Archbishop Richard Smith

Archbishop Richard Smith

March 7, 2016

The Church needs to use "every means at its disposal" to challenge assisted suicide and raise awareness about the issue among the Catholic faithful, says Archbishop Richard Smith.

The Edmonton Archdiocese will hold a five-session catechetical series shortly after Easter to answer questions and educate Catholics about issues connected with the coming legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The series of two-hour "conversations with the archbishop" will begin April 3 at 2:30 p.m. at St. Anthony Church in Lloydminster and continue with sessions at Corpus Christi Church in Edmonton (April 5 at 7 p.m.), St. Mary Church in Red Deer (April 10 at 2:30 p.m.), Holy Trinity Church in Spruce Grove (April 12 at 7 p.m.) and St. Charles Church in Edmonton (April 13 at 7 p.m.).

"We have to speak. It's not always going to get the results we hoped for, but we speak as people of faith," Smith said in an interview.

Many Catholics "have the same confusions" about assisted suicide as the general public where the mindset of personal autonomy, "the eclipse of God" and a lack of commitment to the common good have won support for "state-supported killing of the innocent," he said.

Smith said the series will "invite people to ask themselves how they are allowing their mindset to be formed."

The first session will outline the changing legal situation for assisted suicide in Canada while the second will explore Church doctrine on the issue. A third will deal with the Christian meaning of freedom, the fourth with the Christian understanding of suffering and the final one with how Catholics can respond to the new situation.


The upcoming series arose out of a series of listening sessions on the issue across the archdiocese last year where it was felt a more broad-based effort to educate the faithful was needed.

In connection with the post-Easter catechetical series, the archdiocese will also launch a social media campaign, in collaboration with Holds Worth Design, called Every Life Matters.

In a letter to pastors, the archbishop said he hopes the social media campaign will help evangelize "the online world."


"What it highlights is that every life is worth living; every life matters," he told the WCR. "That's the opposite of the message we have now received from the Supreme Court, and it's the opposite of the message that will be received by suffering patients."

Catholics will also be encouraged to express their opposition to assisted suicide to legislators and to call for the protection of the conscience rights of physicians and other health care workers who object to assisted suicide.

Another way to express opposition is by signing the joint declaration of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops at More than 16,000 people have already signed that declaration.


As well, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta is currently holding an online consultation prior to developing a policy on how moral and religious views should affect medical care. The consultation is taking place on the college's website - - and ends March 7.

As well, pamphlets outlining the Church's teaching on care for the dying have been distributed in parishes.

Smith said every Canadian will be personally affected by the change in the law, either through decisions made about their own lives or decisions they will have to make about loved ones.

"This is an issue that is far broader than the Catholic Church. This is an issue that touches everybody, and everybody should be up in arms because it is a social revolution."

The February 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia does not even mention terminal illness and will have widespread ramifications, he noted.

Although the court called on Parliament to legislate safeguards against the abuse of assisted suicide, its decision was so broadly worded that "it opens the door to a whole host of charter challenges in the future," he said.