressed to us from reason and even, if it happens, from revelation.
What seems clear about the Regensburg lecture is that the best place to understand our times is in the heart of Rome itself. Here, in the native tongues of recent Popes, in Polish, or German, and, yes, Latin, they speak to us of what it means to be human, to be beings addressed by God in both reason and revelation.