Almost 60 organizations have criticized an article supporting the passing of an Italian bill to legalize assisted suicide, which was published last week in the Catholic, Jesuit-run journal La Civiltà Cattolica.

A group of 57 associations, mostly based in Italy, have signed a statement voicing their opposition to the article, titled “The Parliamentarian Discussion on ‘Assisted Suicide.’”

The article was part of the periodical’s Jan. 15 edition, but published online on Jan. 13.

La Civiltà Cattolica, founded in 1850 and published twice a month, is produced by the Jesuits in Rome and approved before publication by the Vatican Secretariat of State.

“We cannot remain convinced by an article published today in La Civiltà Cattolica on the subject of assisted suicide norms,” the Jan. 13 statement said. “It is surprising, in fact, that an authoritative publication, from which one expects an echo of the Magisterium of the Church, risks positions that — albeit indirectly — may in fact give field to that ‘culture of waste,’ from whose negative effects Pope Francis constantly calls out.”

In the statement, the organizations argue that the assisted suicide bill also gives an opening to the legalization of euthanasia in Italy.

“The protection of life and the support of those who suffer is a battle of reason and civilization, which should, therefore, affect everyone, and should certainly move those who bear in name the ideal of a Catholic civilization,” the statement continued.

In the La Civiltà Cattolica article, Father Carlo Casalone, SJ, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and a moral theology professor at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, argues that what he considers to be a serious cause for concern in a proposed referendum on euthanasia and assisted suicide in Italy, as a reason for lawmakers to support a bill for assisted suicide legislation.

The referendum, which seeks to decriminalize assisted suicide for adults, has a “huge flaw,” according to Casalone.

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Both assisted suicide and euthanasia are illegal in Italy, where the criminal law says, “anyone who causes the death of a man, with his consent, is punished with imprisonment from six to fifteen years.”

“The request [of the referendum] is to repeal the related sanctions, except in cases of minor age, mental illness or alteration of conscience, and consent obtained by deceit or extorted by violence,” Casalone wrote. “The result would be to allow murder without subjecting it to conditions other than those that guarantee the validity of the consent.”

Casalone said there is no guarantee that further legislative constraints would be applied if the referendum should pass, and this would allow even a healthy person to commit medically-assisted suicide after meeting the requirement of consent.

If the Italian court will allow the referendum to be put to vote, Casalone posited that there will be a high level of support among the Italian public, given the large number of signatures in support of the referendum.

The referendum petition had over 1.2 million signatures when it was submitted to Italy’s supreme court in October 2021.

The priest argued that the bill on assisted suicide, which parliament is scheduled to vote on in February, could be a way to ensure the law includes conditions in its application.

“At this juncture, the PdL [bill] could constitute a barrier, albeit imperfect and itself problematic,” he said.

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Debate on the legislation started in mid-December in Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, and is expected to go to vote in February.

Opponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia in Italy, including pro-life and pro-family group Pro Vita e Famiglia, hope the bill will be voted down.

In La Civiltà Cattolica, Casalone questions whether the assisted suicide bill may be “an acceptable ‘imperfect’ law.”

While acknowledging that the law under discussion “diverges” from the Catholic Church’s teaching on the illegality of assisted suicide, he suggests that the law could be tolerated if “motivated by the function of embankment in the face of a possible more serious damage.”

Casalone also said he believes the sinking of the bill or inaction by legislators would deal another blow to the credibility of Italy’s institutions “in an already critical moment.”

“In the current cultural and social situation, it seems to the writer that support for this PdL [legislative bill] does not conflict with a responsible pursuit of the possible common good,” he stated.