The Catholic choice is true dignity
August 31, 2023
By Father Deacon Andrew Bennett
Originally published in The Catholic Register
It has been just over seven years since Canadian law has permitted euthanasia and assisted suicide on demand. In those seven years restriction after restriction on euthanasia provision has fallen and now we stand on the threshold of euthanizing the mentally ill and permitting the as-yet-undefined “mature minor” to end his or her life. Euthanasia is now presented to patients as a health care option.
For Catholics however, it is not an option we should ever choose. Why? Because it is a fundamental violation of our understanding of the human person. As I have written previously, euthanasia rejects the foundational Catholic beliefs in Our Lord’s Incarnation and Resurrection and all that He has worked and continues to work in this world. It is for this reason that we must stand resolutely for Catholic health care and for Catholic hospitals that refuse on the grounds of human dignity to murder their patients, often forced to transfer patients to other hospitals where this “service” is performed as a least worse option. Yet now even that choice is deemed unacceptable by the State as in the case of St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
Choice is a great byword of today’s culture. To be pro-choice in the secular world is to be “enlightened” because you respect what is the most sacrosanct: individual autonomy. Many in our society accept that this applies to women who choose to end pregnancy through abortion, or to young people who choose to self-select their gender.
Then why does the power of choice not extend to Canadians, including non-Catholics, who want to choose not to make such choices? Why can they not choose faithful Catholic health care that rejects abortion, euthanasia and the fluidity of gender, and instead offers care that recognizes what true dignity is?
True, our State-funded system of health care, including faith-based institutions, depends heavily on tax dollars. It is subject to statutes that regulate health care provision. But, by what logic of choice does that mean those who ascribe in all good faith to the dictum “Thou Shalt Not Kill” must subordinate their faith to those who choose to believe otherwise? Surely, if we truly value freedom of choice, never mind freedom of religion and conscience, then those who are guided by Catholic faith are as entitled as any to have facilities embodying their choices.
For while we live in the State, and pay taxes to it, we do not worship it. We worship God. Those who wish to end their lives by euthanasia or assisted suicide are entirely free to go to a non-faith-based hospital. Yet we as Catholics value something much more. We value the compassionate care our Catholic hospitals give to all, witnessing to the Gospel and upholding a true understanding of dignity and compassion to which euthanasia is anathema.
Suffering is not meaningless, and does not lack dignity. As Cardinal Thomas Collins said, “A person who drools has no less dignity than one who does not.” We must remember that Our Lord suffered a human death on the Cross. His suffering was redemptive and redeemed all suffering. Is suffering hard? Yes. Is suffering painful? Yes. Is it right to alleviate it as best we can through palliative care? Yes. Is it ever right to end it through euthanasia? As Catholics, we say never, and never again.
And we, through the institutions that our forebears established, insist our rights to freedom of religion and freedom of association, i.e., our right to live out what we choose to believe, be upheld. Simply because the State has made something legal does not make it obligatory, much less true. Witness the eugenics programs of various provincial health care systems in the mid-20th century or other horrors of history that were all legalized, yet gravely immoral.
Now is the time for us to forge ahead establishing new charitable health-care institutions through innovative and strategic partnerships that fill these “dignity gaps” in the state-funded system, one now so morally bankrupt.
Denying our full right to do so is when Catholics must say: “Enough.”
(Andrew Bennett is a deacon of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada.)