Canadian bishops to meet Monday to discuss euthanasia, protection of minors

Priests in green vestments celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for two new Canadian Saints in St Peters Basilic a on Oct 12 2014 Credit Lauren Cater CNA CNA 10 13 14 Priests celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for two new Canadian Saints in St. Peter's Basilica on Oct. 12, 2014. | Lauren Cater/CNA.

Catholic bishops in Canada will gather next week, the final week of September, to discuss a series of issues including the growth of euthanasia, the Church’s work in overseas development, and the protection of minors.

The 2023 Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), which is held annually, will begin on Monday, Sept. 25, and conclude on Thursday, Sept. 28. The meeting will take place in King City, Ontario, just outside of Toronto, and 79 Latin and Eastern-rite bishops are expected to participate.

One of the main topics to be discussed is the growth of euthanasia throughout Canada, which is known legally as Medical Assistance in Dying, or MAiD. Although voluntary euthanasia has been legal in Canada since 2016, a revision of that law going into effect in March 2024 will vastly expand eligibility.

More than 30,000 Canadians died from euthanasia between 2016 and 2021, and it has seen a growth in use annually. The revision, which will go into effect in less than six months, will make mental illness an eligible condition to receive approval for MAiD, opening the procedure up to significantly more people.

The Standing Committee for Family and Life, chaired by Archbishop Christian Lépine, will hold a panel discussion on this topic, which is meant to help the Church “engage with the urgency of promoting palliative care” rather than euthanasia.

Another aspect of the meeting will focus on Development and Peace — Caritas Canada, known as DPCC. This project encompasses charity and development work overseas. Clergy on the DPCC National Council will update the bishops on the activities since last year and will be joined by DPCC President Brenda Arakaza and Executive Director Carl Hétu.

The bishops will also discuss “safeguarding persons in vulnerable situations,” which includes minors. The Standing Committee for Responsible Ministry has been studying this issue over the past year and intends to discuss how to define vulnerability, how to reduce risks, and what behaviors to encourage on the part of the ministry.

Part of the meeting will also focus on the upcoming Synod on Synodality. According to the CCCB, there will be four Canadian bishops taking part in the synod and four non-bishop Catholics chosen by the Vatican. 

“In order to help prepare the episcopal delegates, bishops present at the Plenary Assembly meeting will reflect on one of the three dimensions of synodality (communion, participation, and mission), guided by the questions in the Instrumentum Laboris and the results of the ‘national’ and ‘continental’ stages of the synod process,” a statement from the CCCB read.

The bishops will also review various reports from subcommittees, which will include topics such as liturgy, catechesis, and evangelization. Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle from the Philippines will address the bishops virtually and the apostolic nuncio to Canada, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, will also give an address.

“A meeting of the Plenary Assembly is a solemn and momentous event in the life of the Church in Canada because it gathers together all the members of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), who total 79 bishops of the Latin and Eastern Churches across Canada,” a statement from the CCCB read. “Decisions taken by the Plenary Assembly are the highest instance of authority within the CCCB and represent the unity of action of all the bishops on a national level.”

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.