Bishop’s initial comments on euthanasia:
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
We have heard a lot recently about assisted suicide and Euthanasia.
I think it is important to revisit our Church’s teaching on these matters. We believe in the dignity of human life in all of its stages, from conception to death.
We are created in the image of God. All human life is sacred and there are no exceptions.
Taking the life of a human being is considered a very serious matter.
We understand a lot more because of the developments of psychology about suicide. There is a lot more to learn. Many people who take their own lives are often impeded by depression and other conditions from making full rational decisions on this matter. We need to treat those who have attempted to take their own lives with compassion and with the love of God.
I know only too well after years of Ordained Pastoral Ministry the anguish of families and friends who have experienced suicide among one of their own.
Today I wish to speak specifically about the topic of assisted suicide and Euthanasia.
Assisted suicide is providing the means for someone to take their own life, this is done out of a sense of compassion for that person.
Euthanasia is actually physically doing the act of ending their life at their own request again for compassionate reasons.
Both are used as a means of ‘mercy killing’ in the case of someone experiencing pain or serious discomfort in a terminal illness.
I have Ministered to many people in their dying process as a Priest for many years. It has always been a profound privilege for me to do so. I have experienced this also with the members of my own family and with dear friends.
I have learned how important the dying process is for those who are journeying through it.
I have seen people grow and change as they come to terms with various aspects of life during this time. I’ve witnessed ‘unfinished business’ find some resolution for people at this time.
I have also learned how important palliative care is. Palliative care is the treatment and support given to the dying. No one should experience unbearable pain anymore. We have the medical means to make people much more comfortable than ever before.
We also have as a result of much reflection the insights of psychology and sound spirituality better pastoral means to help people travel through this time in a much more positive way.
Organisations such as ‘Calvary Care’ and others present here in the NT specialise in palliative care. We must ensure that we do everything possible to help people die with dignity. We have no obligation to use extraordinary means to prolong life endlessly. There is a time when we can with good moral conscience let nature take its course.
We do not have a moral obligation to keep on using ‘extraordinary’ means to prolong life.
Giving pain relief to a person in the dying process which might unintentionally shorten life by a short time is not suicide and is morally permissible in our Christian understanding.
As well as very good palliative care, we need to keep improving and providing very good Pastoral care to the dying and their loved ones.
Dying can be and often is difficult for people. Jesus as a human being struggled with death. From my experience, we can help people find peace even in these difficult moments and in the midst of challenges. I am not saying this is always easy, but I have seen it happen.
Our Christian teaching is very clear, taking our own lives is not a Christian practice. It is not to be encouraged. It is objectively wrong.
Our guide in these matters as Christians should be Jesus and the Spirit-filled wisdom of the Christian community given to us by Jesus.
However, we are not in the business of judging individuals, we leave that to God whose love is beyond measure. Our job is to never stop loving. I will be speaking more on this matter in the near future. Please keep this whole matter in your prayers and please remember while we need clarity about our faith we always act with respect and compassion for all.
I am continuing to be advised by experienced medical professionals both here and across the country.
Yours in Christ,