DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     October 12, 1998     vol. 9, no. 199

THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS

To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO
    INTRODUCTION
          The following is the full text of an address delivered on Friday, October 1 by Pope John Paul II to the bishops of California, Nevada, and Hawaii including Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The American bishops were in Rome for their ad limina visit. The topic was the emphasis on fighting the culture of death. The text is provided by Catholic World News Service.
    CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday. Below is the second of two parts.

    Pope's Ad Limina Address to the Western United States Bishops part two

          4. The Church likewise offers a truly vital service to the nation when she awakens public awareness to the morally objectionable nature of campaigns for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. Euthanasia and suicide are grave violations of God's law (cf Evangelium Vitae, 65 and 66); their legalization introduces a direct threat to the persons least capable of defending themselves and it proves most harmful to the democratic institutions of society. The fact that Catholics have worked successfully with members of other Christian communities to resist efforts to legalize physician- assisted suicide is a very hopeful sign for the future of ecumenical public witness in your country, and I urge you to build an even broader ecumenical and inter-religious movement in defense of the culture of life and the civilization of love.

          As ecumenical witness in defense of life develops, a great teaching effort is needed to clarify the substantive moral difference between discontinuing medical procedures that may be burdensome, dangerous, or disproportionate to the expected outcome-- what the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls "the refusal of 'over-zealous' treatment" (2278); cf Evangelium Vitae, 65)-- and taking away the ordinary means of preserving life, such as feeding, hydration, and normal medical care. The statement of the United States bishops' pro-life committee, Nutrition and Hydration: Moral and Pastoral Considerations, rightly emphasizes that the omission of nutrition and hydration intended to cause a patient's death must be rejected and that, while giving careful consideration to all the factors involves, the presumption should be in favor of providing medically assisted nutrition and hydration to all patients who need them. To blur this distinction is to introduce a source of countless injustices and much additional anguish, affecting both those already suffering from ill health or the deterioration which comes with age, and their loved ones.

          5. In a culture that has difficulty in defining the meaning of life, death, and suffering, the Christian message is the good news of Christ's victory over death and the certain hope of resurrection. The Christian accepts death as the supreme act of obedience to the Father, and is ready to meet death at the "hour" known only to him (cf Mk 3:32). Life is a pilgrimage in faith to the Father, on which we travel in the company of his Son and the saints in heaven. Precisely for this reason, the very real trial of suffering can become a source of good. Through suffering, we actually have a part in Christ's redemptive work for the Church and humanity (cf Salvifici Doloris, 4- 24). This is so when suffering is "experienced for love and with love through sharing, by God's gracious gift and one's one personal and free choice, in the suffering of Christ crucified." (Evangelium Vitae, 67)

          The work of Catholic health-care institutions in meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the sick is a form of imitation of Christ who, in the words of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, is "the doctor of the flesh and of the spirit" (Ad Ephesias, 7, 2). Doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel deal with people in their time of trial, when they have an acute sense of life's fragility and precariousness; just when they most resemble the suffering Jesus in Gethsemane and on Calvary. Health- care professionals should always bear in mind that their work is directed to individuals, unique persons in whom God's image is present in a singular way and in whom he has invested his infinite love. The sickness of a family member, friend, or neighbor is a call to Christians to demonstrate true compassion, that gentle and persevering sharing in another's pain. Likewise, the handicapped and those who are ill must never feel that they are a burden; they are persons being visited by the Lord. The terminally ill in particular deserve the solidarity, communion, and affection of those around them; they often need to be able to forgive and to be forgiven, to make peace with God and with others. All priests should appreciate the pastoral importance of celebrating the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, particularly when it is the prelude to the final journey to the Father's house; when its meaning as the sacramentum exeuntium is particularly evident (cf Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1523).

          6. An essential feature of support for the unalienable right to life, from conception to natural death, is the effort to provide legal protection for the unborn, the handicapped, the elderly, and those suffering from terminal illness. As bishops, you must continue to draw attention to the relationship of the moral law to constitutional and positive law in your society.: "Laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings... are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law" (Evangelium Vitae, 72). What is at stake here is nothing less than the indivisible truth about the human person on which the Founding Fathers staked your nation's claim to independence. The life of a country is much more than its material development and its power in the world. A nation needs a "soul." It needs the wisdom and courage to overcome the moral ills and spiritual temptations inherent in its march through history. In union with all those who favor a "culture of life" over a "culture of death," Catholics, and especially Catholic legislators, must continue to make their voices heard in the formulation of cultural, economic, political, and legislative projects which, "with respect for all and in keeping with democratic principles, will contribute to the building of a society in which the dignity of each person is recognized and the lives of all are defended and enhanced" (Evangelium Vitae, 90). Democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes (cf Evangelium Vitae, 70). In defending life you are defending an original and vital part of the vision on which your country was built. America must become, again, a hospitable society, in which every unborn child and every handicapped or terminally ill person is cherished and enjoys the protection of the law.

          7. Dear brother bishops, Catholic moral teaching is an essential part of our heritage of faith; we must see to it that it is faithfully transmitted, and take appropriate measures to guard the faithful from the deceit of opinions which dissent from it (cf Veritatis Splendor, 26 and 113. Although the Church often appears as a sign of contradiction, in defending the whole moral law firmly and humbly she is upholding truths which are indispensable for the good of humanity and for the safeguarding of civilization itself. Our teaching must be clear; it must recognize the drama of the human condition, in which we all struggle with sin and in which we must all strive, with the help of grace, to embrace the good (cf Gaudium et Spes, 13). Our task as teachers is to "show the inviting splendor of that truth which is Jesus Christ himself" (Veritatis Splendor, 83). Living the moral life involves holding fast to the very person of Jesus, partaking of his life and destiny, sharing in his free and loving obedience to the will of the Father.

          May your fidelity to the Lord and the responsibility for his Church which he has given you make you personally vigilant to ensure that only sound doctrine of faith and morals is presented as Catholic teaching. Invoking the intercession of Our Lady upon your ministry, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to the priests, religious, and lay faithful of your dioceses.


October 12, 1998       volume 9, no. 199
THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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