The Belgian Brothers of Charity has announced that it will continue to offer euthanasia to psychiatric patients at its hospitals despite being ordered by the Vatican to stop.
The religious order, which runs 15 psychiatric hospitals in Belgium with 5,000 patients, had been given until the end of August to comply with the Vatican's demand to stop offering euthanasia to patients.
The Vatican order, which was approved by Pope Francis, also asked the organization's board of trustees to sign a joint letter to their superior general declaring their adherence to Church teaching.
However, the group issued a statement on Sept. 12 defying the Vatican's request, saying it "continues to stand by its vision statement on euthanasia for mental suffering in a non-terminal situation."
The board, which is largely composed of lay members, along with a few brothers, further stated that it believes that despite its adherence to its vision statement, the organization "is still consistent with the doctrine of the Catholic Church."
When the Brothers of Charity announced in April that it will start permitting euthanasia in its facilities, the superior general of the order, Brother René Stockman, informed the entire congregation that the Board's decision violated the order's charism and was unacceptable.
The religious order is now facing the possibility of legal action, and even expulsion from the Church, according to Catholic Herald.
Stockman has warned that unless the group stops offering euthanasia, "we will take juridical steps in order to force them to amend the text [of the policy] and, if that is not possible, then we have to start the procedure to exclude the hospitals from the Brothers of Charity family and take away their Catholic identity."
In the Sept. 12 statement, the board argued that their position "always takes into account the shifts and evolutions within society," while also considering "recognition of the exceptional, proportional view of ethics, deontological view and ideologization, and choice of conscience."
Previously, the religious order had maintained a firm policy against euthanasia and how to deal with patients who request the procedure.
Stockman noted in August that the group would take requests for euthanasia seriously and would try to help the patient regain their desire for life. If the individual still requests the procedure, despite all the efforts to alleviate depression, the brothers would transfer the patient elsewhere.
He explained that Belgium is a country where secularization is strong and euthanasia is legal and widely accepted, even among children, making it more difficult to fight against it.