Bishop Malone: It's a matter of life and death

Mon, Feb 6th 2017 03:00 pm
Bishop of Buffalo

As I write this February column, I am with my brother bishops from across New York state on our annual five-day retreat.  I must confess a bit of guilt that I am disregarding the strong suggestion of our Jesuit retreat master that we all disconnect from diocesan business and shut down our iPhones so as to listen more attentively to the Holy Spirit.  Even in my quiet prayer, though, I have been so distracted by two looming concerns that I finally suspected that maybe the Lord was nudging me to deal with them even while on retreat. So, here goes.

Two lethal bills have been introduced in Albany: A.1748 in relation to abortion expansion, and A.10059/S.7579 in relation to legalizing physician-assisted suicide.

The bishops of New York state are firmly opposed to both. And we call upon all Catholics and other people of good will concerned about the common good to stand in solidarity with us.

This abortion expansion legislation is a re-branded attempt to extend abortion in our state, similar to the failed 10th plank of the 2013 "Women's Equality Agenda." This bill would expand late-term abortion beyond the now legal 24 weeks of pregnancy, allowing abortion for pretty much any reason and at any time during pregnancy, even in the ninth month.  

This bill would permit non-physicians to perform abortion, clearly dangerous for women and infants. The intent of this bill is to make abortion a fundamental right, superseding even the right of conscience of those who find abortion morally abhorrent. Doctors could be compelled to perform abortions or face loss of their licenses. Health insurance plans could be forced to cover abortion, and employers could be forced to purchase such insurance.

Perhaps most shocking of all, this legislation would repeal Public Health Law Section 4164, part of which gives full legal protection to any child who might "mistakenly" be born alive as a result of an abortion. Recall the grand jury report on abortionist Kermit Gosnell that states that "he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy, and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors." We cannot allow New York state to make the crime for which Gosnell is serving a life sentence legal.

Abortions in New York state have been trending down. Let's not let this trend be reversed.  

The second bill would allow physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication for the purpose of ending a patient's life. In its statement of opposition to this legislation, the NYS Catholic Conference notes that legalizing physician-assisted suicide would blur longstanding medical, moral and legal distinctions between withdrawing extraordinary medical assistance and taking active steps to destroy human life. One lets people die a natural death, a morally acceptable course, and the other is the deliberate and direct act of hastening death.

This bill undermines the physician's role as healer, forever altering the doctor-patient relationship. In effect, it turns doctors into killers.

There are many tragic flaws in this bill. People who consider suicide, perhaps after a terminal diagnosis, are often deeply depressed. This legislation requires no counseling or mental health treatment. Think about the possibilities of elder abuse and of exploitation of persons with severe disabilities and other vulnerabilities.

And very importantly, remember the alternatives to assisted suicide like pain management, hospice care and palliative medication.

We as Catholics are concerned about these lethal bills because of our commitment to the common good of the people of our state.  And because the gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of life.  

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