The bishops of California, in a rare exception to policy, are allowing parishes to collect signatures for a referendum to overturn California’s new physician assisted suicide measure.

Archbishop José H. Gomez is encouraging pastors to organize signature-gathering efforts at their parishes. Information is being sent out to parishes this week and more is available online at

The referendum opposes the passage of the End of Life Option Act, a bill that Governor Jerry Brown signed Oct. 5. The bill is expected to take effect in the spring of 2016.  

“This is the wrong decision for California,” Archbishop Gomez said of the signing of the bill. “How wrong this decision is will be measured in the lives that will be lost in the years to come — the lives of poor people, the elderly, the disabled and those who are dependent on public assistance.”

A broad coalition represented by Seniors Against Assisted Suicide is gathering the signatures for a statewide ballot to challenge the measure.

“Ordinarily the Church does not take a stand on ballot initiatives of referendum until they qualify for the ballot,” said Andrew Rivas, director of government and community relations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “In this case, the California bishops believe the threat of physician assisted suicide is so grave that the Church should participate in efforts to overturn the measure.”

The Knights of Columbus are coordinating the parish-based effort.

“This is the Roe v. Wade of our time,” said Mark Padilla, chairperson for the Knights of Columbus’ Culture of Life efforts in the state. “As California goes, so does the nation. As the nation goes, so goes the world. It’s our opportunity to stand against the culture of death and stand for the culture of life.”

In order to get on the November 2016 ballot, the referendum must collect 366,000 signatures. The signatures need to be submitted at the beginning of January.

Archbishop Gomez is inviting pastors to utilize Christ the King Sunday as a time to preach about the Church’s teaching on end of life issues. Dozens of parishes have already agreed to have petitions for signatures available that weekend.

“We affirm the dignity of every human person throughout life and reaffirm our commitment to working with those at the end of life, especially the poor and vulnerable,” said kathleen-domingo, coordinator of the Office of Life.

“Assisted suicide is always the cheapest and easiest option,” Domingo continued. “Rather than offering suicide as a solution, we recommit ourselves to serving the elderly and the dying in our families and in our parishes.”