As the deep mounds of snow melt here in Montreal, there are signs that cold attitudes towards dealing with issues of life are also beginning to melt.
The thawing trend got a boost at the end of March from priest, author and professor Msgr. Elio Sgreccia, the director of the Bioethics Institute at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at Sacred Heart Catholic University in Rome. He did a series of presentations in Montreal during a jam-packed week.
Interesting the connections God sets us up with. I ended up videotaping all the presentations as a favour for Fr. Robert Hivon, a priest my husband John and I met last November. Fr. Robert translated Sgreccia’s most recent book, which explains the history and current reality of bioethics, and where we go from here.
We toured with Msgr. Sgreccia as he spoke with medical practitioners, university professors and students, a bioethics group, senior citizens, and members of the general public. He covered various aspects of bioethics, including abortion, reproductive technologies, genetics, euthanasia, and palliative care, always with a primary focus on the dignity and sanctity of every human life.
He saved his best address for last when he passionately spoke of the latest bomb that threatens to destroy humanity – the bomb of genetic manipulation, following in the footsteps of the atomic and biological bombs.
Msgr. Sgreccia says progress is not innocent: it can either serve humanity or destroy it, and we need to closely examine every choice to show its potential effect on our future.
He says most countries now have bioethics centers, and bioethics is taught in many primary and secondary schools, but this discipline of thought has not been able to keep up with the rapid proliferation of new technologies that continue to invade humanity such as genetic manipulation, in vitro fertilization, organ transplants, and cloning.
He says bioethics itself is on shaky ground because most people don’t know what it is. A primary reason for this is that our society is built on subjective morality – the belief that we are all here by chance, and individual freedom is the highest aim. But Msgr. Sgreccia says the right to life comes before the right to freedom, because you cannot have freedom unless you first have life.
He says we need to find ways to encourage public discussion of the issues of life by all facets of society, regardless of our faith in God, because bioethics is not exclusively a religious issue, it is also a human issue. And the future of humanity is at stake.
Thought provoking stuff.
If you’d like to hear Msgr. Sgreccia speak for yourself, I’ll be producing a couple of videos featuring his addresses. If you’d like to get a copy, e-mail me at email@example.com. Initially they’ll be in French, but if there’s enough interest, we may translate them into English.
Our pro-life ministry
John and I have been in Montreal for 10 months now, and there continues to be resistance towards dealing with the abortion issue here, even by the Catholic Church. This can be very frustrating considering there are 30,000 recorded surgical abortions annually in Quebec, and the hospital that performs the most abortions is just down the road from where we live.
But we are making some progress, and doors are beginning to open. We are almost finished the French translation of our video, Stop the Violence, which we showed for the first time at an interdenominational church meeting at our church on April 22. Our pastor is very supportive, and we hope this will be a foundation for a right-to-life ministry aimed at education, and support for pregnant women to help them choose life.
We have also been working together with the local francophone right-to-life group, Respect pour la Vie (RPLV), and we’ll be showing our video at their annual general assembly this year.
RPLV continues to do what it can to get out the message. Members set up a booth at a Kids and Parents Exhibition the last weekend of March where they distributed 2,000 pamphlets on embryonic development, and sold 100 plastic fetus models, as well as a number of “Precious Feet” pins.
Most were drawn to the booth by a giveaway contest for a family weekend at a retreat in the Laurentians, but people were also intrigued by the “Precious Feet” poster. Most couldn’t believe this was the actual feet of a 10-week-old child in the womb.