Walk with the Suffering, Promote the Sacredness of Every Human Life

by Bishop James Checchio

Descriptive Title

Bishop Checchio Statement on Assisted Suicide

Description

New Jersey’s new law allowing assisted suicide, effective August 1, 2019, “points to an “utter failure” on the part of government and indeed all society, said Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen. It is the failure “to care truly, authentically and humanely for the suffering and vulnerable in our midst especially those living with an incurable disease as well as the frail elderly, the infirm and those living with disabilities,” he wrote in a July 29 letter to the 650,000 Catholics in his four-county diocese.

Publisher & Date

Diocese of Metuchen, July 29, 2019

One of the cherished hallmarks of being a Christian is that we always have hope. Hope is our gift from God that proclaims there is never a situation so desperate that we would have to resort to an evil means to find a solution. This is especially true in promoting the sacredness of every human life, even when there is serious illness and suffering. In hope we can see suffering as a sign of God’s presence and love. This is why it deeply saddens me to have to write to address the reality that has taken a step into the darkness of despair by accepting as law physician-assisted suicide.

On August 1, the new law, the “Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act,” will go into effect inour state. It permits physician-assisted suicide for competent, New Jersey residents over the age of 18 who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and have six months or less to live. Physician-assisted suicide is suicide by a patient facilitated by means (as a drug prescription) or by information (as an indication of a lethal dosage) provided by a physician aware of the patient’s intent.

The New Jersey Bishops as well as Catholics and others from across the state fought for over seven years to oppose this law. Passage of this law points to the utter failure of government, and indeed all society, to care truly, authentically and humanely for the suffering and vulnerable in our midst especially those living with an incurable disease as well as the frail elderly, the infirm and those living with disabilities.

Assisted suicide is a grievous affront to the dignity of human life and can never be morally justified. The legal permission now granted to this practice does not change the moral law. With this law, the elderly could feel undue pressure to view this as an option to prevent being a burden to others and young people will begin to think that people can and should be disposable. Indeed, with this law there will be a further desensitization of the value of human life.

As Catholics, we are called to show a different approach to death and the dying; one which accompanies every person as they are dying and allows them to love and to be loved to the very end. The purposeful termination of human life via a direct intervention is not a humane action whatsoever. We ought to look instead to minimizing the pain and suffering of the dying and those who are tempted to end their lives.

Because Saint Peter’s University Hospital is a Catholic institution sponsored by the Diocese of Metuchen, it complies with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (commonly referred to as the ERDs) that are issued by the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops. The ERDs clearly state that “Catholic health care institutions may never condone or participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide in any way.” Therefore, our hospital will not be cooperating with this moral evil.

With the passage of this law by the legislature and the signing by our governor, we are facing dark times. As a Church, we will not stop from advocating for the sanctity of human life, in all stages, and we will continue to educate our legislators, our fellow Catholics and the general public about the dangers of legalized physician-assisted suicide.

Let us strive to help the sick and incapacitated find meaning in their lives, even and especially in the midst of their suffering. Let us comfort those facing terminal illness or chronic conditions through our genuine presence, human love and medical assistance. Let us, as a society and as individuals, choose to walk with them, in their suffering, not contribute to eliminating the gift of life.

We look to Our Blessed Mother in our fight to end the threats to human life and a growing culture of death. She is our model and our example of how every human being should be treated as a gift at the beginning and end of life.

God bless you and thank you for all you do to promote life in our diocese, state and country!

The Most Rev. James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA
Bishop of Metuchen

© Diocese of Metuchen

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