Archbishop Christian Lépine of Montreal Photo: CBC

Canada: Courageous Bishop Challenges Law in Favour of Euthanasia

The amendment to the Canadian physician-assisted dying law includes suicide as euthanasia: it has been challenged by a Catholic archbishop for its possible implications on religious freedom, conscience rights, property rights and the performance of public associations -private.

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(ZENIT News / Montreal, 29.02.2024).- The Canadian Law for end-of-life care added an amendment in June 2023, establishing that “palliative care hospitals cannot exclude medical assistance to die among the cares they offer.” On February 5, Archbishop Christian Lépine of Montreal filed an appeal before the High Court of Quebec, requesting the immediate suspension of the implementation of the amendment.

On February 6,  the Archdiocese of Montreal stated on its Website that “The Catholic Church acknowledges the need of high-quality palliative care, which defends the dignity of human life  and offers effective treatment against pain and, at the same time, attends to the emotional, affective and spiritual needs of people.”

The document clarifies that “according to Catholic doctrine, human life is considered sacred and inviolable and extends from conception to natural death. Palliative care accompanies people and their dear ones in the end-of-life process, with the objective to alleviate pain without prolonging or accelerating death.”

The Archdiocese points out that the Canadian Law for end-of-life care “causes the premature death of the individual. Consequently, the Catholic Church considers it an act of euthanasia, regarding it as morally unacceptable as an answer to suffering, and the anguish people experience at the end of life.”

Among Archbishop Lépine’s intentions is the protection of Montreal’s non-profit St. Raphael House of Palliative Care and Day Center, which offers free care regardless of ethnic background, social condition, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or gender identity, with the 12 beds of its installations.

The Catholic Register newspaper, with headquarters in Toronto, reported that the Archdiocese of Montreal transferred the building and land to the Maison St-Raphael, a community organization created to run the Home, after the closing of Saint Raphael the Archangel parish, with a 75-year rental contract. It established that the Center would never administer euthanasia.

On its Web page, Maison St. Raphael said that “the focus of palliative care supports life and considers death as a natural part of life.” It also says that the Center’s mission “intends to alleviate physical, psychological and spiritual suffering, and to improve patients’ quality of life as well as that of their dear ones. The objective is to offer a way towards the end of life with compassion and humanity, respecting the needs and limitations of each person.”

The Archdiocese’s lawsuit points out that the mission of the Maison St. Raphael Center, as example of the Law’s weakness, is made impossible with the amendment, as its principles are approved in an agreement with Montreal’s Health Agency and Social Services, which acknowledges that St. Raphael does not offer euthanasia, establishing transfer protocols for a patient who requests it.

In November, Sonia Bélanger, Quebec’s Health Minister, rejected St. Raphael’s request for exemption of euthanasia requirements, qualifying it as “part of the continuum of palliative care and at the end of life,” which must be available for any patient in all environments offering end-of-life care.”

The Catholic Register commented that the Archdiocese’s lawsuit defends property rights that come into play with the amendment, and explained that St. Raphael is a private Center, free to “define its policy orientations and focuses even if it receives public financing. To impose the amendment on it would imply that the State appropriates to itself a religious building for the sake of euthanasia. The lawsuit states that the amendment can paralyze religious groups’ efforts in the service of society for not respecting their beliefs and sincere convictions.

Archbishop Lépine said to The Catholic Register that the case “is not only a question of palliative care; it’s a question of freedom of conscience.”

“We speak of palliative care and of MAiD, because it’s around those questions that the law is made. But in reality it’s about freedom of conscience, not only of individuals but also of institutions,” said the Archbishop. “That’s what we hope to promote. Whoever we are, we need a society in which there is freedom of conscience for people and institutions.”

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Rafael Manuel Tovar

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