Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum, in vanum laborant qui aedificaverunt eam - "Unless the Lord has built the house, they labored in vain who built it" Psalm 127

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Saint Valentine, Patron of Agape

   
A Cloud of Witnesses

 The Letter to the Hebrews tells us (Hebrews 12:1) that we live out our life of faith here on earth in view of a “cloud of witnesses”, which is to say our holy predecessors. They watch over us from before the Throne of God, where they cheer us on and intercede on our behalf.  At the time the letter was written, all these witnesses were holy men and men and women from Old Testament times, but that cloud has been expanding constantly over the centuries since to include countless Christian Saints. They are truly our witnesses before God, and also our examples, heroes who show us the path to follow.


Communion of Saints (Baptistry, Padua, by Jose Ruiz Ribeiro)
Speaking for myself, one of the unintended rewards of dabbling in bloggery over the past few years is that, in researching and writing blog posts on many of these saints, I’ve come to know them so much better. I’ve come to a deeper appreciation of famous heroes of the faith whom I thought I already knew, such as
St. Joseph and St. Therese of Lisieux. I’ve also come to know many more obscure saints, some of whom I had never heard of before: St. Peregrinus and St. Mellitus are just two examples. This coming week, however, we have the curious case of a saint who somehow manages to fall into both of these categories. He is universally “known”, at least insofar as his name is a household word, even among non-Catholics, and in fact among non-Christians.  At the same time, a great many people don’t even know they’re speaking the name of a Christian saint, and those who do know it know almost nothing about the man himself, or even whether he was one man, or two.



A Shadowy Saint

St. Valentine Baptizing St. Lucilla
by Jacopo Bassano
    I am speaking, of course, of St. Valentine, whose traditional feast day is February 14th.  There can be no doubt that such a saint existed: the archaeological evidence includes a church dedicated to him at a very early date, and Pope St. Gelasius I added him to the liturgical calendar as a martyr in the year 496.  His celebration was removed, however, in the reform of General Roman Calendar in 1969 (although he is still acknowledged as a legitimate saint) because there is very little trustworthy information about him beyond the bare fact that he gave his life as a martyr for the faith in the time of the Emperor Claudius Gothicus, most likely in the year 269 A.D.
    The legends attached to his name are indeed inconsistent, but there are some common threads among them. Some stories involve Valentine miraculously curing a young girl of blindness.  The girl is either the daughter of a Roman judge named Asterius, who consequently converts to Christianity with his whole 44-person household, or of the jailer who is holding Valentine; here, the saint closes his final letter to the young lady he cured in a way that has become familiar to the recipients of countless Valentine’s cards over the years: “Your Valentine.” Other stories depict Valentine as a bishop who secretly performs Christian weddings, a crime at the time, for which he is arrested.  All accounts agree that he refused to renounce Christianity, and died a martyr for the Faith.


True Love

St. Gelasius I from, The Lives and Times of the Popes
by Chevalier Artaud de Montor
    We can see in St. Valentine’s affectionate farewell to the girl he cured, and in his connection to marriage, the germ of his later reputation as a “saint of love”.  It has been suggested that his feast day was offered by the Church as a chaste alternative to the Lupercalia, an old pagan fertility feast that took place on February 15th.  It is true that Pope Gelasius I, the same pontiff who instituted St. Valentine’s day, also harshly criticized Christians who still observed Lupercalia, and formally abolished its observance.  While the circumstances suggest a connection between the two acts, there is no documentary evidence that he specifically intended to replace the pagan feast on the 15th with the saint’s day on the 14th. Another boost to St. Valentine’s reputation seems to have come in the Middle Ages, when it was a commonly held belief that birds paired up in mid February, around the time of his feast day.
    Whatever its origins, we can see that his reputation has grown over the centuries to such an extent that it has take on a life of its own, apart from the saint himself.  Stroll through the seasonal section of any retailer at this time of year and you will be assaulted by a wave of pink, emblazoned with messages about “Valentines Day” - most of which have long since lost the prefix “Saint”.  The celebrations aimed at schoolchildren, at least, tend to be mostly innocent, albeit desanctified. The pop-cultural messages directed at those beyond grade school, however, have strayed far from anything St. Valentine would have understood as “love”, to something he would have recognized as an almost Lupercalian eros. Adults are invited to see “Valentines” Day as a time to celebrate sexual love, with very little mention of marriage. In recent years we have also seen the phenomenon known as “V Day” (here even the saint’s name is gone), which curiously employs a perverse and degrading theatrical performance (among other references that modesty prevents me from mentioning) toward the otherwise laudable goal of ending violence against girls and women.


Agape vs. Eros

    The state of our society today is every bit as bad as what Pope Gelasius faced in the 5th century, perhaps worse.  We would do well to look back the original stories of St. Valentine, whether or not they meet the exacting standards of modern historians,  to see what they tell us about love and marriage.  St. Valentine was a champion of Christian marriage, to the point of giving up his life for it.  Not only that, his fond farewell to the young woman he had cured was an expression of respect, affection, and of concern for another, an act of self-giving, not the self-directed taking of lust.  St. Valentine is a patron saint of transcendent love, agape, not eros.
    That, I think, is the Christian take on this wonderful saint.  I started out by talking about the saints as both intercessors and heroes. Here is a saint who gave his life to bring men and women together in the loving bond of Christian marriage, and whose last thought as he faced his own death was directed toward comforting another.  What better image to offer in response to the self-indulgent, dehumanizing sexuality that is so prevalent today? In an age that so thoroughly and tragically misunderstands the meaning of love and marriage, we should put the “Saint” back in front of Valentine and hold him up as an Icon of True Love, the Patron of Agape.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Catholicism, Faith, & the Power of Imagination


Catholicism and Cool Stuff

     One of the attractive things about Catholicism is that, traditionally anyway, it has always included a lot of Cool Stuff: gorgeous music and art (a sampling of which I try to showcase on my blog), beautiful churches in which to worship (which are themselves filled with inspiring images), ancient, uplifting prayers with which to praise our creator, and on and on.  There's a vast treasury of beauty, and you can see it, hear, touch it, even smell it.  It's all wonderful but . . . is it really necessary?



   Many non-Catholic Christians and, sadly, even a substantial number of self-identified Catholics, dismiss these tactile and aesthetic riches as pointless frippery.  Many others recognize their power, but misunderstand their purpose.  John Adams, for instance, one of my favorite figures from American history but a man whose formation was thoroughly protestant, once witnessed a Catholic Vespers service when the delegates at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia decided to take turns attending each other's churches.  He was impressed by the impact of the vestments, incense, and chanting, but also highly suspicious of its purpose, remarking "How did Luther ever break the spell?"
     Now, it's no surprise that somebody like Adams, raised in a worldview grounded in Puritanism, should mistrust and misunderstand the aesthetic aspects of Catholic worship, but we should expect better from our fellow Catholics, particularly those who design churches, plan liturgies, and compose or arrange music.  In another recent post [here] we saw how beautiful, well-ordered churches help to teach the Faith.  Today I'd like to discuss in more depth how aesthetic experiences (both inside and out of the church building) can deepen our faith and even, in some cases, help bring the unbelieving to belief.  



It's a Matter of Trust

  Before I go any further, I'd like to stress that bringing about conversion is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit.  Our Lord still wants us to play a role, however: 


 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).


A significant part of that teaching should be directed toward opening minds and hearts so that people are prepared to trust Christ and his message.

          And "Trust" is the key word. In my post "Star Trek, Secularism, And Christian Faith" [here] we looked at another passage from Matthew, in which Jesus walks on the water and then invites Peter to do the same; we saw that when Peter sinks into the waves, it was not so much from a lack of belief as a lack of trust (Matthew 14:25-32). Trust of this sort doesn’t come easily: how quickly Peter, who was a close friend of Jesus, wavered in his faith.  How many of us ordinary believers, even those of us who have had powerful and convincing encounters with the power of God, have found ourselves beginning to doubt, and starting to drift away?  This is, I think, one of the ongoing effects of original sin: that we are prey to doubt, and our emotions can overwhelm our understanding. 
     If believing Christians can be drawn into doubt, what about people with even stronger emotional incentives to disbelieve?  There are those who hope to indulge their favored sins without guilt, for instance, or who work in a profession (such as academia) or live in an environment where Christian Faith marks them out for ridicule and abuse; there are an enormous number of people who know little about the history or teaching of the Catholic Church except the misrepresentations of an uninformed and often hostile popular press; there are those who really have been harmed, or are close to somebody who has been harmed, by someone they identify with Christianity or with the Catholic Church.



The Object of Opening the Mind . . . 

William-Adolphe Bouguereau's "Song of the Angels"
     Sometimes it is possible to overcome emotional barriers with the power of imagination.  It's not  that God or the matter of our Faith is imaginary, quite the opposite. It is that evidence is not self-interpreting, it needs a mind to interpret, a mind open to sometimes unsettling truths.  Things that engage the imagination such as art, music, and stories (including films and television programs) don't simply work on the intellect, they create new emotional experiences that can sometimes shake and loosen habits of mind cemented in place by previous experiences. Jesus took full advantage of this truth about human nature when he taught in parables.  Freed from these old barriers, we are able to see reality in a new light.  The well- known Catholic blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (a.k.a. Fr. Z), for instance, was a Lutheran who, after hearing a beautiful work of sacred polyphony on the radio, started to view Catholicism in a different way; this was the first step in his conversion, and eventual ordination as a Catholic priest.
     G. K. Chesterton once said: "The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid."  An important purpose of so  many of the tangible and beautiful things in Catholic worship, all the chanting, vestments, smells and bells, is to expand the imagination so that our minds are opened large enough to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
      There is, of course, a danger in reliance on the imagination: it can expand the mind in other, less wholesome, directions as well.  The well-meaning but misguided creators of Star Trek, for instance, are just the tip of the iceberg, and much, perhaps most, of what else is on offer in the popular culture is considerably worse. Like our conscience, then, imagination must be properly formed.  We should take seriously the power of works of imagination, both for good and for bad, always bearing in mind St. Paul's advice: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phillipians 4:8).  We might wish to remember the Apostle's words, and feel no guilt when we enjoy the beauty of Catholic music, art, or worship. In fact, it's all part of His plan.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Life Sells Chips (or, Chips Sell Life)


An earlier version of this Worth Revisiting post first appeared on 8 February 2016 on the blog Principium et Finis. To enjoy the work of other faithful Catholic bloggers please see Worth Revisiting Wednesday, hosted by Elizabeth Reardon at theologyisaverb.com and Alison Gingras at reconciledtoyou.com.


If you want to sell something, what better place than the most-watched television program of the year?  That, as those who follow American football and/or American pop culture could tell you, would be the Super Bowl, the National Football League’s annual championship game. Small wonder that advertisers spend millions of dollars for a single 30 second ad during the broadcast. Most often these ads are for things like beer, cell phones, cars, insurance, etc., but sometimes something a little different shows up.  Six years ago, for instance, Focus on the Family ran a pro-life ad featuring the mother of college football star Tim Tebow, which created a lot of discussion about the cause of life and, as I detailed in this post last week, saved at least one life.

Freddy Carstairs appearing in Doritos Super Bowl Ad (image from youTube)

    A Super Bowl ad promoting human life made waves again last night [7 Feb 2016] . . . but not in quite the same way as the Tebow ad did.  The commercial in question was advertising Doritos tortilla chips.  In this one, we see a mother happily looking at an ultrasound image of her late-stage unborn baby on a monitor; the mother then turns to her husband, who is contentedly munching on Doritos.  To the mother’s increasing annoyance, the father waves one of the salty snacks in front of the screen, where we can see the unborn baby reaching for the chip.  Finally, the exasperated mother grabs the chip from her husband’s hand and hurls it at her feet, at which point the unborn baby on the monitor, apparently eager to eat the chip, appears to dive for the “exit”, at which point the mother goes into labor.
    First of all, it’s a pretty sure bet that this ad is not intended (certainly not by Frito-Lay, the producer of Doritos) to make a pro-life statement.  According to an article at lifesitenews.com, the creator of the ad, an Australian filmmaker named Peter Carstairs, came up with the idea when he saw ultrasound images of his unborn son Freddy (who was born last year), and thought it would be a funny and (most importantly) an effective way to sell chips.  Frito-Lay chose Carstairs’ ad because it tested well and was unusual enough to stand out from the the welter of weird and ridiculous ads striving to make an impression upon Super Bowl viewers.

Ultrasound baby reaching for chip (image from Youtube)
    And make an impression it did, in some cases positive, in some, well, less so.  Apparently, NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly the National Abortion Rights Action League) found this tortilla-affirming commercial to be guilty of the shameful “antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses” (see article here), demonstrating yet again that pro-abortion fanatics cannot abide any suggestion that unborn humans are, well, human.  That’s why they insist on using dehumanizing terms like “fetus”.  That is also why they despise ultrasound, because sonograms make unavoidably obvious the already irrefutable scientific fact that unborn babies are not just “clumps of cells”, but little people.  Their objection to this particular commercial is not so much that the “fetus” is doing things that an unborn baby can’t do (which everybody watching knows: that's what makes it funny), but that the ultrasound image is being shown at all.  That’s why they fight tooth and nail against laws mandating that women seeking abortion first be shown an ultrasound of the “product of conception” in their womb, because ultrasound,  even ordinary ultrasound images of unborn humans doing ordinary things, changes minds.  As I detail in my post "The Truth Is Pro Life":

    The abortion providers can only argue that simply requiring them to show truthful, unaltered pictures of what (or more accurately, as the images show, who) is being aborted will dissuade some of their customers.  A federal court, in striking down one of these laws in North Carolina, said in its decision [according to pro-life attorney Howard Slugh] that the law “explicitly promotes a pro-life message by demanding the provision of facts that all fall on one side of the abortion debate.”  Notice that the law does not require the suppression of “facts” that fall on the other side of the debate: it simply requires that the mother know all the facts before undergoing abortion, and the facts happen to be pro-life.  And so the abortionists are reduced to asking the court to help them hide the plain, incontrovertible truth.  As Slugh notes:

All these sources agree that the more a mother knows about her child, the less likely she is to abort him.  This is not because ultrasound images are misleading or politicized; it is because they supply a mother with truthful information necessary for making an informed choice.

Champion of Human Life?


    Last night’s silly little Doritos ad, has (most likely unintentionally) reminded millions of people about the truth of human life in the womb. Again, I doubt very much that Frito-Lay was trying to make a pro-life statement with their ad: they probably saw it as just a funny take on an everyday experience that would make people laugh and, consequently, help sell their product.  It’s quite possible that, if they determine that the unfavorable attention from abortion promoters is hurting the bottom line, they may issue an apology and pull the ad from the internet (if YouTube doesn’t do it first).*  Let’s hope not; we shouldn’t allow the abortion industry and its apologists to silence the Truth.  Who knows? It might even be worth buying a bag of chips . . .   









*A year later, the ad is still there:



Sunday, February 5, 2017

Killing Is Not Compassion


I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him . . . (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

True Crime Story?

    Imagine you’re reading a book, or watching a film.  In this story a caregiver, a trusted figure, secretly puts a sleep-inducing drug in the coffee of an unsuspecting person under her care.  Once the victim is no longer conscious, the perpetrator tries to administer a more powerful drug, a lethal drug.  The victim (who had previously expressed to her care provider a desire to continue living) wakes up and fights back.  The caregiver calls upon accomplices (from the victim’s own family, no less!) to restrain her, and forcibly administers the deadly injection. Sounds like a crime thriller, doesn’t it?  But wait, there’s more . . . here the story changes from a crime thriller into a Kafkaesque dystopian nightmare. The deed comes to the attention of the authorities, who conclude that the killer should indeed go to trial . . . but not to punish her wicked crime.  Rather, despite conceding the lurid details above, they conclude that she “acted in good faith”, and seek a trial in order to establish a legal precedent that other health care providers may likewise kill unknowing, and even unwilling, persons without fear of punishment.

Healer, or killer? (detail from painting by Mikhail V. Nesterov)


    As you may have guessed, the scenario above is in fact a true story, which recently took place in the Netherlands, as detailed in this article from LifeNews.com. The only major detail left out of my retelling, and the only thing (at least in the minds of the Dutch Review Committee that investigated the case) that makes what appears to be an act of unspeakable wickedness into a “good faith” medical procedure, is the fact that the victim was suffering from dementia.  As more and more places are following the Netherlands along the path of the legalized killing of the old, infirm, and, increasingly, those who are simply unhappy, it would be wise to take a look at cases like this to see what lies ahead.

In the Eyes of the Law

Prof. Theo Boer (Daily Mail photo)
    The case above is a chilling illustration of how, once we cross the line of giving legal sanction to the direct taking of innocent life, we unleash a force beyond our control, in which the “logic” of death overwhelms supposedly rational considerations.  Let’s start with what Dutch law provides for, and see how it compares to what actually happened in the situation above.  Theo Boer, a professor of Health Care Ethics at Kampen Theological Seminary in the Netherlands recently published an article in the British Catholic Medical Quarterly explaining why he no longer favors the pioneering Dutch law allowing physician assisted suicide. We’ll get to his reasons in a moment; first I’d like to take a look at his summary of the law in question.  Pr. Boer explains that, according to Dutch law:  
-1. “First, there should be a request from the patient” - There was no such request, and in fact, according to an article in the UK’s Daily Mail,
. . . the patient said several times ‘I don’t want to die’ in the days before she was put to death, and that the doctor had not spoken to her about what was planned because she did not want to cause unnecessary extra distress. She also did not tell her about what was in her coffee as it was also likely to cause further disruptions to the planned euthanasia process.
-2.  “there should be unbearable suffering without prospect of improvement” - The daily Mail tells us that “she often exhibited signs of fear and anger, and would wander around the building at nights. The nursing home senior doctor was of the opinion that she was suffering intolerably”, but  adds that “she was no longer in a position where she could confirm that the time was now right for the euthanasia to go ahead”. In other words, in the subjective judgment of outside observers her life was no longer “worth living”; other facts in the case indicate that the person living that life didn’t concur in that judgment.
-3. “the doctor should inform the patient of his situation” - demonstrably no.
-4. “doctor and patient together should have come to the conclusion that there is no acceptable alternative” - again, manifestly not.
-5. “the doctor should have consulted a colleague” - it is unclear from the Daily Mail article whether the “senior doctor” is the same who administered the lethal injection, but it is likely that more than one doctor on the staff participated in discussing the case.  If so, this is the one point on which the doctor unambiguously complied with the actual requirements of the law.
-6. “The assisted dying should take place in a medically sound manner” - well . . .
. . . secretly drugging a patient, then forcibly injecting her as she fights for her life doesn’t fit my standard of sound medical manner, but others may have a different opinion. In any case, the attending physician incontestably violated provisions 1,3, and 4 of the law, arguably number 2 and, if one is to take a civilized view, number 6 as well.  Setting aside for the moment the morality of any such law (I’ll get to that), the doctor euthanizing this patient blatantly flouted most of the specific provisions of the law. How in this world is it possible that the Review Committee would not only bless the doctor’s efforts, but would also be so confident that the courts would agree?

Gospel of Life
    To answer that question, I suggest we go back to St. John Paul II’s Encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), published in 1995, six years before the passage of the Dutch assisted suicide law.  St. John Paul, in speaking of both legalized abortion and legal euthanasia, wrote (my bold):
The end result of this is tragic: not only is the fact of the destruction of so many human lives still to be born or in their final stage extremely grave and disturbing, but no less grave and disturbing is the fact that conscience itself, darkened as it were by such widespread conditioning, is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life. (Evangelium Vitae 5)
St. John Paul II
In other words, not only are the acts themselves immoral and unjust, but they tend to corrupt the moral understanding of society as a whole, and consequently the morals of everyone in it.  Why should we expect anyone to honor the specific provisions of man’s laws if we no longer recognize the legitimacy of the moral law, God’s Law, itself?
    There is a clear pattern to the way this corruption works in concrete instances, which we can see in the legal history of contraception and abortion over the past century: The rare, extreme case is offered as an exception to a ban on something that had previously been considered intrinsically wrong; once the line has been breached, however, there is no longer any reason in principle to deny to others what was at first permitted to only a few.  If it’s not wrong for married couples experiencing certain difficulties to use contraception, why should it be wrong for others? If it’s not murder for one woman to abort her baby, how can it be so for another? We have now seen the same thing happen here in the United States with marijuana laws: first only “medical” marijuana for people with glaucoma and other conditions, but followed in short order by the general lifting of restrictions.  We should expect that, once rare “hard cases” have been used to legitimize legal euthanasia, the killing will become increasingly more commonplace, and “acceptable” in an ever wider range of situations.

It Can’t Happen Here . . . Can It?
    Pr. Boers details how this exact thing has happened in the Netherlands with assisted suicide and direct euthanasia.  The law was proposed to apply to people who were suffering late-stage terminal illness and suffering extreme pain.  Before very many years, those people became the exception to the rule:

. . . what was once considered a last resort, now becomes a default mode of dying for an increasing number of people. The unbearable character of the suffering is lesser described in terms of physical suffering and more in terms of ‘meaningless waiting’.

    In fact, most of the people requesting euthanasia aren’t dying at all:

Whereas in the first years hardly any patients with psychiatric illnesses or dementia appear in reports, these numbers are now sharply on the rise. Cases have been reported in which a large part of the suffering consisted in age related complaints. Loneliness occurs in 50 out of the last 500 cases that I reviewed before stepping back. Many of these patients could have lived for months, others for years or even decades. We have seen a number of ground breaking cases: ‘euthanasia for two’, for example couples in which the caregiver gets cancer and his partner chooses to die the same day and the same way; euthanasia in blindness; euthanasia for a man with autism who fears retirement; assisted dying for a mother of two suffering from tinnitus. Undeniably, assisted dying for one group of patients leads to demands from others.

    Similar results are reported in Oregon, the first US state to legalize assisted suicide, and in other states that have followed since.  There, the most common reason given is the abstract, amorphous "loss of autonomy" (see chart below). Less than a third cite pain (and not all of those are actually experiencing pain: for some it is only fear of possible pain). In fact, the most common factor among those seeking assisted suicide is not pain or terminal illness but depression, a treatable, non-fatal condition.  Studies conducted in both the United States and the UK indicate that over 90% of those seeking assisted suicide are suffering from mental problems. Nevertheless most of these people receive no psychiatric assistance prior to their death.   In fact, we have seen in the United States, and Pr. Boer reports the same in the Netherlands, that the doctors who preside over these deaths often have no professional relationship at all with their patients, and sometimes don’t even know them.


The Law as a Teacher
    The idea that “The Law is a Teacher” is an old one, going back at least to St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  So what does a law permitting killing people because they are old or sick teach us?  Surely it sends the message that human life is not sacrosanct, but instead something that can be disposed of when it becomes difficult . . . and if difficult lives are expendable, then why not inconvenient lives?  And where do we go from there?  St. John Paul explains that:
It is a problem which exists at the cultural, social and political level, where it reveals its more sinister and disturbing aspect in the tendency, ever more widely shared, to interpret the above crimes against life as legitimate expressions of individual freedom, to be acknowledged and protected as actual rights.  (Evangelium Vitae 18)

    Pr. Boer, in language strikingly like that in the passage above, confirms that such has in fact been the case in the Netherlands, saying that “there is a shift in public opinion. Whereas in the beginning assisted dying was seen as a last resort, public opinion is shifting towards considering it a right” (my italics).  Boer goes even further, however, adding:

. . . public opinion is shifting towards considering it a right, with a corresponding duty on doctors to act. A law that is now in the making obliges doctors who refuse to actively refer their patients to a ‘willing’ colleague.

The Culture of Death
Dance of Death by Venne Adriaen Pietersz
   We can expect the pressure on doctors to participate in killing to grow more intense in jurisdictions that have legalized euthanasia.  The idea of such killing as a legitimate good likewise puts pressure on family members to seek it for loved ones who may be unable to ask for it themselves (which may have been a factor in the Dutch case discussed above), and also on those who are themselves suffering to “spare” their relatives the trouble of caring for them.  This very concern is among the most cited reasons given by those asking for assisted suicide or euthanasia.  And so we see the corrupting power of sin: doctors, who have dedicated themselves to healing, are increasingly compelled to do the opposite and kill; close family members see themselves in mortal conflict with those whom they love . . . and killing off grandma becomes little more exceptional than "putting to sleep" the family dog.
    That’s the future that’s in store for us if we continue down the path of killing as a remedy for suffering, old age, and mere ennui.  We can look forward to more and more people implicated in ever greater acts of injustice, and ever wider waves of corruption spreading throughout society as a whole.  As we can see from events in the Netherlands this is no longer conjecture, but, in many places, a reality, a reality famously described by St. John Paul II as a "culture of death"  (Evangelium Vitae 12). The people who are relentlessly pushing Death as the solution to a myriad of problems will try to paint killing as “compassionate”, but the truth is very different. Killing is not Compassion.