JBap Blog

16. Sep, 2018

CULTURE OF LIFE ‘Love does not come at the price of another person or their dignity’

By Michael Britton

The last 50 years has seen a seismic bouleversement, or reversal, against the traditional norms and values that have upheld Judeo-Christian culture for well over a millennia or more.

This appears to be particularly prevalent in the Western sphere where economic progress, social liberalism, relativism and a desire to be comfortable have seemingly become more important than the value of a human person.

The 18th century might seem like ancient history to most, but Western society is still reaping what it sowed in the Romantic philosophies that provided a redundancy package for God and a sizeable promotion for humanity.

For example, “humanity” was, according to philosopher Jean Jaques Rousseau, essentially “good” but for the chains that hindered them. According to the prevailing belief of the era, humanity had a value that was founded upon itself. This is a train of thought still present today.

It could be considered a fait accompli that two very different philosophical answers to the dignity of humanity were to arise from such an experience; and that these remain today. One answer was that humanity needed to collectively rise up against those in power to bring about structural change. The other was that, in the face of such adversity, individualism and self-determination could provide humanity with the dignity and reverence that it was lacking.

Yet, having found little reward in many of the revolutions subsequent to these philosophies, many modern Existentialists and Nihilists concluded that life is “nausea”. Everything means nothing, life has no purpose or underlying dignity and is, simply, of very little value. Either way, the Church has always maintained that a culture of life could hardly be founded in a philosophy of resentment, envy or selfishness.

Today, this milieu of ideas, or philosophical soup are best reflected in what has been handed down through the post-war experiences of the second half of the 20th century. Undoubtedly, these philosophies and experiences have had a direct impact on what society thinks about the value of life today.

Around 50 years ago, the post-war generation wholly embraced the Summer of Love, Woodstock and many threads of the 18th century philosophy regarding self- determination and fulfillment. It would seem like a logical answer to the death of many people during both the “great” wars; spurred on by imperial (structural) alliances and ideological (doctrinal) foundations.

Unsurprisingly, the movements of the 1960s proclaimed the rejection of both structural authority and doctrinal truths. Many youths, born of post-war parents, embraced their own personal philosophies, determined by themselves rather than authoritative figures. Often under the influence.

Protests raged against the ideological battle being waged by the USSR and the United States in Vietnam while “free love” without consequences was high on the menu.

Notwithstanding the irony of an individualistic and anti-authoritarian philosophy being unquestionably followed by a sizeable mass of youth, it is entirely arguable that the Church foresaw these events as somewhat of a low point in the value and dignity of human life. For example, many millions of lives have been lost because of the “free love” movement and its ramifications. The alarming, yet opaque, statistics in Australia show that a child is more likely to die from an abortion than any one of the major diseases combined.

In a somewhat prophetical book, Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow and later Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla published his book Love and Responsibility in 1960, which focused on the supremacy of taking responsibility for one’s actions in a loving relationship.

He argued that a person was completely free to love but, with love, came responsibility such as children and a deep commitment to care. Love did not come at the price of another person or their dignity.

It was unheard of for a bishop to write a publication focusing on issues ranging from the sexual urge, marriage and sexology. Yet Wojtyla was unequivocally clear in expressing the total dedication, devotion and selflessness one places at the central of a Christian union.

His image of God, manifested in Christ’s love for humanity on the cross, was central to any relationship.

His writing cemented a modern application of the divinity and dignity of human life inside loving relationships for the modern era. All life had a value and a potency, an echo repeated in 1995 at the World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado when he called for an answer to the “culture of death” pervading society.

With specific reference to contentious issues such as abortion and euthanasia, he stated: “The so-called ‘quality of life’ is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency, inordinate consumerism, physical beauty and pleasure, to the neglect of the more profound dimensions-interpersonal, spiritual and religious-of existence”.

It’s an interesting argument that reveals a confused and material global anthropology. Over the past 200 years, academics and philosophers have taught society to revolt against becoming enslaved as economic units.

Yet, today’s “culture of death” demands that if you cannot be an economic unit (contributor) or consumer, you are not considered to possess a quality of life. In other words, you cannot be a burden; with the most vulnerable at the greatest risk.

These so-called liberating, yet contradictory, philosophies will return again as they have done so in the past; possibly with even more deaths and greater callousness for personal dignity in the future.

The Church’s teaching on the dignity of life proposes a more profound and radical answer in the Catholic Catechism: “Respect for human persons entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognised by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority; by flouting them, or refusing to recognise them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy”.

A legitimacy already under question.

16. Sep, 2018

Reaffirming that we are created in the image of God, the sustainer of life

By Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB

There is an original dignity of every man and woman that cannot be suppressed, that cannot be touched by any power or ideology. Unfortunately, in our epoch, so rich in many accomplishments and hopes, there is no lack of powers and forces that end up producing a throwaway culture and this threatens to become the dominant mentality.

The victims of such a culture are precisely the weakest and most fragile human beings – the unborn, the poorest people, sick elderly people, gravely disabled people… who are in danger of being “thrown out”, expelled from a machine that must be efficient at all costs.

This false model of man and society embodies a practical atheism, de facto negating the Word of God that says: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness” (cf. Genesis 1:26).

In these remarks, made by Pope Francis to a delegation from the Dignitatis Humanae Institute in 2013, the Holy Father shines a light on what might well be called the fundamental moral and social issue of our time. It is the prevalence of a “practical atheism” which denies the most basic truth about human beings: that we are created in the image of God.

It is from this foundational principle that all Catholic moral/social teaching flows. The vocation of every human person, both individually and in communities, is to be the living image of God, the creator and sustainer of life. Every decision we take will either be in harmony with or in contradiction of this basic principle.

Pope Francis, in the address referred to above, speaks of it as our “compass”. If we follow it we will be heading in the right direction, the direction ultimately indicated to us by Jesus who on one occasion said: “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10) and who on another occasion stated quite plainly, “I am the Life” (cf John 14:6)

If instead we are guided by a different “compass”, a different world view, which in practice ignores or sidelines the Word of God, found for us as Catholics in the Scriptures as they are lived and preached in the Church, then we will, perhaps slowly but certainly inevitably, compromise our commitment to the culture of life.

We will begin to find expedient reasons for denying the right of this particular unborn child to life, or that particular elderly person to quality palliative care, or a certain class of refugees to asylum, or a certain group of people with a disability to appropriate assistance and support.

Pope Francis insists that “if we let ourselves be interrogated by this Word of God, if we let it question our personal and social conscience, if we let it shake up our discussions, our ways of thinking and acting, the criteria, the priorities and choices, then things can change”.

Saint Paul makes the same point in an even more forceful way when, in his Letter to the Romans, he instructs his listeners to “adapt yourselves no longer to the patterns of this present world but let your minds be remade and your whole nature thus transformed. Then you will be able to discern the will of God and know what is good, acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2).

As Christians we are called to embrace the world in which we live, recognising it as a precious gift from God but one which has been badly disfigured by sin. We embrace this world with gratitude and love knowing that we are called to transform it with love.

This is equally true of our own individual, family and community lives: these are precious gifts from God but also badly disfigured by sin. It is the love of God, reshaping our minds and hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit, which will enable the beauty of God’s gifts to us to shine brightly.

If we are to have in us “the same mind that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), if we are to truly be living images of the God of life and love, if we are to be apostles of the Culture of Life, then we must find the courage to allow the compass of Gods’ word, shared with us in the teachings and tradition of the Church, to be our guide. Then, as Pope Francis says, “things can change”.

10. Sep, 2018

Liturgical Launch of Parish Renewal

Liturgical Launch of Parish Renewal


By the Most Rev Don Sproxton
Auxiliary Bishop of Perth

St Mary’s Cathedral, Perth
Tuesday 31 July, 2018

Download the full text in PDF

Jesus IS among us.

In the Goldfields, the Wheatbelt, throughout our country parishes.

Jesus is among us in the city, from Clarkson and Yanchep to Baldivis and Port Kennedy.

Jesus is among us here tonight.

“The Good shepherd walks with us and we together walk in his footsteps.”

As Archbishop Costelloe has reminded us, these words not only introduce us to the Archdiocesan Plan they in fact sum up all that we aspire to be and to do. We have an innovative initiative for parish renewal that gives us direction, that is flexible and that works.

The direction it gives us is a vision of collaboration as an Archdiocese that promises options in parish ministry that we have not seen before.

It is flexible in that, yes, we all are moving towards being a fully collaborative diocese. However individual parishes and agencies rightly demand that the principal of subsidiarity be respected.

It is an initiative that works. We have two groups or hubs of parishes, one south of the river and one hub north, both for some time now have been seeing for themselves the benefits of collaboration.

But above all it is an initiative, as Archbishop Costelloe has emphasised, that is centred in prayer, centred in the person of Jesus, under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

It takes seriously our Archbishop’s call to “Return the Church to Christ and return Christ to the Church.” In other words, Christ is to be at the heart of everything we say, everything we do and everything we are.

We come together as an Archdiocese first and foremost to discover what is it that God wants us to do. We collaborate firstly to discern.

In saying this, I am very mindful that there has been and continues to be various other initiatives to revitalise and strengthen parish life. I am also very conscious of the enormous work of our Religious Brothers and Sisters, of various organisations and of wonderful individual lay persons.

It so true that we often reap the hard work of others.

This evening however, as our Archbishop has announced, the Constitution that we are launching and the supporting resources are part of a new Archdiocesan initiative. It has a vision for parish renewal that sees the parish in the context of the whole Archdiocese. An Archdiocese that is collaborative.

As you will read in the preamble of the new Constitution for Parish Pastoral Councils, each parish is a legal entity, in Canon Law it is a juridical person, it has a certain independence. At the same time however it is it part of a diocese.

It is like a branch of the one vine and it is important to remember that each parish has a neighbouring parish. We are called to be true neighbours to each other, helpful and supportive neighbours.

This new initiative takes seriously that in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, we indeed do walk together as an Archdiocese. Parishes and agencies working together.

This initiative recognises that the archdiocese is a territory made up of parishes and the Archdiocesan agencies a visible sign of the heartfelt pastoral care of our Archbishop. As Archbishop Costelloe said, they are one of the key and crucial ways that he reaches out to parishes as our Chief Pastor.

This new initiative calls us to come together as an Archdiocese and to work out what is it that God wants us to do. What specific ways is God asking us to participate in and continue the life and ministry of Jesus, who walks amongst us.

I mentioned earlier that two groups or hubs of parishes are already putting this initiative into practice and it is bearing wonderful fruit.

The parishes of Highgate, Joondanna and Mt Lawley form one hub and the clergy with some of their key laity meet regularly.

One of their Faith Formation initiatives close to Advent, is a series of nine sessions on the Eucharist. They have put together a sub-committee that will work on behalf of all three parishes and which will include the participation of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. 

We also have another hub, the parishes of Baldivis, Kwinana, Port Kennedy and Rockingham. They too have been putting this initiative of collaboration into practice. They are now going to share with us one of their new initiatives with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. It is wonderful story of collaboration between the four parishes together with two Archdiocesan agencies and the local catholic secondary school.

This is our new vision for parish renewal in action. Working in collaboration with one another and calling on the Holy Spirit to guide us to discern God’s plans for our Archdiocese. This mindset/perspective is a first for our Archdiocese.

As I mentioned earlier we do recognise all the work that is already being in the Archdiocese. This vision of collaboration is a call to work differently rather than simply working more. However, we are mindful that we do need to encourage more parishioners to engage in the life of their parish.

To this end my Parish Renewal Implementation Group has other initiatives in mind that take up the challenge of Pope Francis, namely that every person, to their own capacity, is called to be a missionary disciple.

One of the main support resources to the new Constitution is an extensive handbook that will be located on a dedicated website for parish renewal. In a moment, Carmel Suart, a member of my Parish that Renewal Implementation Group and the writer of this e-handbook will explore with us some of its features.

In conclusion, we know the harvest is indeed rich so let us now pray to the Lord of the Harvest. For we need to be thoroughly conscious that if we are to do what God wants us to be doing, we need to truly contemplate His face. We need have the mind and heart of Christ, in order to be his hands.


Link to Archdiocesan plan http://qa01.oneit.com.au:11080/cap/Our_Archdiocese-Archdiocesan_Plan_2016__2021.htm

1. Sep, 2018

31 August 2018

Message from Most Rev Timothy Costelloe SOB

Archbishop of Perth

ACBC/CRA response to the Royal Commission

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am writing to you once again to share my thoughts with you as we all continue to grapple with the overwhelming tragedy of the sexual abuse of children and young people in our Catholic communities and institutions. In doing so I am deeply conscious that many bishops, including myself, have said many things about this terrible reality. However as I begin this letter I want once again to express my Own deep shame and sorrow that so many people's lives have been so badly damaged by these terrible crimes. On behalf Of the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Perth I Offer to all those victims and survivors of sexual abuse in the Church, and to their families and friends, my sincere and heartfelt apology. I understand that these things have been said before, and that words alone can never be enough. I continue to be determined to ensure, with the help of so many people around me, that these words will be backed up by practical action. It is this determination which lies at the heart of my desire to share this letter with you.

Some weeks ago I celebrated a special Mass in the Cathedral for representatives from our archdiocesan agencies. This is an annual event in which we acknowledge, celebrate and most importantly pray for all those who work in so many different areas of the extensive outreach of our archdiocese to the society in which we live. While preparing my homily it became very clear to me that I needed once again to address with these key leaders in the archdiocese the shameful history of the Church in relation to the sexual abuse of children and young people. In the course of this homily I invited everyone present to reflect on the following:

The Royal Commission has posed some difficult and uncomfortable questions for us as a Church. For me they all converge into one deeply disturbing set of questions: how could this possibly have happened? How did we manage to veer away so disastrously from those things which are at the heart of our faith? How is it possible that people who publically professed their commitment to Christ, and dared to preach him to others, could so blatantly betray him, or so comprehensively turn their backs on him?

With the recent publication Of the formal response Of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and in view of the proposed national apology from the Prime Minister to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, it is absolutely necessary that we as a Church continue to confront and be challenged by these questions. In this pastoral letter, which I offer to you not solely as a letter but as an invitation to prayer and meditation, I hope that you will find some help as you struggle to understand the tragedy which has engulfed the lives of so many. I would invite you to read it in conjunction with the statement from the Presidents of the ACBC and CRA which accompanies the release of the Church's formal response. It is made on behalf of all the bishops and religious including myself.

The Royal Commission itself, over long years Of intensive investigation culminating in its final report and extensive recommendations, has been and will continue to be an invaluable tool in assisting us to grapple with the causes of this terrible tragedy. We must never allow ourselves to become complacent and think of this only as a dark past which, with the conclusion of the Royal Commission, is now behind us: it is also our present and an urgent demand on our future. Many survivors of sexual abuse, and their families, continue to suffer the consequences Of the crimes that were committed against them. We must as a Church, as a community of disciples of Jesus Christ, do everything we possibly can to help people move into a better future. That we failed to do this in the past only makes it more urgent that we do so now and in the years ahead.

At the same time we must continue to explore every possibility open to us to ensure that our Catholic communities, be they parishes, schools, hospitals, social welfare agencies or anything else, are places of absolute safety for our children, our young people, and indeed for everyone who comes in contact with the Church in any way. Our Archdiocesan Safeguarding Project is a cornerstone of our efforts and a symbol of our determination to make the present and the future so radically different from and better than the past. In this regard I would like to highlight two principles which are often stressed by Ms Andrea Musulin, the Director of our Safeguarding Project. Firstly Andrea reminds us that pedophiles will gravitate to those places where the children and young people are. We want to be communities of faith where our children and young people can experience the beauty, the richness and the promise of life lived with a consciousness Of God's presence and God's love. Because this is our desire and our mission we have an absolute duty to do all we can to ensure that this is exactly what people do experience in our communities. Tragically, and shamefully, this was not always the case in the past. It is because of this that another of Andrea's principles is so important. We can never afford to 'take off our safeguarding hat". This is true of every member of our Catholic community: our laity, our religious, our deacons, our priests and our bishops. We are all, together, the People of God. We must carry in our minds and in our hearts a constant awareness that vigilance can never be relaxed and complacency can never be allowed to grow.

In this regard I am enormously grateful to the generous and committed parishioners who have stepped forward to be the Safeguarding Officers in their local parish communities. Their physical and visible presence is a constant reminder of the central importance of protecting children in our communities. They are also a warning to those with evil intent that Catholic communities are now the most dangerous places for them to attempt to corrupt and harm the young. Our eyes are now open and our determination to root out this evil from our midst is uncompromising. We are now, in ways that we were not in the past, listening to and acting on the words of Jesus: Anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith in me would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a great millstone round his neck" (Matthew 18:6).

In the formal response of the ACBC and CRA to the recommendations of the Royal Commission we have either accepted, accepted in principle, or supported all but one of the 82 recommendations which relate directly or indirectly to the Catholic Church. While the one recommendation we were unable to accept — that which relates to the confidentiality of the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) — will be the focus of much discussion and criticism, this should not obscure the reality that the leadership of the Church has committed to acting upon all the other recommendations. A number of them have been referred to the Holy See as they concern matters over which the Australian bishops have no jurisdiction (changes to the universal Canon Law of the Church for example cannot be made by the bishops of Australia) but the majority of recommendations made by the Royal Commission have already been, or are in the process of being, or will be as a matter of urgency, implemented by the Church in Australia. In order to ensure that this happens the ACBC and CRA have jointly established both Catholic Professional Standards Limited and the Implementation Advisory Group. The former body, which is functionally independent of the Bishops and the Religious Leaders, will establish and monitor compliance with nationally applicable and compulsory standards for all institutions which seek to be, and are approved by the Church's leaders as, Catholic institutions. The latter body, comprising primarily lay people, will advise the Church's leadership on practical steps which need to be taken to ensure that the recommendations of the Royal Commission are in fact being implemented in practical and effective ways.

For myself as the Archbishop of Perth I want to repeat what I said in recent comments made available, at their request, to one of the local media outlets here in Perth:

While the Catholic Church cannot change its teachings on the sanctity of the Confessional, including the absolute inviolability of the "sacramental seal", here in Western Australia, as throughout our country, the Church will continue to take every step available to it to ensure the safety and well-being, physical, psychological and spiritual, of every child and young person who takes part in the life of our communities.

In my homily to Church Agencies, to which I referred at the beginning Of this letter, I shared own conviction about the challenge we are facing. I want to share that now with you.

In asking these questions I am not for a moment suggesting that all the particular issues raised by the Royal Commission do not need to be carefully considered. Of course they must be. What / do believe, however, is that the terrible story of sexual abuse in our Church indicates a deep malaise within our Church, just as I believe that the widespread prevalence of sexual abuse throughout so many institutions in our society, including the most important institution of all, the family, points to a malign cancer at the heart of our society which should alarm us all.

All Catholics . are being called at this particular time to have the courage to recognize how hopelessly inadequate, to borrow some words from St John Paul Il, our witness to the gospel has been. For Pope John Paul, the explanation for this hopeless inadequacy was quite simple: we have failed to contemplate the face of Christ. We have failed to realize that unless the Church, deliberately and consciously and intentionally, refers everything it seeks to do and be to him, we will never even come close to being the Church, the community of disciples, Christ is calling us to be. If we try to build the house, which is God's Church, on shifting sands, rather than on the solid rock of Christ who is the only foundation for the Church, then the fabric of the Church will continue to unravel, to the shame and dismay of us all.

These reflections arise from my own grappling with the question: how could this possibly have happened? We must, and we will, give careful consideration to all that the Royal Commission has revealed. We must, and we will, look at our structures and, where we can, reform and even abandon and replace them if they are contributors to the horror of sexual abuse. We must, and we will, face the hard questions about the dangers of an unhealthy culture of clericalism, about the lack of episcopal accountability, about the ways in which our approach to the theory and practice Of celibacy may have contributed to this disaster, about the undervaluing of the role of lay people, and within that the role of women, in the life of the Church, and about so many other matters which have surfaced through the years of the Royal Commission's work. As Pope Francis said in his recent letter to the People of God "it is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable". The Royal Commission's exhaustive work will help us to do just that.

We must also, I firmly believe, recognize that focusing on the issues identified by the Royal Commission alone, vitally important though it is to do so, will not lead to the renewal of the Church which the present moment calls for. We must have the courage to acknowledge that, for a long time, the Church in Australia (and of course not only here but in other places as well) has been going through a deep spiritual crisis which ultimately points to a "de-throning" of Christ from his rightful place in the Church. Our rhetoric may have been unimpeachable but our practice has sometimes been anything but. It is time for us, as a community of faith, to recall the words of Jesus:

It is not those who say to me, "Lord, Lord", who will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible person who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house and it did not

fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid person who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house and it fell; and what a fall it had!" (Matthew 7:21).

The time has come for us all first of all to listen, deeply and attentively and constantly, to the words of Christ, as they come to us in the scriptures, the Book of the Church, and then, having listened, to faithfully and courageously act on what we have heard. The time has come for us all to decide whether or not we will accept that the way we must follow is Christ's way: that the truth to which we must commit ourselves is Christ's truth; and that the life we must strive to live is our life in Christ. Those who have abused children and young people, and those who have protected the abusers, even if in doing so their intention was to preserve the reputation of the Church, were not walking in the Lord's way, were not following the path of the Lord's truth, and were not living according to the model of Christ's life.

Saint Francis of Assisi, whose name the present pope bears, once heard a voice while praying before a crucifix in an abandoned and derelict church: Go and repair my Church for it is falling into ruins. Perhaps we are facing a similar invitation today. Saint Francis responded by stripping himself of all but the essentials, and by gathering around him a community of people who, in different ways, sought to live in fidelity to the gospel. In many ways it was a simple as that. The abuse Of children and young people represents an appalling case of infidelity to the gospel. The failure of bishops and other Church leaders to respond with courage and determination has been an equally appalling case of infidelity. Only by a renewed and uncompromising determination to live as faithful disciples of Jesus within the community of his Church can we hope to prevent further abuse of children, young people and vulnerable adults. This is not a task which falls only to the bishops, the clergy, the religious or those who work in ministry within our communities: it is a task which we all share together. We need to discover again the call of the gospel. We need to recommit ourselves again to a faithful following of Jesus. We need, in the vivid image of Pope Francis, to become a community where people's wounds can be healed and people's hearts can be warmed — and therefore we need to learn how to be healers rather than hurters, people who know how to warm the hearts of others rather than making their hearts grow cold. Only in this way can we become a people who are walking together in the footsteps Of the Good Shepherd.

This is the fundamental challenge which now faces us as we seek to implement all those recommendations from the Royal Commission to which we have committed ourselves. We are, to paraphrase some words from Saint Paul, a people who hold a great treasure in the earthen vessels of our frail humanity (cf 2 Cor 4:7). It would be dangerous to continue along the path of renewal if we rely only on our own efforts. We must place Christ and his grace, given to us in and through our life in the Church, at the centre of everything. Only Christ can renew his Church — but he seeks to do so in and through us. And so we pray, in the words of one of the Church's Lenten hymns:

What we have darkened heal with light,

And what we have destroyed make whole.

Yours sincerely in Christ

Most Rev Timothy Costelloe SDB DD

Archbishop of Perth

28. Aug, 2018


24 August 2018

Message from
Most Rev Timothy Costelloe SDB Archbishop of Perth

Download the full text in PDF

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I write to you today on a matter of extreme importance to all West Australians.

In State Parliament this week a Committee of Inquiry presented its report on end-of-life care in Western Australia.  Over 700 submissions were received, including my own on behalf of the Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Perth. Less than 36 per cent of submissions favoured the introduction of some form of doctor-assisted suicide or euthanasia, but the Committee chose to recommend that laws to permit what it calls ‘voluntary assisted dying’ should be introduced in this State.

Doctor-assisted suicide involves authorising a medical professional to supply help so that a person can end their own life.  In euthanasia, the doctor uses medical means to end the person’s life directly.  Both of these represent a radical breach in the universal prohibition on one person killing another, which is a foundation of every civilized society. 

We must be very clear that doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia are never acceptable in a truly compassionate society.  Compassion is the ability of one person to accompany another caringly through their journey of pain and suffering.  Compassion challenges us to become more humane and caring people.  Doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia represent a surrender to despair. 

In contrast to these death-dealing measures we value the ‘message of eternal life’ that Jesus brings.  Jesus’ mission as the Good Shepherd, the one who comes ‘that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (Jn 10:10), was to offer deep personal compassion that touched and healed every aspect of life for people who had known only diminishment by illness, fear, or social marginalisation.

As Jesus’ followers, our Catholic community shares his mission in our own time and place.  We are justifiably proud and grateful for the generous and compassionate care provided through our extensive network of hospitals, aged care facilities, and disability and social services.  

We do not keep people alive at all costs, however neither do we intentionally kill.  To those whose lives are diminished by chronic pain and suffering we offer the best comfort care and pain control available, always in the context of excellent pastoral, social and spiritual support.  Because it focuses on the needs of the whole person, this care brings profound comfort and peace not only to the patient or resident, but also to their family and friends.

The laws proposed in WA present a serious challenge to human dignity in this State.

I call on every Catholic to do whatever we can to extend compassionate life-affirming care for the elderly, the sick and the dying, so that no-one ever feels alone or abandoned. 

And I call on all Members of Parliament to stand up for the human dignity of our most vulnerable citizens by devoting greater resources to specialist palliative and comfort care, and by refusing to legalise doctor-assisted suicide or euthanasia.


Yours sincerely in Christ

+ Archbishop Tim Costelloe SDB DD
Archbishop of Perth