Educating medical professional about Catholic issues Print this post

Annual conference aids in spreading the word

By Nadia Smith, special to the Florida Catholic (5/2/12)

FORT MYERS – Educating Catholic medical professionals about today’s pressing ethical concerns and empowering them to give better patient care and protect human life is the ongoing focus of the annual Diocese of Venice Bioethics Conferences.

The fifth annual event was April 21 at Resurrection Parish inFort Myersand drew hundreds of doctors, nurses, students, priests and everyday Catholics from all over the state. It received top marks by attendees who overwhelmingly called it “the best one yet.”

Dr. Stephen Hannan, the event organizer, has witnessed the event grow to be a key part of getting the word out on the stance of the Church on key medical issues of the day.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who this year was unable to attend the conference, set the tone for the day through prepared video-taped remarks, expressing his desire that the seminar “be a way of seeing more clearly the responsibilities of your Catholic Faith in light of proposed government restrictions and mandates.”

To that point, keynote speaker George Weigel, Senior Fellow of the Ethics andPublicPolicyCenterinWashingtonD.C., spoke about the underlying philosophical thought that has led to the “culture of death.”

Weigel warned that without action the U.S. Health and Human Services mandate, which requires insurance coverage to include contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs,  is the “first of thousands to come” because “we are now at the height of the Culture War between the ‘culture of life’ and the ‘culture of death’.”

He added that the most effective thing we can do to win the culture war is by giving solid Christian witness in ministries like 40 Days for Life, Project Rachel, crisis pregnancy centers and those who care for the elderly.

“This work is important in challenging the culture of death and building a culture of life,” Weigel said. At the heart of the ‘culture of death’ is the philosophy of utilitarianism championed by the 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham and warned against by the late Blessed Pope John Paul II.

Utilitarianism is the belief that passions and desires are more important then reason; anything, therefore, that brings the greatest amount of pleasure and the least amount of pain to the majority of people, is morally right or good.  In this philosophy the minority is victimized and people are no longer valued because of their dignity, but for their usefulness to the majority.

“This is at the root of much of the problem we face today,” Weigel said. “All of our living has been detached from any sense of purpose. A world without the [study of God and truth] is a world without morality – the highest it can go is to a world of utility.”

Blessed Pope John Paul II knew this all too well and, according to Weigel, spent much of his pontificate redirecting society back to the dignity of the human person and moral objectivism.

Pope Benedict XVI has also been at the forefront of unmasking this dangerous path modern society has taken; calling it a “dictatorship of relativism,” which “recognizes nothing as absolute and which only leaves the ‘I’ and its whims as the ultimate measure.”

The HHS mandate “is about as clear an example of the dictatorship of relativism as it gets.”  And in order to reclaim the culture it is vital to understand the true meaning of freedom. The culture of death would define freedom as the ability to do anything a person wants, but to be true freedom means to know and live by the Truth.

“No one is born free, we grow into freedom – into the ability to choose what is right habitually,” Weigel said. “Every two-year-old is a natural tyrant who is willful and self-absorbed that we as parents must turn into a free person and thus a member of a democracy.”

In addition to Weigel, the conference included a talk by Rita Marker, practicing attorney and author of “Deadly Compassion.” Marker spoke on end-of-life decisions. Theresa Deisher, founder of Ave Maria Biotechnology and Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute, spoke about the use of aborted fetuses in vaccines and cosmetics by the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries, which hit home for the medical professionals in attendance. John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, spoke on moral principles pertaining to complicated pregnancy cases.

The event “was not only educational, but also exhilarating and fantastic,” said Dante Bevilacqua, a retired gynecologist fromPennsylvaniaand part of St. Katharine Drexel Parish inCape Coral. “A conference like this is incredibly important because if we get people educated, we can turn the tide on the local and state levels.”

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