Weakening Stance on Assisted Suicide? Is the Catholic Church Killing More of Its Moral Authority?
A recent comment from the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life reflects the Catholic Church’s increasing willingness to relinquish defending the most vulnerable in the earliest and latest stages of life.
Cardinal Vincenzo Paglia said at an Italian journalism conference April 21 that to promote the common good, the church would accept laws permitting assisted suicide.
“It cannot be excluded that in our society, a legal mediation is practicable that allows assisted suicide,” Paglia said about a judgment by Italy’s highest court limiting conditions for the procedure. “Personally, I would not practice assisting suicide, but I understand that legal mediation can constitute the greatest common good concretely possible in the conditions in which we find ourselves.”
The cardinal’s comments drew swift criticism. The John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family, unaffiliated with the Vatican, demanded his resignation. Damian Thompson, associate editor of The Spectator in Britain, referred to Paglia’s previous remarks on abortion in this scathing tweet:
This Pontifical Academy of Death strikes again. It doesn’t matter what clarifications Paglia issues; the fact that he says this stuff openly illustrates the theological chaos of the Bergoglio pontificate.
Move Along, Nothing to See Here…
In August, as The Stream reported, Paglia said the church wouldn’t oppose Italy’s Law 194, which allows abortions in the first trimester and permits them if the mother’s life is threatened or the unborn child is severely deformed.
Tommaso Scandroglio, writing in the Catholic newspaper La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, stunningly described the impact: “It is as if the president of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League is declaring himself in favor of the Holocaust.”
Like with abortion, Pope Francis uses his public rhetoric to oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide. In February 2022, 15 months before Paglia’s remarks about the subject, Francis said this:
We must accompany people towards death, but not provoke death or facilitate any form of suicide. Remember that the right to care and treatment for all must always be prioritized, so that the weakest, particularly the elderly and the sick, are never rejected. Life is a right, not death, which must be welcomed, not administered.
Moreover, the Catholic catechism states regarding assisted suicide that “if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted.” It also calls euthanasia “murder.”
Yet Paglia remains president of a pontifical academy Pope John Paul II founded specifically to defend life at its most vulnerable stages.
Whom Do You Believe? Me or Your Eyes?
As The Stream often reported concerning abortion and gender ideology, Francis plays a duplicitous game. On the one hand, he uses his words to support historic teaching, thereby misleading inattentive Catholics. But on the other, he uses inaction to signal his true intent: to change moral doctrine subtly and gradually with minimal opposition.
Consider abortion. Though the catechism describes abortion as a “moral evil” and canon law demands Catholics who persist “in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion…without previous sacramental confession,” the head of the Vatican’s highest theological body dissuaded American bishops two years ago from withholding communion from politicians who support abortion.
That includes two of Francis’ favorites: President Joe Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker. Both Catholics support his agenda of environmental sustainability and economic redistribution.
“It would be misleading … to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest level of accountability on the part of Catholics,” wrote Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — who, like Paglia, still has his job.
Consider gender ideology. Though Francis has called it “ideological colonization,” and Ladaria’s body denied German bishops in 2021 the authority to bless same-sex unions, Francis endorses three subordinates who support them: the Rev. James Martin, San Diego Cardinal Robert McElroy and Luxembourg Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich.
Martin, one of Francis’ communications advisors, uses his various platforms to promote gender ideology, including transgender surgery for children. McElroy called for “radical inclusion” of all LGBTQ Catholics, regardless of whether they repent from homosexual sex, which both the catechism and the Bible call immoral.
Hollerich, whom Francis appointed to his circle of closest advisors in March, even said he rejects church teaching on homosexuality. Martin, a fellow Jesuit, went so far as to question “whether the biblical judgment is correct.”
What is Truth?
All three men’s views reflect this trending belief among Catholic leaders: Moral doctrine depends on human consensus, not divine revelation, as Paglia himself stated:
The Catholic Church does not have a package of ready-to-wear, ready-made truths, as if it were a distributor of pills of truth. Theological thought evolves in history, in dialogue with the Magisterium and with the experience of the People of God. … The Church’s intervention and witness … is situated on the level of culture and dialogue between consciences. Between believers and non-believers there is a relationship of mutual learning.
The Rev. Thomas Berg, professor of moral theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., isn’t fooled.
“That’s a sad caricature of how we come to know moral truth,” Berg tweeted in response to Paglia. “Missing words from Paglia’s remarks: Jesus, Gospel, grace, intrinsic evil. His idiotic remarks serve zero purpose in the cause of defending the dignity of human life and overcoming throw-away culture.”
Lay Catholics who notice the trend aren’t fooled, either.
“This poison has not been slowed down by the Vatican,” wrote Bernie, a commenter on The Pillar, a Catholic site. “It has and will spread to other countries, both through votes of national bishops’ conferences and in the minds of Catholics everywhere.”
Steve Mieczkowski, another commenter, specifically pointed to Francis. “He talks tough at times, but his actions, or should I say inaction, speak louder,” he wrote. “When you meet with the likes of James Martin and don’t set him right, you too have an agenda.”
The German bishops who ignored Ladaria’s ruling to pass a resolution to bless same-sex unions in March, Mieczkowski added, are “doing exactly what Pope Francis has set out to do himself; the ushering in of a ‘new’ more politically correct Catholic Church, one focused on meeting secularism where it is instead of seeking change from the secularist.”
In the process, the Catholic Church is committing unassisted suicide.
Joseph D’Hippolito has written commentaries for such outlets as the Jerusalem Post, the American Thinker and Front Page Magazine. He works as a free-lance writer.