The Corner

The one and only.

Re: Groningen


Two pieces of news, one good, the other–well, I don’t know quite what to make of it.

The good news? A prelate at the Vatican itself has had the wit and conviction to reply to the Groningen Protocol, right there on the website of the Holy See. Written by a Mgr. Elio Sgreccia of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the statement is closely-reasoned and unapologetic, a compelling assertion of Church teaching. One especially heartening sign: Mgr. Sgreccia goes straight to the relevant documents and quotes them:

The Church’s position on the subject of euthanasia is well known, constantly reasserted and confirmed with the intention to uphold the dignity and life of every human being: “It is necessary to state firmly once more that nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. For it amounts to the violation of the divine law, an offence against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life and an attack on humanity” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Iura et Bona, Chap. II).
That other piece of news: The Roman Catholic bishops’ conference in the Netherlands itself has also responded to the Groningen Protocol. But the statement seems–well, curious at best.

I may be misreading certain aspects of the statement–the reader who sent it to me made it clear that his translation was only approximate–but the heading seems to declare, “The Roman Catholic Church does not accuse the Academic Hospital of Groningen of Nazi Practices.” It doesn’t? Why not? By their own admission the doctors of Groningen are killing children.

The statement grows still more curious. Consider the second paragraph:

The Roman Catholic Church realizes quite well that new born children
can suffer from extremely serious afflictions, leading to agonizing
situations. For both the children and their parents this means a via
dolorosa. Without doubting the honorable motives of the doctors at the
Academic Hospital of Groningen or the care they bring, the Church does
not consider the active ending of the life of a newborn to be morally
acceptable. Furthermore, the Church points to the proper alternatives
that are used worldwide, such as witholding of further medical
treatment, minimizing pain, and/or terminal sedation.

“The Church does not consider…ending the life of a newborn to be morally acceptable” is an oddly passive and emotionless way to talk about an outrage. And what’s going on in that final sentence? The Church has long taught that no one is required to engage in “heroic” measures to prolong life, which is to say that, yes, in certain circumstances, it can be perfectly acceptable to withhold additional medical treatment. But to administer “terminal sedation?” Isn’t that simply another form of euthanasia?

Again, the statement may lose something in translation–and I certainly stand open to correction by anyone who can read Dutch–but in English it sounds like a bleat, not a roar.


Sign up for free NR e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review