Belgian order defies Pope Francis, insists on allowing euthanasia

Activists of the collective Yellow Safety Jacket take part in an anti-euthanasia protest on Feb. 11, 2014, in Brussels. A group of psychiatric care centers run by a Catholic religious order in Belgium has announced it will permit doctors to undertake the euthanasia of "nonterminal" mentally ill patients on its premises. (CNS photo/Julien Warnand, EPA) Activists of the collective Yellow Safety Jacket take part in an anti-euthanasia protest on Feb. 11, 2014, in Brussels. A group of psychiatric care centers run by a Catholic religious order in Belgium has announced it will permit doctors to undertake the euthanasia of "nonterminal" mentally ill patients on its premises. (CNS photo/Julien Warnand, EPA)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A Belgian religious congregation is defying Pope Francis' order to stop allowing euthanasia in its psychiatric hospitals, saying that its decision to do so is fully consistent with Catholic doctrine.

In a statement Tuesday, the Belgian branch of the Brothers of Charity stood by its decision and said negotiations with church officials to resolve the standoff hadn't yielded results. It said it was open to further dialogue, but stressed it merely wanted to explain itself.

Advertisement

In May, the Brothers of Charity announced it would allow doctors to perform euthanasia at its 15 psychiatric hospitals in Belgium, one of only two countries — along with the Netherlands — where doctors are legally allowed to kill people with mental health problems, at their request.

To qualify, people must be in a state of "unbearable suffering," and euthanasia would only be performed if there were "no reasonable treatment alternatives," the order said. Requests would be considered with "the greatest caution" and be evaluated by at least three doctors.

The Holy See launched an investigation into the decision, which was made by the group's lay board of directors, since Catholic Church teaching forbids euthanasia. In August, the Vatican ordered the group to stop offering euthanasia and gave the members one month to comply.



The Belgian order's administrative headquarters in Rome concurred, saying euthanasia "goes against the basic principles" of the Catholic Church. The order's superior, Brother Rene Stockman, asked the Belgian religious brothers who were members of the board to write a formal letter declaring their adherence to church doctrine on the need to respect life from conception until natural death. And the Vatican gave him authority to take "necessary legal steps" to resolve the situation and improve the Catholic "identity" of the order's hospitals.

But in its statement Tuesday, the Belgian branch said it "emphatically" believes that its decision to allow euthanasia is consistent with Catholic doctrine.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A reflection for the second Friday of Advent
Elizabeth Kirkland CahillDecember 15, 2017
Father James Martin, S.J. and Ross Douthat at the Civility in America Part 1: Religion event held at The Sheen Center on Dec. 13th. (America/Antonio DeLoera-Brust).
Is there a duty for Christians to represent a certain kind of voice in the public discourse?
Angelo Jesus CantaDecember 14, 2017
A spokesman for the archdiocese described the meeting as “personal” in nature and aimed at “renewing a friendship that goes back 15 years or so.”
Michael J. O’LoughlinDecember 14, 2017
Black women cannot be expected to continue to save white people from the poor choices they make.
Anthea ButlerDecember 14, 2017