Diocese of Raleigh Seminarian with terminal brain cancer responds to Brittany Maynard

Diocese of Raleigh Seminarian with terminal brain cancer responds to Brittany Maynard October 29, 2014

The Diocese of Raleigh writes:

Philip Johnson, a 30-year-old Catholic seminarian from the Diocese of Raleigh who has terminal brain cancer, has written an article responding to Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old woman who has publicly stated her plan to commit suicide due to the fact that she has a terminal brain cancer. Johnson is vocal about his disagreement that suicide would preserve one’s dignity in the face of a debilitating illness.

With frankness, he talks about the things he will possibly miss due to an early death and the toll his brain cancer will have on his body. Never-the-less, he is resolute that each person has a responsibility to live out each day to the fullest, and that each day is a gift from God that should never be snuffed out.

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  • Joseph

    I hope that his message to her will change her mind, but this is not exactly a private and personal decision of hers. She’s an activist. Even if she wanted to back out now, the movement she has attached herself to will convince her to continue on the path she’s on. At this point she views herself as a martyr for the cause. I feel terrible for her and her family. Of course, in twisted irony, for anti-theists or agnostics suicide is actually bravery. She’s going to have to be reached on a much more fundamental level and any message she receives will have to cut through the iron wall that has surely been constructed around her by the special interest groups whose altar she has elected to place herself onto for sacrifice. Imagine the damage it would do to those groups if she were to change her mind… I can’t see how they would allow it. Not only that, as we see with political action groups like those she’s aligned with, if she were to back off now they wouldn’t only abandon her, they’d start wishing her a painful death as they so often do their *traitors*. Very bad place to be indeed. My heart really does break for her.
    Oh, and the seminarian is truly brave to know what he has to confront and still be willing to confront it.

    • kenofken

      So Brittany Maynard must be a virtual prisoner of her own movement, but you don’t think the seminarian is motivated in any way by the pressures and expectations of his own side in this culture war battleground?

      I assume that both of them are full grown adults with their own agency. Johnson has a certain credibility to speak to her situation as he shares it, but it is not for anyone to tell another person how they must live or die.

      • Joseph

        Which is why I said that I “hope” she changes her mind and not that she “must” change her mind.
        You could certainly make the argument that the seminarian is also an ‘activist’ trapped by his own ‘movement’ as well. The only difference is that his ‘movement’ advocates life and hers advocates death.
        But I’m not sure if you’re disagreeing with the point I made. When you join a political movement and become a spokesperson for that movement, you reach a point where backing away or changing your mind becomes so damaging for that movement that those organising the movement will do anything to prevent you from doing so. If you do, they will tear you to pieces. Not to mention, her movement is a *popular* cultural movement. The priest’s position is counter-cultural. If the priest changed his mind and opted for assisted suicide, he would be largely be praised. If she changed her mind and chose not to kill herself, she would be going against popular culture which is cheerleading her suicide at the moment. It wouldn’t be pretty. She may have crossed the point of no return.

        • kenofken

          I don’t get where anyone is “cheerleading” her suicide. I support her right to die on her own terms, just as I support that of the seminarian. If it’s done according to her own will, if she decides at the last minute not to take the pills, I certainly won’t bear her any ill will. Nor would I get any special charge out of the priest opting for assisted suicide. It’s their journey, not mine or ours. I don’t think Maynard is too worried about what the Hemlock Society people or anyone else outside of her friends and family think. She’s facing her own imminent mortality. What are they gonna do, blacklist her from the Democratic ticket in 2016? You think she’s going to be scared of unpopularity on social media or something?

      • MarylandBill

        I think trying to argue that Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Maynard are in comparable positions ignores a fundamental fact. Not that I expect Mr. Johnson to change his mind, but the attention he might get from his letter is tiny compared to the attention Mrs. Maynard is receiving from the national media. If Mr. Johnson was to change his mind tomorrow, drop out of seminary and quietly move to Oregon, I doubt most people would even know (unless he did it very publicly). Nothing Mrs. Maynard can do regarding her decision can be private at this point; it will be national news either way. By making her public announcement, it seems very much like she burned her bridges behind her.

        • The Eh’theist

          It would be very convenient for the church for Mr. Johnson to go quietly if he changed his mind. I’m sure if he were to make a public announcement of his (hypothetical) change of mind, that his superiors would certainly “counsel” him, and if they couldn’t get him to recant, then he should at least consider “the good of the church” and not be public about it.

          It’s funny how all of the Catholic bloggers who were praising James Foley and talking of sainthood, suddenly couldn’t think of anything to write about him (with the exception of one blogger with a journalism background) when it became known he had converted to Islam in captivity. There’s spin among activists and in the church as well, so let’s not dwell on that.

          I can’t speak for everyone who accepts Ms. Maynard’s decision, but if she were to announce that she had reconsidered, and for “x” reason she had decided to keep living, I wouldn’t take it as a bad thing as it’s her life and up to her to determine its meaning.

          I’ve found it interesting that none of the Christians who’ve criticized her for deciding to end her life see any inconsistency in their worship of a savior for his decision to “lay down” his life, assisted by the Jews and Romans. You don’t call it assisted suicide, but that’s what it is, unless you are claiming that Jesus didn’t die by his own choice. Think on that for a while.

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            Yes, every man executed for a capital crime, unless he fights to the bitter end, is committing suicide.

            And folks object when I claim westerners are stupid by nature.

            • The Eh’theist

              Not sure where you got this conclusion. If you believe Jesus to be just a man who was the unfortunate victim of the authorities, then I agree it wasn’t suicide.

              However, if you believe as the Catholic church does that Jesus was god and planned to lay down his life from before the beginning of time, then you have in essence, suicide by cop (centurion to be more precise). To venerate his death while criticizing Ms. Maynard is at best inconsistent.

              I’m happy to hear that she is feeling better and is therefore considering postponing her decision. She’s made it clear she would like to live, and the fact that she gets to do so, and enjoy it is a wonderful thing.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        Awfully hypocritical to tell me how to live then, isn’t it? I’ll tell people how they should live and die all I please, thanks very much, you moral busybody!

  • MarylandBill

    I of course object to suicide in all forms. That being said, I particularly object to assisted suicide since it now shares the moral responsibility for the act with others. The doctor who prescribed the drug and the pharmacist who filled it at the very least and often family and friends as well.

    • Joseph

      As with abortion and the death penalty. Euthanasia is just another logical step. Just be prepared for an active eugenics program (one that isn’t veiled by abortion), which should be next on the list.

  • Marthe Lépine

    Maybe this is the correct time to ask a question: Personally, I can accept the idea of redemptive suffering – in theory at least since I have never suffered from a serious physical illness. But I have been wondering about the way to help non-religious people to understand this, since they could claim that it would be a form of masochism. It seems to me that without our faith and our relationship with Christ, suffering through a terminal illness would not make any sense. How can we explain the Christian point of view in that perspective?