Humans More Than Bodies, Bodies More Than Cells

Leader of Vatican’s Health Care Council Defends Dignity

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By Antonio Gaspari

ROME, NOV. 12, 2009 ( The human body — even from the first stages of its existence — should not be reduced to the whole of its cells, a Vatican official in the field of health care is affirming.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, spoke about human identity and dignity in an event Wednesday in Rome marking the new academic year.

The prelate stressed that “the dignity of the person must be recognized in every human being, from conception until natural death; and this principle of dignity is so fundamental that it calls for a great ‘yes’ to human life.”

This “yes,” the archbishop added, “must be at the center of ethical reflection on biomedical research, which has ever greater importance in today’s world.”

Archbishop Zimowski noted how medical sciences have markedly increased their knowledge on human life in the initial stages of its existence, better understanding the biological structures of man and the process of his generation.

“These developments are certainly positive and merit being supported when they serve to overcome or correct pathologies and contribute to re-establish the normal development of the generative processes,” he said.

“However, and it must be said clearly, they are negative and hence cannot be shared, if they imply the suppression of human beings,” the Vatican official clarified, “or [if they] use means that harm the person’s liberty or are adopted for ends that are contrary to man’s integral good.”


Taking up the words of Pope John Paul II in “Novo Millennio Ineunte,” Archbishop Zimowski declared that the Church must be radical in proclaiming the value of life.

This defense “is on the ecclesial agenda of charity,” he said, and responds to the “duty to be committed to the respect of every human being from conception to his natural death.”

“In the same way,” the archbishop continued, “the service to man obliges us to cry out, opportunely or inopportunely, that those who make use of the new powers of science, especially in the area of biotechnology, cannot neglect the fundamental demands of ethics, by appealing perhaps to a debatable solidarity that ends up discriminating between life and life, showing contempt for the very reality of each human being.”

In this context, the prelate said that man’s life is at the heart of Christ’s message, because “it is man, that great and wonderful living figure, more precious in God’s eyes than the whole of creation.”

“In the plan of God the Creator, everything has been created for man, but man has been created to serve God and to offer the whole of creation to him,” he said. Because of this, the defense of life understood as charity “is necessarily at the service of culture, of politics, of the economy, of the family — so that the fundamental principles on which the destiny of the human being and the future of civilization depend are respected everywhere.”

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