"I think [Paglia is] just looking to show that Christ doesn't abandon anyone, that's how he started his response. I do think, however, that it was imprudent to suggest that a priest could hold the hand of someone engaged in assisted suicide," Petri told EWTN News Nightly.
"It's important not to normalize or regularize this as though it's some other medical treatment. I wouldn't hold somebody's hand if they were about to shoot themselves, or about to hang themselves, I would stop them, which is what a priest ought to do if he's in that situation."
Pietrzyk echoed Petri's point, adding that a Catholic would not "hold the hand" of a woman having an abortion, nor of the executioner flipping the switch on an electric chair.
"There's a fundamental misunderstanding about pastoral ministry, especially with regards to suicide," he continued.
"Accompaniment isn't directionless. Accompaniment is to accompany people to heaven. When you're in a situation where you're accompanying someone into Hell, you've done something terribly wrong...and I think we as a Church have to say no to that," Pietrzyk said.
Modern culture tends to associate dignity with ability, Petri said, and thus it can be tempting to think that a bedridden or suffering person has lost their dignity.
"Christianity says, on the contrary, your dignity has not been erased, in fact you have more dignity precisely because we follow a God who became man to suffer. And so God redeems suffering and makes it dignified," Petri said.
Cardinal Willelm Eijk of Utrecht told CNA this week that a priest cannot be present when voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide is performed as this might imply that the priest has no problems with the decision.
While not denying the possibility of spiritual accompaniment, 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."
Eijk also explained that a priest can celebrate the funeral of a person who died by assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia only in some circumstances, including in some cases of psychiatric illness, though suicide is always illicit.
Jonah McKeown is a staff writer and podcast producer for Catholic News Agency. He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has worked as a writer, as a producer for public radio, and as a videographer. He is based in St. Louis.