Anti-euthanasia activists protest outside Congress of Deputies in Madrid against the euthanasia bill yesterday.
Spain's Catholic bishops have condemned a new government-backed draft law which would make the country Europe's sixth to allow active euthanasia, and called for “prayer and fasting” against it.
“This law has been processed in a suspiciously accelerated manner, at a time of pandemic and state of emergency, without consultation or public dialogue,” the Madrid-based Bishops Conference said in a weekend statement. “This is expecially serious, since it will inflict a moral rupture and alter the state's aims from defending life to being responsible for inflicting death... It is a proposal which matches the anthropological and cultural vision of the world's dominant power systems.”
The bishops were reacting to the Organic Law Regulating Euthanasia, tabled by premier Pedro Sanchez's Socialist party and its far-left Unidas Podemos coalition partner, which is widely expected to gain approval before Christmas in the lower house of the Cortes.
They said a September letter from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Samaritanus Bonus, had offered “reflection and moral judgement” for pro-euthanasia legislation, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic, which has left almost 48,000 dead in Spain, had already encouraged requests for greater care and sparked outrage at the exclusion of the elderly.
“We invite everyone to respond with prayer, concern and public witness in favour of a personal and institutional commitment for life,” the bishops said. “We also ask those with responsibility for such serious decisions to act conscientiously in accordance with truth and justice.”
Church-government ties are already tense in Spain over a new government-backed education law, currently awaiting final Senate approval after also being pushed through during the coronavirus crisis, which will downgrade religious teaching and curb the independence of Catholic schools.
The Catholic Church, nominally comprising two-thirds of the population of 47 million, is also in conflict with the Sanchez government over accompanying legislation to liberalise abortion and “recover assets improperly registered to the Church” since Spain's 1978 restoration of democracy.
In their statement, the bishops said the track-record of European countries allowing euthanasia – the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland -–suggested the practice “incited death for the weakest” by legally pressing the terminally ill to “ask for death”.
They added that the current lack of palliative care for poorer citizens in Spain was an expression social inequality, and asked all Catholics to fast and pray for laws which respect and promote care for human life.
Pro-life organisations have launched a skull-and-cross poster campaign against the proposed law, branding euthanasia a “disguised death penalty”.