Chancery Office, Pembroke
September 5, 2016
My dear faithful,
The events of the past year regarding euthanasia have been a very troubling experience. On June 17, 2016, Bill C – 14 received royal assent, making euthanasia and assisted suicide legal in Canada. In supporting euthanasia, both private and institutional voices have neglected the intrinsic value of life and have undermined the fundamental value of individual freedom of conscience. The program of support for euthanasia has been marked by misrepresentation and manipulation, which in turn has created significant frustration for many people of good will.
Our country finds itself in a tragic position. This eventuality was not unforeseen. I wish to thank the many people who continue to work to protect life and who speak in favour of the sanctity of life. I wish to recognize many heroic people in the past, who prophetically observed the slippery slope down which our society was travelling. Their warnings, made in the midst of much ridicule, have been realized.
As Catholics, we believe firmly in the sanctity of life, a life created by God and a life that belongs to God. My life does not belong to me. I am challenged to act as a trustworthy steward of a life granted by God, a life given so that I may love both God and my brothers and sisters. Flowing from this truth is the sanctity of every life and the duty that neighbours, societies and governments play in protecting, nurturing, and caring for all life, especially the lives of the most vulnerable.
In the years ahead of us, the Church will respond to a new law regarding euthanasia by continuing to minister in the name of Jesus Christ to all people. The sacramental care of the sick and dying has always been and will continue to be one of the highest priorities of the Church’s mission. As always, these sacraments will be available to those baptized Catholics who are properly disposed to receive these gifts of God’s mercy. Circumstances arise in which Catholic priests are called upon to discern the disposition of those seeking the sacraments.
Though each individual situation needs careful discernment, it is very difficult to envision an instance where it would make sense to give the Sacrament of the Sick, for example, to a person who has made a firm decision to obtain an assisted death.
The Sacrament of the Sick, after all, is a sacrament of healing, both spiritual and, at times, physical. Euthanasia, by contrast, closes off the possibility of healing. The Church and its ministers wish always to be present with those who suffer in any manner, but the Church rejects the principle of euthanasia as incompatible and contrary to the gift of the sacraments.
The Diocese of Pembroke has been deeply blessed with the vocations of many people who serve in palliative care, both professionally and on a voluntary basis. I have been blessed to have seen the dedicated ministry of palliative care offered by our parishioners. Hospices provide indispensable care for those in various stages of dying . We should all cherish these institutions and the people who care for the sick and dying. As care is given to those who are dying, the sanctity of life is celebrated and made evident. God’s gift of life is loved and cherished. The mystery of God’s victory over death becomes a precious reality in the lives of those who face death. Family members enter into the same mystery in a manner touched by deep human communion. In this context, the full expression of the sacraments of the Church transform the lives of those involved.
To any of you who are tempted to accept the false promises of euthanasia, I ask you to resist the ever – present attraction of what might seem to be an easier road. May prayer and the support of others allow each of us to appreciate and resolve to live the example and the very life of Jesus. The narrow road is the way of Christ. The disciple of Christ accepts the cross, which is an unavoidable part of human life. The cross is the way that leads to resurrection, life eternal, and the joys of heaven. I am deeply thankful for the example of the Church as she has accompanied those sharing the cross of Christ. The Lord has provided for us the example of many parents, brothers and sisters, religious, deacons and priests who have cared for those who suffer and for those approaching death.
My dear people, let our care for each life, and especially may our care for the sick and dying be our greatest testimony against the evil of euthanasia.
Bishop of Pembroke