Dr. Paul Byrne on Brain Death
With an Appendix of a Sermon given by Bishop Clemens von Galen, Munster, Germany, 1941
[Foreword from Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D: Readers will notice that I rarely use my academic title or the initial of my terminal degree in my articles. Indeed, I don't think that I've ever done this in any article on this site, perhaps doing so in some fund-raising letters now and again. Readers can find out the details of my academic background on th "About Christ or Chaos" page on this site. Some are "put off" by academic titles, finding them pretentious and pompous. The titles and credenitals do indeed mean nothing in eternity. As they represent one's training and competency in a given field of study, however, and one's participation in academic organizations, there are times when it is appropriate to use a title or to list the initials of one's terminal degree. This is one of those times.
[I was for many years a member of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, serving as chairman of its political science section from its founding and organizing annual "related group" meetings for the Society at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. We had a number of interesting panels, including one on Americanism in 2000, over the years. I also served as the Society's "second vice president" (sort of vice vice president, if you will), advising the senior officers now and again. Although it is well known that I have made my break from the structures of the counterfeit church of conciliarism, largely because of the denial of the Social Reign of Christ the King by the ethos of conciliarism, I do nevertheless have great respect for much of the scholarly work being done by our fellow Catholics in various professional organizations even as every fiber of my being disagrees entirely with any and all concessions made in the direction of conciliarism and/or any efforts to attempt to reconcile conciliciarism with Catholcism, whether concessions are made corporately by organizations or individually by their members.
[While not everything in these organizations is free of the taint of the influences of conciliarism and some of the work, as just mentioned, is to rejected completely, to be sure, there are certain individuals in certain fields who are doing exemplary work in defense of the Catholic Faith and in defense of moral truth. One would be a fool to ignore this work simply because it is undertaken and completed by people who have yet to realize that conciliarism and Catholicism are irreconcilable. As one who stayed in the structures of the false church for far too long but who was devoted to defending the Catholic Faith as best as I could with the tools available to me, I am not going to throw stones at those who have devoted their lives to the defense of the Faith and moral truth but who have not found their way clear to come to the proper conclusions about the state of the Church.
[To wit, excellent work has been and continues to be done in the field of Origins and Special Creation by Dr. Hugh Owen and the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, on whose advisory board I served for a few years, and by Father Brian Harrison, O.S., Dr. Robert Sungenis and by the members of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculata of New Bedford, Massachusetts. It should be noted as well that Father Thomas Eutenauer of Human Life International has written many interesting columns in defense of Faith and Morals. Much good work is done by Mrs. Judie Brown and the American Life League and STOPP (Stop Planned Parenthood). Mrs. Randy Engel has long championed the pro-life cause by means of the United States Coalition for Life and The Michael Fund, becoming also one of the foremost opponents of the rot of explicit classroom instruction in matters pertaining to the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, to say nothing of her exposing of the network of perverts within the conciliar hierarchy.
[To dismiss this work because it has been completed by Catholics who have not found their way to accept the fact that we are in the midst of apostasy and betrayal is to be myopic and Pharisaical. We can appreciate and even applaud this work no matter what those who are responsible for it think of us or the positions we have taken on the Mystical Passion and Death of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ at the hands of the conciliar apostates.
[It is with this prologue that I want to introduce an interview conducted by Mrs. Randy Engel, the founder and president of The Michael Fund, with Dr. Paul Byrne, a medical doctor who is an expert in "end-of-life" issues, for The Michael Fund Newsletter. Dr. Byrne is committed to presenting and defending Catholic truth, seeing through the anti-life agenda of the medical and legal communities that is supported in many instances by the full weight of state law (thank you, "states' rights," a subject that will be explored in-depth in an upcoming article, probably to be posted on the Feast of Saint Lucy, Thursday, December 13). There is much excellent work in authentic Catholic bioethics being done by Catholics across the ecclesiastical divide. This work is essential to study and to consider in light of the simple fact that there have been so many changes in medical technology over the past few decades that things which could once be classified as "extraordinary" in medical terms have become quite ordinary, cost-effective and without undue burden, whether financial or otherwise, upon patients and their families. Having a proper Catholic response to these developments and how to make the moral judgments related to them requires a thorough study of the work undertaken by such professions as Dr. Byrne, who is ready, willing and able to speak before any Catholic group anywhere in the nation.
[With this introduction, therefore, I hereby paste Mrs. Engel's interview with Dr. Byrne, appending thereafter a sermon given by the courageous Bishop of Munster, Germany, Count Clemens von Galen, in 1941 that spoke against Adolf Hitler's euthanasia policies that are already upon us in a de facto manner in American hospitals and hospices at the present time. I thank Mrs. Engel for giving me permission to format this interview for posting on this website.
[Please circulate this information widely. Thank you. Sincerely yours in Christ the King and Mary our Immaculate Queen, Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.]
Vital Organ Transplantation and “Brain Death”
A Re-Examination of the Basic Issues by Dr. Paul A. Byrne
Since the founding of the IFGR/MF in 1978, the Michael Fund Newsletter has covered many life-death issues, particularly those related to the field of genetics including eugenic abortion, prenatal diagnosis and genetic counseling. In this issue of our newsletter, we examine some important aspects of vital organ transplantation with the distinguished physician and pro-life advocate, Dr. Paul Byrne. Editor, Randy Engel
Editor: Dr. Byrne, how would you describe the body of a human being?
Dr. Byrne: A human person on earth is composed of body and soul. God creates the person. Biologically speaking, the body is composed of cells, tissues, organs and eleven systems, including three major vital systems. No one organ or system controls all other organs and systems. Interdependent functioning of organs and systems maintains unity, homeostasis, immune defenses, growth, healing and exchange with environment, e.g., oxygen and carbon dioxide. Life on earth is a continuum from its conception to its natural end. The natural end (true death) occurs when the soul separates from the body.
Editor: Most adults and children, even if they are not physicians, recognize signs of life, don’t they?
Dr. Byrne: Yes, of course. The vital signs of a living human being include temperature, pulse, blood pressure and respiration. Physicians, nurses and paramedics listen to the beating heart with a
stethoscope. Patients in intensive care units have monitors to demonstrate the beating heart, blood pressure, respiration and oxygen in the blood.
Editor: What about the signs of death?
Dr. Byrne: Throughout the ages, death has been and is a negative, an absence – the state of the body without life. The soul has left the body and decomposition has begun. After death what is left on earth is a corpse. The remains are empty, cold, blue, rigid and unresponsive to all stimuli. There is no heartbeat, pulse or blood pressure. The patient has stopped breathing. There is poor color of the skin, nails, and mucous membranes. Ventilation will not restore respiration in a corpse. A pacemaker can send a signal but it cannot initiate the heartbeat in the corpse. Healing never occurs in a patient that is truly dead.
Editor: When we speak of vital organs, what organs are we talking about?
Dr. Byrne: Vital organs (from the Latin vita, meaning life) include the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys and pancreas. In order to be suitable for transplant, they need to be removed from the donor before respiration and circulation cease. Otherwise, these organs are not suitable, since damage to the organs occurs within a brief time after circulation of blood with oxygen stops. Removing vital organs from a living person prior to cessation of circulation and respiration will cause the donor’s death.
Editor: Are there some vital organs which can be removed without causing the death of the donor?
Dr. Byrne: Yes. For example, one of two kidneys, a lobe of a liver, or a lobe of a lung. The donors must be informed that removal of these organs decreases function of the donor. Unpaired vital organs however, like the heart or whole liver, cannot be removed without killing the donor.
Editor: Since vital organs taken from a dead person are of no use, and taking the heart of a living person will kill that person, how is vital organ donation now possible?
Dr. Byrne: That’s where “brain death” comes in. Prior to 1968, a person was declared dead only when his or her breathing and heart stopped for a sufficient period of time. Declaring “brain death” made the heart and other vital organs suitable for transplantation. Vital organs must be taken from a living body; removing vital organs will cause death.
Editor: I still recall the announcement of the first official heart transplant by Dr. Christian Barnard in Cape Town, South Africa in 1967. How was it possible for surgeons to overcome the obvious legal, moral and ethical obstacles of harvesting vital organs for transplant from a living human being?
Dr. Byrne: By declaring “brain death” as death.
Editor: You mean by replacing the traditional criteria for declaring death with a new criterion known as “brain death”?
Dr. Byrne: Yes. In 1968, an ad hoc committee was formed at Harvard University in Boston for the purpose of redefining death so that vital organs could be taken from persons declared “brain dead,” but who in fact, were not dead. Note that “brain death” did not originate or develop by way of
application of the scientific method. The Harvard Committee did not determine if irreversible coma was an appropriate criterion for death. Rather, its mission was to see that it was established as a new criterion for death. In short, the report was made to fit the already arrived at conclusions.
Editor: Does this mean that a person who is in a cerebral coma or needs a ventilator to support breathing could be declared “brain dead”?
Dr. Byrne: Yes.
Editor: Even if his heart is pumping and the lungs are oxygenating blood?
Dr. Byrne: Yes. You see, vital organs need to be fresh and undamaged for transplantation. For example, once breathing and circulation ceases, in five minutes or less, the heart is so damaged that it is not suitable for transplantation. The sense of urgency is real. After all, who would want to receive a damaged heart?
Editor: Did the Harvard criterion of “brain death” lead to changes in state and federal laws?
Dr. Byrne: Indeed. Between 1968 and 1978, more than thirty different sets of criteria for “brain death” were adopted in the United States and elsewhere. Many more have been published since then. This means that a person can be declared "brain dead" by one set of criteria, but alive by another or perhaps all the others. Every set includes the apnea test. This involves taking the ventilator away for up to ten minutes to observe if the patient can demonstrate that he/she can breathe on his/her own. The patient always gets worse with this test. Seldom, if ever, is the patient or the relatives informed ahead of time what will happen during the test. If the patient does not breathe on his/her own, this becomes the signal not to stop the ventilator, but to continue the ventilator until the recipient/s is, or are, ready to receive the organs. After the organs are excised, the “donor” is truly dead.
Editor: What about the Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA)?
Dr. Byrne: According to the UDDA, death may be declared when a person has sustained either “irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions” or “irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.” Since then, all 50 states consider cessation of brain functioning as death.
Editor: How does the body of a truly dead person compare with the body of a person declared “brain dead”?
Dr. Byrne: The body of a truly dead person is characterized in terms of dissolution, destruction, disintegration and putrefaction. There is an absence of vital body functions and the destruction of the organs of the vital systems. As I have already noted, the dead body is cold, stiff and unresponsive to all stimuli.
Editor: What about the body of a human being declared to be “brain dead”?
Dr. Byrne: In this case, the body is warm and flexible. There is a beating heart, normal color, temperature, and blood pressure. Most functions continue, including digestion, excretion, and maintenance of fluid balance with normal urine output. There will often be a response to surgical incisions. Given a long enough period of observation, someone declared “brain dead” will show healing and growth, and will go through puberty if they are a child.
Editor: Dr. Byrne, you mentioned that “brain dead” people will often respond to surgical incisions. Is this referred to as “the Lazarus effect?”
Dr. Byrne: Yes. That is why during the excision of vital organs, doctors find the need to use anesthesia and paralyzing drugs to control muscle spasms, blood pressure and heart rate changes, and other bodily protective mechanisms common in living patients. In normal medical practice, a patient’s reaction to a surgical incision will indicate to the anesthesiologist that the anesthetic is too light. This increase in heart rate and blood pressure are reactions to pain. Anesthetics are used to take away pain. Anesthesiologists in Great Britain require the administration of anesthetic to take organs. A corpse does not feel pain.
Editor: I know that there have been instances where young pregnant women have sustained serious head injuries, declared “brain dead,” and have given birth to a live child.
Dr. Byrne: That is true. With careful management, these “brain dead” women have delivered a live baby. In the longest recorded instance, the child was carried for 107 days before delivery.
Editor: Are there other uses for “brain dead” patients besides being the source of fresh vital organs?
Dr. Byrne: Legally, “brain dead” patients are considered corpses or cadavers, and are called such by organ retrieval networks. These “corpses” can be used for teaching purposes and to try out new medical procedures. Yet these same “corpses” are carrying unborn children to successful delivery. Certainly this is extraordinary behavior by a “cadaver!”
Editor: What if a potential organ donor does not meet the criteria for “brain death,” but has sustained certain injuries or has an illness suggesting that death will soon occur?
Dr. Byrne: Such cases have brought about the development of a what is called “non heart-beating donation” (NHBD), more recently labeled “donation by cardiac death” (DCD)–in which treatments considered extraordinary means, such as mechanical ventilation, are discontinued and cause the patient to become pulseless. As soon as circulation stops, death is declared.
Editor: Then what?
Dr. Byrne: This stopping of life supporting treatments is done in the operating room. After a few minutes–the time varies in different institutions–procedures to take vital organs begins.
Editor: But how can this be accomplished if the person declared to be dead, is truly dead?
Dr. Byrne: It can’t.
Editor: What about insurance coverage for “brain dead” patients?
Dr. Byrne: Hospitals allow them to occupy a bed and insurance companies cover expenses as they do for other living patients. If the patients’ organs are suitable for transplantation, any transfer of the patients to another hospital is covered by insurance. Insurance also covers the cost of life support, blood transfusions, antibiotics and other medications needed to maintain organs in a healthy state. This also applies to “brain dead” patients to be used in medical teaching facilities.
Editor: I know that the federal government has taken an active role in promoting so-called “living wills.” Has it also played a role in promoting vital organ donations?
Dr. Byrne: The federal government has, for reasons that are unclear, been deeply involved in promoting vital organ transplantation. For example, a federal mandate issued in 1998 states that physicians, nurses, chaplains, and other health care workers may not speak to a family of a potential organ donor without first obtaining approval from the regional organ retrieval system. If the potential for transplantation exists, a trained “designated requester” visits with the family of the patient first, including families that adamantly oppose organ donation. If someone at the hospital speaks to the family of the patient first, the hospital risks losing its accreditation and possibly federal funding.
Editor: Why the “designated requester”?
Dr. Byrne: That’s because studies show that these specialists have a greater success obtaining permission for organ donations from grieving family members. They are trained to “sell” the concept of organ donation, using emotionally-laden phrases such as “giving the gift of life,” “your loved one’s heart will live on in someone else,” and other similar platitudes, all empty of true meaning. Don’t forget that the donation and transplant industry is a multi- billion dollar enterprise. In 1996, Forbes Magazine ran an informative series on this issue, but as a rule it is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain solid financial data. One thing, however, is clear: donor families do not receive any monetary benefit from their “gift of life.”
Editor: There appears to be a strong utilitarian aspect to vital organ transplantation.
Dr. Byrne: That is because the philosophy that inspires the practice is based on the error that man is an end to himself, and the sole maker with supreme control of his own destiny. Slavery bought, sold and treated enslaved persons as chattel. The human transplantation industry and the “bioethics” groups that promote vital organ transplantation also consider human beings to be chattel, that is, they can be used as a source of organs for transplantation. This utilitarian ethic should be rejected. “Brain death” and all forms of imposed death are contrary to the Natural Moral Order and against God’s Ordinance “Thou shall not kill.”
Editor: It is obvious that organ donation is a very serious matter – literally a matter of life and death for the potential donor and the family of a potential donor, and that everyone ought to be implicitly and explicitly informed about the true nature of so-called “brain death” and vital organ transplantation.
Would you review for our readers some of the questions they should ask themselves before signing an organ donor card or giving permission for a loved one to be declared “brain dead” in anticipation of organ transplantation?
Dr. Byrne: If there is any question in the mind of your readers as to the fact that “brain death” is not true death, perhaps they may want to ask themselves the following questions regarding “brain death” and vital organ transplantation:
· Why can health insurance cover intensive care costs on “bread dead” patients?
· Why do “brain dead” patients often receive intravenous fluids, antibiotics, ventilator care, and other life support measures?
· Is it right and just for physicians and “designated requesters” to tell families that their “bread-dead” loved one is dead when she or he is not dead?
· How can “brain dead” patients have normal body functions, including vital signs, if they are really dead?
· How can a “brain-dead” pregnant mother deliver a normal, healthy infant?
· Why does a ventilator work on someone declared “brain dead,” but not on a corpse?
· Why is it wrong to carry out the burial or cremation of a “brain-dead” person?
· Are persons who have been declared “brain dead” truly dead?
· If “brain-dead” persons are not truly dead, are they alive?
Editor: Thank you on behalf of The Michael Fund for providing this valuable information to our readership?
Dr. Byrne: Thank you for this opportunity to inform your readers about this vital issue of vital organ transplantation. If they don’t remember every thing that I have said, I hope that they will remember this one point: “brain death” is not true death. Instead of signing a donor organ card, I would encourage everyone to obtain a Life Support Directive. A free copy of this document is available from Citizens
United Resisting Euthanasia at: firstname.lastname@example.org or write C.U.R.E, 303 Truman Street, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411.
Dr. Paul A. Byrne is a neonatologist and a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics. He is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and past-President of the Catholic Medical Association. He is the producer of the film Continuum of Life and the author of Life, Life Support and Death, Beyond Brain Death, and Brain Death is Not Death. Dr. Byrne has presented testimony on life-death issues to eight state legislatures beginning in 1967. He opposed Dr. Jack Kevorkian on the television program Crossfire. and has appeared on Good Morning America and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The International Foundation for Genetic Research, popularly known as The Michael Fund, is a U.S.-based pro-life genetic research agency specializing in Down syndrome research. Please visit us at www.michaelfund.org.
Sermon by the Bishop of Munster, Clemens August Count von Galen,
on Sunday 3rd August 1941 in St. Lambert's Church, Munster
To my regret I have to inform you that during the past week the Gestapo has continued its campaign of annihilation against the Catholic orders On Wednesday 30th July they occupied the administrative centre of the province of the Sisters of Our Lade in Muhlhausen (Kentpen district). which formerly belonged to the diocese of Munster and declared the convent to be dissolved. Most of the nuns many of whom come from our diocese, were evicted and required to leave the district that very day. On Thursday 31st July. according to reliable accounts, the monastery of the missionary brothers of Hiltrup in Hamm was also occupied and confiscated by the Gestapo and the monks were evicted
Already on 13th July, referring to the expulsion of the Jesuits and the missionary sisters of St Clare from Munster, did I publicly make the following statement in this same church: none of the occupants of these convents is accused of any offence or crime, none has been brought before a court, none has been found guilty. I hear that rumours are now being spread in Munster that after all these religious, in particular the Jesuits, have been accused, or even convicted, of criminal offences, and indeed of treason. I declare: These are base slanders of German citizens, our brothers and sisters, which we will not tolerate I have already lodged a criminal charge with the Chief Prosecutor against a fellow who went so far as to make such allegations in front of witnesses.
I express the expectation that the man will be brought swiftly to account and that our courts of justice still have the courage to punish slanderers who seek to destroy the honour of innocent German citizens whose property has already been taken from them. I call on all my listeners, indeed on all decent fellow-citizens, who in future hear accusations made against the religious expelled from Munster to get the name and address of the person making the accusations and of any witnesses.
I hope that there are still men in Munster who have the courage to play their part in securing the judicial examination of such accusations. which poison the national community of our people coming forward with their person, their name and if necessary their oath I ask them. if such accusations against the religious are made in their presence, to report them at once to their parish priest or to the Episcopal Vicariate-General and have them recorded. I owe it to the honour of our religious orders, the honour of our Catholic Church and also the honour of our German people and our city of Munster to report such cases to the state prosecution service so that the facts may be established by a court and base slanderers of our religious punished.
(After the Gospel reading for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost: “And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it . . .”, Luke 19.41-47).
My dear diocesans!
It is a deeply moving event that we read of in the Gospel for today. Jesus weeps! The Son of God weeps! A man who weeps is suffering pain — pain either of the body or of the heart. Jesus did not suffer in the body; and yet he wept. How great must have been the sorrow of soul, the heartfelt pain of this most courageous of men to make him weep! Why did he weep? He wept for Jerusalem, for God's holy city that was so dear to him, the capital of his people. He wept for its inhabitants, his fellow-countrymen, because they refused to recognise the only thing that could avert the judgment foreseen by his omniscience and determined in advance by his divine justice: “If thou hadst known . . . the things which belong unto thy peace!" Why do the inhabitants of Jerusalem not know it? Not long before Jesus had given voice to it: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!" (Luke 13,34).
Ye would not. I, your King, your God, I would. But ye would not! How safe, how sheltered is the chicken under the hen's wing: she warms it, she feeds it, she defends it. In the same way I desired to protect you, to keep you, to defend you against any ill. I would, but ye would not!
That is why Jesus weeps: that is why that strong man weeps; that is why God weeps. For the folly, the injustice, the crime of not being willing . And for the evil to which that gives rise — which his omniscience sees coming. which his justice must impose — if man sets his unwillingness against God's commands, in opposition to the admonitions of conscience, and all the loving invitations of the divine Friend, the best of Fathers: “If thou hadst known, in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But then wouldst not!.: It is something terrible, something incredibly wrong and fatal. when man sets his will against God's will. I would) than wouldst not! It is therefore that Jesus weeps for Jerusalem.
Dearly beloved Christians! The joint pastoral letter of the German bishops, which was read in all Catholic churches in Germany on 26 June 1941, includes the following words.
“It is true that in Catholic ethics there are certain positive commandments which cease to be obligatory if their observance would be attended by unduly great difficulties; but there are also sacred obligations of conscience from which no one can release us; which we must carry out even if it should cost us our life. Never, under any circumstances, may a man, save in war or in legitimate self-defence, kill an innocent person.”
I had occasion on 6th July to add the followings comments on this passage in the joint pastoral letter:
“For some months we have been heating reports that inmates of establishments for the care of the mentally ill who have been ill for a long period and perhaps appear incurable have been forcibly removed from these establishments on orders from Berlin. Regularly the relatives receive soon afterwards an intimation that the patient is dead, that the patient's body has been cremated and that they can collect the ashes. There is a general suspicion, verging on certainty. that these numerous unexpected deaths of the mentally ill do not occur naturally but are intentionally brought about in accordance with the doctrine that it is legitimate to destroy a so-called “worthless life” — in other words to kill innocent men and women, if it is thought that their lives are of no further value to the people and the state. A terrible doctrine which seeks to justify the murder of innocent people, which legitimises the violent killing of disabled persons who are no longer capable of work, of cripples, the incurably ill and the aged and infirm!”
I am reliably informed that in hospitals and homes in the province of Westphalia lists are being prepared of inmates who are classified as “unproductive members of the national community” and are to be removed from these establishments and shortly thereafter killed. The first party of patients left the mental hospital at Marienthal, near Munster, in the course of this week.
German men and women! Article 211 of the German Penal Code is still in force, in these terms: “Whoever kills a man of deliberate intent is guilty of murder and punishable with death”. No doubt in order to protect those who kill with intent these poor men and women, members of our families, from this punishment laid down by law, the patients who have been selected for killing are removed from their home area to some distant place. Some illness or other is then given as the cause of death. Since the body is immediately cremated, the relatives and the criminal police are unable to establish whether the patient had in fact been ill or what the cause of death actually was. I have been assured, however, that in the Ministry of the Interior and the office of the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Conti, no secret is made of the fact that indeed a large number of mentally ill persons in Germany have already been killed with intent and that this will continue.
Article 139 of the Penal Code provides that “anyone who has knowledge of an intention to commit a crime against the life of any person . . . and fails to inform the authorities or the person whose life is threatened in due time . . . commits a punishable offence”. When I learned of the intention to remove patients from Marienthal I reported the matter on 28th July to the State Prosecutor of Munster Provincial Court and to the Munster chief of police by registered letter, in the following terms:
“According to information I have received it is planned in the course of this week (the date has been mentioned as 31st July) to move a large number of inmates of the provincial hospital at Marienthal, classified as ‘unproductive members of the national community’, to the mental hospital at Eichberg, where, as is generally believed to have happened in the case of patients removed from other establishments, they are to be killed with intent. Since such action is not only contrary to the divine and the natural moral law but under article 211 of the German Penal Code ranks as murder and attracts the death penalty, I hereby report the matter in accordance with my obligation under article 139 of the Penal Code and request that steps should at once be taken to protect the patients concerned by proceedings against the authorities planning their removal and murder, and that I may be informed of the action taken".
I have received no information of any action by the State Prosecutor or the police.
I had already written on 26th July to the Westphalian provincial authorities, who are responsible for the running of the mental hospital and for the patients entrusted to them for care and for cure, protesting in the strongest terms. It had no effect. The first transport of the innocent victims under sentence of death has left Marienthal. And I am now told that 800 patients have already been removed from the hospital at Warstein.
We must expect, therefore, that the poor defenceless patients are, sooner or later, going to be killed. Why? Not because they have committed any offence justifying their death, not because, for example, they have attacked a nurse or attendant, who would be entitled in legitimate selfdefence to meet violence with violence. In such a case the use of violence leading to death is permitted and may be called for, as it is in the case of killing an armed enemy.
No: these unfortunate patients are to die, not for some such reason as this but because in the judgment of some official body, on the decision of some committee, they have become “unworthy to live,” because they are classed as “unproductive members of the national community”.
The judgment is that they can no longer produce any goods: they are like an old piece of machinery which no longer works, like an old horse which has become incurably lame, like a cow which no longer gives any milk. What happens to an old piece of machinery? It is thrown on the scrap heap. What happens to a lame horse, an unproductive cow?
I will not pursue the comparison to the end — so fearful is its appropriateness and its illuminating power.
But we are not here concerned with pieces of machinery; we are not dealing with horses and cows, whose sole function is to serve mankind, to produce goods for mankind. They may be broken up; they may be slaughtered when they no longer perform this function.
No: We are concerned with men and women, our fellow creatures, our brothers and sisters! Poor human beings, ill human beings, they are unproductive, if you will. But does that mean that they have lost the right to live? Have you, have I, the right to live only so long as we are productive, so long as we are recognised by others as productive?
If the principle that men is entitled to kill his unproductive fellow-man is established and applied, then woe betide all of us when we become aged and infirm! If it is legitimate to kill unproductive members of the community, woe betide the disabled who have sacrificed their health or their limbs in the productive process! If unproductive men and women can be disposed of by violent means, woe betide our brave soldiers who return home with major disabilities as cripples, as invalids! If it is once admitted that men have the right to kill “unproductive” fellow-men — even though it is at present applied only to poor and defenceless mentally ill patients — then the way is open for the murder of all unproductive men and women: the incurably ill, the handicapped who are unable to work, those disabled in industry or war. The way is open, indeed, for the murder of all of us when we become old and infirm and therefore unproductive. Then it will require only a secret order to be issued that the procedure which has been tried and tested with the mentally ill should be extended to other “unproductive” persons, that it should also be applied to those suffering from incurable tuberculosis, the aged and infirm, persons disabled in industry, soldiers with disabling injuries!
Then no man will be safe: some committee or other will be able to put him on the list of “unproductive” persons, who in their judgment have become “unworthy to live”. And there will be no police to protect him, no court to avenge his murder and bring his murderers to justice.
Who could then have any confidence in a doctor? He might report a patient as unproductive and then be given instructions to kill him! It does not bear thinking of, the moral depravity, the universal mistrust which will spread even in the bosom of the family, if this terrible doctrine is tolerated, accepted and put into practice. Woe betide mankind, woe betide our German people, if the divine commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”, which the Lord proclaimed on Sinai amid thunder and lightning, which God our Creator wrote into man's conscience from the beginning, if this commandment is not merely violated but the violation is tolerated and remains unpunished!
I will give you an example of what is happening. One of the patients in Marienthal was a man of 55, a farmer from a country parish in the Münster region — I could give you his name — who has suffered for some years from mental disturbance and was therefore admitted to Marienthal hospital. He was not mentally ill in the full sense: he could receive visits and was always happy, when his relatives came to see him. Only a fortnight ago he was visited by his wife and one of his sons, a soldier on home leave from the front. The son is much attached to his father, and the parting was a sad one: no one can tell, whether the soldier will return and see his father again, since he may fall in battle for his country. The son, the soldier, will certainly never again see his father on earth, for he has since then been put on the list of the “unproductive”. A relative, who wanted to visit the father this week in Marienthal, was turned away with the information that the patient had been transferred elsewhere on the instructions of the Council of State for National Defence. No information could be given about where he had been sent, but the relatives would be informed within a few days. What information will they be given? The same as in other cases of the kind? That the man has died, that his body has been cremated, that the ashes will be handed over on payment of a fee? Then the soldier, risking his life in the field for his fellow-countrymen, will not see his father again on earth, because fellow-countrymen at home have killed him.
The facts I have stated are firmly established. I can give the names of the patient, his wife and his son the soldier, and the place where they live.
“Thou shalt not kill!” God wrote this commandment in the conscience of man long before any penal code laid down the penalty for murder, long before there was any prosecutor or any court to investigate and avenge a murder. Cain, who killed his brother Abel, was a murderer long before there were any states or any courts of law. And he confessed his deed, driven by his accusing conscience: “My punishment is greater than I can bear . . . and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me the murderer shall slay me” (Genesis 4,13-14).
“Thou shalt not kill!” This commandment from God, who alone has power to decide on life or death, was written in the hearts of men from the beginning, long before God gave the children of Israel on Mount Sinai his moral code in those lapidary sentences inscribed on stone which are recorded for us in Holy Scripture and which as children we learned by heart in the catechism.
“I am the Lord thy God!” Thus begins this immutable law. “Thou shalt have not other gods before me.” God — the only God, transcendent, almighty, omniscient, infinitely holy and just, our Creator and future Judge — has given us these commandments. Out of love for us he wrote these commandments in our heart and proclaimed them to us. For they meet the need of our God-created nature; they are the indispensable norms for all rational, godly, redeeming and holy individual and community life. With these commandments God, our Father, seeks to gather us, His children, as the hen gathers her chickens under her wings. If we follow these commands, these invitations, this call from God, then we shall be guarded and protected and preserved from harm, defended against threatening death and destruction like the chickens under the hen's wings.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Is this to come about again in our country of Germany, in our province of Westphalia, in our city of Münster? How far are the divine commandments now obeyed in Germany, how far are they obeyed here in our community?
The eighth commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not lie.” How often is it shamelessly and publicly broken!
The seventh commandment: “Thou shalt not steal”. Whose possessions are now secure since the arbitrary and ruthless confiscation of the property of our brothers and sisters, members of Catholic orders? Whose property is protected, if this illegally confiscated property is not returned?
The sixth commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Think of the instructions and assurances on free sexual intercourse and unmarried motherhood in the notorious Open Letter by Rudolf Hess, who has disappeared since, which was published in all the newspapers. And how much shameless and disreputable conduct of this kind do we read about and observe and experience in our city of Munster! To what shamelessness in dress have our young people been forced to get accustomed to — the preparation for future adultery! For modesty, the bulwark of chastity, is about to be destroyed.
And now the fifth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill”, is set aside and broken under the eyes of the authorities whose function it should be to protect the rule of law and human life, when men presume to kill innocent fellow-men with intent merely because they are “unproductive”, because they can no longer produce any goods.
And how do matters stand with the observance of the fourth commandment, which enjoins us to honour and obey our parents and those in authority over us? The status and authority of parents is already much undermined and is increasingly shaken by all the obligations imposed on children against the will of their parents. Can anyone believe that sincere respect and conscientious obedience to the state authorities can be maintained when men continue to violate the commandments of the supreme authority, the Commandments of God, when they even combat and seek to stamp out faith in the only true transcendent God, the Lord of heaven and earth?
The observance of the first three commandments has in reality for many years been largely suspended among the public in Germany and in Münster. By how many people are Sundays and feast days profaned and withheld from the service of God! How the name of God is abused, dishonoured and blasphemed!
And the first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” In place of the only true eternal God men set up their own idols at will and worship them: Nature, or the state, or the people, or the race. And how many are there whose God, in Paul's word, “is their belly” (Philippians 3:19) — their own well — being, to which they sacrifice all else, even honour and conscience — the pleasures of the senses, the lust for money, the lust for power! In accordance with all this men may indeed seek to arrogate to themselves divine attributes, to make themselves lords over the life and death of their fellow-men.
When Jesus came near to Jerusalem and beheld the city he wept over it, saying: “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the day shall come upon thee, that thine enemies . . . shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” Looking with his bodily eyes, Jesus saw only the walls and towers of the city of Jerusalem, but the divine omniscience looked deeper and saw how matters stood within the city and its inhabitants: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings — and ye would not!" That is the great sorrow that oppresses Jesus's heart, that brings tears to his eyes. I wanted to act for your good, but ye would not!
Jesus saw how sinful, how terrible, how criminal, how disastrous this unwillingness is. Little man, that frail creature, sets his created will against the will of God! Jerusalem and its inhabitants, His chosen and favoured people, set their will against God's will! Foolishly and criminally, they defy the will of God! And so Jesus weeps over the heinous sin and the inevitable punishment. God is not mocked!
Christians of Munster! Did the Son of God in his omniscience in that day see only Jerusalem and its people? Did he weep only over Jerusalem? Is the people of Israel the only people whom God has encompassed and protected with a father's care and mother's love, has drawn to Himself? Is it the only people that wou1d not ? The only one that rejected God's truth, that threw off God's law and so condemned itself to ruin?
Did Jesus, the omniscient God, also see in that day our German people, our land of Westphalia, our region of Munster, the Lower Rhineland? Did he also weep over us? Over Munster?
For a thousand years he has instructed our forefathers and us in his truth, guided us with his law, nourished us with his grace, gathered us together as the hen gathers her chickens under her wings. Did the omniscient Son of God see in that day that in our time he must also pronounce this judgment on us: “Ye would not: see, your house will be laid waste!” How terrible that would be!
My Christians! I hope there is still time; but then indeed it is high time: That we may realise, in this our day, the things that belong unto our peace! That we may realise what alone can save us, can preserve us from the divine judgment: that we should take, without reservation, the divine commandments as the guiding rule of our lives and act in sober earnest according to the words: “Rather die than sin”.
That in prayer and sincere penitence we should beg that God's forgiveness and mercy may descend upon us, upon our city, our country and our beloved German people.
But with those who continue to provoke God's judgment, who blaspheme our faith, who scorn God's commandments, who make common cause with those who alienate our young people from Christianity, who rob and banish our religious, who bring about the death of innocent men and women, our brothers and sisters — with all those we will avoid any confidential relationship, we will keep ourselves and our families out of reach of their influence, lest we become infected with their godless ways of thinking and acting, lest we become partakers in their guilt and thus liable to the judgment which a just God must and will inflict on all those who, like the ungrateful city of Jerusalem, do not will what God wills.
O God, make us all know, in this our day, before it is too late, the things which belong to our peace!
O most Sacred Heart of Jesus, grieved to tears at the blindness and iniquities of men, help us through Thy grace, that we may always strive after that which is pleasing to Thee and renounce that which displeases Thee, that we may remain in Thy love and find peace for our souls!
Viva Cristo Rey!
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.
Our Lady of Loreto, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.