“I don’t plan specific directives aimed at refusing this support or refusing access to the anointing of the sick and the celebration of funerals,” Cardinal Lacroix said in a statement on September 29.
The cardinal was reacting to a document published earlier this month by the bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, addressed to the clergy, in which they said these sacraments and celebrations may be refused for those opting for assisted suicide or euthanasia.
“The Catholic Church accompanies people in every step of their life. We do that in dialogue with every person and every family that wishes to be accompanied,” added the cardinal.
“This is why we will always opt for palliative care accessible for everyone instead of euthanasia,” Cardinal Lacroix said.
He recognised that recent changes in the laws of the province of Quebec and in the Canadian Penal Code offer “new pastoral challenges” for the Catholic Church.
In Montreal, Archbishop Christian Lepine also said he does not intend to ask his priests to refuse funerals for those who choose the now legal medically assisted dying.
In their 34-page Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons and Families Considering or Opting for Death by Assisted Suicide or Euthanasia, published in mid-September, the Alberta and Northwest Territories bishops said euthanasia is a “grave violation of the law of God.”
They offered pastoral guidance and indicated that a person’s judgment may be impaired through “depression, drugs, or pressure from others.”
They said it would be “truly scandalous” if funerals were to become a celebration of the decision to choose euthanasia or assisted suicide.
“Such a request for funeral rites must be gently but firmly denied,” said the document.