Viewing entries tagged
doctor assisted suicide

True Death With Dignity

Dear Parishioners,

The recent death of Brittany Maynard who took a lethal dose of drugs has sparked much controversy in our country and especially here in Oregon, since it was to here that she moved specifically so as to commit suicide under the so-called "Doctor Assisted Suicide" law. I noted my sadness on a Facebook entry recently which drew many comments both for and against her decision. A common argument is offered that we must be in the person's shoes to understand their plight. One person commented that they hated seeing their loved one die such a painful death which could have been eliminated if they would have directly ended it sooner. Another person commented that there were only two choices: die in great agony or be so drugged up that they are never awake or lucid. The most common argument I hear is that the person as a right to do what they wish. There were some beautiful comments about God's plan and the value of redemptive suffering. So, I thought, that I would reproduce my response to this lively thread here in our bulletin in order to shed some light on Catholic Social Teaching and my perspective as a priest:

My final thoughts in this lively discussion: We have long been idolitrizing personal rights at the expense of the common good. My life is not my own. It is God's. When I realize that, all life is more precious and full of dignity.

It is a fallacy of logic to demand that someone has to have had a similar experience in order to render a right judgement. Sometimes, personal experience can blind us to the objective truth of a matter and falsely justify it in order to maintain comfort about one's personal option. The value of a person isn't measured in their abilities or lack therein (autonomy, control, and the like). If that were true, then a person struck by paralysis would be less of a person. Not true. When someone is dying, the process of dying can be a very cleansing journey whereby the dying person is humbled and allows others to serve them, an act of love on both sides.

The natural dying process also allows for reconciliation and healing beyond a predetermined time frame. It [suicide] shuts out God who had plans for something miraculous in the journey. Palliative care can be done in such a way as to keep pain down and the person alert. In the final days or hours, the dying person may be unconscious, but the family or friends holding vigil are mystically bonded to each other and the dying person through the grace of God which has created unforgettable moments for all involved. There is no way to know all the good things that can happen in the full journey of natural death, but the facts are that it does happen, and all are better for it.

The natural dying process is a blessed journey. It helps the person discover new things about themselves that they would never have discovered by suicide. In those days and moments, much healing can occur for the dying person and all those with him/her. Praying in vigil with one who is near natural death is an encounter with God, the angels, and the saints. It is a corporal work of mercy which connects us to the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ, a connection that heals. It is a way of letting others serve the one dying. It is a way to allow love to break its romantic bonds to be seen in all its sacrificial glory.

Letting go instead of taking control is a spiritual good in the natural dying process. I hope that when my time comes, I will let others into my suffering so that we can all be transformed into the image of the Son of God. With faith in Jesus Christ, suffering is not an evil, but a door to sanctity. May all the souls of those dying allow others to love them to the natural end and so encounter Jesus Christ who suffered, died, and rose for us all. May we always conform our lives to His.


Fr. William Holtzinger 

The Common Good

Dear Parishioners,

The term, “Common Good,” is something that may be lost on many people and is too often being replaced with individual rights with no regard to anyone else.  This rugged individualism has been condemned by the Church.  We can ill afford to be silent about this issue which is at the base of many if not all social issues confronting our society today.  

In general, when the justification is used that a certain behavior doesn’t hurt anyone else, commonly such an argument reveals a myopic vision of the world and a lack of understanding of the consequences of our individual and even private actions.  We must more deeply grasp the effects we have on our relationships with others near to us as well as the larger community in which we live in order to understand the common good.  We are not an island.  To think and behave as if we are opens up the potential to great harm for all.  Here’s some examples which illustrate this point. 

Here’s a simple yet less controversial issue: When someone dies and they want their ashes scattered over a mountain or forest, everyone else is robbed of the ability to go to a burial place where they can mourn.  The deceased person’s wish negates the good of others who need to mourn.  It is also an undignified way to repose the former temple of a person who was made in God’s image.  This is not a viewpoint with the Common Good in mind, just the individual.

In the abortion debate, the individual right of the mother trumps the good of the child in the womb or even the right of the father who may disagree with the decision.  In this holocaustic viewpoint, countless millions have been killed in the name of an individual.  The fact that entire generations have been wiped out by a so-called right is clear evidence that it is against the dignity of the human person and the Common Good.

So-called, doctor assisted suicide arguments claim the individual’s right to end their own life on their terms so as to avoid suffering, autonomy, control, and the like, negating the use of effective palliative care and equating one’s value or dignity in terms of abilities or capacity.  It is a grievous act akin to murder (See The Gospel of Life., #66).  The legalization in Oregon of euthanasia, its true title, may justify its use in some people’s minds, but it is against the dignity of the human person and the Common Good.

The current movement to redefine marriage is based on the assumption that marriage is the simple desire and right of individuals to do what they want, regardless of the good of children and Divine law.  Marriage is not a right which just anyone can validly undertake even between heterosexual couples. I have processed all too many annulments which were granted on the grounds that they did not, and may never have, the capacity to live out the commitment that marriage demands. In these cases, the couple erroneously attempted to enter into the Sacrament which they could not do.  Marriage is a privileged state which God designed and which we have no authority to define or reinvent.  Anyone desiring to be married should send to prayer if they are capable and sufficiently prepared to undertake such an awesome Sacrament. Redefining marriage diminishes its sanctity and is against the Common Good.

A more current issue which is being placed before the voters this November 4th is the effort to legalize recreational use of marijuana.  Proponents of this movement commonly argue the right to do what they will with their own body.  However, this viewpoint does not consider the consequences to children and the safety of others. Archbishop Sample’s current column in the Catholic Sentinel fills this in well. The argument that it does not harm the user taking the drug is fallacious since the very act of getting “high” diminishes one’s abilities, distorts one’s senses, suppresses the immune system, decreases motivation, darkens the conscience, and ultimately damages the soul. The fact that marijuana may be easy to acquire or that it is being used by one’s family or friends, or even if it does become legal, does not change the fact that it is harmful to one’s body and soul as well as to our culture. It is against the common good.

With regard to the current ballot measure for offering drivers cards for those without a social security number, particularly immigrants who are our modern day neighbors, there needs to be  away to help them.  By offering a way for them to acquire a drivers card increases the number of people who are trained in driving and thus makes our roads safer.  Voting “yes” for this bill will create safer drivers.  Voting for this bill is for the Common Good.

So, we need to ponder more deeply than our own desires and wants.  We need to be on guard against our own desire for individualism.  As Catholic Christians, we need to consider the consequences of things in regard to the Common Good.  Such a frame of reference broadens our minds and allows us to make more ethical and moral choices.  It also gets us out of partisan thinking and voting.  It brings to the fore our faith before all other ideologies. Remember that we are Catholic Christians before all else. We need to pray to have the view of God who desires the good for all.


Fr. William Holtzinger