Archbishop Clarifies Remarks on Assisted Dying in Italy

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, is pictured in a file photo during a Vatican news conference Jan. 15, 2019.

By Cindy Wooden

The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life affirms his opposition to euthanasia and assisted dying but believes that to end confusion in the country, the Italian Parliament needs to make clear laws about withdrawing end-of-life care, his office said.

“Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, in full conformity with the church’s magisterium, reaffirms his ‘no’ to euthanasia and assisted dying,” his office said in a statement April 24.

The archbishop participated in a debate April 19 about end-of-life issues, and the complete text of his remarks was published April 21 by the Italian news site Il Riformista. Some websites, reporting on his remarks, claimed he defended euthanasia and medically assisted dying.

The experience of countries where medically “assisted death” is permitted by law, he had said, shows that “the pool of people admitted tends to expand; competent adult patients are joined by patients in whom decision-making capacity is impaired, sometimes severely,” for example, psychiatric patients, children, the elderly with cognitive impairment.

“Cases of involuntary euthanasia and deep palliative sedation without consent have thus grown,” the archbishop had said. “The overall result is that we are witnessing a contradictory outcome: in the name of self-determination, we are constricting the actual exercise of freedom, especially for those who are most vulnerable.”

The desire of terminally ill patients to spare themselves and their families further suffering — and sometimes, further expense — and the difficulty caregivers have in seeing their loved ones suffer have made questions about end-of-life care a pressing issue, he said.

Pain relief, palliative care and supportive accompaniment of the sick and their family members is essential, the archbishop had told his audience. With serious palliative therapy and accompaniment, he said, “in many cases the demand for euthanasia disappears, but not always.”

Euthanasia and physician-assisted dying are not legal in Italy. However, in 2019, the Constitutional Court ruled that those involved in an assisted dying are not punishable when the patient is “suffering from an irreversible pathology” causing “physical and psychological suffering that he or she considers intolerable” and is being kept alive by life-support treatments.

The court, which ruled only on the punishability of assisting or convincing someone to commit suicide, urged parliament to take up the matter with democratic debate and clear legislation to fill the legal void so the judiciary would not be left to regulate.

But Parliament has not succeeded in coming up with legislation, so requests for assistance in dying and suspected cases of assisting a suicide still are being handled by the courts. Right-to-die activists succeeded in gathering more than 1 million signatures for a referendum supporting the repeal of an article criminalizing active euthanasia, but the Constitutional Court blocked it in 2022, saying it would violate constitutional protections of human life.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, chancellor of the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and Family, greets Pope Francis Oct. 24, 2022, during an audience with staff and students of the institute in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

In such a context, Archbishop Paglia had said, “it is not to be ruled out that a legal mediation is feasible in our society that would allow assisted dying under the conditions specified by Constitutional Court sentence 242/2019: the person must be being ‘kept alive by life-support treatment and suffering from an irreversible pathology, the source of physical or psychological suffering that he or she considers intolerable, but fully capable of making free and conscious decisions.’”

“Personally,” the archbishop told his audience, “I would not assist with a suicide, but I understand that legal mediation may be the greatest common good concretely possible under the conditions in which we find ourselves.”

The academy’s statement April 24 noted that the Italian Constitutional Court ruling referenced by the archbishop held that “assisting a suicide is a crime. It then enumerated four specific and particular conditions in which the crime carries no penalty.”

“In this precise and specific context, Archbishop Paglia explained that in his view a ‘legislative initiative’ — certainly not a moral one — could be possible which would be consistent with the decision, and which preserves both the criminality of the act and the conditions in which the crime carries no penalty, as the court requested Parliament to legislate.”

“For Archbishop Paglia, it is important that the decision holds that the criminality of the act remains and is not overruled,” his office said. “On the scientific and cultural level, Archbishop Paglia has always supported the need for accompaniment of the sick in the final phase of life, using palliative care and loving personal attention, to ensure that no one is left to face alone the illness and suffering, and difficult decisions, that the end of life brings.”

Complete Article HERE!

“The Catholic Church Just Keeps Getting in My Way”

— Our columnist on colonoscopies, health scares, and his issues with the Vatican.


A long time ago, I was Catholic. Very recently, I was ill. Perhaps terminally, I genuinely believed.

As the Catholicism came first, let’s get that out of the way. As I grew, I became aware of the Catholic identity. This was realized primarily in a suburban church in Springfield, Va., in the 1970s. I did, however, have a beautiful first Communion in the American Cathedral in Paris. All the trappings! Never quite made it to Confirmation.

By that point, my parents were divorced and my mother no longer received the Sacrament. “I’m just learning how to masturbate, while she’s the most upstanding member of our community, yet I’m still in God’s good graces and she’s the Whore of Babylon?”

She explained to me that the rules would disqualify her, being divorced and all, now living in sin with my to-be stepfather. Dora is very good about following rules. And she taught me the same, so I, too, jumped ship. At that juncture, it seemed a sham. I was glad to have been cut off at the pass, no longer tithing bits of my weekly allowance to fund my future oppression. Dora was thrilled to have extra free time on Sundays.

Plenty of queer Catholics stick around, and good for them. I certainly don’t hate the Catholic Church. Plenty of Jesuits are downright delightful. It is, however, arguably the wealthiest religion and therefore the most powerful. However you preach it, it’s certainly the one with which I have the most baggage.

Besides, the only reason my mother was Catholic was that conversion was a condition for marrying my father. He, meanwhile, was hardly devout. Mom, meanwhile, is back with the Unitarians, the faith community in which she was raised.

That’s my Catholic backstory in a nutshell.

The illness popped up during the summer. My first bout of COVID hit in May, seemingly inconsequential. By August, though, I was dragging. Two months overdue for my annual physical, I got myself checked.

About 48 hours later, I was notified that I should get myself to an emergency room. Hemoglobin-wise, I was running on empty. How nice to get a delicious pint of blood at Sibley Memorial Hospital, rather than in the basement of Comet Ping Pong. QAnon tells me that’s where all the cool kids go.

The thing with iron-poor anemia is that it could be a warning of something serious in one’s gastrointestinal tract. My previous colonoscopy revealed six polyps. A welcome outcome would be a fresh crop of bleeding polyps. Coincidentally, I already had my next colonoscopy scheduled.

On the table, eyes open, I watched the screen as the camera made its way through my guts. C’mon, big money! C’mon, bleeders! C’mon, polyps! On this fantastic journey, bupkis. Well, nearly bupkis. Two inconsequential polyps. Zap and zap and Bob’s your uncle.

From there, the next step would be an endoscopy. I’d already had one of those, too, back when I had the previous colonoscopy. Apparently I was mildly anemic back then. I chalked it up to bleeding hemorrhoids. (Full transparency: I love being at a point in life that telling the world I had bleeding hemorrhoids causes me zero embarrassment. Seriously, I should’ve mentioned it in the holiday letter. I’ll spare you the photos.)

This is where the bureaucracy kicks in. With Swiss roots on Dora’s side, I generally love bureaucracy. Write a letter to a faceless cog in a department? Yes, please! But bouncing through medical “portals” and dancing to hold music was figuratively painful. As I waited for insurance clearance, which wasn’t actually required, disturbing insights were piling up.

I started losing weight. Could that be related to cancer…? You bet! Those little aliens can siphon off your calories for their own nefarious — yet quite natural — purposes. Greedy little cancer bastards. Of course, starting to walk three miles every morning like Death is nipping at my heels may have contributed to weight loss.

Then there was the conversation with my baby sis, the nurse practitioner.

“We really do have a bad GI history in our family.” Uh, what? I thought my father died of kidney cancer. Casey corrected me. He may have had kidney cancer, but he died of duodenal cancer. Huh. Who knew? Casey, that’s who.

“And Uncle Mike.” Excuse me? WTF? Stomach cancer. “He died at 62. Like Dad.” Oh, my.

Then more waiting till I was finally in for an appointment to swallow a camera, aka capsule endoscopy. It had eight hours to travel the Willy River, taking 50,000 images. Returning the attendant equipment at the end of the eight hours, I asked if I’d hear something in a week or so.

“Well, they look at these images after hours, so maybe two weeks.”

Oy. Golden Girl Rose had to wait three days for the results of her HIV test. We all did back then. I waited three weeks for what I was now certain would be a hybrid of Jabba the Hutt and the Mucinex blob living somewhere inside of me, killing me. While it was probably the iron supplements I’d begun taking giving me stomach upset at times, I was sure it was them. But it wasn’t. The endoscopy revealed more nothing.

Today, I still don’t have a definitive answer, but my blood is much improved. If it turns out I have leukemia — very unlikely — I’ll let you know.

Being a planner, I used those weeks of dread and uncertainty to come to terms with my mortality. I planned my wake, though made the mistake of sharing the event playlist with some dear friends. I’m sure they judged my harshly. Janet Jackson? Tove Lo?

This is where the Catholic Church stepped back in. I’ve had my fights with them over the years, of course. Our biggest falling out was over marriage equality. Among my medical destinations in this journey has been the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. It’s Catholic. I’m certain I’ve seen a papal statuette as I’ve walked through the Medstar Georgetown University Hospital to get to those appointments. It gives me the willies.

It’s not because the Vatican has an abysmal record on LGBTQ rights. It’s because the church just won’t get out of the way. Specifically, I’m referring to physician-assisted dying and compost cremation. These are both very attractive options to me. If not today, still at some point. Plenty of religions are opposed to the former. Again, though, I’ve got the baggage with the Catholic Church, so I can be angrier at them. Much the same way I am so very angry at Morrissey for going full-on xenophobe. I adored you, Moz!

The Vatican fought against my marriage. Fought and lost. I can only hope that it will lose in its efforts to block the rest of us from a full range of medical and funereal options. New York has just allowed compost cremation, which is a beautiful way to incorporate your body back into the physical universe.

The New York State Catholic Conference, representing the state’s bishops, does not agree, putting its muscle into fighting the new law.

“Composting is something we as a society associate with a sustainable method of eliminating organic trash that otherwise ends up in landfills. But human bodies are not household waste, and the bishops do not believe that the process meets the standard of reverent treatment of our earthly remains,” wrote their executive director, David Poust, as reported in the Catholic Courier.

I will die at some point, of course. I was hoping it wouldn’t be any skin off the Vatican’s ass for me to do it my way. But as long as it keeps sticking its rosary into other folks’ business, it will remain a very bitter breakup.

Complete Article HERE!


Priest Calls Cops on Black Funeral-Goers, Tells Them to ‘Get the Hell Out’ of Church

By Michael Harriot

Despite having ample evidence that Jesus will work it out, a Catholic priest halted a homegoing service in Maryland to have a black family removed from the church. The servant of God even kicked the dead body out of the funeral, proving once again, there is no sanctuary when it comes to racism.

Aside from the fact that she was no longer alive, Agnes Hicks’ Charlotte Hall, Md., mass was going along perfectly fine on Tuesday until an attendee of the funeral went in for a hug and accidentally knocked over a chalice at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, angering pastor Michael Briese.

“There will be no funeral, no repast, everyone get the hell out of my church,” Briese reportedly told the family. According to Fox 5, Briese then kicked the family out of the place of worship, telling them to remove the body of the woman who wished to be laid to rest in the church where she was baptized.

But Briese wasn’t done. Yea, though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, the priest feared no evil, but he was a little bit scared of black people. Instead of getting Jesus on the main line, Briese decided to call his Lord and Savior from whom all white things flow: the police.

After the police responded to the call, the officers determined that the family had done nothing wrong and escorted the family to another church in a nearby county where they finished the service.

Following the incident, the Archdiocese of Washington issued a statement saying: “What occurred at St. Mary’s Parish this morning does not reflect the Catholic Church’s fundamental calling to respect and uplift the God-given dignity of every person nor does that incident represent the pastoral approach the priests of the Archdiocese of Washington commit to undertake every day in their ministry.”

Church officials said they are still investigating the incident. I haven’t checked the archives, but I’m sure the Catholic church has a spotless record of handling priest wrongdoing. An organization of this size wouldn’t have millions of followers if the church had a history of dismissing traumatic events. If you Googled “Catholic priest scandal” or “Catholic church cover-up,” I bet you wouldn’t get any results.

Although the family says they are still upset by the event, I’m sure they’ll be ok.

It’s not like anyone died.

Complete Article HERE!

Doctor takes stand against Catholic hospital’s assisted dying policy

By Mike Hager


A Vancouver Island doctor is resigning from the ethics committee at a local Catholic hospital because it refuses to offer assisted dying on site, a stand that he says is unnecessarily causing critically ill patients more suffering as they are transferred to facilities dozens of kilometres away.

Jonathan Reggler, a general physician who makes daily patient visits to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox, said he knew the facility, like other faith-based hospitals across the country, had developed a “strict” policy of transferring patients asking for assisted deaths.

But it wasn’t until recently, he says, that such patients began streaming into St. Joseph’s – and transferring out – after a federal law came into force June 17 that legalized medically assisted dying for patients whose suffering is intolerable and whose deaths are reasonably foreseeable.

“We’re talking about very sick patients having to be transferred – people who are close to death – and it’s wrong,” Dr. Reggler said.

Patients at St. Joseph’s seeking this treatment must be driven 45 minutes north to Campbell River or an hour and a half south to Nanaimo, Dr. Reggler said.

Jane Murphy, president and chief executive of the hospital, released a statement Tuesday praising Dr. Reggler as a respected and long-standing member of the committee, but she said her institution will continue to refuse to offer assisted dying.

“The B.C. health sector’s response to [assisted dying] allows for individuals and faith-based hospitals to conscientiously object to the provision of [an assisted death], while providing safe and timely transfers for patients for further assessment and discussion of care options, if required,” her e-mailed statement said. “B.C. has effective processes for transferring patients to other hospitals for numerous medical needs, and minimizing patient discomfort and pain is always the highest priority.

“We will respond to any patient who may request [an assisted death] with respect, support, compassion and kindness and will do so without discrimination or coercion.”

After seeing his first of these patients at the hospital recently, Dr. Reggler sent the hospital’s CEO a letter Tuesday notifying her of his resignation from the ethics committee, which reviews ethical issues and research trials at the facility.

He says most of his patients are elderly and – like the staff at the hospital – only a fraction identify as Catholic.

“Unfortunately, policy is made by the bishop, and by the hospital board, and they simply will not change from the stance that the Catholic church has on this issue,” Dr. Reggler said.

Across Canada, Catholic hospitals are, as promised, transferring out critically ill patients who want assisted deaths. Some patients have had trouble finding independent witnesses to their written requests, leading the advocacy group Dying with Dignity Canada to round up volunteers to sign the paperwork; and some doctors are struggling to balance relieving patients’ pain near the end of their lives with the need to keep them lucid enough to consent at the moment of death.

Daphne Gilbert, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said governments must soon take a stand on whether they will continue funding faith-based hospitals that deny patients a service that the Supreme Court of Canada has defined as their constitutional right

“The Catholic hospitals have put themselves in a tricky position,” she said.

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake was unavailable for an interview Tuesday, but a spokeswoman sent a statement saying the government is working with faith-based facilities to ensure that “medical assistance in dying is provided in a patient-centred manner.” The ministry is monitoring how different hospitals deliver the service to make sure patients’ wishes are respected, the statement said.

Dr. Reggler said he wants many more doctors to begin going public with their opposition to publicly funded hospitals refusing to offer assisted dying.

“What I’m expecting and hoping is that other physicians will themselves say, ‘No, this is wrong,’ and will start to make their voices heard in other cities and other provinces across Canada.”

Complete Article HERE!

High stakes for Canada’s Bishops in euthanasia row

by Michael Higgins


While having dinner recently with my former producer, Bernie Lucht, the Montreal Jewish intellectual and onetime head of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship intellectual affairs programme, Ideas, he looked across the table at me and asked plaintively why the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops was being so callous with the dying.

Bernie had confused the Catholic Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories with the national episcopal conference. Easy enough to do. What bothered him was the seeming disjunction between Pope Francis’ call for mercy and non-judgmental attitudes toward the marginalised and the position taken by the bishops.

In their 34-page document, Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons and Families Considering or Opting for Death by Assisted Suicide or Euthanasia, the Alberta and Northwest Territories bishops made it clear that their clergy should not engage in the “truly scandalous” behaviour of granting a request for funeral rites or the sacraments by people who have, for whatever reason, chosen to die by physician-assisted protocols.

Nervous public
Physician-assisted dying is now a legal right in Canada following the passage of Bill C-14 in June of this year. As I have outlined in an article in New York’s Commonweal magazine following Royal Assent for the Bill: “Although benign euphemisms were deployed regularly in an effort to make the legislation more palatable to a nervous public, Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, was refreshingly blunt in its editorial position when it observed prior to the bill’s convoluted passing through both chambers that ‘once the new law is adopted, we will be a country whose legislation allows the state to kill its citizens, pure and simple.

People often warn against slippery slopes, but this is no slope. This is a precipice from which there is no return.’”

To be clear, The Globe and Mail was not opposed to the legislation per se as it recognised that Parliament was responding to polls that indicated that the Canadian public was in favour of some form of doctor-induced death with rigorous constraints put in place.

But, not unreasonably and predictably, the Catholic bishops were opposed to the legislation as they considered it “an affront to human dignity, an erosion of human solidarity, and a danger to all vulnerable persons”.

But once the bill was passed and became the law of the land, the Canadian episcopate moved to ensure that Catholic health care facilities were protected from providing services that contradicted their mandate.

To date, they have been successful in achieving that but the Alberta bishops document may have ignited unnecessary controversy, prompting the considerable lobby opposed to exemptions for religiously-affiliated and publicly-funded health care institutions to move toward litigation seeking to revoke that exemption and could well end up in the Supreme Court.

Senior Quebec prelates, like the country’s Primate, Cardinal Gerald Lacroix of Quebec City, and Archbishop Christian Lepine of Montreal, have dissociated themselves from their Western brothers by insisting that their priests will provide funerals for those who choose the now legal medically-assisted dying option and will “accompany people in every step of their life”. By electing a pastoral over a canonical approach, the Quebec clerics have aligned more closely with the Franciscan papacy.

The last time the national episcopate was in very public disagreement was in the early 1980s when a social justice document highly critical of Canada’s fiscal policies and commitment to ‘trickle down economics’ was, in turn, repudiated by then Cardinal Archbishop of Toronto, Gerald Emmett Carter, a close friend of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and several of his Cabinet.

This time the stakes are higher.

Complete Article HERE!