OTTAWA, February 24, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Since suicide is a “grave sin” — being contrary to the 5th commandment against murder — it would be in “direct contradiction” to Catholic values for a person intent on assisted suicide to demand last rites, that is the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, stated Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa.
“Asking to be killed is gravely disordered and is a rejection of the hope that the rite calls for and tries to bring into the situation,” the archbishop stated in an interview with Canadian Catholic News last week.
Any person who requests assisted suicide “lacks the proper disposition for the anointing of the sick,” he added.
The Sacrament of the Sick, one of the seven sacraments of the Church, is the ancient practice since the time of the apostles of anointing the seriously ill with blessed oil. While laying hands on them, the priest prays that the sick person may be helped “with the grace of the Holy Spirit” and that they will be saved and raised up by the “Lord who frees you from sin.” The grace of the sacrament strengthens the sufferer and gives him peace and courage to bear the illness and to unite himself to Christ, the Catechism states.
Last year the Supreme Court of Canada made what critics called an “activist decision” to give doctors the right in law to cause the death of patients by euthanasia and assisted suicide. The court originally gave Parliament one year to come up with a law to govern the practice, which was extended by four months until June, due to insufficient time because of the federal election cycle. Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is now in the process of crafting a law to govern the deadly practice.
Archbishop Prendergast said that priests should in no way condone the sin of assisted suicide.
“Asking your priest to be present to something that is in direct contradiction to our Catholic values is not fair to the pastor,” he said. “Of course a pastor will try and dissuade a patient from requesting suicide and will pray with them and their family, but asking him to be present is in effect asking him to condone a serious sin.”
He emphasized that withholding the sacrament may actually serve as a pastoral approach to helping the assisted-suicide seeker realize the serious error of their decision.
The archbishop’s statement come days after the the Alberta bishops released their own statement on the World Day of the Sick earlier this month that called the willful act of killing oneself or another human being “morally wrong.”
“No Catholic may advocate for, or participate in any way, whether by act or omission, in the intentional killing of another human being either by assisted suicide or euthanasia,” the statement, signed by six bishops stated.
“The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada makes legally permissible in some circumstances what is morally wrong in every circumstance: the taking of innocent human life. This is unacceptable in a truly just and ethical society,” they stated.