Pope Francis has ordered a Belgian Catholic charity to stop offering euthanasia in its psychiatric hospitals. Picture: Andrew Medichini/AP

Vatican City — A Belgian religious congregation is defying Pope Francis' order to stop allowing euthanasia in its psychiatric hospitals, insisting that its decision to do so is fully consistent with Catholic doctrine.

In a statement Tuesday, the Belgian branch of the Brothers of Charity stood by its decision and said negotiations with church officials hadn't yielded results. It said it was open to further dialogue, but stressed it merely wanted to explain itself.

In May, the Brothers of Charity announced it would allow doctors to perform euthanasia at its 15 psychiatric hospitals in Belgium, one of only two countries — along with the Netherlands — where doctors are legally allowed to kill people with mental health problems, at their request.

To qualify, people must be in a state of "unbearable suffering."

Associated Press