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Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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Belgian priest suggests ‘celebration’ when Catholics die from euthanasia

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

August 31, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - A Belgian priest, Fr. Gabriel Ringlet, has suggested that a “celebration” should mark the moment of death for Roman catholics who choose euthanasia.

He also promotes the “spiritual accompaniment” of such Catholics in such glowing terms that they read like support for euthanasia itself. While Fr Ringlet says he does not aim to justify “mercy killing,” his approach is a boon to euthanasia proponents.

His book, written in French, Vous me coucherez nu sur la terre nue (“Put me out naked on the naked ground”), is coming out on Thursday. Its publication by a major French publisher, Albin Michel, rather than a Belgian one, is likely a sign that it will be used in the French “end of life” debate.

Belgium authorized euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2002 but in France, only “slow euthanasia” by dehydration and removal of feeding tubes is legal. But a new law is being examined that would allow any patient, in a terminal state or not, to demand and obtain “deep sedation” coupled with the withdrawal of all foods and fluids.

Pro-life groups and some Catholic authorities have underscored that this is a form of euthanasia in which doctors will not even have the right to object to a patient’s request. The law is due shortly for a second reading in the National Assembly.

Jacqueline Herremans, president of the Belgian “Right to Die with Dignity Association,” recommends the book. that I should read it. As I certainly will… In the meantime, she linked to an interview given by Fr Ringlet to the French Catholic weekly, known for its “advanced” positions.

Fr Gabriel Ringlet is no ordinary parish priest. He is a university theologian and former vice-rector of the Catholic University of Louvain. He has been accompanying people in their last days before euthanasia since five years or so, when he was called by Corinne Van Oost, a Belgian palliative care doctor who puts herself forward as a practicing Catholic.

“She told me: ‘We face very difficult euthanasia requests on the part of believing patients, who are sometimes practicing Catholics, who are going through deep spiritual questioning. Our hands are empty. Would you accept to accompany them on their way?” he told Pèlerin Magazine, a progressive Catholic publication.

“Let’s not beat about the bush,” Ringlet told Pèlerin Magazine. “I do not bless euthanasia, even when it is performed in strict accordance with the law...It is a transgression, a crime.”

He went on to make Catholic-sounding arguments before giving what some consider to be a blessing of euthanasia.

“But what should one do when one is confronted with the spiritual and moral suffering of an ill person who wants to put an end to it all?” he asked. “I would like it to be natural to dare to give spiritual accompaniment in the context of such demands.”

“Accompanying a person does not mean to adhere to his or her choices. It just means being there,” he said.

Fr. Ringlet then says he considers euthanasia a form of “self-defense...[a]gainst aggressive therapy, horrible suffering.”

“Putting end to someone’s life is wrong. You’ll never hear me saying it is something good. But to let a person suffer, when medicine has become powerless is also wrong,” he said.

“When you’re stuck between two evils, you have to risk making a questionable decision. In the end it is up to the doctor’s conscience to decide,” he stated. “We sometimes find it difficult to admit that there are dead-ends in some cases.”If not an absolute justification of euthanasia, Ringlet’s arguments do sound as a manner of vindicating “mercy killing”, as if there were no possible alternative.

Fr. Ringlet, who has worked as a hospital chaplain, is of the opinion that palliative care and euthanasia should not be “separated,” so that all avenues can be explored.

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He also acknowledges that euthanasia requests are in “90 percent of cases” calls for help: they are soon forgotten when the patient is surrounded by his near and dear ones and receives proper care. “But a minority of patients will not back down.”

Fr. Ringlet teaches that one should have the opportunity to choose the “lesser” evil perhaps – in this case killing rather than letting live in suffering. This is none other than the argument put forward by most euthanasia proponents.

He criticizes sedation as “diluted euthanasia.”

In Belgium, he says, decisions about euthanasia “are never taken lightly.”

“We are perfectly conscious of the fact that when euthanasia is given, we are moving away from the founding rule: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ No-one comes away unharmed.”

Fr. Ringlet would like to see a “ritualization” of the act.

“This moment of passing deserves to be personalized, and solemnized by means of a celebration, in order to appease the one who is leaving, and also those who will be left behind,” he said. “Euthanasia should not be a merely technical gesture. Why not ask the patient’s loved ones to bring a text, photos, prayers or even perfume? Why not have some essential oils for a last gesture of tenderness and benediction?”

He rejects the idea that a blessing with herbal oils would look too much like the anointment of the sick, which is a Catholic sacrament.

“The two gestures cannot be mixed up,” he said. “Nowadays, the sacrament of the sick is no longer administered at the last minute. It should be given long before, to encourage the crossing through illness.”

When saint Francis of Assisi asked to be “put naked on the naked ground” (the words Ringlet borrowed to give a title to his book) in order to die there in total destitution, he was not asking for his death to be hastened. He wanted more suffering, not less. It was considered an heroic identification with Christ.

Using such a saint’s words to justify euthanasia is understandably causing controversy.

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