Euthanasia and the Year of St. Joseph: The Catholic Response During COVID-19 - Saint John's Seminary
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Euthanasia and the Year of St. Joseph: The Catholic Response During COVID-19

March 4th, 2021

07:00 pm

In the tradition of the Catholic Church, St. Joseph is considered the patron saint of the dying for three reasons: he is the foster father of the eternal Judge, who can refuse him no request; he is the “terror of demons” and “Conqueror of Hell”; and, his own death was undoubtedly a beautiful one, for he died in the arms of Jesus and Mary. St. Francis de Sales said that St. Joseph “died of love of God.” In 2012, the state of Massachusetts faced a truly terrible possibility—the legalization of physician-assisted suicide by ballot initiative. Despite being 46% Catholic, voters in Massachusetts polled 60% in favor of physician-assisted death. Voters came within 1.5% of making assisted suicide legal in Massachusetts in 2012. Professor Benestad’s talk will look at contemporary attitudes toward death, particularly the aggressive promotion of assisted suicide and euthanasia. It will explain the manner in which assisted suicide was defeated in Massachusetts, only to go on to be legalized in several other states. Finally, it will look at Catholic teaching on dying well, through the lens of Pope St. John Paul II’s Redemporis Custos on the person and mission of St. Joseph, and through the Ars Moriendi, a body of ancient literature on dying written in response to the Bubonic plague.


Dr. Janet Benestad is a member of the Philosophy faculty at St. John’s Seminary, where she teaches courses in Philosophy, Catechism and Writing. From 2009 to 2015, Mrs. Benestad served on the staff of His Eminence, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, as Secretary for Faith Formation and Evangelization in the Archdiocese of Boston. In 2012, she led an Archdiocesan Education Initiative on Physician-Assisted Suicide, part of a year-long campaign in which assisted suicide was defeated in Massachusetts. She also led an initiative during Lent 2011 to invite non-practicing Catholics to return to the faith. Mrs. Benestad resides with her husband in Falmouth, Massachusetts; they are the parents of 4 children and grandparents of 5.