Dear Parishioners, The following message is from Most Rev. Armando X. Ochoa, Bishop of the Diocese of Fresno, in union with the California Catholic Conference of Bishops:
California will step over a moral and ethical precipice unless a new law (ABx2-15 - Physician Assisted Suicide) to legalize the practice of physicians actively bringing about the death of their patients is overturned. This “travesty of compassion” is such a danger to so many vulnerable people and so fundamentally undermines the physician-patient relationship that Californians deserve to have the final say on whether this new law is what they want. As Catholics our teachings on the end of life respond to both the needs of the dying and those accompanying them. We should all promote the prudent and responsible exercise of patient autonomy during a patient’s last days. Those who are dying should experience the embrace of family, quality palliative care and love. All of those grappling with the loss of a loved one should be offered spiritual solace and grace-filled consolation.
Our Catholic health care providers offer this effective and compassionate care throughout our state. Sadly, this new law creates a medical and social reality in civil society that expands a “throw-away culture” mentality to an unprecedented level placing in peril our most vulnerable sisters and brothers in California. California stands at a perilous juncture in our history and what we do here may also negatively influence others in our nation. Concerned citizens have filed a referendum to ask voters to overturn this dismal law. To succeed it must first receive enough signatures by January 4, 2016 to qualify for the ballot. Because this law presents an unprecedented moral threat to human dignity and the timing for qualifying a referendum is urgent, signature gathering will be allowed and encouraged in the Diocese of Fresno through December 15, 2015. Since the legislature passed the physician assisted suicide bill in a Special Session, it will not take effect until the session is adjourned – which has not yet been determined. Should the referendum receive enough signatures, the law will be prevented from going into effect until after the voters have had their say in November 2016. The effort to legalize a doctor writing prescriptions for a lethal dose of drugs highlights the “throw-away culture”
Pope Francis has warned us against. In speaking to Italian doctors last year, His Holiness spoke clearly of the dangers of such a policy:
“The dominant thinking sometimes suggests a "false compassion", that which believes that it is: helpful to women to promote abortion; an act of dignity to obtain euthanasia; a scientific breakthrough to "produce" a child and to consider it to be a right rather than a gift to welcome; or to use human lives as guinea pigs presumably to save others. Instead, the compassion of the Gospel is that which accompanies in times of need, that is, the compassion of the Good Samaritan, who "sees", "has compassion", approaches and provides concrete help (cf. Lk 10:33). Your mission as doctors puts you in daily contact with many forms of suffering. I encourage you to take them on as "Good Samaritans", caring in a special way for the elderly, the infirm and the disabled.”
By putting this referendum on the ballot we can educate our own Catholic community to understand the beauty of our Catholic teaching and the dire consequences that this sad practice will inflict on individuals and their families. We can keep it from becoming law and advocate better alternatives for end-of-life care. As we have seen in other health issues of moral concern, if this law is affirmed here and elsewhere, it will become ever more difficult to reverse the practice and to expand true compassionate care. We can keep health care in California from going down that path and work for a California that truly cares for its people. Thank you for your understanding and assistance.