Many parishes in California over the next few weeks will see volunteers gathering signatures for a referendum to overturn the new physician-assisted suicide law signed by Gov. Brown last month.
The new law – which the Bishops of California have called a “travesty of compassion” – fundamentally changes the physician-patient relationship. It is especially dangerous for the most vulnerable members of society. (See complete coverage here.)
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 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.”
Other initiatives of particular interest to Catholics are also circulating but they have more time to gather signatures and a lower number of signatures required. Information on some other efforts will be available in the coming weeks.
Bishop Vasa is coordinating with the Pastors of our parishes:
California legislators recently passed a law (ABx2-15 - Physician Assisted Suicide) to legalize the practice of physicians actively bringing about the death of their patients. This “travesty of compassion” is a danger to the many vulnerable people of our State and it fundamentally undermines the physician-patient relationship. We, the California Bishops, along with many others recognize that the people of California deserve to have the final say on whether this new law is what they want.
As Catholics our teachings call us to have a profound reverence for human life at all stages. 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.
Concerned citizens have filed a referendum to ask voters to overturn this law. To succeed, the referendum 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 Santa Rosa. The Catholic Bishops of California rarely engage a public referendum in this fashion but the new moral challenge this law presents urges us to cooperate with those who are working to stop the dangerous practice of physician-assisted suicide before it is implemented.
Other worthy initiatives related to promoting a culture of life are now circulating in California and we will offer our commentary on them in due time, but this referendum to overturn physician-assisted suicide is a unique moment in our State’s history. Physician-Assisted Suicide can be halted before it takes effect. Should the referendum receive enough signatures, the law would not go into effect until after the Ballot Measure is voted on in the November 2016 election.
The effort to legalize a doctor writing prescriptions for a lethal dose of drugs adds seniors and the disabled to 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", 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).”
Please ask a person or organization in your parish to organize a signature gathering effort after Masses on the first two weekends of December. Signature gatherers will receive detailed instructions on how this must be done and, most importantly, when it must be completed.
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.
Asking every good grace and blessing of God upon you, I am, Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, The Most Reverend Robert F. Vasa, Bishop of Santa Rosa