Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Letters to the Editor

(From the April 10, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

Regarding Letters to the Editor

The Inland Register welcomes letters to the editor. Letters should be no longer than 500 words. Letters must be signed, with address and phone number for contact, but names will be withheld upon request. Letters may be edited for length or clarity. Remember to be charitable.

Send letters to:

  • Inland Register | P.O. Box 48 | Spokane, WA 99210-0048
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    Fax: (509) 358-7302

    Thanks for diocese’s communications work


    Mitch Finley interviewed and wrote a beautiful article on our daughter Tisha’s work with the orphans of South Africa in the Inland Register (“Spokane woman lives out passion for children through service in South Africa,” IR 3/20/08). I wanted to thank you for running this. Of course she is thrilled about being able to tell the story of the millions of orphans there. There is such an overwhelming need and not enough people able to help. It’s heartbreaking.

    When we visited Tisha a couple years ago, we were so proud of our Catholic Church there. Two of the orphanages we visited were run by Catholic Sisters. Not surprising, but no one ever tells about all the lives they are saving with their compassion and love for the little ones who are left on the streets to die.

    Since Mitch interviewed Tisha, there finally has been some good news for Americans. As of April 1, the new Hague Law will go into effect, and Americans can finally start adopting South African children. Tisha already has appointments set up to start the proceedings to adopt Mpho, who is pictured in the article. International adoptions are very complicated, let alone with the parents of so many of these children deceased and no one to sign relinquishment papers. They are entirely in God’s hands and at the mercy of others.

    I can’t tell you how many people have mentioned to me that they saw the article in the Register. Be assured all your efforts in keeping our Catholic people informed through the Register definitely works and it is being read. Keep up the great job – it’s working.

    Also, I wanted to thank you and Bishop Skylstad for Time with the Bishop on Catholic Radio. It’s another great way to keep people informed about our faith and the issues at hand. I love how personable it is. I feel like you’re sitting right in my living room. You both do a great job.

    Sue Millersmith, Spokane

    ‘No’ to assisted suicide

    An open letter to Gov. Booth Gardner

    Dear Gov. Gardner:

    As we greet the arrival of spring, nature’s promise of the renewal of life leading to a bountiful harvest in the fall, it seems fitting to respond to a recent letter you sent across the nation soliciting funds for the initiative you hope to place on the November ballot allowing physician-assisted suicide.

    First, please accept an apology. In an earlier interview I said you were acting selfishly. That was wrong of me. Much as I think suicide is an irrational and selfish act, I should separate the act from the person. I should not and will not question your motives. Not only do you and I share the same affliction, which is Parkinson’s disease, we also share a love for politics and baseball. With respect for each other, we should just agree to disagree, but avoid being disagreeable.

    I do go you one better, though, in that I would qualify under the terms of your initiative to avail myself of a physician’s prescription to obtain the lethal drugs the initiative would permit. In November, 2005, I was told I had Stage IV cancer and the probability was I would not last six more months. But 16 months later I’m still here which, in and of itself, identifies one huge problem with your initiative: doctors are usually just making an educated guess when they predict how long one might live.

    Certainly you have a right to your opinion, and a right to express it. Where in my humble opinion you go badly astray is asserting that there is a human and constitutional right to what you call “death with dignity.”

    Really, Governor? Just where does it say that in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights? As Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Joel Connelly recently said in a column: Isn’t the correct expression that all are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights including the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? That’s a right to life, not death, or do you place this fictional right under the “pursuit of happiness” clause?

    Let me ask a few other questions regarding claims made in the fund-raising letter.

    Where in the Constitution does it say we have been endowed with a right to “unfettered personal liberty”? Really? I thought in society we accept constraints because we all understand the chaos that would result if we all had “unfettered personal liberty”? Most people understand we have responsibilities to our fellow human beings, not an absolute right to do as we please.

    The letter conjures up a picture for its recipients of their dying loved ones having to endure unbearable pain, anguish and suffering. Is that really the way it is? Most proponents of assisted suicide now acknowledge that modern palliative medicine has become so effective that claiming assisted suicide is needed to prevent unbearable pain is just no longer credible. And isn’t it true Governor, that in Oregon pain is rarely invoked as the reason for requesting the lethal concoction of drugs?

    The letter claims the initiative protects privacy, requires informed consent and provides safeguards, Governor, but isn’t it true there is no requirement to notify one’s family of this request for a lethal prescription? Isn’t it true, too Governor, that studies show almost all those given a terminal diagnosis exhibit signs of depression with some even expressing a desire to hasten their death, but that most change their minds when the underlying depression is treated? Isn’t it thus deeply concerning that not a single person availing themselves of Oregon’s assisted suicide law in 2007 was even referred to a mental health professional for evaluation and true assistance?

    The letter claims the Oregon law works, but how do you know? Isn’t it true there is no penalty for non-reporting by a doctor either in Oregon or under the Washington initiative? So how can one claim it works when there’s no checking and no enforcement?

    And how can you claim taking a lethal dose of drugs to kill yourself is not suicide? The definition of suicide is clear and unequivocal. Isn’t claiming, as the initiative does, that the underlying cancer or incurable condition is the cause of death, and not the lethal dose, completely inaccurate and in fact disingenuous?

    And by the way, aren’t we all terminal? Life itself is a terminal condition, Governor. Following your logic, couldn’t healthy people avail themselves of your proposal? Aren’t current laws focused correctly on protecting life and wouldn’t your assisted-suicide initiative really shift the entire focus of the laws built over a period of 2000 years?

    You say this is all about the individual having power over how their life ends (though none of us had any “power” over how, where, or when we were born) yet aren’t you really inviting government into a heretofore very private and personal situation and actually ceding power to doctors – who clearly don’t want it – or to HMOs, which may very well want it?

    How about a friendly wager, Governor, that your campaign will end up spending more than the $1 million your letter says is budgeted to try and convince the voters of Washington to sanction government getting into the business of killing people? An exaggeration? Haven’t you said several times this is just a first step? A first step to what, Governor?

    Chris Carlson, Spokane

    (Carlson is a member of the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide.)

    Fish is meat


    With Lent behind us and the Easter season ahead of us, it’s time for the Catholic Church to accept a scientific fact: fish is meat. Given simple biological facts, how can we explain to non-Catholics that fish is “not meat”? Fish is the flesh of aquatic members of the animal kingdom. Fish flesh is definitely meat.

    There are countless explanations for how this custom of allowing fish on Fridays – while disallowing meat – evolved, but it is time for the fish fry to end. Regardless of what some pope may or may not have declared a millennium ago, fish is meat. If a person wants to follow the current version of the directive — no meat on Fridays during Lent — the only way to do that is to abstain from all meat. To eat fish is to wink at this directive. The only way to make it “right” to eat fish on Fridays in Lent is to change the directive to reflect what Catholics really do: no eating flesh of terrestrial animals on Fridays in Lent.

    But the Church should just accept the fact that fish is meat and prohibit it on Lenten Fridays. Fish is very endangered and dangerous meat. Instead of blindly adhering to whatever misguided notions of cuisine and science some medieval pontiff ascribed to, let’s face some facts. The world’s fish farms are often environmental wastelands that bilge pollutants into the eco-system. The world’s oceans don’t need our business. In fact, they’d be better off without our business. Descriptions of fish stocks around the world range from “in danger of depletion” to “at the point of extinction.” The news this past Holy Week is that the Chinook salmon fishery near Sacramento is at the point of collapse.

    And there is another reality for those who continue to eat fish: a lot of seafood is tainted with heavy metals. Is that tuna casserole really worth it to maintain your Catholic heritage? Finally, there is the spiritual/economic reality of Lent. When we fast and abstain from meat, we’re supposed to join the suffering, to “walk the walk” of the poor of the world. It’s a little hard to get into the spirit of what it means to be a poor suffering person living on $1 a day (which is what billions of people in this world live on) while waiting for the shark or tuna steak to grill on the barbecue.

    How long is it going to take the Church to admit this simple scientific truth? Let’s hope it takes less time than the Church took to accept Galileo’s ideas. In the meantime, as Catholics look back over the last 40 days and consider how we’ll do it better next year, we should consider giving up fish for future Lents. Lent can become a time to explore the many vegetarian and vegan cuisines of developing countries where meatless meals are the norm rather than the Lenten exception.

    Elizabeth Siler, Pullman, Wash.

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