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Bishops write letter to Queenslanders stressing the sanctity of human life

Dignity: “Nobody is morally compelled to suffer unbearable pain, nobody should feel like a burden, and nobody should feel that their life is worthless.”

SIX of Queensland’s Catholic bishops have written a pastoral letter warning of the consequences of legalising euthanasia.

The letter, to all Catholic Queenslanders and the wider community, stresses the sanctity of life and recognising that all of creation is sacred.

“Societies in which life is cheap suffer from many maladies and injustices,” the bishops said. 

With Queensland gearing up for a state election on October 31, euthanasia in the form of voluntary assisted dying (VAD), is squarely on the political agenda and the bishops have announced this coming Sunday, October 11 as “Dying Peacefully – No Euthanasia Sunday”.

VAD legislation may come before the next parliament “whatever the outcome of the forthcoming election”, the bishops’ statement said.

“The Catholic Church is opposed to voluntary assisted dying. However, the Church strongly supports high-quality palliative care, respect for patient autonomy, preservation of personal dignity and a peaceful end to life.

“Nobody is morally compelled to suffer unbearable pain, nobody should feel like a burden, and nobody should feel that their life is worthless.” 

VAD is already legal in Victoria and Western Australia and there is a powerful push to change the law in Queensland. 

The state government has ordered the independent Queensland Law Reform Commission to prepare draft VAD legislation that is expected to be ready for the next parliament early next year.

“People are afraid of losing their freedom, their dignity, their worth, as they face what they believe will be a terrible process of dying,” Queensland’s bishops said. 

“The Catholic Church maintains — based on its theological and philosophical beliefs on the nature of human beings, and on the empirical evidence of high-quality specialist palliative care — that none of these things need come true. 

“Freedom, dignity, worth, and minimal suffering can all be achieved. 

“Dying need not be horrifying. 

“This is not to glorify or minimise how challenging the process of dying is. 

“But it is a process that we as a society and as individuals must face in a way that respects and preserves those principles of freedom, dignity and the minimisation of harm that we all hold dear.”

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Bishops: “The Catholic Church is opposed to voluntary assisted dying. However, the Church strongly supports high-quality palliative care, respect for patient autonomy, preservation of personal dignity and a peaceful end to life.”

The bishops’ statement said many people struggled to see the societal implications of legalising intentional killing of another person, even in strictly limited circumstances. 

“Where the meaningfulness and purposefulness of life are held sacred from cradle to the grave, for the just and the wicked, for rich and for poor, in short, for all, a society can genuinely care for the common good,” the bishops said. 

“Because in such a society there is always the opportunity for a change of heart, for a conversion of the mind, for love and mercy to shine through.

“Pope Francis has encouraged Catholic people everywhere to resist euthanasia and to ensure that the elderly, the young and the vulnerable are not cast aside in what he has called a ‘throw-away culture’. 

“Instead, the Pope calls us as Catholics to follow Jesus Christ by accompanying people at the end of their life with all the skill of palliative medicine and all the compassion of the human heart, since true palliative care embraces the whole person, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.” 

As part of a ‘care-first’ approach, the bishops flag a future training program within Catholic communities to help people better understand what choices are available and what pathways already exist to ensure a dignified and peaceful death.

The aim would be to train facilitators who can guide people to expert advice.

“This is the type of care that Pope Francis envisions the Church being able to offer as an accompaniment to those coming to the end of their life,” the bishops’ said. 

Read more about “Dying Peacefully – No Euthanasia Sunday” at:  archbne.org/dtrl.

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