Last rites may be denied to Catholics seeking death, says archbishop
February 18, 2016
OTTAWA - It would be inappropriate for a person intent on assisted suicide to request the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, said Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast.
“Asking your priest to be present to something that is in direct contradiction to our Catholic values is not fair to the pastor,” Prendergast said. “Of course a pastor will try and dissuade a patient from requesting suicide and will pray with them and their family, but asking him to be present is in effect asking him to condone a serious sin.”
The phrase in the article title cited above—"last rights may be denied"—might better read "should be denied" or "must be denied" regarding the availability of the Anointing of the Sick to those who seek assisted suicide. Otherwise, in this intellectually lazy Canadian culture where priests are prone to confusing mercy with permissiveness (e.g., aiding and abetting a mortal sin while thinking they are being merciful), et vice versa, some jelly-for-brains priest might allow similar language to enter into his vocabulary and read into such a phrase a right to extend the Sacrament to those who reject "the hope that the rite calls for", which, in the event a priest did administer the Rite to an obstinate sinner, would or should surely be a cause for scandal to the faithful and constitute an abuse of the Sacrament for reasons cited below.
A person who requests a lethal injection “lacks the proper disposition for the anointing of the sick,” he said.
“Asking to be killed is gravely disordered and is a rejection of the hope that the rite calls for and tries to bring into the situation.”
Prendergast said a priest should go when his presence is requested to pray for the person or to try to dissuade them from assisted suicide. But withholding the sacrament can be a pastoral way to help a patient realize the gravity of their decision. (Like withholding Holy Communion from a (c)atholic politician who promotes euthanasia or other sinful practices?)
“The rite is for people who are gravely ill or labour under the burden of years and it contains the forgiveness of sins as part of the rite, in either form,” he said. “But we cannot be forgiven pre-emptively for something we are going to do — like ask for assisted suicide when suicide is a grave sin.”
The Alberta bishops issued a statement Feb. 11, on the World Day of the Sick, that said participating in assisted-suicide is “morally wrong” and “no Catholic may advocate for, or participate in any way, whether by act or omission, in the intentional killing of another human being either by assisted suicide or euthanasia.”
(H)e will probably have a pastoral day in May to prepare his priests for legalized euthanasia the Supreme Court has said will be in effect June 6.
Hospital chaplains will also face similar quandaries. "We have a little bit of a similar situation on abortion wards," he said. People will say, "I'm going to have an abortion, will you pray for me?"
Catholic priests can only pray the person will "turn away from it," he said. Chaplains may have to be divided among "those who uphold the teachings of the Church and those who do not."
No specific guidelines for pastors from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops are in the works, though the CCCB has made many public statements on the bishops' moral opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide. (Is it unreasonable to think that there should be specific guidelines provided to priests by those in authority who are members of the Apostolic college? If not issued by bishops, who then? Again, in this confused country in which we live where priests and layfolk are ruled more by sentiment and feelings than the Catholic Faith which illuminates reason, i.e., feelings which enable people to accept that putting people down like an animal with a lethal injection or by some other Mengelian means is ethically tenable, surely the bishops can appreciate that if such guidelines can help save even one person's soul from eternal damnation, surely those guidelines should be issued post-haste.)
Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine has opined:
"Meeting people with an open heart and an open mind, also living that moment in truth and love," needs the "guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us in the moment," he said, referring to a passage in the Gospel of St. Luke in which Jesus tells the disciples if they are drawn before magistrates or powers, not to think in advance what they will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you what to say in that moment.
Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence(.)—1 Peter 3:15
And, not only loving words, but loving action—grace-filled action—to accompany the suffering soul on its journey through this life into the next. The spiritual works of mercy and the corporal works of mercy are two sides of the same coin which may be used to purchase a soul from slavery to despair.