Did you hear that the Bishops of the Atlantic region of Canada, the Atlantic Episcopal Assembly (Archdioceses and Dioceses of Antigonish, Bathurst, Charlottetown, Corner Brook and Labrador, Edmundston, Grand Falls, Halifax, Moncton, Saint John (NB), St. John’s and Yarmouth) veered towards sacramentalizing euthanasia?
They insinuate in a pastoral letter that people who intend to commit the mortal sin of killing themselves with the help of a medical doctor can be given the “last rites”, Sacrament of Anointing. They adopt the vague but prevalent language of “accompanying”.
My emphases and comments:
In the pastoral care of those who are contemplating medical assistance in dying, [assisted suicide… euthanasia… objectively a grave sin… one of those moral absolutes that are so under fire for the last few years…] we must remember that the purpose of pastoral care is to communicate the compassion of Christ, His healing love and His mercy. [mercy… at the expense of truth?] Furthermore, we must take into account the suffering person’s emotional, family and faith context when responding to their specific requests for the reception of the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, the reception of Holy Communion and the celebration of a Christian Funeral.
The Sacrament of Penance is for the forgiveness of past sins, not the ones that have yet to be committed, and yet [Did you hear the slight whoosh as the door opened?] the Catechism reminds us that by ways known to God alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance (CCC, no. 2283). The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is for strengthening and accompanying [?] someone in a vulnerable and suffering state. It presupposes one’s desire to follow Christ even in his passion, suffering and death; it is an expression of trust and dependence on God in difficult circumstances (CCC, no. 1520-3). The reception of Holy Communion as one approaches the end of this life [The title of this letter is: “A Pastoral Reflection on Medical Assistance in Dying”. It is not about just anyone who is dying.] can assist a person in growing in their union with Christ. This last Communion, called Viaticum, has a particular significance and importance as the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection (CCC, no. 1524). [Viaticum for those contemplating death by doctor. Riiiiight. How about the Apostolic Benediction?]
As for the Church’s funeral rites, there are a number of possibilities available. However, in discerning the type of celebration [‘Cause that’s what funerals are for, eh?] most pastorally appropriate to the particular situation, there should always be dialogue with the persons concerned which is caring, sensitive and open. The decree of promulgation of the Order of Funerals states that: “By means of the funeral rites it has been the practice of the Church, as a tender mother, not simply to commend the dead to God but also to raise high the hope of its children and give witness to its own faith in the future resurrection of the baptized with Christ” (Prot. No. 720/69). As people of faith, and ministers of God’s grace, we are called to entrust everyone, whatever their decisions may be, to the mercy of God. To one and all we wish to say that the pastoral care of souls cannot be reduced to norms for the reception of the sacraments or the celebration of funeral rites. Persons, and their families, who may be considering euthanasia or assisted suicide and who request the ministry of the Church need to be accompanied with dialogue and compassionate prayerful support. The fruit of such a pastoral encounter will shed light on complex pastoral situations and will indicate the most appropriate action to be taken including whether or not the celebration of sacraments is proper.
It is inconceivable to me that such a letter would have gotten past the rest of the Canadian Conference, or the Nuncio, or the CDF, or for that matter the guy who runs the gas station at the corner of Faith St. and Charity and who goes to Mass on Sundays. What were they thinking?
The Sacrament of Anointing, a “sacrament of the living”, is to be, if the person is compos sui, received in the state of grace.
Remember that conditions for mortal sin include 1) grave matter, 2) full knowledge, and 3) deliberate consent.
With the full understanding that there are different grades and gravities of mental illness which can be tricky to account for, if a person who is sui compos plans suicide in a concrete way, that person is probably not in the state of grace. If you are entirely mistaken about the nature of an act you probably aren’t guilty for the sin committed. If you are truly nuts or so emotionally distraught or fearful or under compulsion from outside that you can’t make proper choices like a human being, you are not culpable for objectively sinful acts. Moreover, if someone who is sui compos doesn’t have a firm purpose of amendment when making a confession (“Father, I thought about suicide, but I changed my mind. I won’t think about that sin again.”) she cannot be absolved and she cannot receive the Sacrament of Anointing either. It is entirely irresponsible of a priest about to administer Last Rites to a person who is conscious and sui compos not to provide also the opportunity for sacramental confession even in the briefest way permissible. The only way a priest should absolve a person is if he is convinced that the person is truly sorry for sins, even if it is impossible for the person to express sorrow clearly in words. If the person contemplating suicide isn’t sorry for contemplating suicide and isn’t able to say that she won’t do it any more, the person can’t be absolved.
BTW… see Sam Gregg’s piece on moral absolutes over at CWR.
At First Things there is piece about this horrid situation.
It’s an appalling document. In a pastoral letter, ten Catholic Bishops of the Canadian Atlantic Episcopal Assembly shirk their responsibilities as teachers of the faith. The issue is doctor-assisted suicide, which is now legal in Canada.
Readers can’t know to what degree the document’s apparent rubber-stamping of the culture of death was intended by its authors, or to what degree it simply follows from sloppy thinking and careless rhetoric. [True. It could be more that than a “rubber stamp” of the culture of death.] But the bishops’ failure to condemn suicide in plain terms is unmistakable. What’s more, the bishops adopt the circumlocutions of the Canadian government, which instituted the new suicide regime, along with the antinomian clichés of the current pontificate. One is left with the strong impression that the bishops do not merely wish to avoid condemning the practice of doctor-assisted suicide. They want the Church to accommodate herself, smoothing over any conflicts between Catholic teaching and the culture of death.
The bishops adopt the euphemism “medical assistance in dying,” pronouncing it “a highly complex and intensely emotional issue which profoundly affects us all.” It’s so complex, indeed, that we’re to practice “the art of accompaniment” that Pope Francis recommends, which means “prudence, understanding, patience and docility to the Spirit,” and not “judgments about people’s responsibility and culpability.” Suicide? Who am I to judge?
The worst aspect of this document, however, comes in the way the bishops tacitly sanction a grotesque misuse of the sacraments. They observe that a priest administers the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick “for strengthening and accompanying someone in a vulnerable and suffering state.” Earlier in the document, the bishops have been keen to stipulate that a person asking for a doctor to end his life is not to be judged culpable, but instead “accompanied” as someone who is “suffering.” The implication is straightforward, even if not explicitly stated: It is permissible, perhaps even desirable, for a priest to anoint a Catholic who is about to receive a deliberate, self-willed, death-dealing dose of medication.
There are 9 ways to participate in the sin of another person. You can be guilty of the sin committed by another
- By counsel (to give advice, one’s opinion or instructions.)
- By command (to demand, to order, such as in the military.)
- By consent (to give permission, to approve, to agree to.)
- By provocation (to dare.)
- By praise or flattery (to cheer, to applaud, to commend.)
- By concealment (to hide the action, to cover-up.)
- By partaking (to take part, to participate.)
- By silence (by playing dumb, by remaining quiet.)
- By defense of the ill done (to justify, to argue in favor.)
One can argue about how directly you must be involved to be guilty of the sin and also to incur the censure.
Can. 1397 One who commits murder, or who by force or by fraud abducts, imprisons, mutilates or gravely wounds a person, is to be punished, according to the gravity of the offence, with the deprivations and prohibitions mentioned in can. 1336. In the case of the murder of one of those persons mentioned in can. 1370, the offender is punished with the penalties there prescribed.
It’s the age of ambiguity. Let’s make the whole question of moral absolutes so muddied, so confusing, so shaky that no one really has to struggle against sins and win. No. Now the whole concept of a moral absolute has become so obfuscated that people have even less reason NOT to excuse their immoral actions that result from that deadly, but O so human, justification: “I really struggled with this… before I did it.”
These days we are being told through winks and innuendo that a person doesn’t have to have a firm purpose of amendment in regard to sin. No, no! You can continue to sin and the Church will accompany you, mercifully. A word now going out of style in Italian, “accompagnatrice”, means, well…. “escort”, in the bad sense. So, a priest who did that – who set aside the necessity of a firm purpose of amendment in regard to mortal sin – would be a … what?
I, for one, still believe in Hell. I won’t go down that sidewalk because I don’t want to go to Hell for leading people astray. That’s exactly what priests risk if they lead people astray from the truth and Catholic teaching.
The moderation queue is ON.