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Coffee House

By supporting assisted dying, Lord Carey has united Christians against it

12 July 2014

4:30 PM

12 July 2014

4:30 PM

He didn’t mean to, but Lord Carey, the outspoken and unpopular former Archbishop of Canterbury, may just have carried out a minor miracle. By coming out in the Daily Mail in favour of assisted suicide, he has succeeded in bringing together Christians of all denominations and political persuasions to oppose him. Trendy evangelicals, Catholics, Anglo-Catholics, and the Orthodox may have profound differences, but one thing they know is that disagree with Lord Carey, especially when he makes out that the truly Christian position is to support this first step towards legal euthanasia in Britain, which will be debated in the House of Lords this week.

Carey is not exactly well loved among Anglicans — his (actually rather courageous) defiance of David Cameron’s same-sex marriage act and his somewhat right-wing column for the now extinct News of the World upset genteel progressive vicars everywhere. Yet some conservatives admired him for his willingness to speak his mind and stand up for ordinary believers.

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Not anymore. Carey’s argument that it is ‘the very opposite of Christian’ to stand in the way of legalised killing seems to have angered a great many Christians. This is not a matter of liberal or conservative theology. Assisted dying is as anathema to Guardianista clerics like Giles Fraser as it is to RC traditionalists. (Rev Fraser tweeted: ‘Just read Carey Mail piece. I think I might have to exercise the right to die myself.’)

Archbishop Justin Welby, in contrast, has enjoyed widespread support for his eloquent piece in the Times this morning, in which he takes the opposite view to Carey. Welby states that a proper Christian understanding of compassion ought to discourage moral people from embracing the assisted dying bill. ‘It would be very naive,’ he writes, ‘to think that many of the elderly people who are abused and neglected each year, as well as many severely disabled individuals, would not be put under pressure to end their lives if assisted suicide were permitted by law.’

Judging from the reactions on the web today, the faithful agree with Justin, not George. Lord Carey’s intervention seems to have backfired somewhat.

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