Rome Says “No” to Euthanasia in Belgian Catholic Institutions

Source: FSSPX News

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

Here is the latest on the affair of the Brothers of Charity in Gand: the Holy See has just officially disowned the Belgian branch of the congregation that authorized the practice of euthanasia in the hospitals it runs last March.

The Order of the Brothers of Charity is an international male lay congregation founded in 1807 to assist the elderly and the mentally ill.

The Belgian branch of the congregation had held strong and refused to practice euthanasia, which was legalized in Belgium on May 28, 2002. Last March, however, they sent a letter to the boards of directors and medical staff of their 15 psychiatric centers authorizing medically-assisted death, including for patients “in a non-terminal situation”.

In May, the Belgian branch of this religious community was reprimanded by the order’s superior general in Rome, Brother René Stockman, who declared that euthanasia “goes against the basic principles of the Catholic Church”.

The superior of the congregation also explained to the newspaper De Morgen that he “regrets and deplores” that the decision authorizing suicide was made by a board of directors that includes only a few Brothers, against a majority of associate members. “The door has just been opened, which is very harmful. We wish to take the patients’ desires seriously, but protecting life is an absolute for us,” he added, concluding: “We cannot accept the practice of euthanasia within the walls of our institutions.”

After trying unsuccessfully to make the Belgian branch change its decision, the Superior General of the Brothers of Charity appealed to the supreme authority of the Church, and a canonical investigation was immediately begun. Brother Stockman made a point of explaining that Cardinal Parolin, the Secretary of State for the Holy See, personally looked into the matter.

The Press Office of the Holy See confirmed the news on August 10: after the judgment of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Holy Father ordered the Belgian community of the Brothers of Charity in Gand to stop allowing euthanasia for their patients. If the Belgian branch of the Order of the Brothers of Charity has not revoked its decision within one month, it could have its Catholic identity withdrawn.

Brother Stockman, in an interview with CNS after the Roman decision, was more specific: “If they refuse, then we will take juridical steps in order to force them to amend the text (of the new policy) and, if that is not possible, then we have to start the procedure to exclude the hospitals from the Brothers of Charity family and take away their Catholic identity.”

For now, the Belgian province has answered that it “wishes to take some time to peacefully analyze the letter from the Vatican and to discuss it internally”.

According to the official numbers given by the Federal Control Commission, 14,753 persons have died by euthanasia in Belgium in the fifteen years since the deadly law was implemented.