Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, issued a pastoral letter on the Feast of St. Joseph (“After the Worst of the Coronavirus: Fostering a Culture of Life as a People of Hope,” March 19) that exhorts Catholic New Yorkers to stand up against the assisted suicide bill recently re-introduced in the NY Assembly.
Pope Francis has named 2021 the year of St. Joseph who, in Catholic tradition, is the patron saint of a happy death. However, Cardinal Dolan writes:
As we live through a second Lent of the Coronavirus pandemic, I know that “happy” is not the word we would associate with the widespread death that we have seen around us. ….
When I pray, I find myself frequently wondering if God has sent us this time of trial to awaken us to the bigger, “spiritual pandemic” of our age—a faith that has grown lukewarm and has drawn too many of us into what Pope Francis has called the “throwaway culture,'” which treats people like discardable objects when they cease being “useful.” This “throwaway” mentality leads ultimately to a dehumanizing culture of death, in which the unborn, physically and mentally challenged, and our elders are disposed of through the grave evils of abortion and euthanasia. It’s no wonder we are an increasingly violent society.
Even before Covid-19, a slouching toward the false compassion of “assisted suicide” had already begun in our state. Lawmakers in our state capital were talking about it, and lobbying efforts were fierce.
Yes, in 2019, as Anne Hendershott wrote in Catholic World Report, “progressive politicians prepared the battlefield for assisted suicide”—and they gained a new ally when in an April 2019 radio interview, Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke publicly for the first time in support of the bill. “I say pass the bill. . . It’s a controversial issue, it’s a difficult issue. The older we get and the better medicine gets, the more we’ve seen people suffer for too, too long.”
It’s now two years later and the Medical Aid in Dying bill is back. Cuomo has already “aided” thousands of elderly and disabled persons to their deaths, with his inexplicably stupid and dangerous policies in nursing homes and homes for the disabled at the height of the pandemic. These people never asked for “aid in dying.” Instead, they were treated as expendable.
To make matters worse, the proposed New York legislation is so bad that Rita Marker, Executive Director of the Patients Rights Council, sent a letter this March to her national membership, saying that it “could make New York the assisted suicide capital of the country and, indeed the world.”
“Individuals,” she continued, “would be eligible for assisted suicide even if they aren’t NY residents. And they could be diagnosed and receive the deadly drugs within a day.
In addition, a physician could prescribe those drugs without ever seeing the patient in person!”
God help us, if after the horrors of COVID-19 and the epic failure of our state healthcare authorities to protect our most vulnerable citizens, we cannot see how such a radical law would open wide the door to untimely deaths and coercion: The “ushering out” of those who are deemed inconvenient.
Have we learned nothing?
Cardinal Dolan writes:
Now is the time to make sure that we have learned the right lessons from our shared pandemic experience. After more than a half-million deaths in this country and nearly 50,000 in New York alone, the last thing we need is more unnecessary death. With health authorities warning about a dramatic rise in the number of suicides during this pandemic, we certainly do not need more suicide!
Saint Joseph, in addition to being the patron of families, dads, refugees, and laborers, is also the patron saint of a happy death since, on his deathbed, he was surrounded by Jesus and Mary. Let’s pray to Saint Joseph for happy deaths, especially for the most vulnerable, that they will never be made to feel as if they are burdens. Pray that assisted suicide will go nowhere in New York and that all people know they are loved and not alone. Suicide is hardly a happy death, but an act of loneliness, worthlessness, and desperation.
For more on the New York law, and also for the best and most updated information on assisted suicide laws in every state, go to the website of Patients Rights Council. You will also find there crucial and lifesaving information about advance directives in your state—and how to protect yourself and your families. Executive Director Rita Marker is an attorney, author and tireless advocate against euthanasia and assisted suicide. Marker is also a longtime Review contributor and received our Great Defender of Life Award, along with Wesley Smith, in 2008.