RESPECT LIFE: SUFFERING & EUTHANASIA
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, in the beginning of October, I asked the parish staff if it would be a good idea to write bulletin articles regarding major life issues since October is Respect Life Month. The staff loved the idea. And so my hope with these bulletin articles has been to teach how the Church looks at these issues and to understand our urgency in protecting the dignity of human life.
In 2004, Clint Eastwood starred in the drama Million Dollar Baby. This was a movie about a young woman, Maggie (Hilary Swank), who was estranged from her family and lived alone. She was seeking to become a successful boxer and really wanted Frankie (Eastwood) to coach her. The problem was Frankie did not coach girls. After talking with Scrap (Morgan Freeman), a previous fighter Frankie had managed, Frankie miraculously has a change of heart and decides to coach her. As the movie progresses, Maggie and Frankie develop a beautiful Father Daughter like bond. Maggie experiences great success and rockets up the rankings. Finally, she is able to fight the best female boxer in her division, and after a dirty punch, breaks her neck and becomes paralyzed from the neck down.
Maggie’s spirit is crushed. Life was finally looking up for her, and now everything she has worked so hard for is gone. Frankie, visits her every day at the hospital. After a while Maggie asks Frankie to help her die. Eastwood’s character responds: “I can’t. Please, please don’t ask me…”
At the end of the movie (spoiler alert), Frankie goes to the hospital, gives Maggie a lethal dose of Adrenaline and leaves. Afterwards, Scrap says that “Frankie never returned to the gym and no one saw him again… I don’t think he had anything left.” The movie ends with Eastwood’s character sipping coffee at Maggie’s favorite diner.
This is another movie I highly recommend, it’s both well done and very thought provoking (disclaimer: not a movie for young children). But with that last scene in mind, one is left wondering: is Million Dollar Baby promoting physician assisted suicide or euthanasia? I think the answer is obviously No.
Frankie did not want to help Maggie die. His initial response, “Maggie, I can’t” is his intuitive understanding that to be the agent or to be the one that causes the death of an innocent human being, is immoral. But it’s his actions at the end of the movie that are more telling. Scrap says, “I don’t think [Frankie] had anything left”. “Helping Maggie” cost Frankie something… It cost him his peace. And that’s what Scrap says to end the movie, “I hope Frankie finds peace”.
Friends, this is an issue that we understand on both sides. We understand it’s wrong to take human life. At the same time, it can be very difficult for us to see those that we love suffer. But here’s the beautiful reality, those who suffer and those who are nearing the end of their life have a lot to teach us. They can teach us how to hold on to God’s presence in the most difficult times. They can also teach us how Christ sanctifies us through suffering. We will never know the answer why suffering was necessary. But at least we will always know that we do not suffer alone. Christ, who did not deserve to suffer greatly, did so out of great love for us. We can be confident then, that when we suffer, we do not suffer alone. Christ is with us.
Fr. Stephen J Durkee