A deadly ‘compassion’

Archbishop shares antidote to legislators' push for physician-assisted suicide in state

After two Colorado lawmakers announced plans to bring the physician-assisted suicide debate to the Capitol next year, Archbishop Samuel Aquila warned legalization would lead to a more self-centered, “throwaway” culture.

“When the weak and suffering are removed from a society, opportunities for loving, sacrificing and caring for those in need decrease and society becomes more self-centered,” the archbishop told a crowd at a Denver Catholic Medical Association meeting last week. “To use an analogy: our charitable muscles atrophy when suffering is seen as something to be avoided at all costs. A culture that shuns the sick and suffering becomes even more of a ‘throwaway culture’ that Pope Francis consistently warns us about.”

His comments came on the heels of local reports that Democratic Reps. Joann Ginal of Fort Collins and Lois Court of Denver are drafting a bill to pass physician-assisted suicide.

The legislators are working with Compassion and Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society), the same group that publicized the story of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who suffered terminal brain cancer and ended her life Nov. 1 under Oregon’s Death with Dignity law. Oregon is one of five states that permit physician-assisted suicide.

Pope Francis addressed the moral dilemmas at a meeting of Italian Catholic doctors this month.

He called assisted suicide a “false compassion” and urged doctors and faithful to act as Good Samaritans and care for the elderly, infirm and disabled with a respect for their dignity, even when against the current of modern society.

“In fact,” the pope stated, “in the light of faith and right reason, human life is always sacred and always ‘of quality.’ There is no human life that is more sacred than another—every human life is sacred.”

Locally, the Colorado Catholic Conference responded by saying it would fight efforts to pass a state bill.

“As Catholics, we believe that all life is precious, and God, as life’s author, has sovereignty over it,” said the conference’s executive director Jenny Kraska. “Even for people without religious faith, however, the logic behind physician-assisted suicide should be deeply troubling.”

Advocates of assisted suicide propose it’s a matter of personal choice, a way for the terminally ill to end their suffering in a way that does not impact others.

But Archbishop Aquila said, “We do not live in a moral and spiritual vacuum. Our actions have concrete consequences for ourselves and others.”

He called on faithful to show mercy and compassion when those with a terminal illness face the temptation to become the victim of their suffering.

The antidote, the archbishop said, is to show suffering has meaning.

“It is an act of mercy to help those who are suffering to know and experience that it has a purpose,” he said. “People need meaning. They need to hear that their suffering has meaning and truth, and has been redeemed by Christ and that it can give birth to their own eternal life.”

He added that St. John Paul II’s last months of life provide an example of persevering and enduring suffering.

The late pontiff addressed the topic himself in his 1984 apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris.

“Suffering as it were contains a special call to the virtue which man must exercise on his own part. And this is the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes harm,” the pope wrote. “In doing this, the individual unleashes hope, which maintains in him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, that it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity linked to awareness of the meaning of life.”

Archbishop Aquila also encouraged faithful to bring the truth back into the public debate and unleash love in society.

“This unleashing of love within our families, medical practices, churches and society is the antidote to physician-assisted suicide,” the archbishop said. “Physician-assisted suicide will become more accepted in our culture to the degree that society becomes more closed off to selfless acts of love and more focused on self-centered living. It seems to me that we are standing at a crossroads.”

COMING UP: Colorado bishops issue letter on the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life Congressional policies

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

We, the Catholic bishops of Colorado, urge Congressional Representatives to support the Hyde Amendment and the Walden Amendment. We also ask the Faithful to sign The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) petition to lawmakers encouraging them to preserve the Hyde Amendment, which can be accessed at: NoTaxpayerAbortion.com, and to contact their Congressmen and women to support the Hyde and Walden amendments.

The House Appropriations Labor and Health and Human Services subcommittee recently passed a spending bill that strips protections for pre-born children, healthcare providers,and American taxpayers by excluding pro-life provisions, including the Hyde and Weldon amendments.

The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortion in most cases, except for rape and incest, has received bipartisan support since its inception in 1976 – including by pro-abortion administrations. Hyde is critical in saving lives. The Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates that approximately 60,000 pre-born babies are saved every year because of the Hyde Amendment.[1] This is the first time in 40 years that the Hyde Amendment was not included in the annual appropriations bill[2] and failure to include pro-life amendments will only further increase divisions in our country.

The Weldon Amendment prevents any federal programs, agencies, and state and local governments from discriminating against health care practitioners and institutions that do not provide abortion services. It ensures that pro-life individuals and organizations can enter the health care profession without fearing that the government will force them to perform a procedure that violates their well-founded convictions. It has also received bipartisan support and was added to the appropriations bill every year since it was first enacted in 2005. [3]

Congress’ recent actions endanger the lives of pre-born children and infringe on the rights of millions of Americans who do not wish to participate in the moral evil of abortion. A recent Knights of Columbus/Marist poll found that 58 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortions[4] and a 2019 Gallup poll shows that 60 percent of Americans think abortion should either be illegal or only legal in a few circumstances.[5]

The government should neither use taxpayer funds for the killing of pre-born children nor compel medical practitioners and institutions to violate their well-founded convictions. Congress must uphold these long-standing, common-sense bipartisan policies that promote a culture of life in our nation.

Human reason and science affirm that human life begins at conception. The Church objects to abortion on the moral principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with respect due to every human person. There has never been and never will be a legitimate need to abort a baby in the womb.

It is critical that Congress continue its long-history of supporting policies such as the Hyde and Walden amendments, and that all Colorado Catholics and people of good will make their voice heard in supporting these life-affirming policies.

Sign the petition to Congress here: www.NoTaxpayerAbortion.com

Contact your Congressional Representatives here: https://cocatholicconference.org/news/

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila
Archbishop of Denver

Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg
Bishop of Pueblo

Most Reverend James R. Golka
Bishop of Colorado Springs

Most Reverend Jorge Rodriguez
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver