Archbishop Paglia says priests can be present at assisted suicide

Vatican City, Dec 11, 2019 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said Tuesday that he would be willing to hold the hand of someone dying from assisted suicide, and that he does not see that as lending implicit supporting for the practice.

Paglia spoke at a Dec. 10 press conference preceding a two-day symposium on palliative care, being sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life and the WISH initiative, part of the Qatar Foundation.

Answering a question about assisted suicide and whether a Catholic or a Catholic priest can be present at someone’s death by assisted suicide, Paglia told a small group of journalists that he would be willing to do so, because “the Lord never abandons anyone.”

“In this sense, to accompany, to hold the hand of someone who is dying, is, I think a great duty every believer should promote,” he said, adding that believers should also provide a contrast to the culture of assisted suicide.

“I believe from our perspective, no one can be abandoned, even if we are against assisted suicide because we do not want to do death’s dirty work,” he said.

Last week, the Swiss bishops released guidance on pastoral care regarding assisted suicide. The document said pastoral caregivers should not be present during a person’s death by assisted suicide.

Asked his thoughts on directives such as these, Paglia responded, “Let go of the rules. I believe that no one should be abandoned.”

“I would like to remove the ideology from this situation,” he said.

Paglia added that it is a “cruel society” which tries to justify assisted suicide, or which abandons those not deemed “good” enough.

Suicide is a “great defeat” for society and can never be transformed it into “a wise choice,” he said.

In addition to discussions on assisted suicide, the Dec. 11-12 Vatican conference will include presentations by representatives of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism on the topic of medical ethics, the mental health of the elderly, and interreligious cooperation to incorporate spirituality into palliative care.


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  1. Oops. Yes it does. What a terrible place to be in that you are suffering so greatly that the best option seems to be to end your own life and the best a priest can come up with is to hold your hand. Seems the Archbishop would rather be a social worker or maybe he is actually a secular catholic and doesn’t believe anymore. Love does not mean approving anything a person does. You can’t cut them off either so I guess you just have to do the hard thing of presenting the truth to them with Love. Much easier to just go along of course and Archbishop Paglia recommends. Somehow I just don’t recall and Bible stories of Jesus holding someone’s hand while they commit suicide and ii have yet to come across any of the Saints that this was their charism. Lord send us Holy Priests.

  2. First reaction was? But than as I read the Archbishop reasoning it made sense what Jesus would do. He never abandons us and if that dying person wants to repent can’t he do so as any dying person who asks too? The priest acts in Jesus name to do this. The Archbishop does not encourage or condone suicide assisted or not. He makes that clear but will not abandon anyone in leaving this life. Don’t recall any suicides in bible except Jesus betrayer but again he did not seek forgiveness and made his choice.

    • Jan, the chronology of events would make a huge difference in this question. If someone had previously taken a lethal dose of medication & was
      *irreversibly* in the throes of death & wanted to make a confession, etc, that would be one thing.
      If a priest is passively holding the hand of someone whilst in the process of suicide/euthanasia & not attempting to stop or reverse it, he’s complicit in that sin.

      “Assisted suicide” prescriptions can come with anti-nausea medications which arrest the body’s natural reflex to vomit some drug overdoses. Overdoses can be treated if caught in time.
      A priest should not sit by, passively holding the hand of one slitting his wrists or committing suicide through overdose or any other method.

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