Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fr. Konrad Fuchs, 109

Working in a retirement community makes me read obits more than I once did. Or maybe it's just getting nearer the time for my own...

Father Konrad Fuchs, who has died aged 109, was reputedly the world's oldest living Roman Catholic priest; he was also the second oldest living German and one of only eight known remaining German veterans of the First World War.
At his 109th birthday celebrations, for which he said mass in the convent chapel where he spent his last years, Fuchs joked about his fragile start in life. "My mother told my father: 'Let's just give him your name — he's only going to die anyway'," he recalled. The baby was so tiny and frail his mother was convinced he could not survive.
Described by his parishioners as a down-to-earth, deeply religious clergyman, Fuchs cited as his great passions the liturgy, especially choral music. He took his motto from the Benedictines to whom he always felt a strong connection: "God is exalted in all things".

Noticed by Andrew Sullivan whose remarks on Mary Cheney's pregnancy resonate with more simple humanity than most comments I have read. Too, too many cheap shots for my taste.

...these statements, once you see them directed at an actual couple with an actual unborn child, are deeply, deeply hurtful. They violate what should be a joyous moment in any family's life. But perhaps they can therefore serve a greater purpose: to reveal quite how hurtful and callous the religious right can be.
An actual couple with an actual unborn child. I recall many years ago an unplanned teen pregnancy which was looked upon as a terrible misfortune by the grandmother-to-be. As the weeks and months passed this already pretty young woman became the absolute picture of glowing beauty that only an expectant mother can radiate. When she was taken to the hospital to be delivered, the expectation and word from both her and her mother was that the newborn would be released for adoption. Nobody was critical of this decision, but I didn't catch any supportive remarks either.

When word came that "B's decided to keep her baby!" there was a spontaneous outpouring of excitement, relief and approval by everyone who had been working with her, watching her belly grow during the preceding weeks. I never forgot the moment. It was a real baby with a real new mom. And it was less than seventy-two hours later that the new grandmother was just as enthusiastic and proud as everyone else. Only the meanest, most heartless observer can speak of adoption of a newborn unless the baby's future is truly threatened by by the circumstances of its birth.
Fr. Fuch's birth mother had no way to know he would live to be a centenarian. What sane person with even a shred of humanity dares to speak mean words aimed at an actual couple with an actual unborn child?

I am tempted to raise questions about the morality of in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, sperm or egg donation, the obligations of paternity, the myth of the "single parent family," the importance of both male and female role models in child development... and a string of other themes. But the actual fact of an actual new baby transcends all these questions and clarifies them for exactly what they are: academic discussions adding little or nothing to the prospects of a promising new life in the world.

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