We live in a world obsessed with perfection – a superficial perfection, that is. An entire industry exists to make us believe that everyone we see on television, magazines or social media looks (and is) perfect. We measure personal success through economic standards, and we consider those with abundant wealth to have a “perfect life.” As the article A Perfect Gift states, though, “God calls us to seek perfection too. He does not call us, however, to perfection of appearance or abilities, but to perfection in love.”
When we buy into the mindset that the value of a person lies in his or her contribution to the economic structure of our society, we distance ourselves from that perfection in love which we are called to seek. When we let ourselves be deceived into believing that “non-contributors are worth less than those who are economically productive and are therefore entitled to less of the community resources, including health care,” we clear the path for becoming what Pope Francis has called a society of “disposable people.”
Even though caring for a loved one with a disability or for an elderly relative comes with multiple challenges, this is precisely what the Lord asks us to do through the Corporal Works of Mercy. And yet, our society seems intent on doing the complete opposite. When a family is given a prenatal diagnosis, when a tragedy leaves a loved one with no apparently detectable brain function, or when an aging loved one is no longer able to take care of himself, the trend in the medical field seems to be one of ‘compassion’ by putting an end to the suffering. Families are left wondering what to do when those charged with the care of their loved ones fail to recognize the value of every human life. Abortion, discontinuing the administration of life-sustaining treatment and euthanasia are presented as ‘the best option.’
As Catholics, though, we are called to advocate for life from conception until natural death. The first step we need to take is to educate and inform ourselves. With that purpose, we have selected a few articles that tackle these difficult issues from a Catholic perspective.
In Supporting Families Who Receive a Prenatal Diagnosis, we learn from those families why, even when faced with such a challenge, life is the best and only option. We also learn what we as friends and parish community can do to support them.
When it comes to euthanasia (direct killing of patients by physicians) and assisted suicide (providing lethal drugs so patients can take their own lives), the argument in favor of these tragic measures is that “these practices will only affect a narrow class of terminally ill patients who are expected to die soon… But there is ample evidence of a ‘slippery slope’ toward ending the lives of patients with chronic illness or disabilities, or even those who are vulnerable or marginalized in other ways.” The USCCB sees in the United Sates a trend where “the assisted suicide movement… has shown that this agenda will not be limited to cases where a voluntary request is made by a competent patient.” Cardinal O’Malley has called California’s legalization of assisted suicide “A Great Tragedy for Human Life,” and Richard M. Doerflinger explains to us in his article Flirting with Death how all of us could be at risk of being deemed ‘disposable.”
Our healthcare system is headed in the wrong direction when it comes to defending life, especially that of the most vulnerable in our society. In addition to educating ourselves, we need to discuss these issues with our loved ones and not assume that they know our wishes. As Diane stated in her message, prayer is another powerful tool for us. Let us pray for those in the medical field, that Our Lord may touch their heart and guide them to see the value of every human life. Let us also pray for those who are suffering right now because of severe or terminal illness, a difficult diagnosis or simply being told they are ‘a burden.’ May the Holy Spirit strengthen and comfort them and their families, so that they can come to affirm the indisputable truth that every life is worth living.
“A population that does not take care of the elderly and of children and the young has no future, because it abuses both its memory and its promise.” ~ Pope Francis
To conclude our section of life, we wish to share with you one final video. Life and Dignity of the Human Person is part of a collaborative video series presented by the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services. As part of our ‘Back to the Basics’ theme, we hope to bring you all seven videos relating to the key themes of Catholic Social Teaching through our Quarterly Review.