Terminally ill people who end their lives with voluntary euthanasia could be denied the last rites when Queensland becomes the fourth state to operate a right-to-die program on January 1. Source: The Australian.
This represents the fiercest backlash by churches to the rollout of euthanasia, with South Australia and New South Wales due to bring it in later next year and the territories able to follow suit after the axing by federal parliament of a longstanding veto. At that point, the entire population will be covered.
Brisbane Archbishop and former president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Mark Coleridge said people undertaking euthanasia would generally not receive the sacrament of Viaticum – Holy Communion for the dying – a key part of the last rites.
In situations where the person had persistently rejected the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life, the concluding Prayer for the Dead could also be withheld, Archbishop Coleridge said.
Asked if Catholics should assume they would not receive Viaticum in the event that they resorted to euthanasia, he said: “I think that’s a fairly safe thing to say.
“That does not mean that the Church can’t offer pastoral care, can’t surround the person and his or her family with prayer.
“One of the questions we are looking at is how to manage all of this in the context of a Catholic funeral.
“There is no question of rejecting the person for a Catholic funeral but, again, it would take great pastoral sensitivity to decide how this should be handled.”
The impending start of euthanasia in Queensland has brought to a head simmering concern among churches as well as faith-based hospitals and residential aged care providers about a system that allows the terminally ill to end their lives with death-dealing drugs, contrary to a fundamental tenet of Christian belief.
Catholic priests to deny last rites in VAD backlash (By Jamie Walker, The Australian)