Sunday, March 20, 2016

My Support For Medical Professionals and Their Conscience Rights

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition's postcard from their postcard campaign, "I Support Caring Not Killing."

Today's post is an opportunity to put faith into action in support of Christian doctors, nurses, and all other medical professionals, whose conscience rights are being threatened by the recommendations of a recent parliamentary reportMedical Assistance in Dying: A Patient-Centred Approach, and the Carter vs. Canada ruling, in which the Supreme Court directed the federal government to legislate a new law by June 6, 2016, so as to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.

If you unfamiliar with the Carter decision or new to the euthanasia and assisted suicide issue, please consider reading my post, Euthanasia - A False Mercy, for some background information as to how and why euthanasia and assisted suicide has become such an issue in Canada, and what the teachings of the Catholic Church have to say about it.

In my previous post, The Negative Implications of Legalizing Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, under the subheading Time to Fight For Christian DoctorsI had wholeheartedly agreed with Larry Worthen, the executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society, when he stated that, "The time has come to fight to keep Christian doctors." In addition to my blogging, my agreement has translated into further action, the joining of a postcard campaign, I Support Caring Not Killing, from the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC).

If you are somewhat new to getting involved with a campaign, the EPC's postcard campaign could not be an easier place to start. The postcards are free, and can be ordered by contacting the EPC by telephone at 1.877.439.3348 or by email at, There is no postage required as it is free to send mail to federal politicians. The EPC is distributing three different bilingual postcards to be sent to Prime Minister Trudeau, or Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, or your Member of Parliament (MP).

Putting Faith Into Action

As to what impact these postcards may in fact have, no one really knows. One thing is for certain, if millions of these postcards were mailed to Ottawa, it would send a strong message to the federal government that: Canadians reject the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide; that no matter how it is packaged, explained or rationalized, there is no justification for euthanizing someone or assisting in their suicide, regardless of any request, level of pain, and duration of suffering; that the killing of a human being can never be considered morally licit; and that conscience rights for medical professionals must always be protected. 

Getting involved with the EPC's postcard campaign is but one way to put faith into action. To quote scripture, "My brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it...So it is with the faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless." (James 2:l4-l7)

Saint John Paul II
Saint John Paul II had written extensively about putting faith into action in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles Laici (Christ's Faithful People), a document that explained the laity's vocation and mission in the Church and in the world. The laity have a very specific role in the Church's mission to evangelize, and this is accomplished by "labouring in the vineyard." You might be wondering, what exactly does labouring in the vineyard mean? It is a reference that St. John Paul II explained in the first paragraph:
The lay members of Christ's Faithful People (Christifideles Laici)...are those who form that part of the People of God which might be likened to the labourers in the vineyard mentioned in Matthew's Gospel: "For the Kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard" (Matthew 20:1-2).
Our "vineyard" is the vast world we live in, one that is to be transformed according to God's plan, and in it, a multitude of men and women are called to labour in anticipation of the final coming of the Kingdom of God. The call to "labour" is for everyone; a call that is more urgent and necessary today than when Christifideles Laici was released on December 30, 1988.

Since Christifideles Laici release, Christian faith has waned considerably in Canada, coupled with a sharp rise in consumerism, both of which have contributed to the secularization of society. Saint John Paul II made an important point that was relevant for Canadian society back then, and is even more pertinent today, "A new state of affairs today both in the Church and in social, economic, political and cultural life, calls with a particular urgency for the action of the lay faithful. If lack of commitment is always unacceptable, the present time renders it even more so. It is not permissible for anyone to remain idle." (3)

God's Holy Law of "Thou shall not kill"

What the sending of these postcards also spotlights is the moral responsibility that Members of Parliament (MPs) should demonstrate to their respective constituencies, by rejecting the Supreme Court's Carter vs. Canada ruling; a ruling that was nothing but an exercise in judicial activism. If you are wondering by what rationale MPs should not abide by the Carter decision, the answer is to be found in God's Holy Law of "Thou shall not kill." Catholics, Christians alike, and all people of good will, can draw strength and clarity from the example of the Apostles: 
When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, 'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man's blood on us.' But Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than any human authority." (Acts 5:27-29)
The importance of God's Holy Law was addressed in Saint John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life), where he explained the truth, and shared his concerns about the threats to the value and inviolability of human life that included: abortion, contraception, euthanasia, and suicide. In addition, he wrote dedicated sections on conscience rights, and the civil and moral law, making this document an increasingly relevant read to understand the current euthanasia and assisted suicide issue we are facing here in Canada. The section dedicated to God's Holy Law is aChapter III's - You Shall Not Kill, God's Holy Law, under the subheading, "We must obey God rather than men" Acts 5:29: civil law and the moral law (sections sixty-eight to seventy-four). In the preceding sections, he wrote about euthanasia (sections sixty-four and sixty-five "It is I who bring both death and life" Dt 32:39 - the tragedy of euthanasia), and suicide (sections sixty-six and sixty-seven).

Saint John Paul II made an important point regarding civil law, that perfectly addresses our current Canadian situation, and spotlights the failure of the Supreme Court's Carter decision, and the federal government's intention to legislate a new law based on it. Consider the following from Evangelium Vitae
Certainly the purpose of civil law is different and more limited in scope than that of the moral law. But "in no sphere of life can the civil law take the place of conscience or dictate norms concerning things which are outside its competence", which is that of ensuring the common good of people through the recognition and defence of their fundamental rights, and the promotion of peace and of public morality. The real purpose of civil law is to guarantee an ordered social coexistence in true justice, so that all may "lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way" (1 Tim 2:2). Precisely for this reason, civil law must ensure that all members of society enjoy respect for certain fundamental rights which innately belong to the person, rights which every positive law must recognize and guarantee. First and fundamental among these is the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being. While public authority can sometimes choose not to put a stop to something which-were it prohibited-would cause more serious harm, it can never presume to legitimize as a right of individuals-even if they are the majority of the members of society-an offence against other persons caused by the disregard of so fundamental a right as the right to life. The legal toleration of abortion or of euthanasia can in no way claim to be based on respect for the conscience of others, precisely because society has the right and the duty to protect itself against the abuses which can occur in the name of conscience and under the pretext of freedom. (71)
Saint John Paul II also wrote about the doctrine on the necessary conformity of civil law with the moral law, and its application for society. This doctrine and its application serves as a key component in the rationale for MPs to reject the Carter decision.

To clarify this doctrine, Saint John Paul II made reference to Saint Pope John XXIII, and one of the great Doctors of the Church, Saint Thomas Aquinas. He first quoted Saint Pope John XXIII from his encyclical, Pacim in Terris, "Authority is a postulate of the moral order and derives from God. Consequently, laws and decrees enacted in contravention of the moral order, and hence of the divine will, can have no binding force in conscience..." (72) He then quoted Saint Thomas Aquinas, "...[H]uman law is law inasmuch as it is in conformity with right reason and thus derives from the eternal law. But when a law is contrary to reason, it is called an unjust law; but in this case it ceases to be a law and becomes instead an act of violence." (72)

The dreaded euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation will spotlight the failure of Canadian civil law to conform with the moral law (God's Holy Law). That failure would stem from the fact that the legalizing of euthanasia and assisted suicide will disregard the fundamental right and source of all other rights; that is, the right to life. Here is how St. John Paul II applied the references of Sts. John XXIII and Thomas Aquinas:
Consequently, laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law. It might be objected that such is not the case in euthanasia, when it is requested with full awareness by the person involved. But any State which made such a request legitimate and authorized it to be carried out would be legalizing a case of suicide-murder, contrary to the fundamental principles of absolute respect for life and of the protection of every innocent life. In this way the State contributes to lessening respect for life and opens the door to ways of acting which are destructive of trust in relations between people. Laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are therefore radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good; as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity. Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good. Consequently, a civil law authorizing abortion or euthanasia ceases by that very fact to be a true, morally binding civil law. (72)
Conscience Rights

Saint John Paul II made some very important points that spotlight the moral courage and certitude that all Canadian medical professionals must demonstrate in the face of anti-life procedures and practices.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. As such, there is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; more to the point, there is a grave obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection.

From a moral standpoint it is never licit to cooperate with evil of any kind, which with respect to euthanasia and assisted suicide, would mean the direct participation in an act against innocent human life or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it. Saint John Paul II put a fine point on this when he wrote, "Each individual in fact has moral responsibility for the acts which he personally performs; no one can be exempted from this responsibility, and on the basis of it everyone will be judged by God himself (cf. Rom 2:6; 14:12)." (74)

Saint John Paul II also noted that refusing to take part in committing an injustice is not only a moral duty, but a basic human right, which should be acknowledged and protected by civil law. He elaborated on this:
In this sense, the opportunity to refuse to take part in the phases of consultation, preparation and execution of these acts against life should be guaranteed to physicians, health-care personnel, and directors of hospitals, clinics and convalescent facilities. Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane. (74)
When Christian doctors, nurses, and all other medical professionals in health and palliative care, as a matter of conscience, refuse to provide euthanasia and assisted suicide, or refer ("effective referral" is the euphemism used by proponents for euthanasia and assisted suicide) "patients" to medical professionals, and facilities that will, they properly respond to what they are called to do; that is, not cooperative in any way with these anti-life practices, even if they are legally permitted by civil law.

Regardless of what issues, controversies and problems we are facing in Canada, Catholics and Christians alike, and all people of good will must never succumb to what St. John Paul II referred to as the "culture of death," and all that it seeks to implement in Canada.

I hope that today's post has encouraged you to join this postcard campaign, and that you unite it to prayer and fasting. Like all spiritual battles, it should begin with, and be sustained by time in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

May God have mercy on Canada.

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