Ruling threatens diocese’s work

  • March 21, 2024

The Archdiocese of Montreal argues in a court filing it is being obliged to “assist in what constitutes ‘murder’ ” by being denied a temporary exemption to keep MAiD out of a local palliative care centre.

The claim came in an appeal filed March 15 seeking to overturn an earlier ruling by Quebec Superior Court Justice Catherine Piché, which compelled the St. Raphael Palliative Care Home and Day Centre to offer assisted death.

The Archdiocese owns the former church in which the St. Raphael Centre is housed, and placed a caveat in its lease of the building prohibiting MAiD from being offered on the premises.

But Justice Piché ruled March 1 that “the public interest in respecting the right to choose one’s medical care and treatment, including the right to benefit from medical assistance in dying” outweighed any moral dilemmas suffered in the short term by Archbishop Christian Lépine or St. Raphael staff.

The Archbishop went to court in late February seeking the exemption as part of a larger legal battle against Quebec’s amended End of Life Care Act, which compels palliative care centres to offer medically assisted death.

The March 15 appeal, expected to be heard later this month, calls the government amendment a “sword of Damocles” hanging over Montreal Catholics.   

“At any time, a patient could ask to receive (MAiD) which, if the procedure were administered, would oblige the Petitioners to assist in what constitutes ‘murder’ according to their beliefs,” the court filing says. “(It) causes irreparable harm to the (Archdiocese of Montreal) and threatens the survival and continuity of the organization’s work.”

The leave for appeal argues that Justice Piché made several fundamental errors at law and “disregarded the respondent’s evidence confirming the small number of patients who could be affected by the exemption.”

A statement from the Archdiocese said the latest legal action asks only that MAiD be withheld until the Superior Court can rule on Charter arguments raised.

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