t looked like an innocuous religion story and the kind we often get here in the Pacific Northwest: A positive feature on a dying man who decided to end his life through euthanasia –- and about a Catholic church that played a role in it all.
Until complaints started to pour in, asking why a Catholic priest and parish appeared to be giving their blessing to assisted suicide. What followed was a comedy of errors on the part of an archdiocese caught flatfooted by the event.
Yes, this is an old story. But the debates are going on and on and on.
Dated Aug. 25 (yes, I am a few weeks late on this), the Associated Press story began thus:
The day he picked to die, Robert Fuller had the party of a lifetime.
In the morning, he dressed in a blue Hawaiian shirt and married his partner while sitting on a couch in their senior housing apartment. He then took the elevator down three floors to the building’s common room, decorated with balloons and flowers.
With an elaborately carved walking stick, he shuffled around to greet dozens of well-wishers and friends from across the decades, fellow church parishioners and social-work volunteers. The crowd spilled into a sunny courtyard on a beautiful spring day.
A gospel choir sang. A violinist and soprano performed “Ave Maria.” A Seattle poet recited an original piece imagining Fuller as a tree, with birds perched on his thoughts.
A year ago, he got cancer of the tongue and decided against chemo, saying he’d go the assisted suicide route. His decision was understandable. The cancer was causing him slowly to choke to death. His throat was so blocked up, he had to take food through a gastric tube. Radiation would just prolong the agony.
Fuller began returning more often to the Catholic church he had long attended. His spiritual views were hardly orthodox — he considered himself a shaman, and described his impending death as a state of “perpetual meditation” — but Seattle’s St. Therese Parish was known for accommodating a range of beliefs.