Sydney Synod Address 2010

Russell Powell

Media Release
Anglican Diocese of Sydney
11th October, 2010

Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop Dr Peter Jensen has singled out treatment of prisoners and euthanasia as two marks of ‘what it is to be human in glittering Sydney’.

Dr Jensen delivered his annual Presidential Address to the first day of the Church’s Parliament, the 48th Synod of the Sydney Diocese.

More than 500 delegates were present in the Wesley Centre.

The Archbishop began by exploring the question of ‘what is to be human’, a question he said was as relevant today as it was in the early days of the colony when the hopes of the Home Secretary, Lord Sydney, were that new settlement would eventually be self-governing, run by morally improved convicts.

To the present day, Dr Jensen said our prisons and staff are still over-stretched “In fact we have too many gaols, we have far too many people in gaols, we keep them there too long, we have people on lengthy remand who are then proved innocent, we have a high percentage of prisoners with psychiatric illnesses, there is a disproportionate number of indigenous people in goal. We have still to be reconciled in practice; the dispossession is still paid for in the tears of successive generations. Each prisoner costs about $75,000 a year to keep off the streets. Because the huge budget is so tight, we are now keeping prisoners in their cells for something like 16-18 hours per day.”

Likewise, the current controversy about euthanasia, he said, was a debate “about who we are as humans”.

“My fundamental problem with it is that we are sinners and we do not have the moral capacity to administer it. It is the myth of so-called voluntary euthanasia. At a moment in time of adversity and suffering we ask people to make up their minds about termination of a life. We cannot - we can never - know what is going through the mind of the sufferer or of those whose lives will be changed by the death of the patient.”

Archbishop Jensen expressed strong disagreement with claims that the central moral value in society was not respect for life but rather autonomy.

He described that as “a boldly sectarian and secularist assertion. It is based on the denial of original sin and it leads to a denial of the full humanity of others, since it asks us to be self-centred.”

“It really says that no matter how many cultures there are in modern Australia, the only culture which can be trusted to provide moral guidance is the culture of unbelief. And this is the horrifying culture of individualism, the culture, the cult rather, which is bleeding our society dry of compassion and friendship.” Dr Jensen said.

The full text of the Presidential Address is available here.

Audio and Video versions can be found here.

For more information call Archbishop's Media Adviser, Russell Powell on 0411 692 499

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