WELLINGTON, New Zealand (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishops in New Zealand, who acquiesced without protest to the world's most tyrannical COVID-19 lockdown, are urging clergy to offer sacraments to Catholics who kill themselves as legalized euthanasia came into force Sunday.
In defiance of canon law and a recent Vatican ruling, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC) cites Pope Francis on "accompaniment," asking priests "to accompany those contemplating euthanasia or assisted dying" by administering the sacraments.
The bishops' statement, "Ministers of Consolation and Hope," grants that no priest should "feel obliged to do or say something that goes against their own conscience."
However, it compels the priest to "ensure that provision is made for the person to be accompanied by another."
"Accompaniment does not necessarily mean endorsement," the bishops note, calling "pastoral carers to enter into a liminal space where the Church's beliefs about euthanasia sit alongside its teaching about accompaniment and consolation."
According to the bishops, a priest may refuse sacraments only "in those very rare cases when someone seeks them in bad faith." Clergy should presume that "a person asking for the sacraments does so in good faith."
"Suicide is a gravely wrong sin. St. Thomas and other authorities teach that its grave character springs from the fact that it is against nature in contradicting self-love," Dr. Michael Pakaluk, professor of ethics and social philosophy at the Catholic University of America, told Church Militant.
"Thus, legal suicide must be grouped along with other attacks on human nature that have been made legal. Legal abortion, for example, is such a crime," the ethicist explained.
Suppose a woman seeking an abortion, knowing she was killing her child, asked a priest to "accompany" her and her child as her child met its death. May a priest "accompany" her to the abortion clinic to bless the baby whose death she is bringing about? Christianity does not imply that we abandon good sense.
In June 2020, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) ruled that penitents who opt for euthanasia or assisted suicide can only receive confession, anointing and viaticum "when the minister discerns his or her readiness to take concrete steps that indicate he or she has modified their decision in this regard."
"A person who may be registered in an association to receive euthanasia or assisted suicide must manifest the intention of canceling such a registration before receiving the sacraments," the CDF's decree, Samaritanus Bonus, stated.
Ministers "should avoid any gesture, such as remaining until the euthanasia is performed, that could be interpreted as approval of this action" and "not give scandal by behaving in a manner that makes them complicit in the termination of human life," the CDF added.
The CDF ruling was responding to the Brothers of Charity, who were violating Catholic teaching by following Belgian law on euthanasia in homes for psychiatric patients run by the religious order. The CDF said that such homes could no longer be considered Catholic.
The Kiwi bishops' pastoral letter on "accompanying" medical murder also contradicts decrees from bishops in other countries or states that have legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia.
In 2019, bishop of Honolulu Clarence Silva issued a decree stressing that Catholics who sought "medically assisted suicide" after making a "fully informed" decision with "deliberate consent" were "thus likely fulfilling the requirements for mortal sin."
"If a person dies in mortal sin without contrition, such final impenitence results in 'exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of Hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices forever, with no turning back,'" Silva warned, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In 2016, Catholic bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories of Canada issued guidelines requiring ministers to "delay" sacraments to Catholics who had opted for medical murder until they repented.
Quoting Pope John Paul II's pro-life encyclical Evangelium Vitae, the bishops wrote:
Since suicide, objectively speaking, is a gravely immoral act, it follows that "to concur with the intention of another person to commit suicide and to help in carrying it out through so-called 'assisted suicide,' means to cooperate in, and at times to be the actual perpetrator of, an injustice which can never be excused."
Emphasizing the grave nature of medical murder as a mortal sin, the bishops explained how Catholics who choose euthanasia "are in an objective state of sin" even if their decision "may not have been fully free, or may not have been an informed decision."
If such Catholics are "not open at least to prayerfully considering the rescinding of their request — now that they know it is a grave sin" the priest "would need to delay absolution to a later time when the person may be properly disposed," the Canadian bishops stated.
While urging priests to celebrate the sacrament of anointing "generously," the bishops nevertheless cited canon 1007: "The anointing of the sick is not to be conferred upon those who persevere obstinately in manifest grave sin."
"The request for euthanasia or assisted suicide is in direct contradiction to the baptismal call of the dying believer to proclaim at all times, especially at the approach of death, that 'it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me' (Gal. 2:20)," the Canadian bishops warned.
"If the person, however, remains obstinate, the anointing cannot be celebrated," they concluded.
While it selectively cites Samaritanus Bonus, the Kiwi bishops' statement does not use terms like "repentance," "contrition," "grave" or "mortal sin." It also does not name or explain the nature of the sacraments administered at the time of death.
Instead, upholding the example of the Good Samaritan, it notes that "the introduction of euthanasia in Aotearoa New Zealand presents a renewed opportunity for the Catholic community, working in collaboration with many others, to put into practice the loving and compassionate consequences of our belief in the inviolable dignity of all human life."
Pointing out the theological vacuity of Pope Francis' buzzword "accompaniment" in his book A Pastoral Revolution: Six Talismanic Words in the Synodal Debate on the Family, Guido Vignelli observes how "in the Christian perspective, the only valid accompaniment is that which leads man back to God by following the only way of salvation, which is Jesus Christ."
The new pastoral approach, Vignelli warns, interprets accompaniment very differently, "elevating it to a therapeutic method" presupposing "the shepherd does not precede his flock as his guide, but rather follows it as a 'traveling companion.'"
"According to this thesis, one should not worry too much if the faithful have taken the wrong path," Vignelli observes.