Head of Vatican Life Academy Gives Nod to Legal Assisted Suicide

Vincenzo Paglia
Marvin RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life said he is personally opposed to assisted suicide but would not exclude it for others who wish to avail themselves of it.

In an April 21 debate on end-of-life issues at the Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia said that he endorses “accompaniment” and care as the best approach to assisting the terminally ill but recognizes the legitimacy of laws permitting assisted suicide as furthering the common good.

“In our society, a practicable legal mediation allowing assisted suicide cannot be excluded,” Archbishop Paglia said, under the conditions specified by the Italian Constitutional Court.

These conditions stipulate that to be eligible for assisted suicide, the person must be kept alive by life-sustaining treatments and be suffering from an irreversible pathology, which is a source of physical or psychological suffering that he considers intolerable, and he must be fully capable of making free and informed decisions, the archbishop noted.

“Personally, I would not practice assisting suicide, but I understand that legal mediation can constitute the greatest common good concretely possible in the conditions in which we find ourselves,” Paglia added.

The archbishop’s remarks seem to contradict Catholic teaching, which excludes euthanasia and assisted suicide as ethical options.

People take part in a gathering to protest against the legalisation of euthanasia or assisted suicide, following a citizen consultation about the end-of-life in Paris, on April 4, 2023. (GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP via Getty Images)

“We must accompany people towards death, but not provoke death or facilitate assisted suicide,” Pope Francis said in 2022.

“I would point out that the right to care and treatment for all must always be prioritized, so that the weakest, particularly the elderly and the sick, are never discarded,” the pontiff continued. “Indeed, life is a right, not death, which must be welcomed, not administered. And this ethical principle applies to everyone, not just Christians or believers.”

Similarly, the Vatican’s doctrinal office reaffirmed the moral evil of euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2020.

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are always the wrong choice,” the text stated, because, as St. Pope John Paul II wrote in Evangelium vitae, “euthanasia is a grave violation of the Law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person.”

There is also “no right to dispose of one’s life arbitrarily,” it said, which is why “no health care worker can be compelled to execute a non-existent right.”

This is not the first time Archbishop Paglia has provoked consternation among the faithful by issuing confusing and seemingly heterodox statements.

Last year, Paglia said that Italy’s 1978 law legalizing abortion is “a pillar of society” that should not be overturned.

Interviewed by Italian state television Rai Tre, the archbishop praised the law saying, “I believe that at this point the Law 194 is a pillar of our social life,” the archbishop stated.


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