No profession deserves our collective respect and gratitude more than the medical community and no one has more respect for medical doctors than I. Physicians are exceptionally bright, their training rigorous and their daily dedication to healing merits on-going recognition.
Although I have respect for the accomplishments of Miguel A. Faria M.D., an associate editor-in-chief of the Surgical Neurology International, and a published author, my respect fades when he, as well as Father Allan J. McDonald, pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church, recently wrote responses to Dr. William Cummings’ Sunday column.
It is clear both of these educated men find strength and comfort in their Catholic beliefs, which I trust make them more at ease in this confusing and dangerous world. They are Catholic true believers, and it has to be upsetting to have someone point out that church memberships are declining. For every person joining the Catholic Church, Cummings informs us, six people depart. Neither Faria nor McDonald disputes the fact of this decline. To the contrary, both men grudgingly acknowledge the truth in Cummings’ statements. McDonald puts the best spin on this dramatic loss of Catholics by referring to “mustard seeds” and “the cyclical history of the Catholic Church.”
Admittedly I do not fully understand McDonald’s “cyclical” reference, but let us hope this next cycle does not include a repeat of the Catholic Church’s multiple crusades in which Catholic soldiers killed thousands of Arabs, Jews and nonbelievers as they made their way across the Arab World and into Jerusalem, while the blood of Arab and Jewish men, women and children, flowed ankle deep. Nor, hopefully, does McDonald’s “cycle” include the systemic return of priestly pedophilia, homophobia or the church’s well-documented, painful history of anti-Semitism.
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Faria’s vision of civilization’s decline is far more alarming. He not only notes the Catholic Church’s decline but, given his view of the church’s “central role” in Western civilization, he foresees civilization itself collapsing. The disturbing dimensions of Faria’s vision reminds one of Hieronymus Bosch, the 15th century Dutch painter, who also predicted civilization’s destruction which he attributed in part to Adam and Eve, depicted in his famous painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights.”
Today’s world must be an extremely stressful time for Faria. His dark vision of the immediate future has become the impetus, I gather, for his definitive typology about which he lectures us as the only “three obvious choices.”
I am accustomed to members of the soft sciences (e.g.: sociology, psychology, political science and economics) regularly coming up with numerous typologies, most of which have little value except perhaps as heuristic tools. Faria’s three choice typology doesn’t even seem useful as a teaching mechanism. Faria’s methodology is to state a single fact. For example, “China’s economic might,” and then intuit from a plethora of spurious correlations, a series of “causal” breakdowns in Western civilization. His ideas may be creative and entertaining to some, but as a prognosticator of future international political events, Faria would be better served by remaining in his own medical field, editing his neurology journal where causal predictions are more easily ascertained.
What is most disturbing about the diatribes of both Faria and McDonald is they contain a lack of contravening facts to Cummings’ statements. Both men simply rely on the pathetic tactic of attempting to tarnish a good man’s reputation, regardless of the factual truth. If Faria and McDonald don’t like the message, then they shoot the messenger.
Faria’s references to Cummings as “gleeful” and “gloating,” and his reference to Cummings as “having the self-satisfaction of being a ‘modern day Voltaire,’” as well as McDonald’s claim that Cummings “is no pontiff” are merely red herrings. They serve as attempted distractions from the focus of the discussion. Both men resort to ridicule and name-calling because they cannot dispute the facts that run contrary to their own wishes.
I know Dr. Cummings very well. I know his entire lovely family. I am proud to say Cummings is a longtime friend. With other mutual friends, we gather regularly to discuss the issues of the day. I often disagree with him, but I continue to have tremendous respect for him. I know from numerous encounters, Cummings is as kind, thoughtful, humble, gentle and vibrant an intellectual force as any one I know. I find the pathetic attempts of Faria and McDonald to suggest otherwise in very poor taste.
In conclusion, I would offer a final observation to each man. To McDonald, who made a point of saying Cummings “is no pontiff,” I would first point out Cummings never claimed such a foolish title. I would also suggest I knew “Father” (now Monsignor) Cuddy. Father Cuddy was a friend of mine; and you, McDonald, are no Father Cuddy. I suggest you stop judging so harshly those with whom you disagree. Learn from your own pontiff, Pope Francis, who earned the world’s affection when he said: “Who am I to judge?” Try to give up your hubris, the arrogant belief you possess the “truth.” We have enough of those people already scattered around the world. Try to practice humbleness. You may even find a few more Catholics returning to the fold.
To Faria I ask: What was the purpose of your snide, gratuitous denigration of spending health-care dollars on octogenarians, noting “such dollars would be better spent on the young”? How generous of you. Are you suggesting Cummings, as an octogenarian, should die because you do not like his factual statements? Or are you generalizing all octogenarians should be denied health-care dollars? If that is the case, then may I ask why you focused only on octogenarians? How about denying health-care dollars to those in their 70s or perhaps even in their 60s? Why waste precious dollars on old people in general?
Admittedly you raise a serious ethical question which merits more dialogue and consideration by society, but I am more interested in knowing whether your flippant comments are a reflection of your Catholic piety, or merely your personal medical viewpoint.
Neil M. Cullinan is a resident of Macon.