A Roman Catholic Perspective
Monsignor Peter R. Beaulieu, M.A., S.T.L.
Roman Catholic Morality
Throughout her history, the Church has increasingly refined the mandates entrusted by Christ to His apostles to preach the glad tidings of salvation and to transform the world into the Kingdom of God. The Catholic medico-moral tradition inherited the Judeo-Hellenistic body of philosophical and religious thought and re-oriented it toward a more overtly Christian purpose. That inheritance was predominantly based upon natural law reasoning and virtue ethics and, thus, the Hippocratic tradition acknowledges power and authority that are superior to merely human knowledge, which made it possible for Christianity to embrace the Hippocratic tradition. This manner of reasoning affirms the inherent goodness of life, espouses moral absolutes prohibiting abortion and euthanasia, and subscribes to the Golden Rule—act to benefit the patient, do no intentional harm, and to safeguard information gathered in the course of treatment. Caring for the sick was part of the Church’s activities from the outset. As this Gospel demand matured, spiritual and even physical care became the province of monasteries and religious orders, such that the tradition of medicina pastoralis, which developed in its wake. The Church has sought, then, to continue the words and deeds which were originally Christ’s alone—–to heal the sick, but not simply on a physical level, but reaching to the deepest possible level of the integrity of body and soul. Healing continues what Christ began, suffering, then, is not meaningless when united to the cross, and death is not the end, but the beginning of the final communion that must be the goal of every faithful disciple.