Where to begin? The debate on assisted dying and the End of Life Assistance (
) Bill will be an interesting – and extended one. For the moment, I just wanted to return to the question of parliament’s legal entitlement to legislate along the lines that Margo outlined. Although it received little coverage in the media – and I think nobody but yours truly mentioned it in the blogosphere – Care Not Killing attempted to silence Holyrood on the basis of the European Convention on Human Rights and the limitations it imposes on the Scottish Parliament’s legislative competence. Now the Catholic Church is up to the same enterprise. Per the Hootsmon this morning, apparently there... Scotland
“... is anger within the Catholic hierarchy that the bill has been allowed to proceed at all. It has received a certificate of competency from Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson – that means it has been judged by parliamentary lawyers as legal for MSPs to vote it through as legislation.”
The Catholic Church spokesman proceeded to style the
“Ultimately, it is questionable whether the Scottish Parliament even has the power to legislate in this area,” the spokesman said. “The European Convention on Human Rights recognises the right to life as inalienable, that is, it cannot be removed by any authority or relinquished by any person.”
Contemptible, primarily because any examination of the jurisprudence on the European Convention provides one with no good-faith legal basis to reach the religious jurisprude’s conclusions. In response to Care Not Killing, I wrote up the following, rebutting their legal claims with particular examples. I’d direct my same little sting at the argument made by the Catholic hierarchy in Scotland. Its bogus. Moreover, I’d characterize it as a symptom of weakness, not strength’s full expression. While there is an approach to argumentation that believes every stone should be thrown, every rhetorical handful of gravel flung, most folk recognise that choices must be made about the strategic gist of an argument. What submissions will compel. Which combination of arguments is the most robust, the least internally defeating. Surely, if one felt that one’s arguments about elemental morality were likely to persuade the chamber, you’d make those arguments – not resort to discussion-defying expedients, attempting to enforce a legal silence – which can only insult the tribunes’ sense of their dignity and authority. And of course, fail on the law, as I’m convinced their case must fail in law.
Off the top of my head, the 2001 Census found that Catholics represented a slim 15.68% of the population. Of course, in Catholic, dogmatic moral science – the cardinal et al. think they’ve got special access to objective truth, objective morality. God wrote it all down for them, pat. There need be no representative anxieties on their part, therefore. Such arguments will not be constrained to the agents of the Roman hierarchy. I firmly anticipate religiosity to be at the fore of the debate on this one. Given how ambivalent, generally speaking, we are about arguments of piety in public life – this may be just the place, strategically speaking, that Margo wants opposition to be.