Human Dignity Doesn't Hinge on "Quality of Life," Says Pope

Goes Beyond Economic or Corporal Dimension, He Insists

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 21, 2005 ( A person’s dignity does not depend on his “quality of life,” which nowadays is sometimes interpreted as merely the ability to experience pleasure, says John Paul II.

Increasingly “so-called quality of life is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency, inordinate consumerism, physical beauty and pleasure, to the neglect of the more profound dimensions — interpersonal, spiritual and religious — of existence,” stated the Pope in a message addressed to the participants in the general assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life. The assembly began today.

The papal message, addressed to Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the academy, is a defense of the right to life of persons “who are still not capable or are no longer capable of understanding and loving.”

“The essential quality that characterizes every human creature,” the Holy Father said, is his “being created in the image and likeness of the Creator himself.”

“This level of dignity and quality belongs to the ontological order and forms a constitutive part of the human being, it remains throughout life, from the first instant of his conception until natural death,” John Paul II observed. “Therefore, man must be recognized and respected in every condition of health, illness or disability.

“Starting from the recognition of life and the peculiar dignity of every person, society must promote, in cooperation with the family and other intermediary bodies, the concrete conditions to develop harmoniously the personality of each one, according to his natural capacities.”

The Pope continued: “All the dimensions of the person — the corporal, psychological, spiritual and/or moral — must be promoted in a harmonious way. This implies the presence of social and environmental conditions capable of fostering a harmonious development.”

“The socio-environmental context, therefore, characterizes this second level of quality of human life, which must be recognized to all men, including those living in developing countries,” he added.

However, a different concept of “quality of life” is now spreading, “reductive and selective,” the Holy Father warned.

This concept consists in “the capacity to enjoy and experience pleasure, or in the capacity of self-awareness and of participation in social life,” continued the Pope.

This mentality “denies all quality of life to human beings who are not yet capable or who are no longer capable of understanding and loving, or those who are no longer able to enjoy life as sensation or relationship,” he said.

After pointing out that the concept of “health” has suffered a similar diversion, the Pope focused on a paradox of contemporary societies.

On one hand, “humanity appears today, in ample parts of the world, as the victim of the welfare it itself has created,” he wrote.

“In other, much larger parts, it is the victim of widespread and devastating illnesses, whose virulence stems from misery and the degradation of the environment,” the Pontiff added.

The Pope’s message concluded appealing for the mobilization of “the forces of science and wisdom at the service of the genuine good of the person and of society in all parts of the world, in the light of the background criteria which is the dignity of the person, in whom the very image of God is imprinted.”

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