THE CATHOLIC HERALD JANUARY 13 2012
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Archbishop criticises ‘lax’ report on assisted suicide BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
THE ARCHBISHOP of Southwark has criticised a think-tank report recommending the legalisation of physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill and said that “legalising assisted suicide is not the answer” to care for the dying.
Archbishop Peter Smith said: “I have been impressed and heartened by the wide range of thoughtful, critical responses to the report, particularly from those with disabilities, and medical and legal experts of all faiths and none.
“They are right to point out that to legalise is to normalise, and that our society cannot change such a fundamental law, which is there to protect the vulnerable, without grave long-term consequences. We must do more to care well for those who are dying, and support more and better hospice and palliative care. Legalising assisted suicide is not the answer.”
The Commission on Assisted Dying, which authored the report, has been controversial since its inception because a majority of its commissioners are proponents of “assisted dying” and its financial supporters are also advocates.
Its chairman is Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the former Lord Chancellor, who sought to relax Britain’s law on assisted suicide in July 2009.
Archbishop Smith said: “Many people have understandably quest ioned the credibility of the Falconer commission. Its set-up was promoted by Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary
Euthanasia Society), i t was bankrolled by one of that organisation’s patrons, and three quarters of its members, including Lord Falconer himself, are on the public record as supporting the legalisation of assisted suicide.
“It will have come as little surprise to many that they have recommended a regime for legalised assisted suicide that is even laxer than the one proposed by Lord Joffe six years ago – which was roundly defeated in Parliament,” Archbishop Smith said.
His comments come after Baroness Hollins who is a Catholic peer, psychiatrist and president-elect of the BMA, also criticised the report. Writing in the Daily Telegraph last week, Baroness Hollins said:
“Seriously ill people need help to live, not help with suicide. They need compassionate care and effective pain relief – let’s campaign for those.”
The former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said that many psychiatrists would not be comfortable “with the idea of assessing patients for suitability to receive lethal drugs. We assess mental capacity for the protection and treatment of our patients, not to clear the way for them to commit suicide.
“We also know that reliable capacity assessment can only be made over time and involves getting to know patients and what lies at the root of their problems,” she said.
Baroness Hollins challenged the report’s conclusion that a doctor ’s involvement with processing assisted suicides would be an effective safeguard against coercion of a vulnerable patient.
She said: “Lord Falconer and his associates seem to believe that assessing mental capacity can be left safely in the hands of the patient’s GP and specialist. Indeed, they write that ‘the most important safeguard in any assisted dying regime would lie in the relationship between the patient and their doctor’.
“But with today’s busy, multipartner urban practices, how many GPs – not to mention hospital consultants – know their patients well enough to make such complex assessments?
“The unwillingness of most doctors to participate in any assisted dying cases may result in these patients being assessed by a handful of doctors who know little of them beyond their case notes and who are predisposed to see a request for assisted dying as a rational response to terminal illness.”
She concluded: “The issue is not about legalising a right to die: death will come to us all, whether we like it or not. It is about legalising the assisting of people to end their lives. Yet most of those in the professions that are expected to be the assisters have serious reservations. This is not professional conservatism. As Dr Curtice put it: ‘This is a serious business, because ultimately someone’s life is on the line’.”
Sheila Hollins is the mother of Abigail Witchalls who was attacked in April 2005 while pregnant and left paralysed. Her unborn baby survived and she has since given birth to another child and shown significant signs of recovery.
Responding to Lord Falconer’s report the Ministry of Justice said: “The Government believes that any change to the law in this emotive and contentious area is an issue of individual conscience and a matter for Parliament to decide rather than Government policy.”
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, described the report as “a self-styled commission funded by pro-death activists” and said it “amounts to a renewed attack on the legal status of disabled and elderly people”. George Pitcher: Page 12
Catholics and Anglicans agree to share church
BY ED WEST
A CATHOLIC congregation in Cornwall is to share a church with Anglicans.
Catholics and Anglicans in Padstow packed St Petroc’s church last month for a “new beginnings” service to celebrate the arrangement.
The church had been used by Catholics during the summer months when they could not fit in the nearby Church of St Saviour and St Petroc.
Following discussions in December 2009 a working party was set up to explore the possibility of sharing a church with Catholic priest Fr Keith Mitchell and Canon Chris Malkinson of the Church of England.
In November a formal agreement came into being, with the signing of an “Affirmation of Sharing Agreement” by Bishop Roman Christopher Budd of Plymouth and the Rt Rev Tim Thornton, the Anglican Bishop of Truro.
Although Catholic parish churches are not permitted by canon law to be shared with other faiths, chapels and Mass centres are allowed to be shared. Fr Mitchell will remain rector at the nearest Catholic church in Bodmin while the Padstow church is sold off. The final Mass was celebrated at St Saviour and St Petroc on All Saints Day and early in November the Blessed Sacrament was reserved for the first time in a newly installed tabernacle in St Petroc’s.
At the “new beginnings” service just before Christmas, Bishop Budd thanked the Anglican congregation for its hospitality and, referring to centuries of division between the churches following the reign of Henry VIII, emphasised the need for everyone involved to “heal and manage”.
Bishop Budd said: “We must give witness to our faith in Jesus Christ together, not just in words, but in the way we live. Our witness has to be through action, through love flowing out to others...
“Earlier in the service, we renewed our baptism together – joy flowing from the grace of Christ. From our baptism we take our mandate to overcome the things that might keep us separate. We go forward to a common place, despite any divisions. But above all remember, we are given our faith in Jesus Christ to give it away.”
Fr Mitchell said that the decision to share came about because the parish church was not large enough to contain the congregation in the summer, when tourism trebles the number of faithful.
He said: “Our own church seemed to be costing a lot of money and it was only being used for an hour and a half each week, and it seems really silly that we don’t really use it most of the time.”
Fr Mitchell said the move also sent a message that Christians could unite. “It says something that we can do things together,” she said. “We have Saturday night and they have Sunday morning. We’ve brought some things from our church so we have the tabernacle, and our Stations of the Cross. During Lent we’ll do Stations of the Cross together.”
The current church was built in 1469 and was Catholic for its first 100 years. Tradition states that St Petroc founded a monastery in Bodmin in the sixth century and he is also associated with Padstow. Henry VIII had the priory suppressed, and the land given to Thomas Sternhold, who translated the Psalms into English.
The two communities have now agreed that each side has to give six months’ notice about any change.
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European and US bishops tell faithful in Gaza: ‘You are not alone’
BISHOPS from Europe and North America celebrated Mass with Catholics in Gaza on Sunday, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
Afterwards parishioners shared their experiences of living in Gaza, where the economic blockade and security situation make work and freedom of movement difficult.
Auxiliary Bishop William Kenney of Birmingham told parishioners: “What I want to say to you is: ‘you are not forgotten’.”
Bishop Michel Dubost of Evry, Paris, said: “Today everyone in my diocese is praying for you as they know we are making this visit. Last week, I asked prisoners in the largest prison in Europe [in Evry] to pray for you.”
Archbishop Antonio Franco, Apostolic Nuncio to Israel and Cyprus, said in his homily that the Church was united with Catholics in Gaza during their struggle. “You are not alone,” he said.
About 2,500 Christians live in Gaza, of whom 300 or so are Catholic. Religious Sisters there run a home for the elderly, a centre for the disabled and a nursery and also help to run schools.
Bishop says that migrants enrich British Church BY STAFF REPORTER
THE CATHOLIC Church in England and Wales has greatly benefited from the faith and witness of migrants not only in our present day but down through the years, a bishop has said.
In a statement released to coincide with the World Day for Migrants and Refugees, Auxiliary Bishop Patrick Lynch of Southwark said that parishes have been greatly enriched by “the strong sense of community and commitment to family life within many of our migrant communities, by their love for the Scriptures, by their devotion to Our Lady and especially by their joyful participation in the celebration of the Eucharist”.
The bishop gave thanks for the faith of migrant communities.
He said: “So we pray in thanksgiving for all the migrant communities who down through the years have enriched the Church here in England and Wales by their faith and their faithfulness, by their commitment and their witness and by their devotion and devotions.”
In recent years, Catholic churches in England and Wales, particularly in urban areas, have seen a growing number of parishioners from Africa and Asia, from eastern and western Europe, from the islands of the Caribbean and more recently from Latin
America. Bishop Lynch will concelebrate Mass with Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark at St George’s Cathedral at 3.30 pm on Sunday January 15 to mark the World Day for Migrants and Refugees.
This Mass, organised by the Scalabrini Fathers for the Filipino community, additionally celebrates the Feast of St Niño.
Over 1,000 people are expected to attend from various Filipino communities across London and the South East. The Filipino ambassador and representatives from the Filipino embassy will also be in attendance.
For the 2011 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Benedict XVI chose the theme of “One Human Family”.
During his address in St Peter’s Square he said: “The Messiah, the Son of God was a refugee. The Church itself has always known migration. Sometimes, unfortunately, Christians feel forced to leave, with suffering, their land, thus impoverishing the country in which their ancestors lived.
“On the other hand, the voluntary movement of Christians, for various reasons... are occasions to enhance the missionary dynamism of the Word of God and make the witness to faith circulate more in the mystical Body of Christ, crossing peoples and cultures, and reaching new frontiers, new environments.”
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