NZ Catholic bishops’ guide for helping people choosing assisted dying

Catholic News Service

New Zealand’s Catholic bishops have written a pastoral statement and a set of guidelines for those working with people choosing assisted dying.

Chaplains, priests and other Catholic professionals are being given guidelines and pastoral help to work with people who decide to die under the End of Life Choice Act which takes effect on 7 November.

Called “Ministers of Consolation and Hope,” the guidelines stress accompaniment with those choosing assisted dying. They describe the ministry of accompaniment as a commitment and a ministry of hope and support.

The guidelines also say spiritual accompaniment with someone contemplating euthanasia or assisted dying is “a partnership of good intent,”. They call for ministers and caregivers to make available resources of care, prayer and the sacraments.

Accompaniment involves working with family members, known as whanau whakapono in Maori and tribal cultures.

“Whanau and other loved ones may hold varying views about assisted dying. Any division or tension within the family needs to be listened to and attended to with great sensitivity,” the guidelines advise.

They also make it clear that accompaniment is “always voluntary and respectful of conscience.

“No priest, chaplain, pastoral worker, health care professional or caregiver should ever feel obliged to do or say something that goes against their own conscience. Any cooperation in the act of facilitating or administering an assisted death must be excluded in all cases.”

He stresses that “The legal availability of euthanasia in New Zealand does not change Catholic convictions about the practice.”

Though the Church opposes the deliberate taking of human life, it cannot turn away those who choose “assisted dying” under the new law, says Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe.

He notes that there is no place or situation, no matter how uncomfortable, where our faith cannot be expressed, or God’s grace encountered.

“Life puts before us many questions and choices.

“As a Church we try to help people look at these questions and choices through a Christian lens. Individuals often find themselves in complex places. In these times the Church tries to offer guidance to people as best as she can, but people make their own choices.

“Often, as a Church, we find ourselves caring for people dealing with the consequences of such choices. Our pastoral practice is always called to be a reflection of our God, who does not abandon his people.”

Lowe says “medically assisted dying” or euthanasia would not be offered in Catholic rest homes or hospices, just as many non-Catholic carers would not offer it.

“However, it will become available in a number of hospitals and other public care facilities throughout the country.

“These are the places of work or ministry for some of our Catholic community. We do not need to deny the objective wrong of euthanasia in order to accompany, with consolation and hope, those who might feel drawn or pushed towards this type of death.”

The Church’s Te Kupenga-Catholic Leadership Institute has been organising workshops on working with the law.


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News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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