Misplaced compassion and flawed choices

Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old married woman with terminal brain cancer, plans to kill herself on Nov. 1, after her husband’s birthday.

The YouTube video she made to share her story and promote physician-assisted suicide has been viewed 5 million times. Her condition saddens me greatly. But even more tragic is the fact that online commenters have greeted Brittany’s announcement by praising her for being so brave, honest, and even selflessness.

There is a local angle to this story, too. The group making a push to legalize euthanasia across the country–Compassion and Choices–has one of its two headquartered offices in Denver.

The group twists the meaning of dignity by marketing assisted suicide as “death with dignity,” but behind their campaign is the culture of death that St. John Paul II warned about. The truth is we have dignity because we are made in God’s image and likeness, and when we choose to destroy that image, we deny God and put ourselves in his place. When we dethrone God and trample on his image, the evil one is pleased.

Brittany says that she plans to kill herself primarily because she does not want to experience the suffering that comes with the advanced stages of brain cancer. At a purely emotional and physical level, this is understandable. No one wants to suffer.

But there is much more to suffering than that. St. John Paul II, who suffered in a very public way at the end of his life, explains this beautifully in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae. The serious suffering of a sick person, he writes, can generate a “misplaced compassion” that is “aggravated by a cultural climate which fails to perceive any meaning or value in suffering, but rather considers suffering the epitome of evil, to be eliminated at all costs” (EV, 15).

This aversion to suffering is especially strong “in the absence of a religious outlook which could help to provide a positive understanding of the mystery of suffering,” he adds.

St. John Paul II provides us with an inspiring example of how to respond to suffering without giving in to despair. I am sure that many of you remember his last days as he lay in his bed overlooking St. Peter’s Square, a shadow of his former athletic self. The master communicator, whose voice had moved millions, could only mumble.

In spite of this, St. John Paul drew millions to St. Peter’s Square and united them in prayer. And with his last words, “Let me go to the house of the Father,” he showed the world that suffering has meaning if it is part of a relationship of love.

I pray that Brittany Maynard, and anyone else thinking about taking their own life, will see that what they are contemplating is not dignified, but undignified. It is a rejection of the loving Creator from whom they draw their dignity.

Contrary to the marketing by Compassion and Choices, assisted-suicide is far from compassionate. It robs people of the chance to be transformed by suffering, to offer their pain as an act of love for those in need of prayers. This is perfectly modeled for us by Jesus on the cross.

In the bigger picture, legalizing euthanasia would have unintended consequences that its supporters do not talk about. St. John Paul II warned about how a society obsessed with efficiency easily justifies a “war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected” (EV, 12).

Pope Francis has also spoken against our “throwaway” culture, which assisted-suicide only reinforces by tossing aside those who are sick or suffering, poor, or inconvenient.

The Netherlands provides a good example of how dangerous this culture is. In the past seven years, deaths from euthanasia have risen 151 percent. Many of those have been cancer patients, but doctors have also killed 97 people who were suffering from dementia. In 2013 alone, physicians took the lives of 42 people who were said to have “severe psychiatric problems.”

This is undoubtedly a war against the weak and the vulnerable. Catholics and all people of good will must actively resist the spread of this “misplaced compassion.” You can do so by supporting hospice care, comforting and praying for those who are suffering, and being willing to turn your own suffering into an offering of love for others and for God. In times of suffering, let us keep our eyes fixed on the suffering love of Jesus Christ for us!

Divine Mercy Supportive Care

Offering compassionate care to those who face end-of-life illness while affirming the sanctity of human life

Phone: 303-357-2540
Online: www.dmsci.org
Email: info@dmsci.org

COMING UP: Colorado Catholic Conference 2021 Legislative Recap

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On June 8, the First Regular Session of the 73rd General Assembly adjourned. Over 600 bills were introduced this session. Policy primarily focused on transportation, agriculture, healthcare, fiscal policy, and the state budget. However, the legislature also considered and passed many bills that could impact the Catholic Church in Colorado.  

Some bills that were passed will uphold Catholic social teaching and protect the poor and vulnerable of our society while others pose potentially harmful consequences to the Catholic Church, its affiliated organizations, and Colorado citizens who wish to practice their well-founded convictions. There were also many bills that were considered by the legislature that did not pass, including two bills that would have upheld the sanctity of life and two that would have expanded education opportunity for K-12 students.  

The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), as the united voice of the four Colorado bishops, advocated for Catholic values at the Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was heard in the shaping of policy.  

Below is a recap of the CCC’s 19 priority bills from the 2021 legislative session. For a full list of the legislation the Conference worked on, please visit: https://www.cocatholicconference.org/2021-legislative-bills-analysis/  

For regular updates and other information, please sign-up for the CCC legislative network here.  

Six bills the CCC supported that were either passed or enacted

Note: Passed means the bill was approved by both chambers of the legislature and is pending the governor’s signature as of June 9, 2021. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.  

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters – Passed  
If enacted, counties where either 2,000 adults or 2.5% of the adult population primarily speak a language other than English will be required to provide a ballot in that language. 

HB 21-1075 Replace The Term Illegal Alien – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1075, the term “illegal alien” was replaced with the term “worker without authorization” as it relates to public contracts for services.  

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families – Passed  
If enacted, the state government will allocate much-needed funding for nonprofit organizations to provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need, including Catholic Charities.  

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing – Enacted    
With the enactment of SB 77, verification of lawful presence will no longer be required for any applicant for a license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare.  

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes – Passed  
If enacted, SB 146 will establish practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons.  

SB 21-158 Increase Medical Providers for Senior Citizens – Passed  
If enacted, SB 158 will allocate more funding for senior citizen care, which is currently understaffed and underfunded.  

Eight bills the CCC opposed that were passed 

HB 21-1072 Equal Access Services For Out-of-home Placements – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1072, Colorado law now prohibits organizations that receive state funding for placing children with adoptive or foster parents from discriminating on, among other things, the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or marital status. This new law will likely to be impacted by the imminent Fulton v. City of Philadelphia U.S. Supreme Court decision. 

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1108, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” are now recognized as protected classes in Colorado nondiscrimination code. This may have serious religious liberty implications for individuals and organizations that wish to practice their well-founded convictions on marriage and human sexuality. 

SB21-006 Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil – Enacted 
With the enactment of SB 006, human remains can now be converted to soil using a container that accelerates the process of biological decomposition, also known as “natural reduction.” 

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program – Passed 
If enacted, SB 009 will create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives.  

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage – Passed 
If enacted, the definition of “family planning services” and “family planning-related services” will not be clearly defined in law and could potentially include abortion. Furthermore, SB 16 removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing family planning services to a minor.  

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals– Passed 
If enacted, SB 025 low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services and sterilization services.  

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest– Enacted  
The enactment of SB 142 removes the requirement that, if public funds are being used, a physician must perform an abortion at a hospital, and instead allows for abortions to be performed by any “licensed provider.”   

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period– Passed 
If enacted, SB 193 will eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support.  

Five bills the CCC supported that failed  

HB21-1017 Protect Human Life at Conception – Failed 
HB 1017 would have prohibited terminating the life of an unborn child and made it a violation a class 1 felony.  

HB 21-1080 Nonpublic Education and COVID-19 Relief Act – Failed 
HB 1080 would have established a private school and home-based education income tax credit for families who either enroll their child in private school or educate their child at home, thereby expanding education opportunities for families during and after the pandemic.  

HB 21-1183 Induced Termination of Pregnancy State Registrar – Failed 
HB 1183 would have required health-care providers that perform abortions to report specified information concerning the women who obtain the procedure to the state registrar of vital statistics, thereby increasing transparency in the abortion industry.   

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status– Failed  
HB 1191 would have prevented individuals from being coerced to take the COVID-19 vaccine by either the state or by employers.  

HB 21-1210 Modifications to Qualified State Tuition Programs – Failed 
HB 1210 would have allowed families to use some of their private 529 savings account funds for private K-12 school tuition for their children, including at Catholic schools.   

One bill the CCC opposed that failed 

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests– Failed 
SB 031 would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent.  

Two bills the CCC was in an “Amend” position that passed  

SB 21-073 Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault – Enacted  
With the enactment of SB 073, the statute of limitations on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct will be removed as of January 1, 2022. Under this law, victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil cause of action if the statute of limitations has not expired, the abuse happened in Colorado, and the abuse could be considered a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor if it was a criminal case. 

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act– Passed  
If enacted, SB 88 will allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue public and private institutions for abuse that occurred between 1960-2022. Victims would have three years to bring a historical claim, starting from January 1, 2022. Claims brought during this window would be capped at $387,000 for public institutions and at $500,000 for private institutions, with the ability of a judge to double the damages depending on how the private institution handled the situation. Despite unanswered constitutional concerns regarding SB 88, the Colorado Catholic dioceses will also continue to offer opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to receive support in a non-litigious setting.   

While the legislature has adjourned the 2021 legislative session, there is still the possibility that they will reconvene later this year. To stay up-to-date on Colorado legislative issues and their impact on the Catholic Church in Colorado, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE.