02 February 2011



Article in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper:

Euthanasia a bad law by bad people, says bishop

By Leesha McKenny

Start of the legal year ... the Red Mass yesterday. Photo: Dean Sewell

EUTHANASIA was contrary to the ideals of justice and charity and would corrupt society, a Catholic bishop has warned the legal fraternity.

The Bishop of Parramatta, Anthony Fisher, used a service at St Mary's Cathedral yesterday attended by the NSW Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, the shadow attorney-general, Greg Smith, and leading judges and barristers, to warn that ''state-sanctioned killing'' undermined the legitimacy of the state and its criminal law.

''Even were such a proposal to gain a parliamentary majority this would not make it right,'' he said.

Illustration: Cathy Wilcox

''Bad laws are mostly made by bad people and in turn make people bad.''

Bishop Fisher called on those gathered for the 81st annual Red Mass, which marks the start of the legal year, to resist efforts to legalise voluntary euthanasia.

The Greens leader, Bob Brown, has vowed to reintroduce a bill to overturn federal legislation that prevents its legalisation in the ACT and Northern Territory.

In NSW the Greens intend to introduce a private member's bill in support of legalising euthanasia after the election in March.

A NSW Greens MP, Cate Faehrmann, said the bishop's comments were an example of an ''out-of-touch commentator driven by out-of-touch ideology''. ''The vast majority of people support voluntary euthanasia as long as it's with appropriate safeguards, which is what the legislation I am proposing is about.''

Bishop Fisher, a former lawyer, said the proposed legislation was ''the killing of those who suffer by those who are comfortable, of the vulnerable by the powerful, of the sick by those professed to heal them''.

''Pope John Paul II went so far as to deem such laws 'lacking authentic juridical validity' and requiring lawyers and health professionals to refuse conscientiously to follow them,'' he said.

That remark echoed comments of Cardinal George Pell in a newspaper interview last month, where he denounced Catholic politicians who defied the church's teachings when considering controversial issues such as euthanasia or same-sex adoption.

The Premier, Kristina Keneally, a devout Catholic, told News Ltd at the time that the cardinal's comments risked being ''interpreted as condemnatory and threatening''.

But she said yesterday she did not personally support the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia.

''As I have said previously, a politician's faith and how they reconcile their beliefs in their public decision-making is a matter for each individual MP.

"The NSW government is yet to see the Greens' proposed legislation and will give it due consideration when it is forthcoming."

When asked if the bishop's comments on euthanasia were appropriate, Richard Perrignon, president of the St Thomas More Society (which sponsors the Red Mass), said the bishop was well-known for his views on euthanasia.

''It's a democracy we live in and people are entitled to their views - even prelates,'' he said.

A spokesman for Mr Hatzistergos, who is Greek Orthodox, referred to comments made in 2002 when he spoke against the Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill. The bill introduced by a Greens MP, Ian Cohen, was defeated.


Letters in response to above article in SMH:

Dignity, morality and democracy in death

Shakespeare letters illo

Photo: John Shakespeare

I take great exception to Bishop Anthony Fisher's comments on euthanasia and his pejorative remarks towards those who are in favour of it (''Euthanasia a bad law by bad people, says bishop'', February 1). Legally and medically supervised euthanasia is not ''killing of those who suffer by those who are comfortable''. Any doctor, lawyer and especially family member of a patient undergoing euthanasia will feel the opposite of comfortable and will be acutely aware that a person's death is being caused. But they will be satisfied they are doing something that allows the patient to die without pain and in dignity.

It is not the ''killing of those vulnerable by the powerful''. In fact the process will empower a person dying from an illness over which they no longer have any control, and allow them to have control over the manner in which they die. The ultimate decision will be theirs alone.

It is not the ''killing of the sick by those who profess to heal them''. As doctors we should be there for a patient as much to help them die in peace and comfort when we can no longer do anything for them, as to help them with sickness.

Dr John Frith Paddington

The NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann suggests Bishop Fisher's comments rejecting euthanasia legislation represent ''out-of-touch ideology''. Yet her own stance, that such legislation is proper because ''the vast majority of people support voluntary euthanasia as long as it's with appropriate safeguards'', seems to suggest that moral issues be decided by popular opinion. So if the vast majority of people think it is OK to diddle their taxes, it is OK to do so. Try that on the Tax Office.

Perhaps Ms Faehrmann could undertake some of the ethics classes being promoted by the Greens. There she might learn that morality is not a matter of majority opinion.

She also might learn to share Bishop Fisher's concerns that euthanasia involves ''the killing of those who suffer by those who are comfortable, of the vulnerable by the powerful, of the sick by those professed to heal them''' and that a society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable.

Neil Ormerod Professor of Theology, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield

How on earth can the Bishop of Parramatta argue that even a parliamentary majority ''would not make [euthanasia] right''? Clearly, such a majority would indicate that the moral convictions of Australian society have changed and that morality and law are in opposition to each other.

In Dishonest to God, Mary Warnock says ''a democratically elected parliament is the best interpreter of where the consensus lies''. If not here, where else could it possibly be found?

In the 21st century, the quiet majority of Australians neither expect nor approve of the church leading moral opinion.

Matthew Endacott Brandy Hill

Purple prose such as ''state-sanctioned killing''' does not embellish Bishop Anthony Fisher's argument against the right of suffering individuals to have their wishes respected. The bishop's lack of reflection on his pronouncement that ''bad laws are mostly made by bad people and in turn make people bad'' is striking, especially given his audience, and the worldwide challenge to the church to properly address the deficiencies of canon law in light of its treatment of young people.

It is here, not in acceding to requests by competent adults, that the suffering of the vulnerable at the hands of the powerful is perpetuated.

Julia Anaf Norwood (SA)

Bishop Anthony Fisher is quite right: ''Bad laws are mostly made by bad people and in turn make people bad.'' For example, the Catholic Church's canon law provisions on birth control, women priests, clerical celibacy and homosexuality.

Michael Frawley Downer (ACT)

1 comment:

  1. Neil Ormerod Professor of Theology, Australian Catholic University, Strathfield, states: "So if the vast majority of people think it is OK to diddle their taxes, it is OK to do so. Try that on the Tax Office."
    This is a bit rich, coming from someone who is involved with the Catholic Church hierarchy, an organisation notorious, as are all religions and pseudo-religions, for not paying any taxes at all!
    This is supposedly a secular country with a supposedly secular government, although one has to sometimes wonder, given the love our politicians have for their free trips to Israel, courtesy of the Israeli government and their Australian zionist friends, and also the support given to cristian institutions in this country at the expense of those citizens who are neither cristian nor believers in any religion. The hypocrisy of the right-wing religious institutions in matters such as child sex abuse/assault scandals and the cover-ups perpetrated by the hierarchy and their related hangers-on is boundless as are their other practices of unknown proportions



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