The Catholic Church has been accused of many things across history, some of them true and many of them absolutely not true, and one of such things that falls into the latter class is a lack of compassion for those in difficult positions. This is not to say that people cannot lack compassion, but that the institution itself promotes it as a matter of theological virtue, and such critical voices will talk about certain dogmas (divinely revealed truths articulated through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition) or disciplines (human-instituted practices often rooted in Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition but which are not matters of faith and morals and therefore can be changed) that relate to their complaints. The list can be practically endless to the number of complaints, but many tend to focus on particular issues. One of these that has been brought up in modern times in euthanasia, saying that it is wrong that the Church formally denies the Sacraments to those who partake in this practice. Such is not a new teaching, but Catholic dogma and Crux News reports this teaching was formally repeated again by the Vatican.
As several countries throughout Europe move toward broadening access to euthanasia, the Vatican released a new document reaffirming its teaching on medically assisted death, insisting that it is ‘poisonous’ to society and stressed that those who choose it are unable to access the sacraments unless they reverse their decision.
“Just as we cannot make another person our slave, even if they ask to be, so we cannot directly choose to take the life of another, even if they request it,” the Vatican said in a new document released by its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Published Sept. 22, the document, titled, “Samaritanus bonus: on the care of persons in the critical and terminal phases of life,” was signed by the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, and its secretary, Archbishop Giacomo Morandi. (source)
The formal teaching of the Catholic Church is that life is sacred, from conception to natural death, and that barring specific, extraordinary circumstances, it is wrong to kill people and wrong to commit suicide. This is straight from Sacred Scripture where God told Moses in the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt not kill”.
Now as noted, there are specific exceptions to this that are likewise rooted in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, for this is the reason why the Church does not promote but does permit for the use of capital punishment in specific cases, and why the Just War doctrine exists, because in a sin-fallen world, bad things do happen and as the Catholic Faith is the True Faith and way of salvation that is, when taken in its totality (something that is rarely done today), is a complete way of life and a whole philosophy of living in itself that is inseparable from the religious teaching, encompasses and addresses all fundamental questions of faith and morals in their practice in a clearly defined and ordered way so that things are left neither to chance or change. This is the reason for the Magesterium, as it gives a solid codification for people to reference (regardless of personal opinion) that serves as a standard in the middle of disputes just as the rules of a sports game define the activity of players and provide tangible points of reference when disputes arise.
There are many people that the Church is required to deny the Sacraments to because those people commit grave sins, and until these persons repent of those sins, they are barred from access. Since “thou shalt not kill” not only means murder, it necessarily forbids those who participate in euthanasia or suicide.
Some have correctly pointed out that some priests and even bishops will give funerals and the sacraments to people who do such things. It happens, and it is a grave sin as well as a scandal (since the assumption here is that the priest knows the person and his sins, as one cannot hold him accountable if he does not know since the priest or bishop must act in good faith to a person he cannot prove otherwise has having participated in such sins) for the priest or bishop that he will be accountable for, if not in this life, in the next one. This is a serious matter, and no matter how prolific this practice may be, it does not make it right, for one may remember that in the fourth century, it was said that three-quarters of all clerics in the Church, priests and bishops both, did not believe that Jesus is God and as such were direct or indirect adherents of the Arian heresy. However, no matter how prevalent the evil or heresy is, it does not change divinely revealed truth.
This is a miracle and mystery of the Church, for Christ directly promised St. Peter in St. Matthew’s Gospel that his church was the one on which He would build His Church and over which that gates of hell would not prevail. This has proven true throughout time and is evidenced by the history of the Church, for even if the gates of hell smash into the Church and even seat herself on St. Peter’s thrown, eventually she is always thrown out and the mess cleaned up by nothing less than a miracle, testifying again to the words of St. Paul that he ‘boasts of (his) weaknesses’ because the strength of the Church likewise is not found in her power or influence, but in her weakness, incompetence, and foolishness where situations become so miserable that nothing except the hand of God can sustain Her.
To end the life of a sick person who requests euthanasia, the document said, “is by no means to acknowledge and respect their autonomy,” but rather disavows “both their freedom, now under the sway of suffering and illness, and of their life by excluding any further possibility of human relationship, of sensing the meaning of their existence.”
“Moreover, it is to take the place of God in deciding the moment of death,” it said, adding that it is for this reason that “abortion, euthanasia and willful self-destruction (…) poison human society” and “do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury.”
In December 2019, the Vatican’s top official on life issues, Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, caused a stir when he said that he would hold the hand of someone dying from assisted suicide.
In the Vatican’s new text, it was stressed that those who are assisting people who choose euthanasia in a spiritual capacity “should avoid any gesture, such as remaining until the euthanasia is performed, that could be interpreted as approval of this action.”
“Such a presence could imply complicity in this act,” it said, adding that this is particularly applicable, but is not limited, to, “chaplains in the healthcare systems where euthanasia is practiced, for they must not give scandal by behaving in a manner that makes them complicit in the termination of human life.”
This is not a new teaching, but simply a clarification of the position that she has always held. This is also not about compassion, for while a man with good intentions wants to help someone, the effect is that one gives the wrong message. Under no circumstances can even the idea be given that euthanasia is a good thing because that would be to legitimize sin.
Now this is a major scandal in the Church when these provisions are violated, and it happens far too much today. This does not make it not a sin- it means that those in authority are not following their duties, and that the laity (as many are now) need to speak out to hold them to task and to see that this is done. However, the sins and scandals of the Church hierarchy do not change dogma just as much as the National Academy of Sciences cannot abolish the laws of gravity by denying its existence and ordering all mention of gravity to be forbidden.
“It is to take the place of God in deciding the moment of death,” the document says.
Euthnasia amounts to “a crime against human life because, in this act, one chooses directly to cause the death of another innocent human being… Euthanasia, therefore, is an intrinsically evil act, in every situation or circumstance,” calling that teaching “definitive.”
This right here is the main issue. Euthanasia is ultimately an attempt by man to play God with life, in this case his own, and unlike capital punishment or just war when properly applied, man is taking the place of God and setting up himself as God. It is a philosophy that leads to eugenics, is the true basis of demon worship, and is, intentionally or not, a pathway to a multiplicity of evils that do not end except in the destruction of human freedom, which is not the will to do what one wants, but the ability to choose the good and reject the evil no matter what it is.
The document also warns of a diminishing respect for human life in society at large.
“According to this view, a life whose quality seems poor does not deserve to continue. Human life is thus no longer recognized as a value in itself,” it said. The document faults a false sense of compassion behind the growing press for euthanasia, as well as spreading inivdualism.
Life, the document says, “is increasingly valued on the basis of its efficiency and utility, to the point of considering as ‘discarded lives’ or ‘unworthy lives’ those who do not meet this criterion.
Many years ago in High School, I had a discussion with a classmate who said that he believed the human life depends on its efficiency and ability to do work. This definition unfortunately is what many people have when they think of life. To them, man is just a sort of ‘work horse’ that like a work horse, is shot when its usefulness is deemed no longer necessary.
But man is more than that. No matter what one’s color is, what physical strengths or defects one has, or who one is or is not, life has value because God is the arbiter and giver of life, and it is not for man to try to overthrow His place, yet this is the story of the post-Original Sin world, and is also the reason why Christ had to come and save him.
The diminishing respect for life directly corresponds with the rise in paganism and a return to the ways of the ancient pagan world, which is happening around the world. In Europe, the land where Christianity once was but is no more, as Japheth has left the tent of Shem, is now returning to the ways that Christ came to save the world from, and in so doing is creating the world that Christ came into. This should be a sign for all, since as this continues to happen, eventually it will likely have to be not any human action that saves the world, but just as Christ came to a world seeking truth that wanted it and gave mercy, He will now come to save His people and, having already known Him but having chosen to reject Him, will come with fire and justice.
All life has value, no matter how big or how small, and take heart, for the Lamb has already conquered the world and will come to put His house back in order. Until then, it is enough to remember and never stop saying that life, from its natural beginning to natural end, is a gift from God and is not a plaything of man.