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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Former Papabile Gives Bioethics Guidance

Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan and once widely considered to be a candidate to succeed John Paul the Great because of his expertise in bioethics, recently published an article in L'Osservatore Romano, intended to address an Italian referendum over the law on in vitro fertilization which will be held on June 12-13, but which also applies to the stem cell research debate in the US. The archbishop argued the following re the legitimacy of defending human life in its initial stages (from Zenit):
1. Human life is always a good. In fact, it is the most precious good that exists and is the foundation of all other goods that a human can possess. Moreover, the life of every person has such a high value that it cannot be compared to the worth of the life of other living beings.

The cardinal clarified that he was not only talking as a believer in God. He was also making an appeal to human reason, in the sense that the value of human life is something that can be grasped through the use of reason and is, therefore, a principle that can be appreciated by all.

2. Protecting human life is a duty that falls upon every one of us, to be taken up with responsibility and decision. It is, in fact, a civic duty given that the protection of human life is an irreplaceable condition for ensuring the common good of all.

3. The Church and the Christian community is united with those who defend human life from the moment of conception until death. The fact that certain rights and duties are defended by the Church does not, however, cancel out their civil legitimacy or their authenticity from a secular point of view.

It should be clear, stated Cardinal Tettamanzi, that defending human life is a prerogative of all, not just of Christians. Moreover, it would be a grave case of ideological intolerance if civil activity, legitimate in itself, were marginalized merely because it comes from Christians. Democracy itself would be the loser if this were to happen.

4. Caring for human life during its beginnings is particularly important, given its vulnerability at this stage of development. Neglecting this protection, either at the individual or social level, carries the risk of creating irremediable damage, or even the destruction of the life itself.
We often hear that you cannot legislate morality. While true strictly, the cardinal went on to note that they are connected: morality guides our consciences directly, and the civil law ought to promote how we should act, adding further that human rights do not originate with the state and, similarly, they cannot be destroyed by it.

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