The "individualism" of Death with Dignity and Roe v Wade ignore the notion that we, citizens of our republic, are a community of persons. The notion that I can do anything I want as long as it doesn't interfere with someone else's life pretends not to notice that by our very nature, as Aristotle observed, we are social beings. We are connected to one another. We are all in this thing called "society" together. While this may seem to some to be an overly spiritual concept that does not belong in the public square, the domestic budget of our nation draws it legitimacy and vitality from this simple concept.
This year Respect Life Sunday needs to have a particular focus on the Death with Dignity referendum. To begin with, this title intentionally obscures the substance of the issue. Everyone agrees that every person should be allowed to die with dignity. What this piece of legislation does, however, is legitimize suicide by terminally ill people who see no alternative to their suffering but taking their own lives. In this legislation, the word dignity completely cloaks the hopelessness and despair that some terminally ill people face.
The question we really should be asking has to do with how we care for dying people. If suicide is the best that we can offer the terminally ill, then we certainly have come a long way from the notion of a civil society where we acknowledge a responsibility for one another. Today hospice and other forms of palliative care offer far more to the terminally ill than suicide ever can. This is where our attention needs to be focused as we head toward November. And this should be our response to those who think otherwise.
Msgr. Paul V. Garrity is Pastor at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Norwood.
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