Comment on the sentence in the Latimer case

Tuesday, December 02 1997

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family is dedicated to promoting respect for human life and dignity and the essential role of the family.

We are deeply concerned about the sentence given to Robert Latimer for the murder of his daughter, Tracy, who lived with disabilities. By making an exception in this case and not awarding the mandatory minimum sentence of ten years, the court has sent a disturbing message that the life of someone with disabilities is worth less than that of others. It is precisely the people whose lives are most vulnerable who need our special care and protection.

Robert Latimer is being treated differently because it is said that he acted with compassion to end the suffering of his daughter. Yet, in ending the suffering he ended her life. We have begun to walk down a very dangerous path when the allegation that the person was killed for his or her own benefit is used as a mitigating factor in sentencing for murder.

Without in anyway disputing the sincerity of Mr. Latimer’s motive, we are most troubled by the notion that murder is a way of exercising compassion. There are countless examples of friends and families of people with disabilities showing compassion by affirming the fullness of their human dignity and sharing their suffering, as overwhelming as that may be at times. It is this respect for every human life and the exercise of compassion that our social, medical, and legal systems must support.

Archbishop Adam Exner, Chairperson