once for all
pleads for us at God’s right hand,
coming stern and grand.
The front page
of today’s New Haven Register carried an article by Jordan Fenster,
“Right-to-die bill may be discussed by legislature” by which the citizens of
Connecticut were alerted to the possibility that in the next session of the
legislature the question of assisted suicide will be on the table. Following
the defeat of Massachusetts ballot on the same subject last week, the contagion is now again flowing south. Already three US states, Oregon, Montana and Washington, allow for
physician assisted suicide. 34 states prohibit lethal doses of medication that
would end human life.
Let me say from the outset, this is not a Catholic issue. Persons of belief and unbelief ought to be concerned about the potential passing of a law that legalizes medically induced suicide. Hence, this is not a conservative issue. This is not a an anti-human dignity issue. It
is just the opposite: this is a human issue. Who we are a human beings, and how
we teach each other is a human issue that is informed by what we believe and
how we behave. Committing this legislative error is a problem of education.
Recall that in the past when a similar bill was brought to the CT voters it failed only 51-49%.
Several weeks ago there appeared in the New York Times an
intriguing OP-ED article that I believe we need to seriously consider in the
discussion of physician assisted suicide. Considering voices that differ from ours need to be thoughtfully taken into account because we are people use who reason to frame our moral lives. We can’t simply dismiss the other and therefore I appeal to people of belief and unbelief to reasonably discuss what’s at stake. When we rush the discuss without fact we always get burned.
In my opinion not enough attention has been devoted
to considering how this legislation has been lived out in this country and in
others, nor have we considered the philosophical, theological, sociological and
human consequences of such an act. Most often our heart-strings are pulled, even stretched leading us to decide weighty matters without due attention to the reality in front of us –to the person and people and intimately connected with life and death issues. We also don’t always adequately consider the eternal consequences of killing someone before natural death happens.
Who’s life are we “making dignified” by engaging death before it’s naturally
presented? What really is human dignity? What does it mean to be truly a man or
a woman in relationship with other men and women here-and-now, and following
death? To what extent does fear, anxiety and perceived suffering dictate how we
think and act toward others? Are we sufficiently aware of and sensitive to the difference between ideology and being a person, no matter how debilitated?
Here is Ben Mattlin’s October 31, 2012 New York
Times article published online.
President Timothy Cardinal Dolan began his address saying that we need to
attend to “First things first: we are first believers in Christ: the way, the
truth and the life…We need to recall that the Lord said, “Seek first the
Kingdom of God”: it is God who first engages us…”
Is it a matter of saying the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary and the Glory Be with the Eternal Rest prayers around the time of a person’s death, or only on the anniversary of death of a loved one or friend? Somehow I doubt it.
The law of charity that I think Christians are called to live with certainty makes a claim on us to pray for the dead and dedicate some portion of prayer, fasting and almsgiving for the Church Suffering (the Holy Souls) so that one day they become part of the Church Triumphant. Being Friends in the Lord (disciples of Christ) can’t be indifferent to those who have died. We believe that the bonds of love don’t unravel with the death of the body. We promise the dying that we won’t forget them. If this is true, then why do we so often forget to have a Mass offered for their intentions, or say a rosary for our loved ones, or absent ourselves from visiting the cemetery? Mass, the rosary and a visit are concrete acts of love that have a real consequence for real people we knew and loved in this life.
Consider the image of posted above is a example of spiritual works effecting the soul of another. Here the Baroque Master Giovanni Battista Crespi, “Il Cerano” (1573-1632) paints in 1617 Saint Gregory the Great “delivering the soul of a monk.” The deliverance is the result of the monk and pope Gregory offering Mass for the soul of a monk. The depths of mercy and love are mined by the devotion of the Mass for another.
What does the Church teach about Purgatory?
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
Paragraph 1030: All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
Paragraph 1031: The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of cleansing fire. As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age but certain others in the age to come.
Paragraph 1472 excerpted: This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin.
For more on purgatory you can read here.
The Holy Souls in Purgatory. Purgatory has been described, as a “cleansing fire” that burns away the dross of sins on our souls. Saint Paul wrote those of being saved “yet so as through fire” and whether or not the soul endures a literal fire, its purification does involve suffering. The time each soul spends there, and the severity of the pains it experiences, varies. However, our prayers for these souls can help alleviate their sufferings and help them reach heaven more quickly. Although they can no longer pray for themselves, they can and do pray for us as well out of gratitude! In addition we can help them by having masses said for the departed and by engaging in works of cha
rity and sacrifice on their behalf.