Rolling up our sleeves

Based on the conversations I’ve had with my listeners on air, along with the interesting email and Facebook exchanges of late, it is painfully obvious that anyone working in the areas of formation and/or the re-evangelization of Catholics is not going to be out of a job any time soon.

The recent story concerning the suicide of Brittany Maynard is a glaring example of how so much more catechesis is needed concerning Church teaching on end-of-life issues as well as what we mean when we talk about judgment or judging.

The story gained national and international attention, heavily fueled by the “right to die” groups and secular media outlets who agreed with the cause. I could retire if I had a dime for every person who accused me of judging the 29-year-old Maynard because I defended the Church’s teaching upholding life from conception until natural death. Maynard and her family made the decision to move to Oregon a few months ago after learning she had terminal brain cancer. Oregon is one of the states that has legalized assisted suicide. Maynard also decided to use her situation to campaign for “right to die” laws across the country.

I heard from dozens of people, most of whom identified themselves as Catholic, who praised Maynard for “taking charge of her life” and having the “freedom to make her own decisions.” Not a one responded when I explained that they, too, were making a judgment call. They were judging her actions to be a good thing.

Long before the pope’s famous “Who am I to judge” statement was hijacked by the press and particular activists groups, those who support euthanasia, abortion, artificial contraception and so-called same-sex marriage have been playing the judgment card in their attempt to silence anyone who would dare to disagree. The Church teaches only God judges the heart. We judge actions every day — that’s why we have laws. That is also why, as Christians, we believe there is something called sin and a Savior to rescue us from that sin.

The same folks who were praising Maynard’s “bravery” were quick to express great sorrow and distress over the suicide of Robin Williams. Many of my Facebook followers posted links to countless articles, talk shows, editorials and blogs dedicated to raising awareness on important issues like depression and addiction. And yet, those of us who expressed sorrow over Brittany Maynard’s suicide, and who tried to raise a similar level of awareness about the beautiful Church teachings concerning pain management and palliative care for the terminally ill, were accused of being judgmental and heartless toward the young woman.

Why was Brittany Maynard’s suicide an act of heroism and Williams’ a tragedy? If any of the Catholics involved in the various discussions were aware of Church teaching in this area, they didn’t mention it. What is really striking is that many of my colleagues at EWTN and other Catholic media outlets are sharing similar experiences with their followers who are also identifying themselves as members of the Catholic Church and, at the same time, disagreeing with the Church.

So what is the concerned Catholic to do with all of this? When it comes to those of us working in the areas of adult catechesis, I guess we can forgot about kicking off our shoes and taking a break. It looks like we are being called to keep those sleeves rolled up and put in our share of overtime, holidays and weekends if we are going to stem the tide of Catholics who have been conditioned and catechized by the culture. In the words of Ricky Ricardo, “Lucy, we got some explaining to do.”

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.