Belgium is a troubled country on any number of levels. Its unity has been
tenuous for decades, it is increasingly challenged by an Islamic immigrant
community that rejects European virtues, and just like its neighbor, Holland,
it is clumsily eager to embrace the latest in eugenics and social engineering.
Only last month the Belgian Federal Parliament seriously considered legalizing
euthanasia for children and it
it is “about to expand its controversial ‘right to die’
policies to include access to euthanasia for some gravely ill children.”
Don’t be shocked. I have debated “assisted suicide” zealots
who believe that if depressed teenagers want to take their own livesand,
tragically, many teens travel that bumpy road of despair at some troubled
pointthey should be empowered by the state to do so. Poor old Belgium, once so
faithful and brave.
I mention this because I have, I suppose, a particular
insight into how terrifying euthanasia can be and into the vulnerability of
those who it especially horrifies.
Let me introduce you to Katie, who is what society describes as “handicapped”.
She was born several months premature and spent a long time in hospital. She
came home accompanied by a nursing team, to a house wired for oxygen. It’s
ironic, in that the same hospital advised Katie’s mother to abort her because
there were likely, they said, to be “complications.”
I know all this because her mother is my sister, and Katie
is my niece.
Katie had two strokes when she was tiny and is now classified as being
autistic. Which means many things to different people. I’ll offer one example.
My dad lies in bed, in a large hospital in England, having also suffered a
serious stroke, but he is at the other end of life. We all sit around and do
the usual hospital things: make jokes that aren’t funny, pretend that
everything is okay, be abnormally normal. Katie walks in. No inhibitions, none
of our silly preconceptions and prejudices. She climbs on the bed, gets under
the blanket, puts her arms around her grandpa and cuddles up to him. And for
the very first time since he was hit by fate’s cruelty, my father shows
emotion. Emotion as wide and grand as the world itself.
Katie achieved that, because that is what Katies do. What the physically and
mentally challenged do every day. They cut through the nonsense and the fear.
They are in the frontline of the battle for civilization, teaching those of us
who are without disability what honesty and simplicity are all about. They are
also pretty much the last people who still have to fight for their civil
rights. As much as we congratulate ourselves on our liberal attitude towards
those who are different, we regularly discriminate against the Katies of the
world. Goodness me, her mum and dad have witnessed it for years. They even had
to change churches because their daughter was not accepted. “Of course you are
welcome here, as long as you don’t get in the way, speak too loudly or make any
of us, the lucky ones, feel in any way uncomfortable. There’s a ramp out there
so you can get in, but once inside you better conform and shut up. We’ll fine people
if they leave their cars in handicapped parking spots but won’t turn a hair if
they talk to handicapped people as if they were dumb animals.”
Katie can do jigsaws like Super Girl. She starts not from the outside but from
the middle. The complex shapes that so baffle us take form in her beautiful
mind. Wonderful pictures come alive and speak; they speak in a way Katie
cannot. No, not like Super Girl. She is Super Girl. She doesn’t have an extensive
vocabulary, even though her parents have added speech therapist to their many
other roles. But sometimes words aren’t so important. When I arrived in England
from Canada not so long ago she walked straight up to me, grabbed my hand and
took me to a chair. She crawled all over me, showing me total and unconditional
trust and love. It’s as though I’d never left the country, but I emigrated
before Katie was born!
It’s true that she doesn’t always look you in the eye and that her attention
seems to wander and that she appears to be distracted. Unlike, of course, those
people who always look you straight in the eye and seem to take in every word
you say. And then forget your name and care not a fig for your life and
anything in it.
I sat down and chatted to my sister. Has it been difficult? “Yes, but also
joyous beyond belief. A new adventure every day and a new path of discovery.
Wouldn’t change it for the world. Katie has made us all grow so much, taught us
things we didn’t know about ourselves, about what it really means to be human.
Yes, we cry, but yes we laugh. Actually being a mum to Katie is about saying
‘yes’ to things. Yes to life, yes to love. Yes.”
At which point Katie trots her way into our conversation, into our world. She
wants to watch the DVD of The Jungle Book. She’s seen it hundreds of times but that doesn’t matter. It pleases
her and she learns from it. Katie doesn’t need expensive toys or fashionable
luxuries. She’s so much more than that. Perhaps so much more than us.
I increasingly believe that the handicapped are God’s gift
to us, to act as a catalyst to produce and provoke love in hearts that are
sometimes hard and cold. I know Katie is that, along with so many other holy
and godly things. But Katie and so many others just liker her are under such
threat. They are already slaughtered in the womb to a genocidal level, and now
euthanasia seeks to have its gruesome way with them. All in the name of
progress and putting them out of their misery.
No, not out their misery but out of yours. To make you feel
easier about life, to satisfy your perverse perception of what normal and
healthy and meaningful are now supposed to mean.
An unborn baby with the gene indicating the likelihood of Down Syndrome, for
example, has around a 15% chance of being allowed to be born, and once alive is
treated with a discrimination that if applied to a fashionable sexual minority
group would lead to a criminal persecution. The handicapped have so few
champions other than their parents and family, and they are usually so busy
being mums and dads and brothers and sisters that they have no time for
politics or pressure. It’s up to the rest of us, and up to the Catholic Church,
to fight this crusade for goodness and kindness.
Fly Super Girl, fly Katie; fly you who are mocked and marginalized, those who
are singled out by the abortion obsessives and the euthanasia monomaniacs for
death. Fly as high as you want, and never care about those who would clip your