The Abrahamic Faiths Joint Statement on Euthanasia

Representatives of the three Abrahamic faiths gathered at the Vatican on October 28, 2019 to sign a joint statement condemning all forms of euthanasia.

As reported by Vatican News service, the person behind the declaration is Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, co-president of the Israeli National Council on Bioethics. Rabbi Steinberg proposed the idea to Pope Francis, who entrusted the initiative to the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Academy, coordinated a mixed inter-faith group to draft the declaration. The signatories included Archbishop Paglia, representatives from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia, representatives of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, David Rosen for the American Jewish Committee, and Samsul Anwar from the Indonesian Muhammadiyah, an Islamic social and cultural association.

Marsudi Syuhud, secretary general of the influential Islamic association Nahdlatul Ulama, offered his strong support as well, declaring: “Protecting life is one of the purposes of Islamic law, that’s why we don’t stop protecting life until the end of our life.” 

Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, chairman of the United Arab Emirates Fatwa Council, noted the historic significance of the event: “Our meeting today represents a new step in the course of joint religious action. It is the first time heavenly religions have come together to assert their agreement on core values and assets.”

Reporting on the event was provided by Crux NewsThe Times of Israel, and The UAE National.

It is particularly significant that the statement does not limit itself to rejecting euthanasia. Rather it takes up related issues on which broad agreement is to be found among the three faiths. 

First, it takes a firm “no exceptions” stance in clear and unambiguous language against “any form of euthanasia – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional act of taking life – as well as physician assisted suicide – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional support of committing suicide – because they fundamentally contradict the inalienable value of human life, and therefore are inherently and consequentially morally and religiously wrong, and should be forbidden without exceptions.”

Second, it affirms that health care workers must not be coerced into assisting in intentionally causing death, directly or indirectly, including so-called “assisted suicide.” It demands that even where the dismal practice has found legal sanction, moral objection to cooperation with it falls “into the category of conscientious objection that should be universally respected.” 

Most encouraging is the strong emphasis on access to palliative care.

Palliative care services, provided by an organized and highly structured system for delivering care, are critical for realizing the most ancient mission of medicine: “to care even when there is no cure.” We encourage professionals and students to specialize in this field of medicine. 

Palliative care is a great mission of mercy. The clear recognition that it is essential health care is a sure sign that inter-religious dialogue can and does yield important fruit. 

Wonderful clarity on the basics.

While some voices have misunderstood and even twisted sections of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, has reminded a youth conference meeting in New York that commitment to planetary ecological health cannot bear fruit if it is divorced from other issues relayed to the treatment of human beings. 

… Pope Francis says, that, on the one hand, we must be concerned with injuries to our planet and the irresponsible treatment of other living beings; on the other, however, we must resist the trends and ideologies that focus almost exclusively on protecting the planet or other species while allowing offenses against human dignity. He prophetically gives several examples of this ecologically-garbed individualism: when we combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining indifferent to human trafficking (LS 91); when we fight against genetically modified organisms but allow experimentation on the human genome and human embryos (LS 136); when we worry about cruelty to animals while justifying the ghastly practice of abortion of our younger, more vulnerable brothers and sisters (LS 117, 120); when we seek to keep natural environment intact as a gift, and care for the male and female members of endangered species, but then think we have absolute power over our created bodies, trying to cancel out human sexual difference through gender ideology (LS 155).

His address, Laudato Si – An Integral Ecology calmly presents the true meaning of an integrated human ecology. Worth the time to read carefully and reflect.

I am reminded of a popular song from the early 70’s by Edgar Winter’s White Trash, Who Will Save the Planet. The song asked urgent questions as relevant then as now: 

Who will save our planet, who will volunteer.

Save the planet, don’t you know we love our planet
Judgment time is here.
Yes it is (yes it is), yes it is, yes it is (yes it is) 

(Who will it be) will it be Mr. Black (Who will it be) will it be Mr. White 

(Who will it be) will it be Mr. Wrong (Who will it be) will it be Mr. Right
Will it be you or will it be me Lord knows who will it be
Yes he does, (yes he does), Yes he does, (yes he does)
Don’t you know he does.

Save the planet, who will save our planet
Who will volunteer
Save the planet, don’t you know we love our planet
Judgment time is here.

What Archbishop Auza reminds us of is the inseparable link between the garden and the human community. There is no sound ecological policy without sound anthropology. Each person holds a responsibility and speak to the destructive cultural forces that accept infanticide while properly condemning child exploitation, or that embrace barbaric practices while advocating a limited ecology concerned with geography but dismissive of the natural family or the naturally embodied sexuality of the human person.    

Humanity cannot divinize the garden and ignore the one for whom the garden was made without disastrous consequence. The plagues of human trafficking, abortion, embryocide, gender reassignment, and the wave of ideological irrationality masquerading behind the cloak of “autonomy” threaten not only the participants, but also the entire planetary community.

Who will save the planet?  Those who embrace the integrated vision of ecology.