My dear people of St. Mary’s:
Recently the nation of Belgium legalized euthanasia for children. By a vote of 88 to 44, the lower house of Belgium’s legislature passed the bill that had won approval by the senate last year. When the vote was tabulated a lone man in the gallery shouted “Murderers!” The law authorizes doctors to end the lives of children who are terminally ill or in pain, provided the child “understands its request” and its parents approve. The following day, an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times advocated bringing the same policy to our shores.
“Euthanasia” is when someone other than the person to die administers the means of death. “Physician-Assisted Suicide” is when a physician presents the person to die with the means of causing death, but the person administers it to himself. Currently in the United States, all fifty states have laws against euthanasia, but the states of Washington, Oregon, Montana and Vermont allow physician-assisted suicide. A recent court decision in New Mexico has declared physician-assisted suicide to be a constitutional right, but the case will be appealed. The suit was jointly filed by the ACLU and “Compassion & Choices,” which is the new name for the old “Hemlock Society.” Internationally, euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, and physician-assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Albania, Colombia and Japan.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about euthanasia:
2276 Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible.
2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable. Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.
Elspeth Chowdharay-Best of the British based anti-euthanasia organization ALERT, said the experience of Belgium shows that any legalization of assisted suicide was the thin end of the wedge: “We are often accused of hysteria when we warn the public that attempts in this country to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia will put us on a slippery slope to unspeakable horrors. Yet in Belgium, which legalized euthanasia in 2003, we have seen the killings of patients who have not requested it and we have seen it extended to the disabled, the depressed, to prisoners and now we will see it extended to children. This is an appalling development.” And the Los Angeles Times wants us to go down the same road.
Catholics make up 58% of Belgium’s population. In 2009, Catholic Church weekly attendance in Belgium had dropped to a new low of only 5%. In 2013 there were 1,432 cases of legal euthanasia in Belgium.
The American Catholic author, Flannery O’Connor wrote: “In the absence of faith, we govern by tenderness. And tenderness leads to the gas chamber.”