By Lisa Zengarini
Ahead of the Second Reading debate in the House of Lords of the “Assisted Suicide Bill 2021”, the Bishops of England and Wales are inviting Catholics to pray a novena seeking the intercession of Saint John Paul II to help defeat the proposed law.
If approved, it would legalise assisted dying as a choice for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in their final six months of life. Two independent doctors and a High Court judge would have to assess each request which, if granted, would enable a patient to die in a manner and at a time and place of his/her choosing.
The bill, modeled on similar legislation in Oregon and in other US States, was introduced into the House of Lords in May this year by Baroness Molly Christine Meacher. It follows a previous bill presented in 2014 which was not able to progress further due to the 2015 UK General Election.
Bishops have repeatedly expressed their strong opposition to the new legislation, remarking that it expresses a “false compassion” and that “true compassion finds expression “in treating the dying person with love, with dignity and by making use of appropriate palliative care”. They have also noted that the bill would fundamentally modify the relationship between the doctor and the patient, “as it would change it from treatment and care to assisting another’s death”. Over the past months bishops have therefore invited Catholics to petition against “Assisted Suicide Bill 2021”.
Need for palliative care
In the lead-up to the Second Reading, they are now encouraging the faithful to pray for nine days, starting from October 14, with daily intentions “to uphold the infinite worth of each human person through proper investment in palliative care”.
Asking the intercession of Saint John Paul II
“Jesus told his disciples to pray at all times and not lose heart”, Bishop John Sherrington, head of the CBCEW Department for Life Issues, said. Noting that “providentially” the discussion in the House of Lords falls on the feast of Saint John Paul II, the prelate asked Catholics to seek his intercession during the nine days: “The novena, asking the intercession of Pope Saint John Paul II, who spoke courageously about the infinite worth of each human person and witnessed to the cross in his final illness, calls upon Catholics and all who share our view that assisted suicide is wrong, to pray with perseverance that this Bill will be defeated”, he said.