Creating a Civilization of Love, Not Death

St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated from one end of the nation to the other in many ways. But amidst all the cards, e-mails, candies, and flowers, there is one sentiment that trumps them all—unselfish love for the most vulnerable in our midst.

Today brings to mind a little girl, four years of age, who epitomizes what I mean. In Belgium yesterday lawmakers took the step of removing age restrictions from the law permitting assisted suicide.

But before it can be enacted, the Belgian king, King Philippe, must sign it. The opinion is that he will do so because, for one thing, 75 percent of the people in Belgium approve this change in the law. 

This is where the little girl comes in. Her name is Jessica Saba and her video message to the king is a simple one: “Please do not sign the euthanasia law, for the sake of the children.” Her father introduces her on the video and it is without doubt one of the most touching messages you will ever see. Jessica “was born in Montreal in May 2009 with a severe heart deformity consisting of a completely blocked valve and an underdeveloped ventricle. She would likely have died after a few hours had she not undergone a series of heart operations at Montreal Children’s Hospital.” As her father makes clear, if she had been born in a country where euthanasia for children was legal, she may well have died rather than be treated with the extensive surgeries she needed.

What makes this story germane for each and every one of us in the United States is that the movement to decriminalize the direct killing of the vulnerable is already here.

In Connecticut, readers of the Courant newspaper have been polled on the subject. The introduction to the poll asks: “Should Connecticut make it legal for terminally ill patients to end their lives?” The newspaper depicts the advocates of assisted suicide as caring toward the dying, yet opponents do not warrant an explanation of their position. 

As of today the results are 57 percent in favor of assisted suicide and 43 percent in opposition. And while the newspaper clarifies that this is an unscientific poll, the results nonetheless are indicative of a trend in this country that cannot be ignored.

Even Christians are buying in. Christianity Today reports that, according to a Pew Research poll, “one-third of evangelicals believe suicide is moral for the incurably ill.” The same poll tells us that 55 percent of white Catholics and 33 percent of Hispanic Catholics support assisted suicide.

In New Mexico, a state district judge ruled: “Competent, terminally ill patients have a fundamental right under the New Mexico Constitution to seek a physician’s help in getting prescription medications if they want to end their lives on their own terms.”

This emerging trend does not bode well for the Christian who understands what it means to sincerely love another more than one loves himself. I am reminded of a famous statement by Malcolm Muggeridge, one of the greatest Christian apologists of all time: “Jesus healed the sick, raised Lazarus from the dead, gave back sanity to the deranged, but never did He practice, or include, killing as part of the mercy that occupied His heart. His true followers cannot but adopt the same attitude.”

Expressing our love for someone who is dear to us should extend beyond ourselves, beyond the confines of comfort and false compassion, beyond everything that would prematurely take the life of someone we truly love.

Today, as we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, let us recall the love Christ has for each of us, no matter how weak, no matter how ill, no matter how much we suffer. Remember the beautiful words of beloved Pope John Paul II: “Suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love towards neighbor, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a ‘civilization of love.’” 

Happy St. Valentine’s Day.