The head of the Vatican’s pro-life academy has said that he would hold the hand of someone who chose to die in an assisted suicide. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia said that Catholics should “let go of the rules” and prioritise accompanying those in need. “No one can be abandoned, even if we are against assisted suicide,” he said.
Why was it under-reported?
Archbishop Paglia’s remarks may have seemed too vague to be worth reporting. He was speaking in the context of a document issued by the Swiss bishops’ conference, which said that priests and other pastoral caregivers should not be present during an assisted suicide, as that would suggest tacit consent. The archbishop did not address that point directly, only saying that he wanted to “avoid getting stuck in ideological debates”. Nevertheless, the remark was highly controversial, as several theologians pointed out.
What will happen next?
The archbishop’s words may encourage bishops to follow the example of the bishops of Canada’s Atlantic region, who in 2016 said priests could give the last rites to those opting for assisted suicide. But other bishops will take the opposite approach. As CC Pecknold wrote at ch.rd0.co.uk, priests are not supposed to be present at abortions or same-sex weddings, “precisely because people rightly take priestly presence as a tacit blessing of the act itself. The same goes for physician-assisted suicide.”
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