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Evansville, Indiana
May 13, 1988     The Message
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May 13, 1988
 

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4 Editorial The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana May13,1988 By PAUL LEINGANG Message Editor Putting up a good front and finding no one is looking There is a fence between our house and the house next door. It was built before we arrived. It will remain after we leave. It is a rented house we live in; the fence was built -- not by our landlord -- but by a previous owner. The landlord says there may have been a dispute between neighbors at one time, which led to the construction of the fence. The fence is tall, of wide wooden boards on end, fastened to a framework of posts and crossbars. It was built at the edge of the property, which slopes steeply upward toward the neighbor's house. The steep slope location adds greater height to the fence, already tall -- nearly ten feet in all, from driveway level to the squared tops of the upright fence boards. It is, a good fence, as far as it goes, but it is not finished. The posts and the framework continue past the garage at the end of the driveway, but the upright boards were never added. The garage serves the same purposes as the fence, however. It blocks the view. It creates a sense of privacy. It marks the border line between properties. Fences are built for many reasons. They keep people out; they keep people in. They decorate an area. Countless columns have been written about fences as symbols of the barriers people build. Peo- ple wall out the world to protect themselves, then slowly realize they are in a prison of their own making. Our fence is not such symbol. We did not build it. It does not keep us prisoners. I took a careful look at our fence a few days ago. On the other side of it is another fence. The neighbor has one, too, not as elaborate as ours, but nonetheless effective. Our fence has two sides to it, the same as any other fence ever built. The "nice" side is on the outside, the side facing our neighbrs fence. The side with the crossbars and the posts is the side we can see. Our fence was designed to be decorative, and to provide privacy. Privacy it does provide, but at a cost. Our view, toward the neigbor's house, is the view of the back side of our fence. Sometling seems wrong about such an ar- rangement. A lot of effort went into building such a fence, but the view from the builder's side is not as nice as the view from the outside. If this fence is a symbol of anything, it is a symbol of considerable effort expended for the sake of putting up a good front, then finding out no one is looking. Or perhaps, another conclusion might be that  good fence s may make good neighbors, but neighbors don't always build good fences. No great truth springs from these observations about the fence between my neighbor and me. A small truth, perhaps, might be noticed if we look at the fence as a barrier to a Christian's ability to witness to God's love. Faith must not be kept private, behind a wall of religion designed to look good only from the outside. If that is the case, no one will be looking. Washington Letter A growing concern over a "rush toward euthanasia" By JULIE ASHER NC News Service WASHINGTON (NC) -- Even if a proposed initiative to legalize physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill doesn't make it onto Califor- nia's ballot for November, Catholic pro-life leaders say the effort is a major development in the country's "rush toward euthanasia." The Catholic Church ab- solutely rejects euthanasia, which it defined in the 1980 Vatican declaration on euthanasia as "an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated." Last September, as part of its annual Respect Life program, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities issued a call to curb "the rush toward euthanasia now gathering momentum in the United States." According to an article in the NCCB Respect Life manual, the T',.MESSAGE 4200 N. Kentucky Ave. Evansville, IN 47711 Weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Evansville Published Weekly except  week In December by the Catholic Pre of Evansville. Publisher ........ Bishop Frlmcis R. Shea Assoclete Publisher .... Rev. Joeeph Zlllak Editor .................. Paul Lelngang Circulation Mgr....Mrs. Rose Montremtelle Production Mgr ............... Phil Beget Advertising Mgr ............... Dan Horty Address all communications to P.O. Box 4169, Evanevllle, IN 47711. Phone (812) 424-5536. Subscription rate: $1 5 per year Entered as 2nd oim matter at the poet of. rice In Evansville, IN 47701, Publication number 843800. Postmaster: Return POD forms 3579 to the Office of Publication. campaign to legalize it is building on some of the same ideas and social forces used to legalize abortion, all within a "public climate" that closely resembles "the climate on abor- tion in the mid-1960s." "The public support for euthanasia has grown substan- tially," said Richard Doer- ringer, assistant director of the NCCB pro-life committee. "It's what pro-life people predicted in 1973 (when abortion was legalized) that acceptance of abortion would lead to accep- tance of killing in other con- texts as the solution to problems." Opponents of the California initiative, called "The Humane and Dignified Death Act," see it as a "wedge" to gain greater ac- ceptance for euthanasia on de- mand. The proposal would allow physicians to give a "qualified," terminally ill pa- tient -- one determined by two physicians to be suffering from a terminal condition -- a prescription-drug dose at the patient's request to cause in- stant death, without risking prosecution for the physician. Current state law allows a healthy person to authorize removal of life-saving measures in the event of a terminal ill- ness. As a May 9 deadline drew near, Americans Against Human Suffering, which spearheaded the campaign, had 275,639 of the 372,128 signatures needed to put the proposed measure on theballot. The organization is the political arm of the Hemlock Society. Spokeswoman Shirley Mar- cus said May 5 that despite the shortfall the drive "had been very positive." THE MEASURERS opponents were still "just holding our breath," Margaret Gibson, a spokeswoman for the California Catholic Conference, said May 4. "We have a sense of impending doom that if it's on the ballot Californians would nrobably approve it." "It seems to be a popular con- cept, it appeals to their sense of wanting to retain control of their quality of life," she said. "If their quality of life is no longer good then they'd rather not stick it out." The state's bishops' con- ference has said the proposal violated the "inherent dignity" of all human .life and would make physicians "execu- tioners." The bishops also said the proposed measure's use of euphemisms such as "humane" and "dignified" was misleading. Other opponents included the California Medical Associa- tion, the California Nurses Association, the California Association of Catholic Hospitals, and the Human Dignity Institute, an anti- euthanasia educational organization based in Sacramento. But even if it's not on the ballot, it won't end the cam- paign to get assisted suicide legalized in California. Derek Humphry, co-founder and executive director of the Hemlock Society, vowed that supporters "will be back next year" to push a proposal in the state Legislature. Humphry, 54, has long ad- vocated that assisting a suicide of a terminally ill person be made legal, and he founded the Hemlock Society, based in Los Angeles, to work for it. In 1975, while living in England, he helped his first wife, Jean, who was consumed with cancer, end her life with a lethal dose of barbituates in cof- fee. It is a crime in Britain to assist a suicide but Humphry was not prosecuted. IN 1980, HE and his second wife founded the society. He also is the author of a book called "Let Me Die Before I Wake," which some have call- ed a "suicide manual" because it details lethal dosages and ef- fective ways to take them for what Humphry calls "self- deliverance." In a telephone interview, he said he believes people have "a right to end their life" when faced with a terminal illness and will continue to push for it "by whatever democratic means" available. He rejected his opponents' comparison of legalized euthanasia to Nazi Germany's program of genocide or their claims it would open the door to euthanasia on demand. There are two other national right-to-die groups, both based in New York. Concern for Dy- ing was founded in 1967 and the Society for the Right to Die was founded in 1938 as the Euthanasia Society of America. "It's a long-term strategy for the Hemlock Society," Doer- ringer said, noting work on the California proposal began well over two years ago. He added that euthanasia ad- vocates have targeted Florida and Arizona with their high numbers of retirees as well as Washington state and Oregon, which, he said, are the coun- try's least churched states. "The Hemlock Society sees religion as its biggest oppo- nent," Doerflinger said. ' sense a good deal of support for the idea, especially among peo- ple who fear being overtreated, who fear the indignity and pain of dying." He added that it was "politically clever" to start in California with its high popula- tion of AIDS victims, among whom the suicide rate is now several times higher than that of the general population. "The only way pressure toward euthanasia is reduced is by promotion of alternative humane ways that are life- affirming, that do not insist on agressive futile treatment against people's wills, that assure comfort and make sure a person is not abandoned spiritualiy," he said. "There's stronger incentive than ever to make the ideas of the hospice movement work" as well as more education and training for doctors on ways available to better manage pain, he added. [ Letter to the editor m Priest shortage To the Editor: During a recent visit to the Evansville Diocese, I was privileged to participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass at the parish in which I was baptized. The homily that morning was a realistic presentation of the sad fact that the diocese is literally running out of priests. As was clearly detailed, if current trends continue, there will be less than 10 priests in the entire diocese by the year 2025. Of course, the trend is not limited to this diocese. The pastor- homilist went on to explain that this lamentable fact was having an immediate effect: the reduc- tion of the parish staff from four priests to two. He urged the congregation to prayerfully ac- cept the changes mandated by this reduction. Having listened to the homily and having prayerfully reflected on its message, I am left with a notion of in- completeness, a feeling of "Is See LETTER page 9