Allowing doctors to help terminally ill people to take their own lives would be a “profoundly Christian and moral thing” to do, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has insisted.
He dismissed arguments that enduring pain at the end of life is a “noble thing” and insisted that proper legal safeguards could be devised to ensure vulnerable people are not pressurised into ending their lives by greedy relatives.
His remarks, ahead of a Commons vote on assisted dying, underline a growing rift with the official position of the Church he once led.
It came as one senior Church of England official condemned the attempts to change Britain’s euthanasia laws as “criminally naive”.
Lest we forget, from the catechism:
2276 Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible. 2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable. Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded. 2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected. 2279 Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.
Meanwhile, the words and example of St. John Paul II remain both powerful and poignant. He wrote in 1984:
Down through the centuries and generations it has been seen that in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace. To this grace many saints, such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and others, owe their profound conversion. A result of such a conversion is not only that the individual discovers the salvific meaning of suffering but above all that he becomes a completely new person. He discovers a new dimension, as it were, of his entire life and vocation.
National Catholic Register also has this timely reflection from a woman suffering from depression:
The understanding that my depression could be offered as a sacrifice for a specific or general intention was enormously helpful. It seemed this fact alone helped lift some of the burden, knowing my suffering wasn’t just a complete waste – it had value! When we unite the suffering God has permitted in our lives to His suffering on the Cross, we participate in His plan for the world. As Fr. John Bartunek has so beautifully said, “God has consciously chosen to give us the possibility of making a difference in his Kingdom. We are not just along for the ride. What we do and how we choose to live our ordinary lives can actually increase the flow of grace in the world, spreading Christ’s Kingdom and storing up treasure for us in heaven. Jesus has not only saved us from damnation, but he has given us the possibility of becoming active, meritorious collaborators in the work of redemption. Not because we deserve it, but simply because he generously wanted to give us that possibility: he wanted our lives to have real meaning, our actions and decisions to have eternal repercussions. His love makes us friends and collaborators, not just his robots or spiritual trophies.” Pope John Paul II pointed out the supernatural benefit attached to suffering, including his own Parkinson’s disease, when we offer it in this way: “In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his sufferings, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ” (Salvifici Doloris).