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December 20, 1996     The Message
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December 20, 1996

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4 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana -- Taking the time to make a difference -- Christmas --- "The other day I was telling a friend about our Christmases," writes Kathryn "Kathy" Minton. "Remembering the beauty and magical mystery brought tears to my eyes." What do you remember about Christmas? For many people, that question brings quick memories and emotions. Tears and smiles. "Every year was the same, yet all of us were filled with excite- ment as the festivities began about 10:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve," Kathy writes. In my own memo- ries, too, many Christmases blend into one. Kathy's memories are a world apart from my memories, though. I grew up in a family of seven -- Morn, Dad and five children. Kathy grew up in a family of hundreds, where the adults had names such as "Sister Sharon" and "Father Schroeder." Kathy grew up at St. Vincent's Orphanage in Vin- cennes, Ind. Now in Indianapolis, she took the time to write about her memories of Christmas. She writes about Christmas Eve. "Except for the very small children, each child carried a candle as we walked the entire building -- all three floors -- in single file. Nothing could be heard except for our singing while we carried glowing candles in the dark." By PAUL R. LEINGANG EDITOR a beginning She remembers processing into the church, as Midnight Mass was about to begin, in the dark. "In the left corner of the altar was another beautiful sight,"- she continues. "The stable was sur- rounded by Christmas trees with Christmas lights all aglow. There were shepherds, sheep, cattle, and the Three Wise Men, all coming to visit the King." The children had seen the deco- rations during all the days of Advent, she notes. But, "Tonight was different. For right there in the middle, the manger was no longer empty. The Christ Child was born and he was lying in the manger. It was Christmas." Kathy remembers, too, the Christmas dinner sponsored by Vincennes University, the visit from Santa, and the Christmas play. "Every child had a part in the play, right down to the smallest two- year-old.. There were many hours of practice with musical instruments and rehearsals for the chil- dren who would sing or dance." She also remembers the contests among the children in the different dorms, "to see which group could build the largest snowman." The older boys would win because they were the tallest, she recalls, but she still wonders, "How did the boys ever get that big head on the top of their giant snowman in front of the school?" And she still wonders, "How did all those presents for the children?" While she can not recall the those who cared for her, Kathy is quite about the impact of their attention. "Yout the best Christmases ever wit[ lifetime." Christmas is upon us, and many ready." Take the time today to tal step. Celebrate a Christmas with Christmas Eve and continues feast of the Epiphany. Celebrate a birtbday so is not enough. Christmas is not an beginning. If you have children of your own, Christmas-to-Epiphany time to their adulthood. Examine your Christmas ter what your circumstances, ask and your family and friends will celebration in the years to come. And be of good cheer. For what we Christmas is a family feast, the birth Jesus Christ, God-among-us, ot all the time you need, to make a Comments about this column are or the Christian P.O. Box 272, Ames, Iowa 50010. ------Washington Letter Assisted suicide cases: Potential for a landmark ; By PATRICI ZA.POR Catholic News Service : WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The two assisted suicide cases the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear in January are being viewed as fodder for a potential landmark decision on the rela- tionship between individual rights and societal norms of morality. Dozens of states, religious groups, physicians and other medical workers, ethics profes- sors, civil liberties organizations and even the late Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin weighed in on "amicus" or friend-of-the- court briefs spelling out a wide range of legal and moral views about assisted suicide. Many of the briefs draw par- allels between the possibility that the high court would agree with the appeals courts and pre- vious landmark rulings that changed the fundamental Amer- ican approach to issues, such as the Roe vs. Wade ruling that The MESSAGE 4200 N. Kentucky Ave. Evansville, IN 47711 Weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Evansville Published weekly except last week in December by the Catholic Press of Evansville Pisher ............. Bshop Gerald A. Geeger Edor ............... : ...................... Paul R. Leingang Production Technn ............... 30 Dietficfi. ................................... Paul Newland ,Staff Writer ............................ Mary Ann Hughes Address all communications to P.O. Box 4169, Ewnsville, iN 47724-0169 Subscription rate: $17.50 per year Single Copy Price: $.50 Entered as periodicat matter at the post office in Evansville, IN 47701. Publica- tion number 843800. Postmaster: Return POE) forms 3579 to Office of Publication yrJt 1996 Catt' Pres of Elle . . HII I .... made abortion legal nationwide. The court will hear oral argu- ments Jan. 8 in cases in which federal appeals courts found unconstitutional two state laws prohibiting assisted suicide. The laws of New York and Washing- ton state were rejected by the 2nd and 9th U.S. Courts of Appeal respectively, in rulings that relied on separate sections of the Constitution. The 2nd Circuit overturned New York's law with a ruling that equated choosing to commit suicide with the right estab- lished under prior Supreme Court decisions to refuse med- ical treatment. The 9th Circuit concluded Washington's anti- suicide law conflicts with the due process clause of the Con- stitution, saying it deprives adults of the chance to decide their own fate. Because of the separate con- stitutional issues involved, the cases will be heard individually. However the arguments for and against legalizing physician- assisted suicide are so similar that many of the "amicus" briefs address both cases. Among the dozens of briefs awaiting the Supreme Court justices are two from the U.S. Catholic Conference, in which the bishops' conference was joined by the Catholic confer- ences of five states and groups representing Baptist, evangeli- cal, Lutheran and Muslim inter- ests. In the brief addressing Wash- ington vs. Glucksberg, the USCC argued that the Constitution's Due Process Clause "would be emptied of meaning" if it is inter- preted "as protecting a right to be deprived of life and liberty." The Due Process Clause itself protects life. the USCC brief argued. "Accordingly, there can be no constitutional guarantee to choose to be dead." The National Right to Life Committee brief said the 9th Circuit reached the wrong con- clusion in part because it failed to consider the claimed right to assisted suicide in light of his- toric precedent and objectivity. "When the right to autonomy clashes with the right to life in our constitutional system, the life interest triumphs," said the NRLC brief. "This is so because, as Justice (William) Brennan states it (in Furman vs. Georgia, 1971), the right to life is the 'right to have rights.' Death is the extinguishment of rights, not the triumph of one right over another." The plaintiffs who are chal- lenging an Oregon voter initia- tive legalizing physician-assist- ed suicide said in their brief in the Washington case that the 9th Circuit ruling assumes the state and the medical profession will develop sufficient safe- guards to protect against mis- use of a "right" to assisted sui- cide. "However, there are no safe- guards that will be sufficient to protect vulnerable persons from duress, undue influence and the affects of depression if a consti- tutional right to assisted suicide is recognized," said the group that includes physicians, patients and operators of nursing care centers in Oregon. "Any proposed safe- guards will undoubtedly be chal- lenged and frequently struck down. This can be seen from the abortion litigation of the past 25 years." In arguing in support of New York's law prohibiting assisted sui- cide in Vacco vs. Quill, the USCC noted that the 2nd Circuit's ruling set up a conflict between conduct explicitly banned under criminal law and a court-created "right." "A declaration by a court that assistance in self-destruction is a 'benefit' or a 'right' for one par- ticular class of citizens, while remaining a crime when inflict- ed upon all other citizens, would be tantamount to deciding that some persons are truly better off dead than alive," said the brief. The Catholic Health Associa- tion, which represents 1,200 U.S. medical institutions and organi- zations, filed one of the many amicus briefs which addressed both cases together. The CHA brief related how Cardinal Bernardin approached his impending death as an exam- ple for its legal arguments against permitting assisted sui- cide. The brief included a letter written by the cardinal a week before his Nov. 14 death, in which he drew a clear line between choosing to end medical treat- ment and choosing death. "Creating a new 'right' to assisted suicide will endanger society and send a false signal that a less than 'perfect' life is not worth living," wrote Cardi- nal Bernard! r "Once als are ple in killing society's bright line killing will be o the CHA brief. The writing on Christian tists, pt clans' a tions about suicide fessionals cide find degree of intentional brief said. It tions and for option the norm as a way of c of costly Bishop's The following activities and events a ule of Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger: i i;iiiiiii( !/ : ; 10 a.m. CST. ..... Council of Priests Agenda .... ter, Thursday, Jan. 2, 1:30 p.m: CST. Fourth Annual Dinner with Center Celebration Hall, Thursday, Jan. , Bishop's staff meeting, Catholic 3, 9 a.m.  noon, CST.