Friday, October 2, 2009

The Catholic Church's Jurisdiction Over Suffering.

At the BC Catholic, Msgr. Pedro Lopez-Gallo weighs in on the rising assisted suicide movements in Canada, Britain and the US by reminding us of its roots: in the pagan world. Yet his analysis is messy. If assisted suicide (and suicide) are pagan acts, why did Christians of old practice it and receive martyr status?

Direct and indirect suicides also occurred during the early days of Christianity, when certain holy virgins and martyrs would kill themselves in defence of their virtue. In modern times, St. Maria Goretti chose to be killed rather than give up her virginity, and St. Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a fellow prisoner about to be executed by the Nazis.

All these examples embody the supreme act of self sacrifice and the heights that love can reach: in Jesus’s words, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Lopez-Gallo goes on to note the Catholic Church's later condemnation of assisted suicide but offers backhanded compassion to those who chose it:

By the 19th century, free thinkers and modern philosophers were presenting suicide as the ultimate tool of self-determination and as proof that there is no eternal life, no afterlife and no soul. Our mother the Church condemned suicide and imposed serious penalties, denying ecclesiastical burials to those who died by their own hand (old Latin Code, c. 1240).

The Church no longer imposes such severe penalties because we now recognize that many of those who take their own lives are under extreme emotional and psychological distress and, most important, did not kill themselves in “odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith)

While the Catholic church now allows Mass for those who commit suicide - if only because no one is able to know if the dying proclaimed love for Christ in their last breath, assisted suicide and suicide, he concludes, are still an affront to God, to faith, and to the church.

He notes that others are led to assist suicide for monetary reasons and that some elect suicide because of mental infirmity, fully missing the legal and physical considerations surrounding the issue.

What he fails to state plainly is the jurisdiction the Catholic Church still seeks to assert, via opposition to assisted suicide, over the realm of suffering. The state, of course, would like that jurisdiction, as we see in the pending appeal case Baxter v Montana. So of course would the medical industry. It is this contested jurisdiction over suffering that has once again coalesced to deprive the suffering of their choice.

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