This week I want to begin by expressing our condolences to the families of those who died earlier this week in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya: Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, and we remember in a special way Glenn Doherty, who was originally from Winchester here in the Archdiocese of Boston.
We pray for the repose of their souls and for the consolation of all those who are mourning the tragic death of our fellow citizens. I also ask you to join me in praying for peace in the Middle East and for an end to all types of of extremism that promote a poisonous atmosphere within which the taking of human life is condoned.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Barbara Thorp, the director of our Office for Pastoral Support and Child Protection has decided to move on from the archdiocese.
So, last Wednesday, we gathered with her and some of her staff to wish her farewell. She has worked in the diocese for 35 years, providing an extraordinary service both in the pro-life office and the Office of Child Protection and Advocacy.
The entire Catholic community in Boston owes her a great debt of gratitude. She has been the merciful face of the Church, dealing with victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families.
I was happy to be able to gather with her to recognize the extraordinary work that she has done. We wish her all the best in the future.
Friday, I was pleased to welcome Dr. Kenneth Stevens to the Pastoral Center for a talk on the subject of physician assisted suicide. He shared with us his experiences of this type of legislation in his home state of Oregon.
He was an eloquent exponent of why the physician assisted suicide ballot initiative is flawed legislation and should be rejected by the people of Massachusetts.
One of the very disturbing things he pointed out to us was that now, in Oregon, the latest push is to force doctors who object to physician assisted suicide to provide referrals to other doctors who will help a patient take their own life. This is just another example of the issue of conscience protection that we have seen on other life issues. We can also see a similar conscience issue involved in asking pharmacists who object to the practice of physician assisted suicide being asked to provide people with these lethal drugs.
He also told us the story of a patient of his, Jeanette Hall, who requested assisted suicide after receiving a cancer diagnosis and being given six months to live. After speaking with Dr. Stevens she instead chose chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Eleven years later, she wrote a letter to the Boston Globe extolling her doctor for saving her life and for helping her to choose “life with dignity.”
This points to another flaw in the physician assisted suicide legislation: it might compel someone who is given a terminal diagnosis and is facing depression not to even attempt treatment. And, of course, it raises the question of what is a “terminal” diagnosis. Does it mean six months with treatment, or six months without treatment? The proposed law does not say.
Then later that day, I was happy to celebrate a Mass with the Catholic homeschool families in the archdiocese.
Parents are the primary educators of their children, and this is very obvious in the cases of these Catholic families that are involved in homeschooling.
In my remarks, I thanked the families for joining us and told them that the Church wants to be present to them.
Father Ed Riley is our liaison with the homeschool families
Homeschooling can be very challenging, and yet youngsters that are homeschooled typically test very highly compared to similar students in public and other private education settings. It is also an opportunity to give the kind of faith formation that is very solid.
This option for families is a blessing for the overall community and I was happy to encourage and support them.
Then on Sunday, I attended two days of meetings in Washington D.C. with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. We had meetings of the Pro-Life Committee and the Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations Committee.
While I was there, I recorded a television interview with Raymond Arroyo of EWTN for his program “The World Over.”
The interview took place in a studio that EWTN rents from NBC, and it is absolutely fabulous. When I walked into the studio, I saw what I presumed to be a picture of the Capitol Building behind the desk. However, when I got up to it I realized: This is a window and this is the view!
I couldn’t resist taking a photo
The purpose of the program was to educate people on the issue of physician assisted suicide and to encourage people to become involved. I think many realize that the outcome of this ballot question in Massachusetts is going to have profound effects on the rest of New England and, eventually, on the rest of the country. So, this is an issue of national importance.
Also while I was in Washington, I took part in a symposium on religious freedom in the international sphere, that was sponsored by the Bishops’ Committee on Justice and Peace, The Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America and Catholic Relief Services.
Some of the statistics that Archbishop Dolan shared were alarming. He cited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying that there are over 1 billion people in the world living in countries where they are persecuted for their religion. We see examples of this particularly in China, the Middle East and Africa. As Cardinal Dolan said, in our own country we are faced with a curtailment of religious freedom however, in many other countries it is at an entirely different level. People are being jailed, persecuted and killed for their faith. We didn’t want our own focus on religious freedom here not to be put into the context of the world situation. The questions that were being asked were, What should our conference do? What should we be advocating for our government to be doing in response to the situation?
The symposium consisted of three workshops: one on Nigeria, one on Iraq, and the other on Cuba.
I chaired the workshop on Cuba with Archbishop Thomas Wenski and Thomas Garafalo, CRS’s former representative in Cuba. It was a very interesting discussion.
Finally, I want let you know that our fall phase of educational efforts on the issue of Physician Assisted Suicide begin next week. There are parish workshops scheduled from 7-9pm in these communities next week: Brockton: Our Lady of Lourdes (9/17); Woburn: St. Charles (9/18); Weymouth: St. Jerome (9/19); Plymouth: St. Bonaventure (9/20); Lexington: KofC Hall (9/21). A full schedule of workshops will be posted next week on the educational website www.SuicideIsAlwaysATragedy.org. Please attend a workshop in your area.
We are asking all Catholics to also join us in the effort to stop assisted suicide by joining us for four activities:
1. Please participate in our virtual live town hall meeting on this issue which will take place on Wednesday October 3 at 8pm on CatholicTV, CatholicTV.com and on 1060AM WQOM. Please invite family members and neighbors to watch it with you and to submit questions and comments.
2. Later that evening at 9pm, we will begin a Rosary Novena for the Defeat of Physician Assisted Suicide which will run from October 3-11. Please pray a rosary each day as part of this novena. CatholicTV has recorded special rosaries that will be broadcasted five times each day at 3:00am, 10:00am, 12:00 noon, 6:30pm and 10:00pm on the network and on CatholicTV.com.
3. We also encourage families to begin now a campaign of intense prayer by reciting this each evening after dinner the Prayer to Prevent Assisted Suicide:
O God, source of all life and hope,
grant us the grace to see you in others,
especially in the poor and vulnerable, the frail and old.
Look kindly on your sons and daughters who have grown weak through illness and age:
Fill them with the strength of your Holy Spirit.
Keep them firm in faith and serene in hope,
that they might give us all an example of patience
and joyfully witness to the power of your love.
We pray for our country and for our Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
that we might continue to protect and defend
the dignity and worth of every human life, created in your image and likeness.
Assist us as we oppose those who, out of misguided mercy,
advance the cause of doctor-assisted suicide.
Help us to recognize that to die with dignity is to die in your loving embrace,
trusting in your compassionate care for us, and allowing your will to be done in us.
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us and help us grow in faith and trust,
so that your words might become ours:
“Let it be done to me according to God’s will.”
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
We also ask everyone to invite friends, family members and neighbors to join us in stopping assisted suicide by voting no on Question 2 this November 6. An example text to share via email, social media and other formats has been developed by the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide. We are asking each Catholic to reach at least 10 individuals with this or a similar message:
On Tuesday November 6, Massachusetts citizens will vote not only for President and U.S. Senator, but on a ballot question (Question 2) that would legalize physician-assisted suicide (PAS) under Massachusetts law. If passed on Election Day, PAS would become law in Massachusetts on January 1, 2012; no further approvals would be needed. This would be a tragic outcome for our communities; that suicide would be legal and approved by our government.
I cannot emphasize enough the grave implications of the passage of this proposed law. Rather than extending care and compassion to those facing terminal illnesses, it would implicitly encourage them to end their lives prematurely. We have made great strides so that when patients reach the final stages of life, they do so with far less pain and far more comfort. Appropriately supporting life and providing comfort should be our priorities as Christians, not encouraging suicide.
In addition to faith-based arguments against assisted suicide, Question 2 has serious flaws.
— Doctors agree that terminal diagnoses of 6 months or less are often wrong. Many with terminal diagnoses live years longer.
— Patients requesting suicide do not need to be examined by a psychiatrist before receiving a prescription to commit suicide. Many terminally ill patients suffer from depression.
— Question 2 does not require a consultation with a palliative care or hospice expert.
— No doctor is present when the patient takes the lethal prescription. This is not a dignified way to die.
— There is no requirement that the patient notify family members. Compassionate care at the end of life should involve the loving support of family members.
— We should be supporting improved hospice and palliative care statewide, not legalized suicide.
The Church, other faith groups, and many other organizations such as the Massachusetts Medical Society and disability rights groups are not silent on this issue. The Archdiocese of Boston is running educational workshops at parishes all over the Archdiocese to inform Catholics about the dangers of Question 2 and has developed a website, www.SuicideIsAlwaysATragedy.org that explains church teachings on the end of life issues. A broad-based coalition has formed, the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide (CAPAS) to generate awareness of this serious matter and gather support to defeat Question 2. CAPAS’ website is: www.StopAssistedSuicide.org.
I ask that you please join me in stopping physician assisted suicide in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by voting no on Question 2 and by encouraging others to join us in this critical effort.
Thank you for your help.
Until next week,