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Joseph Parkinson (The Southern Cross)

The moral dilemma “forced upon” clergy and pastoral carers by the commencement of the Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) Act in South Australia has been highlighted by bioethicist Fr Joseph Parkinson. Source: The Southern Cross.

In two presentations to priests and chaplains in the Adelaide Archdiocese, Fr Parkinson said some Catholics experienced a tension between following Church teaching on the sacredness of life and providing pastoral care to someone who might be contemplating VAD and who is “still a brother and sister in Christ”.

He stressed that, in the words of Pope Francis, “euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person”.

But the West Australian priest also pointed to the importance of pastoral care which begins in “accompaniment and listening to the person, their subjective experience, their hopes and their fears”.

Fr Parkinson was part of a working group that produced a draft document on Christian accompaniment of people considering assisted suicide in response to the increasingly complex pastoral environment following the passage of euthanasia and assisted dying laws in all Australian states. The bishops are considering the document, which is yet to be distributed.

It covers issues such as sacraments, prayers for the dying and Christian burials in relation to VAD.

Fr Parkinson said his experience with four cases in Western Australia, where the scheme was implemented two years ago, has led him to understand that people don’t always see euthanasia as a rejection of Catholic teaching, or as a rejection of God.

Rather, he said they were often motivated by fear which was “non-rational so cannot be resolved by logic or by “catechesis”.

“Sometimes the grace of the sacraments can help the person work through their fears,” Fr Parkinson said.


Clergy reflect on pastoral reality of VAD (By Jenny Brinkworth, The Southern Cross)