Commission report supports assisted suicide
ASSISTED SUICIDE could “safely” be offered in England and Wales, according to an inquiry led by the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, writes Sam Adams.
A report by the Commission on Assisted Dying, which was to be released on Thursday, recommended that any future change to the law on the matter includes provision for the terminally ill to be given assistance to end their life, provided they satisfy a range of strict “eligibility criteria”.
The inquiry, which took 12 months to complete, was partly funded by author Sir Terry Pratchett, who supports the legalisation of assisted dying. Under the proposed framework, a dying person over the age of 18 with less than a year to live – and who meets other legal criteria – would be able to ask their doctor to prescribe them a dose of medication that would kill them, but would need to be able to take the medication themselves.
“Appropriate practical support” would be permitted for those with physical impairments but this should not mean someone else could administer the medication on their behalf. A set of safeguards was also proposed to protect those with impaired mental capacity, those with clinical depression or experiencing pressure from friends or relatives. These include a decision-making model involving the assessment, advice and judgement of two independent doctors with support from health and social care workers, where necessary. ■ Suicide is the biggest killer of young men in Ireland and more needs to be done to promote the value of life, Cardinal Seán Brady said in his New Year’s Day homily. The cardinal said society needs to take responsibility for suicide prevention. Figures from the Central Statistics Office of Ireland show a total of 486 deaths by suicide in 2010 of which 386 were men.
JPII envoy’s campaign to end Maze hunger strike
Sarah Mac Donald In Dublin
NEWLY DECLASSIFIED state papers have revealed the extent of the late Pope John Paul II’s efforts to bring an end to the 1981 IRA hunger strikes at the Maze prison in Northern Ireland, and the hardline position adopted by the British Government.
The new insights are gleaned from an internal memo of discussions between the Northern Ireland Secretary, Humphrey Atkins, and Pope John Paul’s secretary, Fr John Magee, who met Bobby Sands, the leader of Republican prisoners in the Maze prison. Fr Magee was born in Northern Ireland and acted as the Pope’s personal representative, visiting Sands a week before his death on 5 May 1981 after 66 days of refusing food.
In the memo recording his meeting with Mr Atkins at Stormont Castle on 29 April 1981, Fr Magee said Sands was prepared to end his hunger strike for five days on condition that a Northern Ireland Office official visit him to discuss “the whole question” with two priests present as “guarantors” along with three other prisoners who were not on hunger strike. Sands is said to have told Fr Magee that he was not seeking political status but sought satisfaction on the hunger strikers’ five demands. These included the right not to wear prison uniform, do prison work and free association with other prisoners.
The memo records Mr Atkins as telling Fr Magee that making these concessions would risk a violent reaction in Northern Ireland that would threaten innocent lives.
Fr Magee is said to have then pointed out that the Government had made promises to the prisoners at the end of the last hunger strike that had not been kept. Mr Atkins denied this and said he could not see Fr Magee again because to do so risked creating the impression that he was negotiating with him.
An extract from declassified British Cabinet minutes from the day after the Stormont meeting records the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as saying the Cabinet endorsed Mr Atkins’ stance.
According to the minutes she added: “Fr Magee had very correctly said nothing to the press; it was helpful that he was widely known to have urged Mr Sands and his associates to end their hunger strike.”
Ten prisoners died during the hunger strike, which lasted from 1 March to 3 October 1981. Fr Magee went on to become Bishop of Cloyne from 1987 to 2010.
Funding urgently needed for ordinariate
A 10 PER CENT levy will be charged to each ordinariate group in order to support the funding of the new structure, writes Christopher Lamb. Mgr John Broadhurst, who is in charge of finance for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, said the levy will fund the group’s central administration.
“Many groups have not yet come forward with their promised contribution. This is now extremely urgent. All groups need to address themselves to the issue of giving,” Mgr
Broadhurst wrote in the ordinariate magazine, The Portal. “Without a serious level of giving we will be in some difficulty in the coming months.” Mgr Broadhurst said that a £250,000 donation from the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to the ordinariate had almost run out. In the coming weeks, a second wave of Anglicans will join the ordinariate. Today, Bishop Robert Mercer will become the fourth Anglican bishop to join the British ordinariate. He is to be received at St Agatha’s Church, Portsmouth.
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TWO MEDICAL missionaries in Africa, an author and a head teacher are among the Catholics named in the 2012 New Year Honours List, writes Elena Curti.
Sr Brigid Corrigan, a doctor working in Uganda, and Sr Helen Spragg, a pharmacist currently on sabbatical from Rwanda, have been awarded the MBE for their services to international health. Both are involved in programmes that deliver antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to HIV-positive patients and are members of the Medical Missionaries of Mary.
Sr Brigid, 77, is one of the order’s most senior specialists in HIV treatment and control. She was born in Penrith in the Lake District and first went to Africa in 1964. Sr Brigid is currently supervising a programme in the Diocese of Masaka that delivers antiretroviral therapy to more than 1,000 people living with HIV.
“I look on it not so much as a thank you to me, but a thank you to all the people I have been privileged to care for in many places in Tanzania and now in Uganda through all these years,” she said.
Sr Helen, 49, is from Sheffield and has worked in Rwanda since 1998. Latterly she has been at the Kirambi Health Centre, a rural area on the western border that was among the first to prescribe ARVs in 2005. She wrote recently that the availability of ARVs has changed the way in which HIVpositive patients are supported, with a far greater emphasis now on them sharing their problems and supporting one another.
“I can only thank God for the staff we have who continued in a gentle way to encourage the clients to work together and gradually changed attitudes,” she said.
One of Britain’s longest-serving Catholic head teachers, Paul Doherty, receives an OBE. Dr Doherty, 65, has been head at Trinity Catholic High School, Woodford Green, in north-east London, for the past 30 years. His school has had four “outstanding” Ofsted inspections in a row. Its intake is overwhelmingly Catholic and nearly 90 per cent of pupils received five GCSE passes at grades A-C including maths and English.
Also awarded an OBE is the writer Lady Rachel Billington for services to literature. Aged 69, Lady Rachel has published 19 adult novels and seven children’s books. She is vice president of the writers’ organisation English PEN, contributes to the prisoners’ newspaper Inside Time and is a trustee of the Longford Trust, the organisation set up in memory of her father, Lord Longford, which helps to rehabilitate ex-offenders. She is also a trustee of The Tablet.
Organ donation ‘opt-out’ plan criticised
WELSH GOVERNMENT plans to introduce a “presumed consent” policy on organ donation have been attacked by the Archbishop of Cardiff, writes Christopher Lamb.
“Our bodies are not an asset of the state,” Archbishop George Stack wrote in a New Year pastoral letter. The Welsh legislature is consulting on having a system where people need to make clear they do not want their organs donated. If someone has not “opted-out”, it will be presumed they are happy to donate.
Quoting the Second Vatican Council, the archbishop said that Catholics must do all they can to promote the dignity of the human person but what constitutes the common good was sometimes in conflict with, or misunderstood by, society.
“Here in Wales in particular, I think of the current consultation on a law proposing presumed consent for the donation of organs after death. I agree with my fellow church leaders that our organs should be donated as a gift to others and not as a duty,” the archbishop said. “The dignity of the human person demands that our autonomy be respected in this profoundly important area.”
Archbishop Stack’s intervention echoes that of the Anglican Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, who has also opposed the proposals. He has said that, while giving organs is one of the greatest acts of self-giving, “it has to be a choice freely embraced, not something the state presumes”.
The Welsh Government believes that “presumed consent” is the best way to increase the level of organ donation.
■ A Benedictine monk has been jailed for five years for sexually abusing two pupils while working as a teacher at a leading Catholic independent school, writes Sam Adams.
Richard White, a former geography teacher at Downside School, near Bath, was sentenced at Taunton Crown Court on Tuesday having pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to five counts of indecent assault and two of gross indecency with a boy.
The offences were committed during the 1980s. He asked that four offences against another boy, who has never complained to police, be taken into account.
The 66-year-old was in restricted ministry for more than 20 years after his behaviour was first brought to the school’s attention. The court heard that White was warned about his behaviour by the school after molesting the first boy but, instead of this being reported to the police, he was simply prevented from teaching younger students.
50 YEARS AGO
The Holy See’s recent approval of the use of Polish in the liturgy has enabled all Polish Catholics to participate fully and with understanding in the sacramental rites, according to a Polish bishop.
The Sacred Congregation of Rites granted permission for the people to chant the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Polish during the celebration of Mass, and confirmed a new ritual for Poland allowing most of the prayers for administering the sacraments to be said in Polish instead of Latin.
Bishop Andrzej Wronka, auxiliary to Cardinal Wyzsynski, in his capacity as Archbishop of Gniezno, wrote in the magazine Przewodnik Katolicki that the new ritual was very important for the liturgical life in Poland. He said: “Active participation by the faithful in the liturgy of the sacraments has been facilitated to a great degree; the treasury of liturgical prayers has been opened to all the faithful. Everybody, even those who do not know the Latin language, can now participate fully and with understanding in the sacramental rites.” Actually, the Polish ritual has not yet been completed. The rites for the processions of the liturgical and the formulas for various blessings are still to be worked out. But the new ritual provides for some changes in the traditional way of administering the sacraments. The rite for the Sacrament of Marriage, now entirely in Polish, has been enriched to give greater understanding of the essential meaning of matrimony. The rite for administering Extreme Unction, too, has been given a new sequence to stress the sacrament’s purpose of giving new spiritual strength and of seeking health of body as well as soul.
The Tablet, 6 January 1962
100 YEARS AGO
Cardinal Manning’s views on the question of disestablishment are well known. They are once more brought before the public by a passage in Mr Frederic Harrison’s Autobiographical Memoirs. Speaking of the cardinal, Mr Harrison says : “I once asked him why, liberal as he was, he refused to countenance any movement to curtail or destroy the anomalous monopoly of the established Church of England and its pretensions as the [italics Mr Harrison’s] Church of the State? I said that on disestablishment of the Anglican Church he would gain millions of new adherents to Catholicism. He said, ‘Yes, I know it; but you freethinkers, agnostics and positives would gain the rest. The principle of a State Church is too sacred to be broken in upon.’ ”
The Tablet, 6 January 1912
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