Catholic hospital system defies Pope, vows to continue euthanizing patients
BRUSSELS, Belgium, September 12, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The Belgian Brothers of Charity are insisting they will keep allowing euthanasia at their hospitals despite the Vatican’s order to reverse their policy.
The Brothers of Charity Group “continues to stand by its vision statement on euthanasia for mental suffering in a non-terminal situation,” its statement said.
The Group now faces possible canonical action, including potential excommunication from the Church, unless it complies.
The Board of Trustees for the Catholic charity said in April it would permit euthanasia to non-terminally-ill psychiatric patients who request it in the 15 psychiatric hospitals that it operates serving some 5,000 patients in its Belgian region.
The September 12 statement defending the policy allowing euthanasia for non-terminally ill psychiatric patients also said the Brothers of Charity “emphatically believe” the practice is compatible with Catholic teaching, the Catholic Herald reports.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that euthanasia “is morally unacceptable” and “constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.”
The Group’s decision to defy the Vatican on Church teaching on the sanctity of human life had “come about starting from the Christian frame of thought,” they claim. But, they say, they “always take into account the shifts and evolutions within society.”
Euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002. It is already being committed on psychiatric patients there, and nursing homes and hospitals resisting euthanasia have been under pressure since a court fined a Catholic nursing home €6,000 last year for preventing a resident from accessing euthanasia.
The Brothers of Charity Board’s decision will make euthanasia easier to get now for people with schizophrenia, personality disorders, depression, autism or loneliness. And it will in fact result in more difficulty finding an institution in Belgium that does not conduct euthanasia.
After the Board of Trustees April announcement allowing euthanasia in its facilities, the superior general of the Brothers of Charity, Brother René Stockman, informed the entire congregation the Board’s decision violated the order’s charism and was unacceptable.
The Board is made up mostly of lay people and is connected to the Brothers of Charity religious congregation though it is still separate.
Brother Stockman also notified the Belgian Bishops Conference, Belgium’s nuncio and the Vatican regarding the Board’s contravening Church teaching on euthanasia.
Pope Francis gave the Brothers of Charity until the end of August to stop making euthanasia available to psychiatric patients.
Brothers who serve on the Board of the Brothers of Charity Group were to each sign a joint letter to their superior general affirming they "fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end."
Brothers refusing to sign the letter are supposed to face canonical sanctions, according to the decree approved by Pope Francis, and the Brothers of Charity Group should face legal action up to and including being expelled from the Church if it fails to change the policy.
The former head of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, who serves on the Brothers of Charity Group board, took an apparent swipe last month at Pope Francis, tweeting “The time of ‘Roma locuta causa finita’ has long been over.”