In a new document released Tuesday, the Vatican’s doctrinal office reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching on the sinfulness of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and recalled the obligation of Catholics to accompany the sick and dying through prayer, physical presence, and the sacraments.
The document also addressed the pastoral care of Catholics who request euthanasia or assisted suicide, explaining that a priest and others should avoid any active or passive gesure which might signal approval for the action, including remaining until the act is performed.
Samaritanus bonus: on the Care of Persons in the Critical and Terminal Phases of Life is a new document by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), published Sept. 22.
The 45-page text, approved by Pope Francis on June 25, is signed by CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria and secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi.
The letter presents Catholic teaching on a range of end-of-life issues, affirming the intrinsic value and dignity of every human life, especially for those who are critically sick and in the terminal stages of life.
The document’s introduction noted that “it is widely recognized that a moral and practical clarification regarding care of these persons is needed.”
Pastoral accompaniment of those who expressly request euthanasia or assisted suicide “today presents a singular moment when a reaffirmation of the teaching of the Church is necessary,” Samaritanus bonus said.
It explained that closeness to a person who has chosen euthanasia or assisted suicide is necessary, but must always be ordered toward the person’s conversion.
The document recalled that a person who has made this decision, “whatever their subjective dispositions may be, has decided upon a gravely immoral act and willingly persists in this decision.”
This state “involves a manifest absence of the proper disposition for the reception of the Sacraments of Penance, with absolution, and Anointing, with Viaticum.” In this situation, the congregation explained, the priest must withhold absolution.