What Are Catholic Perspectives on Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

[Editor's Note: Although Catholics are also Christians, we have constructed a separate question about Christian perspectives on euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.]

Pope Benedict XVI stated in a Dec. 18, 2008 address to the Ambassador of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg to the Holy See, on www.vatican.va:

"I would also like to take the opportunity of our meeting to express to you my very deep concern about the text of the law on euthanasia and assisted suicide that is currently being discussed in Parliament. In practice, this text accompanied moreover and in a contradictory manner by another bill which contains felicitous legal measures for developing palliative care to make suffering more bearable in the final stages of illness and to encourage the appropriate humane care for the patient legitimizes the possibility of putting an end to life.

Political leaders, who have the grave duty of serving the good of the human being, and likewise doctors and families, must remember that 'the deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit' (Encyclical Evangelium vitae, n. 57). In truth, love and true compassion take a different path. The request that rises from the human heart, especially when a person is tempted to cede to discouragement and has reached the point of wishing to disappear, is above all a request for company and an appeal for greater solidarity and support in trial.

This appeal may seem demanding but it is the only one worthy of the human being and gives access to new and deeper forms of solidarity which, ultimately, enrich and strengthen family and social ties. On this path of humanization all people of good will are asked to cooperate and the Church, for her part, is determined to commit to it all her resources of attention and service. Faithful to their Christian and human roots and to the constant concern to further the common good, may every member of the population of Luxembourg always have at heart to reaffirm the greatness and inviolable character of human life!"

Dec. 18, 2008 - Pope Benedict XVI 

The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) wrote in an article titled "A Catholic Guide to End-of-Life Decisions: An Explanation of Church Teaching on Advance Directives, Euthanasia, and Physician Assisted Suicide" at ncbcenter.org (accessed Oct. 14, 2009):

"Human life is an inviolable gift from God. Our love of God and His creation should cause us to shun any thought of violating this great gift through suicide or euthanasia. We read in Wisdom:

'God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living.' WISDOM 1:13

When formulating any Advance Directive and discussing end-of-life issues we should avoid using the expression 'quality of life' because it is used by advocates of euthanasia to suggest that some lives are not worth living...

Supporters of euthanasia often justify it or physician-assisted suicide on the grounds that the pain of terminal illness is too great for the average person to bear. They hold that it is more merciful to kill the suffering patient. [Euthanasia] is a fundamentally unreasonable act."

Oct. 14, 2009 - National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) 

The BBC wrote in an Aug. 3, 2009 article titled "Religion & Ethics - Christianity: Euthanasia - the Roman Catholic View" at bbc.co.uk:

"The Roman Catholic church regards euthanasia as morally wrong. It has always taught the absolute and unchanging value of the commandment 'You shall not kill'...

The church regards any law permitting euthanasia as an intrinsically unjust law...

The Roman Catholic church does not accept that human beings have a right to die.

Human beings are free agents, but their freedom does not extend to the ending of their own lives. Euthanasia and suicide are both a rejection of God's absolute sovereignty over life and death...

Since it is morally wrong to commit suicide it is morally wrong to help someone commit suicide."

Aug. 3, 2009 - BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote in a Sep. 12, 1991 article titled "Statement on Euthanasia," at usccb.org:

"Current efforts to legalize euthanasia place our society at a critical juncture...

As Catholic leaders and moral teachers, we believe that life is the most basic gift of a loving God- a gift over which we have stewardship but not absolute dominion. Our tradition, declaring a moral obligation to care for our own life and health and to seek such care from others, recognizes that we are not morally obligated to use all available medical procedures in every set of circumstances. But that tradition clearly and strongly affirms that as a responsible steward of life one must never directly intend to cause one's own death, or the death of an innocent victim, by action or omission...

We call on Catholics, and on all persons of good will, to reject proposals to legalize euthanasia. We urge families to discuss issues surrounding the care of terminally ill loved ones in light of sound moral principles and the demands of human dignity, so that patients need not feel helpless or abandoned in the face of complex decisions about their future. And we urge health care professionals, legislators, and all involved in this debate, to seek solutions to the problems of terminally ill patients and their families that respect the inherent worth of all human beings, especially those most in need of our love and assistance."

Sep. 12, 1991 - United States Conference of Catholic Bishops