SINGAPORE – The Catholic Church condemns direct euthanasia, whether voluntary or involuntary, said Archbishop Nicholas Chia in response to recent Singapore media coverage on euthanasia.
The archbishop’s statement was made in the form of a pastoral letter released on All Saints Day and addressed to Catholics in Singapore. It was read at Masses during the weekend of Nov 1-2.
In his letter, the archbishop quoted several Catholic documents to highlight Church teaching on this subject. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of the handicapped, sick or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable."
Archbishop Chia suggested that Catholics refer to the "Euthanasia" article written by Father James Yeo in the Nov 9 issue of The CatholicNews.
The archbishop’s letter was reported in local newspapers the following Monday.
Follow-up press reports indicate that most religious groups are against the practice and legalisation of euthanasia.
In a statement issued on Nov 6, the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) said that while it supports and promotes compassionate responses to human suffering, it categorically opposes all forms of euthanasia.
The NCCS maintains that human life is a gift from God the Creator, and God alone has the authority in matters of life and death.
Although human beings are free agents, their exercise of freedom does not extend to ending their own lives, the statement said.
It added that euthanasia is against the very ethos of medical practice because the duty of the physician is always to care and never to kill.
The legalisation and acceptance of euthanasia would result in the "euthanasia mentality" that sees death as the only solution when faced with terminal illness and which does not consider other alternatives, it stated. "This will have serious and adverse consequences on society," it added.
Archbishop Chia’s letter, which was addressed to "Priests, Religious and People of God", follows:
IN OUR COUNTRY, the issue of euthanasia (or mercy killing) has surfaced and is making news in our local media. I am
writing to categorically state that the Catholic Church condemns direct euthanasia whether voluntary or involuntary.
You may want to refer to the article "Euthanasia" published in the Nov 9 issue of The CatholicNews.
As early as 1980, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith had already stated clearly: Intentionally causing one’s death, or suicide, is equally as wrong as murder; such an action on the part of a person is to be considered as a rejection of God’s sovereignty and loving plan.
This teaching reiterates what was already taught in Gaudium et Spes ("Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World") which "condemned crimes against life such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or wilful suicide".
The Catechism of the Catholic Church n.2277 makes it clear that, "Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of the handicapped, sick or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable."
Choosing to end one’s life is suicide and the formal cooperation with the suicide of others is "assisted suicide". Both are immoral. If suicide and assisting suicide are immoral, a fortiori taking the life of a person without his or her consent, even with the intention of relieving his or her suffering cannot be allowed under any circumstances.
One cannot choose death and ask to be killed. When one does this one is not only committing the crime of suicide but also compounding it by making another person a partner in a crime. One must not yield to another person’s request for euthanasia. To yield to such request is false compassion. To have true compassion for the person is to understand that such a person requesting for euthanasia is actually feeling lost, confused, hopeless and alienated. Mercy entails supporting such a person through care and friendship.
Similarly, no healthcare professional must even contemplate the option of administering euthanasia. Generally, the medical profession must reject euthanasia as is evidenced by the Hippocratic Oath as well as by more recent codes of medical ethics such as The Geneva Declaration (WHO, 1957) and the Helsinki Statement (WHO, 1964).
I end this pastoral letter by quoting the words of Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life"), which says: In communion with the bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, as transmitted by the Church’s tradition and taught by the ordinary and Universal Magisterium.
May the Holy Spirit who is the Giver of Life guide you to a deeper appreciation for the gift of life.
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Archbishop Nicholas Chia