Archbishop Léonard’s yes to a dignified life and death

In an article for Belgian daily De Standaard, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard looks back on ten years of legalised euthanasia in Belgium. My translation is here.

The archbishop, who will undoubtedly receive some expected criticism for this text, asks if the fears that the episcopate expressed a decade ago were unfounded. They were not, he says. Emphasising that the current safeguards that would make euthanasia safe simply do not work, Archbishop Léonard uses the example of a door that, once opened just a crack, will unavoidably be opened further. To halt that process, we need a clear and resolute “yes” to competent and loving care for the sick and dying. While prohibiting euthanasia does limit personal freedom, the common good sometimes trumps that freedom if we want a future for our society.

Photo credit: Reuters/Yves Herman

Bishop Wiertz on speaking about God

Interesting words for all Catholics, but especially those who spent time communicating the faith, in Bishop Frans Wiertz’ Pentecost homily. The bishop of Roermond starts by speaking about social media, and as one who doesn’t yet use them, he says that that it can all seem a bit mumbo jumbo, all those abbreviations that allow one to fit one’s comments in 140 characters.

“It’s somewhat like that with believing too. I can easily imagine that outsiders sometimes think: what is it all about in the church? But who actively participates – who shows involvement – soon understands what it is about; what certain solemn words means and what the purpose of rituals is. The trick is now to make sure that outsiders learn to understand the language of our faith. That we, as faithful people, learn to communicate our faith in such a way that others also understand it and feel personally addressed. Yes, that they understand what motivates us.”


“We people are called today to understand each other better. About God, even. To consciously listen to each other and to hear God’s voice in our speech. That does mean that we as people do have to have something to say; that you must be able to express yourself.

Sadly, a lot of the communication via social media is about non-information, while it is a beautiful means to really enter into conversation. Not just about this and that, but also about things that really matter. About our personal faith, for example. But we do have to dare to use the words that go with it.”

Nice thought there. Our faith is not natural but supernatural, so it will have a slightly different vocabulary than the one we use for earthly things. Not so different that we can’t understand it, but different enough that there has to be some effort to learn it, or allow others to learn it.

The bishop continues by explaining that the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost, gave the disciples a new language that everyone can understand, and which inspired them. The Holy Spirit gave them the power to speak from their hearts. Our faith is also rooted there, so if we want to speak about it, we must speak from our hearts.

“We certainly don’t all have to be preachers in the market place. But the other extreme is that we never speak about God. It sometimes seems as if we have forgotten how to do that. As if we, just like the Apostles, are in our inner chambers and no longer have any words for our faith. In that case, we didn’t so much allowed Christ into our hearts, but locked Him in there. While He is the one who taught us how to cross our own boundaries, how to break through walls.

We just heard it in the Gospel [John 20: 29]. The disciples had locked the door to the place where they were. And suddenly Jesus was among them. He broke through that wall of fear and silence. The first thing He said was “Peace”. A shorter tweet is almost unimaginable. Five characters: “Peace”. That is His most important message, which we can also translate as “love” or “charity”. In fact, we don’t need more words if we want to speak about our faith.”