It’s the next great battle and make no mistake family, our future as people, as a nation, and as citizens of this world and the next depends on it.
“The culture of suicide is the culture of despair – it’s the culture of un-love. If there were enough love out there, nobody would want to commit suicide. Something’s going wrong when we morally sanction suicide within the culture.”
So says Father Robert Spitzer, S.J., President of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith and the Spitzer Center, in a must-see presentation filmed live at the NAPA Institute 2015 Conference in California. “The Case Against Physician-Assisted Suicide” will air at approximately 9:45 a.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 17, immediately following George Weigel’s 9 a.m. ET address on “The Evangelical Future of Catholicism in the Next America.” (Other talks by top Catholic theologians will follow throughout the day.)
If you are having a tough time explaining to others why this is wrong – if part of you buys into the “mercy” killing language used by “right to die” proponents – then you cannot afford to miss this presentation. Tape it, study it, learn from it.
Right-to-die proponents like to invoke the specter of patients being kept alive by machines at the end of their lives or screaming in pain. But Father Spitzer clears the deck of these fears right from the outset invoking the church’s longstanding doctrine of extraordinary means and the legitimacy of pain management that may nonetheless carry some risk.
However, right-to-die proponents are now bombarding society with the message that, at the end of life, you and I might as well commit suicide because we will no longer have “quality of life.” Let’s think about this.
As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, Fr. Spitzer says happiness in life more often depends on the contribution we make to family, friends, organizations, society, the Church, the Kingdom of God, and the salvation of a soul who needs help (level three happiness) or on our faith (level 4 happiness), which calls us to literally link up with God who is our eternal destiny. Our happiness is no longer completely dependent on the material things we own (level 1 happiness) or being better than others at sports or our jobs (level two happiness). It’s not that we would no longer find pleasure in those lower level things, but we realize that there are more important things in life.
Unfortunately, when right-to-die proponents talk about quality of life, they are stuck at these lower levels of happiness. (I can’t beat John at tennis anymore, what good am I?) When you have a terminal illness, says Fr. Spitzer, level 1 and 2 happiness decrease, but level 3 and 4 increase.
“[At the end of life], if you’ve got any forgiving you’ve got to do, you’re going to be motivated. If you have somebody who has to forgive you, now’s the time to call them in because now you are vulnerable. When we are vulnerable, the Holy Spirit can drive right into our hearts with a truck full of grace. All our defenses are down. We don’t care anymore about level 2 abilities.
“Vulnerability is such a blessed gift. It allows us to forgive and to be forgiven; it allows us to transmit the wisdom of our lives and to have wisdom transmitted to us and for us to accept it; it allows us to give compassion and to accept compassion; it allows us to grow in faith. When we see our lives coming to an end, we are so open to grace, it is simply unbelievable.”
Right-to-die proponents like to say that they are not hurting anyone, that they are just giving people options, but Father Spitzer says that, to many people, this legislation says something quite different. That is why advocates for the mentally or physically challenged are universally against this legislation.
“It is being proclaimed from the rooftops, that your life isn’t worth anything. It’s pure indignity. You have to have help in your life? How dare you? You should be ashamed of yourself. You need someone? You should be ashamed of yourself. It’s the rule of autonomy gone crazy. It is totally the opposite direction from Christianity. … Instead of being the occasion for compassion, we call compassion giving you a suicide pill so you can take your own life and end the indignity of it all.”
Father says such legislation won’t just affect the physically and mentally challenged.
“Every single person who needs help, every person who has a disability or challenge of some kind or another, every single person who needs help in their life for whatever reason, will now have to feel inferior. … It is completely converse to Christianity and to any humane effort whatsoever. This is not good legislation. It really will impact people who are most in need of our help. People who deserve our help, not our disdain.”
Already, some insurance companies in right-to-die states are telling cancer patients with lesser insurance that they won’t pay for their treatment, but will pay for the pills needed to commit suicide. “We are creating two classes,” says Fr. Spitzer, “those who can afford NOT to commit suicide, and those who are compelled to commit suicide to get basic coverage.”
At the end of their lives, Father Spitzer says people are vulnerable to relatives who are concerned about costs or who simply don’t want the burden of caring for their family member; those without family are vulnerable to doctors who believe they should commit suicide; those with depression or self-esteem issues may interpret a discussion of a right-to-die option as indifference to their death, while the “stoically responsible” often think it’s their “duty” to die so they don’t inconvenience others.
“What becomes legal becomes socially acceptable; what becomes socially acceptable becomes moral because everybody else is doing it,” says Fr. Spitzer. “People look at what other people are doing – it’s called social norming – and they adjust their behaviors according to the social norms.”
That’s why Father says you and I must do everything we can to fight this legislation.
“This legislation is a disaster. It’s a disaster for love; it’s a disaster for Christ; it’s a disaster for culture; it’s a disaster for the weak; it’s a disaster for the poor; it just simply has to be stopped.
“With every single scintilla of energy in our fibers and sinews and bones, it has to be stopped.”