Pope Francis has given a Belgian religious order until the end of this month to stop offering euthanasia to psychiatric patients, CNS reports.
Br Rene Stockman, superior general of the order, told CNS the Pope gave his personal approval to a Vatican demand that the Brothers of Charity, which runs 15 centres for psychiatric patients across Belgium, must reverse its policy by the end of August.
Brothers who serve on the board of the Brothers of Charity Group, the organisation that runs the centres, also must each 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 will face sanctions under canon law, while the group can expect to face legal action and even expulsion from the Church if it fails to change its policy.
The group, he added, must no longer consider euthanasia as a solution to human suffering under any circumstances.
The order, issued at the beginning of this month, follows repeated requests for the group to drop its new policy of permitting doctors to perform the euthanasia of “nonterminal” mentally ill patients on its premises.
It also follows a joint investigation by the Vatican’s Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
“The Holy Father was formally informed about it and was also informed about the steps to be taken,” Br Stockman told CNS on Monday.
The ultimatum, he said, meant the group’s policies must be underpinned by a belief that “respect for human life is absolute.”
Br Stockman told CNS that if the group refused to bow to the ultimatum “then we will take juridical steps in order to force them to amend the text (of the new policy) and, if that is not possible, then we have to start the procedure to exclude the hospitals from the Brothers of Charity family and take away their Catholic identity.”
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