Human Dignity at Risk in Europe, Advocates Warn Before Pope’s Speech
Pro-life leaders hope the Nov. 25 speech will assist in changing a continental mentality that fails to respect human life.
STRASBOURG, France — Ahead of Pope Francis’ Nov. 25 address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, pro-life leaders are emphasizing the danger of a mentality that fails to respect life across the continent.
Carine Brochier is the coordinator for the European Institute of Bioethics in Brussels. She told CNA that, in her 12 years with the institute, she has seen a “new conception of human being” that has “quickly accelerated during recent years.”
This new view of the human person, which fails to value human life, manifests itself in numerous different ways and is tied in with emerging technologies, she stated.
“Mother Teresa said that if you open the door to abortion, then the door is open for any other aberration. It’s true: After abortion, we had medical procreation and now euthanasia: It is now even, somewhere, possible that one is just tired of living and receives euthanasia,” she explained.
For Brochier, the two main challenges at present are euthanasia and surrogate motherhood.
“I would say that these challenges are an outcome of the weakness of the institution of the family. If the family is not strong … then you have to find other solutions,” she said, explaining that those who are sick may feel particularly tempted to think that their life lacks value if they feel alone without support from family.
Brochier suggested that this mentality is directly descended from the thought of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
“We don’t want God anymore” as a society, she explained, and life has come to be viewed as a mere commodity, to be discarded if it is flawed or “broken.”
She also stressed that “we are now living the bad fruits of the Enlightenment, of its mentality of individualism that has been spread through globalization, so that things like surrogacy motherhood and abortion have been spread all over the world.”
Part of respecting the dignity of human life is protecting religious freedom, said Sophia Kuby, executive director of the nonprofit group European Dignity Watch.
She underscored that “the Pope has the moral authority to really give us a wake-up call. … We should be aware that, in many cases, our freedom is at risk.”
In her years of work observing the actions of the European Parliament, Kuby has seen a connection between freedom and respect for human dignity.
“This is a very serious question that arises. With the development of laws on surrogate motherhood and in vitro fertilization, you could, in the end, by extent, sell the human being,” she said.
The European Parliament has become a sort of “cradle” for a set of “new rights” involving sexuality and reproduction, Kuby explained.
By making decisions in support of in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood, the European Parliament has essentially overturned the legislation of local countries through a “soft law” process, she said.
For instance, in 2011, the Strasbourg European Court of Human Rights labeled as “incoherent” an Italian law prohibiting the pre-implant diagnosis of embryos used for in vitro fertilization, thus pushing the Italian government to change the law.
The promotion of these so-called “new rights” has also weakened the family, Kuby said, and we see “around the world that where the family breaks down, you have many kind of problems … educational problems, development problems, social problems.”
On a positive note, Brochier believes that society is starting to see the harmful effects of such a mindset, and this presents an opportunity to recover a proper sense of human dignity.
She noted, “For now, the cloning projects have been stopped. … We are starting to realize that those techniques, already on the rise, are hurting the human being. We realized that a child born from assisted procreation may in the end have psychological problems because he will want to know who his father is.”
Brochier maintained that “we are learning to speak about these issues” and to see what is behind the push for a new concept of the human being.
She stressed the importance of human community in respecting the dignity of life.
“We should build a new network of people: You can count on me; I can count on you. Let’s be patient together; let’s live together. … For instance, we always speak about the right of having a child. On the other hand, we should stay close to people who can’t have a child or lost a child. We should find the answer to the question: What kind of love are you ready to give to vulnerable people?”
Kuby echoed these thoughts, saying that “peace can be achieved only if we look at human community.”
This is the reason why Pope Francis’ visit to Strasbourg is so important, she said.
“His speech may tell Europe that we have to stay close together and advocate for human being, because, otherwise, we follow a political ideology. Only then you can carry politics that are really serving the common good.”