Continuing our reflection on these for Respect Life Month of October, I offer the following thoughts written by Richard M. Doerfinger, Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. His piece is entitled “The True Face of Assisted Suicide.”
“Since California legalized assisted suicide last year for people diagnosed as terminally ill, the former Hemlock Society—now a multi-million-dollar operation called ‘Compassion & Choices’ or C&C—has stepped up efforts to pass similar laws in other states. At the center of its campaign is the late Brittany Maynard, an attractive 30-year-old cancer patient who moved to Oregon to obtain a lethal drug overdose by a physician. Her husband is now a paid spokesperson for C&C.
“Recently the state of Oregon released its 2015 figures on assisted suicide deaths, indicating how C&C’s portrayal compares to the reality.
“State-sanctioned suicides in Oregon keep rising. There were 105 deaths in 2014 (44% higher than the previous year) and 132 in 2015 (another 26% higher). In each of these years, exactly one patient was under 35 years old (that must have been Ms. Maynard herself in 2014). Last year, 78% of those obtaining lethal drugs were aged 65 and over, with a median age of 73. Most were women, most had no health insurance, or only government insurance, most had no living spouse or registered domestic partner. More than 96% received no psychological evaluation to test for depression or other conditions that can lead to suicidal thoughts.
“C&C presents its agenda as a boon to autonomous people who live life on their own terms and want to exit life the same way to avoid intractable pain. The usual reality is different. When asked why they were obtaining the drug overdose, 96% of patients said they were less able to engage in activities that make life enjoyable. Almost as many said they were losing their autonomy or their dignity. About half said they had become a ‘burden’ on family or caregivers. Fewer than 30% cited any concern about pain. Incidentally, 90% died in a private home (their own or that of relatives or friends), allowing an educated guess as to who they were ‘burdening’ and who was present to ‘assist’ their final act—in 79% of cases no health professional was present.
“This profile should be eerily familiar to public health experts: it describes people most at risk of elder abuse. A review of ‘Elder Abuse’ in the November 13, 2015 New England Journal of Medicine estimates that about 10% of seniors are victims, with financial exploitation of seniors ‘a virtual epidemic.’ More likely to be victims are women aged 65 to 74, living with household members other than a spouse, of lower income, and feeling isolated or without social support. Basically Oregon has provided a ‘safe and legal’ (safe for the perpetrators, that is) way to practice, and cover up, a most final form of elder abuse. The only reporting is by the physician prescribing the drugs (who then steps out of the picture), and deaths are recorded as caused by the person’s illness.
“One more demographic question: What age group in America is least supportive of legalizing assisted suicide? In many polls it is those aged 65 and over. In a national poll commissioned by the U.S. bishops’ conference in 2014, for example, only 46 % of seniors supported the idea. Strongest support (60%) was found among their grown children—35-to-44-year-olds, the ‘sandwich generation’ now often caring and paying for both children and aging parents. How tempting it might be for those in this situation with no strong moral compass to believe that assisted suicide is a new ‘freedom’ for one’s parents.
“Eighteen years ago Derek Humphry, Hemlock’s founder, wrote in his book Freedom to Die that ‘in the final analysis, economics, not the quest for broadened individual liberties or increased autonomy, will drive assisted suicide to the plateau of acceptable practice.’ C&C wants to draw the curtain over this aspect of its agenda. The rest of us, especially seniors, need to open our eyes and see through the masquerade.”
THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The First Reading instructs us about how the Lord treats the prayers of his people. Unlike the judge in last Sunday’s Gospel who delivered justice to the widow only because her persistence wore him out, the passage from the Wisdom literature of Sirach shows us again that God is the God of justice. God hears the prayer of a person suffering because of the sin of another. God attends to the wail of an orphan, as he does the complaint of a widow. To the prayer of the humble and the one who serves the Lord, God responds. The Lord “judges,” but in response to the prayers of all who call out to him; the Lord shows “no favorites,” nor does he delay in offering justice. God’s response to prayer is fair and reasonable, appropriate, and timely. With God, there is no delay in his response, although at times it might seem that God’s response may not meet the requirements of our technological society.
The topic of prayer also finds its place in the Gospel reading, which continues from where last Sunday’s Gospel left off. Through the marked contrast between the Pharisee and the tax collector, who both go up to the temple to pray in today’s Gospel parable, Jesus teaches his disciples about two attitudinal approaches to prayer: self-righteousness and humility. Self-righteousness, the attitude of the Pharisee, is not the righteousness of God we saw in the First Reading. Humility, as seen in the tax collector’s plea for God’s mercy, is the attitude of a follower of Jesus. While the Pharisee follows the prescriptions of the law that tell him how to act outwardly, the tax collector has had an interior conversion that has led him to recognize his sinfulness. Although the Pharisee prays, he does not know his sinfulness. His arrogance reveals he does not understand his need for God. Because of his brashness, we have difficulty identifying with him. On the other hand, we can see ourselves in the tax collector who acknowledges his sin and knows his need for wholeness and forgiveness that only comes from God. He leaves the scene justified by God in Jesus; his humility leads to his exaltation.
The refrain of the Responsorial Psalm states, “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.” The connection with the First Reading and God’s care for the poor is obvious in this thanksgiving psalm. You will want to notice the movement from the opening stanza to the other two stanzas. In the opening stanza, the psalmist personally praises the Lord and asks that his soul “glory in the Lord,” whereas the second and third stanzas are written in the third person and attest to the Lord’s concern for the “brokenhearted,” those in distress, those who are his servants, and “those who are crushed in spirit.” Salvation is theirs as in the First Reading and the Gospel.
In the Second Reading, we hear that because of Paul’s faithfulness, Paul will receive the “crown of righteousness.” The crown is there for others who have also kept the faith. Paul’s identification of the Lord as the “just judge” connects this reading to the First Reading. The Lord has stood by Paul and given him strength. From evil, the Lord will rescue him. And, even though Paul knows his martyrdom is near, still he concludes his reflection with a bold doxology in praise of the Lord. Paul’s hope that the Lord will lead him safely to the heavenly kingdom is ours, too.
WORLD MISSION SUNDAY
Every year on the next-to-last Sunday of October—October 23rd this year—the Church reflects its deepest identity as MISSION. As we pray and respond on World Mission Sunday, we share in those celebrations taking place in every parish, seminary, school and convent all over the world. Together with our brothers and sisters in the Missions, we offer our prayers and sacrifices so that others may come to know Jesus…and to experience His mercy as we express our merciful concern for those in greatest need. This day provides an opportunity to support the life-giving presence of the Church among the poor and marginalized in more than 1,111 mission dioceses.
In early 19th century France, a young laywoman, Pauline Jaricot, became inspired by news from the missions of her day. She began gathering together small groups, mostly workers in her family’s silk factory. She asked each member of the group to offer daily prayer and a weekly sacrifice of a sou (the equivalent of a penny at that time), insisting that her efforts be for all the Church’s missions. From Pauline’s vision came the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. The first collection in 1822 supported the vast diocese of Louisiana, and the missions of Kentucky and China. Your prayers and generous support directly benefit the mission Church today, places where the young church is growing, filled with zeal for the faith but lacking resources for its outreach to families and those in need.
From Pope Francis’ Message for World Mission Day: “This Jubilee year marks the 90th anniversary of World Mission Day, first approved by Pope Pius XI in 1926 and organized by the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith. It is appropriate to recall the wise instructions of my Predecessors who ordered that to this Society be destined all the offerings collected in every diocese, parish, religious community, association and ecclesial movement throughout the world for the care of Christian communities in need and for supporting the proclamation of the Gospel even to the ends of the earth. Today, too, we believe in this sign of missionary ecclesial communion. Let us not close our hearts within our own particular concerns, but let us open them to all of humanity.”
We will take up a second collection this weekend for the vast missionary endeavors of the Church throughout the world. Please be as generous as possible to assist this worthy cause.
THE SOLEMNITY OF ALL SAINTS
This year the Solemnity of All Saints on Tuesday, November 1, is an obligatory holyday of obligation. This means that all Catholics are required to participate in Mass on this day not only to honor the Saints but also to remind ourselves that each one of us is called to become a saint as well and that we should do our best to help others to holiness by the good example and the affirmation that we give. Now is the time to plan on what time is best for you to attend Mass on that day. Here at St. Peter’s we will celebrate the following Masses for the Feast: Monday, October 31, at 5:00 P.M. and on November 1 at 6:00, 6:45, 7:30, 8:15, 9:00, 10:00, 11:15, 12:15 (Festive Mass with choir), 1:15, 4:30, 5:15 And 6:00 P.M. We offer all these times for Mass so that you will be able to accommodate one of them with your work schedule. We look forward to seeing you on this beautiful holyday.
MASS TO END DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Archbishop Blasé J. Cupich will celebrate a Mass to End Domestic Violence on Saturday, October 29, at 5:15 P.M. in Holy Name Cathedral. Everyone is invited. He will preach on our need to reach out to victims of domestic violence and their children and work to build healthy relationships in our families. A reception in the parish hall will follow after the Mass.
BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE
Once again this year we will have a Book of Remembrance so that you may write in relatives and good friends who have died. This book will be in the rear of church from now until All Souls Day on November 2, when it will be brought up in procession to the St. Joseph altar during Solemn Vespers on that day. The book will remain there during the entire month of November, and those who are written in the book will be remembered in the Masses celebrated at the main altar throughout November. Please be judicious in deciding the number of names you place in the book so that there will be room for others to also take advantage of this opportunity.
FALL CHURCH CLEANING
We have scheduled our fall church cleaning for Saturday, October 29, from 8:30-11:00 A.M. We have two of these special cleanings a year so that we can wash and wax the pews, clean the confessionals, wash as many of the statues as we can reach, dust the choir loft, etc. The more helpers we have on this Saturday morning, the more we will accomplish. You need not tell us beforehand that you are coming; just come in the handicap door that morning, and we will have all the materials needed. Thank you for volunteering if you can.
BLACK CATHOLIC INITIATIVE
Climate Justice Conference
St. Benedict the African Parish
6550 South Harvard
This conference will take place on Wednesday, November 2. 8:30 Mass, 9:30 Keynote Address by Dr. Sylvia Hood Washington, “What is Pope Francis saying to Black Catholics?”, 10:30 Workshops exploring the effects of Climate Change and what can we do about it? For more information or to register, please call 312-577-0475.
A CHUCKLE FOR OUR TIMES
(Little brother to his older sister) What is political correctness?
(Older sister) It’s something you’re not supposed to talk about.
(Little brother) How am I going to find out what it is if I can’t talk about it?
(Older sister) You can talk about it, but you have to talk about it in the right way.
(Little brother) How do I talk about it in the right way?
(Older sister) Just don’t say anything, and you can’t go wrong!
(Little brother) How am I supposed to communicate and tell people how I feel?
(Older sister) I haven’t got that part figured out yet; it’s a slippery slope.
(Little brother) What’s a slippery slope?