Living and dying with faith, hope and love

Divine MercyYesterday I attended the Requiem Mass for a man whose life profoundly affected mine – Dr Peter Scanlon.

It was a beautiful Requiem – solemn, a little bit joyful at times and a reminder that our eyes must always be fixed upon God in this life, for it is God who is our final end.

I realised that this is just how Dr Scanlon would have planned  it – teaching those present, even in his death.

Because the Dr Scanlon I knew was a teacher.  His enthusiasm for medicine and the dignity of the human person was palpable.  He would take the time to explain anything asked of him.  He was always willing to give of his time to speak up for the unborn and the devastating effects contraceptives have.  One knew that if you approached Dr Scanlon with a question, you would get a well considered and truthful answer.

It is clear to me, that for Dr Scanlon, every single person mattered.  From the youngest to the eldest, with his gentle spirit, he would make time for everyone.  I am sure he saw in each the face of God.

There are three things that I have learnt from Dr Scanlon over the years:

Courage to speak up in the face of great injustice.  Courage to speak the truth in love.  Courage to correct with humility.  Courage to suffer with a deep trust and abandonment to God and His will.

To embrace the cross.
Suffering is something not to be afraid of.  In suffering we enter into the very heart of Jesus.  When I first learnt of Dr Scanlon’s illness I knew immediately that he would be offering his suffering up.  Yesterday I learnt that his great suffering was for the medical profession and for Catholic priests.  Of course!

Faith, Hope and Love
Okay, so that is three things, but they go together!  Dr Scanlon, in his life and in his death, has taught me to constantly have faith in God and His perfect plan; to hope in perfect trust; and to love God above all else.  With these virtues in place it is easy to love our neighbour.

I have been privileged to know this great man.  It has been an honour to pray for him, his beautiful wife Maria and his seven amazing children over these months.  I have been profoundly affected, as have many others by Dr Scanlon’s life and faith.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May he rest in peace.  Amen.

“This kingdom free of care and filled with joy, crowded with citizens of the Old and New turned all its love and vision to one goal.  O great delight that glittered for their view.”
~ Dante, Paradiso, 31. 25-28





Euthanasia: Killing the Suffering

Euthanasia: Killing or Caring?Once again the issue of euthanasia has been thrust into the public arena for debate.  This week Sean Davison pleaded guilty to a charge of inciting and procuring his mother’s attempted suicide.  The Crown then withdrew the charge of attempted murder that Davison had previously been facing.

The stories that are used to illustrate the arguments for euthanasia are always engaging, and often heart wrenching.  It is a natural response to not wish to see loved ones, or even perfect strangers suffer.  In Davison’s case, his mother apparently had tried to starve herself to death, but had been unsuccessful.  It is said that she was in pain and discomfort and had asked him to help her to die.

What society fails to recognise today, is that suffering (though difficult and painful both for the sufferer and those who stand by), can actually be useful.  Suffering allows us to grow in maturity – if we let it.

Many however, choose to let the suffering take them over – which leads to self-absorption, anguish and despair.  When this happens the sufferer no longer can see beyond themselves.

Family members and carers, compelled to ease the pain the other is under, can end up making decisions that ultimately implicate themselves in the ending of another’s life.

Quite simply euthanasia is murder.  A false sense of compassion clouds the reasoning of society into thinking that euthanasia is actually a good.  As each year passes and more and more pro-euthanasia stories are presented by the media, we need to speak up against it.  If we don’t, we will find that one day sooner than we think, it will be legal to kill people who are dying, disabled or suffering.

Response to The Dangers of Euthanasia

At a time where society is becoming more and more open to the idea and practice of killing those who are terminally ill, it is important that those who still hold rational and moral views on the topic are heard.  So it was wonderful to read the NZ Catholic Bishop’s Statement:  The Dangers of Euthanasia which was released yesterday.

The Bishops have reminded us of the differences between extraordinary methods of treatment and euthanasia by saying “… it is one thing to withhold or withdraw extraordinary methods of keeping a person alive when it is no longer sensible to do so;  it is another thing to do something, or omit to do something for the purpose of terminating a person’s life.  In the former case, we are simply allowing a person to die.  In the latter case, we are killing.”  This distinction is important as some people misunderstand what true euthanasia is.

Also discussed are the social pressures that can occur once euthanasia is introduced and the danger of people being “euthanised” without their consent simply because they have a disability, dementia, or are too much of a drain on resources.

The Bishop’s have commended the use of palliative care, and the need to care for people as they suffer emotionally, psychologically and spiritually as they near the end of life.  They wrote “The real moral imperative is on us all to be bearers of hope and to offer selfless care to all those who are sick, disabled and dying while ensuring that there are adequate resources for palliative care.”

The statement also went on to say that “True compassion calls for us all to stand alongside, and in solidarity with, all those who are suffering.  We commend all those who already do so much to care for those people who are sick, elderly or disabled as well as those who are dying.  The mark of a great society is evidenced in its ability to care for those who are most vulnerable.”

It is important that each one of us actively cares for all those in our communities who are vulnerable.  We cannot stand by and let euthanasia become part of our society.  And as the Bishop’s remind us “we need to learn how to live well and die well.”

The Dangers of Euthanasia:  A Statement from the New Zealand Catholic Bishops

Death As A Salesman:  What’s Wrong With Assisted Suicide?  by Brian P Johnston  An excellent book that gives clear answers as to why euthanasia/assisted suicide is wrong.