Dutch protest to Vatican envoy over 'Nazi' charge

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE DUTCH government has called in the Catholic Church's senior representative in the Netherlands to protest formally over allegations by the Vatican that the country's new euthanasia law was reminiscent of the Third Reich.

Monsignor Henri Lemaitre was summoned to the Foreign Affairs Ministry to hear an official complaint from the Foreign Minister, Pieter Kooijmans, against the Vatican allegations. Mgr Elio Sgreccia, Secretary of the Apostolic Council responsible for health and family matters, had told Vatican radio that he held the comparison legitimate because the Dutch, like the Nazis, had passed a law 'authorising the state to put an end to lives of people no longer economically useful to it'.

The Dutch law does not legalise euthanasia, but permits the ending of life in strictly defined cases. The patient must be in intolerable pain and to have asked repeatedly, in full consciousness, to be allowed to die. The attending doctor must consult an independent panel and register his intention with the authorities.

Mgr Lemaitre is understood to have told the government that the comments from Rome were not official Vatican policy. The controversy has been heightened by an article in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, which suggested that the Netherlands was drawing up a law legalising euthanasia for the mentally handicapped and physically deformed in the interests of controlling the birth-rate.

This prompted vigorous condemnation from the Prime Minister, Ruud Lubbers, a Catholic, and senior church representatives, who nevertheless suggested the government might have done a better job reassuring the world as to what the euthanasia law entailed. L'Osservatore Romano responded by criticising the Netherlands, 'once the crucible of missionary work and humanism', for 'following the paths of death'.

The Catholic Church in Ireland has also expressed concern about the growing interest of various northern European Community states in a more flexible attitude to euthanasia laws. The Archbishop of Dublin, Desmond Connell, raised the matter with Jacques Delors, President of the European Commission, when he came with a group of Catholic bishops on an official trip to Brussels last week.

ROME - The Pope yesterday created a new commission to help the Catholic Church in Eastern Europe, Reuter reports.

It replaces the Vatican Commission for Russia, formed in 1925 to address Communism and the persecution of religious believers in the former Soviet Union, the Vatican said in a statement. It said that a new commission was needed because of 'changes in the conditions of life in the ex-Soviet Union with the recognition of the fundamental right of religious freedom'.

The commission will help Roman Catholic churches to reorganise after the fall of Communism and will oversee relations with the Orthodox and other Christian churches in the region.