Monday, February 19, 2024

Archdiocese of Montreal sues Quebec for trying to force Catholic hospice to commit euthanasia

The Archdiocese of Montreal is suing the government of Quebec over a law passed in 2023 that would force Catholic hospices to commit assisted suicide, contrary to the Fifth Commandment and Catholic teaching. 

At the heart the legal challenge is operation of a palliative care home in Montreal, St. Raphael’s Nursing Home, a former parish of the archdiocese, which opened in 2019 and presently offers 12 beds and day care, free of charge. 

The property is owned by the archdiocese and is rented out at $1/year under a 100-year lease, on the express condition that St. Raphael’s provides palliative care without ever committing euthanasia. 

At the time, Quebec law allowed hospices to refrain from offering assisted suicide, called euphemistically “Medical Aid in Dying” (MAID), on their own premises. 

However, on June 7, 2023, an amendment to the “Act Respecting End-of-life Care” passed, requiring hospices to commit assisted suicide upon request. 

The law, LQ 2023, c.15, contained no religious or conscientious objection exemption clause and took effect December 7, 2023. 

Refusing to either comply with a law requiring that a Catholic hospice participate in the murder of the sick and elderly or close the much-needed Catholic palliative care home, Archbishop Christian Lépine of Montreal has sued the Quebec government on February 5, asking the Superior Court to stay the implementation of the amendment and to invalidate it as unconstitutional. 

Quebec Life Coalition praised the strong move as “news as surprising as it is encouraging.” 

In a statement addressing the issue, the archbishop stated, “The consequence of the new Act is that acts we find morally unacceptable will be committed on our property. The state is thus de facto hijacking the intent of the founders and donors and the mission of the former church, which we are graciously making available to a community organization.” 

In short, what the Appeal is asking for is no more and no less than to allow hospices and health professionals “to refuse to administer medical aid in dying on the basis of personal convictions and (to) refuse to participate in its administration for the same reason.” 

We believe that forcing all hospices to offer “medical aid in dying” in this way, without regard to their mission and values and those of the community that support them, is a violation of the law. The new Act significantly undermines the exercise of the right to freedom of religion and conscience, as well as the right to peaceful enjoyment and free disposal of one’s property, guaranteed by the Canadian Charter and the Quebec Charter.   

Hospices – which are community organizations, not public institutions – should be able to define their own mission and the services they are prepared to offer, as was the case until recently. 

Reaffirming Catholic teaching on the sanctity of the life of the sick and elderly and condemning MAID as morally unacceptable, Archbishop Lépine declared, “According to the Catholic faith, human life is a sacred and inviolable gift, from conception to natural death. ” 

Palliative care accompanies people and their loved ones through the end-of-life process, while at the same time without delaying or hastening death. On the contrary, the procedure that the Act refers to medical aid in dying (MAID) causes premature death. For this reason, the Church regards it as an act of euthanasia, which is not a morally acceptable response to the suffering and distress of people at the end of life. 

Commenting on the situation facing Catholic hospices and health care institutions, Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, stated earlier this month that “The euthanasia lobby is committed to eradicating opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide and eliminating any ‘safe space’ that doesn’t provide euthanasia, that is, doesn’t kill their patients.”