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Natural law-- not the state-- affirms human dignity, Pope insists

Catholic World News - February 15, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI met on February 13 with the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and encouraged them in their discussion of bioethical issues that have "great importance for the culture of future generations."

Bioethical studies, the Pope said, require "guidelines capable of guaranteeing a coherent reading of the ethical questions which inevitably emerge." Properly understood, he said, bioethical studies should "throw light on the dignity of the person." However, the proper perspective requires an appreciation for the natural law, he said, and without that foundation moral reasoning is unreliable: "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 judgments 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," the Pope continued. Science constantly reveals new possibilities, but each step forward must be weighed with the recognition that human dignity is at stake, and "scientists must never think they are dealing with inanimate and manipulable material."

Pope Benedict stressed that the dignity of the person must be anchored in natural law, which is not subject to change. He noted 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."

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  • Posted by: frjpharrington3912 - Feb. 17, 2010 12:26 AM ET USA

    "The Gulag Archipelago", Alexander Solzhenitsyn's history of Soviet Communism is a frightening account of what happens to a society where the state displaces the natural law. Where the whole concept of "guilt" and "innocence" is non-existent; where women were forced to sign false confessions against their own husbands; where people who told the truth were imprissoned for "anti-Soviet agitation"; where violence, torture and harassment were used to convict people of crimes they did not commit.

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