Pope Francis and the Vatican have ordered a Belgian Catholic charity to stop offering euthanasia in its psychiatric hospitals.
According to Vatican Radio, the Holy See Press Office confirmed on Friday that Francis gave his personal approval to a letter sent by the Vatican in early August, giving the the Brothers of Charity until the end of the month to stop the practice in all of its 15 psychiatric hospitals in Belgium.
The Belgian arm of the Brothers of Charity religious order announced in May it would allow doctors to offer euthanasia, which is legal in Belgium, for psychiatric patients in cases where there were “no reasonable treatment alternatives.”
In a letter, the pope also ordered that the charity “fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end,” according to Vatican Radio.
The Vatican warned that the charity may face legal action and even expulsion from the Catholic Church unless it fails to change its policy.
“The central point and the foundation within Christian ethics is that life is absolute, which cannot be touched. Life is a gift from God and entails an assignment. And because life is absolute, it is a state worthy of protection,” Rene Stockman, the charity’s superior general, said in a statement.
Stockman, who delivered the request from the pope to his Belgian brothers, argued that allowing euthanasia “goes against the basic principles” of the Catholic Church.
“This is the very first time a Christian organization states that euthanasia is an ordinary medical practice that falls under the physician’s therapeutic freedom,” Stockman said in a statement in May, according to The Associated Press. “This is disloyal, outrageous and unacceptable.”