Dear Parishioners: This Easter Season is proving to be very busy at the RI Statehouse as legislators take up hearings on a broad range of issues of concern to Catholics. They have also begun with earnest to consider Governor Raimondo’s proposed budget. You may have read about the many cuts that Governor Raimondo made in the budget. They included a cut to the cross-district busing for private school students and the text-book loan program. These cuts directly effect our Catholic School students across the state and right here at Our Lady of Mercy School. The Governor not only cut the funding for these important programs but eliminated them! Thankfully the leadership of the General Assembly have pledged to restore these programs in their entirety.
These programs benefit the families of all private and parochial schools not only Catholic Schools. They enable these tax paying families to obtain the busing and borrow the textbooks they are justly entitled to receive. The thousands of students who attend Catholic and other private schools save millions of dollars for the state and local communities. The proposed budget cuts to their services seems short sighted and unnecessary. I am grateful that the RI General Assembly including our own State Representative Anthony Giarrusso and State Senator Mark Gee who have pledged their support for restoring the full funding of these crucial programs for our Catholic School Families.
The RI House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare took testimony last week on a bill to legalize assisted suicide in Rhode Island. House Bill 5507 would allow doctors to legally prescribe a lethal dose of medicine at the request of a patient who has been deemed mentally competent and who has received a terminal diagnosis. Many in the faith community and medical community oppose this legislation, not only because it violates the most basic tenet of our belief in the sacredness of human life, but also because of the many dangers the legislation poses to vulnerable populations.
As Catholics we must convey our deep dismay about the message this legislation sends to those who might feel that their illness and the care they require is nothing more than a burden to their families and the rest of society. As has been seen in states such as Oregon where assisted suicide is legal, individuals could request doctor-prescribed suicide based on fear of being a burden to others. In the last official Oregon report, fear of becoming a burden on others was given for requesting lethal drugs by 40% of those who died using that state’s assisted suicide law. At the heart of our Church’s ministry to the sick, to those with disabilities, to those without access to adequate medical care, and to the frail elderly is a recognition of the Gospel call to embrace the lives of those most in need of our love, our care, and our compassion. There is no life that we consider not worth living, no person who does not deserve to be valued simply because they are a living human being.
While some may view this legislation as a response to the understandable fears about pain and a loss of “dignity” that someone diagnosed with a terminal illness might face, the answer to those fears should be a demand for appropriate medical treatment that provides adequate pain management and excellent palliative or hospice care. A terminally ill patient requesting a prescription to commit suicide deserves to be surrounded by compassion and love, not handed a prescription to take his or her life. Pope Francis has stated: “In many places, the quality of life is related primarily to economic means, to ‘well-being,’ to the beauty and enjoyment of the physical, forgetting other more profound dimensions of existence — interpersonal, spiritual and religious. There is no human life that is more sacred than another — every human life is sacred — just as there is no human life qualitatively more significant than another.” Let us pray that assisted suicide is rejected by our elected officials! God Bless.