Sunday, August 28, 2011

Netherlands: Catholic Teaching and Liberal Euthanasia Attitudes Collide

Being a universal experience, death is surrounded with ancient social rituals for mourning and memorialising. Euthanasia and assisted suicide represent such a breach of continuity with past norms that conflict over these customs seems inevitable.

Funerals, for instance. Traditionally, they have a religious component. But what happens when a religion does not accept euthanasia? This is being debated in the Netherlands after a Catholic priest in the small town of Liempde refused to say a funeral mass for a man who had opted for euthanasia. Although hundreds of Dutch Catholics have probably chosen euthanasia in the last decade, this seems to be the first time a priest has refused a funeral since 2002.

Father Norbert van der Sluis said this week that he would not even refer the funeral service to a more accommodating priest (see YouTube for an interview in Dutch), so the family of the deceased man had to arrange for the service to be held in another parish. "When it comes to euthanasia, my answer has to be no", said Father van der Sluis. "As a matter of conscience I cannot allow a fellow priest to say the funeral mass in my church."

Some members of the parish of Beheading of Saint John Baptist told the media that they are furious. The parish council has halted a fundraising for a church organ. However, the priest says that he is only heeding rules set down by the Dutch Catholic bishops, who have declared that anyone who opts for euthanasia is not entitled to a church funeral. ~ Radio Netherlands, Aug 23

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