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Shrewsbury Bishop Mark Davies Simon Caldwell / Diocese of Shrewsbury

A Catholic bishop in the UK has compared the popular support for Lord Falconer’s assisted suicide bill with the widespread support for the First World War in the summer of 1914. Bishop Mark Davies of the northwestern diocese of Shrewsbury, again spoke out against the bill in a homily last week that warned against being swayed by “emotionalism.”

“A hundred years ago this week, the world descended into what is now called the First World War, the second war would quickly follow and a Cold War would bring humanity to the brink of nuclear extinction,” the bishop said at the Grotto of Lourdes, France, on July 26.

“It is hard to believe how in those summer weeks of 1914 the beginnings of this whole catastrophe would be welcomed by ecstatic crowds and enjoy wide, public support,” he added. “At a time when our country is actively considering ‘assisting’ the sick and aged to kill themselves it seems once again that many who rejoice in such notions of ‘progress’ fail to see the consequences of ‘the culture of death’ they are creating.”

Lord Charles Falconer’s bill went to Second Reading in the House of Lords last month and is now waiting through the parliamentary summer holiday for a vote. It is being strongly supported not only by the usual euthanasia lobby, but by a wide array of activists on the left.

Bishop Davies added, “Some of our contemporaries may be swayed by the changing tides of public opinion in a way not dissimilar to the emotionalism which marked these summer weeks a century ago.”

The “inhuman ideologies” of the late 19th and 20th centuries allow us to see “not only what the Church is against but what the Church is always for,” he said. “Against everything which demeans the eternal value of the human person and for the life and dignity of every man, woman and child.”

The issue is close to the bishop’s heart, with the homily in France following a pastoral letter issued earlier last month that condemned the depiction of assisted suicide as a matter of “compassion.”

“It is far from compassionate to remove the legal protections provided for some of the most vulnerable members of society,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, anti-suicide campaigners have welcomed signs that the public debate is helping to push back public opinion. A ComRes poll has shown some movement away from support for legalizing assisted suicide, with 28 percent of adults polled having changed their minds.

The poll was commissioned by the charity Care, and asked how respondents felt about vulnerable people feeling pressured to end their lives for fear of “becoming a burden.”

Published July 18, the day of the House of Lords debate, the poll showed opposition to assisted suicide growing from 12 percent to 43 percent. Twenty-one percent also said they might change their minds if it could be shown that in countries where the practice has already been legalized it has expanded from the terminally ill to children and to people suffering from nothing more than depression or dementia.

Care’s chief executive, Nola Leach, said the poll “demonstrates that the public tend to be in favour until they are presented with the stark implications of legalising assisted suicide and the evidence of pressure on vulnerable people within those countries which have done so.”

But Anthony Ozimic, the communications manager for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), sounded a note of caution, saying that while the huge support for assisted suicide among the British public may be shrinking, polls are no indication of how a bill will fare in Parliament.

“We welcome any shift in public opinion against assisted suicide, especially ones gained by pro-lifers sharing facts with the public. However, we also welcome Bishop Davies's warning about ‘the changing tides of public opinion,’” he told LifeSiteNews.

“I have always found it a good guide in pro-life work never to be attached to the result of any poll, bill, or court case. The task remains of continuing to educate the public, to mobilise faith communities and to lobby legislators.”