UTRECHT, Netherlands (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Dutch cardinal is reminding priests and doctors of their duty to fight the intrinsic evils of euthanasia and assisted suicide, making clear no clergy can be at the bedside of those who choose to kill themselves.
Cardinal Willem Eijk of Utrecht told Catholic News Agency (CNA) this week that Catholic clergy "must clearly say to those who opt for assisted suicide or euthanasia that both of these acts violate the intrinsic value of the human life, that is a grave sin."
Priests "must not be present when euthanasia or assisted suicide are performed," Cdl. Eijk warned. "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."
A former doctor, Eijk explained the difference between the two practices. In "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."
In spite of their technical distinctions, "the responsibilities of the patient and the doctor are the same in both cases," said Eijk.
"The patient's responsibility is equally grave both in assisted suicide and 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," he added.
"Helping in assisted suicide, the doctor cooperates with the patient's will, and this means he shares the patient's intention," the cardinal noted. "For this reason, even mere cooperation is an intrinsically evil act, as grave as if the doctor personally ended the life of the patient."
Eijk also reiterated Church teaching on funerals for Catholics who choose euthanasia or assisted suicide.
"If a patient asks the priest to administer him the sacraments (confession or anointing of the sick) and plans a funeral before the doctor ends his life upon his request or he commits suicide, the priest cannot do so," he said, for three reasons.
First, "a person can receive the sacraments only when he is in a good disposition, and this is not the case when a person wants to oppose the order of creation, violating the intrinsic value of his life."
Second, the person who "receives the sacraments puts his life in the merciful hands of God. However, [he] who wants to personally end his life wants to take his life in his hands."
Third, "if the priest administers the sacraments or plans a funeral in these cases, the priest is guilty of a scandal, since his actions might suggest that suicide or euthanasia are permitted in certain circumstances."
Cardinal Eijk's reinforcement of Catholic doctrine comes in the wake of controversial statements on assisted suicide made by the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
At a Dec. 10 press conference, Abp. Vincenzo Paglia asserted that a priest can be present at an assisted suicide, saying that "to hold the hand of someone who is dying" through the procedure "is something that every faithful must promote ... ."
Paglia went on to claim there's no certainty that Judas Iscariot, who hanged himself after betraying Christ, is in Hell.
"For a Catholic to say so, it's heresy," he argued.
Eijk's comments also follow the September resignation of Seattle Abp. J. Peter Sartain, who stepped down after it was revealed that he approved a funeral Mass for a man who killed himself with the help of his doctor, shortly after marrying his same-sex partner at a "suicide party."