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Bioethics: Human Dignity and Natural Moral Law
Feb. 15, 2010

The Holy Father received in audience members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, currently having its annual plenary assembly. Pope Benedict observed: "Recognising human dignity as an inalienable right has its first foundation in [natural moral law] - unwritten by the hand of man but inscribed by God the Creator in man's heart - which all juridical systems are called to recognise as inviolable, and all individuals to respect and promote." [The full text of the Vatican news release follows, along with resource links.]

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BIOETHICS: HUMAN DIGNITY AND NATURAL MORAL LAW

VATICAN CITY, 13 FEB 2010 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received in audience members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the president of which is Archbishop Rino Fisichella. The academy is currently meeting for its annual plenary assembly.

"The problems revolving around the question of bioethics", said the Pope, "bring the anthropological question to the fore"; this concerns "human life in its perennial tension between immanence and transcendence, and has great importance for the culture of future generations".

Hence, he went on, "it is necessary to institute a comprehensive educational project which enables these themes to be approached from a positive, balanced and constructive standpoint, especially as regards the relationship between faith and reason.

"Bioethical questions often throw light on the dignity of the person, a fundamental principle which faith in Jesus Christ ... has always defended, especially when it is overlooked in dealings with the most simple and defenceless people", he added. "Bioethics, like any other discipline, needs guidelines capable of guaranteeing a coherent reading of the ethical questions which inevitably emerge when faced with possible conflicts of interpretation. In this space lies the normative call to natural moral law".

"Recognising human dignity as an inalienable right has its first foundation in that law - unwritten by the hand of man but inscribed by God the Creator in man's heart - which all juridical systems are called to recognise as inviolable, and all individuals to respect and promote. Without the basic principle of human dignity it would be difficult to find a wellspring for the rights of the person, and impossible to reach ethical judgements about those scientific advances which have a direct effect on human life".

"When we invoke respect for the dignity of the person, it is fundamental that such respect should be complete, total and unimpeded, ... recognising that we are always dealing with a human life", said Pope Benedict. "Of course, human life has its own development and the research horizon for science and bioethics remains open, but it must be reiterated that when dealing with matters which involve human beings, scientists must never think they are dealing with inanimate and manipulable material. In fact, from its first instant, the life of man is characterised by the fact of being a human life, and for this reason it has, always and everywhere, its own dignity".

"Conjugating bioethics and natural moral law is the best way to ensure" recognition for "the dignity that human life intrinsically possesses from its first instant to its natural end".

The Pope also highlighted "the commitment that must be shown in the various areas of society and culture in order to ensure that human life is always recognised as an unalienable subject of law, and never as an object dependent on the whims of the powerful". In this context he pointed out that "history has shown how dangerous and damaging a State can be when it proceeds to make laws that touch the person and society, while itself claiming to be the source and principle of ethics".

"Natural moral law", the Holy Father concluded, "is a guarantee for legislators to show true respect both for the person and for the entire order of creation. It is the catalysing source of consensus among peoples from different cultures and religions, enabling differences to be overcome by affirming the existence of an order imprinted into nature by the Creator, ... an authentic call to use ethical-rational judgement to seek good and avoid evil".

AC/BIOETHICS/ACAD-V                                                              VIS 100215 (590)

The news items contained in the Vatican Information Service may be used, in part or in their entirety, by quoting the source: V.I.S. -Vatican Information Service.

Copyright © Vatican Information Service 00120 Vatican City 

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