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Conscientious Objection

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Nov 15, 2007

The Pope’s recommendation that pharmacists exercise conscientious objection to avoid dispensing abortifacient drugs has struck a chord in several quarters, not least among Catholic pharmacists themselves and in an organization devoted to the social teachings of the Church.

Pietro Uroda, the President of the Catholic Union of Italian Pharmacists, took the Pope’s comments seriously (see The Buck Seldom Stops with Pharmacists). Speaking of the morning-after pill, Uroda said: “We do not believe this product is a drug, because it cures nothing. It is a pharmaceutical product that is for killing an eventual embryo.” He went on to say that “if it does not kill, it can cause other harm” and described the pill as a “hormonal bomb.”

As reported by the Catholic News Agency on November 12th, Uroda stated that he himself was a conscientious objector who has never dispensed or sold “the abortion pill.” He noted that the code of his organization “says we are at the service of life.” Commenting on the fact that there is no Italian law which protects conscientious objection, Uroda pointed out that Article 54 of the Italian Penal Code stipulates that a person is exempt from punishment if he violates the law in order to save a life.

Also earlier this month, Stefano Fontana, director of the Cardinal Van Thuân International Observatory for the Social Doctrine of the Church, echoed Pope Benedict’s remarks and pointed out that abortion and euthanasia are not the only cases where conscientious objection is required:

Let’s think about a nurse who works in a hospital where abortions are performed. Let’s think about the employees of a city council where same-sex civil unions are registered. Let’s think about a person who works in a laboratory where the selection of human embryos is performed or about those who work in publishing houses or television studios that produce pornographic material, or the many lawyers and judges that often have to deal with borderline cases.

Fontana ascribed the increasing number of cases requiring conscientious objection, along with the increasing denial of that right, to the “dictatorship of relativism” which selectively and inconsistently denounces “freedom of conscience as an imposition and a violation of the freedom of conscience.” He argued that Catholics must now undertake a more thorough reflection on conscientious objection, considering it “not only as an ‘opposition’ but also as a ‘renewal’.”

Fontana is clearly right. Catholics do need to find the courage to conscientiously object. The squeeze is on, and the problem is not going away anytime soon.

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