Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Irish primate castigates Lord Carey’s “perplexing” support for suicide

The Primate of All-Ireland has criticized Lord Carey’s about face in support of euthanasia, saying the former Archbishop of Canterbury’s support for a bill proposed by Lord Falconer before Parliament that would permit assisted suicide was as “perplexing” as it was ill-informed.

In an essay published on 8 August 2014 in The News Letter, the Most Rev. Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh wrote: “One of the most perplexing aspects of the intervention of a former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, into the debate in England on the side of assisted dying was that a fundamental Christian tenet – that our life on earth is not our property to do with as we choose – appeared to have eluded him entirely.”

“Much therefore depends on how we understand the significance of earthly life.”

“If life is simply a personal commodity…then life is disposable, entirely at the will of the individual ‘possessor’. This is clearly not the Christian perspective and, even for the non-believer, it is not an automatic understanding of the significance of life.”

In an essay published last month in the Daily Mail, Lord Carey said he would back Lord Falconer’s bill to allow mentally-capable adults with less than six months to live to receive help to kill themselves. “The fact is I have changed my mind. The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering,” he said.

Laws forbidding assisted suicide undermined “the principle of human concern which should lie at the heart of our society,” Lord Carey said.

However Archbishop Clarke, whose wife died of cancer five years ago, criticized Lord Carey’s remarks as theologically incoherent. “We need also to understand an important moral distinction between pointless and painful medical intervention on those who are undeniably reaching the end of their lives, and active clinical assistance to end life”, he said.

“Being helpless and utterly dependent on others at the close of an earthly life is a sad burden for all involved,” Archbishop Clarke wrote. “I do however believe that if we can bring ourselves to believe that all life is a gift of God, then the end of an earthly life can truly be more about helping others to live than helping them to die.”

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