Pastoral Letter – Euthanasia

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.

†Michael Mulhall
Bishop of Pembroke

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