Catholic Bishops, Laws And God's Gift Of Life

May 2, 2007 09:00 AM

I have been quite disturbed by the news headlines of the past week. Perhaps you did not know it, but in addition to the Connecticut bishops and their amazing ability to back down on the subject of using the morning after pill (chemical abortion pill) to treat victims of sexual assault, the Wisconsin bishops are doing the same thing.

As if that were not bad enough, I just discovered, thanks to Wesley Smith, that the Texas Catholic bishops have decided to oppose a Texas legislative proposal that would give families more time to move their loved ones to a different facility if a diagnosis of “futile” renders their loved one on the brink of having common medical care removed.

As Smith points out in his analysis of this problem, a new Texas law that would do away with a 10-day rule that currently gives the family of a patient deemed to be undeserving of “futile care” a mere ten days to transfer their loved one. The 10-day rule imposes a great burden on families but the new law would do away with the 10-day rule and require treatment to continue until a transfer can be made.

However, Smith points out, “Bishop Gregory Aymond, speaking for the Texas bishops and the Texas Catholic Conference, has come out against this good approach and instead, supported maintaining a modified futile care permissiveness in Texas.”

I am puzzled by such action on several levels, but will stick to one and one alone. We are taught, as Catholics, that each human person is a child of God, created in His image and likeness. Thus his dignity is innate in the very fact of his existence, regardless of his state of health, condition of dependency or place of residence (i.e., the womb).

It occurs to me that this simple truth should be the driving force for every single bishop in the world to stand up and defend the most vulnerable, never succumbing to state laws, pressure or any other form of coercion that might manifest itself. After all, bishops are shepherds of souls, not unjust laws. While the Texas situation is mind-boggling, since it appears that the proposed law is more charitable than the Texas bishops would desire it to be, the bottom line that ties all this together is respect for human persons from the instant their lives begin until the time God calls them home.

While Bishop Aymond has written “that a person should be allowed to die with dignity and have a peaceful death,” one has to wonder what is dignified or peaceful about being starved to death or denied the oxygen needed to breathe. I wish Wesley Smith had erred in his report, but I know he has not. Let us pray for our bishops.

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