QUEBEC CITY, July 31, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, archbishop for Quebec City and primate of Canada, says he doesn’t oppose church funerals for Catholics who choose to be killed by lethal injection.
But on the other hand, Lacroix says he could foresee denying a Catholic funeral when the euthanized person had publicly advocated for legal euthanasia in direct contradiction to Catholic teaching.
Lacroix told the Jesuit magazine America it’s hard to know why someone would choose euthanasia. He also said the elderly, frail, and infirm are “bombarded” with messages that ending their life is preferable to being alone, a burden, or in pain.
“So who are we to judge why they are like this?” he said.
“We do the best we can and leave the rest to the Lord. If the Lord accuses us of being too merciful, well, I’ll take it.”
Lacroix said the family of the euthanized Catholic might not have agreed with the decision, so a church burial would be in order.
“Do you think they need consolation? Of course,” he told America. “We accompany everybody.”
But well-known canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters has a differing view, which he summarized in an email to LifeSiteNews:
The 1917 Code of Canon Law expressly forbade Church funeral rites to those who deliberately killed themselves. The 1983 Code, in contrast, does not prohibit funeral rites to suicides per se, but rather, to those who are considered “manifest sinners.” While suicide is objectively gravely sinful, it is not always clear that those killing themselves do so with adequate awareness of the sinful character of their deed. There is room for some flexibility in interpretation of the law here.
Those who kill themselves in accord with state approved procedures, however, procedures that include ruling out hasty decisions for death made out of depression and so on, leave ministers little basis for concluding other than that they killed themselves with adequate knowledge of and awareness concerning what they were doing.
I think canon law requires withholding ecclesiastical funerals from Catholics who kill themselves in accord with civil suicide statutes.
Moreover, it’s unclear from Lacroix’s remarks just how, and how far, he expects his priests to accompany euthanasia seekers and their families.
Douglas Farrow, professor of Christian thought at McGill University, had this critique of Cardinal Lacroix’s remarks:
That the deceased decided to seize from God authority over his or her life, and furthermore to cooperate with others in an act of illicit killing, does not seem to trouble the Cardinal much. It can hardly be denied that there is a quite fundamental matter of justice here. But on the “Who are we to judge?” principle, mercy apparently means declining to ask or answer questions about justice. So much for the Church’s exercise of the keys! This, I fear, is the very pathology I criticized in Rome. “If the Lord accuses us of being too merciful, well, I’ll take it,” says the Cardinal – but he may rest assured that the Lord will accuse him of no such thing. What he is likely to be accused of is setting justice and mercy at odds, thus destroying both.
LifeSiteNews asked Cardinal Lacroix to clarify his position, but he replied via his secretary that he did not want to answer the questions.
Since euthanasia was legalized in Canada in June 2016, the Catholic Church’s response has split along regional lines.
Lacroix is aligned with the bishops of Atlantic Canada, whose December 2016 guidelines refer to Pope Francis’ call to accompaniment in allowing priests discretion to grant anointing of the sick, confession and Communion to Catholics euthanasia seekers, as well as church funerals for voluntarily euthanized Catholics.
In contrast, the bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories issued a 34-page vademecum in September 2016, later endorsed by Ottawa’s Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, noting that euthanasia is an objective mortal sin and priests may be required deny the sacraments to Catholic euthanasia seekers, or a church burial to a voluntarily euthanized Catholic.
But the Alberta bishops also stressed pastoral accompaniment and directed priests to gently probe the reasons why Catholics would seek euthanasia, and to perseveringly pray and fast and urgently seek the conversion and repentance of such Catholics, who are in grave spiritual peril.
While the Alberta bishops were skewered in the media at the time, Lacroix wrote on Facebook his approach was different.
“I don’t plan specific directives aimed at refusing this support or refusing access to the anointing of the sick and the celebration of funerals,” he stated. “The Catholic Church accompanies people in every step of their life. We do that in dialogue with every person and every family that wishes to be accompanied.”