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Dear catholic.com visitors: This website from Catholic Answers, with all its many resources, is the world's largest source of explanations for Catholic beliefs and practices. A fully independent, lay-run, 501(c)(3) ministry that receives no funding from the institutional Church, we rely entirely on the generosity of everyday people like you to keep this website going with trustworthy , fresh, and relevant content. If everyone visiting this month gave just $1, catholic.com would be fully funded for an entire year. Do you find catholic.com helpful? Please make a gift today. Thank you. Wishing you a blessed Lenten season.

Wave the Death Flags!

Cy Kellett

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, is taking his turn on the hot seat for a speech he gave that seemed to say the Catholic Church could live with laws and judicial rulings that permit suicide and euthanasia.  

I found the speech in Italian, and Google was kind enough to translate it for me. And I’m going to tell you something you’re not going to like: It was a really good speech by a clearly brilliant mind. I learned things from it. How often does that happen in a short speech? 

That said, it was also one of the most senseless things I have ever read. 

What kind of leader thinks that when people are dying all around you, your society is collapsing, and you hold one of the highest positions of authority in both the Church and the pro-life movement, it makes sense to move off the big, pro-life themes and instead raise obscure hypotheticals about how the Catholic Church could accommodate itself, if it had to, to some leakage around the edges of the culture of death? 

I’m trying to think of an analogy. 

Maybe something like this: a bridge collapses. A highway worker has been given a yellow vest and two red flags. His is an important position. He could wave the flags vigorously to warn people not to drive off, but he gets into a debate with the people standing nearby about how we shouldn’t really blame the engineers and builders of the bridge. We should accompany them, engage with them in a mutually enriching dialogue. 

Look, dude, I’m all for accompaniment and enrichment, but wave the freaking flags. That’s your job. Do your job. 

Archbishop Paglia has been given a job that comes with a yellow vest and a pair of red flags. It is simply not his job to muse publicly about obscure possibilities as if he were some college professor.  

You got the yellow. You got the flags. Wave the flags. 

Here’s my bias: I am convinced the Church is plagued with good, often brilliant, men who have risen to the very top without, apparently, gaining any insight into their moment.  They engage and accompany and enrich—all well and good—but fail to teach, to lead, to proclaim.  

They seem to think that their job is to form committees and put out documents. They love long processes and listening sessions. They seem to think that their job is anything but the job of speaking in bold primary-colored-language to a lost age.   

They sometimes give wonderful speeches full of erudition and genuine insight. 

And those speeches are worse than useless because they confuse rather than clarify in an age when every Catholic bishop should be getting on his knees begging for help in being so radiantly clear it hurts. 

Dude, wave the flags!

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