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Vatican calls for denial of the last sacraments to patients who chose euthanasia

Patients who have chosen to die via euthanasia or assisted suicide should no longer receive the last rites. That is what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the guardian of Catholic doctrine, wrote in a new letter “Samaritanus Bonus“. The letter was personally approved by Pope Francis.  

Attack on politicians, health workers, hospitals and terminally ill people
On the 22th of September, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Catholic Church published a letter called Samaritan Bonus. In the letter can be read how the Vatican currently views euthanasia and assisted suicide. And that is quite radical. The Vatican not only repeats that euthanasia should under no circumstances be allowed or justified, the letter also states that pleas to die from critically ill people should not be understood as a genuine desire for euthanasia. “In fact, it is almost always a desperate cry for help and love,” the Concregation said. Further, the letter condemns politicians who cooperate in legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide as complicit in murder. The letter is also targeted to Catholic health workers: they are prohibited from participating in voluntary termination of life in any way. The Vatican believes they should rely on conscientious objection. Hospitals that practice euthanasia or assisted suicide cannot bear the label “Catholic”. Finally, the Vatican is of the opinion that people who choose a voluntary end of life should not be served with the last sacraments, with an exception for the situation in which the pastor on duty concludes that the patient regrets his choice. The only positive thing is that Catholics are allowed to refrain from treatment “which means only a weak or painful extension of life”. However, when a patient enters a vegetative state and has only minimal consciousness, but is breathing autonomously, the Congregation finds it “wrong to think that he has stopped being a human person with his own dignity”. These patients are entitled to food and fluids unless – in exceptional cases – this causes unacceptable suffering for the patient.

The recent document does not in fact contain any letter news. Everything in it has been known for some time. Successive popes have taken unchanged positions on abortion, euthanasia and suicide. Pope Francis is now doing the same. Although he wants to initiate a dialogue about anything and everything, he has never made it a secret that he would not change the euthanasia position of the Roman Catholic Church. The question then is why the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is now presenting this document? An important reason seems to be that, following the example of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, more countries in Europe and beyond are inclined to legally regulate forms of active euthanasia soon. Cardinal Juan Jose Omella from Spain recently reported to journalists in Rome that the Pope has serious concerns about life. “The theme of life is not just about refugees, it is from the child in its mother’s womb to death. It’s a worrying issue. ” In Catholic Portugal, parliamentarians passed bills earlier this year that would remove euthanasia and suicide assistance from criminal law. Spain is also on the verge of adopting such legislation, making it the fourth European country after the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg to legalize euthanasia performed by doctors. New Zealand is organizing a referendum on it next month. According to Joop Agterberg, direction member of the Italian Right to Die organisation Luca Coscioni, the letter is mainly aimed against the handling of a new bill in Italy and to convince the Italian politicians to vote against it.

Reaction of our Italian Member Organisation Associazione Luca Coscioni
Marco Cappato, the leading figure of Luca Coscioni, and others have been in St. Peter’s Square to protest to this interference in state affairs and the denunciation of criminals to anyone who cooperates in the provision of euthanasia. They have been removed with a gentle hand. Especially the remark that if you are a member of an association that promotes euthanasia, you cannot receive the sacraments unless you cancel this membership in advance, has caused bad blood in our member organisation. The organisation also published several statements in reaction to this letter of the Vatican: 
– 22 Sept: Cappato: “Clandestine euthanasia is a crime favored by the Holy See that denies the sacraments to those who want to be helped”
– 26 Sept: Walk by Marco Cappato from Montecitorio to the Vatican for Legal Euthanasia
– 29 Sept: The Catholic criminalization of euthanasia should not be overlooked but duly underlined and criticized

Reaction from Belgium 
Also in Belgium, the letter has gained attention. Open Vld MP Jean -Jacques De Gucht responded to it negatively: “The Vatican has reached a level of unworldliness that even I did not think possible. The Pope labels people who request euthanasia as ‘attention grabbers’. He ignores and puts suffering into perspective in a degrading way. That this message was formulated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the precursor of which is better known as the Inquisition, says enough. We must strongly condemn these unworldly medieval sayings.” (…