The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, has said he is ‘deeply disappointed and gravely concerned’ at Wednesday night’s (7 October) failure by TDs to reject the ‘Dying with Dignity Bill’.
Speaking after the vote, Dr Bruce said, “This debate addresses matters of the deepest sensitivity. In seeking to bring support and comfort to those in significant distress, often towards the end of life, our ministers and chaplains are motivated by love and care, and always seek to affirm a person’s essential dignity.
“Two years ago members of our General Assembly, attending from across Ireland, discussed this matter and voted to oppose any legislation which allowed for assisted suicide, or euthanasia in these islands. At the same time, we strongly commended palliative care and called on the governments in both jurisdictions to ensure adequate resourcing of research and delivery in this important area. We make that call again today, agreeing with the HSE that the purpose of excellent palliative care is to ‘enhance quality of life’”.
The Moderator continued by saying, “We are deeply disappointed and gravely concerned by last night’s vote. This Bill of course raises fundamental questions about the value that is placed on human life in Ireland, something that we firmly believe to be a gift from God. At the same time, we welcome the acknowledgement by the government, in its failed amendment to the Bill, that there is no human right to access assisted suicide.”
Prior to last week’s debate on the Bill, the Moderator and one of his predecessors, Very Rev Dr Trevor Morrow, minister emeritus of Lucan Presbyterian Church and convener of the PCI panel that advises the Church on social, political and economic matters in the State, wrote to TDs encouraging them to ‘commit to enhancing the quality of life for all Irish citizens, particularly those with terminal or life-limiting conditions, rather than ending it.’
The Moderator concluded by saying, “In due course, we hope that we will have an opportunity to express our significant anxieties about this legislation directly to TDs and Senators as it progresses through the Oireachtas. We look forward to contributing to the national debate from the perspective of a pastor’s care, and affirming that assisted suicide is not an expression of compassion for those already suffering.”
A joint statement to the members of the Church of Ireland
In the context of the consideration of legislation regarding end–of–life issues by Dáil Éireann, the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd John McDowell, and the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, have issued the following statement to the members of the Church of Ireland:
‘We affirm the sacredness of human life, in its totality from beginning to end, as a gift given by God, and that each and every human life is intrinsically valuable in all its phases. It should also be recognised that very difficult situations and emotions can arise from the management of care towards the end of a life and the discussion of personal circumstances always requires the utmost sensitivity. Such sensitivity should also be borne in mind in the public debate around these issues.’
Statement issued by Church of Ireland, 8 Oct 2020 at 16:45
Presbyterian Church in Ireland
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has just over 210,000 members belonging to 534 congregations across 19 regional presbyteries throughout Ireland.
The Presbyterian form of Christian faith is best described as ‘Reformed’ with its strong emphasis on the Sovereignty of God, the Kingship of Christ and the authority of the Bible. It is the largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland.
Irish Presbyterianism had its origins in Scottish migrations to Ulster in the early 17th Century. Ballycarry Presbyterian Church in County Antrim is the oldest congregation dating back to 1613. The newest, Donabate Presbyterian Church in County Dublin, opened its doors in 2010. In 1840 two Presbyterian Churches, the General Synod of Ulster and the Secession Synod formed the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, with Rev Dr Samuel Hanna elected as the first Moderator of the new church.