A Canadian archbishop is making a legal case that Catholic institutions helping the sick and dying should be exempt from laws governing assisted suicide.
The Province of Quebec passed a law in December requiring all palliative care homes to offer “medical assistance in dying,” (MAiD), which is legal throughout Canada. That law violates religious freedom and should be declared unconstitutional, says a legal challenge filed by the Archdiocese of Montreal.
“A consequence of this new law is that actions we find morally unacceptable may now occur on our property,” Archbishop Christian Lépine said in a February 6 statement.
At the center of the case is the St. Raphael’s Care Home in Montreal, a church structure that was converted into a place where patients can receive free palliative care as they approach death.
“The Archbishop, facilitated by the Œuvres de charité de l’Archevêque catholique romain de Montréal (Charitable works of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Montreal), welcomed, encouraged, and supported, in collaboration with Catholic donors and volunteers, the transformation of the former St. Raphael the Archangel parish church in Montreal into a palliative care home with 12 beds and a day center,” Lépine said. “The project was a response to the wishes of parishioners and their late parish priest, Father Gerry Sinel, who dedicated many years of his life serving as chaplain to individuals nearing the end of life before his death in 2007.”
The Œuvres de charité de l’Archevêque transferred the usage rights of the former church site to the community organization established for the palliative care home project, which opened in 2019.
“In keeping with the founders’ intentions, as well as our Catholic beliefs and values, the Œuvres de charité de l’Archevêque explicitly stipulated in the lease that the former church should exclusively serve the mission of providing palliative care,” the archbishop’s statement said, “and ‘medical aid in dying’ should not be administered on the premises.”
The Montreal Gazette said that St. Raphael’s had an agreement with the regional health authority that allowed patients who requested an assisted death to be transferred to a public health-care facility.
“But in September, less than three months before the law came into effect, St. Raphael’s asked for an exemption, which the lawsuit says was denied by Quebec’s Minister Responsible for Seniors, Sonia Bélanger,” the newspaper explained.