Should The Church Re-Introduce Prohibition On Funerals For Catholics Dying By Assisted Suicide?

Should The Church Re-Introduce Prohibition On Funerals For Catholics Dying By Assisted Suicide?

From [Blogger] Westminster Fly…

Readers of the Catholic Truth blog will probably be aware of the latest attempt to legalise euthanasia in the UK – click here.

As with so many other crucial issues, the Catholic clergy – with the occasional rare exception – generally keep quiet about euthanasia, so it is left to lay groups like SPUC l Right to Life and Care Not Killing to alert people to this problem and oppose it.

A few points for discussion:

(1)  Do people think that our church leaders aren’t doing enough to oppose this evil?

(2)  What can we do to prod them into action?

(3)  Have we done enough ourselves?

(4)  Do you think the Church should double-down and reintroduce the practice of not allowing Catholic funerals for those who have deliberately ended their own lives by assisted suicide?

Comments (22)

  • Laura

    Answering the points for discussion:

    1) no, our church leaders are not at all doing enough to oppose this evil. All they do is issue statements through their spokesmen, and that’s a cop-out IMHO.

    2) I don’t think we can do anything to prod them into action. They fob people off when we write about anything.

    3) I don’t think I’ve done enough but that’s because I feel defeated. I have an SNP MP and he’s never going to go against the party line on anything.

    4) I’m not sure about doubling down on funerals. I went to my search engine for ideas and this is the first that came up. I think it’s quite hard to argue against this. although I am open to changing my mind when I hear the arguments.

    This is a very important thread – thanks for the opportunity to learn more about this topic which will affect us all, one way or another, especially if euthanasia is legalised.

    November 5, 2021 at 4:16 pm
    • Nicky


      I agree that the bishops and MPs are a write-off. There’s just no point writing to them about anything and the majority of MPs are behind the assisted dying bill, that’s now public knowledge.

      I disagree with you about the funerals, though, on reading Westminster Fly’s point. That’s spot on. If you have become so depressed and your faith is so weak that you think ending it is the only way out, that’s different from deciding you want a “dignified death”.

      November 5, 2021 at 7:24 pm
  • westminsterfly

    Hmm. I’m not sure if that ‘Simply Catholic’ website is indeed Catholic. Also, I’m not talking about people who take their own lives when mentally ill or not in their right minds, because the issue of culpability comes into play then, and no-one can judge that except God. I’m talking about people who are fully in sound mind, but deliberately choose to end their own lives because of some type of suffering. And it’s always a slippery slope. The law might begin by saying that you have to be terminally ill and have six months or less to live, but then it ends up being done for increasingly trivial reasons like depression (which has actually already occurred in another country) or also the person might not want to be a burden to relatives and feel pressured into doing it. No, I think that if relatives assist a person of sound mind to commit assisted suicide, then the person should not be granted a Catholic funeral. It might – just might – make the relatives think twice about assisting them.

    November 5, 2021 at 4:43 pm
    • Josephine

      Westminster Fly,

      I was just about to agree with Laura when your clarification changed my mind. That makes perfect sense, the difference between someone taking their own life through mental stress or whatever, and the deliberate choice of assisted suicide. Yes, I would say in those cases the person must not be granted a Catholic funeral.

      November 5, 2021 at 4:48 pm
    • Nicky

      Westminster Fly,

      Great topic. It’s terrible to think there’s not a lot any of us can do to stop this but that’s the hard and fast reality, I think.

      They’ve used dramas and reports in the newspapers to weaken the argument against assisted suicide, always playing on the emotions by showing hard cases.

      Without highly effective messaging from churchmen, which we’re not getting, this is one rollercoaster that can’t be stopped.

      November 5, 2021 at 7:28 pm
    • Laura

      Westminster Fly,

      I see the distinction between suicide caused by mental illness and assisted suicide but what about the case of someone who just decides not to keep on with treatment, switch a machine off, that sort of thing. Should that person not be allowed a requiem Mass?

      November 6, 2021 at 10:21 am
      • Athanasius

        Sorry, Nicky, my response should have been to Laura, not to you. Apologies.

        November 6, 2021 at 11:56 am
      • westminsterfly

        I am open to correction on this, but I think the Church has never taught that we have an obligation to be kept alive by continuous artificial means (i.e. being kept alive by a machine). Ending the use of artificial means isn’t the same as taking your own life when you are still alive without the continual aid of artificial means. In any event, the vast majority of those who are being kept alive by artificial means are usually incapable of making a decision themselves, and it is left to relatives and doctors to make a decision. If my understanding is wrong, please someone correct me.

        November 9, 2021 at 9:33 am
  • westminsterfly


    “They’ve used dramas and reports in the newspapers to weaken the argument against assisted suicide, always playing on the emotions by showing hard cases.”

    As the saying goes: ‘hard cases make bad law”. And we’ve got to show that it IS bad law, in the absence of clerical support. As Sister Lucia said in 1957 ” “Father, we should not wait for an appeal to the world to come from Rome on the part of the Holy Father, to do penance. Nor should we wait for the call to penance to come from our bishops in our diocese, nor from the religious congregations. No! Our Lord has already very often used these means, and the world has not paid attention. That is why now, it is necessary for each one of us to begin to reform himself spiritually. Each person must not only save his own soul but also help to save all the souls that God has placed on our path.”

    In other words, don’t wait for the clergy to fight this issue. They won’t. It’s up to us and what little we can do – and remember – God doesn’t judge our successes, only our efforts. Perhaps just signing up to one of those groups listed above or writing to our MP will be a start – even if it is apparently futile, from a human point of view. One has to have a supernatural outlook on this war, because it is spiritual.

    November 5, 2021 at 8:20 pm
    • Nicky

      Westminster Fly,

      I see your point about effort. It’s just that I think the SNP MPs are a breed apart. They don’t seem to act independently on anything. I will think about what you’ve said though.

      I remember the quote from Sr Lucia about getting on and acting and not waiting for the clergy. How sad that it has come to this.

      November 5, 2021 at 9:25 pm
      • editor


        I, too, have an SNP MP and they really are useless. Write to them about anything and what comes back is usually an attachment from some Department or other, allegedly answering whatever we’ve asked the MP. Still, I suppose it’s good to make the contact. I remember my PP in England once saying that our then local MP told him that she had not received a single letter about (can’t remember the details) an important issue / bill before Parliament at the time. Not a single letter. So, if we take a few minutes to pen an email, doesn’t take long, then at least our MP can’t say about this issue, what she said about that one (whatever it was 😀 )

        Also, St Ignatius said we should work as if everything depends on us, and then pray as if everything depends on God. Just sayin’ …

        November 5, 2021 at 10:50 pm
      • Athanasius


        I think I can help to answer your question. When a person on, say, life support is surviving without complications then it is morally right to keep that person on life support for however long it takes. Some people, for example, have emerged from comas after 20 years on life support, their families having been told previously that they were brain dead.

        If, however, a person is rapidly deteriorating on life support then there does come a time when that artificial method should be withdrawn and nature permitted to take its course. The example I would quote in this case was my young sister who, having undergone chemotherapy, developed Pneumonia on both sides and was placed in an induced coma and put on a ventilator. They kept turning the oxygen up on the ventilator to compensate for lung deterioration until they got to the point where it was at full tilt but insufficient to compensate. The doctors at that point told us that it wasn’t right to keep going as her organs were under tremenous pressure and would begin to fail. There was no hope of a reversal at that point and we had to give permission to switch off the life support – she died more or less within a minute. It was clearly God’s will and we had to accept the heartbreak of it – still live with it today after 20 years.

        In that regard, and given that it’s the month of the holy souls, I would very much appreciate any prayers for the repose of the soul of Mary Blackshaw.

        She was called Mary because she was born on May 1, the first day of Our Lady’s month and a birth date she cherished for that reason. She said her daily rosary, wore her brown scapular and was blessed with the Last Rites of the Church. She died, aged 28 years, on the octave day of the Immaculate Conception, December 22, 2000.

        November 6, 2021 at 11:44 am
      • Laura


        I can see that the kind of situation your sister (RIP) was in is very clear, morally. She would obviously be entitled to a requiem Mass but what about the person who just doesn’t want to continue with treatment, not necessarily a support machine? If I say I don’t want the medicine any more, leave me to die as a result of this illness, am I still entitled to a requiem Mass (I’m not ill, BTW, just using myself as an example!)

        November 6, 2021 at 12:49 pm
      • Athanasius


        It’s a difficult moral question to which the answer varies depending on the circumstances. Say, for example, a medication was available to a person with a serious life-threatening illness, a medication which held out a reasonable chance of success, or even a lesser but hopeful chance of success, then the sick person would really be morally obliged to try that medication.

        If, however, a person had terminal cancer and the medication offered at best a delay of sorts to inevitable death, then a person would not be obliged morally to accept it. Sometimes the side effects of medications are worse than the effects of the illness they’re treating, such as chemotherapy treatment for cancer.

        So it really depends on whether there exists a reasonable hope of recovery, or at the very least hope of removing the certain death threat. If there is any hope of saving life with legitimate medications then we are obliged to make use of such medications and leave the rest to God. If there’s no hope of recovery then we have the right to reject delaying medications, choosing instead to die in accordance with God’s providence and the natural law.

        A requiem mass should be refused to anyone who rejects a potentially life-saving medication for whatever reason because such a decision would be tantamount to suicide. The same applies to those who reject the sufferings of their final illness, choosing, like pagans, to end it all. It’s not their life to dispose of and indicates the atheistic mindset of a person who is lost to the great graces gained by salutary suffering in union with Our Lord on the Cross. Hence, no requiem can be offered in such cases. I hope this helps a bit.

        November 6, 2021 at 1:58 pm
      • Laura


        Thanks for that answer because it’s what I’d hoped for.

        My instinct tells me that refusing chemo, for example, wouldn’t be wrong, but that genuine life-saving treatments would be different. My understanding is that chemo is not reliable for giving a longer life free of the disease, and is very unpleasant in itself, so it wouldn’t be wrong to leave it, and rely on God’s providence. That’s my own sense, and you have affirmed that. Thanks again.

        I have to thank God for my own good health but I think it’s important to have these things thought-through in case they arise, for me or for relatives in the future.

        November 6, 2021 at 2:34 pm
      • editor

        Athanasius & Laura,

        A most interesting exchange. I think the key distinction has been made between making a judgement based on the decision most likely to be pleasing (or at least not displeasing) to God and a self-interested only decision to (theoretically) avoid pain. As pointed out somewhere above, with the expert palliative care available these days, the kind of end-of-life “agony” which is portrayed by the proponents of euthanasia can be avoided.

        The entire euthanasia case hinges on what GK Chesterton said, that when people stop believing in God, it’s not that they believe nothing, [but] they’ll believe anything. And part of that “anything” is that suffering can be avoided – and must be avoided – even at the cost of killing ourselves and others.

        November 6, 2021 at 4:40 pm
  • Athanasius


    In answer to the questions you pose above:

    1. Not only do Church leaders not do enough, they do absolutely nothing in the face of this and other moral evils.

    2. We can’t do anything to prod them into action because they no longer have the fullness of the Catholic Faith and without that supernatural insight they’re blind guides.

    3. All we can do is sign petitions when they appear, write letters to newspapers when there’s a public debate, speak to MPs, for all the good that will do, and pray. There’s not a lot else we can do.

    4. Any Catholic who ends their life by assisted suicide has lost the understand of sin and the value of expiatory sacrifice. The message of Our Lord and His martyrs is that Christian suffering and death leads to eternal life. Those who seek assisted suicide think selfishly and from a wordly point of view and should therefore be denied a Catholic funeral for rejecting what God asks from them in their last months, weeks or days in expiation. It’s not their life to dispose of, it’s God’s. Besides that, paliative care and pain relief is so good in our time that very few actually suffer what we might call unbearable pain. Think of St. lawrence roasting on that grid Iron and you’ll understand what I mean. Our final sufferings before parting this life may mean the difference between heaven and hell, depending on our love of God and disposition.

    As reagrds this latter subject of Catholic funerals, our faithless bishops now even permit cremation for Catholics, probably now the most common practice among the failthful. This was always forbidden by the Church, except in times of plague, because it demonstrates a loss of faith in the sacredness of the body as a temple of the Holy Ghost in life. Historically, only pagans burnt their dead. In like manner, only pagans had religious priestesses. We can see the direction Lucifer is taking the once-Christian world while the silence of the Catholic hierarchy is deafening and utterly compliant.

    November 5, 2021 at 9:53 pm
    • editor


      Just a technicality but the questions were actually posed by Westminster Fly – he is the author of the introduction to this thread. If you recall, I invited bloggers to submit their own pieces for discussion and WF is the first so to do since RCA Victor’s excellent article on the manifestations of the demonic in our society today. I think it’s fairly obvious that another manifestation is precisely this latest attempt to legalise euthanasia – a euphemism for the murder of the elderly as “abortion” is a euphemism for the murder of the unborn child.

      As for the rest of your comment, on the button, as ever. Agree 200%

      November 5, 2021 at 10:45 pm
      • Athanasius

        Oops! Apologies to Westminsterfly, I really need to pay more attention. It’s a good subject to debate, so well done WF. And you’re right, they do use clever little euphamisms to disguise the gravity of their horrendous crimes. In many cases they don’t even use the terminology “abortion” and “euthanasia” because the still betray a certain calousness, so they’ve progressed on to “termination” and “death with dignity” to hide their murderous industries. Who in their right mind could ever believe that there’s anything dignified about dying – it’s the most undignified process (humanly speaking) that any of us will ever face, assuming we have time to offer up the gradual failing of our organs as the most important of all penances before our judgment. Our Lord gave us the example of how to sanctify the indignity of bodily death.

        November 5, 2021 at 11:24 pm
  • westminsterfly

    I understand and sympathise with people’s frustrations with their MP’s. For my sins, I have a Lib Dem MP – allegedly a Christian – but she is about as much use as a chocolate teapot on moral issues. But I still feel compelled to write to her, even though I’m almost certain what the outcome will be. As I said before, God judges efforts, not successes.

    I personally believe that we have passive euthanasia already in this country – where elderly/sick people are bumped off before their time by use of opiates and benzodiazepines. Look at the recent scandal involving the benzodiazepine drug midazolam in care homes using covid as a cover. As Athanasius said, they give these forms of murder fancy names, like putting them on a ‘pathway’ or such like.

    Regarding Athanasius’ point about the indignity of death, there is a good prayer called ‘The Heavenly Insurance Policy’ which, made once, while you are still in good health, is an offering of all the mental or physical sufferings and indignities of dying and death, for the salvation of souls. Later on, we may not be able to make such an Act through either physical or mental incapacity, so make the prayer while you still can:

    “O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You in advance whatever trials and sufferings may be appointed for me in the designs of Your Infinite Wisdom and Most Merciful Providence. I unite them to Your sufferings for the salvation of souls, as a devoted child of Our Lady of Sorrows, whom You gave me for my Mother from the Cross. Thus, Lord Jesus, now, and for the future, in life and in death, I accept Your saving chalice and call upon Your Holy Name: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

    Given through Our Lady’s hands this ____________ day of _________________ 20___
    Signed ________________________________________________________________

    (Nihil Obstat: Edward A Cerny SS. DD. Censor Librorum – Imprimi Potest: WIlliam F Maloney SJ, Provincial, Maryland Province – Imprimatur: Most Reverend Francis P Keough, DD. Archbishop of Baltimore – July 29, 1954.)

    November 6, 2021 at 10:30 am
    • editor


      I’ve just caught this recent post from you in SPAM – goodness knows how that happened, so apologies again for the Wonders of WordPress.

      Your reminder about “effort over success” is very important. It’s one of the key rules which should be observed by everyone, lay and ordained, working in the apostolate: we make the effort. God brings about the success. In whatever manner and at at the time which He chooses.

      November 6, 2021 at 2:39 pm
  • gabriel syme

    The Church should certainly have a firm stance and severe sanction against assisted suicide.

    Yet at the same time its hard to see how any genuine Catholic would even consider it – however I suppose things like stress, fear and mental illness can enter the equation, especially if someone is very ill and dying.

    Some of these factors might even mitigate responsibility to some degree, but of course this cannot change what should be an implacable stance from the Church.

    Ultimately our view on this should be formed by considering the enormity of the sin involved – yet modern Catholics (very many, at least) have no real sense of sin (I was the very same), which is then a major problem for the Church in effectively teaching the truth here.

    November 7, 2021 at 11:32 pm

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