Honour Sr. Roach

  • August 11, 2010
Sister Simone RoachThe Church has received little good news of late so we should take a moment to celebrate last month’s announcement that Sr. Simone Roach has been named to the Order of Canada.

Admittedly, this editorial is a few weeks late and might not have come at all but for some second guessing being directed towards Sr. Roach. There is a school of thought that holds that Sr. Roach — and, for that matter, all Catholics — should refuse the Order of Canada because two years ago it was given to abortionist Henry Morgentaler. Not to diminish the shame of that decision, but it seems unfair to tar Sr. Roach with Morgentaler’s brush.

No doubt, bestowing the Order of Canada on someone convicted of performing illegal abortions was shameful then and remains a blight on Canada’s highest honour now. Largely because of Morgentaler, Canada currently has no abortion laws and our abortion rates are among the highest in the Western world. Honouring him was a travesty but should Sr. Roach have to pay for it?

The retired chair of nursing at St. Francis Xavier University has been named to the Order for a lifetime of achievement in nursing, particularly her role in creating Canada’s first code of ethics for nurses.

But academic accomplishments are hardly a full measure of her contribution. She practices her profession and lives her life by the belief that, in her words, caring is the human mode of being. “I care not because I am a nurse, but because I am a human being,” she says.

Caring for each other is the essence of our humanity. As incarnate Christ embraced the sick, the lame, the blind and the poor, that example of compassionate humanity has guided Sr. Roach. It should be an example to us all.

The Church needs to be present in the world and actively contributing to the common good. Now more than ever, the world needs to see that there are thousands of priests and religious leading selfless lives of faith and charity to bring benefit to others. These heroic men and women are the true face of the Church. When Sr. Roach receives her Order of Canada she will, in some sense, be standing for them all.

Would she make a stronger statement by not being there? At least eight previous Order of Canada recipients listened to their conscience and returned their medals. For them, that decision was proper. But that does not mean a sincere examination of conscience by someone else must yield the same conclusion.

Sr. Roach has obviously decided to accept her Order of Canada. We must assume the decision was not taken lightly. She has a lifetime of professional achievement and faithful service to prove her worthiness. Some people may disagree with her choice but as Christians we should respect it.

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