Anti-life proposals questioned by its ‘target audience’

There is a silent but dangerous initiative going on in Dutch politics. Two groups – the ‘Out of Free Will’ Foundation and the Dutch Society for the Voluntary Termination of Life – are attempting to propose laws to government that would prepare the way for special end-of-life clinics, where ‘patients’ are provided with euthanasia, as well as the lifting of regulations on euthanasia in general for people over 70. Facilitating in death is the start of a very slippery slope, especially when death becomes a standard resolution for someone reaching a specific age.

Logo of the Catholic Elderly Union

Ironically, two unions, the Protestant-Christian Elderly Union and the Catholic Elderly Union, representing the ‘targets’  for these new measures, are now speaking against this. They have written a letter to Secretary of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten and Health secretary Edith Schipper, warning against this development.

The unions say that the 116,000 signatures that the initiative has gathered are more than a “yes, we are in favour”. It is also a “no against getting old and dependent”. The unions acknowledge that getting older and the approaching end of life triggers emotions of fear and insecurity, and often elderly wonder why they should go on. These emotions and thoughts require that the people in question feel safe in their environment and with their possible caregivers.

The unions conclude their letter with an earnest outcry to the secretaries who are today receiving the ‘Out of Free Will’ Foundation and the Dutch Society for the Voluntary Termination of Life:

It is unacceptable that questions about a full life come from a shortage of dedication and attention from others. Elderly people with a full life must be heard, but thy also deserve someone saying: “Stay with us, you are worth it!”

PCOB and the Union KBO consider the answers from the initiators ‘Out of Free Will’ and NVVR – who plead for an end-of-life clinic – far too blunt. They think that the issue of elderly who consider their life fulfilled is an existential issue. It requires a broad approach and reflection by society.

The original letter can be read in Dutch here.

Surely, such developments as suggested by these anti-life groups are a sign of the moral bankruptcy of this country? This is not a matter of caring for the elderly, it is opting for the easy way out.

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A difficult choice in the voting booth

In the Netherlands it’s time to make a difficult decision again: who to vote for in the national elections? It’s never an easy choice, with so many issues going on and so many parties to choose from. And the fact that this election was somewhat unexpected due to the government’s collapse a few months ago does not help either. And when you’re not too enthusiastic or informed about the machinations of politics, the dilemma seems complete.

But vote I will. It’s a right, but also a duty. So the choice is not if I’ll vote, but for whom. And that’s the problem. I’m Catholic (there’s a surprise) and a try to live according to Catholic social teachings, so that is why I try to see reflected in the party programs. And many parties (although some would hate to admit it) agree with what the Church has to say about many topics, but none do so for the full 100 %. In the Netherlands, a Catholic vote is not possible.

So the choice becomes negative. What party is the least divergent? Many Catholics vote left. PvdA, SP and GreenLeft (Labour, Socialists and Greens respectively) are popular. Others vote right: VVD (Liberals) mainly. And traditionally Catholics find a political home among the Christian Democrats of the CDA. And there is the PVV of madman Geert Wilders of course: a one-issue party that looks to be getting many votes out of spite. Will Catholics vote for him? Hard to say.

All these options can be defended (even the PVV, to an extent). But when it comes to combining certain specifically Christian issues (life and the role of religion in society, but also health care and education) and recent events in the media (the abuse issue and demonstrations about the ‘right’ to receive Communion), the choice becomes limited.

There it boils down to those parties who call themselves Christian: CDA, ChristenUnie (Christian Union) and SGP (Politically Reformed Party). CDA and ChristenUnie have been in government, while the SGP has always been a small opposition party, but nonetheless the most consistently Christian. They’re all chiefly or totally Protestant though, with the SGP being openly anti-Catholic.

Comparing the three, I conclude that the ChristenUnie is the best choice. Although solidly Protestant, they have been actively trying to involve Catholics in their party. Originally fully pro-life they did succumb to compromise, but that is the nature of Dutch politics. I don agree, but I understand. CDA is Christian in name only and SGP, as I said, is openly anti-Catholic. Despite the party’s qualities that is a major stumbling block for me.

What will we be getting? Perhaps a Liberal/Left combination? VVD, PvdA, GreenLeft? Maybe the PVV will get too involved (something I hope for: it may mean they´ll collapse within the year because they suddenly have responsibility). CDA will likely end up in opposition. D66 (possibly the most anti-Catholic choice we have) may turn out to be instrumental when it comes to forming a coalition, and perhaps, in a smaller way, the ChristenUnie will be as well. Chances of the end result being good are slim though. The major leftwing parties are openly antagonistic to the Church: the PvdA called for the Communion protests during Mass and GreenLeft  head Femke Halsema called the Church part of an axis of evil… Nice, that :$

But even the best options are not amazing. Dutch politics, like the country itself, is much secularised, and issues of faith, ethics and morality do not play a major part or are openly attacked or ridiculed. We will have to struggle on.