As a long-time lapsed Catholic (I flamed out after first communion, when I was about ten), it feels really good to tell an Archbishop to "butt out" in the title of this post.
Especially since what the Archbishop of Portland, Oregon is butting in about is a decision by Brittany Maynard, a woman with terminal brain cancer, to choose assisted suicide rather than a horrible lingering death.
And on Nov. 1, Maynard, who in April was given six months to live, intends to end her own life with medication prescribed to her by her doctor – and she wants to make it clear it is NOT suicide.
"There is not a cell in my body that is suicidal or that wants to die," she tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. "I want to live. I wish there was a cure for my disease but there's not."
Maynard has a stage 4 glioblastoma, a malignant brain tumor.
"My glioblastoma is going to kill me, and that's out of my control," she says. "I've discussed with many experts how I would die from it, and it's a terrible, terrible way to die. Being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying."
Oregon, the state where I live, passed this nation's first Death With Dignity act in 1994. My wife and I strongly support it. As, obviously, does Maynard, who moved to Oregon so she could take advantage of the law.
Recently on the Portland evening news I saw Archbishop Alexander Sample blathering on about how wrong it was that Maynard had chosen to end her life on her own terms. As noted above, she has tentatively chosen November 1 as her dying day, but says she might change her mind about the date depending on how she feels then.
There's a lot about religiosity that bothers me now that I've embraced churchlessness. Preachiness and pontificating about morality is especially irritating.
Even more so when no one is being affected by a person's actions except the person herself. For example, though I'm in favor of abortion rights, I can resonate with some right-to-life arguments. After all, a potential human, a fetus, is involved with the decision whether to have an abortion.
(Some, of course, would do away with that word, "potential.")
But when it comes to ending one's own life, I firmly believe this should be the right of every individual. Yet only after careful consideration. Suicide, whether assisted or not, shouldn't be taken lightly. Life is precious, since, almost certainly, this is the only life each of us will ever have.
Archbishop Sample, though, has issued a statement that includes some bizarre bits of theological reasoning, in addition to being a totally unwarranted intrusion into Maynard's private life, and death. The statement can be read in its entirety here. I'll also include it as a continuation to this post.
Here's some excerpts I found particularly weird.
Killing oneself eliminates the freedom enjoyed in earthly life. True autonomy and true freedom come only when we accept death as a force beyond our control. Our lives and our deaths belong in the hands of God who created and sustains us.
Huh? Freedom is being able to end your life when it becomes unlivable.
There isn't any enjoyment in having your brain and body destroyed by a stage 4 tumor. Believe me. My wife's sister died from stage 4 breast cancer. We know what she went through. We dearly wished she lived in Oregon, rather than in Indiana, and had a choice about how her life would end.
Death is not a force beyond our control. That's an absurd thing to say.
Modern medicine argues against it. Wars argue against it. The death penalty argues against it. It's ridiculous to argue that God is in control of everything, but then accept all the ways human beings either prevent death from happening or cause it to happen.
Through the suffering, death and Resurrection of His Son, Jesus, we know that death is not the final word. Eternal life awaits all those who entrust themselves to God.
This is subjective opinion, not objective fact. Most people in the world don't believe those two sentences. The Archbishop needs to realize that the Catholic Church can't control how they think, nor should it try to.
Assisted suicide sows confusion about the purpose of life and death. It suggests that a life can lose its purpose and that death has no meaning. Cutting life short is not the answer to death.
Of course, life can lose its purpose.
When life becomes unbearable, there is no reason to keep on living. Meaning is not something outside of us (the subject of a recent post). Meaning isn't given to us by God or any other entity. Meaning is a dynamic relationship, an ever-changing flow between ourselves and the world.
Our final days help us to prepare for our eternal destiny.
So you believe, Archbishop Sample. Lots of other people disagree with you. So butt out of their end-of-life decisions.