St. John Paul II — seen here in his final public appearance three days before he died — showed us true dignity as he faced death nine years ago. CNS photo

The misguided ‘mercy’ of euthanasia

By  Fr. Thomas Rosica
  • August 10, 2014

The mainstream media has caused great confusion about the topic of euthanasia and has been extremely deceptive in its portrayal of human suffering and compassion.

Most people who believe euthanasia and assisted suicide should be legal are not thinking the issue through. They are weighing personal autonomy and choice, or imagining what it would be like to be incapacitated and forced into a life they consider undignified or worthless, or perhaps seeing severely disabled people as having no quality of life.

Dignity and quality of life don’t come from what we can or cannot do. They are not matters of efficiency, proficiency and productivity. They come from a deeper place — from who we are and how we relate to each other.

The mere notion that euthanasia and assisted suicide could become a Canadian reality should be a wake-up call to Canadians, not just because all life is sacred from conception to natural death, but because of the people such a law would most affect: the chronically ill who are a strain on the healthcare system; the elderly who have been abandoned, have no one to speak for them and who feel they are a burden; and the disabled who fight every day to maintain their integrity and dignity.

Society has lost sight of the sacred nature of human life. When people today speak about a “good death,” they usually refer to an attempt to control the end of one’s life, even through physicianassisted suicide or euthanasia. The Christian notion of a good death, however, is death not as a good end, but a good transition that requires faith, readiness and acceptance.

St. John Paul II taught us how to respect the frail and the vulnerable. Nine years ago, he showed us true dignity in the face of death. Rather than hide his infirmities, as most public figures do, he let the world see what he endured in the final phase of his life. He offered a paradoxical image of happiness.

We must never lose sight of atrocities against the unborn and the too-seldom-spoken pain and anguish experienced by those involved in abortions. Nor can we ignore society’s next great challenge — resolving the serious question of euthanasia, or mercy killing as it is sometimes called. It is no longer an abstract or theory. It has arrived on our shores and it has invaded our lives.

This issue goes to the very core of who we are and what we believe. Euthanasia is a false and misguided mercy. True compassion leads to sharing another’s pain, not killing the person whose suffering we cannot bear. The true test of a Christian society is to see how it treats its most vulnerable citizens, those with little or no claim on public attention, those without beauty, strength or intelligence.

Human life and human dignity encounter many obstacles, especially in North America. When life is not respected, should we be surprised when other rights are threatened? As St. John Paul II wrote: “a right to die will inevitably give way to the duty to die.”

In a powerful message in February to the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis wrote: “In our society there is a tyrannical dominance of an economic logic that excludes and at times kills, and of which nowadays we find many victims, starting with the elderly.” He lamented a “throwaway” culture in which the excluded are exploited, rejected and cast aside.

“Health is without doubt an important value, but it does not determine the value of a person,” the Pope said. “Furthermore, health is not by itself a guarantee of happiness, which may indeed be experienced even by those in a precarious state of health.” Therefore, he said, “poor health and disability are never a good reason to exclude or, worse, eliminate a person; and the most serious deprivation that the elderly suffer is not the weakening of the body or the consequent disability, but rather abandonment, exclusion, and a lack of love.”

As Catholics and Christians we have a responsibility to confront the intrusion of euthanasia into our society. We have a moral obligation to be caregivers for incapacitated persons and a civic duty to protect those who lack the capacity to express their will but are still human, still living and still deserving of equal protection under the law.

There can be no true peace unless life is defended and promoted.

(Fr. Rosica is the CEO of Salt + Light Catholic Television Network and English language assistant to the Holy See Press Office .)

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