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A Catholic Vision of Bioethics
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Father Steve Roberts of the Lexington Diocese: "Tell the truth and tell it well."

Fr Roberts
Fr Roberts of the Lexington diocese speaks on bioethics.

LEXINGTON, KY - “We need to tell the truth and tell it well.”  These are the words of Fr Steve Roberts, Vocations Director for the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky.  He made this statement in his talk entitled “Guiding Families with Charity through the Complex Issues of the 21st Century” at the National Marriage Conference in Lexington on August 7, 2009.  The conference was sponsored by the Diocese of Lexington and the Familia lay apostolate.

Fr Roberts says Catholics need to present the “Good News” of the Gospel to a world in need.  “It’s a work of charity and love,” he said. 

Fr Roberts is uniquely positioned to speak on bioethics from a Church perspective.  Before becoming a priest, he received his doctor of medicine degree in 1989 with a specialty in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“The Church’s views on bioethics are difficult to present, a challenge,” he said.  “But it is an obligation we have to undertake.  It is our duty to evangelize and spread the truth.  Lives and souls and families are at stake.”

He points out to those who are discouraged in the difficult environment of the modern world that “our side has already won the battle….  We just need to bring as many people as we can to the winning side.”

Catholics must never compromise when telling the truth, Father Roberts asserts, because Jesus never did.  He referenced Jesus’ “Bread of Life Discourse” in Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John.  He said Jesus did not back down on his statement to his disciples that they must “eat his flesh and drink his blood” even when several chose to leave him because of this teaching.

Father also noted the response of Peter to the Jewish Tribunal, where the disciples were instructed to stop speaking about Jesus Christ.  Peter said “It is impossible for us not to speak what we have seen and heard” (Acts of the Apostles, 4:13-20).

Father Roberts was careful to point out that telling the truth is not enough.  “We must tell it in a way that is effective,” he said.  “We must make it pertinent to people’s lives.”  Again he quoted Scripture with the example of how St. Paul made his views relevant to the lives of the ancient Athenians when he referenced their “Unknown God” shrine as pointing to the true God (Acts 17: 16-34).

We must also remember the necessity of God’s Grace, Father Roberts said.  This is the key to knowing how to respond to the questions of our culture regarding Church teaching.  “Christ tells his apostles – you will be given what you need to do or say when we need it,” he said, referencing Matthew 10:19.  “Christ will strengthen us,” he said, again referencing Scripture, specifically Corinthians II: 12:9 and Philippians 4:13.

“We must be careful and have the proper attitude, and not denounce the culture outright,” he said. “We must communicate with enthusiasm and joy.  The Catholic Church does not proselytize, but it grows by attraction.”

Father said Catholics must counter the universal tendency to present Church teaching as a list of prohibitions.   He said Pope Benedict XVI is a “master” at doing this.  Father Roberts quoted the Pope’s statement, “Christianity, Catholicism, isn’t a collection of prohibitions: it’s a positive option.”

Father Roberts explained that behind every so-called Church prohibition is an “even greater yes.”  The Church’s “yes” to science calls for recognition of the integral good of human life and the dignity of the human person.  The Church’s “no” to Euthanasia is based on the understanding that a human being can never be considered a ”vegetable” or an “animal.”

“The value of a human person does not change, no matter what the circumstances of his or her life,” he said.  “No life is unworthy of living. Medical professionals should never make patients feel they have duty to die.  Those in the profession of medicine can never be killers.”

Father Roberts said that many times “it is not that a certain life becomes unbearable, but that a certain life becomes unbearable to us.”

The Church says the weak, the sick and the elderly need “compassionate care,” and the word compassion means “suffering with.” 

“We must provide basic needs of life, nutrition and hydration and alleviate pain,” he said, but it is permissible to avoid burdensome and non-beneficial technology.



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