Euthanasia in Belgium: The Brothers of Charity Once Again Defy the Vatican

September 20, 2017

Pope Francis gave the Belgian branch of the Institute of the Brothers of Charity of Ghent until the end of August to end their practice of euthanasia.

The practice was implemented in spring of 2017 by the directors of the congregation’s Belgian branch.

Their response did not come until Tuesday, September 12. In their statement, the Brothers of Charity said their branch “continues to stand by its vision statement on euthanasia for mental suffering in a non-terminal situation” a negative answer that certainly comes across as defiance.

A few lines down the statement insists that the organization “is still consistent with the doctrine of the Catholic Church. We emphatically believe so.” But the board of directors of the Belgian branch of the brothers of Charity adds that they “always take into account the shifts and evolutions within society”.

The Church's Stance

The Catholic Church has always condemned the suicide – and sometimes murder – that hides behind sanitized terms such as “euthanasia” or “assisted suicide”.

It is expected that the Holy See will respond to the order’s latest statement. Professor Kurt Martens, a specialist in canon law contacted by Catholic News Agency, believes:

...the Brothers who are members of the board face dismissal from their institute - thus will no longer be brothers and members of the institute - and the health care institutions would forfeit their right to call themselves Catholic.

Belgium is a country with a highly secularized society; euthanasia is legal and regulated and it has become a widespread practice – as the European Institute of Bioethics (IEB) confirms – and that even in the case of young children affected by serious disorders. The IEB laments the fact that in the fifteen years that have gone by since the law was implemented, “not one of the studies made on the subject has been financed by public powers”.

In other words, fighting against euthanasia and its abuses is much like David fighting Goliath.