Calgary Bishop William McGrattan, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, in an undated file photo. McGrattan took over the presidency at the recent bishops’ plenary held in Toronto. Register file photo/Michael Swan

No to MAiD, bishops reiterate

  • October 4, 2023

The incoming president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has served notice that so-called Medical Assistance in Dying is a no-go for institutions and associations the operate under the Church’s name.

“Once again, unanimously, the bishops indicated that Catholic-sponsored health associations and organizations do not permit MAiD,” Calgary’s Bishop William McGrattan said at the concluding press conference for the annual CCCB plenary assembly. “We are promoting positive accompaniment through palliative care.”

A planned presentation of the gathered bishops for the opening day, public portion of the plenary was abruptly cancelled, but McGrattan made clear that the bishops’ opposition to MAiD isn’t wavering.

“We are making sure that the dignity of the human person is promoted (in Catholic health care),” he said.

McGrattan, who was previously vice-president of the CCCB, replaces Quebec’s Raymond Poisson, Bishop of St. Jerome and Mont Laurier, as president. He is one of four Canadian prelates who went directly from the plenary to Rome to attend the month-long Synod on Synodality that runs from Oct. 4 to 29. He emphasized Pope Francis’ message that the Synod aims to foster a “listening Church” more responsive to the needs of all its faithful.

“The expectation for us as Christians is to encounter Christ each day in the small things (and) in the significance of the celebration of the Eucharist. As Christians, we should have that expectation each day, and I am hoping as I enter into the Synod that it becomes a prolonged opportunity for dialogue, through prayer and listening to see where we encounter Christ in the experiences of faith and Church,” McGrattan said.

In summarizing this year’s plenary assembly, the new CCCB president was upbeat about expectations for Indigenous reconciliation, noting that in the two years since its launch it has funded more than 60 projects ranging from culture-oriented summer camps to helping struggling First Nations people trapped in the social upheavals of Vancouver’s impoverished Downtown East Side neighbourhood.

He said the Indigenous reconciliation fund being raised by dioceses across Canada will rise from its current $11.5 million to $14 million by year’s end, meaning it will have met its two-year goal. At their 2021 plenary, the bishops gave themselves five years to reach a $30-million target.

McGrattan also highlighted what he called a “very compelling” presentation by Imam Abdul Hai Patel during the plenary. At the conclusion of a session on interreligious dialogue, and the launch of the Building Bridges website to foster Islamic-Catholic discussion, Patel urged the bishops to stand with Muslims on hot button moral issues, including MAiD and gender curriculum in schools.

There was no formal discussion among the bishops afterward about responding to Patel’s challenge, but McGrattan said he expects it will be taken up by the CCCB’s Justice and Peace Commission, through its committee on religious freedom, as well as potentially by the Standing Committee for Family and Life.

“We have a commission for Justice and Peace and in their priorities are (social) issues that also affect our collaboration with other faiths. We didn’t have a specific follow up session to unpack (Patel’s remarks) but I can assure you his comments will have an appropriate response from the CCCB through our commission on Justice and Peace. We will follow up and make sure that dialogue continues,” McGrattan said.

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