Friday 6 February 2009

Doctors must resist crime of euthanasia despite court decision, say bishops

A powerful statement from the Archbishop of Udine on the case of Eluana Englaro (pictured), who is facing death by starvation in the city of Udine, is part of a significant pattern. One Catholic bishop after another is appealing to health professionals to resist pressure to kill Eluana, despite last November's court decision granting her father permission to kill her by removing her feeding tube.

Like other outspoken comments by bishops, the Archbishop Pietro Brollo of Udine could not be more clear about the need for health professionals to resist the decision of the court that she can be starved to death. He says:
“Udine is ready to embrace Eluana Englaro, a daughter of this land. Upon learning of her arrival, I ask first of all that this woman be guaranteed care, hydration, nutrition and every means that someone who is sick, particularly someone who is very incapacitated, is due by those who have the professional duty in conscience to provide a cure.”
Last week I reported that Cardinal Severino Poletto, the archbishop of Turin, was reported to be urging Italian doctors to resort to conscientious objection if they are ordered to let Eluana Englaro—known as the Terri Schiavo of Italy—die of starvation.

And earlier this week, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, said in a newspaper interview that removing Eluana's feeding tube "is tantamount to an abominable assassination and the Church will always say that out loud."

Last weekend the archbishop of Bologna said in his homily: "In the body of this woman, and in her fate, there is an image of the fate of the West ... ".

These bishops are doing their pastoral duty to care for one vulnerable human being. Pope John Paul II said in Evangelium Vitae: "Every individual, precisely by reason of the mystery of the Word of God who was made flesh (cf. Jn 1:14), is entrusted to the maternal care of the Church". (EV, 3)

Their call for resistance also reflects papal teaching. Again Pope John Paul II wrote:

"Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). In the Old Testament, precisely in regard to threats against life, we find a significant example of resistance to the unjust command of those in authority. After Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn males, the Hebrew midwives refused. "They did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live" (Ex 1:17). But the ultimate reason for their action should be noted: "the midwives feared God" (ibid.). It is precisely from obedience to God-to whom alone is due that fear which is acknowledgment of his absolute sovereignty-that the strength and the courage to resist unjust human laws are born. It is the strength and the courage of those prepared even to be imprisoned or put to the sword, in the certainty that this is what makes for "the endurance and faith of the saints" (Rev 13:10)." (EV, 73)