Bishops of Canada Receive President’s Annual Report; Reflect on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide; and Discuss the TRC Calls to Action

Monday, September 14 2015

(CCCB – Ottawa)… The annual Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) began today and will continue until 18 September 2015 at the Nav Canada Centre, Cornwall, Ontario. The meeting is chaired by the Most Reverend Paul-André Durocher, Archbishop of Gatineau and CCCB President, who will complete his term as the current President at the end of this Plenary. On this first day of the meeting, the Bishops received the President’s annual report and reflected on the issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia, as well as on the Calls to Action issued earlier this year by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. They also heard a progress report on the work of the Ad hoc Committee on the Protection of Minors.

In an informal address, CCCB President Archbishop Durocher outlined a number of the Conference’s activities over the past year and explained the main elements in planning the 2015 meeting of the Plenary Assembly. He spoke of the importance of the President’s participation in the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family in 2014 and in two international meetings on combatting human trafficking. In addition, Archbishop Durocher noted the importance of the annual visit of the CCCB Presidency to the Holy See and of CCCB participation in the annual meeting of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church in the Holy Land.

Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

The CCCB Commission for Doctrine presented a reflection on the issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia. The quest speaker was Dr. Catherine Ferrier, a specialist in geriatrics at the Montreal General Hospital, faculty member of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at McGill University, and board member of Living with Dignity. Dr. Ferrier noted that her involvement in the question follows from her 30 years of experience as a physician and in palliative care. In her presentation, she discussed what would be the social consequences of legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Following the announcement of the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada earlier this year, the CCCB had publicly expressed its disappointment by means of a public statement from its President. In his February 6 statement, Archbishop Durocher reiterated the invitation by the Bishops of Canada to “Canadians, especially Catholics, to do all they can to bring comfort and support for all those who are dying and for their loved ones, so that no one, because of loneliness, vulnerability, loss of autonomy, or fear of pain and suffering, feels they have no choice but to commit suicide.” The CCCB statement also confirmed that the Bishops “will continue to promote palliative and home care, and to encourage all the faithful to work for the betterment of the elderly, the disabled, the ill, and those who are socially isolated.” The Bishops of Canada, together with the Pope and other Bishops around the world, have continued to point out that euthanasia and assisted suicide constitute murder, are gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person, and can never be considered as part of palliative care.

Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The second half of the afternoon was devoted to recent Calls to Action which had been published this past June by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).The reflection session was organized by the CCCB Commission for Justice and Peace and the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council. The purpose was to allow the Bishops to “take time to reflect together on the impact” of the TRC “and on the

ways we, as aConference, can help implement its Calls to Action.” Though the CCCB was not involved in managing or operating the former Indian Residential Schools, “we recognize this moment as a true kairos in which the future relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the rest of Canada needs to be rearticulated and founded anew,” said the Most Reverend Murray Chatlain, Archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas, and the Most Reverend Donald Bolen, Bishop of Saskatoon, in their joint presentation. Bishop Bolen is the Chairman of the Commission for Justice and Peace, while Archbishop Chatlain is a past member of the Aboriginal Council.

In a public statement issued on June 12, 2015, the CCCB Permanent Council had said that “united with our Aboriginal Catholic brothers and sisters, we encourage each other in the hope that, by the Spirit of Jesus who has reconciled the whole world to the Father, we – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – will be reconciled to each other. As members of the Catholic community, we are confident we all undertake this journey under the protection of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, a spiritual mother in our faith.”

For the fifth year, the Canadian Catholic television channel Salt + Light TV broadcast live a number of key Plenary events, both on internet and television.