August 21, 2019


The question of euthanasia has recently become a major issue in our western society. Not long ago, the moral implications about methodically taking anyone's life were immediately abhorrent. In fact, one of the horrors of NAZI fascist policy was "euthanasia" - the eliminating of those who were determined by the utilitarian powers-that-be to be of little of no worth to society. This meant that the mentally and physically challenged, the elderly and other undesirables (!?) could and should be done away with. Entire groups of people that were deemed to be a burden on society (or otherwise a 'pain in the neck') could and should have their existence terminated and... in the least costly way possible. Who it is that determines the worth of such people or even who belongs to what category and by what criteria these judgements were to be made - only made it all the more scary.

Literary works like Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World' (1932) described how euthanasia would be used in a dystopian society. Several Movies have been made over the years that either suggest the ultimate tragedy underlying assisted suicide and/or simply promote it as the more humane choice.... or both. [e.g. "Soylent Green" 1973]. It was all fiction or an experiment only attempted by godless totalitarian regimes that had gone completely mad.

Yet, here we are..... dealing with this exact question. We are not only discussing it, but we have allowed our government and judicial leaders to thrust it into our lives. The media often promotes it, one-sidedly, as a beautiful option. So what are we do? How are we as followers of Christ to look at the question and deal with it?

As soon as abortion started to be promoted in society, the more astute among us stated that it was only the beginning and that, logically, euthanasia would follow. And here it is. The acceptance of the termination of unseen victims with whom we had not bonded very much (the unborn), has led to an acceptance of the termination of the very people that willingly sacrificed much to loving raise us and people with whom we have shared a lifetime.

Before we even get into lengthy discussions about the circumstances surrounding a particular "case", we should refresh our minds and souls with what we believe as Catholic-Christians. The Catechism, "Christ - Our Pascha" offers us some concise, but very clear considerations to help us begin our discussion in our parishes... in our families and with our friends at the local coffee shop, or at any get-together...

"Christ, Our Pascha": Ukrainian Catholic Catechism (2011)...

3. III. C. 5. Euthanasia (a.k.a. "MAID" or "Medically Assisted Suicide")

908 - Euthanasia (from the Greek meaning good death) is an action or inaction which by its nature or its intention causes a person's death with the purpose of eliminating all sorts of diverse suffering. (553) Euthanasia is used not only on the gravely ill but also on newborn infants with birth defects. In addition to euthanasia "by individual request," there is also "social euthanasia," in which the decision to terminate a life comes not from the person himself but from society, when further medical treatment is deemed futile or excessively expensive, since the necessary resources could be used to treat many other people.

909 - The Church teaches:

"Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. For it is a question of the violation of the divine law, an offense against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity." (554)

910 - Sometimes, because of prolonged and unbearable pain, people may ask for death for themselves or for another. However, such pleas for death are not always a manifestation of a true desire for assisted suicide or euthanasia. In reality, the gravely ill person needs love, attention, prayer, and spiritual support. Those who are close to the infirm - parents, children, family members, friends, and also doctors, nurses, clergy and other members of the church community-are called to surround the infirm with such care.

3. IV C. 2. The Social Dimension of Christian Love

937 - The Christian ascetical tradition teaches us about seven spiritual works of mercy and seven corporal works of mercy. The seven spiritual works of mercy are: to counsel the doubtful, to instruct the ignorant, to admonish the sinner, to comfort the sorrowful, to sincerely forgive injuries, to bear wrongs patiently, and to pray for the living and the dead. The seven corporal works of mercy are: to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to minister to the

sick, to visit the imprisoned, and to bury the dead.

938 - Neglecting mercy is a sin against Christian love. "As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me" (Mt 25:45). A social sin is both a sin against an individual at the level of their societal interaction (murder, theft, robbery, fraud, etc.) as well as a sign of an entire structure of sin which exists in society or the international community (corruption, human trafficking, drug trafficking, etc.).

Appendix: Catechetical Truths, Virtues & Gifts of the Holy Spirit (page 314)

Spiritual Works of Mercy

1. Admonish the sinner

2. Instruct the ignorant

3. Counsel the doubtful

4. Comfort the afflicted

5. Bear wrongs patiently

6. Forgive offenses from the heart

7. Pray for the living and the dead

Corporal Works of Mercy

1. Feed the hungry

2. Give drink to the thirsty

3. Clothe the naked

4. Shelter the traveller

5. Minister to the sick

6. Visit the imprisoned

7. Bury the dead


Discussion points....

- If M.A.I.D. or assisted suicide is never acceptable, then what is the journey forward for one that is either terminally ill or suffering chronic pain or lonely/abandoned or old and weak... or, seemingly all of the above?

- What does this journey forward mean for family and friends and fellow parishioners? What changes or commitments may be required of them?

- What is the difference between intentional assisted suicide and unintentional death as a result of medical treatment?

Even more fundamentally....

- What is the purpose of life? Why did God in His immeasurable love choose to give each individual the gift of life?

- What are my goals in life as a child of God? What is a full or real life?

- What is suffering all about? Is it really a source of grace and of repentance and of new hope for the one who suffers and for others?

- What is suffering all about? Would God permit it? If so, why would He permit it?


Some additional paragraphs from the Catechism that are very helpful in understanding and discussing the issues....

3. III. C. 1. Care for Sick Parents and Family Members

898 - In the Holy Scriptures we read: "With all your heart honour your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. Remember that through your parents you were born; how can you repay what they have given to you?" (Sir 7:27-28). Respecting parents means relating to them with love, especially when they are weak and in need of assistance, for example, in old age.

899 - In teaching about the family, Metropolitan Andre emphasized the responsibility of children toward parents:

"Good Christians are in life able to keep God's fourth commandment to "Honour your father and your mother" even when parents are not good and, God forbid, are not deserving of respect; children are to respect them all the same, for such is God's law. Christians know how bitter the fate of those who had not honoured their parents." (547)

Metropolitan Andre also cautioned children thus: "May God forbid that there should be any godless children among us who could dare one day to disrespect their parents or worse, raise their hands against them. God forbid that any parents should have reason to curse their children!" (548)

900 - Children ought to care for their parents in their illnesses and provide them material and moral support in their old age. "My child, help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives; even if his mind fails, be patient with him; because you have all your faculties do not despise him... Whoever forsakes his father is like a blasphemer, and whoever angers his mother is cursed by the Lord" (Sir 3:12-13, 16). Children ought to remember that respect and love for one's parents carries an obligation to look after them for the duration of their lives. No one can ever be relieved of this duty. If parents have already left this life, then children are obliged to conduct a Christian funeral, carry out their final wishes, pray for them, look after their grave sites, and remember the anniversary of their deaths.

2. The Christian Understanding of Death

901 - A Christian, having been made worthy of the divine life through the mystery of Baptism, already here on earth, lives the eternal life. For the believer, death is a consequence of the sin of our first ancestors. However, death was defeated once and for all by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, who "to those in the tombs granted life." For a Christian, one's mortality is not a dead end, an exit into non-being, or the end of a human person's existence. Death, like life, has meaning - a meaning which we discover in the light of Christ's Pascha. Death is a passing over to new life, from earth to the heavens.

902 - Death cannot be an escape from or a negation of life. Therefore, suicide - the conscious and willful taking of one's own life - is a grave sin, and the Church condemns it. Many social, psychological and other factors can lead a person to suicide, but the chief causes are hopelessness, loss of the meaning of life, rejection of God's mercy, and despair.

"A person does not have the right to dispose of his own life. Like a soldier who does not have the right to abandon his assigned post, when he leaves it willfully, is considered a deserter; in the same way, a deserter is one who abandons his responsibilities and the post at which he was placed by God's providence." (549

Understanding "Suffering"....

463 - Already in the Old Testament, those afflicted by illness recognized their finitude (that is, the limits of their existence) and reflected on how physical illness was related to sin. At the same time the sickness and suffering of the righteous person was able to become an occasion for expressing hope in the Lord and faithfulness to him (e.g. Job, Tobit). In illness, people turned to the Lord, seeking healing from him and confessing their sins before him (see Ps 6:3, 8; Ps 102[103]). In the New Testament, through his suffering and life-giving death, Jesus gives our suffering a new meaning: joined to his sufferings they become a means of purification and a path of salvation for ourselves and others.


Footnotes (original numbering):

553 - St. John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, 65

554 - Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Euthanasia (5 May 1982), 2


547 - Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, On Marriage and Family (17 Feb 1902)

548 - Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, On Marriage and Family (17 Feb 1902)

549 - Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, Thou Shalt Not Kill (21 Nov 1902)

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