Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cranmer on euthanasia

Sometimes I think we focus so much on pro-life from the baby end of the spectrum that we forget the issues at the other end of life - "from conception to natural death."

From Cranmer [boldface mine]:

. . . Opposition to ‘do anything which is destructive of life’ is one of the few general rules which unites all of the world’s religions. The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church states: ‘Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick and dying persons. It is morally unacceptable’ (para.2277). Pope John Paul II reflected in his encyclical ‘Evangelium Vitae’ that ‘we see a tragic spread of euthanasia, disguised and surreptitious, or practised openly or even legally. As well as for reasons of misguided pity at the sight of the patient's suffering, euthanasia is sometimes justified by the utilitarian motive of avoiding costs which bring no return and weigh heavily on society’. And more recently Pope Benedict XVI stated that ‘freedom to kill is not a true freedom but a tyranny that reduces the human being to slavery’.

The Orthodox and Protestant churches have expressed similar views, most notably the Baptists, who concluded that ‘a Christian should never recommend, or help with a suicide of an unsaved person because that would hasten the unsaved person's damnation and prevent any chance of repentance. It is an affront to God to take one's own life, both for reasons of his sovereignty but also because any murder is an attempt to annihilate his image in man (Gen1:26f)’.

Similar sentiments opposing euthanasia may be found in the scriptures and/or ethical traditions of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Suffering is natural to the human condition, and the end of life does not need hastening but loving; there should be no easy escape, but dignity and care. Assisted suicide is as morally repugnant as abortion; indeed, Cranmer is hard-pressed to comprehend those who repudiate the former while supporting the latter, for both are concerned with the termination of the seemingly deficient or unwanted; both have the distaste of eugenics – ending the ‘unworthy’ life. Just as the legalisation of abortion was never intended to open the floodgates that it evidently has, so the legalisation of euthanasia would mutate over the decades, and eventually lead to the ‘humane’ termination of all those who simply cannot be bothered to continue. What will doubtless begin with volunteers will eventually include conscripts; the ‘right’ to die may easily become and expectation, and will certainly eventually become a duty.

Killing is not healing. In a culture that worships youth, beauty and physical fitness, the elderly, ugly and disabled may be seen as revolting, but they are also made in the image of God. And just like he did at Calvary, they must be exhorted to suffer and endure with dignity whatever life throws at them. And then, with Job, shall they know that their redeemer lives. And in the meantime, unlike with Job, they need friends and comforters around them who can make them see that their life has worth, and that their witness is profound.

Read it all.

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