Prelate: In Life's Defense, Church Goes to the Max

Denounces “Morality of the Minimum”

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By Carmen Elena Villa

ROME, NOV. 12, 2009 ( The secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is underlining the Church’s commitment to give the maximum effort to defend life and human dignity.

Archbishop Luis Ladaria stated this Tuesday in a conference sponsored by the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas, a place of study, reflection and interreligious exchange for university students residing in Rome.

He spoke to an audience of students about “Dignitatis Personae” and a new approach it presents to upholding human dignity. Since the majority of the audience was English-speaking, Archbishop Ladaria made special mention of Benedict XVI’s presentation of the copy of this document to U.S. President Barack Obama last July.

The prelate pointed out that the 2008 document speaks about the defense of life, emphasizing the prenatal stage and the new challenges in this area due to genetic manipulation, artificial insemination, cloning and in vitro fertilization.

He underlined the fact that human dignity “is not granted” by earthly institutions, but “is recognized as a previous fact.”

The archbishop indicated that the grandeur of this dignity reaches its summit in the person of Jesus Christ “because God became man.” He added, “This is the greatest possible dignity we can think of.”

Science has proven that there is human life from the moment of conception, the archbishop affirmed, hence, the new being already has a soul and a spirit. 

He explained: “If it is a human, it is always a person. There is nothing abstract in him.”

From the moment the zygote begins to exist there is no change in its nature, he said.

Archbishop Ladaria continued: “It has a full anthropological qualification; there is a continuity; there are no leaps that have in them substantial mutations, the embryonic body develops. One can see the decisive reason to accept the very dignity of the person.”

God’s image

He asked his audience, “Why do Christians give so much importance to the concept of person?”

The prelate affirmed: “Man and woman have been created in the image and likeness of God. 

“The concept of person is essential for approaches to the mystery of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Man is a person, Christ is a person in his relationship with the Father; he is Son.”

Archbishop Ladaria pointed out that this type of argument is ignored when ideologies are promoted that go against life. Often, he lamented, man “is considered a number.”

The prelate recalled: “In concentration camps they wanted to eliminate human dignity, so they gave a number. This is a way of offending the person, of reducing him.”

Dignity, he explained, goes beyond a number, and is related to “unique and unrepeatable characteristics.”

The Church is not an institution that opposes arbitrarily any scientific advancement, the archbishop stated. Rather, it questions the possibility of the new technology that detaches the beginning of life from the conjugal union.

“Only in the ambit of marriage and the family is the origin of human life to be found,” he said. “Procreation must be the fruit of marriage.”

Archbishop Ladaria pointed out that man must always be aware of his vocation of co-creator. 

“Procreation is a special cooperation,” he said. “Only in human love, which is a reflection of divine love, in mutual donation, is found the context for cooperation with the love of God the creator.”

Grave discrimination

The archbishop pointed to the need for “personal and total commitment.” Thus, the “disassociation of procreation from the context of the conjugal act is ethically unacceptable.”

He added that the key is in seeing human life as an end in itself and not as a means to satisfy desires, needs or “rights” of those who wish to be parents.

The objective of the Church is to defend the most defenseless, the prelate affirmed. In this sense, he recalled Benedict XVI’s words last Jan. 8 when addressing ambassadors to the Holy See: “Unborn children,” are the poorest; therefore, the practices that are against them are a “grave discrimination.”

Archbishop Ladaria continued: “There is a natural law that man can also know in human law, human morality. Efforts are made to create bridges with other religious groups. Many are against abortion.”

He affirmed: “The Church proposes its doctrine; it does not propose a morality of minimums but of maximums. 

“It presents an ideal to which every believer must aspire, because there is a fundamental principle: Every Christian is called to holiness in keeping with his state in life.”

Human frailty exists, the prelate acknowledged, but we cannot fail to apply the rules because “we men are fragile.”

Because of our weakness, he said, the Church offers us the sacrament of penance, “but we do not fashion a Christianity of minimums.”

The archbishop concluded, “Holiness is our desire and our vocation.”

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