Questionable Motives

March 22, 2011

Why are Priests for Life theological thugs?

First, who is Baby Joesph Maracchli and second, what’s the big deal about his medical care?

Joseph Maracchli, the son of Lebanese immigrants, was born on January 22, 2010, and his parents say they noticed he couldn’t eat or breathe properly and wouldn’t open his eyes or cry. The family, who lives in Windsor, Ontario on the Canada – United States border near Michigan, took him to a Michigan hospital in June 2010, where he was diagnosed with a metabolic brain disease, which the doctor said would make him developmentally delayed. Maracchli was treated and returned to normal after a month. However, in October 2010 he developed a fever and was breathing rapidly and was rushed to the emergency room and later transferred to the London Health Sciences Centre in London (LHSC), Ontario. The hospital said he was in a persistent vegetative state from which he would never recover. Maracchli’s family wanted the staff there to do a tracheotomy so that they could take him home and he could die in the care of his family instead of a hospital. Sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it?

What is not reported very widely is that the couple’s first child who suffered from the same condition did receive a tracheotomy, at the parents insistence, and died a horrific death at home. That child suffered from infection, followed by pneumonia and eventually choked to death… it just took six months of additional suffering for this to happen. The physicians were rightly concerned on behalf of the quality of life of their patient to do as the family asked.

Eight physicians at LSHC were unanimously of the opinion that Joseph had no hope of recovery, and there was no possible treatment that could reverse his condition. They quite rightly pointed out what was obvious that he would never get out of bed nor interact meaningfully with his environment. As responsible and caring medical professionals, the doctors sought a second opinion from colleagues in Toronto. The director of the critical care unit for Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto (a world class facility and recognized leader for pediatric medical care) there agreed that further treatment was futile. Joseph’s doctors therefore proposed removing the tube that was assisting his breathing. If he could breathe unaided, he would go home to be cared for by his parents. If not, he would be given medication to ensure that he did not suffer, and allowed to die. A Canadian Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the Canadian hospital, ordering the life support removed.

Enter our heroes, the Priests for Life, those celibate men of the cloth who (incredibly and without shame) think their religious beliefs equip them with the kind of god-soaked moral knowledge necessary to determine proper medical treatment over and above a team of highly trained and specialized medical professionals who actually care for children as their daily job. Let us keep in mind that there has never been a suffering life these meddling priests have not tried to prolong. The Terri Schiavo debacle immediately comes to mind.

Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University picks up the story:

Little Joseph Maraachli is a new poster boy for the “pro-life” movement. But what has happened to him should instead teach us what to do – and what not to do – if we are really serious about saving human lives. The 13-month-old from Canada, who has been having medical treatment for most of his short life, suffers from a severe neurodegenerative disease. He has difficulty breathing on his own. His head is small for his age and has not grown for three months. He has seizures. His pupils do not respond to light or follow a moving object. His movements are not purposeful.

Then Priests for Life, a Catholic -abortion and anti-euthanasia organization stepped in, chartering an air ambulance to fly Joseph from Canada to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, a Catholic hospital, in St. Louis, which will perform the operation the parents requested.

“We Rescued Baby Joseph!” says a page on the Priests for Life website. The organization’s director, the Rev. Frank Pavone, says he has been told that it could cost as much as $150,000 for Joseph’s stay in the pediatric intensive care unit. That doesn’t include the cost of the aircraft, which would have added thousands more to the bill. Priests for Life is, of course, asking its supporters to donate to pay these costs.

Here’s the irony. According to the most rigorous charity evaluation agency in the country,, you can save a child’s life for about $1,000. All you have to do is give the money to their top-rated charity, Village Reach, which delivers vaccines and other urgently needed medical supplies to rural areas in developing countries.

If Priests for Life were really serious about saving lives, instead of “rescuing” Joseph so he can live another few months lying in bed, unable to experience the normal joys of childhood, let alone become an adult, they could have used the money they have raised to save 150 lives – most of them children who would have gone on to live healthy, happy lives for 50 years or more.

We’ve seen such things happen before. In 2005 the anti-abortion movement put a huge effort, and large sums of money, into “saving” Terri Schiavo. In the end, after Congress had been recalled specifically to enable a federal court to hear the case, she was allowed to die. An autopsy showed her brain had been severely and irreversibly damaged.

We can obsess over Joseph and Terri – or we can make an honest effort to save the lives of countless children whose names we may never know. It is our choice.

But the Priests for Life don’t want to save lives in the sense of protecting the dignity of those who are already alive yet suffering; they want to prolong the biological functioning of a body regardless of the suffering… the younger the better and a fetus especially, even if it kills women to do so. Since becoming involved in the medical treatment of Baby Joseph, the Priests for Life have mobilized support from the likes of the Hope Network and the legions of catholics and christians who think these groups do god’s work. Now the medical staff at LSHC have been the recipients of the kind of faith-based love the anti-abortion crowd – championed as they are by Priests for Life – sends out to those who disagree with their beliefs: hate mail and death threats.

Oh, I can hear the faithful claiming loudly that those extremists don’t represent the mainstream religious.

But they do.

You see, Priests for Life and the anti-choice crowd are no different than the mainstream believers in that they don’t give a rat’s ass respecting your life;  they care only for life, which according to their beliefs belongs not to you but their god. And they will continue to act accordingly not to respect your rights and freedoms as an autonomous individual where dignity of personhood must reside, if the term ‘personal dignity’ is to have any personal meaning, but as god’s Stormtroopers out to protect what belongs to him. That’s why they’re theological thugs and are empowered by those who respect their beliefs about what god owns over and above respecting your personal dignity.


  1. Amen.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 22, 2011 @ 4:28 pm | Reply

  2. once again, you paint a poor portrait. issues surrounding death and dying are not easy to engage in a death-denying culture. my denomination in 2007 and 2009 the General Synod referred two Resolutions entitled The Legalization of Physician Aid In Dying and Physician Aid in Dying respectively, for further study. In response, a task force was convened by Justice and Witness Ministries (a UCC governing board).

    After much work, what emerged is this six-week guide, Faithfully Facing Dying: A Lenten Study Guide on Critical Issues and Decisions for the Members of the United Church of Christ which we have done twice, although not this year. It is offered as a resource for this delicate dialogue and intended to assist churches, associations and conferences, as they study the range of choices which surround their understanding of death and dying.

    so on this issue, we would agree. these priests are nutty and misguided and from a utilitarian ethical stance (which is what i’m reading in your post) this makes no sense at all. you’re correct on the outcome just not on how you get there.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 24, 2011 @ 4:23 pm | Reply

    • And are you making any progress – other than what you have said? Anything demonstrable? How is your initiative received by the rest of the church community?

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 25, 2011 @ 5:57 pm | Reply

    • “How is your initiative received by the rest of the church community?”

      not my initiative, but well received in this church. a letter writing campaign commenced, but our state gov is pretty screwy right now. we were educated about the issues facing people in certain situations and many personal opinions were changed, my own included. so in my mind, that’s a pretty massive shift and it will happen one church/community at a time who are brave enough to have these discussions in real time.

      Comment by zero1ghost — March 26, 2011 @ 4:26 pm | Reply

  3. Hey tildeb

    I just saw this and thought, if you havnt seen this you might like it. Enjoy.

    Comment by Titfortat — March 25, 2011 @ 10:36 am | Reply

    • Thanks, TfT. What’s not to love about Thunderf00t? Clear, concise, and rational as always.

      And I’m looking forward to May 22, 2011, to once again show the world that biblical prophesy has always been and shall continue to be wrong in fact.

      Comment by tildeb — March 25, 2011 @ 11:50 am | Reply

  4. And when the world doesn’t end on the 22 May 2011 – the same religious nutters will say “god changed his mind” or some other lame excuse.

    If there wasn’t so much evidence for the existence of the mental people who dream up this rubbish, and the others who believe it unquestionably, I wouldn’t believe they exist – these people are barking mad!

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 25, 2011 @ 6:06 pm | Reply

    • By far my favourite bit of nuttery is the creation of the seventh day adventist church, now in the top dozen denomination populations in the world! Barking mad doesn’t even begin to describe the mental gymnastics needed to attempt to justify the central tenets!

      Apparently god must forbid anyone of these self-deluded people to think that, hey, maybe I was wrong to believe in this foolishness!

      Comment by tildeb — March 25, 2011 @ 6:57 pm | Reply

  5. That reminds me of this “”

    Brilliant name for an event in history…

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 26, 2011 @ 3:17 am | Reply

  6. If Priests for Life were really serious about saving lives, instead of “rescuing” Joseph so he can live another few months lying in bed, unable to experience the normal joys of childhood, let alone become an adult, they could have used the money they have raised to save 150 lives – most of them children who would have gone on to live healthy, happy lives for 50 years or more.

    Will you please read and re-read this statement to yourself – UNBELIEVABLE

    Comment by 4amzgkids — April 5, 2011 @ 8:11 pm | Reply

  7. “Will you please read and re-read this statement to yourself – UNBELIEVABLE”

    Why what is wrong with it – Tildeb is right, these priests let up to 150 children die – just to get into the media, with some flashy false rescue – it is a disgusting example of psychological manipulation.

    It was totally unnecessary to disturb a sick child who was in the care of professional hospital staff – their abuse of children even extends to the death bad… fucking sick bastards!

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 6, 2011 @ 4:02 pm | Reply

  8. Hmmm…why am I not surprised ranter – you are full of hate – what is your true purpose in life anyway?

    Tildeb….why do I believe this story is one sided (as usual) for you? Please send me the link to this website – I cannot find it.

    Comment by 4amzgkids — April 6, 2011 @ 4:15 pm | Reply

  9. Blackwell called the McCain-Palin ticket the strongest pro-life team with a pro-life platform in the history of the Republican party. Coming from an anti-abortion zealot like Blackwell that s not faint praise..Not surprisingly the speakers thought Palin stacked up favorably against Joe Biden. In response to a question posed by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life said that Palin is a good Catholic and Biden is no Catholic at all Hes a Catholic whos contradicting one of the key tenants of Catholicism. For those who have had ambivalence or who have simply been unsure of how pro-life Senator McCain is and of course his voting record is very strong on pro-life now that ambivalence will certainly be counteracted by this VP selection said Pavone..McCain shouldn t take too much comfort in the heaps of praise from the far right because it cuts both ways.

    Comment by business review — April 19, 2011 @ 12:20 pm | Reply

  10. Some great posts here. Mind if I use your stormtroopers image for a post on my blog?

    Comment by myrthryn — March 31, 2012 @ 10:03 pm | Reply

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