Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
August 24, 2009
Catholics called to speak out against euthanasia bill
Archbishop urges local Catholics to talk or write to their MPs
Archbishop Richard Smith
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Archbishop Richard Smith is approaching Edmonton area MPs to oppose a bill that would legalize euthanasia and he's asking the 360,000 Catholics in the archdiocese to do the same.
"There is an urgency to this," Smith said in an Aug. 17 interview about the private member's bill that will be up for debate in the House of Commons on Sept. 29.
The archbishop has set up meetings with local members of Parliament and, as of Aug. 17, had met with two of them.
Already the pastoral letter he had asked to be read at Sunday Masses Aug. 9, 16 or 23 is having an effect, he said, with the MPs noting that they are being contacted by Catholics opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide.
"This is a huge concern. I hope and pray that the bill will be defeated."
The archbishop's plea came at the same time as a similar call to Catholics from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to speak out against the bill. (See story on Page 6.)
But Smith said the two initiatives were coincidential and not part of a coordinated effort.
MAJOR SOCIAL FAILURE
In his letter, Smith said, "The common good of any society depends on the commitment of all citizens to uphold the dignity of every human life at each moment and circumstance. The legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada would be a major social failure."
Smith distinguished euthanasia from efforts to withdraw or withhold medical treatment from the dying.
He also noted that it is different from using medication to relieve suffering even when using that medication might shorten a patient's life.
"Provided that this medication is given with the sole intent of relieving pain, and not with the intention of ending life, it is morally permissible."
The archbishop is urging Catholics to "rise up" by phoning, writing or speaking personally with their MPs to oppose the euthanasia bill introduced by Bloc Quebecois MP Francine Lalonde.
Personal contact is most effective, he told the WCR, adding that the archdiocese will also provide printed postcards to mail to MPs for people who do not feel comfortable making personal contact.
This is the third time Lalonde has introduced her bill in the Commons but on the previous two occasions, an election was called before it could be debated.
"The bill, if you look at it, effectively gives physicians the right to kill," Smith said.
Those who promote assisted suicide, he said, claim to want compassionate care for the dying and an end to their suffering.
"The appropriate response is care, not killing," he responded. It is never right to deliberately and intentionally take the life of a human being.
Smith noted that if it is accepted that killing is a way of helping people overcome a poor quality of life then all sorts of other consequences will follow. "The ramifications of all this are really terrifying."
In the Netherlands, legalized assisted suicide has led to infanticide of disabled and deformed babies, he said. He also cited a case of a couple who planned to travel to Switzerland so both could be euthanized - he because he was sick and suffering and she because she could not bear to live without her husband.
The disabled community is deeply concerned about Lalonde's bill, he said. "Well, they should be up in arms over this."
It is not difficult to see how the so-called right to die could become translated into a duty to die for the disabled, he said.
The archbishop said he has learned of surveys conducted in Oregon and Washington - two states where assisted suicide is legal - where people stated why they wanted to die.
NOT A BURDEN
Rather than seeking assisted suicide to end their suffering, the main reason given was that people did not want to be a burden to others, he said.
People, he said, need to be encouraged to see their lives always as a gift for others and never as a burden. Those who are ill also need to be "surrounded by love" and there needs to be adequate palliative care for the dying.
Smith said he is establishing an archdiocesan advisory committee, composed of members of the medical, legal and disabled communities as well as others, to reflect on what pastoral steps the Church can take to sensitize people to life issues.