Catholicism & End-of-Life Care
Catholicism is the largest of the three major branches of Christianity. Catholics believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and that God has created every person for eternal life. But how do Catholics view end-of-life care?
First, the Catholic Church does not allow euthanasia for terminally ill patients. But when a patient has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, the Catholic Church believes that patients should be kept as free from pain as possible until they die a natural death with dignity in the place of their choice. Bodies of those who have died must be treated with respect, in the faith and hope of the Resurrection on the Last Day.
How Is Catholicism incorporated into end-of-life care?
Catholic hospice and palliative care patients can guide their own healthcare as long as they are mentally and physically capable of doing so. The Catholic Church does not promote preserving physical life at all costs, but instead preaches that patients and families should focus on the virtues of fidelity, compassion, and individual dignity.
Catholic patients may pursue curative treatment and ordinary care to maintain life and provide comfort and freedom from pain. They are not obligated to pursue extraordinary care or to prolong life.
Catholic end-of-life practices.
Catholic family members and catholic clergy may visit and pray with the patient throughout their illness.
When a Catholic patient has a serious illness, they may request a priest visit to hear confession and give communion. The priest may also offer the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, a healing ritual that is appropriate at any time in the patient’s illness.
When a Catholic patient is approaching end of life, the patient or their family may request that a priest visit to perform Last Rites or Viaticum which includes confession, Anointing of the sick, and final Holy Communion. Each of these sacraments is a way to cleanse the patient of their sins as they prepare for the afterlife.
Once a patient passes away, there is typically a mourning period with a wake or vigil where family and friends gather in prayer to remember the deceased. A Funeral Mass is then performed to reaffirm that the life has not ended. Instead, it is a memorial to Christ’s sacrifice and a reminder that we are all one with Christ in Life, Death, and Resurrection. The Committal is the final farewell to the deceased at the time of interment. Family and friends gather to take their final leave with the promise and comfort of everlasting life in Resurrection.
While the Catholic Church prefers a traditional burial in the ground, it does accept cremation as an option. The Catholic Church believes cremated remains must also be buried and should not be scattered or kept at home.
How does Crossroads help address the spiritual needs of Catholic patients?
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care chaplains appreciate Catholic beliefs and will support Catholic patients and their families in honoring those beliefs, customs, and traditions. Chaplains will visit patients to provide spiritual support and address spiritual concerns. If a patient would like to speak with or receive a visit from a Catholic priest, our chaplains can help arrange this with a local Catholic parish.
Additional Catholic and end-of-life care resources.
To provide additional information on how Crossroads supports Catholic patients at end of life, we have gathered the following resources: