A Belgian charity took a step in a non-Church direction recently and is hearing about it from Rome:
Pope Francis has ordered a Belgian Catholic charity to stop offering euthanasia in its psychiatric hospitals.
In May, the Brothers of Charity group 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 at least three doctors, including one psychiatrist, must be consulted.
The charity said in a statement that euthanasia would only be performed if there were “no reasonable treatment alternatives” and that such requests would be considered with “the greatest caution.”
Obviously, the problem is that the Church is opposed to euthanasia even if there are “no reasonable treatment alternatives” and there isn’t any wiggle room if an individual or organization considers itself Roman Catholic.
The entire organization is not on board with the brothers in Belgium, however:
The Belgian charity’s administrative headquarters in Rome issued a statement in May, arguing that allowing euthanasia “goes against the basic principles” of the Catholic Church.
“This is the very first time a Christian organization states that euthanasia is an ordinary medical practice that falls under the physician’s therapeutic freedom,” wrote the charity’s superior general, Rene Stockman, who delivered the request from Pope Francis via two letters.
“This is disloyal, outrageous and unacceptable.”
The Belgium charity says it is going to “evaluate” the two letters, which indicates either confusion or willful disobedience of Rome. It isn’t the prerogative of the charity to make a decision here.
A major concern with euthanasia is that it is one more way for people to prey upon vulnerable elderly people.
Rome isn’t used to being questioned in matters like this, and the charity’s disregard for the Church’s view on the subject may shorten the amount of time it has to “evaluate” things.