“The maxim is ‘Qui tacet consentit’: the maxim of the law is ‘Silence gives consent’. If therefore you wish to construe what my silence betokened, you must construe that I consented.”
— Thomas More in ‘A Man for All Seasons’
St. Thomas More gave his life in martyrdom when he opposed King Henry VIII’s break from the Catholic Church and elevated himself to the head of the Church of England, demanding that his subjects be subject to him in faith as well as in nationality. For More, who was essentially the second most powerful man in England at the time, simply giving an outward show of fidelity to the king’s wishes, while living a secretly Catholic life, was impossible. Doing nothing to oppose the king’s decree on this matter would have been an injustice, and More sacrificed his friendship, his reputation, and ultimately his life, for his convictions and fidelity to the Gospel and to the Catholic Church. His last words were, “I die the king’s faithful servant, but God’s first.”
St. Thomas More’s heroic example of faithfulness even until death, and of making his beliefs known to his king and government, even at the cost of his life, is particularly relevant today. Canada has recently passed a second reading of a bill to legalise Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and it is all but absolutely certain that some form of this bill will be made law as of June. As if this tragic reality wasn’t enough, the particular bill itself, if drafted into law, would become the most liberal euthanasia law in the world, allowing even minors to be free to choose to end their own lives or have a doctor end it for them. Even experts from the Netherlands and Belgium—countries who themselves are infamous for their euthanasia laws—have cautioned the Canadian government about enacting this law as it stands, saying that it goes too far in legalising the practices.
As Catholics, we believe that human beings have a particular dignity as made in the image of God, and that it is God alone who has the right to determine the length of our lives. Intentionally killing ourselves or another person is the most fundamental violation of human dignity. We need to work to defend the dignity of all people, especially those who are elderly and infirm. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are often couched in terms of “dignity”, that is, that those who are suffering from terminal or long-term illnesses want to “die with dignity”. The phrase reminds me of the pilot episode of House, M.D., when Dr. Gregory House’s has a patient who is contemplating assisted suicide in order that she can “die with dignity”. House, whose philosophy on almost everything leaves much to be desired, nevertheless has enough sense to respond, “There’s no such thing! Our bodies break down, sometimes when we’re 90, sometimes before we’re even born, but it always happens and there’s never any dignity in it!… it’s always ugly—always! You can live with dignity; you can’t die with it!” Again, while House’s nihilistic view of the world is certainly not one we should emulate, he makes a valid point. The dignity in our life is found in how we endure our suffering, not how composed we look as we avoid it by killing ourselves. Euthanasia and assisted suicide aren’t dignified ways of dying; they are rather the easy way out—the cowardly way out.
Pope St. John Paul II was a living model of what it meant to die with dignity. Even though he struggled with Parkinson’s disease for years before his death, he continued to live and to do all he could to continue to serve others in his role as the head of the Catholic Church and the eminent moral voice of the world. He heroically endured his suffering right to the end, bearing that cross in imitation of the Cross borne by Our Saviour.
If our aim is to compassionately help those who are suffering incurable, terminal illnesses to live and die with dignity, the answer is not in Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, but in providing better resources for more holistic palliative and home care for patients. Compassion literally means “suffering with” the one in pain. It is the very opposite of desiring to end another’s pain so that they (and we) can feel better. Currently, the bill as drafted could lead to euthanising patients without their consent. It also does not provide much in the way of conscience protection for physicians and Catholic healthcare institutions for which euthanasia is morally reprehensible. A doctor not willing to assist in a suicide would be bound to refer the patient to someone who was. This is hardly conscience-protection!
Barring a miracle (for which we continue to hope and pray), euthanasia will be legal in Canada by June—but we still have input into how that law is finalised. It is up to us to educate ourselves about the issue, and through prayer and fasting, to write our members of parliament, the minister of health, and the prime minister, to let them know about the evils they are preparing to unleash on our nation, and to advocate that the brakes be applied, that the rights of patients and doctors be upheld, and that legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide be rejected, or at the very least, that suitable protective measures are written into the laws.
For more information on who to contact, and to see the CCCB’s joint statement with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, as well as various Jewish and Muslim communities opposing Euthanasia, visit the Diocese of Hamilton’s website.
God, keep our land…
If publishing article online please attribute source Serviam Ministries with link to original article.