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United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The 'grave evil' of assisted suicide

By Caitlin Thomas
 
In the Church's efforts to teach about the grave evil of assisted suicide and the threats it poses, we must use clear and vigorous language. And it is always, always important that we do so with love.
 
Assisted suicide is suicide. In the few states where it is legal, physicians willing to do so prescribe lethal drugs at the request of patients seeking the drugs to end their own lives. Proponents of assisted suicide use terms like "death with dignity" and "aid in dying." But these are misleading. They are the sickly-sweet phrases of a poisonous ideology that attacks our full dignity and worth as human beings.
 
These phrases go beyond word games and become flat-out contradictions carefully etched into law. In fact, every state law (and proposed bill) legalizing assisted suicide in this country follows Oregon's law, proclaiming, "the actions taken in accordance with [the law] shall not, for any purposes, constitute suicide [or] assisted suicide." So, according to the law itself, assisted suicide isn't assisted suicide? The only sensible response to this legal blustering must be something like this sentiment from a wise character in C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce: "Every disease that submits to a cure shall be cured: but we will not call blue yellow to please those who insist on having jaundice."
 
We should not be seduced by slippery language into ignoring hard truths. The dying process can be painful, messy, full of uncertainty and difficult questions—just like life. But there is death with authentic dignity: dying at peace with God and our loved ones. Dying or terminally ill persons deserve the best care we have to offer, including appropriate treatment of symptoms and pain relief. There is a way to face this process with peace, not by hastening death, but by experiencing the support and loving care that our society should offer to those preparing for death. Assisted suicide, on the other hand, hurts the individual and the entire human family, sending a message that some lives are "completed" or not as valuable as others. We should kill the pain, not the patient.
 
Truth always walks hand-in-hand with love. It is not enough to say, "suicide is bad." We must also say, "life is good"—especially when life is old, fragile, differently abled, so young and so small our eyes cannot see it, or of a different skin color or place of origin.
 
We should learn how to best love those who are close to death. We should pray for holy deaths for them and for ourselves, recognizing that Jesus brings us to new life with Him through His death and resurrection. We should pray for the grace to build a true culture of life. And we should affirm the goodness of life in all that we do and say.
 
Caitlin Thomas is a staff assistant for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To read the U.S. bishops' 2011 policy statement on assisted suicide and related resources, visit www.usccb.org/toliveeachday.
 
 
  • Published in World

U.S. Bishops encourage prayer, support in response to hurricanes

In the wake of two devastating hurricanes in just two weeks, the Executive Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released the following statement:

“With lives and livelihoods still at risk in Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands and throughout the Caribbean, we pray for the safety and care of human life in the wake of two catastrophic hurricanes. The massive scale of the dual disasters and the effect it has on communities, families and individuals cannot be fully comprehended or adequately addressed in the immediate aftermath of the storms.

At this time of initial recovery, we mourn the loss of life, homes and other property, and the harm to the natural environment, and we pray for all those affected and in need of assistance. We also pray for the safety of, and in thanksgiving for, the first responders who are risking their lives at this very moment in care for their neighbors, especially those who are elderly, sick, homeless, or otherwise already in need of special assistance.

We share Pope Francis’ trust that the Catholic faithful here in the United States will respond to the needs presented by these disasters with a ‘vast outpouring of solidarity and mutual aid in the best traditions of the nation.' We encourage the faithful to respond generously with prayers, financial support, and for those who have the opportunity, the volunteering of time and talents in support of those in need.”

More information on how you can help can be found on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Emergency Collections for Disaster and Crisis Relief webpage.
  • Published in Nation

U.S. Bishops Call for Solidarity, Conversion

In anticipation of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued a statement echoing Pope Francis’ call that all people, “Christians or not,…should be united in showing mercy to the earth as our common home.”  

The letter emphasizes the call to conversion and the role of mercy in caring for the environment, building on the Pope’s message last year. “Showing mercy to our common home first requires a personal and institutional examination of conscience,” said Bishops Dewane and Cantú.

The bishops recognized the need for collective action and restated their call for an “energy revolution,” stressing that we must especially “remember those who labor in the energy industry, from coal miners and solar engineers to legislators and scientists.”

The message also recognizes September 1 as the first day of the “Season of Creation,” which concludes on October 4 with the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. The bishops acknowledge that this “is a privileged time for all persons of faith to consider spiritual and corporal acts of mercy towards our common home and all those living in it, so that this may also become a ‘season of mercy’ within our families, our communities and our world.”  

Full text: Statement on World Day of Prayer for Creation

 
  • Published in Nation

Life Issues Forum: Of Strollers And Walkers

By Mary McClusky
 
The parents of a 3-month-old recently wrote to The Washington Post food critic's online chat to ask about dining etiquette in a city where many restaurants are inaccessible to strollers. 
 
The critic responded by complaining about "strollers the size of Zipcars," but then admitted he wasn't the parent of an infant and invited readers to discuss the topic. Reader comments varied and expanded the topic to include people who use walkers. The chat provided much food for thought on the many ways that we can welcome those whom others might consider burdensome while we are out and about at restaurants, churches, parks, on transportation and in public. Our loving welcome may help others soften their hearts and change attitudes toward families with young or elderly members.
 
The first commenter suggested that parents eat at off-peak hours to avoid "consternation" from fellow diners. As hard enough as it is to raise children in a city, are we now asking parents to eat dinner out with children only from 2 to 5 p.m.? Perhaps as fellow diners we could be patient and understanding and help when we see a parent struggling with a stroller or a temperamental child. Or suggest that a restaurant have a secure place to stow strollers and walkers.
 
Recall God's creation of each of us "in His image" (Gn 1:27), meaning that every one of us is made to be in loving relationship with others. Even the smallest community of love, sometimes as small as two people, mirrors the Divine Trinity. Members of a loving community patiently accommodate one another's needs.
 
My parish during high school displayed this loving acceptance each week as everyone kindly greeted my grandmother making her slow but steady way into church with her walker. On the other hand, I've been present at Mass when a priest stopped during a homily and asked a parent to take a slightly noisy child out of the church.
 
How we treat the defenseless and vulnerable among us not only impacts our salvation but also sends a powerful message to those around us. Our acceptance of others can bear witness to their very existence as God's gift. By our attentiveness and loving assistance, we proclaim that the person in front of us, no matter how young, frail or in need of assistance, is an unrepeatable and precious creation from God. And in turn, we grow in character and virtue each time we choose to sacrifice for another.
So, ask yourself, how accessible is my parish to strollers and wheelchairs? Could we install a wheelchair ramp or elevator to be more welcoming to the elderly or disabled? Is there a place to stow walkers or canes safely? Are there diaper-changing tables in women's and men's restrooms? Or accommodations for parents to participate in the Mass as much as possible if their children become distracting?
 
Perhaps I could smile understandingly when I see a mother and her crying child walking down the airplane aisle toward me, instead of silently praying that they're not seated next to me. Or learn to be more grateful for the gift of children and families being present in our celebration of the Eucharist.
 
Through better accommodations -- but more importantly, through open hearts and loving attitudes -- we can build up a culture that truly welcomes every life in all situations, even a situation as seemingly insignificant as accommodating stroller storage in a crowded restaurant.

Mary McClusky is assistant director for Project Rachel Ministry Development at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For confidential help after abortion, visit hopeafterabortion.com or esperanzaposaborto.com.
 

 
 
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