Monday, November 7, 2016

Fr. Chuck's Column, October 30, 2016

Well, here we are already at the end of October. Please note our Mass schedule for All Saints and All Souls Day Masses. Please remember to VOTE next week. If you are a citizen it is your DUTY to vote. Even if you wish you had other choices, even if you find it distasteful, please remember that politics is the art of the possible. You do not need a perfect candidate (they don’t exist), but you do need to make a prudential decision to exercise your responsibility in choosing our elected officials. Good luck!

October is also RESPECT LIFE MONTH, and as we come to the end of this month, I wish to raise up for your consideration the issue of assisted suicide. Life is a precious gift, and while we are not required to do everything possible to extend life, we most certainly cannot positively act to end our life. That is suicide.

Recently the State of California passed a physician assisted suicide law. When I was Pastor of Old Saint Mary’s Church in Chinatown, San Francisco, I regularly went to the Catholic Lobby Days to the state legislature in Sacramento, CA. Every year one of the issues we talked to our legislators about was the issue of assisted suicide. As Catholics we opposed making assisted suicide legal because of the immorality of suicide. Our biggest supporter in this struggle were the disabled and handicapped rights groups. They foresaw that when physician assisted suicide became legal, the insurance companies would be strongly motivated to urge people to take the much cheaper option of suicide than continuing to provide expensive medical and prescription coverage.  

Now their fears have become a reality. You can get a moving and perceptive instance of this desire of the insurance companies to encourage suicide by watching a 15-minute video produced by the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network (CBC). Titled “Compassion and Choice DENIED,” it tells the story of Jennifer Lahl, who has a terminal illness but wishes to live for the sake of her four children. Once California adopted the assisted suicide law, her medical coverage was denied, though she was able to get the life-ending drugs. I found it a moving story. The video is available on YouTube, and also at I recommend it to you.

It is only a matter of time before assisted suicide becomes an issue in Texas. The financial motivations for insurance companies are very high. Many people, believing they are giving people a choice to end their life, do not realize the ramifications for those with terminal illnesses who do NOT want to leave family and loved ones and the beauty of this life. All of us are terminal, but none of us are the masters of our final day on earth.

Our respect for life is comprehensive. It includes protection for life in the womb. It includes respect and care for human life from birth through childhood, adulthood and old age. It refuses to sanction the death penalty. It cares for the quality of every human life. And finally, respect for life does not kill people when they become inconvenient or a burden. Life is sacred and must be treated as such. We know that people who suffer chronic pain and feel abandoned and alone are under tremendous pressure, and hence sometimes choose to end their life. We want to offer them support and help to live meaningfully rather than to condemn them. But we also do not want them to feel financial pressure from insurance companies to choose the cheaper option of ending their life. 

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