EDINBURGH, Scotland (LifeSiteNews) – The Catholic Archbishop of Edinburgh has written to Catholics urging them to oppose assisted suicide measures currently being discussed in the Scottish Parliament.
In an October 15 pastoral letter to Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Archbishop Leo Cushley warned that the legalization of assisted suicide would “further erode how our society values human life, which has already been grievously undermined by legal abortion.”
He rejected the notion that death was a purely private matter, writing that “[e]verything we do affects everyone else for good or ill.”
“Our attitudes to life at its very beginnings and at its very end will inevitably shape how we approach life at every stage in between, and this in turn well affect what sort of society we build together,” Cushley added. “The laws we make about how we treat those who are approaching death will gradually inform how human life is valued in every respect.”
Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Liam McArthur recently achieved a significant step in his push to legalize assisted suicide in Parliament when he won the support of 36 MSPs for his “Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults” draft proposal. He can now draft a bill and place it before Parliament in a few months.
Welcoming the news, McArthur said that support from his political colleagues “has been deeply heartening, and demonstrates the growing recognition that there is a need to end the ban on assisted dying in Scotland.”
The bill would look to “enable competent adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with assistance to end their life.”
However, Cushley warned that the “consequences” of such a bill are “likely to be serious and wide-reaching, as experience in other countries already shows.”
He referred to the permissive Canadian, Belgian, and Dutch assisted suicide laws, noting how such legislation had started with “strict limits.” “Legalising euthanasia would send a message across the whole of society that lives which entail physical and mental suffering, or severe physical disabilities, can be considered no longer worth living,” said Cushley.
This is not only wrong in principle – for no life is worthless – it could also have a terrible and tragic effect on vulnerable individuals at their weakest moments.
The archbishop added that by legalizing assisted suicide, the “frail and elderly” could see themselves as a “burden” on others, or even “feel pressurised into asking for help to end their lives.”
Opposition to assisted suicide did not necessarily need a religious belief, argued Cushley, but he added that “in the light of our faith we can see even more compelling reasons to reject euthanasia.”
While proponents of assisted suicide describe the measures as a beneficial action, Cushley opposed this ideology. “The desire to take death into our own hands, however understandable, is really a failure of trust in divine providence, and is ‘contrary to our love for the living God’,” he said.
“Dying is, ironically perhaps, the most significant event of our lives,” wrote Cushley, “because it is in dying that we most clearly confront the fact that we are fragile creatures, dependent upon others, and that we are not ultimately in charge of our own destiny.” He noted how Catholics highlight the importance of death with the sacrament of Extreme Unction, “and it is also why we should surround the dying with our prayers and the best of care.”
Despite the public calls for assisted suicide from selected politicians, Cushley wrote that the “overwhelming evidence is that persistent requests for assisted suicide are extremely rare when people’s physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs are adequately met.”
He urged Catholics to register their opposition to the assisted suicide proposals, as a “matter of Christian duty,” by signing a petition organized by campaign group Care Not Killing.
Cushley closed by stating: “The arguments for legalising ‘assisted dying’ are presented as being compassionate and humanistic, but if this law is passed it will undoubtedly further undermine the value our society places on human life, profoundly affecting how we treat those who are suffering and how we care for those who are dying.”
Listing the dangers contained in the proposed bill, Care Not Killing warned that:
- Pressure will increase on those people who are vulnerable, disabled or elderly to end their lives prematurely.
- The number of deaths will increase over time.
- The law will be extended to other conditions.
- Economic pressures will come to bear on decision making.
- Ultimately, even terminally ill and possibly disabled children (who are unable to give informed consent) are likely to eligible to be helped to die.
Other pro-life advocates are also organizing campaigns against the assisted suicide lobby. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) is urging supporters to contact their MSPs to voice opposition to the proposed bill.
“This bill is extremely dangerous,” wrote SPUC. “Every elderly, sick or disabled person in Scotland will be at risk. We must act now to defend the vulnerable members of our families from a law which will put death before life.”