Poisonous ‘right to die’ movement targets Colorado

Aiding the terminally ill in hastening their death, long condemned as immoral and an affront to the dignity of life, is slowly gaining traction.

After Oregon passed assisted suicide laws called “death with dignity” by proponents in 1994, three others states—Washington, Montana and Vermont—passed laws permitting it. Early this year, a New Mexico judge ruled to protect physicians who help patients die.

The Hemlock Society, named as a reminder of the harsh reality of death by poison, is operating under the new name “Compassion and Choices” and launching a campaign across the nation to push for legalized assisted suicide.

One of its next targets is Colorado.

Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Church’s public policy arm the Colorado Catholic Conference, said the state is targeted because Compassion and Choices is headquartered in Denver.

“I think that makes it a likely target,” she said. “Colorado throughout its history has attracted these kinds of movements and has been sort of a test case if you will.”

She said a bill legalizing assisted suicide is expected to be proposed during the next legislative session.

Historically, many states have rejected proposals by legislatures and voters to prescribe lethal drugs to patients. In 1997, The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the claim that it’s a constitutional right to access assisted suicide, which upheld state laws protecting innocent human life and the safe practice of medicine.

Colorado is among many states that explicitly says a person commits the crime of manslaughter if one intentionally causes or aids another’s suicide.

Kraska said it’s likely the movement is pushing for legalization so the act of assisted suicide becomes accepted.

“I think they want their choice to be accepted,” Kraska said of those who want to commit suicide.

Deacon Dr. Alan Rastrelli, a medical director for the Catholic hospice organization Divine Mercy Supportive Care, said laws are not needed to permit a person to “choose” to end their life by suicide.

“From the beginning of mankind, human beings have had the freedom to make right or wrong choices,” he told the Denver Catholic Register. “But it is wrong to deceitfully ‘legitimize’ by legislation the taking of one’s own life or that of another. It denies loved ones and health-care providers the opportunity to provide the (care) we all are drawn to give to the dying—‘the cloth on the forehead,’ of being present as family and friends to ease suffering.”

For physicians, assisted suicide is contrary to the Hippocratic Oath that states they will not give a lethal drug to a patient. For patients, it’s fundamentally contrary to the natural law, the moral sense to discern good and evil that’s engraved on the soul of every human being.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement that legalization creates a bias against the ill and disabled.

“By rescinding legal protection for the lives of one group of people, the government implicitly communicates the message—before anyone signs a form to accept this alleged benefit—that they may be better off dead,” the bishops said in the statement “To Live Each Day with Dignity.”

“Thus the bias of too many able-bodied people against the value of life for someone with an illness or disability is embodied in official policy.”

The nation has been exposed to this agenda through Compassion and Choices’ latest volunteer advocate, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She launched an online video campaign about planning to end her life Nov. 1 (see related story here).

Colorado and other states will soon face the question of legalizing assisted suicide, Kraska said.

“What’s important for people to understand and to know is that this is an issue we will be faced with as Coloradans,” she said, “and we need to be prepared for it.”

COMING UP: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.