BISHOP MOTH: ‘PRAY FOR OUR FORCES CHAPLAINS’ THE NEW BISHOP OF THE FORCES REFLECTS ON REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY PAGE 7
November 6 2009 £1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.70)
Archbishop: we are failing the elderly The Archbishop of Westminster says that old age is being ‘emptied of meaning’ in Britain
BY ANNA ARCO
ARCHBISHOP Vincent Nichols has warned Britons that old age is being “emptied of meaning” and that our society will be judged by the way it treats the elderly.
The Archbishop of Westminster was speaking at the launch of a report exploring the role of the Catholic community in caring for an ageing population.
Introducing the report, he said: “I would like to remind you of an old adage that the true value of a society is to be judged by the way in which it treats its elderly and those who are most vulnerable. I think that is a sobering thought, which gives the lie to claims that are sometimes made that we are a most well developed society.
“This is a measure of the challenge that we face, within the Church and within society, in which the experience of being aged, dependent and terminally ill is emptied of meaning and therefore of respect.”
He stressed the importance of the “fundamental truth strongly expressed in Catholic teaching” that “recognises the inner value and the dignity of every person from the first moments of life until our natural dying”.
His comments came days before parishes across England and Wales were urged to oppose changes to the guidelines regulating the prosecution of assisted suicide in a Church-wide effort to stop the eventual legalisation of euthanasia.
The new report – commissioned by Caritas Social Network (CSAN) from Middlesex University’s Social Policy Research Centre and entitled National Mapping of Services Provided by the Catholic Community – found that Catholic provisions for the elderly, which include residential care homes and visiting services, provided an important spiritual dimension for older people as well as a consistently high level of care.
Archbishop Nichols said he welcomed two aspects of the report in particular. The first was the fact it took note of the “high level of spiritual provision” provided by Catholics. The second aspect was that it acknowledged the
Archbishop Nichols says that society should be judged by the way it treats its elderly
Church’s advantage of being both “local and universal”.
The report identified problems in the care being provided by the Catholic community, which ranged from the organisational – before the report there was no comprehensive list of Catholic residential care homes – to questions of human resources and funding. The number of religious vocations, for example, has decreased, and this has affected the ability of certain religious communities to care for the elderly.
Recommendations included more collaboration between the different Catholic care providers
and more emphasis on lay involvement as vocations to religious life continue to decline.
Demographic projections for the next 10 years predict a substantial rise in the population over 65, which will increase by 25 per cent, reaching 11.1 million people in 2019. The number of dementia sufferers is on the rise as well. Today more than 700,000 people in Britain suffer from dementia. This number is expected to grow to almost a million in the next six years.
Using information provided by Catholic deaneries around the country, the report identified
“loneliness and isolation” as the main problems facing the elderly, though poor physical health and spiritual needs were also highlighted.
Researchers were hampered by the fact that there was little existing information about Catholic services for older people because most of the community support for old people was held at parish level, whether it was the Legion of Mary providing prayer and company for the elderly, or parish visits by volunteers or the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
Philippa Gitlin, the director of CSAN, said: “Although the report
found it hard to quantify the Catholic community’s contribution in financial terms, it is clear that the Catholic community makes a sizeable contribution to the care and support of older people of all faiths and none.
“As the demographic projection shows an increasingly ageing population, this will be of even more significance in the future and I think it is an area where the voice of the Catholic community should be heard more loudly.”
She also said that the Church was “ideally placed to set up intergenerational projects for the mutual benefit of both older peo-
ple and younger people”. Both the report and the Archbishop of Westminster’s speech came against the backdrop of a public consultation on a new set of guidelines produced by Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which will clarify which cases of assisted suicide he will prosecute.
Last Sunday, parishes across England and Wales were urged to write to the DPP criticising the new guidelines, which the bishops say would place vulnerable people at risk.
The bishops said that the new guidelines raised problems be-
cause “they identify factors which are not relevant to non-prosecution and the inclusion of which could have serious harmful effects on society”.
They cited “disability or state of health of the victim”, “the victim’s determination to commit suicide as demonstrated by previous suicide attempts” and “being a spouse, partner and close family member” as problematic aspects of the new guidelines.
The bishops said that “a sick or disabled person’s life should merit the same protection by law”, and a history of suicide “is more likely to be a sign of depression” and was “a factor in favour of prosecution” rather than against it. They said that the law should not assume that family relationships were always supportive because “crimes of violence are very commonly carried out by someone known to the victim”, including family members.
Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, chairman of the bishops’ conference Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship, said: “Most of us have great compassion for those who come to despair of life. What they need is our love and support.
“But there are some people who may not have the best of motives for helping someone to kill themselves – they may be exhausted by caring for a sick or disabled relative or they may want to benefit from an inheritance or it may be one of the increasing number of cases of abuse of the elderly.
“But the fact of the matter is that the people who ask for the help to kill themselves are often depressed or worried about the burden of care they’re putting on their families or carers – or about the money they are using up in nursing home fees that they would prefer to give to their children.
“At the moment people in this position are protected by the law. It’s a criminal offence to assist someone’s suicide and there are serious penalties for anyone who is convicted of that crime. The result is that we don’t see many cases in this country: the law as it stands deters most people from doing it.”
Editorial Comment: Page 13
European Court: state schools in Italy should not display crucifixes
BY MARK GREAVES
THE EUROPEAN Court of Human Rights has ruled that crucifixes should not be displayed in state schools in Italy.
The panel of seven judges in Strasbourg said that crucifixes violated the rights of parents to bring up their children according to their own beliefs. They said it might be “disturbing” for atheists or children from other faiths.
They made the ruling after
a complaint filed by Soile Lautsi, a Finnish woman with Italian citizenship, who complained that her children had to attend a state school with crucifixes in every room.
The judges awarded her 5,000 euros (£4,470) in “moral damages” which will have to be paid by the Italian government.
The consequences of the ruling are unclear but it could force a Europe-wide review of the use of religious symbols in state schools.
Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said the crucifix was a crucial sign of the importance of Christian values in Italian history and culture. He said it was a symbol of unity, not of exclusion.
He added that a European court had no right to intervene in such a profoundly Italian matter and that the court seemed to want “to ignore the role of Christianity in forming Europe’s identity, which was and remains essential”.
Fr Lombardi said: “Reli-
gion gives a precious contribution to the formation and moral growth of people, and it’s an essential component in our civilisation. It’s wrong and myopic to try to exclude it from education.”
The judgment prompted strong criticism from several members of the Italian government. Franco Frattini, the foreign minister, said it was an attack on Italy’s Christian heritage, while Luca Zaia, agriculture minister, described it as “shameful”.
Archbishop ponders US prelates bet over buying a hybrid car baseball World Series
BY ANNA ARCO
EVERYONE is getting greener, including, it seems, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, who is said to be considering trading in his gas-guzzling Volvo for a hybrid car.
The Archbishop would be following the example of his Anglican counterpart, the environmentally conscious Dr Rowan Williams, who
bought a Honda Civic as early as 2006.
Hybrid cars have come a long way since 2006, when the Honda Civic and the Toyota Prius were almost the only part-electric, partpetrol powered cars on the market.
Now Archbishop Nichols can choose between a Volkswagen, BMW, and Lexus – all of which have followed the trend and manufacture environmentally friendly cars. BMW unveiled the ActiveHybrid X6 in September, described it as “the world’s most powerful hybrid car”.
BY ANDREW M BROWN
CARDINAL Justin Rigali, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York have made a bet over which baseball team is going to win the World Series.
If the Phillies win, Archbishop Dolan will send a dozen bagels to Philadelphia, and if the Yankees triumph Cardinal Rigali will ship a consignment of Tastykakes to New York.
The Tastykake range of sponge cakes is a favourite among Philadelphia snack-
lovers. Archbishop Dolan
said he wished Car-
dinal Rigali “had better taste in baseball teams”. Cardinal Rigali, meanwhile, said: “We have the cream cheese ready for the bagels that I know
will be arriving shortly.”
The outcome of the World Series was to be settled this week.
MISS: STUART REID: IN PRAISE OF A GREAT TEACHER P20