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September 26, 2014 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. What do you know about the Concordant Literal Version of the Bible? — G.P., Florida.
A. It is published by the Concordant Publishing Concern in Almont, Mich., which describes itself as “a nondenominational, nonprofit association founded in 1909 for the purpose of disseminating the facts and truths of the ancient manuscripts of the Scriptures.” The company’s website says that “the Concordant Version presents God’s Word in a most useful form. It is a literal translation, seeking to carry over the original text through a consistent ‘concordant’ English vocabulary. The type is large and readable, with boldface representing the actual English translation of the original Greek and lightface showing English words added for idiomatic clarity or to reflect grammatical significance.”
The website says that “A.E. Knoch devoted a lifetime to the development of a concordant (i.e., harmonious and practically consistent) translation of the Scriptures, one that was as accurate and literal as the constraints of idiom and good diction would permit. The Concordant Version employs a method of translation that takes into account the superhuman perfection of the scriptural writings, even to the minutest detail (Matt. 5:18). Though the Version includes many technical features, ones which can be of great value to the advanced student, its greatest benefit accrues even to the ordinary reader whenever it is simply read, carefully and thoughtfully, whether in devotional reading or study.”
They say that “our literal equivalents and controlled idioms are . . . serious efforts to guard against bias, to avoid religious cant or jargon, and to have respect for the two cultural worlds in which the reader and the translator are involved. Any Version should reproduce the original, not reflect the religious milieu of the translator. The reader has a right to know what God says, exactly, accurately, literally.”
Here is the Concordant Version of Luke 1:26:38 (compare this with either the New American Bible translation or that of the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition):
“Now in the sixth month, the messenger Gabriel was dispatched from God to a city of Galilee, which is named Nazareth, to a virgin, espoused to man whose name is Joseph, of the house and kindred of David. And the name of the virgin is Miriam. And, entering to her, the messenger said, ‘Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you, you blessed among women!’ Now she, perceiving it, was agitated at his word, and she reasoned what manner of salutation this may be.
“And the messenger said to her, ‘Fear not, Miriam, for you found favor with God. And lo! You shall be conceiving and be pregnant and be bringing forth a Son, and you shall be calling His name Jesus. He shall be great, and the Son of the Most High shall He be called. And the Lord God shall be giving Him the throne of David, His father, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for the eons. And of His kingdom there shall be no consummation.’
“Yet Miriam said to the messenger, ‘How shall this be, since I know not a man?’ And answering, the messenger said to her, ‘Holy Spirit shall be coming on you, and the power of the Most High shall be overshadowing you, wherefore also the holy One who is being generated shall be called the Son of God. And lo! Elizabeth, your relative, she also has conceived a son in her decrepitude, and this is the sixth month with her who is called barren, seeing that it will not be impossible with God to fulfill His every declaration.’
“Now Miriam said, ‘Lo! the slave of the Lord! May it come to be with me according to your declaration!’ And the messenger came away from her.”

Q. In the past you have written about end-of-life issues and the importance of having some kind of advanced medical directive. What do you know about a new directive known as Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)? — C.C., New York.
A. In a book we published some years ago (Catholicism & Ethics), we discussed two kinds of advanced medical directives: the Living Will and the Durable Power of Attorney/Health Care Proxy. We ruled out the Living Will, which is a legal document that recognizes the right of a competent adult to give written instructions to physicians, hospitals, and other medical care providers regarding the use or withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures or treatments. The problems with this document, apart from the fact that it originated with the pro-euthanasia movement, were fourfold:
1) It is difficult to give informed consent in a general fashion for a medical situation that may occur some time in the future.
2) The language of such documents is often vague and ambiguous. Phrases such as “extraordinary means,” “terminally ill,” “heroic measures,” and “reasonable expectation” are open to varying interpretations and can change with time and with individual patients.
3) A person who signed a Living Will ten years ago could change his mind when the anticipated medical crisis arrives and opt for treatments he once spurned. But can he change his mind, or is the document he signed ten years earlier legally binding on the doctor?
4) There is also the question of whether it is wise to let life-and-death decisions be made on the basis of what was written on a piece of paper years before.
A health-care proxy, on the other hand, spells out a person’s wishes regarding life-sustaining procedures, but instead of being governed by a piece of paper, the person designates a trustworthy family member or friend, with sound moral values, to act as his agent or proxy if he is not competent to make medical decisions himself. The proxy is legally and morally bound to carry out the patient’s wishes, and the person ought to have made those wishes very clear to his agent.
He should also designate an alternate proxy in case the first choice is not available, and he should put the document into the hands of doctors, family members, and friends who would ensure that the directives are followed.
Now what about POLST? According to Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk of the National Catholic Bioethics Center (www.ncbcenter.org) in Philadelphia, there are several moral concerns with this instrument (cf. his column in the September 12, 2014 Boston Pilot):
1) “POLST forms may end up skewed toward options of non-treatment and may encourage premature withdrawal of treatments from patients who can still benefit from them.”
2) Filling out a POLST form “may preclude a proxy from exercising his or her power to protect the rights of the patient since the form sets in motion actual medical orders that a medical professional must follow. . . . Many POLST forms begin with language like this: ‘First follow these orders, then contact physician or health-care provider’.”
3) “In some states, the signature of the patient (or his or her proxy) is not required on the POLST. After the form has been filled out, it is typically forwarded to a physician (or in some states to a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant) who is expected to sign the form. Thus, in some states, a POLST form could conceivably be placed into a person’s medical record without the patient’s knowledge or informed consent.”
4) “The implementation of a POLST form can thus be used to manipulate patients when they are sick and vulnerable, and can even lead to mandated orders for non-treatment in a way that constitutes euthanasia.”
Fr. Pacholczyk concluded by saying that “the POLST template represents a fundamentally flawed approach to end-of-life planning, relying at its core on potentially inappropriate medical orders and dubious approaches to obtaining patient consent.”
He recommended that patients decline to answer questions from a POLST facilitator and “let it be known that they instead plan to rely on their proxy for end-of-life decision-making, and intend to discuss their health-care options uniquely with their attending physician.”

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