John Paul taught us how to respect the frail and the vulnerable
As the euthanasia debate heats up in Canada and the false idea of "mercy killing" seems to be accepted by more people, I would like to respond to the questions of many readers over the past months who have asked about the Church's clear opposition to euthanasia.
Our society today has lost sight of the sacred nature of human life. As Catholic Christians we are deeply committed to the protection of life in its earliest moments to its final moments.
When people today speak about a "good death," they usually refer to an attempt to control the end of one's life, even through physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia. The Christian notion of a good death, however, is death not as a good end, but a good transition, that requires faith, proper acceptance and readiness.
What is wrong with abortion, euthanasia, embryo selection, and embryonic research is not the motives of those who carry them out. So often, those motives are, on the surface, compassionate: To protect a child from being unwanted, to end pain and suffering, to help a child with a life-threatening disease. But in all these cases, the terrible truth is that it is the strong who decide the fate of the weak; human beings therefore become instruments in the hands of other human beings.
Two years ago, Pope John Paul showed us true dignity in the face of death. Rather than hide his infirmities, as most public figures do, he let the whole world see what he went through in the final phase of his life. He offered us a paradoxical image of happiness.
Who can say his life was not fruitful, when his body was able to climb snow-capped summits or vacation on Strawberry Island in Lake Simcoe? Who doesn't feel the paradoxical influence of his presence, when his voice was muted?
APPEAL TO RESPECT
Has Pope John Paul not become a living "argument" for that appeal to respect of the most frail and vulnerable, whom he has upheld during his pontificate? Who doesn't dream, deep down, of such a fulfilled and dedicated life?
We must never lose sight of the atrocities against the unborn, the untold and too-seldom spoken of pain and lingering anguish experienced by those who have been involved in abortions. Nor can we ignore the other great challenge faced by humanity today--the serious question of mercy killing, or euthanasia as it is sometimes called, no longer found in abstract cases and theories.
This issue strikes to the very core of who we are and what we believe. Even when not motivated by the refusal to be burdened with the life of someone who is suffering, euthanasia must be called a false and misguided mercy. True compassion leads to sharing another's pain, not killing the person whose suffering we cannot bear.
Our Christian faith does not answer the thousand and one questions our life poses. But it turns those questions around that one, magnificent fact: We are all worth it. Each and every one of us. The best way to know if we are still in any way a Christian society is to see how we treat our most vulnerable people, the ones with little or no claim on public attention, the ones without beauty or strength or intelligence.