Upwards of 80 people attended Saturday’s Day for Life at the St Ninian’s Institute. The event which was a joint initiative of the Bishop of Dunkeld, Stephen Robson and SPUC Dundee who played host to a series of thought-provoking and informed talks. The day began with a complimentary lunch which was kindly prepared by the Diocesan Centre’s resident Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary before the audience heard talks from Dr Calum MacKellar, Mr John Deighan, Sr Roseanne Reddy, and Dr John-Paul O’Sullivan.
Calum MacKellar, Director of Research at the Scottish Council of Human Bioethics, was first to speak. The talk was entitled ‘The Embryo and the image of God’ and focussed on the ethical status of the human embryo. He emphasised that embryos are persons with ‘full inherent dignity’ after he had deconstructed a variety of arguments that would purport otherwise.
Calum MacKellar also related his and others struggle for orthodoxy in the Church of Scotland where he believes the majority of church members have unfortunately adopted a gradualist evaluation of the status of the embryo. This belief confers more rights on the embryo as he or she grows rather than viewing them as a person who merits protection and has dignity from the moment of conception.
The next speaker John Deighan, Parliamentary Officer for the Catholic Church in Scotland. His talk focused on the urgency of resisting the attempt to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland. Mr Deighan revealed the three pronged approach employed by euthanasia advocates to get their ideals passed into law, namely persevering with arguments of compassion, autonomy and safeguards. He pointed out that the accepting euthanasia as compassionate has led to the euthanasia of children in Belgium and may have contributed the killing of those in the Netherlands who had not provided explicit consent to be euthanised.
Autonomy as an argument for euthanasia was rejected as ‘choices are bounded by how they impact on one another’ whilst stressing that laws are for the protection of the weak rather than the enablement of the powerful. Mr Deighan also referenced the edifying thinking of St John Paul II who said ‘Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.’
The Catholic Parliamentary Officer’s criticisms of the merits of ‘adequate safeguards’ included how once the philosophical environment is changed to one in which the killing of patients is seen as a good thing then safeguards will be ignored and/or dismissed.
Another person whose life’s work has been informed by St John Paul the Second is Sister Roseann Reddy of the Sister’s of the Gospel of Life. She began by recounting the influence which Pope John Paul II’s visit to Scotland had on her and how her subsequent reading of his encyclical ‘Evangelium Vitae’ has informed her life’s work. Sr. Roseanne’s work for the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative lent weight to her exhortation of the audience to not just be anti-abortion in principle but pro-life in practice.
She went on to emphasise the importance of responding with love and affirmation for both woman and child when encountering women who have conceived in difficult circumstances. Similarly it was important to have compassionate recognition for the loss women have suffered by having an abortion rather than dismissing their distress as the rest of the world might as “Catholic guilt”.
The final talk of the day was given by Dr John-Paul O’Sullivan a recently qualified GP who has a special interest in Natural Family Planning (NFP). Dr O’Sullivan opened by illustrating how there was not necessarily a negative correlation between contraceptive uptake and abortion procurement as shown in the Dueñas study. Dr O’Sullivan went on to list some of the advantages of using NFP for relationships, fertility awareness and society in general before informing an enthused audience about the various methods of NFP available internationally and at a Scottish level.
Dr O’Sullivan outlined some of the problems for the poor uptake of NFP to be the ignorance about the methods available, the ‘contraceptive mentality’ which many suffer from, the refusal of NHS to pay for NFP despite paying for contraception and poor access at a local level to education about using NFP. He suggested that married couples who were interested in NFP to consult the Fertility Care Scotland Website in order to learn more.
The afternoon closed with Bishop Robson thanking both the speakers and audience for attending and a prayer to our Blessed Mother to intercede for God’s blessing in our efforts to promote and build a culture of life.
Reporter – Joseph Geoghegan