Dutch Priest Refuses Funeral for Man Who Chose Euthanasia

A priest in the Netherlands has caused some consternation among parishioners for refusing to officiate the funeral of an elderly man who chose to die using euthanasia.

Father Norbert van der Sluis, who serves the parish of Liempde in North Brabant, chose to abide by directives from Netherlands's leading bishops banning church funerals for Catholics who choose assisted suicide.

“When it comes to euthanasia, my answer has to be no,” he told Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW), adding that he felt obligated to obey the rules outlined by his country's bishops.

The unidentified man's family had also requested that another priest in the parish conduct the funeral service, but Father van der Sluis denied that request also.

“As a matter of conscience I cannot allow a fellow priest to say the funeral Mass in my church," he told RNW.

According to the Irish Times, this is the first time a Dutch priest has flat-out refused to allow a church funeral on the grounds of euthanasia.

Father van der Sluis' decision has not only riled parishioners, but also the local church council.

Council members have demanded that Father van der Sluis apologize to the dead man's family. The council has also put a fundraising campaign to repair the church organ on hold until the priest complies with its request.

The grieving family has reportedly made plans to hold the funeral in a different parish entirely. The dead man was reportedly gravely ill when he opted for assisted suicide.

The Irish Times reports that nearly 3,000 people a year in the Netherlands choose to end their lives by euthanasia.

About 30 percent of the Netherlands' 16.8 million residents are Roman Catholic, according to the CIA World Factbook's 2006 survey.

The Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2002 under legislation titled "Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide."

Minors as young as 12 are also allowed under Dutch law to request physician-assisted suicide.

According to the "Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide" law:

A physician may comply with a request by minors between the ages of 12 and 16 where they are deemed to be capable of making a reasonable appraisal of their own interests and the parent/s or guardians is/are unable to agree to the termination of life or assisted suicide...

The Roman Catholic Church issued an official stance regarding euthanasia in 1980, under Pope John Paul II.

According to the "Declaration on Euthanasia" found in the Vatican's "Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," purposefully "causing one's own death, or suicide, is...equally as wrong as murder..."

In general, Christians point to the sanctity of life from conception to a natural death as the primary reason for being against assisted suicide.