FAIRFAX, VA (CNS) - Euthanasia and assisted suicide are contrary to the natural law and, if legalized, will lead society down a slippery slope toward "wholesale slaugther."
That was the general consensus of three main speakers at a recent conference on "Euthanasia, Civil Law and Natural Law" at George Mason University in Fairfax.
The conference was the fourth of its kind sponsored by the Natural Law Study Center, an organization founded one year ago in the Diocese of Arlington to discern and apply natural law in daily life. More than 180 people attended the conference.
The keynote address was delivered by Alan Keyes who sought the Republican nomination for President in 1996.
Other speakers included Father John Reilly, Associate Pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Warrenton, VA and Michael Uhlmann, an Attorney and Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.
Keyes said the Euthanasia argument centers on one concept - whether society should throw away the premise that all people are created equal.
"If you discard that premise, we've all had it," he said, "throw that away and we are all finished. Think it through and there can be no right to take our own lives."
Keyes said people must stop taking life for granted.
"We take for granted that this wonderful life will last forever," he said, "It won't. It's terribly important. We can't forget the worst possibilities of human nature."
Abortion and Euthanasia are not "peace" issues, he said. They are "war" issues.
"Who will have the sword to execute these decisions?" he asked.
As society nears the end of the 20th century, it has been forwarned about these issues, he said. German doctors and lawyers in the 1920's argued for euthanasia and assisted suicide.
They exemplified an "intellectual arrogance" that set the foundation that later was expanded upon by Adolph Hitler and the Nazis during the 1930's.
The German people "reasoned" their way into the Holocaust, Keyes said. The argument was laid down by Germany's courts and intellectuals, much as it is being down in America today.
It is the age-old struggle of the princes versus the people, the elites versus ordinary citizens, he said. "Most of us will always end up on the wrong side of power," Keyes said. "Only a few will have it."
Keyes said it ultimately comes down to the question of equality. "We are all equal in a moral sense."
The principle that sustains such equality, at least in America, is the statement in the Declaration of Independence that "All men are created equal."
"Unalienable" doesn't mean somene can't take it away, Keyes said. "It means we can't give it away. It comes from a power beyond our control."
"If we claim the power to take our own lives, then we have given that same power to someone else," he said. "Conquerors and dominators will assume power over our lives."
Keyes said people must surrender to a higher authority - God. In the bank of divine authority, the "money" is human rights. If people carry that "money" in their possession, then society is susceptible to its being stolen, he said.
"All one needs to do is look around our world at the despotism of the 20th century to realize the evil that man is capable of committing," he said.
"We are being confronted by arguments that cloud our judgment," he said. "It first took the guise of abortion to support our sexual freedom, promiscuity and indulgence. We have dethroned the high authority."
Keyes said the first candidates for euthanasia are people in pain. Then it will be the elderly. "Old age, by definition, is a disease from which we haven't found a cure," he said.
Human judgment will determine who lives and dies, he said. "We are taking it out of God's hands and putting it into human hands."
"We need to go back to the first principle to put the authority over life and death back into the hands that are out of human reach. If God doesn't have it, then it means that a human being will have it; and he will abuse that power."
The thicket of moral challenges grows greater every day, Keyes said. "The resolution to this debate will not come from the Supreme Court, or Judges or Lawyers," he said. "It will come from the common sense of the people which will be imposed on the elite."
(Alan Keyes is a former Ambassador and Congressman)