Communique #02 – Education and Health

December 12, 2018

National Chairperson of Education and Health Faith Anderson, December 3, 2018

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I am pleased to advise that Peggy MacNeil (Nova Scotia), Dr. Rayleen De Luca (Manitoba) and Rita Janes (Newfoundland and Labrador) have accepted appointments as sub-committee chairpersons for the education and health standing committee. These women will be assisting me for the next two years, offering their unique expertise. In this communique Peggy and Rita have provided information to share. My goal is to cover as many of the topics under this standing committee as possible throughout my term as chairperson.

Literacy and Continuing Education: Sub-committee chairperson Peggy MacNeil
Councils are becoming informed about religious instruction in local parishes and schools, however, many parishes do not offer religious education. Challenges like changes to school curriculum, lack of teachers and school closures affect many religious education programs. There is a real need for religious education teachers as a great interest is placed on religious formation of adults and pastoral leaders. Several provinces have private or publicly funded Catholic schools. Provincial chairpersons may encourage members to reach out to assist parish and/or school religious education programs.

Councils are contributing to a variety of scholarships and bursaries for students. With year-end fast approaching, please encourage contributions to the national bursary fund. Bursary awards provide financial support to members wanting to expand personal knowledge through courses, workshops and a variety of degree programs.

Provincial chairpersons may wish to encourage members to promote the Catholic faith and share in the mission of evangelization by supporting or becoming a member of an RCIA team (Rite of Christian Initiative of Adults). Consider offering assistance by providing guest speakers, monetary donations and mass booklets; becoming a tutor; and organizing scripture studies and retreats.

Canadian Blood Services Partners for Life:
The League is a proud supporter of the Canadian Blood Services Partners for Life program. New and regular blood donors are asked to consider registering for the program under the League’s unique partner identification number (CATH011269). Visit www.blood.ca/joinpartnersforlife for more information. Encourage members to donate and use the identification number.

211.ca
This website provides “a gateway to community, social, non-clinical health and related government services… 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in over 100 languages. 211 connects people to the right information and services, strengthens Canada’s health and human services…” Check out the services in your province.

Cancer Strategy Survey:
Canadian Partnership Against Cancer invites Canadians to take part in a survey to help influence cancer care in Canada. Encourage members to complete the survey by the closing date December 15, 2018. Visit www.partnershipagainstcancer.ca/cancer-strategy/ for more information.

Genetics: Sub-committee chairperson Rita Janes
“Science, like any other human activity, has limits that must be respected for the good of all humanity and warrants a sense of ethical responsibility. The real measure of progress, as Blessed Pope Paul VI reminded.” (Pope Francis)

To understand the Catholic church’s teaching on genetic engineering, it is important to distinguish between the two distinct categories involved, best referenced in Dignitas Personae (2008). One category is gene therapy, the main purpose of which is to address abnormalities and pathologies through modification of the gene that is functioning abnormally. The other category is genetic enhancement. Genetic enhancement would intentionally and fundamentally alter a human being in ways not possible by nature, in other words, in ways God did not intend. Its purpose would be to genetically modify a person to be more human, e.g., more athletic, intelligent, better looking, smarter and so on. Genetic engineering to change the fundamental nature of mankind is morally wrong.

The church also makes a distinction between two types of gene therapy. One is the somatic cell (non-reproductive cells) therapy used to correct a faulty gene but does not enter the eggs or sperm. The other is germ-line therapy. Its purpose is to correct genetic defects present in sperm and eggs while transmitting the therapeutic effects to a person’s offspring. The church morally evaluates gene therapy at tissue or organ level (somatic) as acceptable. However, gene therapy (germ-line) that changes the sperm or egg, forcing that change on offspring is not.

Beginning with Dignitas Personae (2008) the church cautioned Catholics not to be “luddites” and ignore technical advancements in biotechnology. Pope Francis has often referenced the importance of high-quality ethical research. He endorses the use of adult stem cells to cure disease but encouraged geneticists to pursue scientific advancement only through means that do not contribute to the “throwaway” culture that treats human beings as objects for use. He cautions the lay faithful that embryonic stem cell research is not morally permissible and says “some branches of research use human embryos, inevitably causing their destruction. But we know that no ends, even noble in themselves can justify the destruction of human embryos”.