Religiously informed people already know that, but Pope Benedict XVI brought up that point again when he addressed “problems revolving around the issue of bioethics” with the Pontifical Academy for Life, in their annual meeting.

Bioethics need guidelines, he said, because ethical questions always come out of conflicting interpretations of science and how to apply what advanced science can do. Those guidelines have always been “the natural moral law” that recognizes human dignity as the most basic inalienable right.

“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 judgements about those scientific advances which have a direct effect on human life“.

This seems like it’s stating the obvious, and it is. But because it’s not obvious anymore to big, powerful people and institutions that work in bioethics, Benedict takes every opportunity to say it again.

“When we invoke respect for the dignity of the person, it is fundamental that such respect should be complete, total and unimpeded, … recognising that we are always dealing with a human life”, said Pope Benedict. “Of course, human life has its own development and the research horizon for science and bioethics remains open, but it must be reiterated that when dealing with matters which involve human beings, scientists must never think they are dealing with inanimate and manipulable material. In fact, from its first instant, the life of man is characterised by the fact of being a human life, and for this reason it has, always and everywhere, its own dignity“.

From its first instant to its natural end, he added.

Human life must never be “an object dependent on the whims of the powerful”, though he knows it has become that in abortion and embryonic research and euthanasia and assisted suicide laws.

“In this context he pointed out 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“.

He recommends lawmakers everywhere, “to seek good and avoid evil,” make “natural moral law” their reference point.

Big task. In modern culture, many of them don’t even know what it is.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....