Sunday, February 7, 2016

In Široki Brijeg Honouring the Sixty-Six Franciscan Friars Executed in Herzegovina Between 1942-1945

The Franciscan monastery - Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Široki Brijeg

Today's post honours the memory of sixty-six Franciscan friars who were executed in Herzegovina during and shortly after World War II, between 1942-1945. Thirty of those friars were from the Franciscan monastery in Široki Brijeg. I had the opportunity to honour all sixty-six friars by spending a few hours at the monastery during my Medjugorje pilgrimage in the Summer'2015. 

On February 7, the Catholic Church in Herzegovina marks the anniversary of the death of the Franciscan friars with a special memorial Mass at the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, located at the Franciscan monastery in Široki Brijeg, Herzegovina; a city that is thirty-eight kilometers north-west of Medjugorje, or approximately forty-five minutes by car.

My initial discovery of these executions was by word of mouth; a friend who is somewhat knowledgeable with the Catholic Church history of Herzegovina, had informed me about it. The more I came to know about what had happened, the more intrigued I became, so much so, that I felt compelled to visit the Franciscan monastery, and honour the friars who paid the ultimate price for their love of Jesus, the sacrifice of their lives. 

If you are going on a pilgrimage this year to Medjugorje, there is a rich Catholic heritage to discover in Herzegovina, part of which could include time in Široki Brijeg. If you are seriously considering going, I highly recommend you allow approximately three to four hours for a short excursion to the monastery: to pray in the Church, visit the grounds, and especially spend some time at the war shelter, the location where the friars were burned. If you really want to gain a better understanding of the Catholic culture and history of Herzegovina, Široki Brijeg should definitely be an include on your pilgrimage itinerary. The sacrifice of these friars needs to be better known and honoured.

The Franciscan monastery is situated on high ground overlooking a good portion of the city and the surrounding landscape. Upon my arrival, the first place I went to was the monastery's church. At first glance, I was totally impressed with the quality of craftsmanship and construction work that went into building this, one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. Viewing the architecture and landscaping was but a prelude to the beautiful interior that immediately captivated me upon entry.


Praying inside this magnificent church

I had the privilege of being almost totally alone during my time at this church. The sense of peace I felt upon entering it is barely describable with words. The overwhelming desire to pray for, and to these Franciscan friars immediately had me on my knees. I had spent approximately one hour inside this church, which afforded me the opportunity to recite one of the four sets of mysteries of the Rosary.

In the church, there is a section (the tomb) dedicated to the memory of the sixty-six friars, which you can see from the photo below. I had spent several minutes there in prayer in an atmosphere of absolute peace and quiet. I could not help but feel such a great sense of gratitude upon viewing the photos of these men, who made no compromises against the truth, and remained loyal to God. Their fidelity to Christ, their collective witness has surely drawn God's blessings upon Herzegovina, which has no doubt strengthened the Church for generations to come.


In prayer within the church, at a section dedicated to the memory of the executed friars

The murder of these Franciscan friars is something that is too often apart of Church history; the ultimate sacrifice that must be made during times of persecution and war. Of the sixty-six friars, thirty were from the monastic community of Široki Brijeg, with another four from the area. This comprises just over half of the friars that were killed in the Herzegovina region.

The shelter where the friars were thrown into and burned
The brochure provided at the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (last photo of this post) describes how they were killed:
The calvary of Široki Brijeg started on 7 February 1945 when it was taken by the communists...They came in the morning and at the end of the day they committed a crime against 12 Franciscan monks. First they killed them with a bullet in the back of their head and then they burned them in the war shelter in the monastery garden. The murdered a total of 30 Franciscans from the monastery community of Široki Brijeg, as well as four others from the monastery area, which is more than a half of all murdered Herzegovinian Franciscans during those months (66).
I had the privilege of visiting the exact location at the monastery, the war shelter where the friars were thrown into and burned. The photo to the right is me in this exact location. Although you can not see from this photo, the shelter continues for approximately another twenty feet, where there is another exit that has been blocked off to visitors. I spent a few minutes in prayer in complete gratitude of their witness and love for Jesus. I know that I have been strengthened because of it.

At the entrance to the war shelter is a commemorative plaque listing the names of the thirty friars who were executed at the monastery. Upon seeing it I just had to shoot it, and capture part of this memorial.


Shooting the commemorative plaque listing the names of the thirty friars murdered at Široki Brijeg

Here is a more detailed account of what happened to the friars at Široki Brijeg, from a fellow blogger In God's Company 2:
On 7th February 1945 the Communist soldiers arrived and said “God is dead, there is no God, there is no Pope, there is no Church, there is no need of you, you also go out in the world and work.” The communists forgot that the Franciscans were working, most of the Franciscans were teaching in the adjoining school. Some of the Franciscans were famous professors and had written books. The communists asked them to remove their habits. The Franciscans refused. One angry soldier took the Crucifix and threw it on the floor. He said, “you can now choose either life or death.” Each of the Franciscans knelt down, embraced the Crucifix and said, “You are my God and my All.” The thirty Franciscans were taken out and slaughtered and their bodies burned in a nearby cave where their remains lay for many years. Today they are buried inside the Franciscan church. In our Gospel today Jesus said, “if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.” The thirty Franciscan martyrs of Široki Brijeg are a powerful example of declaring oneself in the presence of others for Jesus. They lived something else Jesus also said in the Gospel, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.” 
Witnessing to Jesus and following God’s way helps others who are lacking courage to follow Jesus. One of the soldiers in the firing squad at Široki Brijeg later said, “Since I was a child, in my family, I had always heard from my mother that God exists. To the contrary, Stalin, Lenin, Tito had always asserted and taught each one of us: there is no God. God does not exist! But when I stood in front of the martyrs of Široki Brijeg and I saw how those friars faced death, praying and blessing their persecutors, asking God forgive the faults of their executioners, it was then that I recalled to my mind the words of my mother and I thought that my mother was right: God exists!” That soldier converted and now he has a son a priest and a daughter a nun. As I said, witnessing to Jesus and following God’s way also helps others in the crowd who are lacking the courage to follow Jesus.
I would be remiss not to mention the sacrifice of the other friars in Herzegovina as well, some of whom were from Medjugorje.

The month of February in Herzegovina is somewhat a time of remembrance of the friars who were killed during and shortly after the Second World War. In Medjugorje on February 10is the Memorial Day of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac (the Croatian Catholic Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 until his death in 1960), and the day when the local church remembers the deaths of Franciscan friars from the parish of Medjugorje: Friar Krizan Galic, Friar Jozo Bencun, Friar Marko Dragicevic, Friar Mariofil Sivric, Friar Grgo Vasilj and Friar Jenko Vasilj. 

On February 14, Holy Mass is celebrated for seven Franciscan friars killed in Mostar, of which three were from the parish of Medjugorje: Friar Jozo Bencun, Friar Grgo Vasilj, and Friar Bernardin Smoljan who built the cross on the Cross Mountain as a parish priest back in 1933.

As part of my continued honouring of all sixty-six Franciscan friars that this post is dedicated to, I have added a photo for the benefit of all Medjugorje pilgrims, and visitors to my blog, to see each individual friar. Please click on the photo to view it at a larger size.

The sixty-six Franciscan friars executed in Herzegovina during and shortly after WWII
Today the Herzegovinian Franciscan province is moving forward with a cause for the Church to declare the executed friars as martyrs, blessed or saints. This task is handled by the Martyrdom Procedure Vicepostulature committee (Fr. Leo Petrović and sixty-five brethren). The center of the Vicepostulature is in Široki Brijeg, and they are asking anyone who might know anything about the execution of the friars, including any mercy or miracle gained by their intercession, to come forward and contact them. Father Leo Petrović can be reached by email at mostar@pobijeni.info or by telephone at +387.39.700.325. You can visit the Vicepostulature's web site at www.pobijeni.info. Every seventh day of the month, a Holy Mass is celebrated for all those (including witnesses) who support the work of the Vicepostulature committee either by prayer or financially.

Put to the test of having to pay the ultimate sacrifice, the giving up of our lives, may we imitate these faithful friars who prior to their execution, embraced Jesus saying, "You are my God and my everything," and who after having forgiven and blessed their executioners, sang the Salve Regina or the Litany to Our Lady.

May the memory and sacrifice of these faithful friars never be forgotten.








Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ontario's End-of-Life Consultations: The Ushering in of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide and the Increased Moral Disorder in Canada

Photo courtesy of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Today's post focusses on the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide and how the "culture of death" is working hard to usher in both, increasing Canada's moral disorder in the process.

If you are somewhat new to the euthanasia and assisted suicide issue, I would like to recommend you read my previous post, Euthanasia - A False Mercy. At that post, you will read about how euthanasia and assisted suicide have become an increasing reality since the Carter vs. Canada Supreme Court ruling. It also details Catholic teaching, drawing on two important sources, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Saint Pope John Paul II's, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).

In addition, I would like to suggest, as a matter of becoming better informed of the current developments regarding euthanasia and assisted suicide, that you visit and bookmark the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition's (EPC) web site and blog

Recently the Ontario government closed its Doctor-assisted dying and end-of-life decisions consultation which afforded the public an opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns regarding the implementation of euthanasia and assisted suicide (referred to by the government as "physician-assisted dying") here in Canada. Associated with this consultation was a Final Report submitted by the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying, dated November 15, 2015. It is sixty-one pages, and an appalling read of procedures and guidelines, detailed in their forty-three recommendations, of how to legally usher in and implement euthanasia and assisted suicide across the nation. It is a scandalous document that seeks to infringe upon conscience rights of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, and completely ignores the sacredness of human life, and the dignity of human person. This points to the fundamental problem with this report; that is, it ignores the truth of the human person, and in the process it promotes and rationalizes of the implementation of a false mercy.

There are many aspects of this report that are disturbing including: recommendations to amend the Criminal Code to "protect" health care professionals from liability; the use of manipulative language and euphemisms that diminish the gravity of euthanasia and assisted suicide; the pairing of "end-of-life practices" (physician-assisted dying) with palliative care as if to infer that the two are complimentary; the fact that this document and its recommendations even exists strongly suggests that proponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide simply do not fully understand that the education, training and experience of medical professionals should always be placed at the service of life, not at the service of death.

The remainder of today's post includes information on: the teachings from the Catholic Church on the sacredness of human life, and the dignity of human person, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and scandal; the Final Report's Foreworda partial analysis of the Final Report that focusses on Recommendations Two, Seven, Eight and Nine, and two sections that deal with the Role of Conscientiously Objecting Health Care Provider and Roles of Institutions; and my concluding thoughts on the increasing moral disorder in Canada brought on by euthanasia and suicide.

The Teachings of the Catholic Church

No matter how it is packaged, explained or rationalized, there is no justification for euthanizing someone or assisting in their suicide, regardless of any requests, level of pain, and duration of suffering. Proponents for euthanasia and assisted suicide have failed to recognize this truth, a truth which is available in the teachings of the Catholic Church. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states about the sacredness of human life, under Article 5: The Fifth Commandment "You Shall Not Kill":
Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being. (2258)
As to the Dignity of the Human Person, the catechism states the following:
The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity. (1700)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, under Article 5: The Fifth Commandment "You Shall Not Kill," also details why euthanasia and suicide are morally wrong and completely unacceptable. In addition, it includes a section on Respect for the souls of others: scandal, that will spotlight the true nature of the Final Report. Here is what the catechism states about euthanasia:
2276 Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible. 
2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable. 
Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded. 
2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of "over-zealous" treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

2279 Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.
As for suicide, below is what the catechism states regarding it:
2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of. 
2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.
2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law. 
Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide. 
2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.
Here is what the catechism states about scandal, under Article 5, Section II. Respect For The Dignity of Persons:
2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.
2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing. 
2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.

Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to "social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible." This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.
2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!"
The Final Report's Foreword

As I read the Foreword, I could not help but get the impression that the Advisory Group was attempting to narrate the euthanasia and assisted suicide ("physician-assisted dying") issue here in Canada. The report includes a few selected references that seem to suggest to the reader that Canadians "need" access to euthanasia and assisted suicide (they never use these specific terms), and "want" control over their "end-of-life decisions." 

A prime example is the inference made with respect to the relevance and importance of the Supreme Court's 1993 Rodriguez decision; that it wrongly judged the "needs" and "wants" of Canadians, by quoting Sue Rodriguez who stated, "Whose body is this? and "Who owns my life?" That Supreme Court ruling in 1993 determined that the state’s obligation to “protect the vulnerable” outweighed the rights of the individual to self-determination. Even though this decision was overturned by the Carter vs. Canada ruling on February 6, 2015, it remains relevant and important in the hearts and minds of Canadians who have a respect for God and human life.

The Foreword includes a reference to polls that apparently have consistently demonstrated growing support for the option of "medically-assisted death," but neither in the Foreword or anywhere else in this document do the Advisory Group cite references for the reader to verify this information. 

Then we have the mention of three individuals: Gloria Taylor, Kay Carter and Dr. Donald Low all of whom sought to end their lives, challenging Canada's law in the process. The efforts of these three individuals are described as contributing to "...[A] seismic shift--both legal and social--in our country's approach to end-of-life decisions." (1) 

The Advisory Group also included the deplorable enacting of Bill 52 - An Act respecting end-of-life care in Quebec (Quebec's euthanasia law), which the Advisory Group considers to be an act of leadership on this issue. The Advisory Group was even audacious enough to state that the rest of Canada is behind, but not for long.

Then there is some detailed information on the Carter vs. Canada ruling, which in itself was nothing but an exercise in judicial activism, that "opened the door" for proponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide to draft new policies at medical and related professional associations, and for others such as this Advisory Group to submit recommendations to the Ontario government. One gets the impression that the Carter vs. Canada ruling has placed Canada on a new moral ground with which to implement euthanasia and assisted suicide. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I continued to read the Foreword's Overview of Recommendations, I became increasingly disturbed and disappointed in what was to be detailed further on in the report. A prime example was the pairing of palliative care and "end-of-life care." Under normal circumstances, the two are often interchangeable, but this Advisory Group considers euthanasia and assisted suicide ("physician-assisted dying") as part of new "end-of-life care" options.


The beginning of the Advisory Group's "Recommendations" at page twenty

According to the Canadian Virtual Hospice web site, palliative care is defined as follows, "Palliative care is a type of health care for patients and families facing life-threatening illness. Palliative care helps patients to achieve the best possible quality of life right up until the end of life. Palliative care is also called end-of-life, or comfort care." The web site goes on to include other aspects that are an integral part of palliative care; that palliative care also:

  • focuses on the concerns of patients and their families; 
  • pays close attention to physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, loss of appetite and confusion; 
  • considers the emotional and spiritual concerns of patients and families; 
  • ensures that care is respectful and supportive of patient dignity; 
  • respects the social and cultural needs of patients and families; 
  • uses a team approach that may include volunteers, social workers and spiritual leaders in addition to medical staff.

It is abundantly clear that anyone viewing the above definition of palliative care through a moral lens, can not consider or associate euthanasia and assisted suicide in any way, as complimentary "end-of-life care" (physician-assisted dying) options, to what is proper to palliative care. Pairing the two together is a complete contradiction, and discards and diminishes the sacredness of human life, and dignity of the human person.


Proponents for euthanasia and assisted suicide completely ignore this all together, and offer false notions of mercy to those who are vulnerable due the level of pain, duration of suffering, and weakened psychological and emotional states. 

Pairing euthanasia and assisted suicide with palliative care, also appears to be an attempt to diminish the gravity of euthanasia and assisted suicide by including these unacceptable practices with acceptable medical practices in palliative care. One can only imagine if these "physician-assisted dying services" were to exist at dedicated facilities, similar to what we see with abortion "clinics." It certainly would make these "services" more readily identifiable for what they are, anti-life practices and elements of the culture of death.

In dealing with conscience rights, the Advisory Group contradicts itself. They first recognize and acknowledge conscience rights, but then completely ignore them, and seek to impose euthanasia and assisted suicide upon health care professionals, organization and institutions, including that at a very minimum, assistance must be provided in the procurement of these anti-life practices. Here is what they state regarding how conscience rights are to be handled: 
As we explain in this report, health care providers have the freedom to object to the provision of physician-assisted dying for reasons of conscience, but they are required to provide information about all end-of-life options, including physician-assisted dying. Conscientiously objecting health care providers are also required to either provide a referral, a direct transfer of care to another health care provider, or to contact and transfer the patient’s records through a third party, agency or service which would have a duty to ensure the safe and timely transfer of care of the patient to a non-objecting provider. (3)
The Advisory Group has also recommended the establishment of a "properly functioning regulatory framework" to provide "robust and independent oversight" whose function would be, "...[T]o monitor compliance with relevant laws, policies and standards; to inform continuing development of policies and practices; and to ensure public confidence in the integrity of the system." (4) They go on to recommend two levels of oversight, "...[A] Review Committee at the provincial/territorial level and a pan-Canadian Commission on End-of-Life Care at the national level." (4) Translation, there needs to be a framework to ensure forced compliance and monitor where there might be objections and refusals of any kind.

The last item in the Foreword is the inclusion of a so-called need to "...[B]uild and sustain effective capacity, including through research and continuing quality improvement, health professional education and training, and public education and engagement." (4) What this essentially amounts to is a continual injection of the culture of death into the public sphere, and health care professions.

Partial Analysis of the Final Report

Given that this report is sixty-one pages, I decided for the sake of brevity not to analyze the entire report, but rather to identify selected recommendations and sections that are, in my view, more disturbing than others.

I am going to begin with Recommendation 2 which states, "Provinces and territories should collaborate and coordinate with all relevant organizations and institutions as soon as possible to ensure the smooth and timely implementation of physician-assisted dying in Canada." (21) Part of this recommendation refers to Figure 1. Necessary Activities of Other Organizations and Institutions, on page 22 of the report that lists eleven organizations and institutions in which the provinces and territories should, "...[R]each out to these groups immediately to ensure that all policies and planned changes within each jurisdiction are well-aligned and understood and that gaps and challenges are identified as quickly as possible" (21) 


Recommendation Two's Figure 1 Listing of Organizations and Institutions 

It is clear that the Advisory Group wants everyone in the medical and related fields, as well as universities, colleges and insurers to be brought into the fold of this sad initiative to usher in euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Recommendations seven through nine are aimed at protecting health care professionals from liability, on a provincial and territorial level, and at the federal level with changes to the Criminal Code. Translation, this report recommends that the killing of a human being be given a new term, "physician-assisted dying" as part of new "end-of-life" options, and for all the killing that is to be done, all health care professionals responsible for the provision of euthanasia and assisted suicide should not be held accountable at law or be liable, insofar as they are "...[N]ot negligent and act in good faith within the rules set out to support the implementation of physician-assisted dying." (27) Brilliant! Below are recommendations seven to nine.

Recommendation 7 states that provinces and territories should request the federal government to make changes to change the Criminal Code, to "...[E]xplicitly protect those health care professionals who provide supporting services during the provision of physician-assisted dying." (25) The rationale for this apparently is a matter of clarity to "...[E]nsure the viability of a team-based approach to the provision of physician-assisted dying." (25)

Recommendation 8 states that the provinces and territories should request the federal government to make changes to change the Criminal Code, to "...[A]llow the provision of physician-assisted dying by a regulated health care professional (registered nurse or, if applicable, physician assistant) acting under the direction of a physician, or a nurse practitioner." (26) The rationale for this is to ensure that in situations where access to physicians and nurse practitioners is limited, other regulated health professionals (registered nurses or physician assistants) will be used to write a prescription or give the injection without exposure to criminal liability. 

Recommendation 9 continues the extension for the protection of health care professionals, "Provinces and territories should ensure that health professional are protected from liability for acts or omissions done in good faith and without negligence in providing or intending to provide physician-assisted dying." (26)

Role of Conscientiously Objecting Health Care Provider

This section of the report can be found on pages forty-three to forty-five and pertains to the subsections of the Duty to Inform, and the Duty to Care for the Patient. In addition there is introductory information that precedes the first three recommendations (Duty to inform) and further information that follows the last recommendation (Duty to Care for the Patient). Below are recommendations thirty-one to thirty-three from these two respective subsections:
Duty to Inform 
RECOMMENDATION 31: Conscientiously objecting health care providers should be required to inform patients of all end-of-life options, including physician-assisted dying, regardless of their personal beliefs.
RECOMMENDATION 32: Conscientiously objecting health care providers should be required to appropriately inform their patients of the fact and implications of their conscientious objection to physician-assisted dying. Any ongoing treatment of the patient must be provided in a nondiscriminatory manner. 
Duty to Care for the Patient 
RECOMMENDATION 33: Conscientiously objecting health care providers should be required to either provide a referral or a direct transfer of care to another health care provider or to contact a third party and transfer the patient’s records through the system described in Recommendation 4. (44)
The underlying failure of this section is the discarding of conscience rights, coupled with the insistence that conscientious health care providers must procure euthanasia and assisted suicide, by providing information about "end-of-life" options, and transfer patients to facilities that provide them. The report insists that both are "duties," and must care for patients in a manner that is described as both "non-discriminatory" and "non-abandonment." Such statements are prime examples of the euphemisms and manipulative language that is rampant throughout this entire report.

Add to this the rationale that such "duties" must be fulfilled by a conscientious objecting health care provider as a matter of "communal responsibility," and that individual providers are not absolved of their personal/professional responsibilities, particularly in a publicly-funded system. Such an inclusion fails to recognize that Catholics have a moral responsibility to follow God's Holy Law ("Thou shall not kill"), which takes precedence over any civil law and so-called "communal responsibility." God's Holy Law does not permit for the provision or procurement of euthanasia and assisted suicide, irrespective of the fact of whether a health care system is publicly funded or not.

Catholics must avoid all instances in which they may be an accessory to someone's sins. To be clear, there are nine ways of being an accessory to someone else's sin: by counsel, by command, by consent, by provocation, by praise or flattery, by concealment, by partaking, by silence, and by defense of the ill done. 

Make no mistake, euthanasia and assisted suicide are considered sins, not venial sins, but mortal or deadly sins. In addition, the desire to end one's life, is one of six ways in which you can sin against the Holy Spirit; that is, the sin of despair. The other five are: presumption of God's mercy, impugning the known truth, envy at another's spiritual good, obstinacy in sin and final impenitence.

No matter what may be the outcome from this Advisory Group's recommendations in terms of what parliament may enact into law, all conscientious Catholics and Christians alike, must obey God's Holy law in which we can all draw from the example of the Apostles persecution:
When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, 'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man's blood on us.' But Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than any human authority." (Acts 5:27-29)

Roles of Institutions

This section of the Final Report is broken down into three subsections: Duties of Institutions, Duties of Non Faith-Based Institutions, and Duties of Faith-Based Institutions. This section is somewhat of a continuation from the previous section noted above, but with added restrictions, detailed in recommendations thirty-four to thirty-six:
Duties of Institutions 
RECOMMENDATION 34: All institutions should be required to inform patients/residents of any institutional position on physician-assisted dying, including any and all limits on its provision. This recommendation will ensure that patients have clarity on what is permitted within the facility. They can then make informed decisions with respect to whether to enter or remain in the facility. 
RECOMMENDATION 35: Provinces and territories should prohibit any requirement by institutions that patients give up the right to access physician-assisted dying as a condition of admission. 
RECOMMENDATION 36: Provinces and territories should prohibit any requirement by institutions that physicians refrain from the provision of physician-assisted dying external to the non-participating institution. In addition, employment conditions or privileges should not be negatively impacted in any way. (46)
Recommendation 37, under the subsection on the Duties of Non-Faith Based Institutions, states the following, "Non faith-based institutions, whether publicly or privately-funded, must not prevent physician-assisted dying from being provided at their facilities." (46) The Advisory Group tries to rationalize this recommendation by pointing to the fact that such institutions may be in part or wholly publicly funded, so as to infer that the government (federal or provincial) has the moral authority to impose what it wants upon such institutions. Add to this the manipulative use of language, with wording such as, "a point of principle." Read the rationale for yourself:
Governments have significantly more levers to influence the policies and practices of institutions that are funded in whole or in part by public funds. However, as a point of principle, we believe that physician-assisted dying should be available wherever people are living and dying. This includes privately-funded institutions. Recognizing that not all institutions will feel capable of providing physician-assisted dying for a variety of reasons, including size, geography and mandate, we concluded that institutions should be permitted to offer a patient transfer to another institution, as long as the receiving institution can and will provide a health care provider who is willing and able to accept the person as a patient, to assess whether the criteria for access to physician-assisted dying have been met, and provide physician-assisted dying where the criteria for access have been met. (46-47)
Recommendation 38 under the subsection of Duties of Faith-Based Institutions, casts aside conscience rights, and insists that the anti-life practices of euthanasia and assisted suicide must be provided directly at the institution or arrange for it to be performed at another institution. Here is Recommendation 38:
Faith-based institutions must either allow physician-assisted dying within the institution or make arrangements for the safe and timely transfer of the patient to a non-objecting institution for assessment and, potentially, provision of physician-assisted dying. The duty of care must be continuous and non-discriminatory. (47)
Below is the Advisory Group's rationale for this:
Faith-based institutions have a duty to care for and not abandon the patients within their institution. While they should not be required to provide access to physician-assisted dying, they must still ensure access for patients who wish to seek it. When a patient makes a request for physician-assisted dying, faith-based institutions should be required to either allow for the assessment and provision of physician-assisted dying within the institution or make arrangements for an effective transfer of the patient to a non-objecting institution. This transfer must also include the transfer of all relevant records, and must be made to a non-objecting institution where the patient’s medical condition can be assessed and treated by a health care provider who is willing and able to assess whether the patient meets the eligibility criteria for physician-assisted dying and, if so, can provide assistance. If a safe and timely transfer to a non-objecting institution is not possible, the objecting institution must allow an outside health care provider to assess the patient and, if the eligibility criteria for physician-assisted dying are met, to provide assistance. The receiving outside health care provider would follow the pathway for physician-assisted dying as outlined previously in this report. (47)
Have you noticed the use of manipulative language; in particular, "Faith-based institutions have a duty to care for and not abandon the patients within their institutions." (47) This Advisory Group seems to equate the refusal to provide or procure euthanasia and assisted suicide, based on conscience rights, as potentially "abandoning" patients. 

Increased Moral Disorder in Canada

The moral disorder began in Canada in a very identifiable way with the passing of the infamous Omnibus Bill in 1969. That bill was passed by the federal government, under then Liberal Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Amongst many things, it ushered in "therapeutic abortions" which were to be performed in hospitals and approved by hospital committees. Once this evil was allowed to enter into Canadian hospitals, it was only a matter of time before the medical profession would experience the negative ramifications. Today's post on the Advisory Group's Final Report is proof that the negative ramifications continue. Abortion has paved the way for the introduction of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and attacks on conscience rights.

The fact that today in Canadian society we have abortion, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and euthanasia in Quebec as part of "health care or services," is a telling sign of a deep moral crisis in the medical profession. It appears that sometime this year or the next, the Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Pierre Elliot Trudeau's son) will introduce and pass a new law officially ushering in euthanasia and assisted suicide across the land.

Of course, there are many medical professionals who do not accept the anti-life practices of the culture of death, including professional associations. One in particular that comes to mind is the Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS), which has not only upheld a proper moral standard for its members, but has battled against others in the medical field who have not done likewise. Here is the CMDS mission statement:
The Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) of Canada is a national organization of Christian physicians, dentists and students, each holding an individual membership, who seek to honour God by integrating faith with professional practice. CMDS Canada places a high value on fellowship, prayer, mission work, advocacy and supporting medical and dental students.
It doesn't take much research to discover the moral disorder in Canada, and how it has increased over time within the medical profession. I have done this myself and published three blog posts that spotlight the attempts of some medical professionals to impose anti-life practices upon others. Here are three of my previous published posts:


A more recent case from the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO), an external consultation (now closed) on their draft document, CPSO Interim Guidance on Physician-Assisted Death. That consultation resulted in the much needed response and submission by the Catholic Civil Rights League's to the CPSO, that the Interim Guidance on Physician-Assisted Death document violates a doctor’s Charter right to freedom of conscience and religion.

These types of consultations are happening across the country. To keep track of the consultations being held in your province, visit www.moralconvictions.ca.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide has increasingly becoming an important issue since the Carter vs. Canada Supreme Court case almost one year ago. What is becoming more disturbing as time goes on, is how this demonic attack to destroy God's plan for humanity, is being ushered in such a nonchalant manner, under the banner of recommendations, policy development, and the "need" to assess the "wants" of Canadians' end-of-life options. This is what is happening in Canada right now, and all Catholics, Christians alike, and all people of good will need to become better informed about this, spread awareness, and fight what is primarily a spiritual battle against unseen enemies.

As Catholics we can effectively fight this spiritual battle with the spiritual weapons of prayer and fasting. By prayer I refer to the two most powerful prayers: first the Holy Mass and second, the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Intentions to end euthanasia, assisted suicide and all threats to the value and inviolability of human life should be includes in your prayer and fasting intentions. Like all spiritual battles, the best place to begin is on your knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

May God have mercy on Canada.















Friday, January 8, 2016

Our Lady of Prompt Succor

National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, New Orleans, Louisiana

With the recent celebration of the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God on January 1, and with the annual Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated today in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, I thought it fitting to publish my first post of 2016 on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The annual Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving is celebrated in appreciation for Our Lady's prompt succor (help), saving the lives of the people of New Orleans in an extraordinary way on two separate occasions; the extinguishing of a raging fire that threatened to destroy the Ursuline Convent in 1812, and the surprising military victory of General Andrew Jackson in 1815 against a larger, better equipped invading British force. This in addition to the countless times Our Lady has come to the aid of individuals in Louisiana, which as the National Shrine notes on its History of the Devotion page, is so numerous that "We will never know them all."

I came to know of this Marian devotion from a book, Seven Days With Mary, written by SpiritDaily.com's Michael H. Brown. In addition to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, the book also includes six other Marian devotions that are accompanied by full page colour photographs of statues or images representing each devotion: Our Lady of Saragossa, Our Lady of Montserrat, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, and Our Lady of Lourdes. All these devotions are officially recognized and sanctioned by the Church.


This book can be purchased at SpiritDaily.com's
book store (Michael H. Brown books)
Seven Days With Mary, is not a history lesson, but a time of meditation and prayer. As Brown explains in the Preface, reading and praying with this book is about "...[S]eeking the aid of Mary. Meditating on her role. Walking with her as we try to find our way through the current darkness." (vi) Brown's recommendation is that you pray this devotion for seven consecutive days to receive the maximum benefit. It doesn't matter which particular devotion you begin with, just choose one for each day. 

So what might you experience from Seven Days With Mary. In addition to the anticipation of a closer relationship with Mary, you will come to know of seven Marian devotions that will bring with it an abundance of graces. During "your seven days," you will develop a greater trust and confidence in Our Lady's intercession in your life; your recitation of the Rosary and other prayers will be reinvigorated or you will be introduced to the Rosary and other devout prayers; you will be placed under Our Lady's mantle, and under her protection and guidance, your life will be better known and understood; you will grow in your love for Mary and deepen your relationship with her; your desire to love Jesus and have a closer relationship with Him will increase as a direct result of that improved and closer relationship with Mary; you will experience a new or renewed hope for the future and learn that Our Lady's prompt succor is always available to you, that as Our Mother, she always hears the pleas of her children, and will come to our aid in time of need and danger.

The Preface to this book, alone, will easily draw any Marian devotee to these devotions. Brown instills in the reader a clear and complete understanding of Mary's role and purpose in our lives. To capture just some of the content that Brown has written, I have provided an excerpt below:
...For Mary's role has not been a political one. Her role is not on the world stage. Her role is spiritual preparation of her children and getting us to Heaven. Her goal is your soul. You are crucial to Heaven. You are important to the Virgin Mary. And she has come not to make big headlines but rather to help you with the intricate and difficult aspects of living upon this earth. She wants to have a personal relationship with you. She wants you to have a more personal relationship with Jesus. And that's why she comes. That's why she appears with such frequency. She has something to give everyone personally. She has something for you. (vii)
Each day's devotion begins with: a concise history of the devotion; a Meditation and Ejaculation devised by Brown; the Angelus; and may include prayers from saints, prayers of Consecration and Morning Offerings, and other formal prayers; a Litany to Our Lady, all of which have received imprimaturs and come from many different and ancient sources. Each devotion is concluded with a Contemplation and the Rosary, which as Brown suggests, would be best recited if it were the Scriptural Rosary.

On a personal note, I have taken Brown's advice (praying the devotions for seven consecutive days) several times over the years. Reading about and meditating on these devotions, immersed in prayer for seven consecutive days, was a time of Divine Intimacy with Our Lady, and absolute peace; better than any retreat I have ever been on, and closely resembled the peace I felt, and the grace I received during my pilgrimages in Medjugorje.

If you have never heard of this devotion or know very little about Our Lady of Prompt Succor, I hope you will consider reading the concise history that follows. Not only as a matter of curiousity, but for your own benefit as you will soon discover, this is "the" devotion that brings quick and speedy help from Our Lady in time of great need.

History of the Devotion

The Ursuline Convent in New Orleans, Louisiana, was founded in 1727 where the good Ursuline sisters educated children of European colonists as well as slaves and Indians. They were the first nuns to arrive in what became the United States, and founded the oldest school for girls in America.

In 1800, the sisters became somewhat worried because Louisiana was ceded back to France. This was during the time of the French Revolution, one not very beneficial for the Catholic Church to say the least. Many priests and religious fled France or were killed. Pope Pius VII himself was eventually placed under arrest in Rome, held captive by Napoleon. Fearing that the horrors of the French Revolution might spread to French territories across the ocean, a large group of the nuns fled to Havana, Cuba, in 1803. Those that remained were seven in total. 

During that same year Louisiana became part of the United States (Louisiana Purchase), which was of great concern to the Ursuline sisters, who did not know what would happen to them and their land. They sent an anxious letter to President Jefferson, inquiring if the property rights of the Ursuline Order would be honoured by the new government. Here is what Brown included regarding Jefferson's response:
I have received holy sisters, the letter you have written me wherein you express anxiety for the property vested in your institutions by the former governments of Louisiana...the principles of the Constitution and government of the United States are a sure guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority...Be assured it will meet all the protection which my office can give it. (78)
Although Jefferson's assurance alleviated their concerns, it was a temporary reprieve. The sisters had to confront other problems. The sisters were short staffed and the work was overwhelming. All this was made worse when one of the nuns, a mainstay of the community, Mother St. Xavier Farjon, died in 1810. This prompted another nun, Sister St. Andre Madier to appeal to her cousin Sister Michel Gensoul in France, to join their community in Louisiana.

Mother St. Michel had not been killed, nor did she flee France during the revolution. There was much work to be done in France, but taking into consideration how desperate the situation was for the nuns in Louisiana and inspired by the Holy Spirit, she appealed to Bishop Fournier of Montpelier. The response was not positive. The bishop informed her that he had lost too many nuns already, the last thing he needed was to lose another nun. It was only the Pope who could authorize her to go.

At this time Pope Pius VII was cut off by Napoleon's men, under arrest and held in Rome; he was in essence incommunicado with the Church and the world. This fact did not deter Mother St. Michel. Knowing that if it was God's will and trusting in Our Lady's intercession, she wrote a letter to the pontiff on December 15, 1808, requesting a transfer to Louisiana. 

When it was clear that there was no opportunity for the letter to be sent, Mother St. Michel prayed in front of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "O Most Holy Virgin Mary, if you obtain a prompt and favorable answer to my letter, I promise to have you honoured in New Orleans under the title of 'Our Lady of Prompt Succor.' " (79)

After Mother St. Michel's prayers were completed, the letter left Montpelier for Rome on March 9, 1809. Pope Pius VII miraculously received the letter and granted her request. The answer to her prayers was astonishingly prompt. Mother St. Michel ordered a statue carved and it was blessed by Bishop Fornier. The statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, arrived in Louisiana with Mother St. Michel in 1810.

It was soon after the statue's arrival that two momentous miracles occurred in Louisiana: the extinguishing of a raging fire that threatened the Ursuline Convent, and General Andrew Jackson's victory over a much larger invading British force.

In 1812, a terrible fire erupted in New Orleans and burned much of what is now the French Quarter, where the convent used to be located at that time. Propelled by wind, the fire was heading right for the convent. One of the nuns placed a small statue of Our Lady at a window facing the fire; Mother St. Michel then began to implore Our Lady's intercession. It is known that the wind instantly shifted its direction away from the nuns; the Ursuline convent was one of the buildings spared from destruction. I would like to share with you a very important point that Brown noted regarding this event, one that we should never forget, "Such events show us that nothing is beyond the reach of prayer, no problem, no disaster." (81)

Only a few years later in 1815, more trouble appeared in New Orleans during the war between the Americans and the British. Louisiana was at this time apart of the United States, but England had planned to reacquire its former territory back. The British arrived with 15,000 troops near New Orleans on the plains of Chalmette to square off against General Andrew Jackson and his smaller force of only 6,000 men.

It appeared that there was no way the Americans could win; they were outnumbered, and the British were better equipped and prepared. The night before the battle, January 7, the Ursuline sisters prayed before the Blessed Sacrament and did so all night long. Others joined the nuns in prayer and by morning, a Mass was celebrated and offered up by the vicar general. Above the altar at this Mass was the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Prayers were recited in earnest as the thunder of the cannons could be heard.

At Communion time, a courier had rushed into the chapel to announce the miraculous victory over the British. During the battle, a fog appeared, confusing the British who wandered into a swamp, in full view of the Americans who were waiting to ambush them. From the battle, 2,600 British died with very few American casualties. General Jackson visited the nuns at the convent to personally thanked them for their prayers.

Rome officially approved devotion to Our Lady of Prompt Succor in 1912, and the statue was solemnly crowned through a decree issued by Pope Leo XIII.

The lessons to be drawn from this devotion's history are crystal clear, that we can obtain prompt help from Our Lady, what ever may be the problem, need or danger in our lives; Our Mother hears our prayers and will hasten to come to our aid. 

When we seek a quick answer or are in need of immediate help, even if it seems like an impossible situation, this devotion as Brown notes, "...[W]ill accomplish such requests if they are the will of the Father." (83) If it is the will of the Father, we can be assured that this devotion will obtain for us what we ask, and we must never forget this or doubt it in any way.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, pray for us.