Compassion in medicineCompassion has a moral quality; it is not just a fine bedside manner or a capacity to have a physiological empathy with the patient... Every human experience is unique, especially the experience of illness. No one can fully experience another person's experience of illness. Nevertheless, if we are to arrive at a medical decision that fits as closely as possible a patient's experience, we must penetrate that unique experience to some degree. That's what compassion means. To feel something of what it is to be ill: not in general, not in society, not in one's family, but in this person here and now. Compassion becomes a moral requirement because a truly healing action requires some comprehension of what this illness means to this person. Objectivity required by medical science is a stepping back, which is absolutely necessary for the technical decision. But with compassion we step back into the patients experience in order to make a good, morally defensible decision.
Edmund D. Pellegrino
Toward a Reconstruction of Medical Morality
Jan. 21, 2012, at 9:27am
A discussion we had in our class on Courtship in the Christian Vision, made me go back to this great quote from Newman, which I found in Fergal McGrath’s Newman’s University: Idea and Reality (pp. 338 – 339). It is far too good an example of Newman’s personalist wisdom not to share it here.
I will not comment on the passage other than by fully agreeing with McGrath, who introduces it by saying that “lengthy as the passage is, it deserves quotation in full, as saying about all that is worth saying of the difficult and ever-recurring problem of combining liberty and discipline in adolescent education.”
It is assuredly a most delicate and difficult matter to manage youths, and those lay …
Jan. 19, 2012, at 9:23am
One of my New Year's resolutions was to publish at least three articles beyond the Personalist Project. One down, two to go.
It's short and incomplete in various ways, but it makes a point that is all too easily overlooked when Christian leaders teach about courtship: viz. that the love between a man and a woman is a gift and a mystery, not a creation of the will.
Jan. 18, 2012, at 8:00am
Editor’s note: What follows is the seventh of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of timeless truths.
Personalist philosophy can go astray in different ways; in the contemporary world it commonly goes astray by becoming too individualistic. This happens when I think of persons too much in terms of the rights with which each person is armed, and when I think of others mainly as potential intruders into my sphere of rights, so that I approach them with suspicion and mistrust. As an individualist of this kind, …continue reading
Jan. 16, 2012, at 8:07am
One day this past week, after morning Mass, a friend and fellow professor from Franciscan University of Steubenville casually remarked that this year (2012) marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II. I responded, “That’s horrible! Don’t tell me that!” He was a bit shocked until I told him it wasn’t Vatican II that was horrible, but the fact that I can remember it—first hand! I’ll turn 62 later this year. I didn’t want to be old enough to remember the 50th anniversary of anything!
I immediately had two other thoughts. First, in 2 more years we’ll be subjected worldwide to the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania. I still recall vividly my sister and me sitting …continue reading
Jan. 14, 2012, at 11:54am
According to the conventional wisdom, it is easy to love oneself and hard to love others, and it is easy to hate others but impossible to hate oneself. But I have in mind a certain self-hatred that afflicts almost everyone, and a certain self-love that is every bit as difficult as the most generous love of others. Pope Benedict was pointing to this natural self-hatred and this difficult self-love when he wrote: “Is it good that I exist? Is it good that anything at all exists? Is the world good? How many persons today would dare to affirm this question from the heart–to believe it is good that they exist? That is the source of the anxiety and despair that incessantly affect …continue reading
Jan. 13, 2012, at 11:24pm
Further Reflections after 35th Wedding Anniversary. When I first read Von Hildebrand’s Transformation in Christ at age 21, I was immediately struck by the title of Chapter 12: “Holy Patience.” The beauty and appropriateness of the conjunction of those two words have stayed with me ever since. Von Hildebrand unfolds in the chapter that impatience is a form of self-indulgence and is rooted in an illegitimate claim to sovereignty of the self. Patience, on the other hand, is opposed to all petulance and quarrelsomeness; it is also opposed to fickleness and inconstancy—e.g., if a task or goal seems to require commitment over a long period of time. True patience recognizes the sovereignty …continue reading
Jan. 12, 2012, at 1:02pm
Thanks to a Maggie Gallagher post at the Corner, I learn that the USCCB has issued an inter-faith letter calling for the promotion and protection of marriage. It's an important document. Here's the beginning.
The promotion and protection of marriage—the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife—is a matter of the common good and serves the wellbeing of the couple, of children, of civil society and all people. The meaning and value of marriage precedes and transcends any particular society, government, or religious community. It is a universal good and the foundational institution of all societies. It is bound up with the nature of the human person as male and female, and with …
Jan. 11, 2012, at 8:00am
Editor’s note: What follows is the sixth of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of timeless truths.
We live as persons by acting through ourselves in freedom: This is the aspect of Pope John Paul II's personalism that we examined in the last installment. John Paul also teaches that there is a law of freedom, which he calls the "truth about good." Though people are afraid that this law will interfere with their freedom, it is in fact the basis for living in freedom, as we shall try to show in the present …continue reading
Jan. 10, 2012, at 11:22am
Lately I've seen a lot of the term sanctimony. Over at Ricochet, a site dedicated to "center/right" conversation, I've been involved in a number of knock-down, drag-out debates about same sex marriage, wherein I am routinely dubbed "sanctimonious" for defending the permanent, pro-creative bond of a man and woman in marriage as indispensable to the common good.
The other day a facebook friend (Colin, how could you?) called Rick Santorum "a sanctimonious toad." I can't understand that. Is he deemed sanctimonious for defending life and marriage? I don't see him preening. To me his attitude toward his own family life is one of manifest gratitude, not smugness.
Is defending the …continue reading
Jan. 10, 2012, at 9:26am
Facebook friend, Patrick, links today a beautiful and moving reflection about growing older, by Fr. Patrick Hannon. It's funny and thoughtful and deeply human. Also personalistic. He writes about his fear of losing his memory, which he supposes would be like losing his self.
Memories allow me to believe — humbly, fervently — that I am in no small way important, that my little life has meaning, that I am part of a grand story, that I am an actor — leading, supporting or otherwise — on an impressive stage. Memories, these enduring imprints of faces and places and fragrances and melodies and textures and tastes, stand prepared to remind us that we are human persons, each of us with a …
Jan. 8, 2012, at 7:13pm
Fidelity, faithfulness, constancy—these words imply an entire worldview or personal orientation toward reality. In classical times, such words also implied strength and virtue, something to be celebrated. In modern times, unfortunately, fidelity is sometimes ridiculed, as if fruitlessly binding me to a reality which is no more, e.g., in Engelbert Humperdinck’s ‘60’s pop hit Release Me, wherein the crooner, pining for a divorce, sings “to waste our lives would be a sin, so release me and let me love again.”
However, Gabriel Marcel, in his chapter on “Obedience and Fidelity” in Homo Viator, as well is in a separate article on “Creative Fidelity” from the book of the same name, points out …continue reading
Jan. 6, 2012, at 12:28pm
In preparing for tonight's First Friday Reading Circle gathering, I came across a passage in Liturgy and Personality that strikes me as especially von Hildebrandian--that seems almost to capture the essence of his sense of human life: its "metaphysical situation", its vocation, its fulness. It is a passage about reverence:
Reverence is the mother of all virtues, of all religion. It is the foundation and the beginning because it enables our spirit to possess real knowledge, and primarily the knowledge of values. It is that fundamental attitude toward being in which on gives all being the opportunity to unfold itself in its specific nature, in which on eneither behaves as its master, nor …
Jan. 5, 2012, at 2:09pm
A few weeks ago, before the Christmas break, Katie put up a post about the personalist emphases in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's famous wedding sermon. Now that the break is over and some peace has returned to our home, I would like to draw attention to another great thought in that sermon, which has to do with the liberating and strengthening objectivity of marriage.
Nowadays marriage is frequently thought of simply as a mutual promise between two persons, a promise made in public (often before God) and confirmed in law. As such it is the outgrowth and natural fulfillment of a deep I-Thou relation between a man and a woman. It is the deliberate ratification, one might say, of that relation. And …continue reading
Jan. 4, 2012, at 8:00am
Editor’s note: What follows is the fifth of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of timeless truths.
Any philosopher who takes man seriously as person is sure to affirm the freedom of persons. There are, of course, no lack of philosophers who deny freedom, but none of them ever makes a point of saying that human beings are persons. Personhood and freedom are inseparable. In his personalism, Pope John Paul II has much to say about freedom, just as we would expect.
Acting Through Oneself
The first affirmation …
Jan. 2, 2012, at 9:11am
In an op-ed at NRO today, Rick Santorum lays out his basic philosophy, not just of governing, but of "life and reality."
Dec. 30, 2011, at 12:56pm
Besides the distinction Mircea Eliade makes between the religious and the secular man (see earlier post, Dec. 26), one can further distinguish between the genuinely religious man and the conventionally religious man. The latter follows religion more out of social habit or expectation rather than authentic faith and devotion.
John Henry Cardinal Newman calls this a distinction between vital religion and nominal religion. Soren Kierkegaard conveys the same idea with his distinction between a Christianity which is socially acceptable compared to Christianity as a “scandal,” as described in the Acts of the Apostles. We could perhaps capture the difference here in five points.…continue reading
Dec. 28, 2011, at 6:01pm
In his great work Homo Viator, Gabriel Marcel reflects on the problem of despair, the threat of meaninglessness and absurdity, and the stance of defiance against reality as we find it (and whomever is responsible for it). He discusses the philosophy of the atheistic absurdist Albert Camus in a chapter entitled “The Refusal of Salvation and the Exaltation of the Man of Absurdity.”
Marcel regards this kind of absurdist approach not so much as a real philosophy, or a solid position that can actually be defended, but rather as a “contagion” and an “infiltration by which evil can reach our very foundations.” But, if there are no rational foundations to such an attitude, how does …continue reading
Dec. 28, 2011, at 8:00am
Editor’s note: What follows is the fourth of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of timeless truths.
We know how dangerous it is to think of human beings in terms of general types or patterns. We think of someone as a typical Serb, a typical woman, a typical adolescent. If we think that this is all there is to them, that there is nothing else of significance about them besides being a typical this or that, then we lose sight of them as persons. We have only to consider the point of view of people who are …continue reading
Dec. 27, 2011, at 10:47am
Fr. Ian Ker, author of the definitive biography of Cardinal Newman, is out with one of G.K. Chesterton. John J. Miller has an audio interview with Fr. Ker at the Corner today. It's difficult to hear, but worthwhile if you turn the volume all the way up and concentrate.