Doctor-prescribed suicide may not bring 'dignity,' say workshop presenters

BRAINTREE -- The realities of physician assisted suicide could reverse social stigmas against suicide, de-personalize care for people facing terminal illness, and create undignified final moments of life. Those points were the focus of the speakers at the Braintree presentation of the Archdiocese of Boston's educational campaign "Doctor-Prescribed Suicide is Suicide... and suicide is always a tragedy!" Similar education sessions were held through the archdiocese during the month of May.

"We do not want people to have illusions that this is somehow going to be beautiful, painless, and without difficulties. It may be in your own time, and it may be at your own choosing, but it could be fraught with difficulties," said director of Faith Formation and Evangelization Janet Benestad at the May 17 presentation.

Benestad has taken point on this issue for the archdiocese and said the images of potential suffering caused by life-ending procedures stands in stark contrast to the imagery of "dignity" promoted by supporters of the November ballot initiative.

She said the supporters of these acts of suicide go to great lengths to promote the idea of painless death.

"It is not unusual when someone asks for suicide, in Oregon and Washington where this is legal, for somebody from Compassion and Choices, the organization that is promoting assisted suicide, to go and be present at the death. I think one of the reasons is because they want to encourage the patient even if there are some difficulties. It is not likely to be an easy thing," Benestad said.

The Braintree conference presented three experts who spoke on the realities of the November ballot initiative.

Bioethicist, nurse and attorney M.C. Sullivan, director of Ethics at Covenant Health Systems in Lexington, addressed palliative care as an alternative to suicide.

"I tried to highlight the fact that the pending legislation has some serious flaws," Sullivan said, after the workshop.

She questioned the virtue of changing the duty of a physician from a role protecting life to a role taking life. She also said that the intention of law and public policy should tend toward broad application.

"By their own admission, instigators of this kind of referendum will say that it is not for everybody. Very few people have availed themselves of it in the states where it is legal. Well then, why are we having legislation for it if it is not for broad application?" she asked.

She said physicians, instead of being asked to take lives, should be asked to facilitate more peaceful transitions into natural death when the time comes. She pointed to palliative care as an alternative.

When providing palliative care, medical professionals focus their attention on alleviating the pain of a patient. They apply palliative care to patients facing chronic or terminal illness, setting it apart from hospice, or end of life, care. Alleviating pain in this way does not preclude curative treatment, but becomes a viable option when curative treatments become ineffective.

"Really, the only appropriate and on-point response to this is to look at other things to do when we know that therapeutic interventions no longer work, and the best of it is palliative care," she said.

Deacon Timothy J. Maher, of the archdiocese's Pro-Life Office, serves as Chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. During the presentation he shared his expertise on how medications can affect the human body.

"I reviewed the use of drugs in palliative care, indicating that nowadays with the advances in palliative care we are able to relieve suffering and pain in the vast majority of people," Maher told The Pilot.

In contrast, he drew a disturbing picture of the reactions that can be caused by drugs prescribed to induce death.

"After ingestion, there have been some reports of patients vomiting. If that patient is by himself, or is lying down, they may have great difficulty clearing the vomitus from their oral cavity and they could aspirate it," Maher said.

Deacon Jim Greer, who oversees healthcare chaplains for the archdiocese, spoke of his ministry experience carrying out corporal works of mercy.

He told the participants that everyone in the workshop faced a terminal situation in their lives.

"I hate to tell you this, but we all have a terminal illness, and it is called life. Our life will come to an end, but we are so afraid to talk about that," he said.

Greer then related experiences from his time over the years ministering to the sick and the dying alongside his wife, which brought the couple often into the homes of dying individuals.

Benestad said of his talk. "It is a ministry of his to tend to the sick and the dying. When he tells these stories, they really do help us to appreciate that death is a part of life. Dying well is as much a part of living as anything else."

She added that each of the speakers provided strong support for the mission of the Church in opposing the "Death with Dignity Act" at the ballot in November, and said that many Catholics hold on to misconceptions regarding the teachings of the Church as one approaches the natural end.

Benestad said Catholics often believe incorrectly they have to accept any-and-all treatments to prolong life. She said Catholics can decline treatments that create hardships or become futile.

"There are choices whenever you are being faced with illness, and there are choices at the end of life. You are not limited in terms of choices you make, and that's important. Catholics misunderstand that all the time," Benestad said.

She said it is important for all Catholics in Massachusetts to become educated on this issue.

"Anybody who is a citizen, anybody who votes, anybody who is a member of the electorate in November is going to have an opportunity to vote for or against this. This is a very, very bad bill, so what we are trying to do is to make sure that we get that message out to people in our own parishes," she said.

The final education session will be on May 31 at St. John Chrysostom in West Roxbury when Benestad will join Henry Luthin and his wife, Pro-Life Office director Marianne Luthin, for an evening presentation.

Today is 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholic leaders are living an important moment in the history of the Catholic church in the U.S. and are called to ...

Stay close to the suffering, forgive one another, pope tells Latvians

AGLONA, Latvia (CNS) -- What would Mary do? was the question Pope Francis, in effect, asked Latvian Catholics gathered at their nation's popular Marian ...

Joy, hope contagious for Encuentro participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, ...

Update: Pope in Lithuania: Don't let anti-Semitism, hatred resurge

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Outside the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Pope Francis ended a day of paying homage to victims of totalitarianism and ...

God is patient, even with failures, pope tells young Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Meeting young Lithuanians in Vilnius, Pope Francis said he wanted a relaxed conversation, like they were sitting in a pub ...

Update: Vatican signs provisional agreement with China on naming bishops

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- For the first time in decades, all of the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the pope, the Vatican announced. Pope ...

Find strength in tolerance, solidarity, pope tells Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- In Lithuania, a nation that experienced invasions, atrocities and persecution, Pope Francis began his visit with a plea to ...

Ospino: Encuentro reflects 'energy, maturity' of a church 'here to stay'

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- The thousands of Hispanic Catholic ministry leaders gathered in Texas for the Fifth National Encuentro shared views on the maturity ...

N.J. cardinal won't attend synod, asks to remain home at 'time of crisis'

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he ...

Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) -- Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan's seven Catholic ...

Catholics believe in God but 'don't believe in us,' Miami archbishop says

MIAMI (CNS) -- The crisis the Catholic Church is facing is not "a crisis of faith" or "mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy," but is "a crisis ...

Update: Disney animator says grounding in Catholic schools led to success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the blockbuster ...

#WhyImCatholic movement aims to share hope at difficult time for church

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension has launched a new social media campaign called #WhyImCatholic to offer "hope and unity" for Catholics by inviting ...

Continue to be an evangelizing church, nuncio tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Quoting from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic ...

Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions ...

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...