The Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories have issued pastoral guidelines for clergy dealing with Catholics who are considering euthanasia or assisted suicide, which is now legal in Canada.

The 32-page document, written for priests and parishes, gives guidance on when people in such situations are eligible to receive certain sacraments or a Catholic funeral.

“In our day a priest may encounter a penitent who has officially requested physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia,” the document says. “The penitent has not yet been killed, nor has he/she committed suicide, but he or she has initiated the process, which is already a grave matter.

“If the penitent does not rescind this request, he or she will be killed. They are in this objective state of sin, which is gravely disordered. They have incited and officially arranged for someone to kill them.”

The document restates the conditions – grave matter, full knowledge, and complete consent – that must be present for a mortal sin, but notes that a person might not be aware that euthanasia is a grave sin. Their freedom may be impaired through “depression, drugs, or pressure from others”, it says.

The document says that if a penitent “is open to learning the Church’s teaching on this issue, and open to reconsidering the decision, the priest can absolve,” it says. “There is at least the beginning of contrition, a willingness to reconsider and thus possibly rectify their situation.

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