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Assisted Suicide: A Tale of Two Narratives

Here’s a narrative recently promoted nationally, beginning in Seattle, by the Associated Press.

In May, a 75-year-old man with cancer named Robert Fuller obtained a lethal drug overdose under Washington State’s “Death with Dignity” Act, and planned his suicide down to the last detail – with help from suicide enthusiasts at “End of Life Washington.” He arranged his funeral at St. Therese’s, the Catholic parish he had been attending; hosted a farewell party at his Seattle apartment building; married his male partner of some years; and later that day, administered the drugs before witnesses and died.  He had invited an AP reporter and photographer to follow him through this process because “he wanted to demonstrate for people around the country how such laws work.”

Something like this (usually without the festivity and orchestrated media presence) has happened in my home state of Washington about 1200 times since it legalized physician-assisted suicide in 2008.

Then AP adds this: The Sunday before his May 10 suicide, Fuller attended Mass for the last time, and allegedly received a blessing for what he was about to do (photographed by AP) from local Jesuit priest Fr. Quentin Dupont, accompanied by white-gowned children receiving their First Communion.  In support of this narrative, some have pointed to a Facebook post in which Fuller had said “my pastor/sponsor has given me his blessings. And he is a Jesuit!!!”

The fact is, Fuller posted that in March, so could not have been referring to Fr. Dupont’s blessing on May 5. The pastor of the parish, Fr. Maurice Mamba, is not a Jesuit. We may never know who that Jesuit really was, if he exists.

Fr. Dupont, it turns out, barely knew Fuller and had no idea he planned to kill himself. Coming down the church aisle at the end of Mass, he was confronted by a man who asked for a blessing because he was dying. Fr. Dupont led the children in praying for his strength and courage during this difficult time. He saw someone take a photo, but didn’t know it was by a news photographer and never signed a release for its public use. This seems like a set-up, designed by Mr. Fuller (or the activists assisting him) to embarrass the Church and undermine its witness against the assisted suicide movement.

When the pastor learned of Fuller’s plans, he visited him and tried to dissuade him – and when that effort failed, he consulted the archdiocese on whether to go through with his funeral. The decision was to proceed, to provide pastoral care for those mourning his death, on the condition that there could be no perceived support for the way Fuller ended his life.

What lessons can we learn from this?

Read more at The Catholic Thing 

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