May 24, 2024

Theology and bioethics 2: Pope Francis

The new Pope’s first encyclical refers to abortion and euthanasia.

The new head of the Catholic Church, Argentinian Pope Francis, released document on Friday about Christian faith. The encyclical Lumen Fidei (“light of faith”) is a solemn declaration addressed to the entire Catholic Church. It will be read as a roadmap for his years in the job. Francis acknowledges that much of it had already been written by his predecessor (with signature quotations from Nietzche, T.S. Eliot, Dante and Dostoevsky). Most of the document is theological, but it does contain a stern condemnation of same-sex marriage, and an allusion to abortion and euthanasia. The Pope says that Christian faith sustains a belief in human dignity which underlies its opposition to these controversial procedures.

“Thanks to faith we have come to understand the unique dignity of each person, something which was not clearly seen in antiquity. In the second century the pagan Celsus reproached Christians for an idea that he considered foolishness and delusion: namely, that God created the world for man, setting human beings at the pinnacle of the entire cosmos. “Why claim that [grass] grows for the benefit of man, rather than for that of the most savage of the brute beasts?” “If we look down to Earth from the heights of heaven, would there really be any difference between our activities and those of the ants and bees?”

“At the heart of biblical faith is God’s love, his concrete concern for every person, and his plan of salvation which embraces all of humanity and all creation, culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without insight into these realities, there is no criterion for discerning what makes human life precious and unique. Man loses his place in the universe, he is cast adrift in nature, either renouncing his proper moral responsibility or else presuming to be a sort of absolute judge, endowed with an unlimited power to manipulate the world around him.”

Michael Cook
Creative commons
Catholic Church
human dignity