The Catholic Church through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reaffirmed its teaching that euthanasia and assisted suicide are sinful.
In a new document released on Sept. 22, the Vatican’s doctrinal office reminded the faithful to accompany the sick and dying through prayer, physical presence, and the sacraments.
The “Samaritanus bonus on the care of persons in the critical and terminal phases of life” said the faithful should avoid any active or passive gesture that might signal approval for the act.
The 45-page document, which was approved by Pope Francis in June, clarified the Church’s teachings on a range of end-of-life issues.
It affirmed the intrinsic value and dignity of every human life, especially for those who are critically sick and in the terminal stages of life.
The letter said euthanasia is “an intrinsically evil act, in every situation or circumstance” and “any formal or immediate material cooperation in such an act is a grave sin against human life.”
It added that “euthanasia and assisted suicide are always the wrong choice.”
Quoting St. Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium vitae that new document said, “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” and “is transmitted by the Church’s Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”
There is also “no right to dispose of one’s life arbitrarily,” it continued, which is why “no health care worker can be compelled to execute a non-existent right.”
It said it is “gravely unjust to enact laws that legalize euthanasia or justify and support suicide.”
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said “such laws strike at the foundation of the legal order: The right to life sustains all other rights, including the exercise of freedom.”
“The existence of such laws deeply wound human relations and justice, and threaten the mutual trust among human beings,” the document added.
“The legitimation of assisted suicide and euthanasia is a sign of the degradation of legal systems,” it said.
The document explained that according to Church teaching, euthanasia “is an act of homicide that no end can justify and that does not tolerate any form of complicity or active or passive collaboration.”
“Those who approve laws of euthanasia and assisted suicide, therefore, become accomplices of a grave sin that others will execute,” read the document.
“They are also guilty of scandal because by such laws they contribute to the distortion of conscience, even among the faithful,” it added.
To take one’s own life breaks one’s relationship with God and with others. “Assisted suicide aggravates the gravity of this act because it implicates another in one’s own despair,” it said.
The Christian response to these actions is to offer the help necessary for a person to shake off this despair, it emphasized, and not to indulge “in spurious condescension.”
“The commandment ‘do not kill’ … is in fact a yes to life which God guarantees, and it ‘becomes a call to attentive love which protects and promotes the life of one’s neighbor,’” the letter said.
“The Christian therefore knows that earthly life is not the supreme value. Ultimate happiness is in heaven. Thus, the Christian will not expect physical life to continue when death is evidently near. The Christian must help the dying to break free from despair and to place their hope in God.”
The letter affirmed that it is “a supreme act of charity” to spiritually assist the Christian at their moment of death.
“Death is a decisive moment in the human person’s encounter with God the Savior,” it said.
“The Church is called to accompany spiritually the faithful in the situation, offering them the ‘healing resources’ of prayer and the sacraments,” read the document.