Back in August the Vatican attempted to get a Belgian religious order to stop offering euthanasia at its psychiatric centers. If you want the details, you can read about it here and here. They were given until the end of August to comply. That’s a pretty aggressive timeline. Usually there are reviews, apostolic visitators, and a few rolls of red tape before the Vatican steps in to crack down on a religious order…or on most anything else.
August has come and gone, we’re in the middle of September, and the board of the Belgian Brothers of Charity has officially announced that it will continue to offer euthanasia to patients in their psychiatric centers. How many of the men in this order are actually in favor of euthanasia in their centers, we don’t quite know. I’m sure it’s not the entire order. When we hear about “the board” refusing to comply with Rome, we’re not talking about a bunch of religions brothers. The board is mostly comprised of laypeople, with only a few religious brothers.
“There is widespread dissent throughout the Church.”
I’m not sure how this will all play out for the Brothers of Charity in Belgium, but I think the Church has a bigger problem on its hands than just a single order. There is widespread dissent throughout the Church. And the ones with the least freedom (those in religious orders) seem to have the greatest leeway in their bold flirtations with heresy. People are not getting a clear Catholic message from the ones who are most capable of giving it to them (orthodox, balanced priests), and they’re getting clear dissent/heresy/secularism from the ones who are getting the most airtime, the most press, and often the most direct access to the faithful. These errant religious priests, brothers and nuns aren’t sitting in rectories or giving 10 minute homilies to a general audience. They’re forming minds in colleges, they’re working with the poor, they’re working with the ill, so they have direct access and influence. They have explosive presences on social media, and are frequently called upon by secular news outlets to provide “the Church’s” point of view on some hot news topic of the day.
Here’s my prescription. We often say that priests need to speak up, but I think it’s bishops who need to do the speaking up. Most good priests will be afraid to speak the Truth boldly and courageously until their bishops do so first. As long as Bishops are talking like wimps, most priests will not stick their necks out. We need a definitive cultural shift in this world, and that requires a cultural shift within the Church—in a diocese, in a parish, in religious orders, and even in our homes.