WASHINGTON, D.C., January 13, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – “In no way can any Catholic layman or cleric condone or support a decision to use assisted suicide,” a prominent moral theologian and Dominican priest told LifeSiteNews as the fate of doctor-prescribed death in the nation’s capital lies in the hands of Congress.
After the “Death with Dignity Act” passed the D.C. city council twice, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser quietly signed it into law just before Christmas on December 20. Her office didn’t comment on why she signed the bill authorizing doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medicine to patients they think have fewer than six months to live, nor did Bowser release a statement about it. Bowser is Catholic.
The House and Senate must vote against the law by February 16 in order to overturn it. Senator James Lankford, R-OK, and Congressman Brad Wenstrup, R-OH, have introduced companion resolutions of disapproval to overturn it.
“Suicide in any form violates both the natural instinct to survive and God’s revealed law that he is the Lord and Creator of life,” Father Thomas Petri, Vice President and Academic Dean of The Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies, told LifeSiteNews. “Therefore, suicide has always been considered not simply a grave evil but an intrinsic evil always and everywhere. No person who values salvation is ever permitted to choose suicide or help another commit suicide no matter what the circumstances are.”
“It is true that we commend the souls of those who commit suicide to the mercy of God as we recognize that people commit suicide for a number of psychological reasons that may inhibit their free choice,” Petri explained. “But to assume that God will be merciful, that God will understand one’s reasons for committing suicide, that he will easily excuse one’s suicide to avoid pain, suffering, and cost is the height of a presumption rooted in pride.”
In Canada, where the Supreme Court recently imposed assisted suicide on the country, Catholic bishops have sent mixed messages about the proper pastoral response. The Atlantic Canadian bishops, saying “Pope Francis is our model,” have said priests could give the Last Rites to euthanasia seekers. Other Canadian bishops have instructed their priests against giving the Last Rites to those planning death by suicide.
True ‘compassion’ means accompanying suffering, not ending life
Petri pointed to the prophetic warnings in Pope St. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae, when he warned “against a prideful culture that sees only achievement and success as the measure of life’s quality.”
“In such a culture, suffering is avoided at all costs and those who suffer or can’t contribute are treated as second-class citizens,” said Petri. “As the District continues to give in to such a culture of death which seeks to eliminate suffering at all costs, Catholics are all the more challenged to see themselves not only as dependent on each other and on Christ, but to see those who are dependent on them, those who suffer, as worthy of their love and care. Only when we recognize our own limitations and dependency will we also be able to accept those who suffer and are dependent in our lives and in our communities.”
Petri said the response Catholics must have to the imposition of assisted suicide on D.C. is to share with others a message that suffering is not meaningless.
Catholics must embrace “our Gospel mandate is to share the Good News with those who suffer in a spirit of accompaniment and compassion that helps them see the suffering Christ and his redemptive offering as united to their own suffering,” he said. “There is never a ready answer to the question of suffering, but we know that suffering is one the primary ways that God communicates with his people.”
“It has become increasingly clear in places where assisted suicide is regular practice that perceived legal protections prohibiting unwanted euthanasia are simply not effective. Too often patients can be pressured by clinicians, social workers, and even family to commit assisted suicide…That the leadership of the District, whose population includes a significant proportion of vulnerable groups, would approve this law demonstrates just how blinded by the culture of death they are,” said Petri.
Some lives ‘not worth living’?
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has said he will act to block the bill. Chaffetz is the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which may review and send D.C. laws to Congress for reconsideration. Lankford is the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, which has jurisdiction over the District of Columbia.
If such efforts fail, the assisted suicide law will take effect as early as next October.
“Congress needs to overturn the assisted suicide bill in D.C.,” Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told LifeSiteNews. “The D.C. assisted suicide bill threatens the lives of people who experience depression and those who have been made to feel that their life is not worth living.”
Arina O. Grossu, the Director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, told LifeSiteNews FRC is “deeply troubled” by the new law.
It sends a “chilling message that some lives are not worth living,” said Grossu. “This law endangers the most vulnerable people in our society, especially people who are sick, elderly, or disabled. FRC supports congressional use of its constitutional authority over the District to disapprove of this law that threatens people’s very lives. Our laws must protect the life and dignity of every person.”