Thursday, 3 November 2016

A Catholic Press versus voluntary euthanasia [updated]


Reader Mark Hubbard has been trying to get letters in support of voluntary euthanasia past the gatekeeper at the Christchurch Press. The Cerberus on the letters-to-the editor desk however is a practicing Catholic. This (with its postscript) was Mark’s fourth unpublished submission in response to many letters opposing voluntary euthanasia:

1 November, 2016
Dear Sir

I’m finding the letters against euthanasia sickening. All three letters of 1/11 state their opposition to euthanasia being because people can still commit suicide. That’s monstrous because it dooms the desperate, like Rosie Mott, to dying in inhumane violent ways such as a plastic bag over the head, and alone. Think about that: her final panicking breath; her husband forced to wait on the sidewalk outside.
    Euthanasia allows a peaceful death with loved ones. What these letter writers mean is they want you to suffer for their god in some form of primitivism. Those of us who think and have compassion know that even the technical term suicide doesn’t belong to the lexicon of euthanasia, and many doctors will be willing to voluntarily provide this service (and are already). None will be forced.
    Indeed, one individual’s choice of euthanasia affects no-one who is against it.
    Stop sanctimoniously meddling in lives you have no business, please.

Message to editor. If my above letter in support of euthanasia is not published it will be the fourth in a row while you continue to publish a majority of letters against. I have, from this, formed certain beliefs about your editorial policy, and such policy has no place in a free press.

He received a phone call, after which, he messaged …

If you remember you rang me from the Christchurch Press office two days ago to assure me, regarding my most recent letter supporting a compassionate euthanasia -- and my 'dig' at The Press for having an anti-euthanasia stance (at least via letters to editor) – that The Press was neutral on the issue (despite admitting over our conversation that you are a practicing Catholic.) I assumed you were then going to publish my letter as evidence, if nothing else, of this neutrality. But you have not.

So here's where it's at. We have a National Government staffed by Catholic Codgers (medieval cavemen) who believe we should all suffer for their comic book god (even though my possible sometime future choice of euthanasia affects no one who wants to die in pain for this fictitious god).

In one of the most cynical political posturings I have seen, after the Lecretia Seales' test case had exposed a vast public sympathy for her cause, in order to 'vent' the ensuing public debate John Key chose MP Simon O'Connor, National's only fully seminary-trained Catholic priest, to chair a committee on whether the politicians should even allow a euthanasia debate. O'Connor's real agenda, I am convinced, is to ensure this important topic never ever makes it to Parliament – witness if you can the current sick, voyeuristic road show in which people in the last stages of living are forced to plead their case in a front of a public committee, having to beg that a choice to die with dignity be granted them in law.

Yet while he chairs this allegedly neutral committee O'Connor has at the same time been sabotaging both it and Maryan Street's petition by writing in Catholic rags exhorting parishioners to submit to his committee opposing any legislation allowing death with dignity. He exhorts, and they have listened: of the 22,000 submissions made to the committee (the highest number ever to a select committee in New Zealand), the for-and-against ratio looks to be 50/50. A response strongly skewed by the Chair’s media exhortations, and unrepresentative of every scientifically-taken public poll which routinely show well over 80% support for legislation allowing voluntary euthanasia .

And now we even have a special unit of the police found to be illegally spying on elderly folk attending euthanasia meetings, in flagrant disregard of their right to free association – spying organised, we might conclude, by Catholics in the police hierarchy. (Not idle speculation I assure you: many years ago I worked at IRD where it was common knowledge then to move up career-wise you had to be either Catholic or alcoholic (double points for both)).

Which brings me back to you and me and The Press.

I have three tertiary degrees, the first in English literature, so I'm not a stupid man. I have sound ability in comprehension. I formed the view on reading The Press over a long period of time that The Press's editorial policy is to oppose euthanasia; there is a bias, whether you're conscious of it or not. In light of the above, and of the continued non-publishing of my letters in support of voluntary euthanasia, let's call a practicing Catholic ringing to tell me otherwise for what it is: bullshit. You're another O'Connor with an agenda against, and unfortunately with 'power' within the system that the 'for' advocacy does not have.

PS: Mr Hubbard received a further phone call from The Gatekeeper as this post was being prepared. Said Gate-keeper is reported to be highly offended with Hubbard's manner – how was he to know he wasn't going to publish his letter in the future? Hubbard's response, of course, is he doesn't know, but only has gatekeeper's word on which to rely. And when “on the same day you publish three letters ‘against’ on the same theme, surely editorial policy would provide for a timely publishing of responses.”  Further, “given the duplicity of the ‘against’ campaign, from the Chair of the euthanasia committee down, surely the Gatekeeper can understand the frustration (and likely assumptions) of the for campaign.”

They agreed only to disagree.


Mr Hubbard received a formal ‘Press’ response:

Dear Mr Hubbard

Your emailed letter has been forwarded to me to respond to.
    Firstly, I would like to assure you that neither this newspaper, nor our letters page editor, have have an anti-euthanasia stance.
    It is pertinent to note that today our newsroom has also received a formal complaint from a reader alleging we have a pro-euthanasia stance.
    It is hard to understand how both sides of the debate believe The Press is opposed to their views.
    Occasionally, The Press will take a stand on an important community issue but in so doing will make our position very clear to readers.
    We have not taken a view on whether laws relating to euthanasia should be changed though have published several editorials on the subject. Our view remains that it is an issue of considerable importance and we welcome public debate on it.
    We have published news stories, letters and opinion pieces from many voices on both sides of this debate and will continue to do so.

***** ******
Deputy Editor

To which he duly responded:

Thank you ******

I remain conflicted on this issue and don't view it dispassionately.
    I don't believe the against campaign even deserves a say in the Parliamentary debate - what am I talking about, there is none - as I merely want a right that doesn't affect them in any manner (they can choose to die as they want).
Seminary    There is so much unreported in this debate, starting with the Chair, O'Connor, and his farcical appointment regarding an issue he views, as a seminary-trained Catholic, as a mortal sin; and running that committee while exhorting Christians to submit against  - skewering and sabotaging the results away from all public polling (have a look at the submissions)   yet I've never seen his duplicity and Catholicism reported on. Along with Bill English he actually thinks a human's lot is to suffer for his (fictitious) god. And this is the twenty first century.
Re proof, here:
    Note carefully O'Connor's tweet in that piece.
    **** [The Press’s letter editor] sounds like a nice bloke, but no apologies from me. He ran three letters Monday with the same argument against, and a monstrous argument at that; a timely editorial policy would have included at least one retort to those, such as mine. That hasn't happened.
    He said how do I know he wasn't planning to publish? I don't. He has all the power here - which also disposes of his bullying complaint. There is little point however in publishing rebuttals in two weeks time, is there.
    And a question for you re The Press: I don't remember reading any coverage of the recent police raids on the (free association) of the Exit attendees ... was there?

Regards Mark Hubbard

To which


  1. The anger strong in this one is.


    1. Some of us have to get angry otherwise we just keep losing rights and freedoms. Doing nothing isn't an option.

  2. For the record, the gatekeeper was an okay guy, and professional. I just think there's an unconscious bias working (or sloppy editorial policy that doesn't follow issues through). For example, and nothing to do with him, I don't remember a single piece in the Press about the recent police raids targeting the elderly attending euthanasia meetings, yet that was run as major news on the radio, six o'clock news for two nights, and first page on Dom, etc.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, Press readers.


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