As he lay dying

Bad news from Rome. The pope's urinary tract infection produced a fever that was serious enough that he was administered the last rites. This was, of course not the first time that he had been administered the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, and I went to bed last night with the happy news that he had stabilized. But then he took a dramatic turn for the worse. The AP is reporting that the Vatican is denying that the pope is in a coma. Given the curia's recent record of playing it straight about the pope's health, it makes sense to believe that there is no wool-pulling going on here. The gist of the report:

Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a previous statement that the pope suffered septic shock and heart failure Thursday afternoon.

"This morning, the condition of the Holy Father is very serious," he said.

However, he said the pope had participated in a 6 a.m. Mass Friday and that he was "conscious, lucid, and serene."

Per John Paul II's wishes, he is being attended to in the papal apartment by "his personal doctor, two intensive care doctors, a cardiologist, an ear, nose and throat specialist and two nurses."

If the initial diagnosis of heart failure (as opposed to a heart attack) holds up, then the pope is living on borrowed time. But then, in a certain sense, so are we all.

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