The head of the Brothers of Charity order has sued two of its Belgian members for misuse of funds in the latest twist in a struggle over the Belgian province's decision to allow euthanasia at its psychiatric hospitals there.
The two accused brothers have denied Brother René Stockman the Belgian-born and Rome-based superior general of the worldwide order's charge that they misused one million euros of the province's funds, saying it agreed to put that sum into a private foundation to assure the means to care for their ageing congregation.
Brother Stockman also informed the two brothers they would not be reappointed as heads of the order's Belgian and European departments.
The order's Rome headquarters and its Belgian province have been at odds since last year when the province’s directors declared they would allow euthanasia in certain cases because patients asked for it. Euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002.
Stockman, with Vatican backing, challenged the Belgian province to withdraw its decision or see its hospitals lose their Catholic standing. But its board of directors, made up mostly of lay people, resisted and insisted its stand was compatible with Catholic teaching.
Stockman was re-elected in July for a fourth mandate of six years as head of the order, which was founded in Belgium in 1807.
With 12 psychiatric hospitals and other services, the Brothers of Charity are an important element in the Belgian health system with influential lay supporters. Its could continue operating the hospitals even if they lost their Catholic connection.
The two accused brothers have denied Stockman's charge they misused one million euros of the province's funds, saying it agreed to put that sum into a private foundation to assure the means to care for their ageing congregation.