Italian President Sparks Euthanasia Debate

REUTERS, Sept. 24 — Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has sparked a debate over whether the predominantly Catholic country should consider legalizing euthanasia, Reuters reported.

Napolitano, in a letter to a paralyzed, terminally ill man whose case has moved the country, called for “unhurried reflection” on his request to be able to die with dignity. Piergiorgio Welby, who suffers from advanced muscular dystrophy, has been appearing on news programs confined to a bed, attached to tubes and speaking via a computer that interprets his eye movements.

The Catechism teaches, “Whatever its motives or means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons.  It is morally unacceptable. Thus an act of omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.  The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded (No. 2277).

“Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted.  The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable.  Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity.  As such it should be encouraged” (No. 2279).

Slight Progress Made in Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue

AKI, Sept. 25 — After a week-long meeting behind closed doors in Belgrade, Serbia, senior representatives of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches reported slight progress in efforts to bridge the gap between the two Churches after almost a thousand-year schism, reported the wire service.

The strictly confidential meeting, which includes some 60 bishops, metropolitans and cardinals from various countries, worked on the 1990 document entitled, “The Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Conciliarity and Authority in the Church.”

It was co-chaired by the Vatican chief ecumenist Cardinal Walter Kasper and Metropolitan John of Pergamon. According to documents obtained by AKI, the main obstacles continue to be the issue of papal primacy, on which the Vatican continues to insist, and that the Orthodox Church is organized on national grounds and in fact represents a fellowship of 15 separate Churches with their own bishops.  

Spain and the Church Reach Financing Agreement

EITB, Sept. 22 — Under a new agreement, the socialist government of predominantly Catholic Spain will no longer give money directly to the Church, but taxpayers will be able to increase their donations to the Church from .52% to .70 %, the Basque news service reported.

Previously, the government had provided an annual contribution to the Church separate from voluntary donations from individual taxpayers. Announcing the deal, Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said that from now on, the Church in Spain would have to pay value-added tax on any sale or purchase of goods and property, a measure the European Union had required.

She added that the Church would also have to present a yearly report to the government on how it spends money it received from taxpayers.

The socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has clashed with the Church since taking office in April 2004, principally by introducing legislation facilitating divorce on demand and same-sex “marriages.” It also scrapped plans to make religion an obligatory subject in schools.