BRUSSELS — The Brothers of Charity, a Belgian religious congregation, did not renew the terms for two board members of the organization that controls their hospitals in Belgium. The former board members had accepted a protocol that allowed hospitals of the congregation to perform euthanasia in limited circumstances.
Luc Lemmens, 61, and Veron Raes, 57, were informed at the end of September that their mandates were not going to be renewed.
The Brothers of Charity is a religious congregation of lay members founded in 1807 in Belgium, whose specialization is care for the sick and those with psychiatric diseases.
In Belgium the congregation has 12 psychiatric hospitals, managed by a civil nonprofit corporation also named “Brothers of Charity.”
The board of that corporation is composed of 15 members, but only three of them are religious brothers of the congregation. The chairman is former Belgian prime minister Hermann van Rompuy.
Lemmens and Raes were two of the three members belonging to the Brothers of Charity, and they did not oppose the new protocol, issued at the beginning of 2017. The protocol considered euthanasia “a medical act” under certain conditions.
The protocol was heavily criticized by Brother René Stockman, the general of the congregation, as well as by the Belgian Bishops’ Conference and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The board was summoned by the Vatican, and a meeting is said to have taken place in the first half 2018, though no official date was communicated.
Brother René fought to keep the hospitals from performing euthanasia and had several meetings at the Vatican.
The 23rd general chapter of the congregation took place in July, and Brother René was confirmed as the congregation’s general superior. The guidelines of the chapter instructed members “to be radical in prophecy,” and Brother René’s election was taken as a sign that the anti-euthanasia line was approved and backed by the majority of the brothers.
An awaited decision from the Holy See is now expected regarding a final resolution to the situation of the hospitals. It has been rumored that the Brothers of Charity might drop their sponsorship of the hospitals if the hospitals will not accept their request to withdraw the euthanasia protocol.