Pope Encourages Bioethicists Amid Relativism, Inability to Reason
Pope Francis has praised the work of bioethicists in a world marked by relativism and which lacks an ability to reason.
Addressing the Italian National Committee for Bioethics at the Vatican today, the Holy Father said that to carry out the “demanding work” of research into ethical truth is “all the more” meritorious in a society “marked by relativism and not very trustworthy in the capacities of human reason.”
In view of these and other challenges, he stressed that such research “always requires humility and realism” and should not fear confronting different positions.
The Pope underlined how the Church supports civil society to promote "the search for truth and goodness on complex human and ethical issues".
The Church, he continued, had a sensibility to ethical issues and serving all men and women, with special attention and care for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged who are struggling to find their voice.
But he also said that although the Church is clearly sensitive to ethical issues, it is perhaps "not as clear to everyone that the Church does not claim any privileged space in this field," but rather, "she is satisfied when the civil conscience is able to reflect, discern and work, at various levels, on the basis of free and open rationality and of the constitutive values of the person and of society."
The Holy Father singled out the Committee’s “respect for the integrity of the human being and the protection of health from conception to natural death.” And he praised the organization for valuing a person always “as an end and never simply as a means”.
Such an ethical principle is also fundamental to biotechnology in medicine which “can never be used in a way that’s harmful to human dignity, and even less be guided by industrial and commercial ends alone.”
The Pope then encouraged the bioethicists’ work on four areas. Firstly, he said he hoped the Committee would formulate guidelines so that conservation and care for the environment would be of concern to the biological sciences.
Secondly, he underlined the importance of valuing the disabled and the marginalized in societies inclined to competition and the “acceleration of progress”. He also reiterated what he has long been passionate about: the challenge of opposing a “throwaway culture” which treats human embryos and the elderly approaching death “as disposable material.”
Thirdly, he called for a greater push towards a global harmonization of standards and rules that recognize “fundamental values and rights” in biological and medical activities.
Lastly, he praised the Committee for trying to “sensitize public opinion” on bioethics, beginning with schools, and also understanding progress in biotechnology.