Everybody loves to see justice done — on somebody else

Consecration.jpgIn the next day or so, much fuss likely will be made about how the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops has agreed to a one-year moratorium on approving any newly elected bishops.

The bishops made their decision in response to a recommendation in the Windsor Report and a request by the Anglican Communion’s primates that they not approve more noncelibate homosexual bishops, should any be elected, until there is a greater consensus among Anglicans. The Rev. George Conger, writing for The Living Church magazine, reports that Bishop Gene Robinson, whose election and confirmation is the source of this controversy, proposed applying the moratorium to all bishops’ elections until General Convention, which meets in June 2006.

Conger also reports that Robinson’s proposal originally came from Bishop Otis Charles. The idea of such universally applied moratoria is not new for Charles, an openly gay retired bishop living in California. While Charles served as dean of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., the chapel there denied its space for weddings until gay students also could be married. That practice has been renewed in the EDS chapel, in protest of a Diocese of Massachusetts policy that forbids priests to officiate at gay weddings.

Of the dioceses Conger identifies as immediately affected by the decision, five are led by a bishop who voted against Robinson’s consecration as a bishop:

Southern Ohio (scheduled election: June 11)

West Texas (October 15; PDF)

Tennessee (November)

Southwest Florida (December)

South Carolina (to be determined by the Standing Committee and Bishop Ed Salmon, who is scheduled to retire in January 2006)

The two dioceses most likely to nominate or elect an openly gay bishop are California (based in San Francisco) and El Camino Real (based in San Jose).

According to Oasis, a gay ministry supported by the Diocese of California, that diocese’s standing committee has refused to “discriminate against any qualified clergy, including gay or lesbian clergy, who might be nominated in the course of the search process.”

The Diocese of California has scheduled its election for May 2006, which means its bishop-elect could be approved by General Convention. If that bishop-elect is gay, it will repeat the high-stakes voting of General Convention in 2003, which confirmed Gene Robinson’s election.

In other words, the House of Bishops has responded to a requested moratorium on more openly gay bishops by delaying the consecration of bishops in dioceses that are less likely to elect gay bishops.

Some Episcopalians will call this justice, or perhaps even justice-love.

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The pleasures of the Godbeat

ProctorCover.jpgTwo posts on Salon today prove that the alt-daily website can cover religion just as well, although not nearly as often, as it covers the sacrament of sex.

Freelance writer Benedicta Cipolla conducts a Q&A with Minna Proctor about her lapsed Catholic father who eventually felt called to a become a priest of the Episcopal Church. Proctor’s mother is a secular Jew, and Proctor grew up in a faith-free environment, so her father’s new vocation challenged her. Proctor coped by doing what journalists often do when facing a crisis: she wrote about it.

If the Salon interview is any indication, Proctor’s bookDo You Hear What I Hear? Religious Calling, the Priesthood, and My Father — is an example of how people can write intelligently and with empathy about a faith they have not embraced.

Cipolla is a great choice to conduct the interview, as her father made a vocational choice in the opposite direction. He was among Episcopal priests in the 1980s who found a more welcoming home in Roman Catholicism. Cipolla opens her article with a funny account of her brief rebellion against her father’s going Catholic:

I was only 10 years old at the time, and I accepted his decision without much ado, save for a brief declaration that I would stay in the Episcopal Church so I could keep singing in the choir. When my parents acquiesced and told me they would ferry me there every Sunday, I realized my stand was not rocking the foundations of my family in quite the way I had anticipated. I immediately recanted and converted too.

The most rewarding paragraph is when Proctor addresses whether it was scary for her to cover the unfamiliar world of religion:

The biggest challenge was waking up in the morning and opening Kierkegaard and thinking, “Who the hell am I to think that I have anything to say about this, or that I can even understand what anybody’s talking about?” On the other hand, I had to keep reminding myself that all I could do was be me, a secular person, exploring this topic. In a way that’s one of the narrative conflicts of my book, that I’m not a religious scholar, but that I do believe that religion is not a subject that only religious people can engage in debate about. Religion has a growing role in political debate right now, and I think it’s better if all of us were more informed and didn’t think of religious people as fanatics. If you do that, then it becomes a debate about fanaticism instead of a debate about much more interesting and important ideas — moral ideas, a sense of social responsibility. Even secular people can talk about and have opinions about religious topics, and we should.

Salon’s other religion piece of the day — the site’s lead item of the day — is Amy Sullivan’s plea with the religious left to get its act together, already.

She draws a contrast between the religious left’s past role as a conscience-shaper with its uncertain efforts to find its voice again:

Everyone knows about the religious right, a movement of conservative, mostly Christian, religious communities that has become increasingly involved in American politics over the last three decades. The idea that there could be a countervailing religious force, whether defined as religious progressives or simply everyone not part of the religious right, has long since been dismissed from public consciousness. Indeed, the religious left had almost forgotten about itself — the community hadn’t come together to protest a federal budget, one of the religious leaders told me, “since the early Reagan years.”

And yet there was a time — not so very long ago — when the religious left was a powerful institution in American society and politics, when the term “religious” was not immediately assumed to connote “conservative.” Moral giants with names like Reinhold Niebuhr and Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King Jr. led intellectual and social justice movements. It’s nearly impossible to page through American history without coming across political causes that were driven either partly or entirely by progressive people of faith — abolition, women’s suffrage, labor reforms of the progressive era, civil rights, and any number of antiwar movements. . . .

“If there is such a thing as the liberal church anymore,” says the Rt. Rev. John Chane, Bishop of the Diocese of Washington, “it has become complacent. Complacency was always its biggest tragedy.” While their conservative counterparts were setting aside differences to focus on a single mission, members of the religious left — no longer following the guiding cause of civil rights — lost their way, dispersing their attention over what seemed like 87 different policy issues and busying themselves with internal denominational battles over female ordination and other debates. Many well-intentioned members of the religious left, not wanting to be associated with the nascent Christian right, filtered religion out of their rhetoric and secularized some of their appeals. The more vocal groups like the Christian Coalition and Moral Majority became, the more religious liberals withdrew from public view.

It’s amusing to read John Chane, one of the best-known liberal bishops in the mostly liberal Episcopal Church, wondering whether there’s such a thing as a liberal church anymore. It’s also amusing to read, in the same piece that begins by observing that mainline leaders are comparing the Bush administration to the rich man who scorned the suffering Lazarus, that “liberal religious spokesmen are loath to ‘spin’ their beliefs and positions, taking principled stands that nonetheless leave television producers underwhelmed and frustrated.”

In any case, Sullivan is right to hope the religious left can regain the moral vision and leadership shown by Niebuhr, Day and King. If religious leaders across the spectrum will speak without embarrassment about what they believe their faith can bring to the public square, the political discussion is bound to be livelier and the decisions of Congress more informed.

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Reporting vs. fear-mongering

PrimatesGaggle.jpgWhen the Rev. George Conger is on an Anglican story, it’s hard to top his firsthand reporting for thoroughness, relevant details and good humor.

Consider Conger’s report this week for The Church of England Newspaper (part 1, part 2), which gives a fuller picture on why primates from the Global South boycotted Communion with U.S. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold:

Archbishop Akinola wrote to Dr Williams on behalf of the global south coalition stating they would not share altar fellowship with Bishop Griswold. Dr Williams suggested a “pastoral Eucharist”, and then proposed a priest be brought in to celebrate Communion.

Archbishop Akinola responded it was not the worthiness of the minister that prompted their objections, but their belief that unity of doctrine preceded unity of worship. It was not a question of receiving “from” Bishop Griswold, but “with” Bishop Griswold.

. . . The endorsement of the communiqué, however, did not return harmony to the Primates. After the deal was done, Archbishop Williams announced he was going to lead the noonday Eucharist on Friday and invited all the Primates to attend as a gesture of unity. The global south primates declined.

Compare this to the primates’ meeting in 2003, also reported by Conger, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury insisted that Global South primates partake of Communion with Griswold if they wanted the emergency meeting to occur.

Observers at the Lambeth Conferences of 1988 and 1998 said both meetings reflected the Global South’s growing strength in numbers and in influence. In a similar way, the primates meeting of 2005 is now reflecting its own southward shift in authority.

At another point on the journalism spectrum, Stephen Bates of the Guardian offers another installment in his series of “all the villains are on the Right” narratives. In this spine-chilling episode, Bates reports that a conservative primate already has “defied the agreement within hours in order to address traditionalist parishes in Canada.”

The primates’ communiqué discourages primates from initiating alternative oversight in provinces not their own. How this prohibits a primate even from addressing a gathering — not ordaining new priests or confirming new church members or welcoming a new breakaway parish — is a mystery that remains to be explained in Bates’ reports.

Bates also relies on an anonymous primate who claims that conservative primates treated the Archbishop of Canterbury rudely and that African primates will — imagine the audacity! — rely on different American sources to meet their financial needs. “I understand they have been told that American fundamentalist millionaires have promised to match any funding the African church would have received from the Episcopal Church dollar for dollar,” Bates’ deep-cover source tells him.

That’s right, American fundamentalist millionaires! No names, no proof, no explanation of what makes these shadowy figures so clearly fundamentalist. At moments such as these, even Bates’ feverish conspiracy theories and name-calling achieve that sublime status known as hathos.

Photo: Primates Peter Akinola, Nigeria; Drexel Gomez, West Indies; Datuk Yong Ping Chung, South East Asia. Photo by James Rosenthal, Anglican Communion News Service.

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Hello Michael Valpy

This link is provided as a public service to reporters north of the border (Hello to Michael Valpy at The Globe and Mail) who need to be able to talk to conservative Anglicans (other than on the telephone) during the coming years of tense conflict in the Anglican Communion. Talking to these endangered ecclesiastical beasts will help reporters cover both sides of this stunningly complex and emotional story. “In what is likely to be the largest gathering of orthodox Canadian Anglicans in the history of the Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Essentials Canada will be playing host to the ‘Open Door’ Conference in Toronto, Ontario.” The date for calendars? June 16, 2005. Now, has anyone seen any good events on the left?

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Balance? We don't need no stinkin' balance!

Canada arms.jpgA GetReligion reader north of the border — not one of the Web Elves — dropped me an interesting note a day or two ago about the unfolding drama within the Anglican Communion.

This reader would like reporters to know that there are Anglican conservatives north of the border. In fact, some of them recently released a statement reacting to the Anglican primates conclave in Ireland and posted it at their very own website, which is quite easy to find. The organization is called Anglican Essentials Canada and here is its brief statement:

The message is as clear as it can get. In an unprecedented action, the Anglican world was changed last Thursday, February 24. The actions of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church of the United States have resulted in the Primates putting them on notice. Simply put, there is no more dramatic action that could have been taken than to request a Province of the Church to remove itself from the table. Clearly, there is before the Anglican Church of Canada the need to make a choice. Restoration to full communion requires repentance. The failure to do so implies the choice to walk alone outside the worldwide Anglican Communion.

In the days ahead Anglican Essentials Canada will be posting further reflections arising from these developments. May we all recall that the kindness of God leads us to repentance. (Romans 2:4).

Why, you ask, is this statement important?

For one very simple reason. If you have been reading a typical Canadian newspaper — The Globe and Mail, perhaps — you would not know there are any conservative Anglicans up there. The lack of balance in the coverage has been quite amazing. Consider, in particular, the work of Globe and Mail reporter Michael Valpy, as reflected in his weekend story with the headline “Top cleric faces rift among Anglicans.” Here is the opening:

Canada’s Anglican primate faced accusations from his own clergy yesterday that he betrayed gays and lesbians by endorsing a proposal to suspend the Canadian and U.S. churches from a key body of the worldwide Anglican Communion because of their acceptance of homosexuality.

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison acknowledged he will have to work to convince many Canadian Anglicans that the proposal, agreed to by all the primates, or senior archbishops and bishops of the communion, is necessary to stave off schism within the world’s third-largest Christian faith.

He voiced regret over the treatment of homosexuals by the global church’s leaders. He said in an interview: “I feel very sorry for them that there’s no recognition of their plight.” The primates’ statement reiterated the communion’s rejection of blessing same-sex unions and ordaining practising homosexuals as priests.

So far so good. And what happens next is good — Valpy quotes the views of several leaders on the Anglican left, which is the strongest choir north of the border. But what happens after that is bad. It does not appear that there is a single Anglican voice, not even a rustic priest from a tiny prairie town, who supports the actions taken by Anglicans in the Third World who do not want to modernize the sacrament of marriage. Perhaps these Anglicans are so old-fashioned that they do not have telephones.

Come to think of it, I can’t find a dissenting conservative voice in Valpy’s earlier report on the actual decision in Ireland. Maybe someone on the copy desk is cutting out this crucial part of the story. Maybe.

Anyway, if Valpy or any other reporter in Canada would like to talk to one or more conservative Anglicans while attempting to do accurate and balanced coverage of this hot-button issue, the leaders of the Anglican Essentials network can be reached at 1-866-883-7328.

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Read this text with an Oxford accent

RowanAgain.jpgAnglican-beat reporters, please repeat after me once again: The Africans pray, the Americans pay and the British write the resolutions.

And the second truth of Anglican corporate life is like unto this: The British will do their bloody best to write those resolutions in such a way that Americans get to keep writing checks.

Thus, to the surprise of no one, MSM reports about this week’s Anglican primates meetings are all over the map. No one can agree on who actually said what and if the words they said actually mean what they appear to mean. Ah, those British resolution writers are the best.

Let’s work at this backwards for a moment. Right now, the most important story on the news wires comes from up in Canada:

Canadian and U.S. Anglican officials denied media reports suggesting they have temporarily withdrawn from an international council at the request of leaders who condemn their position on homosexuality.

They have not yet made any decisions in response to the request, Archdeacon Paul Feheley, Principal Secretary to the Primate, told CTV.ca in a phone interview from Northern Ireland where the meetings between the leaders took place this week.

“We’re members of the Anglican Communion, we will continue to be members of the Anglican Communion,” he said, noting that the talks were much like a family dispute during which family members “step back for breathing space, to sort things out.”

[The] Rev. Jan Nunley of the U.S. Episcopal Church Center also denied media reports in an email to CTV.ca inquiring about the church’s response.

“No, no decision has been made on the request for voluntary temporary withdrawal from the Anglican Consultative Council,” Nunley wrote.

These denials are in response to early Associated Press stories that opened like this sample from The Miami Herald:

LONDON (AP) — Anglican primates agreed late Thursday that the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada would withdraw from a key body of the global Anglican Communion after failing to overcome internal church disagreements about the election of a gay bishop in the United States and the blessing of same-sex unions there and in Canada.

A statement from leaders of Anglican national churches who met this week in Northern Ireland also called on the two churches to explain their thinking on gay issues at another Anglican meeting in June. . . . The two churches would temporarily step away from the Anglican Consultative Council, a key body for contact among the national churches and one of the four “instruments of unity.”

Some reports stated even more clearly that the Canadians and Americans had been forced out.

Whence comes this confusion? The answer is found, of course, in the work of those British resolution writers and the wiggle room found in the actual communique that is the foundation of all of these stories in the MSM and the blogosphere. Here is the crucial passage. This should be read with a strong Oxford or Upper West Side Manhattan accent for the proper effect.

14. Within the ambit of the issues discussed in the Windsor Report and in order to recognise the integrity of all parties, we request that the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference. During that same period we request that both churches respond through their relevant constitutional bodies to the questions specifically addressed to them in the Windsor Report as they consider their place within the Anglican Communion.

And the key word? Righto, that would be voluntarily. Thus, this is yet another document asking the North American progressives to repent — if they choose to do so. Stronger action may or may not take place in the future. St this point, the North Americans are still smarting from a slap on the collective wrist, but nothing more than that. If there were stronger actions suggested, they remained behind the tightly closed doors of the conclave and, thus, they will have no effect until they are reported in the pages of sacred scripture.

So what did the progressive leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church say, in response to this public rebuke? As often happens with the bookish pronouncements of Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, it is hard to tell precisely. Perhaps his words were written by scribes trained by the learned British. Here is the key passage that reporters are trying to parse at the moment:

Some will not be pleased with the request from the primates . . . that the Episcopal Church, along with the Anglican Church of Canada, “voluntarily withdraw” our members from the Anglican Consultative Council “for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference.” This request, together with the opportunity for a hearing with the Anglican Consultative Council (paragraph 16), gives space for speaking and listening. During this time the Episcopal Church will be responding to the questions addressed to us in the Windsor Report, as the primates have requested. We will have the opportunity to speak out of the truth of our experience. I welcome this opportunity knowing that the Episcopal Church has sought to act with integrity in response to the Spirit, and that we have worked, and continue to work, to honor the different perspectives very much present within our church.

What does this mean? Clearly, lots of learning, sharing and Spirit-filled negotiating will go on in the months and years to come. But did he say the Episcopal Church would heed the majority of the world’s Anglicans and stand down?

Inquiring reporters want to know. They may wait a long, long, long time for a clearly written resolution on that question. That’s the point.

UPDATED: After doing some digging (I work on three different computers), I found the email with the URL for the Associated Press story by Robert Barr that caused so much buzz in the early hours of this global story. Here is how it opened:

The U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada withdrew Thursday from a key body of the global Anglican Communion under pressure from conservative church leaders distressed by the election of a gay bishop in the United States and the blessing of same-sex unions in the two countries.

Though the suspension of the two churches was said to be temporary, it marked the first formal split in the communion over the explosive issues of sexuality and biblical authority.

Here is another example of a clear Barr lead on this issue, only this time it has a clear attribution to its source:

The rift over homosexuality that threatens to split the 77 million-member Anglican Communion cannot be resolved without someone admitting they’re wrong, the church’s spiritual leader warned Friday — a day after leaders asked the U.S. and Canadian churches to withdraw temporarily from a key council.

The election of a gay bishop in the United States and the blessing of same-sex unions there and in Canada have opened a potentially unbridgeable division between Anglican liberals — many of them in North America — and conservatives, who are strongest in Africa and Asia.

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No Communion in Anglican Communion?

PBandABC.jpgFacts are such pesky things. Every now and then one gets in the brain and just sticks there.

Earlier this week, religion reporter Jonathan Petre reported in The Telegraph that the global showdown of the Anglican primates might include some potent and poignant protests — in part centering on actions that will or will not be taken by U.S. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold (left) and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (right, in the photo). Here is some of that story, with the familiar politics-of-sexuality references trimmed since Anglican-beat watchers already know all of that:

Conservative archbishops attending Anglican crisis talks this week will demonstrate their anger with their liberal counterparts by refusing to receive Communion alongside them, The Telegraph has learned. . . .

Insiders say that Archbishop Peter Akinola, the primate of Nigeria, has warned him that the conservatives will boycott the daily church services during the conference if the liberals are there. The problem could become most acute when Dr. Williams presides at Communion — a sacrament supposed to symbolise the unity of the Church — as Archbishop Akinola is thought to represent up to half of the 38 primates.

Now this is what I call a pesky fact.

Every since reading this, I have been going to Google News and typing in the words Rowan, Griswold and communion, with few results that tell me much of anything. There have been, of course, daily reports from the conservative cyber-scribe David Virtue, the fiery activist who has, in his own unique way, done much to yank many private Anglican events into the open. Everyone knows where Virtue is coming from, sort of like the reports from the official Episcopal press.

This Communion story may seem like an “insider” detail. But this pesky fact concerns a symbol that is also a Sacrament and, well, they are supposed to call it the Anglican Communion for a reason. I will keep looking, even though I realize that the Brits are doing everything they can to lock reporters out of every aspect of these meetings.

Nevertheless, please let us see if you see MSM coverage of the Eucharist issue. On the theological level, it is more important than the on-paper resolutions.

On a related topic, check out the following BBC item. This appeal for web-based feedback has to have one of the most biased headlines I have seen in a long time. Here is the item:

Will Africa split the Anglican Church?

Leaders of the 70 million-strong Anglican Communion have been meeting this week near Belfast in Northern Ireland to discuss an ongoing crisis that threatens to split the church.

The 38 primates will consider the so-called Windsor Report, published after the consecration of gay bishop Gene Robinson in America and the blessing of same sex unions in Canada.

African and Asian leaders have started a campaign to restore order and to discipline an American Church which, they say, has departed from the Bible and Anglican tradition.

Would you back African bishops if they walk out of the meeting? Would you even ask the bishops to leave and create their own Church? Is the unity of the church not more important than disagreements over homosexuality? Shouldn’t the Anglican church modernise and accept that society is changing?

Let us know your views. . . . A selection of your comments will be broadcast on the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme on Saturday 26 February at 1700GMT.

Note the assumption: A stand to defend the ancient doctrines claimed by the overwhelming majority of Anglicans worldwide may split the church, not the innovations approved by the relatively small churches in North America. Why not stay neutral and say that the sexuality conflict might divide the Communion?

UPDATE: On the Google watch, there are two or three reports online with new information. One interesting detail: Williams made a strong appeal for unity, in an Evensong service that did not, of course, include Communion. There is quite a bit of new information in this fresh Church of England Newspaper report. Here is the money quote, from the leader of the American church:

Bishop Griswold entered the Primates’ meeting in a defiant mood, delivering a thinly veiled defence of his decision to consecrate Canon Gene Robinson in a sermon in Belfast Cathedral. He used coded theological language to compare the American Church’s action to the ‘White Martyrs’.

“We find ourselves overtaken by a compassion, which because it is of the Spirit and not the result of our effort or imagination, knows no bounds and can enfold all persons and all things. It is a compassion, which in the words of St Isaac of Syria, embraces not only humankind but the birds and the beasts, the enemies of truth, those who wish to do us harm and ‘even the reptiles’, which may be seen as representing those slithery aspects of our own humanity which we are loath to admit to the company of our ‘better’ selves and therefore often displace on to others as evil.”

I wonder if the “reptile” quote will be unpacked in the MSM.

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Rowan Williams, grim reaper?

williams portrait.jpg“Church ends taboo on mercy killings,” crowed the headline on Sunday’s Observer, and the story that followed, by social affairs editor Jamie Doward, carried on in the same excited manner:

Canon Professor Robin Gill, a chief adviser to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said people should not be prosecuted for helping dying relatives who are in pain end their lives. Last week Gill was sent by Williams to give evidence to a parliamentary committee investigating euthanasia.

Gill’s stance marks a major shift by the Church of England and was welcomed by groups campaigning for a change in the law to allow for people to be helped to die under strictly limited circumstances.

‘There is a very strong compassionate case for voluntary euthanasia,’ Gill told The Observer. ‘In certain cases, such as that which involved Diane Pretty [the woman who was terminally ill with motor neurone disease and who campaigned for the right to be helped to die], there is an overwhelming case for it.’

His claims were last night seized on by pro-euthanasia groups as evidence that the archbishop is prepared to engage in a debate on an issue that has long divided the clergy.

Though Doward quoted Gill as claiming “the majority of churchgoers” would like to see the euthanasia law amended, while their bishops would not, there is no other hint at what the Archbishop of Canterbury has already said on the matter.

UPI took the trouble to ring up a Church of England spokesman for comment:

Arun Kataria, a spokesman for the Anglican Church, said Gill’s personal opinions did not signal a change in the church’s policy.

“We firmly oppose the legalization of euthanasia,” he said.

The Telegraph, which recently took flak for its headline suggesting that Williams doubted God’s existence because of the year-end tsunami, also dug deeper than the Observer:

A spokesman for the Church of England last night distanced it from Prof Gill’s views. They did not reflect those of anyone else in the church, he said.

“The Church of England made a joint submission with the Roman Catholic bishops on the Assisted Dying Bill, opposing the legalisation of euthanasia,” he said.

In a document he released in September with Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, Williams was clear:

It is deeply misguided to propose a law by which it would be legal for terminally ill people to be killed or assisted in suicide by those caring for them, even if there are safeguards to ensure it is only the terminally ill who would qualify. To take this step would fundamentally undermine the basis of law and medicine and undermine the duty of the state to care for vulnerable people. It would risk a gradual erosion of values in which over time the cold calculation of costs of caring properly for the ill and the old would loom large. As a result many who are ill or dying would feel a burden to others. The right to die would become the duty to die.

The Bill is unnecessary. When death is imminent or inevitable there is at present no legal or moral obligation to give medical treatment that is futile or burdensome. It is both moral and legal now for necessary pain relief to be given even if it is likely that death will be hastened as a result. But that is not murder or assisted suicide. What terminally ill people need is to be cared for, not to be killed. They need excellent palliative care including proper and effective regimes for pain relief. They need to be treated with the compassion and respect that this bill would put gravely at risk.

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