Belgian Archbishop Refuses Euthanasia in Catholic Hospital

Battle lines drawn in Belgium over conscience

by Paul Russell, Director of HOPE: Preventing Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide:

Family set to sue over ‘non-euthanasia’ in Catholic aged care home.

Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, Jozef De Kesel

Over recent weeks the issue of conscientious objection, or the ‘conscience clause’ in the Belgian euthanasia law has been brought into the spotlight by the assertion by the new Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, Jozef De Kesel, that he has the right to refuse Catholic hospitals and aged care facilities to co-operate with euthanasia.

Euthanasia advocates both in academia and in the medical profession have bristled at the suggestion that institutions might say ‘non’ with many displaying a distinct and disturbing lack of understanding about the status of the 14 year old statute that allows doctors to kill their patients.

The Belgian law clearly provides a conscientious ‘out’ for doctors and others assisting in a euthanasia but it is otherwise silent about institutions. Some suggest that the extension to institutions such as a church ae implied while others suggest, dubiously to my thinking, that the silence suggests otherwise.

While, initially at least, this seemed like very much like an academic exercise with no-one really expecting the new bishop to force a show down. But a showdown was already in the making.

Various Belgian news outlets, today, are running with a story about a refusal by a Catholic nursing home to allow a doctor onto their premises to perform euthanasia. According to reports, the 74-year-old woman was terminally ill with metastatic cancer and living in the St. Augustine residential care centre in Diest.

The process of requesting euthanasia began in 2011 and progressed for six months before St. Augustine’s management refused access supposedly only days before the euthanasia was to take place. The various stories do not say whether or not the facility was formally aware of the process, however the family of the woman say that, after initially believing that the matter was simply a misunderstanding, they arranged for the woman to be transported to a private residence where the death took place. The family are claiming that the facility caused additional psychological and physical suffering for their mother.

The matter is listed to be heard in a civic court in Leuven in April – four and a half years after the death and after the matter had already been postponed twice before; why, we are not told.

I smell a rat. This issue precedes the current controversy but it does not take a cynic to question why, all-of-a-sudden, a matter that has twice been suspended over a death that took place over four years ago where the woman got what she wanted, is suddenly before the media and the courts?

If that were not enough to have any conspiracy theorist salivating, the lawyer for the woman’s family, Sylvie Tack, has a longstanding professional relationship to Belgian euthanasia supremo, Wim Distelmans and his Life Ending Information Network (LEIF) being lecturer, speaker and part of their peer review panel. Not a ‘hanging-offence’ certainly, but enough to question which was the horse and which the cart.

Overall, it may well be that Archbishop De Kesel was well aware of this pending case when he made his pre-Christmas declaration. If so, then full marks to him. As we observed earlier, it seems likely now that the courts may well determine the interpretation of Article 14 of the Belgian law.

It does not seem likely that the complaint by the woman’s family is principally about her treatment or any recompense or restitution for ‘suffering or loss’. As their lawyer told De Morgen: “The new Act states that doctors and staff who are involved in the euthanasia, can have conscientious objection. But the health care institution itself should not interfere with it themselves.”

Make no mistake: if ever there was going to be a test case, this is it. Rightly or wrongly, Belgian’s euthanasia supremos have always seen the Catholic Church and its influence as the last bulwark standing against them. I have heard them say as much personally. Perhaps, ironically, they also see Catholicism as the last voice of conscience – to which they clearly object.

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1 comment to Belgian Archbishop Refuses Euthanasia in Catholic Hospital

  • Di

    Let GOD arise,
    Let His enemies be scattered;
    Let all who hate Him flee before His Holy Face.
    ~Psalm 67
    Si vis pacem, para bellum!
    ¡Viva Cristo † Rey! ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!

    Stand strong good and holy Bishops and Priests. The time is coming, the line in the sand has been drawn. What side will you be on?
    I am praying for you all everyday, many times a day, please prepare for battle and prepare those in your care for it, those souls who were entrusted to you on the day of your ordination.
    STAY and LIVE in the Traditions of the Church.

    ‘Look higher still, and see the prelates of the Holy Church, pastors who have the charge of souls. Is the number of those who are saved among them greater than the number of those who are damned? Listen to Thomas of Cantimpré; he will relate an event to you, and you may draw the conclusions. There was a synod being held in Paris, and a great number of prelates and pastors who had the charge of souls were in attendance; the king and princes also came to add luster to that assembly by their presence. A famous preacher was invited to preach. While he was preparing his sermon, a horrible demon appeared to him and said, “Lay your books aside. If you want to give a sermon that will be useful to these princes and prelates, content yourself with telling them on our part, ‘We the princes of darkness thank you, princes, prelates, and pastors of souls, that due to your negligence, the greater number of the faithful are damned; also, we are saving a reward for you for this favor, when you shall be with us in Hell.”‘
    ~St. Leonard of Port Maurice

    “The Protestants, Communists, and Socialists know that their greatest enemies, the ones most likely to thwart their designs, are the Catholic priests. Since their errors are from the prince of darkness, it suffices for priests to present to the people the light of the Catholic doctrine in order to dissipate all the darkness caused by their erroneous tenets. Their most subtle and strategic move, therefore, has been to spread evil of the priests of the Church”
    —St. Anthony Mary Claret, Autobiography, pt. 4, ch. 4.

    “For socialism to succeed three things must be destroyed: Property, Religion, and the Family” —Karl Marx.

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