WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Ethicist Dr. Moira McQueen told CWL delegates abortion and euthanasia are 'intrinsically evil.'
The foundational beauty of moral theology is that it stands on the belief that every person is made in God's image, a leading Catholic ethicist told the annual convention of the Edmonton Diocesan Council of the Catholic Women's League.
"That belief has many consequences, all founded on one major principle: the inherent dignity of every human life from conception until natural death," said Dr. Moira McQueen.
She was speaking to some 175 CWL delegates from across the Edmonton Archdiocese at Red Deer's Holiday Inn Hotel April 20.
"There is not another denomination in the world that holds without exclusion to this foundational belief in the worth of every human being.
"From this principle, we conclude that actions such as embryonic destruction in the name of research, abortion, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are wrong or, as the Church says, intrinsically evil."
McQueen, a lawyer, theologian, author, director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute and mother of seven, was the keynote speaker at the CWL convention. The previous evening, she had given the witness talk at the Nothing More Beautiful series.
"The implications for our moral stances in society are clear, and we are inevitably drawn into legal and political matters because of differing views."
Yet the beauty of the moral life is not primarily about laws, rules or codes, McQueen stressed. "The true beauty of the moral life for me as a Christian rests on my relationship with God, and with Christ, and with the Spirit."
Our moral decisions, she said, will continue to take shape as we follow the example of Jesus who always pointed to the Father, and who gave himself over to the Father's will.
The Old Testament, McQueen continued, serves us well in stressing God's Covenant with his people, and the Ten Commandments give flesh to that arrangement.
"When Jesus addressed the crowds at the Sermon on the Mount he did not give us rules and laws, or another set of commandments. He gave us the Beatitudes.
"He told us how we are to be, and some of those blessings do not always appeal to us at first sight: to be poor in spirit, to be meek and humble of heart, possibly to be persecuted, but also to thirst for justice."
The Beatitudes, the theologian said, deserve more attention in our Catholic teaching, since they reflect the voice of Jesus pointing to the Father and to the reign of God.
"Note that Jesus did not indicate specific requirements for us in our attempts to bring about God's reign, but, rather, he forever raised our awareness of how we are to act and react in the type of circumstances he described. Yet the beauty of this approach is that we always remain fundamentally free as to how we will respond, or whether we will even respond at all."
McQueen told convention delegates about her battle with cancer and the difficulty of going through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and losing her hair.
"Several of my friends took turns accompanying me to chemo, and I realized the beauty and the blessing they were to me: they and my family were God's way of being with me when I was in trouble. I was fortunate that six years later I was deemed cancer-free."
The Church's teaching on proportionate or disproportionate care is meaningful to McQueen and she said her own experience with cancer is helpful in explaining that teaching.
"I understand when people do not want to endure chemo, for example, and am glad that our Church allows us to make up our own minds in our individual circumstances about our treatments."
Over the years, the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute has been involved in life issues and palliative care as well as the whole euthanasia and physician assisted suicide debate, McQueen said.
"But the palliative care area is, I'm just finding, of extreme importance.
"We know that in terms of our response to euthanasia and the whole idea of people not wanting to suffer, we are saying that everyone has to be preserved until natural death; we are also saying that palliative care is something that we want to offer to people to relieve their suffering."
About 25 to 27 per cent of people who need palliative care receive it.
"With that kind of percentage, there is a lot of work to be done in this area," McQueen said.