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Pope orders religious order to stop offering euthanasia in its hospitals

Boris Bartels CC
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Belgian group of brothers facing sanctions if they don't comply with Church's respect for life.

A religious congregation is being ordered by the pope to stop offering euthanasia in the hospitals it sponsors.

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis has ordered the Belgian arm of the Brothers of Charity to stop allowing the euthanizing of patients in its psychiatric hospitals.

The Holy See Press Office confirmed that the pope gave his personal approval to a Vatican letter sent at the beginning of August, which gives the Catholic charity until the end of this month to stop the practice at all of its 15 centers in Belgium.

Euthanasia is legal in the country, and in May the Brothers of Charity group which administers the Belgian hospitals announced it would allow doctors to perform euthanasia on psychiatric patients.

The charity said in a statement it would be performed only if there were “no reasonable treatment alternatives.”

Pope Francis also ordered Brothers of Charity who serve on the group’s board to sign a joint letter to their Superior General declaring that they “fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end.”

Brothers who refuse to sign the joint letter renouncing the practice of euthanasia will face sanctions under canon law.

The charity group can expect to face legal action and even expulsion from the Church if it fails to change its policy.

Brothers of Charity statement

Bro. René Stockman, General Superior of the Brothers of Charity, released a statement in response to the position of his Belgian brothers. “The central point and the foundation within Christian ethics is that life is absolute, which cannot be touched. Life is a gift from God and entails an assignment. And because life is absolute, it is a state worthy of protection,” he wrote.

Mattias De Vriendt, a spokesman for the Belgium charity, said it had received the Vatican’s request but had not yet responded. He confirmed the charity’s hospitals had received requests from patients seeking euthanasia recently but could not say whether any procedures had been performed.

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