Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Maribel Perez Vargas Still Needs Our Support

Those of us who prayed for and donated to Maribel Perez Vargas, the young Peruvian mother in need of a lung transplant, woke up this morning to the shocking news courtesy of the Washington Post (Faith complicates a young mother's life-or-death decision on lung transplant) that when the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center finally told her she was eligible for a transplant, Maribel initially declined. Maribel had become a Jehovah's Witness and no longer was willing to sign a paper saying that she would accept blood transfusions, which are forbidden by her new faith.

The article documents her struggle with the issue, her husband's anger, her family's anguished pleas, and ultimately Maribel's decision to go against the Jehovah's Witnesses and resume her path towards the lung transplant that she needs.

Many people reacted with anger to the article. How could Maribel do this after all we had done for her? How could she jeopardize her one chance at life? Why would she be so "stupid" (this word is frequently used in the comments on the Post article) as to follow a "cult" like the Jehovah's Witnesses with their rejection of standard medical science? Anyway, she is ungrateful and undocumented so she should just be sent back to Peru to die. This is the kind of racist vitriol that the article provoked.

It's time to take a deep breath. I have supported Maribel and prayed for her. I still support her and pray for her. She is still a frightened young mother who wants desperately to live for her family's sake. She did not lose the right to live when she became a Jehovah's Witness (the sect, however, is now shunning Maribel since she chose to agree to a transfusion, which should serve as ample warning to anyone who feels tempted to join it).

To Lorenzo, Maribel's husband, I want to say: Your anger is understandable but Maribel is still your wife and the mother of your children. Even if she has joined a different faith, your marital obligation to be with her in good times and bad doesn't end. I pray that you will stay with her through this roller-coaster ride, because that is what God wants from you. It may not be easy but if you stay with it, you will have no cause for regret later on, regardless of the outcome.

To Maribel: You have again chosen life and I hope and pray that you will continue to fight for your life with the help of God and all of us who support you. Have that transplant, the transfusions, and give yourself a chance to live. That is all God can ask of you and if, in spite of everything, He chooses to call you home to Himself, you will know that you did all you could do for your family on earth. God has not abandoned you and never will, regardless of whatever organized religion you choose to join.

Let's keep our hearts focused and compassionate during this season of Lent and not abandon Maribel because she did not turn out to be the "perfect" recipient of our charity. She is still a daughter of God and needs our support.

1 comment:

  1. I have to confess that I was one of these shocked supporters, when I read the article this morning. For some reason, the article about Maribel, came to me, not I to it, since I hardly ever buy any paper newspapers.
    I didn’t feel anger towards her; I felt dismay and sorrow, sadness and anger against the Jehovah's Witnesses for having gotten inside Maribel’s head and caused so much pain to her, her family and friends.
    I know that is difficult some time to understand and to know in depth what a certain passage of the Bible really means and in different Christian churches (I don’t like to use the word sect because in the Catholic Church some times is used in a demeaning way towards other Christians and let’s not forget that the Catholic Church was once considerate a sect within the fringes of the Roman Empire) there are different views and understandings o a same passage. The writers though, did not make it easy some times.
    I met people from some other Christian denominations who don’t eat seafood because of something that says in Leviticus. Others that believe that the world is 9000 years old, etc, but this view about blood transfusion that the Witnesses hold, is dangerous, inhuman and totally ignorant.
    It must be fought and warned against.

    The Post article mentioned that Maribel was impressed by the great knowledge of the scriptures that those Witnesses had when they visited her. And it seems to be true; those itinerant “predicadores” seem to have mastered scripture quoting and debating to a fine art, but I ask myself how come Maribel didn’t see first and foremost the love in action from those around her, including the proactive role that the Arlington Dioceses has taken on her behave and she choose to let herself be absorbed by the Witnesses’ dialectic?
    Perhaps –if I may play psychologist here- and presssume to get into Maribel’s mind, the Witnesses gave to Maribel one thing that the Catholics didn’t, and that is a reason and a validation to die.
    Even in her understandable desire to live and be with her family, Maribel’s fight is long and hard, and tiresome. Then here came the Witnesses with an interpretation of God’s scriptures that gave to her a God sanctioned reason to let go of all, stop fighting and to die. She took it.
    Until she truly realized in her heart the continuing love and support of all those around her.
    Then the Witnesses let go their “support” for her.

    Here lays the difference. Let’s not get so much hung up in theological debates and in certain views and interpretations. What counts is good will and love.
    The love of Christ beaming through out hearts. Relentlessly.

    Let's support unconditionally.