I was inspired by headline posted online by the Los Angeles Times: Pope’s decree on abortion may signal change in practice. The article referenced Pope Francis’ compassion for women who have had abortions with these words: “I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision.” I presume healing this battle scar through forgiveness whitewashes the soul of guilt.
The decision to end life is typically a no-win situation and often a matter of self-defense. However, it is not without the consequence of guilt. Traditional Catholic teaching considers abortion and euthanasia mortal sins with no exception. However, most Christians will recall one exception God “euthanized” his only Son for the greater good. What followed three days later was the highly proclaimed Resurrection. Resurrection or resurgence essentially begins life anew without guilt. Clearing a path to be able to walk in the light of redemption is cause for celebration.
In honoring the values of compassion and redemption, Pope Francis has proclaimed a special Jubilee Year beginning on December 8. These particular holy years usually take place every 25 years and the last one occurred in 2000. However, popes have God’s authority to offer forgiveness as they see fit and in a timely manner. During this so-titled Holy Year of Mercy, redemption may be obtained by visiting St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This guilt-free vacation seems like a win-win. Confusing, right?
The same confusion regarding the end of life being guilt-free is nearly impossible without forethought given to these no-win situations. Guilt-ridden patients, family members and healthcare providers plague my practice of emergency medicine and compromise mercy being given to those near the end of life. I share the grief of all who fail to rest in peace due to churches’ teachings. Grief is naturally compounded by guilt through incessant thoughts and existing doubts that not enough is being done to amend a given no-win situation.
The Catholic Church has been notorious for leading from behind on matters of sin by offering forgiveness rather than getting out in front of matters of guilt through teaching awareness. Human beings have a God-given right to free choice during no-win situations that might necessitate ending life. Having outlawed abortion or euthanasia as going against God’s will is presumptuous and arrogant. In my practice of awareness, I believe no-win situations are amended through creating personal wins. Redemption might be perceived as doing something rewarding for oneself or others.
The new beginning inherent to this Jubilee Year supports my vision for the end of life as being a celebration. When all else fails, it’s time to pull out all the stops and alleviate the suffering triggered by guilt. This type of resurgence occurs from all who proclaim, This is the day the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). My fervent undertaking and inherent message is the decree of Wishes To Die For. This end-of-life perspective preempts guilt and offers peace for the dying and their survivors.
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