28 set 20
All the “Nos” of Pope Francis to the Progressives. The Last and Toughest Is on the End of Life
To the general disinterest of the dominant media – for which the “right” to decide how and when to die and make die is now seen as inviolable – Pope Francis has once and for all reiterated the Catholic Church’s radical “no” to euthanasia.
He has reiterated it through the letter “Samaritanus bonus” signed by Cardinal Luis F. Ladaria, prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, and approved by him on June 25 this year, made public on 22 September.
In presenting the letter, Ladaria justified it “in relation to today’s situation, characterized by an ever more permissive civil context worldwide.”
But the letter also states that its publication was deemed necessary “in order to rule out once again any ambiguity regarding the teaching of the [Church’s] magisterium on euthanasia and assisted suicide.”
“Samaritanus bonus” is therefore also the latest of the “nos” that Pope Francis has been uttering for some time against the unruly forays of the progressive sectors of the Church, which had staked a great deal on his support and now are not concealing their disappointment.
This is, in fact, the sequence of the “halts” ordered by Jorge Mario Bergoglio for two years now, although not all of them have been crowned with success:
– the May 25 2018 letter to the bishops of Germany against Eucharistic “intercommunion” between Catholics and Protestants, a letter also written by Cardinal Ladaria and countersigned by the pope;
– the September 18 2020 letter that, once more against intercommunion and with an accompanying doctrinal note, Cardinal Ladaria again wrote to the German bishops, evidently not brought to heel by the previous warning but on the contrary more determined than ever to move forward on the basis of a September 2019 document of understanding with the Protestants;
– the silence imposed by the pope at the October 2018 synod on young people regarding the “paradigm shift” in judging homosexual couples, a silence observed in the assembly discussion, in the final document, and in the post-synodal pontifical exhortation “Christus vivit”;
– the severely cautionary letters sent to the Church of Germany by the pope himself or in his name by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the congregation for bishops, to bar the way on schismatically shaded decisions in support of married priests, women priests, and new sexual morality still on the agenda of a national synod that began on December 1 2019;
– the complete silence of Pope Francis, in the final pontifical exhortation of the synod on the Amazon, made public on February 12 2020, regarding the admission to the priesthood of “viri probati” with wives and children, even though this had been approved by a majority in the synod.
Francis was intent on justifying this last silence in a note he wrote and had published by “La Civiltà Cattolica” on September 5, attributing it to the “bad spirit” of the discussion in the synodal assembly, divided “into dialectical and antagonistic positions” as in a profane parliament, and in his opinion devoid of “discernment.”
But in this same note the pope also wrote that “I like to think that, in a certain sense, the synod is not over.”
And in fact, in the Amazon and elsewhere, the proponents of married priests do not at all think that the question is closed, thanks in part to the signs of approval for their intentions given by Pope Francis himself on various occasions before the synod.
This last is a consideration that also concerns other of the “halts” mentioned above, also preceded by the pope’s words and gestures which in fact encouraged the proponents of change.
Just go back, for example, to the video recording of the unforgettable answer given by Francis to the Lutheran woman who asked him if she could receive communion at Mass along with her Catholic husband:
Or, concerning homosexuality, that “Who am I to judge?” which has universally become the “brand” of Francis’s pontificate.
So then, the letter “Samaritanus bonus” – by its own admission – was also preceded by unclear statements from Church leaders on the subject of euthanasia. And it is also for this reason – one reads there – that “the Church is convinced of the necessity to reaffirm as definitive teaching that euthanasia is a crime against human life.”
Francis himself has suffered the consequences of these previous ambiguities of language. In the ruling of the high court of justice in London of February 20 2018 which decreed the death of little Alfie Evans, Judge Anthony Hayden cited and twisted for the sake of justifying the ruling none other than a passage from the message on the end of life that the pope had sent on November 7 2017 to Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the pontifical academy for life.
The passage was the one in which Francis spoke of the ever more “insidious temptation to insist on treatments that produce powerful effects on the body, but sometimes do not promote the integral good of the person” and defined as “morally licit” the forgoing or suspension of the application of therapeutic means “when their use does not correspond to that ethical and humanistic criterion which will later be defined as ‘proportionality of treatment’.”
Beyond the misleading inaccuracy of the citation, it should be kept in mind that the papal message was in fact made a target of criticism as soon as its appeared, on account of some of its unclear formulations.
But the true champion of ambiguities regarding the end of life has been, on multiple occasions, the recipient of that message, Archbishop Paglia.
In that same incident centered on the fate of little Alfie Evans, Paglia agreed in everything with the high court of justice in London, in an interview with “Tempi” on March 8 2018. And like him the London ruling was also approved by the bishops of England and Wales, led by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
In the press conference for the presentation of “Samaritanus bonus”, on September 22, Cardinal Ladaria answered this question from Settimo Cielo:
Q. – Where the letter affirms the Church’s “duty to rule out any ambiguity regarding the teaching of the magisterium on euthanasia and assisted suicide,” do the “ambiguities” also refer to various types of statements from some Vatican offices or officials, such as Archbishop Paglia?
A. – [Smile] I would go back to what Vatican Council II also says in the constitution on the Church “Lumen gentium,” and then to various explanations that the congregation for the doctrine of the faith has given. […] The Council says there are three elements [to be taken into consideration]: the frequency of a statement, the tone of this statement, the nature of the document. A Council is not the same as a statement to a journalist. This must be very clear. It is not the same as an encyclical, a speech the pope makes, or if I now say something in front of you. […] It may also happen that at certain times, in certain types of declarations, which are not infallible, the Catholic may find himself in difficulty. In these cases the documents of the Church also provide for a moment of silence, without public opposition, but this does not […] mean that when a bishop opens his mouth he speaks in an infallible way or deploys the magisterium of the Church. No. The Church has the elements of discrimination, of judgment, because the magisterium is highly divaricated and is exercised at many levels.
It is difficult to predict what effect this “halt” by Pope Francis will have, within the Church, on ambiguous statements about the end of life by ecclesiastic representatives who are also close to him.
Outside the Church it is obvious. Indifference will prevail, or in any case the mere acknowledgment of opposition by the Catholic hierarchy to the dominant canons.
What is certain is that for a long time such clear and unequivocal words have not been heard in a pronouncement of the magisterium of the Catholic Church on a subject that is so delicate and divisive.
Here is a small anthology. Taken from a letter that is nonetheless to be read in its entirety and of great biblical and theological depth, for example in the splendid second chapter on “the living experience of the suffering Christ and the proclamation of hope.”
FROM THE LETTER “SAMARITANUS BONUS”
The complete text:
The judgement that an illness is incurable cannot mean that care has come at an end. The contemplative gaze calls for a wider notion of care. The objective of assistance must take account of the integrity of the person, and thus deploy adequate measures to provide the necessary physical, psychological, social, familial and religious support to the sick. The living faith of the persons involved in care contributes to the authentic theologal life of the sick person, even if this is not immediately evident. […]
The Church affirms that the positive meaning of human life is something already knowable by right reason, and in the light of faith is confirmed and understood in its inalienable dignity. […]
The uninfringeable value of life is a fundamental principle of the natural moral law and an essential foundation of the legal order. Just as we cannot make another person our slave, even if they ask to be, so we cannot directly choose to take the life of another, even if they request it. […]
The Church is convinced of the necessity to reaffirm as definitive teaching that euthanasia is a crime against human life because, in this act, one chooses directly to cause the death of another innocent human being. […] Euthanasia is an intrinsically evil act, in every situation or circumstance. […]
Any formal or immediate material cooperation in such an act is a grave sin against human life. […] Those who approve laws of euthanasia and assisted suicide, therefore, become accomplices of a grave sin that others will execute. They are also guilty of scandal because by such laws they contribute to the distortion of conscience, even among the faithful. […]
The medical personnel and the other health care workers – faithful to the task always to be at the service of life and to assist it up until the very end – cannot give themselves to any euthanistic practice, neither at the request of the interested party, and much less that of the family. In fact, since there is no right to dispose of one’s life arbitrarily, no health care worker can be compelled to execute a non-existent right. […]
To precipitate death or delay it through “aggressive medical treatments” deprives death of its due dignity. […]
Nutrition and hydration do not constitute medical therapy in a proper sense, which is intended to counteract the pathology that afflicts the patient. They are instead forms of obligatory care of the patient, representing both a primary clinical and an unavoidable human response to the sick person. Obligatory nutrition and hydration can at times be administered artificially, provided that it does not cause harm or intolerable suffering to the patient. […]
The sometimes obsessive recourse to prenatal diagnosis, along with the emergence of a culture unfriendly to disability, often prompts the choice of abortion, going so far as to portray it as a kind of “prevention.” Abortion consists in the deliberate killing of an innocent human life and as such it is never lawful. The use of prenatal diagnosis for selective purposes is contrary to the dignity of the person and gravely unlawful because it expresses a eugenic mentality. In other cases, after birth, the same culture encourages the suspension or non-initiation of care for the child as soon as it is born because a disability is present or may develop in the future. This utilitarian approach—inhumane and gravely immoral—cannot be countenanced. […]
The Church nonetheless affirms the moral liceity of sedation as part of patient care in order to ensure that the end of life arrives with the greatest possible peace and in the best internal conditions. This holds also for treatments that hasten the moment of death (deep palliative sedation in the terminal stage), always, to the extent possible, with the patient’s informed consent. […]
Governments must acknowledge the right to conscientious objection in the medical and healthcare field, where the principles of the natural moral law are involved and especially where in the service to life the voice of conscience is daily invoked. Where this is not recognized, one may be confronted with the obligation to disobey human law. […]
The right to conscientious objection does not mean that Christians reject these laws in virtue of private religious conviction, but by reason of an inalienable right essential to the common good of the whole society. They are in fact laws contrary to natural law because they undermine the very foundations of human dignity and human coexistence rooted in justice. […]
The pastoral accompaniment of those who expressly ask for euthanasia or assisted suicide today presents a singular moment when a reaffirmation of the teaching of the Church is necessary. With respect to the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, the confessor must be assured of the presence of the true contrition necessary for the validity of absolution. […] Thus a person who may be registered in an association to receive euthanasia or assisted suicide must manifest the intention of cancelling such a registration before receiving the sacraments. […]
Those who spiritually assist these persons should avoid any gesture, such as remaining until the euthanasia is performed, that could be interpreted as approval of this action. Such a presence could imply complicity in this act.
(s.m.) For those who want to make something of the headline news of recent days, issued at 7:59 pm on Thursday September 24 with a terse statementfrom the Vatican press office that Pope Francis had “accepted” the “resignation” of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu from his position as prefect of the congregation for the causes of saints and from “the rights connected to the cardinalate,” this background could be informative:
While concerning the self-defense presented by Becciu the day after his ouster, any of the various accounts will do.