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Bishop warns of consequences of doctor-assisted suicide

Bishop warns of consequences of doctor-assisted suicide

Catholics could be denied last rites and funerals if they undergo doctor-assisted suicide according to Canadian Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, above.

According to this report, the Church might also refuse to conduct a funeral if  families strongly support and champion their loved one’s assisted-death decision.

Prendergast said that Catholics who consider undergoing doctor-assisted suicide must realise the act is a “morally great evil”.

His comments underscore a little-mentioned dilemma that assisted death has presented to the religion of 13 million Canadians.

Not only is the concept an ethical abomination in the Church’s eyes, but raises awkward theological questions for gravely ill Catholic patients and the clergy who tend to them.

A priest or hospital chaplain asked to attend to a patient planning assisted death should treat it as a “teaching moment,” and try to discourage the act, said Prendergast.

But if the patient persists, the priest could well decline to perform the sacrament of anointing of the sick – and performing other parts of the last rites, he said.

The priest would pray with them, but I don’t think he would give the anointing. I think we have to be clear that the Church cannot condone this.

As for funerals, one would probably occur in many cases of assisted-death if it’s important to family members — and they’re not out to make a point about the practice, said the Prendergast.

But, he added:

If the family was all gung-ho in favour of this, and they think there’s nothing wrong with this and they want the Church to confirm this by having a big funeral, the priest would have some concerns.

Prendergast and other Catholic authorities stress that clergy should still provide whatever comfort and spiritual care they can to the very ill, even if that parishioner wants a doctor to help them die early.

Their critique of the assisted-death concept – including a statement read in all Toronto-area churches Sunday – focused on moral and human-rights arguments, along with a call for better palliative-care services.

Committing suicide once precluded a Catholic from being given funeral rites and buried in a Catholic cemetery. The act was regarded as “self-murder”, as wrong as killing someone else.

But the hard line on the rites of death for suicides was abandoned in the last century, the thinking being that people take their own lives because of mental illness that is beyond their control.

Physician-assisted death as legalised by the Supreme Court of Canada is a different matter, however, since by definition patients are supposed to be of sound mind to request a lethal injection.

Last rites comprise three parts: confession, if the patient is able; the sacrament of the anointing of the sick – where the priest daubs blessed oil on the patient’s forehead and says a special prayer; and “viaticum”, or a final communion, if the person is able to swallow the wine and wafer.

Said John Berkman, a professor at Regis College, the University of Toronto’s Jesuit school of theology:

I certainly think that absolutely no priest should give (the viaticum) to somebody who has told them ‘I’m about to give consent to be killed’. That would be scandalous.

One supporter of the Supreme Court’s assisted-death ruling, on the other hand, said talk of possibly denying last rites or funerals will just ensure that suffering or grieving Catholics go elsewhere for comfort.

Said Juliet Guichon, a bioethicist at the University of Calgary:

If the Church focuses on judging others, then it probably won’t be able to help people at the worst times of their lives.

Hat tip: Peter Sykes

28 responses to “Bishop warns of consequences of doctor-assisted suicide”

  1. Broga says:

    So, it isn’t enough for the patients and their families to suffer the burden of approaching death, the grisly priests, so ready to protect paedophiles, have to add to it. The pity is that patients have been so indoctrinated that they listen to these power hungry priests.

  2. charles Longstreth says:

    It is only ‘right’ that Catholic parishioners should suffer in the time of their dying. Are they not the ones who support a seriously abusing clerical organization?!

  3. L.Long says:

    And I care what some delusional half wit wearing a funny hat and a dress has to say???! And I also have a funny hat and a couple of dresses and no one listens to what I say either!!! Maybe it is the dress & hat!?!?!?! And being a delusional half wit isn’t the problem!
    Oh! Yes! And we don’t need no stupid laws about suicide!!! If you think it is wrong then great when you are paralyzed with the unbearable pain of cancer eating you up, then SUFFER to the very end and may it it be a long time!!!! You deserve it. But being a hypocrite you wont do so!

  4. Broga says:

    These priests won’t follow their own rules. The woman out of hell, Mother Theresa, thought women should suffer and deprived them of pain killing drugs. She travelled in luxury and befriended dictators. We still don’t know where £millions contributed to her scam are. I suggest she is a model for these lying priests.

  5. gedediah says:

    These people are in the business of frightening vulnerable members of their flock into toeing the line. They have no humanity.

  6. barriejohn says:

    Well, if they have to go to Hell when they die, they’ll be in good company, won’t they?

    https://christianspooksite.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/385411-111217-new-leak-cartoon.jpg?w=835&h=470

  7. AgentCormac says:

    ‘If the family was all gung-ho in favour of this, and they think there’s nothing wrong with this and they want the Church to confirm this by having a big funeral…’

    They just don’t get it, do they? Prendergast describes this as if it’s a fashion choice of some description, as if the family are all getting behind where to go on holiday next. These are seriously ill people making the most painful decision one could ever have to make. The suffering and trauma the patients and their families are going through mean nothing to him. It’s all about his pathetic dogma – about what he is and isn’t prepared to do unless others play by his rules. The man is inhuman.

  8. John C says:

    Sad indeed that the paedo priests would show a dog more compassion than a person, however it occurs anyone who is likely to choose doctor assisted suicide most likely couldn’t give a rats arse about having a catholic funeral.Sad for those catholics who could have been spared a bad end though, but choose to deny facts and logic all your life, choose your own path.

  9. Brian says:

    I will fuck your children but when you are dying in unbearable pain and seek an assisted death I will not bury you.

  10. Brian says:

    Broga … and when that hateful bitch was dying she did not fester in one of her own hell holes. No she sought the best medical and palliative care that other peoples money could buy.

  11. Brian says:

    When my time comes and a priest approaches with intent I will say….

    Fuck Off … Fuck Off Now

  12. Cali Ron says:

    That’s a pretty fancy napkin on his head. So if you decide to end your suffering you burn in hell for an eternity, whereas priest can be pedophiles and god’s OK with that one.

    barriejohn: LOL!

    AgentCormac: “It’s all about his pathetic dogma…” What would a funeral, no matter the size, for your deceased love one have to do with making a point about assisted suicide. In a moment of sadness and grief confronting the church on it’s dogma is the last thing on their minds. Does being a good catholic require you to be a heartless, inconsiderate asshole who puts church dogma over human compassion and love?

  13. barriejohn says:

    Cali Ron: You were an evangelical fundamentalist just as I was, so this will be familiar to you: “I know it sounds heartless to say that millions of good-living, kind, moral people are going to spend eternity in hell, and it gives me absolutely no pleasure to point it out, but it’s not ME saying it – it’s what the BIBLE says”!

    http://www.bobhutton1.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/it-was-lords-will-to-harden-their.html

  14. Dianne Leonard says:

    Just one more reason that I and the rest of my siblings have deserted the Catholic church. I live in California and the church tried to stop a compassion in dying bill that passed the Legislature. As if we weren’t already angry at them for their anti-gay stance. Good riddance. I did take a look at the congregation at my mom’s church: very small, lots of gray heads (i.e., nobody under 50.) With luck they will go the way of the dinosaurs–which they richly deserve.

  15. Peter Sykes says:

    “Why should I fear death? If I am, death is not. If death is, I am not. Why should I fear that which cannot exist when I do?” – Epicurus

  16. Angela_K says:

    The Magdalene laundries, paedophile priests, support for the Nazis, anti birth control, anti-abortion, native American and Canadian children taken from their parents, the list of human rights abuses goes on. Yet there are millions of indoctrinated fools who still support this vile cult and various governments who don’t have the courage curb them just turn a blind eye.

  17. Broga says:

    @Peter Sykes : Great quote from a historically much maligned man. Epicurus was no luxury lover as is often thought. On a wider point I find far more wisdom, insight and comfort in the ancients than I ever found in the bible: Epicurus, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus for example. Many of the sayings of the Stoics were attributed to St Paul and others when they were used to help monks in their hard life.

  18. Broga says:

    @Brian: “When my time comes and a priest approaches with intent I will say….

    Fuck Off … Fuck Off Now”

    When my mother (an atheist) was dying I thought my influence (she read The Freethinker as well) had influenced her against deciding what she really wanted. I felt guilty and said that if she wanted me to get a Minister (she was Scots) to preside at her funeral I would arrange that and she need have no concerns about my feelings.

    She said, with typical wit, “If you let a Minister near me I will come back and haunt you.” We had a most satisfactory Humanist funeral.

  19. AgentCormac says:

    @Dianne Leonard
    Good to have you on our side!

  20. Angela_K says:

    @Peter Sykes & Broga. I recently found my old Ludwig Wittgenstein book and one of his best quotations that so easily can be applied to the religious is: “There is nothing so difficult as not deceiving oneself”

  21. Cali Ron says:

    barriejohn: Yeah, many a time along with “it’s god’s will” and “who are we to question god”. One of the many contradictions of Christianity: god loves us so much, but he will make us burn in Hell if we don’t tow the line. For such a loving god he is mighty blood thirsty, especially the “old testament” god.

    Dianne Leonard: Good Riddance indeed, from a fellow Californian. Celebrate life and let the god deluded waste their lives worrying about death and their imaginary heaven.!

  22. Dionigi says:

    Do what I tell you or you will burn in hell for all eternity.
    Exactly why religion is so wrong.

  23. […] This time in Canada over assisted dying. […]

  24. Stuart H. says:

    Don’t know if this is true elsewhere, but at my local hospital the Catholic priest only administers last rites if his parishioner is considerate enough to conk out during a short weekly ward visit anyway.

    I understand he has a little team of helpers who are trained to do the routine stuff at other times, which was sanctioned by some Vatican diktat or other to get ordinary Catholics helping out with the more boring priestly stuff, and a hospital worker tells me this regularly includes giving last rites.

  25. barriejohn says:

    StuartH: I looked that up, as I was of the opinion that only a priest who had had hands laid on him by someone who had had hands laid on him by…(well, you get the picture) could administer the Extreme Unction, and it appears that you may be right.

    The Church’s ritual book on the Pastoral Care of the Sick uses the term “Apostolic Pardon” for what elsewhere, for instance in the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, is called the “Apostolic Blessing with attached plenary indulgence”. Priests are urged to impart it to the dying, but if a priest cannot be had, the Church grants a plenary indulgence, to be acquired at the moment of death, to any rightly disposed Christian who in life was accustomed to say some prayers, with the Church itself supplying the three conditions normally required for gaining a plenary indulgence (Confession, Communion and prayers for the Pope’s intentions).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostolic_Blessing

    It’s very complicated, but that’s quite intentional, of course. I love the idea that if you go to Rome and listen (or try to) to the Pope’s pathetic public pronouncements your every sin will be pardoned (best to commit suicide there and then, I would have thought), but does it still work if you only hear his words over a loudspeaker or via radio or television? We used to watch transmissions and even films of Billy Graham Crusades, etc, and I wondered then whether prayers that were recorded had the same power as those that were spoken live. As Jesus knew what would happen in the future you’d have thought that he would have given some guidance on such matters, wouldn’t you?

  26. Laura Roberts says:

    Was it cruel of me that I nearly peed my pants laughing at the first part of the article? I’ve heard some valid concerns about physician-assisted suicide—in fact, I read some in Free Inquiry some years back—so I’m open to new arguments. I was expecting something along the lines of, “a permanent solution to a problem that may be temporary”.

    But …the “risk” of not having “holy” water sprinkled on you, or giving a last “confession”? Are we sure this isn’t satire?

    No, I guess it’s not. Yeesh…

    Can we ask the children to go play in another room and invite the adults back into the discussion, please?

  27. barriejohn says:

    Laura Roberts: I sometimes wonder whether I am being a bit too sarcastic about these people, until I remember bastards like Pell, and remind myself that we need to expose the RCC and similar organizations to all the ridicule that we can, as logical argument is clearly going to get us nowhere. (Didn’t someone called G W Foote have similar thoughts?)

  28. It tells people it has a sacrament just for those in danger of death called the anointing of the sick. This sacrament can take away your sentence to the everlasting solitary confinement of Hell but only a priest can give it. The sacrament has caused untold terror to millions who have found themselves dying alone and without a priest. Because the Church wants people to go to the priest and “learn” from him, it restricts the power to give the sacrament to him though it could be liberal. And this in an age where priests are scarce!

    Those availing of this ridiculous sacrament only care about their own comfort not the principle. And if they had proper self-respect they would not accept a sacrament based on opposition to the principle “innocent until proven guilty”. The Catholic Church has no right to accuse anybody of being capable of spending eternity in hate and evil when it cannot be 100% certain. That is why its priests when they come swarming around the dying to manipulate people’s emotions such be told to get to fuck.