AN INTERVIEW WITH BISHOP BERNARD LONGLEY THE WESTMINSTER AUXILIARY ON THE PRIESTHOOD , POVERTY AND PUSHKIN P7
August 14 2009 £1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.70)
Resist suicide law changes, archbishop urges faithful
BY SIMON CALDWELL
A SENIOR archbishop has called on Catholics to do their utmost to try to prevent the laws forbidding assisted suicide from being watered down.
Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff said sick and disabled people would come under pressure to kill themselves if the law on assisted suicide was relaxed following a landmark House of Lords ruling.
He said he had “serious concerns” about the implications of a demand by five Law Lords for a clarification of the law on assisted suicide.
“There is a danger of subtle pressure being felt by those who are vulnerable that they are unwanted or a burden to others – those with disabilities and chronic illness especially,” said Archbishop Smith, the vice-president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and chairman of the bishops’ Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship.
He said it was vital that Catholics made a full contribution to a consultation process planned for the autumn ahead of the publication of clear rules on helping people to travel abroad to kill themselves.
His comments came after Debbie Purdy, 46, a multiple sclerosis sufferer from Bradford, West Yorkshire, persuaded the Law Lords to clarify whether her husband, Omar Puente, would be prosecuted under the 1961 Suicide Act if he accompanied her to the Dignitas death clinic in Switzerland. More than 100 Britons have killed themselves there but no one has been prosecuted for helping them although aiding a suicide is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
The Law Lords decided that the right to respect for private life, enshrined within Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, also covered a person’s choice to end his or her life. Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, will now have to spell out exactly how the law will be interpreted in future.
The churches are vehemently opposed to the euthanasia and assisted
suicide because they represent a direct violation of the divine commandment not to kill, but Archbishop Smith said the ruling raised serious public safety as well as moral issues.
“From a moral perspective all are equal in dignity and the protection of the lives of citizens, especially the most vulnerable, has to remain the foundation of the law,” he said.
“It is important that those of us concerned about where this guidance could lead should contribute fully to the consultation. We need to try in particular to ensure that there is no suggestion that certain classes of people have lives that are less worth living or less deserving of the full protection of the law.”
He added: “In coming years our society will have a growing number of older people dependent on others. These demographic changes raise profound and complex social, economic and moral questions. As a society we urgently need to recover respect for the lives of older people and make the necessary investment in their care, including palliative care at the end of life so that no one feels impelled to seek assistance in suicide through feelings of worthlessness or fears of unbearable suffering.
“It will be important that all those concerned for the common good, including the Catholic community, not only take part in the consultation on the DPP’s guidance, but also work for a change of mind and heart in our society so that our quality of care for those who are disabled, old and vulnerable is greatly improved.”
The ruling by the Law Lords has been hailed as a victory for campaigners seeking to change British laws prohibiting euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Some campaigners have openly supported involuntary euthanasia, with the medical ethicist Baroness Warnock stating publicly last year that she believed people who were mentally incapacitated have a “duty to die”.
Michael Wenham: Page 12
Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful from a window of Castel Gandolfo, his summer retreat near Rome
Benedict reflects on horror of the Nazis
BY STAFF REPORTER
THE NAZI death camps were places of extreme evil, the result of the Nazis claiming the power to decide what is good and what is bad and who should live and who should die, Pope Benedict XVI has said.
The German-born Pope spoke about the Nazis, freedom and evil during his Sunday Angelus address on August 9 at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.
Reflecting on the lives of saints whose feast days are celebrated in early August, the Pope highlighted two who were martyred in Nazi death camps: St Edith Stein and St Maximilian Kolbe.
“These saints are witnesses of that charity that loves to the end and does not keep tally of the evil received, but combats it with good,” the Pope said.
They are models for all Christians, especially priests, demonstrating “the evangelical heroism that pushes us, without fear of anything, to give our lives for the salvation of souls”, he said.
He added: “The Nazi concentration camps, like all death camps, can be considered extreme symbols of evil, of the hell that opens on earth when man forgets God and takes his place, usurping the right to decide what is good and what is bad, to give life and death.”
The Pope said that while the Nazi death machine was an extreme example of what happens when people think they can play God “this sad phenomenon is not limited to the concentration camps”.
“There are philosophies and ideologies, but increasingly also ways of thinking and acting, that exalt freedom as the only principle for human beings,” making them think they are gods and the final judges of what is good and bad, he said.
Opposing that way of thinking and behaving, the Pope said, there are the saints, who practise the Gospel of charity, showing the world “the real face of God, who is love, and at the same time the authentic face of the human person, created in the divine image and likeness”.
Vatican Notebook: Page 4 Guy Walters: Page 9
Nuns petition St Clare to help raise Italian television standards
BY NICK PISA IN ROME
ITALIAN television – often dubbed “hell on earth” – has received some heavenly help after 750 nuns around the country offered prayers for standards to improve.
The special day of prayer was intended to clean up national and private television programmes on the country’s dozens of stations.
Many of the television networks are owned by controversial media tycoon and
prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and offer a daily diet of trash including mind-numbing talk shows broken up by game shows involving semiclad starlets.
The initiative was set up by Marco Palmisano, a television executive and close political ally of Berlusconi who is also chairman of the Santa Chiara Club, a private association of Catholic television chiefs.
Mr Palmisano said he had arranged for 750 cloistered
nuns from the order of St Clare to be involved in the day of prayer.
St Clare was a 12th-century Italian nun and one of the first followers of St Francis of Assisi who founded the Order of St Clare, commonly referred to as the Poor Clares.
St Clare was made patron saint of television by Pope Pius XII in 1958 on the basis that when she was too ill to attend Mass she had reportedly been able to see and hear it on the wall of her room.
Mr Palmisano said: “The nuns will ask God to make directors, actors, producers and others working in the sector to be more aware of the educational role they play in society.”
Italian television is under increasing fire for the poor quality of its programmes, with feminists attacking the use of scantily clad showgirls and others calling for more wholesome family entertainment and thought-provoking shows.
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Statue to Padre Pio to emit solar energy
Twitter co-founder: criticisms are ‘silly’
BY WILL HEAVEN
A GIANT statue of Padre Pio in southern Italy will produce solar energy, it has emerged.
The 200ft structure of the popular saint will be coated in a special photovoltaic paint, enabling it to trap the sun’s heat and produce electricity.
The construction of the statue, said to be the first example of “green” religious art, will take place near San Gio
vanni Rotondo in the southern province of Puglia. The town is home to the Padre Pio Pilgrimage church and shrine, which reportedly attracts seven million visitors annually. The project will cost several million pounds and will be put out to international tender in the next few weeks. Loyal devotees of Padre Pio are also expected to contribute donations.
Padre Pio, who died in 1968, was canonised St Pio of Pietrelcina by Pope John Paul II five years ago. During his lifetime he became famous for receiving the stigmata.
BY ED WEST
THE HEAD of Twitter has dismissed claims made by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster that social networking sites “dehumanise” community life.
Evan Williams, the company’s cofounder, said the claims by the spiritual leader of the Church in England and Wales were “silly”.
BBC’s Newsnight Mr Williams said: “I think it’s kind of silly, I would say that anyone who says that isn’t really familiar with the
service, because it’s about humans connecting with each other, and often in ways that they couldn’t otherwise. It’s the oppo
site of dehumanis
ing as far as I’m concerned.”
Mr Williams, 37, co-founded Twitter with Biz Stone and became its chief executive in 2008.
MICHAEL WENHAM ON THE PURDY RULING PAGE 12
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