Charlie Gard dies after sparking global debate on the ethics of life and death
Baby Charlie Gard’s tragic fate became a cause célèbre, sparking a global debate on the ethics of life and death.
It prompted reactions from President Trump and Pope Francis and drew crowds of emotional people who waited outside the High Court in London for judgments on the baby’s care. There were howls of protest on social media from people who accused the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children of wanting to end Charlie’s life. Hospital staff even reported receiving death threats.
When Charlie was born in August 2016, he seemed a healthy baby. But as he failed to develop, doctors discovered that he had encephalomyopathic mito- chondrial DNA depletion syndrome, which causes severe brain damage and causes the organs to shut down. He could not breathe unaided or move on his own.
I had more than one friend comment how they shed tears as they watched the recent ceremonies to commemorate the Battle of Passchendaele. It is impossible not to be moved by the thought of the 500,000 casualties suffered on all sides.
The battle took place on the Western Front, from July to November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres. Passchendaele lay on the last ridge east of Ypres, five miles (8.0km) from a railway junction at Roulers. This was vital to the supply system of the German 4th Army.
Three years ago, I joined a small party of people from Ireland to visit the World War I battle sites. This included those around the village of Ypres. I have such a flood of memories from that visit – from the Somme ceremonies at the Thiepval Memorial and the Ulster Tower, to the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate War Memorial in Ypres.
We attended a commemoration event in Guillemont at the memorial to the 16th (Irish) Division. The memorial is a Celtic cross adorned with the Irish clover and commemorates all those “Irishmen who gave their lives in the Great War”. Watching as representatives from the Irish government and a British Secretary of State joined together in this ceremony was a profound experience. It was the sense of remembering the fallen. But it was also recognising something of our own complex history in Ireland – an aspect that had been difficult to acknowledge for so long. Of such moments come healing.
The walls of the Menin Gate Memorial are inscribed with thousands of names – of those who lost their lives in battle but whose bodies have never been found. I found myself running my fingers slowly over some of the names – getting a sense that each name represented a real person, someone who would have wanted to live just as much as you or I.
You can find WWI Colourised Photos on Facebook. It specialises in using technology to bringing World War I
photos to life and telling the stories behind the photos. On 2nd August they published a colour photo of Corporal
Jules André Peugeot, under the title “The First to Fall”. The story of this photo reads as follows: “Cpl Peugeot was born at Etupes on 11th June 1893 (Class of 1913). He did his military service in Lons-le-Saunier and was mobilised
as a corporal in 44 RI, 6th Company, 2nd Battalion.
“On 2nd August 1914, Peugeot’s squad was on duty in the village of Jonchery, southeast of Belfort, and arrested and dispersed the first patrol to violate French territory. He was killed by a bullet near Docourt Farm when the German patrol commander (20-year-old Lt Albert Mayer) opened fire with his revolver at 10.00am. The French returned fireand Mayer also died.
“Peugeot was hit by the fourth round fired during the war and Mayer by the fifth or sixth. It is also possible (though this is disputed in some circles) that the first two casualties of the war actually killed each other. Cpl Peugeot is now buried in his family plot in the communal churchyard at Etupes and Lt Mayer is buried in the Soldatenfriedhof at Illfurth in a specially marked grave commemorating the ‘1st German Casualty of the World War 1914-18’.”
Observing the commemoration events and visiting the cemeteries brings home the enormity of the scale of loss of life – though it is still difficult to comprehend. Reading the stories, such as those of Jules André Peugeot and Albert Mayer, brings home the enormity of each life lost in battle. In trying to honour the sacrifice of so many and appreciate the cost of it, we offer the fallen no less than they deserve from us.
On Monday 31st July The Irish Times reported that: “Prince Charles referenced the words of his great-grandfather, King George V, who, on visiting Tyne Cot Cemetery in 1922, remarked: ‘I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon Earth through the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.’”
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Letters to the Editor
Kildare Cathedral Choir
SINCE RETIRING in 2013 from full- time ministry, I have taken an interest in the Cathedral choir in St Brigid’s Cathedral in Kildare. My late father was on the Cathedral Chapter when he served as chaplain/rector in the Curragh Camp.
In a recent photograph of the choir in the Gazette I mentioned the fact that we sang in the Newbridge Dominican College Chapel. Other choirs participating were the Aquinas Singers, Newbridge Chamber Choir, In Caelo and the Baldonnell Singers.
In my young days the Diocesan Choral Festival was a major attraction each year with singers from all over the
diocese. I am delighted that we have a cathedral choir due to a dedicated band of people who are prepared to travel distances for practice and always to have dedicated directors to lead us.
We were delighted to accept the invitation to sing in Newbridge at the Fr Henry Flanagan concert, and to be a part of that great choral event and to hear the organ in all its glory.
We have memories of the late Dean John Patterson whose interest in the Cathedral’s musical life was well known and he would be so proud to realise that his choral work has been maintained.
I would like to pay tribute to Bishop Roy and Eileen Warke, who recently retired from the choir after giving it such commitment over the years. We have several choral services planned for the future. I intend to use the ‘What’s On’ column to promote the cathedral choir and its work.
Sandra Brennan of the Cathedral parish and a member of the choir has done and is doing fantastic and encouraging work and we are indebted to her.
Philip Knowles (The Very Revd)
Same-sex marriage debate
EACH TIME that same-sex marriage comes up within the pages of the Gazette, the focus appears to turn to the translation and interpretation of the original Greek in I Corinthians 6: 9 and Romans 1: 27.
But context is everything. I Corinthians 6: 9-10 needs to be read in full. “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Similarly, Romans 1 has a context: those who do not glorify God as himself or give thanks to him, idolaters, and ultimately those who “have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.” Little is omitted.
We open our churches every week to the greedy, the drunks, the idolaters, the thieves, the slanderers and the swindlers that they might be washed, sanctified and “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6: 11). We so often show infinite patience with their continued behaviour as the Holy Spirit works in them or, when it suits the local church, it is overlooked altogether.
So why do we treat sexual sin differently? After all, it is sin only against God, oneself and all of the small number of other individuals involved, while greedy employers and tax evaders sin against hundreds, thousands and even millions at a time. And why is a young couple living together so often overlooked while being in a homosexual relationship is condemned?
Surely, if being in a homosexual relationship is incompatible with being a Christian, should we empty the churches because most of us have not given up self-interest and greed, and those sins are listed as incompatible with inheriting the kingdom of God?
Rather than being in the interpretation of two Greek words in I Corinthians 6: 9, I rather fear that apostasy is to be found in the failure to take the context of those two words seriously enough, and not only to examine our own behaviour but also to show the same grace we have received from our heavenly Father to others who either already love Jesus or might be deterred from seeking him – and it will surely involve the humble removal of planks from our own eyes first.
Andy Boal, Belfast
SCOTT GOLDEN (Letters, 7th July) invokes the horror of no fewer than three hypothetical situations of attempted suicide, at least one of which is fatal, with the blame placed firmly on the Church’s teaching. This makes us all feel guilty.
It’s true that science shows that gay-identified people experience much higher levels of mental illness than the population in general. This translates into higher levels of “attempted suicide” – a term that is difficult to define – but seemingly not into higher levels of completed suicide.
And it is wrong to lay the blame at the door of the Church. The Pilling report to the Church of England (para 207) quoted one influential study as saying: “It may be that prejudice in society against gay men and lesbians leads to greater psychological distress … conversely, gay men and lesbians may have lifestyles that make them vulnerable to psychological disorder.”
Recent research by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, showed that conflict within gay partnerships may be one of the major drivers of completed suicide in people who identify as LGBTI https://www.lifesitenews. com/news/homosexuals-more- likely-to-commit-suicide-due-to- problems-with-gay-lovers-t
Of course, we must treat each other with respect at all times, but until the various causes contributing to suicide are more fully understood, it is misleading and unhelpful to craft a narrative that is not grounded in science.
Hillsborough Co. Down
I REFER to John Wilson’s letter in the 16th June issue of the Gazette and am interested in his citing of Genesis 3 prefaced by his question: “Did God really say … ?”
May I suggest that a present tense might be used, thus changing the question to: “Does God really say … ?”
Our loving God is alive and changes.
Norma MacMaster, Skerries Co. Dublin
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