Vatican Radio reported August 11, 2017 that the Vatican Press Office confirmed that the Pope ordered the Brothers of Charity in Belgium to stop allowing euthanasia in the 15 psychiatric hospitals the group operates. The order came in a letter in early August.
Belgium allows euthanasia under a broad array of conditions. In May, the Brothers of Charity group in Belgium said it would allow doctors to perform euthanasia on psychiatric patients. The charity said in a statement that euthanasia would be performed only if there were “no reasonable treatment alternatives”.
This decision was condemned by the Vatican through the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and the Brothers of Charity superior general in Rome, Bro. René Stockman. In a June 2017 statement, he said: “The central point and the foundation within Christian ethics is that life is absolute, which cannot be touched. Life is a gift from God and entails an assignment. And because life is absolute, it is a state worthy of protection. Life is more than the quality that it has or does not have.”
According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis also ordered Brothers of Charity who serve on the group’s board to sign a joint letter to their superior general declaring that 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.”
The teaching of the Church on matter related to euthanasia is clear: “Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.” (Gaudium et Spes, 27).
The Belgian group has not, said Vatican Radio, responded to the Pope and did not say whether any patients had actually been euthanized. Failure to follow the Pope’s directives in this case could result in severe penalties under canon law.