News & Opinion | October 29, 2017 10:15 am

Catholic Psychiatric Hospital Group Grants Euthanasia Despite Vatican Stance

Brothers of Charity in Belgium opts for mentally ill to have 'choice of conscience.'

Pope Francis arrives for the Papal consistory before the nominations of new cardinals at the Vatican on February 13, 2015. (Filippo Monteforte/Getty)
Pope Francis arrives for the Papal consistory before the nominations of new cardinals at the Vatican on February 13, 2015. (Filippo Monteforte/Getty)

The prayers of Catholics advocating for euthanasia have been answered — at least by a Belgian group that runs psychiatric hospitals.

Belgium’s Brothers of Charity, the largest provider of mental health care in the country, recently changed its policy to grant euthanasia to mentally ill patients who are suffering, The Wall Street Journal reported.

And in doing so, the chain is becoming the latest example of defiance of Vatican policy on the moral issue.

Despite ambiguity within the medical community, the Catholic Church’s catechism remains that causing the death of the disabled, sick or dying is murder regardless of the suffering involved.

The European nation legalized euthanasia in 2002, despite having a majority Catholic population. And despite Church dissatisfaction, more than 80% of the Catholic hospitals and nursing homes in Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Flanders region permitted the practice.

It’s an issue that has spread across Catholic communities around the world, including Canada, which legalized euthanasia last year. That has lead to confusion on how local priests and bishops should handle those who deviate from Rome’s clear edicts.

“It is a new problem,” euthanasia opponent Msgr. Renzo Pegoraro, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, told The Journal.

There are two extremes (over whether or not to deny the sacraments to offenders). On one hand approval, on the other a rigid position with no support for people. We have to understand what we may do while avoiding the two extremes.”

Pope Francis remains staunchly opposed to euthanasia — voicing his support for the parents of terminally ill, Charlie Gard, as they fought to overturn a British court’s ruling in favor of pulling the dying child off life support in July.

The Pope directly responded to the decision by the Brothers of Charity with a public statement asking hospital chain to reverse its new policy.