Wednesday, 7 February 2018

NZ BIshops' Letter to all parishes encouraging people to make submission on the "End of Life Choice" Bill

23 January 2018
Dear Parishioners,
As many of you will know, in December 2017, David Seymour’s ‘End of Life Choice’ bill had its first reading in Parliament and was voted through to the Justice Select Committee. This Bill, which seeks to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide, is something that we, the Bishops of New Zealand, remain extremely concerned about. We want to take the opportunity to further inform you about the complexities and risks associated with euthanasia and assisted suicide.
We are hesitant about “tacking on” activities to Mass, but from time to time a particular initiative is given permission because its focus is so important that in effect it finds its full meaning within the context of the Mass. As we gather to be nourished by God’s Word (teaching and law) and by His Body and Blood, which makes possible the fullness of life, it is appropriate that something which so gravely threatens the gift of life is addressed within the context of our Sunday worship.
Today, all around New Zealand, we are making available a resource which gives 5 reasons why legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide would be dangerous. We encourage you to share it among your friends, family and networks. This information is to inform and assist you to take personal action. Each of you can make a difference. Each of you are called to make a difference.
The fact sheet being provided at Masses today is also available online by visiting the website of The Nathaniel Centre – the New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre –
Thank you for giving this your attention and for the support and effort you have all given to date on this issue. It is a powerful witness when the entire Catholic community is united around a point of belief and action – the upholding of the dignity of human life - which is so central to our faith and pivotal to an inclusive and caring society.
Many of you submitted to the Health Select Committee Inquiry two years ago. There is now an urgent need to let parliament know your views about David Seymour’s Bill. Therefore, we urge each of you to get personally involved by sending a submission to Parliament’s Justice Select Committee before the closing date of 20 February 2018. Instructions on how to make a submission will be handed out with the fact sheet.
Your voice will make a difference

Bishop Patrick Dunn, Bishop of Auckland and NZCBC President
Bishop Charles Drennan, Bishop of Palmerston North and NZCBC Secretary Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington
Bishop Steve Lowe, Bishop of Hamilton
Bishop Colin Campbell, Bishop of Dunedin
Bishop-Elect Paul Martin SM, Bishop-Elect of Christchurch 

Euthanasia: Bishop Drennan's Letter to Year 13 Students

Kia ora tātou,

Ngā mihi o te tau hōu ki a koutou.

Welcome to Year 13.

I’m writing to you about the so-called End of Life Choice Bill. It is about legalizing assisted suicide or euthanasia in New Zealand.

We all know that youth suicide in Aotearoa is a terrible tragedy for families. Those affected always have our deep sympathy, support and care. There are lots of wonderful things about growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand, but clearly for some young people there is a dark and troubling side to our life. Blame is never our response.

As a nation, our youth suicide statistics are a cause of shame or whakamā for our country. We rightly feel some sense of responsibility; what else might I/we do to prevent suicide?

That sense of responsibility, I invite you also to think about with regard to our elderly, mentally ill, debilitated, and vulnerable. These are the people that the Bill before parliament will most affect. I believe strongly, and the Church teaches, that euthanasia should never be the answer to vulnerability, sickness or even pain. We can do better. In fact, euthanasia is not a medical treatment; it is a political possibility which the large majority of caregivers, nurses and doctors say has nothing to do with their work or profession.    

One of the challenges we are facing in the korero or debate around euthanasia is the use of the word “choice”. Choice is often good, but not always good. The idea of choice sounds positive, but in fact we don’t give people a choice to drink and drive, to beat their spouse or partner, to sell drugs, to turn up to work or not, to follow the rules of a sport or not.  What is always good, is the choice of what is right or dignified or best.

Choosing what is wrong never makes sense. That’s what each one of you “gets” about youth suicide. It’s never a good option.  How cynical and shallow it is therefore that one MP, from one tiny political party, is leading a campaign to make assisted suicide of the sick and vulnerable and debilitated seem normal and good. It isn’t. It’s wrong.

Last year my Dad died aged 98. He was in the hospital care wing of a rest home. For some outsiders looking in, the last year couple of years of his life may have seemed “worthless”. He was totally dependent upon caregivers, was not able to support himself standing, and slept or dozed most of the time. Yet right to the very end, thanks to the rest-home care and whānau, he retained his dignity and continued to impart goodness. Even when uttering a few words had become hard work for him, he always whispered: “thank you for visiting.”

Together with this letter, your teachers will give you some information fact sheets to help you, if you so choose, to make a submission on this Bill. I encourage you to do so and hope that you will be given class time for this action. Apathy places power in the hands of others. Pope Francis, recently speaking to young people, simply said: “Don’t let others decide our future”.

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Kia kaha!

Ngā mihi me ngā whakapainga rangimārie ki ā koutou.

Bishop Charles.