I read with horror the other day that the head of the Pontifical Council for Life, Archbp. Vincenzo Paglia, said that he would hold the hand of a person committing suicide. This is the same Archbp. Paglia who is behind, and included within, the infamous homoerotic fresco in the cathedral of Terni, Italy, where he was once the bishop.
From the Catholic Herald:
Answering a question about assisted suicide and whether a Catholic or a Catholic priest can be present at someone’s death by assisted suicide, Paglia told a small group of journalists that he would be willing to do so, because “the Lord never abandons anyone.”
“In this sense, to accompany, to hold the hand of someone who is dying, is, I think a great duty every believer should promote,” he said, adding that believers should also provide a contrast to the culture of assisted suicide.
“I believe from our perspective, no one can be abandoned, even if we are against assisted suicide because we do not want to do death’s dirty work,” he said.
Sure, we hope that no one feel abandoned, unless perhaps it is by the permissive will of God that the person make in that state a great act of faith, hope and love. In our human perspective, in charity, we should, yes, accompany people. But we don’t accompany them to sin mortally. We can’t condone their choice of homicide. Suicide is a subcategory of homicide.
Willelm Card. Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht took Paglia’s position to pieces at CNA. Eijk is an expert on the issue of euthanasia.
Cardinal Eijk also addressed the issue of an eventual funeral for people who opted for assisted suicide or euthanasia.
“If a patient asks the priest to administer him the sacraments (confession or anointing of the sick) and plans a funeral before the doctor ends his life upon his request or he commits suicide, the priest cannot do so,” Eijk said.
He added that there are three reasons for this prohibition.
The first one is that “a person can receive the sacraments only when he is in a good disposition, and this is not the case when a person wants to oppose the order of creation, violating the intrinsic value of his life.”
The second reason is that the person “who receives the sacraments puts his life in the merciful hands of God. However, who wants to personally end his life wants to take his life in his hands.”
The third reason is that “if the priest administers the sacraments or plans a funeral in these cases, the priest is guilty of a scandal, since his actions might suggest that suicide or euthanasia are permitted in certain circumstances.”
Eijk also explained that a priest can celebrate the funeral of a person who died by assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia in only some circumstances, though suicide is always illicit.
“Since ancient times, the priests accepted to celebrate funerals of people who committed suicide or asked for euthanasia in cases of depression of any other psychiatric diseases. In these cases, because of their disease, the freedom of the people is diminished, and so ending the life cannot be considered a mortal sin,” Cardinal Eijk sais.
He adds that the priest must “prudently judge whether he is in front of a case of diminished freedom. If so, he can celebrate the funeral.”
To combat the pro-euthanasia trend, the Church must “announce that God made the human being in his image in his totality, soul, and body. The Second Vatican Council constitution Gaudium et Spes described the human being as ‘a unity of soul and body.’ This means that the body is an essential dimension of the human being and is part of the intrinsic value of the human being. So, it is not licit to sacrifice human life to end the pain.”
I find what Paglia suggested to be wrong-headed in the extreme even if it can be imagined that his heart was in the right place.