Fr. Gerard’s Weekly Column: 4/28/24


Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.

It goes without saying that the world we live in generates confusion. One might say that this confusion is self-inflicted, in that we are often inconsistent with what we say and what we do. Other times we find ourselves advocating contradictory principles. Such is the case in our own state regarding the issue of suicide, an essential respect life issue that is often overlooked. On one hand, our political leaders recognize a mental health epidemic which is an underlying cause for such self-harm, yet at the same time some of these same leaders have pushed our state to the threshold of the legalization of physician assisted suicide.

In its 2025 budget, New York State has allocated three million dollars in suicide prevention efforts for veterans, first responders, law enforcement and correction officers. Our state government recognizes that the desperate act of taking one’s own life is preventable and is ultimately not the right answer for the person who is suffering and for those who love them. Yet that same government is at the same time moving forward with a so-called death with dignity bill (A995-B Paulin/S2445-B Hoylman-Sigal) which would legalize physician suicide and recognize it as physical and mental health care.

The above-referenced bill would add a new section of the Public Health Law to allow physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication for the express purpose of ending a patient’s life. The church and other pro-life advocates have long argued that legalizing assisted suicide would result in a slippery slope. Canada is providing an example of just how slippery the slope can be. What began in 2016 as a limited program for those with irreversible, terminal, and painful illness has morphed into something entirely different in just a few years. Physician Assisted Suicide in Canada now goes beyond a treatment for the terminally ill, to the broader category of those who suffer with an “intolerable” condition. There are plans in place to expand it further, to the mentally ill and it has been discussed and sought out as a solution for homelessness. There have been reports of doctors offering it to veterans suffering from PTSD, and those in need of extra help to live independently. People with disabilities and depression have also been euthanized for the purpose of providing cost-savings to the healthcare industry.

The New York State Catholic Conference reports that this legislation contains many moral and ethical flaws.

  • It does not require screening, testing, or treatment for clinical depression.
  • It requires a physician to list the underlying illness (and not the lethal drugs) as the cause of death, making it impossible to know how widely this form of suicide is being practiced, thus making it impossible to track abuses.
  • It contains absolutely no safeguards against coercion or abuse once the lethal drugs are in the patient’s possession.
  • It contains no residency requirement, opening the door to out-of-state visitors obtaining deadly drugs here.

It is illogical for the state to promote/facilitate suicide for one group of persons, calling the suicides of those with a terminal illness and a specific prognosis “dignified and humane,” while recognizing suicide as a serious statewide public health crisis in all other circumstances and spending enormous resources to combat it. Consistency in word and action would instead see our state make efforts to improve access to palliative and hospice care for those in the final stages of terminal illness. Improving education and training of physicians in pain management as well appropriate diagnosis and treatment for depression.

Dignitas Infinita, a recent Vatican Document approved by Pope Francis, notes that, even in serious infirmity, “Human life carries a dignity that must always be upheld, that can never be lost, and that calls for unconditional respect. Indeed, there are no circumstances under which human life would cease from being dignified and could, as a result, be put to an end.”

I urge you to contact the Governor and your state representatives and express your support for suicide prevention and state your opposition to physician assisted suicide.

CHURCH DOOR RENOVATION PROJECT – As of this writing, nearly $40,000 has been collected for this important project. I am pleased to share that donations for the project can now be made online via our WeShare program. Go to our website and go to “Ways to Give.” or follow this link to make your secure online donation. Thank you for your generous support.