OTTAWA, Canada (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Canadian people are embracing euthanasia, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seeking to expand it, and now, in a pastoral letter, the country's Catholic bishops are decrying the push to expand so-called medical assistance in dying.
"We are absolutely opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide and we disagree vehemently with its very existence in the country," said Edmonton Abp. Richard Smith in the letter.
Critics argue that if the Canadian bishops had come out as strongly, clearly and unequivocally for Humanae Vitae in their dissenting Winnipeg Statement of 1968, there would be no threat of euthanasia today. The slippery slope, many say, began with acceptance of contraception and abortion.
Shared at Masses on the weekend of Jan. 18–19, the pastoral letter on euthanasia and assisted suicide was signed by Abp. Smith, as well as the bishops of Calgary, St. Paul, Grouard-McLennan, Mackenzie-Fort Smith and the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton.
The letter calls on all Canadians, and Catholics in particular, to press members of Parliament to vote against any expansion of euthanasia and assisted suicide. It also calls on the federal government to expand palliative care, and on health professionals to assert their right to refuse to participate in the practices.
According to Catholic moral principles, one can never cooperate with evil. Intentionally killing an innocent human being, for whatever reason (and whether or not they consent to it) is a moral evil — murder — which is absolutely forbidden by the moral law.
The Church considers physician-assisted suicide to be self-murder. "Pro-choice" activists pushing to expand euthanasia support the "choice" to kill on both ends of the human life spectrum. With abortion the choice of the mother is emphasized, and in assisted suicide, it's the choice of the patient.
The federal government reports that more than 6,700 Canadians have died by a medically-induced death since assisted suicide became legal in 2016. Nevertheless, Trudeau's leftist government would like to see euthanasia expanded.
A Quebec court ruled in September that a requirement limiting assisted suicide to patients facing a "reasonably foreseeable" death violated their rights. Current requirements for physician-assisted death state that candidates must be 18 or older, able to make health decisions for themselves and "in grievous and irremediable medical condition."
The government is now introducing measures that would allow all people to make an advance request for assisted suicide while they are healthy. Further, they stipulate it should be available to people under 18 and people with psychiatric conditions.
The Canadian government has been asking the citizens of Canada to weigh in on anticipated legal changes as Ottawa seeks to amend its criminal code to permit greater access to a "medical death." Survey responses were accepted until Jan. 27. According to the justice ministry, hundreds of thousands of Canadian citizens responded to the government's online survey. No results have been announced.
Archbishop Smith said the bishops issued their pastoral letter in the midst of a cultural trend that not only normalizes euthanasia and assisted suicide, but favors its expansion.
Alluding to the Hippocratic Oath, Smith said: "It had always been up until now, a rock-solid conviction that medicine is dedicated to the preservation of life and to doing no harm. Well, now we have ... medicine being used actually prematurely to end life, which turns the medical profession on its head."
On July 25, 2018, in a statement celebrating the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, Canadian bishops praised Pope St. Paul VI's encyclical as an affirmation of the "joy of married love."
Issued by the Commission on Doctrine of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), the document encourages Catholics to read, study and meditate on Humanae Vitae to "rediscover the beautiful truth within it." No comment was made on the notorious Winnipeg Statement of 1968.
In the United States, assisted suicide statues are in effect in the states of California, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Montana, as well as the District of Columbia.