Vatican City, Dec 16, 2019 / 17:06 pm
A priest must say clearly to a person opting for assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia that he is committing a grave sin, a Dutch cardinal told CNA this week.
For the same reason, a priest cannot be present when voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide is performed. This might imply that the priest has no problems with the decision or even that "these morally illicit acts are not such in some circumstances according to the teaching of the Church," Cardinal Willelm Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht and an expert on euthanasia issues, told CNA.
A medical doctor before his vocation, Eijk dedicated his doctorate dissertation in the mid-1980s to the euthanasia laws. He leads a flock located in one of the countries with the most liberal euthanasia bill in the world.
Cardinal Eijk explained to CNA that "a priest must clearly say to those who opt for assisted suicide or [voluntary] euthanasia that both of these acts violate the intrinsic value of the human life, that is a grave sin."
The cardinal did not deny the possibility of spiritual accompaniment. Still, Eijk stressed that "the priest must not be present when euthanasia or assisted suicide are performed. This way, the presence of the priest might suggest that the priest is backing the decision or even that euthanasia or assisted suicide are not morally illicit in some circumstances."
Cardinal Eijk made a distinction between voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide. He said that "with the assisted suicide, it is the patient who takes the drugs the doctor intentionally prescribed to him to commit suicide. Then there is voluntary euthanasia, when the doctor himself gives the drugs to end the patient's life after the patient’s request. However, the responsibilities of the patient and the doctor are the same in both cases."
In detail, Cardinal Eijk says that "the patient’s responsibility is equally grave both in assisted suicide and [voluntary] euthanasia because he has made the initiative to end his life, and this is the same both if he puts an end to his life or if a doctor does it."
Physicians are equally responsible in both cases, too, the cardinal said.