Herman van Rompuy implied the Pope should stay out of the Brothers of Charity controversy

A former president of the European Council has hit out at Pope Francis, strongly implying he should have no say over whether a Belgian religious order permits euthanasia in their hospitals.

Herman van Rompuy said on Twitter “The time of ‘Roma locuta causa finita’ is long past” after canon law professor Kurt Martens revealed Mr van Rompuy was on the board of trustees for the Brothers of Charity Group.

The Latin phrase, which translates as “Rome has spoken, the matter is finished”, is a paraphrase of St Augustine and refers to the ultimate authority of the Pope.

The Group’s trustees agreed to allow euthanasia in their 15 psychiatric centres across Belgium, despite the practice being strongly condemned by Catholic teaching.

Br Rene Stockman, the order’s superior general, has criticised the trustees’ decision but has little direct authority over the board, which primarily composed of lay members.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis gave his personal approval to a demand for the Brothers of Charity to reverse their decision. Under the order, brothers who serve on the board of trustees must sign a declaration condemning euthanasia or face sanctions under canon law.

The Group could also face legal action and even expulsion from the Church if it fails to comply.

Speaking to Crux, Br Stockman refused to comment on Mr van Rompuy’s tweet, saying he has “no idea what was his intention in putting that on Twitter”.

The Brothers of Charity Group has yet to respond to the Vatican ultimatum, but the former EU president’s tweet suggests a degree of resistance.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes euthanasia and assisted suicide as “murder, gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God.”