The Church is often painted with the brush of “no.” Indeed, in our culture today, there are plenty of behaviors, attitudes, and practices that rightly deserve rejection and admonishment. In these two documents, produced in the last thirty years and with the intention of helping to promote a bioethical mindset in healthcare, the Church displays the truth that behind every difficult “no” is a great “YES!” to the profound wonder and beauty of the human person.
Many might question what role the Church could have in helping to shape the discussion around bioethics. In a society that no longer sees the spiritual component of humanity as necessary for general goodness or happiness, it’s more likely to reject the Church’s intellectual contributions or to decry the so-called imposition of religion on science and society.
The Church does not seek a role outside of its competence, nor does it seek to supplant medical science. Rather, it offers, within the scope of morality which is clearly its prerogative, advice and insight for the discussion. A relentless promoter of the human good throughout human history, the Church seeks to share its treasury of wisdom and intellectual tradition to keep medicine in the service of the human good, rather than a tool for its destruction.
No area of medicine or technology is above criticism. An objective reading of these documents, setting the theological aspects aside, clearly demonstrates the authenticity the Catholic Church brings to the conversation. Even if the reader rejects the theology of the Church, it’s difficult to argue convincingly that the broadest application of respect for human life is somehow in contradiction to the noble aims and ideals of medicine.
These two publications dovetail in their coverage of the moral and ethical questions that we face today, particularly when it comes to human reproduction and early life humans. The question and answer format is particularly useful for understanding the ethical framework and applying its principles to the issues of the day. The answers provided are challenging to the prevailing wisdom, but it’s a great act of love to share the hard truths, kindly, but firmly. The defense of the human person is paramount for the survival of mankind. We can best promote the integrity and dignity of the human person by focusing on advocacy and protection for the most vulnerable among us.
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