New Jersey’s new law allowing assisted suicide, effective at the beginning of this month, “points to an “utter failure” on the part of government and indeed all society, said Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen.
It is the failure “to care truly, authentically and humanely for the suffering and vulnerable in our midst especially those living with an incurable disease as well as the frail elderly, the infirm and those living with disabilities,” he wrote to the 650,000 Catholics in his four-county diocese.
“Assisted suicide is a grievous affront to the dignity of human life and can never be morally justified,” he said. The legal permission now granted to this practice does not change the moral law.”
Bishop Checchio said that under the new law – called the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act – the elderly “could feel undue pressure to view this as an option to prevent being a burden to others and young people will begin to think that people can and should be disposable.”
“Indeed,” he added, “with this law there will be a further desensitisation of the value of human life.”
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, a Catholic, signed the assisted suicide bill into law on April 12.
It passed the Assembly 41-33 and the Senate 21-16 on March 25. As the measure awaited Murphy’s signature, pro-life groups and other opponents urged state residents to contact the governor and ask him not to sign the bill into law.
In his statement the day of the signing, Murphy said that “allowing residents with terminal illnesses to make end-of-life choices for themselves is the right thing to do”.
“By signing this bill today, we are providing terminally ill patients and their families with the humanity, dignity and respect that they so richly deserve at the most difficult times any of us will face,” he said, and thanked the legislature “for its courage in tackling this challenging issue”.
In his letter, Bishop Checchio said he and the other New Jersey bishops as well as the Catholic faithful and others from across the state “fought for over seven years to oppose this law”.
At the time Murphy signed the measure, all the Catholic bishops of the state, the New Jersey Catholic Conference and pro-life groups decried his action. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark called the new law regrettable, saying “whatever its motives and means,” it is “morally unacceptable”.