Fr. Mario Salvadori, left, and members of the St. Joseph the Worker parish met with Conservative MP Peter Kent, front left, to express their concerns about assisted suicide. Photo by Jean Ko Din

Thornhill parish raises concerns about euthanasia legislation to MP

  • April 26, 2016

THORNHILL, ONT. – A suburban Toronto parish community is not sitting idly by as assisted suicide makes its way to becoming the law of the land.

On April 25, Fr. Mario Salvadori of St. Joseph the Worker parish visited the Thornhill office of Conservative MP Peter Kent to deliver more than 1,800 letters from concerned parishioners demanding Kent present their concerns in Parliament.

“The hope is that it’ll provide public attention to the issue and to the fact that Catholics aren’t just sitting on their hands hoping that something will happen,” said Salvadori. “That’s not the right attitude.”

Physician-assisted suicide is set to be enshrined in law. In mid-April, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-14 and the legislation has to be in place by June 6 to comply with the Supreme Court’s Carter decision.

Last month, Salvadori challenged his 3,000 parishioners to speak out more aggressively against physician-assisted death. In a Lenten homily, he opened up the discussion as a congregation.

“We’re talking murder after all, so we’re talking a commandment. It’s not a suggestion. If you’re going to take it as a suggestion, don’t take Communion.”

Since that Mass in March, letters have been pouring in to the parish office. Other parishioners have also been writing e-mails and making phone calls to Kent’s office.

Cathy Ferlisi, parishioner and York Catholic District School Board trustee, took Salvadori’s challenge one step further. She presented a motion that moved unanimously to encourage the same action within York Region schools.

Parishioners Gina Spataro and Aura McCluskey also met with Kent to share their own testimonies. Spataro has overcome many health challenges because of her dwarfism. McCluskey was diagnosed with breast cancer at 28. Both admit that at the most vulnerable points in their lives, they would have taken advantage of physician-assisted death.

“They told me that I was in the lowest percentile of living past 10 years,” said McCluskey. “Even during the chemotherapy and the radiation, every person in the community was trying to keep me alive, I just wanted to die and I actually attempted suicide twice.”

Salvadori said having Spataro and McCluskey meet with Kent was the most important part of the meeting. They are both active, contributing members of the parish and have overcome their suffering and turned their journey into a symbol of hope for those around them.

“My voice is my voice and I’m the priest and they know exactly what I’m going to say,” said Salvadori. “It’s when you meet people like this that really gets you thinking, ‘What are we doing? We are going to be killing people like this.’ ”

Kent said the St. Joseph’s community is the largest of many delegations that have reached out to his office about this issue.

“There has been pretty broad communications from different faith communities across the riding,” said Kent. “There has been representation as well from those who support the Supreme Court decision, but I think everyone, whatever their thoughts on physician-assisted death, everyone is concerned about protecting the most vulnerable.”

As the June 6 deadline approaches, Kent said he, along with his party, is determined to address significant concerns with the legislation, including protecting physicians’ conscience rights and supporting palliative care programs.

For St. Joseph’s parish, Salvadori said the next step is to appeal to Cardinal Thomas Collins.

“I think the cardinal has a unique position in that he can rally the other religious leaders,” said Salvadori.

“If they rally as a group of religious heads and present their position together, it would be much more powerful.”

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