Pope orders Belgian Brothers to stop offering euthanasia

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 13, 2017

Pope Francis has taken a stand against euthanasia, ordering the Brothers of Charity in Belgium this week to stop the practice by the end of August.

Euthanasia is legal in the country, and in May the Brothers of Charity Group which administers the Belgian hospitals announced it would allow doctors to perform euthanasia on psychiatric patients. The brothers formalized the decision weeks after Belgian bishops came to an agreement that euthanasia would not be allowed in Catholic-run institutions.

"We respect the freedom of doctors to carry out euthanasia or not", the group said, noting that this freedom was "guaranteed by law".

The charity said in a statement it would be performed only if there were "no reasonable treatment alternatives".

Brother René Stockman, General Superior of the Brothers of Charity, released a statement in response to the position of his Belgian brothers.

Brother Dr. Rene Stockman, writing the Pope's request in two letters, said that it is "disloyal, outrageous and unacceptable". "And because life is absolute, it is a state worthy of protection", he wrote.

Belgium, along with the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Colombia, is one of four countries in the world where euthanasia is legal. While the number of people euthanized for psychiatric reasons accounts for only about 3 percent of Belgium's yearly 4,000 euthanasia deaths, there has been a threefold increase in the past decade. He told Catholic News Service that the Vatican had threatened to strip the hospitals of their Catholic identity if administrators did not comply with the papal order.

Pope Francis ordered Brothers of Charity who serve on the group's board to sign a joint letter to their Superior General declaring that they "fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end".

Mattias De Vriendt, a spokesman for the Belgium charity, said it had received the Vatican's request but had not yet responded.

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