ANTWERP, Belgium (LifeSiteNews) – A Belgian bishop has said he thinks there are certain circumstances in which euthanasia is morally acceptable, thus contradicting the perennial and infallible teaching of the Catholic Church.
In an interview with the Belgian daily news La Libre Belgique, the notoriously heterodox Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, Belgium — who has voiced strong support for same-sex “blessings” — declared he did not think a moral judgment about euthanasia could be pronounced based upon the intrinsic nature of the action, but only after looking at the attendant circumstances. The bishop entertained the possibility that some circumstances may justify taking the life of the elderly or infirm.
“So the Church could adopt different positions on the question of euthanasia?” Bonny was asked in the interview by La Libre Belgique. “Does this mean that, in the eyes of the Church, the value of life varies according to the regions of the world?”
The bishop responded that within ethics he does not accept clear and objective judgments, opting instead for circumstantial ethics and moral relativism, couching such relativism as “discernment.”
“Philosophy has taught me never to be satisfied with generic black and white answers,” Bonny declared. “All questions deserve answers adapted to a situation: a moral judgment must always be pronounced according to the concrete situation, the culture, the circumstances, the context.”
Claiming that he “constantly advocate[s] respect for life,” Bonny nonetheless expressly rejected the teaching of the Church that euthanasia is always and intrinsically evil because it is the taking of the life of an innocent person.
“I regret that, from the Vatican, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith affirms that euthanasia is always an intrinsic evil, whatever the circumstance,” the bishop declared. “It is too simple an answer that leaves no room for discernment. We will always oppose the desire of some to end a life too prematurely, but we must recognize that a request for euthanasia by a 40-year-old is not equivalent to that of a 90-year-old facing an incurable disease.
“We need to learn to better define concepts and distinguish situations,” he argued, implying euthanasia would be morally licit if a person were too old or too sick.
In other words, the Belgian bishop has adopted something akin to the “as good as dead” approach, in which old age and an incurable illness render murder morally acceptable because the person is nearly dead anyway. Under such a view, not only would the value of life vary according to the regions of the world, but according to the age and health of the person as well.
Claiming to oppose all murder and confusing the question by equating any killing with murder — defined universally in law as the intentional killing of an innocent person — Bonny argued that the circumstances of suffering an “incurable disease for years,” and “talking to [one’s] family, doctor, and loved ones” before deciding to request euthanasia renders it no longer murder, as though euthanasia did not remain in itself the intentional killing of an innocent person, despite the difficult circumstance of a final and incurable illness.
“It is worth remembering that you cannot kill, and I am against all murders,” the bishop claimed. “But what is killing, what is murder? What do you say to someone who kills an enemy in the name of self-defense? What do you say to someone who has been affected by an incurable disease for years and who has decided to request euthanasia after talking to his family, his doctor, his loved ones?”
The bishop failed to reference anything of the sanctifying power of suffering one’s final illness out of love for God, or the consoling truth of faith that our sufferings can be united to those of Christ, whose final hours were spent hanging on the Cross for love for us.
Blithely setting aside what can be learned from Scripture about suffering, human life, death, the cross, sin, and the severity with which God judges those who take innocent life, the bishop implied that it was “fundamentalism” to hold that God’s commandment to not murder is a universal prohibition that forbids taking the life of the elderly and infirm.
“Reference must always be made to the Bible, but nothing is more difficult than interpreting and applying it to a particular situation without falling into fundamentalism. God relies on our intelligence to fully understand His word,” the bishop declared.
In the 1995 Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope St. John Paul II had addressed the issue of euthanasia. The Pope confirmed the Church’s constant and universal teaching on the sanctity of human life, declaring, “The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity.”
Citing the Declaration on Euthanasia, Iura et Bona of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, John Paul reiterated the need to legally protect life: “‘Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action.’”