A court in Bruges, Belgium, convicted Father Alexander Stroobandt, 57, on December 17 for "gross negligence".
In October 2015 he allegedly failed to seek help for his friend Tony Vantomme (54) who was manic depressive and an alcoholic. He had been suicidal for a long time.
Shortly before Vantomme committed suicide by inhaling car exhaust fumes, he exchanged three phone calls (49 minutes) and four text messages with Father Stroobandt, the last when he was already in his car.
When Vantomme's widow discovered the text messages, she lodged a complaint with prosecutors.
Stroobandt defended himself with reference to the "secrecy of confession" although such a secret does not apply to a phone exchange.
The court said that Stroobandt should have called an emergency service. About the secret of confession it [falsely] stated that "is by no means absolute".
Father Stroobandt received a suspended one-month jail sentence. His lawyer pointed out that according to Europan law every citizen has a right to commit suicide. Belgium was one of the first countries in the world to legalise assisted suicide in 2002.
Father Stroobandt has appealed the sentence.
Picture: © Lawrence OP, CC BY-ND, #newsNvzejsuahk
I would imagine if the priest had connected his friend with an emergency service, they would have not been permitted to seek to talk the man out of his decision, just like pregnancy centers in many places are not permitted to persuade a mother not to have her baby torn, limb from limb, and sent away as medical waste.