BOSTON -- The Catholic community in Boston received an unanticipated ally in the fight for the dignity of human life at its natural end, when the Bay State Banner endorsed a "No" vote on Ballot Question 2 in a Oct. 4 editorial.
"It is customary for citizens of the Bay State to want more freedoms rather than greater restrictions, but Question 2 is potentially harmful for several reasons, including: 1. It is not uncommon to be misdiagnosed as having a terminal illness, and patients often survive well beyond the projected six months; 2. There is no more distressing time than to be informed of one's imminent death, and Question 2 provides inadequate protections against a bad decision; and 3. Question 2 would enable a doctor to violate restrictions of the Hippocratic Oath, which has established medical ethics relied on by doctors for centuries," the editor wrote.
The Bay State Banner describes itself as "an African American owned news weekly that reports on the political, economic, social and cultural issues that are of interest to communities of color in Boston and throughout New England." Melvin B. Miller, a graduate of Harvard College and Columbia Law School, started the newspaper in 1965, and told The Pilot why he sent the message to his estimated 120,000 weekly readers to vote against the November ballot to legalize physician assisted suicide.
"I gather from some of the feedback I have been getting that people are surprised that the Banner, which is a fairly liberal newspaper, would be on the negative side of Question 2. But, if you really look at the kinds of things that we support and the kinds of policies that we promote to help and uplift the community, you can see that to be excited about making it easier for people to end their lives is negative. It is not something we would be excited about," Miller said.
Catholics who work closely with the black community in Boston neighborhoods reacted to the paper's editorial.
Lorna DesRoses, director of the Office of Black Catholics for the archdiocese, found the editorial powerful in light of the newspaper's place in the community.
"I think it is a very significant thing that the Bay State Banner has come out against Question Number 2. They are a very widely read paper within the black community, very well respected, with a long history within the community," she said.
Father Walter Waldron, pastor at St. Patrick Parish in Roxbury since 1984, said, "It was a real pleasure to see that editorial. It was short, but it was to the point."
Father Waldron said he cited the editorial at an annual pro-life Mass at his parish on Oct. 11, focused on maintaining dignity and respect for life, even as it ends.
Meyer Chambers, a parishioner at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Roxbury and director of Boston's Black Catholic Choir, said the editorial separated itself from moral or religious grounds for opposing Question 2.
"That is something that we cannot do as Catholics, but as a black Catholic man I think it is really admirable to see that the Bay State Banner stands with us," he said.