By Elise Harris
Pope Francis has told a group of Catholic doctors that “playing with life” in ways like abortion and euthanasia is sinful, and he stressed that each human life, no matter the condition, is sacred.
“We’re are living in a time of experimentation with life. But a bad experiment… (we’re) playing with life,” the Pope told an audience of 4,000 Catholic doctors gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Nov. 15.
“Be careful, because this is a sin against the Creator: against God the Creator.”
Pope Francis offered his words in an address given to members of the Italian Catholic Doctors Association in celebration of their 70th anniversary.
He recalled that many times in his years as a priest he heard people object to the Church’s position on life issues, specifically asking why the Church is against abortion.
After explaining to the inquirer that the Church is not against abortion because it is simply a religious or philosophical issue, he said it’s also because abortion “is a scientific problem, because there is a human life and it’s not lawful to take a human life to solve a problem.”
Regardless of the many objections he has heard saying that modern thought has evolved on the issue, the Pope stressed that “in ancient thought and in modern thought, the word ‘kill’ means the same!”
“(And) the same goes for euthanasia,” he explained, observing that as a result of “this culture of waste, a hidden euthanasia is practiced on the elderly.”
This, he said, is like telling God: “’at the end of life I do it, like I want.’ It’s a sin against God. Think well about this.”
The belief that abortion is helpful for women, that euthanasia is “an act of dignity,” or that it’s “a scientific breakthrough to ‘produce’ a child (who is) considered a right instead of accepted as a gift” are all part of conventional wisdom that offers a false sense of compassion, he said.
And this includes “(the) use of human life as laboratory mice supposedly to save others,” the Pope continued, saying that on the contrary, the Gospel provides a true image of compassion in the figure of the Good Samaritan, who sees a man suffering, has mercy on him, goes close and offers concrete help.
With today’s rapid scientific and technological advancements the possibility of physical healing has drastically increased, the Pope observed. However, the ability to truly care for the person has almost gone in the opposite direction.
Some aspects of medical science “seem to diminish the ability to ‘take care’ of the person, especially when they are suffering, fragile and defenseless,” he said, explaining that advancements in science and medicine can only enhance human life if they maintain their ethical roots.
“Attention to human life, particularly to those in the greatest difficulty, that is, the sick, the elderly, children, deeply affects the mission of the Church,” the Bishop of Rome continued, saying that often times modern society tends to attach one’s quality of life to economic possibilities.
Frequently the quality of a person’s life is measured by their physical beauty and well-being, he observed, noting how the more important interpersonal, spiritual and religious dimensions of human life are often forgotten.
“In reality, in the light of faith and of right reason, human life is always sacred and always ‘of quality’,” he said.
“No human life exists that is more sacred that the other, just like there is no human life qualitatively more significant than another solely in virtue of resources, rights, economic opportunities and higher social status.”
Pope Francis told the group that as Catholic doctors, it is their mission to affirm the sacredness and inviolability of human life, which “must be loved, defended and cared for,” through word and example, each in their own personal style.
He encouraged them to collaborate with others, including those with different religions, in seeking to promote the dignity of the human being as a basic criterion of their work, and to follow the Gospel’s instruction to love at all times, especially when there is a special need.
“Your mission as doctors puts you in daily contact with so many forms of suffering,” he said, and he encouraged them to imitate the Good Samaritan in caring for the elderly, the sick and the disabled.
By remaining faithful to the Gospel of Life and respecting life as a gift, difficult decisions will come up that at times require courageous choices that go against the popular current, the pontiff noted, saying that this faithfulness can also lead “to conscientious objection.”
“This is what the members of your association have done in the course of 70 years of meritorious work,” the Pope observed, urging the doctors to continue implementing the teachings of the Magisterium into their work with trust and humility.