Tag Archives: culture of death

Culture of Death

Wesley J. Smith
Encounter Books, 2016
360 pages, paperback $16.95

Smith has updated his award-winning book critiquing the modern bioethics movement. He chronicles how the threats to human life have accelerated in recent years, from the proliferation of euthanasia to the potential for “death panels” posed by Obamacare.

Subtitled The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, the book reveals how more doctors have withdrawn from the Hippocratic Oath and how “bioethicists” influence policy by posing questions such as whether organs may be harvested from the terminally ill and disabled. This is a passionate yet coolly reasoned book about the current crisis in medical ethics by a recent winner of Legatus’ Cardinal O’Connor Pro-Life Award.


Ready, set, kill

Tom Crean has been fighting greed, corruption and the Culture of Death in Canada for decades.


Tom Crean

A member of Legatus’ Vancouver Chapter, Crean and other pro-life activists are sounding the alarm as Canada’s parliament, responding to a Supreme Court ruling last year, is poised to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.

“Are we actually going to empower the state to make it legal to kill people? To make it legal for our kids to kill us? This is the point my country has gotten to,” said Crean, whose family for three generations has owned Kearney Funeral Services in Vancouver.

Death care

From his perspective in the “death care profession,” Crean said he has seen Canadian society become desensitized to, even being in denial of, death. Many now consider death to be an inconvenience when it touches their lives — even when relatives become sick or infirm, he said.

The gravity of the situation facing Canada is part of the reason why Crean has a strong interest in media education and getting the word out to citizens and members of parliament as to why they should be concerned about the latest threat to life.

crean-1“The government’s worst nightmare is an intelligent citizen, just as a corporation’s worst nightmare is an intelligent consumer,” Crean said. “We the people need to understand that to provide a future for our kids, it’s going to be in total opposition to the powers that exist, not in cooperation with them.”

In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a 9-0 decision to remove all restrictions on state-sanctioned suicide, ruling that the previous prohibition violated the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which makes up the first portion of Canada’s Constitution.

The high court ordered parliament to pass a new law by June 5 liberalizing assisted suicide and making an accommodation for euthanasia when someone is unable to self-administer the lethal dose or injection.

In February, a special parliamentary committee delivered a report with 21 recommendations to reform the law. The report included some troubling recommendations, such as permitting euthanasia for children and those with mental illness. The report also stated that all medical professionals have a legal obligation either to provide “medical assistance in dying” or to refer a patient to someone who will help end their lives.

On April 14, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government unveiled Bill C-14, legislation that would amend the country’s criminal code to permit euthanasia and assisted suicide. While considered to be more moderate than the committee report, the bill would still create a regime that critics say will pave the way for wide-open euthanasia.

Alarm bells

“At a time when our priority should be fostering a culture of love and enhancing resources for those suffering and facing death, assisted suicide leads us down a dark path,” Cardinal Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Toronto, said in a statement. He encouraged all those troubled by the prospect of assisted suicide to contact their members of parliament.

“At first sight, it may seem an attractive option, a quick and merciful escape from the suffering that can be experienced in life, but fuller reflection reveals its grim implications — not only for the individual but for our society and especially for those who are most vulnerable.”

Jim Hughes

Jim Hughes

However, that message has not gotten through the vast majority of Canadian citizens, said Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition, Canada’s oldest and largest pro-life organization.

“Everybody I talk to says, ‘This can’t be happening here,’ but the problem is that 99% of the people are still ignorant of what all this means,” said Hughes, an At-Large member of Legatus.

Hughes, considered by many to be the father of Canada’s pro-life movement, said fighting against the Culture of Death’s advances in Canada is as like repeatedly “getting kicked in the stomach,” adding that even Supreme Court justices appointed by conservative prime ministers have turned out to be activist judges.

In 1988, the Canada’s Supreme Court effectively removed all restrictions on abortion when it struck down a 1969 law that first liberalized Canadian abortion laws. The ruling made Canada one of a small number of countries without a law restricting abortion, treating it like any other medical procedure.

Hughes said Bill C-14 is “so loosely worded, it’s ridiculous.” He said the law would open the door for widespread euthanasia and has no conscience protections for Catholic and other religiously affiliated medical facilities and physicians.

“People in the United States need to be informed on these issues before it’s too late and they’re ramming it down your throats there,” Hughes said.

Cover for murder

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, which is based in London, Ontario, said the movement to legalize euthanasia in Canada has turned the concept of mercy upside down.

“It’s now considered merciful for me to kill you,” Schadenberg said. “Compassion is a lethal injection. That is a very dangerous concept.”

Schadenberg said Bill C-14 mirrors other countries’ assisted suicide regimes in that the law lacks adequate oversight. No government representatives or neutral third parties are required to monitor whether a patient has a “serious or incurable illness” that has brought them “enduring physical or psychological suffering.”

In fact, Schadenberg said, the law even permits anyone — not just a physician or nurse practitioner — to carry out the act.

“The bill provides a perfect cover for acts of murder,” Schadenberg said. “It shows you just how bad my country is going.”

Crean has seen that trend since the late 1970s when he started building an interfaith alliance to stop a large funeral home conglomerate from acquiring Vancouver’s only public cemetery. He helped organize dozens of different churches and ethnic groups that marched on city hall and declared that their heritage was not for sale.

“And the most astonishing thing happened,” Crean said. “We won.”

In 1978, at age 21, Crean took the helm of the family business, which his grandfather, Thomas James Kearney, started more than 100 years ago. Kearney Funeral Services has since been able to operate and thrive in Greater Vancouver where large conglomerates control much of the industry.

Crean said he is committed to fighting the Culture of Death in the trenches, adding that he’s involved in initiatives to build hospice and medical facilities — and to establish a cooperative community cemetery that he said will revolutionize the death care profession.

“The great thing about a journey of faith,” Crean said, “is that you don’t always have an idea of where you’re going.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Learn more: kearneyfs.com

Beware doctor-assisted suicide

BILL DONOHUE says the merchants of death are not just fixated on the elderly . . .

Bill Donohue

Bill Donohue

If there was one strain of political thought that was evident in the November elections, it was libertarianism. As a political philosophy, libertarianism today is roughly what was called liberalism in the 19th century; it is also known as classical liberalism.

Essentially, it maintains that the good society is best served by having a minimal role for government. Liberalism today, of course, favors a big role for government. In the mid-term elections, libertarianism manifested itself as a revulsion against ObamaCare, and other intrusions by the federal government into our lives. The public has become increasingly wary of government busybodies, and this is especially true of young people: Many possess a strong libertarian streak.

Is libertarianism a good thing? When it comes to taming the federal government’s appetite to regulate markets, it is. But when it comes to moral issues, that’s a different story. Take doctor-assisted suicide. Libertarians support doctor-assisted suicide. The government, they argue, has no business telling people they don’t have the right to terminate their own lives. Sounds seductively attractive at first glance: Whose rights are interfered with if someone elects to kill himself? It’s a consensual act, so why should there be any laws against it?

Let’s examine these propositions. Bribery is a consensual act, but we wisely have laws against it. Why? Because the person making the bribe is given an unfair advantage over others; so it really doesn’t matter if the person making the bribe — as well as his happy recipient — like the transaction. Society matters. To be sure, society does not have rights — only individuals do, but it surely has interests. Among them are justice and the general welfare of the people, as outlined in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

It’s true that no one’s rights are being interfered with if someone chooses to kill himself. It’s also true that no one’s rights are interfered with if two men choose to duel to the death in public. Why not allow them to kill themselves — the winner must kill his challenger in order to collect his booty — at Madison Square Garden and show it on pay-for-view TV? The coarsening of our culture that such an exhibition would yield is not something we should encourage. If human life is nothing more than a commodity to be disposed of any way we choose, would we not be going down a dangerous road? The history of the 20th century, especially in Germany, suggests we would be.

The problem with the libertarian position is that it sees individual rights as dispositive of all societal interests. But there is more to the good society than rights. How people treat each other and themselves matters. Moreover, rights are not an end: They are a means. They are a means to liberty. The exercise of rights that intentionally result in the death of a human being is not advancing the cause of liberty; death eliminates the prospects of liberty interminably.

There is another problem with doctor-assisted suicide, namely the doctor. Doctors are trained to save lives, not end them. When we change their mission, we change who they are. Once they become mere instruments, their profession is no longer the same. Consider what has happened in nations where doctor-assisted suicide is legal.

Euthanasia has a familiar history. It always starts with putting down the terminally ill, and it never stops there. In this country, at least 70% of those who were killed by Dr. Jack Kevorkian were not dying, and some weren’t even ill. So-called mercy killing is not a slippery slope — it’s a sheet of ice.

It’s a myth that some of the sick are suffering so badly that nothing can be done to stop it. Quite frankly, because of advances in medicine those days are over. The picture of the screaming patient writhing in pain is more than a canard — it’s a cruel demagogic ploy promoted by those who have a vested ideological or financial interest in the budding euthanasia industry.

The merchants of death are not fixated on the elderly; they are quite egalitarian in their pursuits. For example, the cause of infanticide is seriously argued by Nobel Prize winners and Ivy League professors: Parents, they maintain, should have the right to kill their infants. (See page 27 for related story.) Then there are those who may be physically healthy, but are nonetheless hopelessly depressed. They also make fine candidates for an early death.

If we are truly interested in achieving the good society, we need to ask ourselves how the adoption of policies that accelerate the death of innocent human beings facilitates that end.

BILL DONOHUE, Ph.D., is the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. His new book The Catholic Advantage: Why Health, Happiness, and Heaven Await the Faithful will be released on March 3.

Taking on the Culture of Death

PATRICK NOVECOSKY writes that we need to be rooted in prayer and live out our faith . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

I’ve been thinking about what it was like before I came to know Christ in a personal way, or rather what I was like before my “reversion.” Not much bothered me back then. The very good didn’t move me and the very bad didn’t faze me.

But all that changed when I encountered Christ in my late 20s. The excellent things of this world — like my three-month-old son’s smile — now make me ecstatic. And the evil of this world — like the horrific slaughter of thousands of Christians in the Middle East — fills me with great sorrow.

This change of heart might be the answer to a prayer I’ve prayed many times: “Lord, let me love what you love and loath what you loath.” I know for certain that Jesus loathes sin and suffering. He became man to put an end to evil, and I long for the day when his Kingdom comes.

But until then, we are called to be a light in our imperfect world every day. And Legatus members have that call in a unique way. Legates are called to learn, live and spread the Catholic faith in a world hungry for the truth, but a world which, at the same time, cringes every time Christ is mentioned.

With the Islamic State on the rise, an Ebola crisis looming (already killing people in our own country), and the Church in turmoil over the Synod on the Family in Rome, it might seem like the darkness is closing in. That may be, but this is our day! This is our time to shine. In the midst of the gloom, we’re still called to be that light in the darkness. A little light can be very bright (think Easter Vigil) and make a big difference for people trying to move forward in cultural darkness.

Nor can we ever forget that we’re in a spiritual battle. Saint Paul wrote to Timothy that “the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth” (2 Tim 4: 3-4).

Paul urges Timothy to persist in spreading the Gospel despite setbacks and hardships. Our call is no different. Rooted in prayer — our lifeline to the Living God — we are each called to serve where we’re planted. And if we are all faithful to our calling, the Culture of Death doesn’t stand a chance.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

Who lives, who dies, who decides?

Marie Hilliard: People who want a ‘perfect life’ will even kill children . . .

Marie T. Hilliard

Marie T. Hilliard

We live in a culture that perpetuates the myth that we can have a perfect life. Baby Boomers embraced the fable that they can control everything, including life and death. After all, technology has provided such great advances that children can be engendered on demand.

If less than perfect offspring are identified before birth, they can be eliminated. In the Netherlands, parents have the option of “after birth abortion” — also known as murder or infanticide. This has evolved into a cultural mindset that deems less-than-“perfect” persons — such as those with disabilities and the elderly with dementia — as unfit to live, or at least unworthy to have equitable access to health care resources.

As we witness the generation that embraced abortion-on-demand advancing in age, will this generation now be the subject of the next generation’s similar approach to the frail or disabled elderly?

As faith is being driven out of the public square, the concept that suffering can have meaning is increasingly alien to our culture. Many of us remember being formed by faithful nuns. They showed us how suffering can have meaning when united to the cross. How often did we hear, “Offer it up” — especially for the poor souls in Purgatory?

We live in a culture that only accepts the redemption that is falsely depicted as a perfect life in this world. Public policy makers, including elected officials, are merely products of our culture whom we’ve empowered to represent us in the public square; and as these polices unfold, there is growing evidence that the only acceptable way to deal with suffering is to abandon or eradicate the sufferer.

The evidence is everywhere. Studies demonstrate that in vitro fertilization (IVF) is being used by some parents to accomplish preimplantation genetic diagnosis on their very own offspring. A recent study indicates that 42% of the centers that engage in such lethal procedures will do so for sex selection. This move toward designer babies is a clear indication of a eugenic mentality, where only the flawless are allowed to live. No one can ignore the changing attitudes on how we treat the frail elderly and persons with disabilities.

Three states have legalized physician-assisted suicide (PAS): Oregon, Washington and Vermont. Montana decriminalized it through court order. The frightening fact is that there is a trend progressing toward active euthanasia, which is the case in the Netherlands. And if one looks at the statistics from Oregon, the data give great pause. Despite the fact that Oregon law mandates that a physician require a psychological evaluation of a patient if there is any question of whether a mental health condition may be causing the person to want to die, of the 673 persons assisted to die, only 42 were referred for such an evaluation.

What person wanting to end their life is not experiencing a treatable depression that could be alleviated if someone merely accompanied them in their suffering? Furthermore, Oregon law will not allow family members to be told of the request without explicit consent, nor allow the death certificate to list anything other than the underlying pathology as the cause of death. Thus, the frail elderly and disabled may easily be convinced by an exhausted or greedy family member that to kill oneself might be in everyone’s best interests.

Then enter the government with its own eugenic version of health care reform. The Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) supports programs that provide abortion-on-demand and requires employers to provide employees with contraceptive and abortifacient drugs. It also penalizes health care providers who, in caring for the elderly and disabled, are costing the government too much money. There are penalties for hospital readmissions for the same diagnosis within a 30-day period. There is a 15-member Medicare Advisory Panel which will determine reimbursement polices on cost effectiveness.

The evidence is clear: Social policy is dictating who is worthy to be accompanied in their suffering and who is to be eliminated as too great a burden to our society. This is heralding a whole new approach to the sufferer and with it the denigration of our humanity. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Spe Salvi : “The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through compassion is a cruel and inhuman society” (II, 38).

If we do not accompany the sufferer, and even worse, if we eliminate him from our midst, we have become a cruel and inhumane society.

MARIE T. HILLIARD, JCL, PhD, RN, is a staff ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

Standing with the Church

Editor Patrick Novecosky writes that Catholics have great reason to be optimistic . . .

Patrick Novecosky

I admit it. I’m a news junkie. I scan the headlines every morning. I have my web browser open to key news sites during the work day, and before I go to bed … I check the news again. Just to keep my addiction in check, my wife made a rule: no smartphones at the table.

Some people find the news depressing — and for good reason! If you’re an avid reader of the weekly Legatus Insider, you know what I mean. Even though I often find myself scratching my head, wondering how the world could get any worse, I’m always looking for that nugget of good news. After all, we’re called to be people of hope.

Despite the culture of death pressing down on us, Catholics have great reason to be optimistic. Despite unconstitutional mandates, a cynical mainstream news media, and Hollywood elites regularly mocking our faith, we have an ace in the hole: We have the Truth on our side. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6). And we can be certain that we are on His side if we stand with the Church He founded.

In March, the U.S. bishops issued a statement clarifying their stand against the Health and Human Services contraception mandate. Despite the liberal media’s attempts to distort the issue, the bishops have made it abundantly clear from the beginning of this debate in January that this fight is about religious liberty, not contraception. They will not back down, and they will not comply. They need to know that we are firmly behind them.

“This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block,” the bishops said in a March 14 statement. That sentiment is hitting home with people of all faiths. Even Glenn Beck, a Catholic-turned-Mormon, is sounding the alarm bells by saying, “We’re all Catholics now.” And polls show that the majority of Americans believe the mandate is unconstitutional.

Ultimately, the mandate’s constitutionality will be tested in the courts. A number of Catholic and pro-life organizations — including Priests for Life and Ave Maria University — have already filed suit. More will follow, including faithful Catholics who lead secular business organizations. If we stand with the bishops on this issue, if we fast and pray, and if we hold fast to the Truth, we will prevail in what is truly important — even if the world is against us.

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus magazine’s editor.

America’s unholy export

Despite its rich Christian history, America is the world leader in exporting death . . .

Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer

The United States of America is the greatest country in the world. We lead the world in military and political strength, our economy is the largest in history and American cultural influence is everywhere.

God has richly blessed our nation with much to offer the rest of the world. Yet, America is also the progenitor and leading exporter of the culture of death. This can and must be changed. Perhaps Legatus members are just the ones to do something about it.

The export of the culture of death happens primarily through population control, a practice as old as Pharaoh in the book of Exodus who saw the proliferation of the Jews in his land as a threat. That’s usually what happens when prosperous nations grow old for lack of child bearing and try to protect their “good life” by suppressing the peoples who have filled the vacuum left by a decreasing native population.

In Egypt, this took the form of a systematic repression of the Jews through forced labor and the unjust slaughter of their male babies. This was repeated by King Herod in the New Testament when he sent his henchmen into the hill country of Judea to wipe out all the male boys under age two in Bethlehem and its environs. Herod’s own population control program operated according to the same principles of murder and mayhem against the innocent.

Modern programs are not much different, although they tend to be more subtle. American population control efforts began in the 1960s with the Rockefellers who set up the Population Council to monitor world population and make policy recommendations to the U.S. government about controlling the growth rates of the world’s poorer countries. Henry Kissinger authored the infamous National Security Study Memorandum 200 (the Kissinger Report for short) of the Nixon Administration just one year after Roe v. Wade. The population control dynamics were the same as in biblical times: When America decided to curtail population growth through abortion, pro-lifers feared that others would follow. Like it or not, the Kissinger Report became the template of population-control logic for all succeeding American administrations. No President has succeeded in fully stopping America’s unholy intrusion into the populations of other countries.

This fact becomes relevant to some modern-day policies and practices of our government. For one, the Mexico City Policy, which prohibited U.S. taxpayer dollars from going to international groups that promote abortion, was wiped out by President Obama’s executive order on his third day in office. It unleashed a torrent of U.S. funding for the export of abortion. A congressional omnibus funding bill last December authorized nearly $700 million taxpayer dollars for the most pernicious abortion-promoting groups in the world. These organizations are organizing the forces of death around the world to push abortion, contraception, pornographic sex education and sexual immorality in schools.

Pope John Paul II called packages of evil like this the “culture of death” and claimed that a “conspiracy against life” (Evangelium Vitae, #17) was being perpetrated on our world through powerful organizations with vested interests and lots of money.

Since the release of the U.S. funding for more population control, we have seen an emboldening of anti-life efforts at the United Nations and around the world. The exportation of the culture of death is alive and well:

• In March, the U.N. hosted 6,000 radical feminists for their first conference on women in a decade; all such efforts were stalled during President Bush’s tenure;
• Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently demanded that Brazil legalize abortion;
• The Spanish government voted to expand abortion, and the King of Spain signed the law in March;
• A U.N. committee ordered Ukraine to push more sex education in their schools; and
• The European Court of Human Rights demanded that Poland recognize homosexual “rights” contrary to their laws and values.

Sadly, Planned Parenthood is providing “reproductive health kits” for poor Haitians in their time of desperate need. The missionaries of death have millions of dollars at their disposal and always capitalize on humanitarian crises to promote their evil agenda.

Legates can be missionaries of life in these tough times. Businessmen can capitalize on the present economic crisis to deliver a sober message to our political leaders about the hard “bottom line” of wasted dollars on futile population control programs that produce nothing and inspire no true economic growth.

People who own stock in companies that support immoral practices can bring corporate resolutions to their stockholders to stop funding the culture of death. We can boycott companies that do business with Planned Parenthood and make it clear that we will not fund or support anything that harms our society and ultimately our souls.

America is still the greatest nation on earth. It’s great because we are free to fight the culture of death and promote the culture of life. As conscientious Catholics, let us embrace that freedom and honor God for blessing our country so abundantly.

Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer is president of Human Life International, the world’s largest pro-life organization with affiliates in 75 countries. Legatus presented him with the Cardinal John J. O’Connor Pro-Life Award in 2005.

The truth about aging

Attorney and elder advocate Michael Offenheiser says aging brings wisdom & dignity . . .

Michael Offenheiser

Michael Offenheiser

There’s something unique about babies born in 2007. The government recently reported that those children can expect to live nearly 78 years. That puts the record for average American life expectancy at an all-time high — a record I’m sure will only last until the government releases data for babies born in 2008.

People are living longer and, with more baby boomers hitting retirement age, the elderly population is about to explode like no other time in history. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there were 35 million Americans over 65 in 2000. Today there are 40 million. In 10 years: 55 million!

But these aren’t the only numbers on the rise. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports there was a 457% increase in the number of cosmetic procedures between 1997 and 2007. Despite the sagging economy, Americans still spent nearly $12 billion on cosmetic procedures in 2008. These numbers suggest that aging is being met with increasing resistance — which is not at all surprising. After all, Pope John Paul II said in Evangelium Vitae that we’re living in a Culture of Death “which sees the growing number of elderly … as intolerable and too burdensome” (#64).

The Culture of Death commonly refers to problems of abortion and euthanasia. But it’s broader than that. Without realizing it, the Culture of Death, which extols the virtues of eternal youth, has so permeated our thinking that many of us (even faithful Catholics) have a distorted view of what it means to grow old.

We dread birthdays. We don’t reveal our age. We don’t talk about death. Some take the “Viagra” approach to life and try to artificially reignite the flame of youth. We undergo expensive cosmetic procedures to mitigate the physical effects of aging and push the thought of our own death far from our minds.

Notwithstanding this prevailing attitude, old age is a great gift — and not because it simply defers our inevitable demise. In The Dignity of Older People and Their Mission in the Church and in the World, the Pontifical Council for the Laity suggests that God created the aged condition by design. If we accept old age as a gift designed by God for our benefit, we can use the unique qualities that characterize old age to unlock grace in our lives and build a bridge from this life to the next. There are four qualities of old age in particular that can make it a grace-filled time of life:

Quieting of the passions. As people age, their hormone levels drop. As a result, the elderly have fewer temptations to sin brought on by bodily passions and heightened emotions. With fewer temptations, they have a greater capacity to grow in the life of grace.

Prayer and mission. The elderly have more free time — time to pray, attend daily Mass and engage in missionary activities. Dignity of Older People says that the elderly “have entered upon a time of extraordinary grace which opens to them new opportunities for prayer and union with God. Called to serve others and to offer their lives to the Lord and Giver of Life, new spiritual powers are given to them” (emphasis added).

Cultivation and sharing of wisdom. The elderly don’t often fall victim to the mistakes of youth. They’ve learned from the past, cultivated wisdom and, if they’ve been striving for holiness, have spent years battling their vices. They continue to grow in prudence, learn the truths of the faith and advance ever closer to Christian perfection. They also have the opportunity to be teachers and witnesses to younger generations, sharing the wisdom they’ve acquired.

Suffering. Christ conquered death through suffering on the cross and raised human suffering to the level of redemption. Hence, human suffering can be redemptive. Suffering allows the elderly to exercise moral greatness and grow deeper in spiritual maturity. Through suffering, one’s ultimate calling to love is released. John Paul called suffering a “special vocation” — especially for the aged, whose lives are often filled with physical and emotional pain.

By characterizing old age with these four qualities, God designed old age to be a time of great grace. But many are so saturated in the Culture of Death that they’re unwittingly influenced by its philosophies and resist the very aspects of the aging process which make it a blessed and grace-filled time of life.

Today’s youth will indeed live longer than today’s elderly. But how these youth will spend their sunset years remains to be seen. John Paul found great peace in thinking of the time when the Lord would call him from life to life! Let us follow the magnificent example of grace-filled aging that John Paul left us, and let’s work to create a culture that recognizes the truth about aging. We can do this by critically evaluating our personal perceptions of aging — and by whole-heartedly embracing our journey to (or through) old age.

Michael J. Offenheiser is an elder law attorney in Fresno, Calif., and founder of Spring Chicken Ministries, devoted to educating the elderly. For more: SpringChickenMinistries@gmail.com