Belgium: Religious Say “Yes” to Euthanasia

May 09, 2017
Procession of Brothers of Charity in Rome. On the right, Brother René Stockman.

The Superior General of the Brothers of Charity has condemned the position of the Belgian branch of his congregation that authorizes active euthanasia under certain conditions for patients in their psychiatric establishments.

The Brothers of Charity are a male congregation of pontifical right devoted to caring for the sick. Founded in Ghentin 1807 by Canon Peter Joseph Triest, they are inspired by St. Vincent de Paul’s spirituality towards the poor. They are active in 20 different countries, educating the young and caring for the disabled and the mentally ill. On April 26, 2017, the Flemish Catholic weekly Tertio revealed that the Belgian branch of the Brothers of Charity has decided that active euthanasia could be practiced in the two psychiatric centers they run in Belgium, not only for patients in the terminal phase who request it, but also in cases of profound psychological distress.

A letter sent to the board and medical team of the psychiatric centers of Dave (Namur) and Manage (Wallonia) explains that the General Council of the Brothers of Charity in Rome, directed by the Belgian René Stockman, the Superior General, disapproves of this change.

Indeed, the Brother René Stockman spoke out vigorously against this stance: “This decision is incompatible with the views of our congregation. It is certainly not the vision of the Brothers of Charity. Respect for the inviolability of the human being is of capital importance; we consider the inviolability of life as an absolute. The organization in Belgium deviates from this fundamental principle.”

The Superior General of the Brothers of Charity sees this position of the Belgian branch of his order as “the result of the deep secularization in Belgium and Flanders. I am Flemish,” he recalls, “but I have not worked in Belgium since 2000. Since then, I have noticed many changes. We get caught up in the tendency of secularization. The text makes no reference to God, the Bible, or  the Christian view of man. It is an entirely secular view.”

In an interview with Katholiek Nieuwsbald, he recalled that the role of psychiatry is to help people who suffer psychologically, not to end their lives.

Brother Stockman also mentioned what the bishop of Antwerp, Bishop Johan Bonny, said after the document was published. The prelate declared that he had not read the text of the Brothers of the Belgian province very closely, but that it seemed “to be balanced overall”.

Bishop Bonny went even further, adding that “in matters of ethics, it is difficult to line everyone up on the same position throughout the whole world. The cultures and mentalities in specific congregations, but also in the Church herself, are very different.” One could scarcely make a clearer defense of situation ethics, which the Church has always condemned. Is “Thou shalt not kill”, the fifth commandment of God, flexible?

This did not get past Reverend Brother Stockman, who says that Bishop Bonny was only expressing a personal opinion, a very questionable opinion at that: “It is not correct for a bishop, without even reading the entire text, and independently of the decisions of the Bishops’ Conferences on the matter, to make a statement like that. It bothers me very much. In fact, he says that euthanasia should be possible. It really bothers me enormously. He should realize that he is speaking as a bishop.”

The problem is that the bishop of Antwerp, nominated in 2008 by Benedict XVI, is known for his progressive stances, especially on moral issues. During the first session of the Synod on the Family in 2014, he advised the Church to formally recognize the relations of “bisexual and homosexual couples” by opening up to “what people today think or feel”. A year later, during the second session, he offered to compose new rituals for blessing the unions of people living together, be they cohabitants, remarried divorcees, or persons of the same sex. He also recommended granting the divorced and remarried personalized access to Eucharistic communion.

For the Superior General of the Brothers of Charity, things are not going to stop there: “We are consulting with the Bishops’ Conference of Belgium,” he explained. “It is their responsibility to take a stance and make a statement on the matter. I am also in contact with a high-ranking authority in the Vatican. I have explained the situation to him clearly.”

We can only hope that the Roman authorities will clearly and firmly support Reverend Brother Stockman in his defense of every individual’s right to life, from the moment of his conception to the moment of his death. “Whatsoever you shall do to one of these my least brethren, you shall do unto me” ( Mt. 25:40).

Sources : InfoCatho - Belgicatho - / FSSPX.News - 05/06/2017