CNS photo/Lawrence Looi, EPA

On a rescue mission

  • March 17, 2016

Writing and speaking out against euthanasia is a blessing. There is something bracing about standing up for the truth.

Rolling back this tide of death has always been a long shot but, in my view, that is not the most important part of this battle. Doing what is right trumps victory. That is the lesson of the martyrs. It is important to show Canadians that Catholics have something important to say and we’re not afraid to be heard.

The recent attack on euthanasia by Cardinal Thomas Collins was thrilling to hear and I am sure moved many hearts. But the overall experience of trying to build resistance against killing has been bitter. There are things that should worry all Catholics who are true to their faith — things that transcend this one issue.

An Angus Reid Forum poll conducted last year found roughly 80 per cent of Canadians support legalized euthanasia. More troubling, 22 per cent of church-going Catholics “strongly approved” of euthanasia while 46 per cent moderately approved. Only 30 per cent moderately or strongly disapproved. By comparison, 63 per cent of Evangelical Protestants moderately or strongly disapproved of euthanasia.

To see that many Catholics are out of touch with their faith is no surprise. This has been apparent in other issues. But I thought euthanasia would be different. The legalization of it in Canada will mean a full embrace of a culture of death. Anyone with a whit of curiosity has only to read about events in Holland and Belgium to absorb the full horror of state-sanctioned killing. It echoes Nazi Germany, where euthanasia was a way to eliminate those born “defective” or deemed no longer useful.

I have my own view on why so many Catholics accept what the Church calls an unmitigated evil.

First, some simply don’t care what the Church teaches. They have shown this on a number of issues. They think euthanasia is an individual choice and no one has the right to get in the way. The dominant secularist-atheist culture has infected most everyone and Catholics are not immune.

Second, many of the 46 per cent who claim to moderately support euthanasia may simply be buying into the lie that religion has no place in the greater marketplace of ideas. They may even believe euthanasia is immoral but conclude that Catholics should not tell the rest of the country how to act. They lack the faith to believe our faith has something to teach the world.

So what does this mean for the future? Euthanasia will likely be legal by June. That’s terrible to acknowledge but we must face the reality or we’ll miss an opportunity to reduce the harm euthanasia will bring.
I do not mean that we should help the government create a nice euthanasia law. That is co-operation with evil and, to believe what the Church teaches, is a grave sin.

From the 44 talks I have done over two years on this topic, and from feedback from articles I have written, I’ve learned that Catholics who oppose euthanasia are more firm in their position than the majority who approve of it. The opponents are on the side of the angels, while those who support state-sanctioned killing seem grounded in fear and doubt and influenced by secular propaganda.

It’s our duty to evangelize to our Catholic brothers and sisters so they will accept Church teaching. Call it an urgent rescue mission. Vatican II taught that the laity has a great role to play in the life of the Church. If ever there was a time to exercise that role it is now. For everyone we convince that euthanasia is evil a life might be saved.

The debate shows the need for ongoing catechesis. Education about what it means to be Catholic is lacking. There is something perverse about approaching the Eucharist in the belief killing the weak and sick is okay.

The faithful laity, with the support of priests, bishops and even Pope Francis, are called to revitalize those who think the purpose of faith is to satisfy selfish desires. Otherwise our place in society will shrink, not because of secularists but due to our own ignorance and lack of true faith. And any influence for good we may have on society will be gone.

(Lewis is a freelance writer and former religion editor at the National Post.)

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