Letter of the Bishops of Atlantic Canada - concerning a Pastoral Approach to Medical Assistance in Dying
Dear Father/Monsignor and pastoral ministers;
Federal legislation passed in June of this year has legalized medical assistance in dying in our country. This new legislation allows physicians and nurse practitioners to provide two types of medical assistance in dying: directly administering a substance that causes death (voluntary euthanasia), or giving or prescribing a drug that is self-administered to cause death (medically-assisted suicide). This new legislation raises many questions and concerns for the sick and suffering and for their family and friends. Likewise, it raises questions and concerns for medical professionals, health care providers and the pastors of souls. It challenges us as a Church and as individual Catholics to grow in our understanding of the Church’s moral teaching on this issue, and it calls us to discern how best to accompany those who find themselves struggling with illness, pain and difficult medical circumstances.
The attached letter, authored and signed by the members of the Atlantic Episcopal Assembly, articulates a pastoral approach of accompaniment which we feel is extremely important in our contact with, and ministry to, those who are suffering intensely and who are considering asking for medical assistance in dying.
Only attentive pastoral accompaniment can bring us to an understanding of the circumstances that could lead a person to consider medical assistance in dying. Attentive pastoral accompaniment is the only possible approach to dealing with struggling, confused and grieving family members and loved ones.
As bishops, pastors and pastoral ministers of our local churches, we must have a primary concern for the pastoral well-being of all those entrusted to our care. This letter is meant as a guide and an aid to you and to all as we seek to more effectively and pastorally accompany those exploring medical assistance in dying and those most profoundly affected by these choices.
I ask that you make this letter available to all parishioners this coming Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, in hard copy and on your parish websites and through social media.
As we begin this Liturgical Season of Advent, may we seek our God with earnest hearts, and more closely follow Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, the One who seeks out the lost and walks with them in all the seasons, joys and challenges of human life.
Martin W. Currie, Archbishop of St. John’s, With the members of the Atlantic Episcopal Assembly