The fifth commandment of the Decalogue is quite clear: “Thou shall not kill.” Given by the Lord God to Moses on Sinai, this has remained a staple of civilization. And yet today, that basic rule — “Thou shall not kill” — is hardly understood in our culture.
That sure and certain guide that is The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us the following: “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being … The deliberate murder of an innocent person is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being, to the golden rule, and to the holiness of the Creator. The law forbidding it is universally valid: it obliges each and everyone, always and everywhere … The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful.”
Life begins at conception and ends in natural death. We cannot accept abortion, the death penalty, or euthanasia. No one wants to see a loved one suffer, but none of us has the right to “play God” and to “put someone out of his or her misery.”
This is the clear and unceasing teaching of the Church. The Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes #27) states: “euthanasia and willful suicide” are “offenses against life itself” which “poison civilization”; they “debase the perpetrators more than the victims and militate against the honor of the creator.”
The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1980’s Declaration on Euthanasia states it unequivocally as “a violation of the divine law, an offense against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity.”
Further, the Catechism teaches us: “Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable. Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and the respect due to the living God, his Creator.”
Even the American Medical Association affirms: “It is understandable, though tragic, that some patients in extreme duress — such as those suffering from a terminal, painful, debilitating illness–may come to decide that death is preferable to life. However, allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide would cause more harm than good. Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”
Sadly, the church seems to be losing her fight against euthanasia. More and more countries are pushing for assisted suicide. On July 3, 2020, Pope Francis authorized a letter from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, SJ, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to Brother Rene Stockman, the Superior General of the Congregation of the Brothers of Charity, since they were permitting the practice of euthanasia in their psychiatric facilities in Belgium. Cardinal Ladaria writes: “In short, therefore, Catholic teaching affirms the sacred value of human life; the importance of caring for and accompanying the sick and disabled; the Christian value of suffering; the moral unacceptability of euthanasia; the impossibility of introducing this practice into Catholic hospitals, even in extreme cases, and of collaborating in this regard with civil institutions.”
No one wants to see pain or suffering, and we should do all that we can to aid in palliative care. However, the fifth commandment is still in effect: “Thou shall not kill.” This is God’s word, and we cannot change it.