JULY 17, 2011, Vol 61, No 14
In this continuing series on Values by Catholic Medical Guild and Caritas Singapore, we look at the moral dilemma of physician-assisted suicide and its implications on true choice and compassion.
When Michael Freeland was diagnosed with lung cancer and knew the end was near, he did not want to live. The American was a resident of Oregon state, which allows physician-assisted suicide (PAS) if a terminally-ill patient has less than six months to live. This is a process in which a doctor helps the terminally ill patient to commit suicide by giving him a deadly drug to consume. The year was 2000, and Mr Freeland opted for PAS.
Then, by chance, he came across Physicians for Compassionate Care, a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving the care and easing the symptoms of dying patients without resorting to suicide. It helped Mr Freeland deal with his depression, and helped him to reconcile with his estranged daughter. He eventually died naturally and comfortably two years later .
His story, and many others like it, are often cited in opposition to PAS. Yet, strong support remains for PAS as a means to end suffering on the grounds of compassion and individual freedom of choice.
Although Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of the society’s four bishops in 2009, said Fr Lombardi, he made it clear that until the society had reconciled fully with the Vatican – particularly regarding its position on doctrinal questions – its members have no official standing in the Church.
The group ordained four priests in mid-June in Winona, Minnesota, USA; 12 new priests in late June at its headquarters in Econe, Switzerland; and four new priests on July 3 at its seminary in Zaitzkofen, Germany.
Responding to reporters’ questions on July 5, Fr Lombardi quoted from the letter Pope Benedict wrote in 2009 explaining the status of the society: “As long as the society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. ... In order to make this clear once again: Until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers ... do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.”
The June 20-22 event in Ekasari, in Jembrana district, saw the young people from 19 parishes and four mission stations take part in art performances, games, and tree planting.
More than 100 formators joined the young people, who are members of the Pontifical Society of Children and Youth Missioners (SEKAMI) .
The camp saw participants planting durian, mangosteen and magnolia trees in the gardens of 215 homes.
Archbishop Philip Wilson wrote in a letter released by Caritas ahead of the historic event: “This week we will celebrate in solidarity with the people of The Republic of South Sudan offering our prayers for a peaceful transition to statehood and a future free from poverty.”
He added, “Our generosity towards this appeal will not only see Caritas Australia bolster its humanitarian assistance at this time of urgent need, but also enable the Caritas network to continue authentic human development programs long into the future.”
Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, who heads the Catholic Church in Madhya Pradesh, supported the Church’s demand that the state government include summaries of all religions in the academic curriculum rather than just one religion.
The demand follows the government’s decision to include lessons from the Bhagvad Gita, the Hindu scripture, from the current academic year in schools.
Educational institutions should not be used to promote a particular religion in a secular country, the archbishop said on July 4.