Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As I write these words, the summer solstice is upon us, and from this day on, now, the days begin to grow shorter, minutes at a time. The daylight begins to decrease until we reach the celebration of the birth of Christ the Lord, who is the light of the World. This is why the Birth of St. John the Baptist is celebrated at this juncture in time because he (John the Baptist) said of Christ: I must decrease so that he can increase!
There are certainly times in our Western Culture when it seems as if the darkness is overcoming us, as with the law of physician assisted suicide now going into effect here in California.
We owe a great deal of thanks to all who worked so diligently in working against this legislation, which ultimately succeeded only through political maneuvering. It had stalled earlier last year because of the clear opposition of so many. A number of articles written at the time mentioned that this was legislation pushed by those of “privilege” on so many of our immigrant populations from around the world, who were opposed to this.
We especially thank all of our physicians and care givers who gave powerful witness to the effectiveness of palliative care. I would especially like to thank Dr. Vincent Nguyen, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty and Patty Mouton of the Alzheimer’s Association, among many others.
Our teaching is often characterized as a list of “no’s”. A no to physician assisted suicide is a yes to the dignity and worth of each human life, a yes to the mission of each one of us to be alert for and support families who care for suffering and terminal loved ones, and a yes to pray for and with those in need. A yes to all of that can mean that those suffering or on terminal illness will not have to choose physician assisted suicide. This is the obligation and mission of each one of us.
I just recently had the privilege of celebrating a Mass of the Resurrection for a wonderful Catholic woman who passed away after many years with Alzheimer’s disease. I had also celebrated the Sacrament of the Sick with her and prayed the Rosary with her family. Her worth, dignity and value of her life was no less because of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, in these years she was still witnessing to all of us and teaching us! This was also certainly the case for my mother in her last years of dementia.
Archbishop Gomez recently stated that California has now crossed a dangerous line with this unjust law, and has failed in care for those in need. It would also be well to keep in mind the recent words of Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, Latin for “The Joy of Love”. The Holy Father states, “Euthanasia and assisted suicide are serious threats to families worldwide… The Church, while firmly opposing these practices, feels the need to assist families who take care of their elderly and infirm members.”
Thank you all for your witness of Christ’s love and presence for those in need.
+The Most Rev. Kevin W. Vann, Bishop of Orange