Cardinal Pell: Pro-Lifers Need to Pull Heartstrings

Receives “Mysterium Vitae” Award From Seoul Archdiocese

SEOUL, South Korea, JAN. 23, 2008 ( When Cardinal George Pell received an award for his pro-life work, he encouraged fellow defenders of life to work at awakening wonder and awe among their contemporaries.

The archbishop of Sydney, Australia, received the first annual “Mysterium Vitae” (Mystery of Life) Grand Prix award granted by the Archdiocese of Seoul. The award included a prize of more than $104,000, which Cardinal Pell said will go to fund pro-life initiatives.

At an acceptance speech Jan. 17, Cardinal Pell reviewed some of the main attacks against life in all of its stages, ranging from abortion and euthanasia, to the destruction of embryos for research and cloning. But, he said, “We should remember that people are often moved more by their heartstrings than by their heads.”

“This fact is certainly not lost on proponents of destructive embryo research who continue to advance their case through the mouths of young children with insulin-dependent diabetes or former high-profile athletes who have been tragically struck down by paraplegia,” the cardinal noted. “A five-day-old human embryo in a Petri dish usually has little chance of evoking the same degree of sympathy as people with incurable illnesses or disabilities.”

Drawing in

But the cardinal contended that emotive arguments can also work in favor of the pro-life cause. “There are other deep emotions and intuitions such as wonder and awe which can draw people toward a pro-life perspective,” he said.

Cardinal Pell used the example of Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka to prove his point. The scientist investigated the reprogramming of human skin cells to pluripotent stem cells, thus avoiding the ethical problems with the cloning and destruction of human embryos.

The cardinal explained that it was “ethical qualms” that led Yamanaka to work on reprogramming: The doctor was viewing a human embryo through a microscope when, the New York Times reported, he realized that “there was such a small difference between it and my daughters.”

The 66-year-old cardinal said the example “reminds us that while morally upright principles are indispensable, it is impossible to apply them in a vacuum.”

He added that “the modern discipline of bioethics usually has very little to say about these deeper questions.” He lamented that too often “bioethics has become overly rational, abstract, procedural and ideological.”


Cardinal Pell contended that the role of religious traditions can aid this situation, “especially in helping others to develop what John Paul II described as a ‘contemplative outlook.'”

He explained: “We need first of all to foster, in ourselves and in others, a contemplative outlook. Such an outlook arises from faith in the God of life, who has created every individual as a ‘wonder.’ It is the outlook of those who see life in its deeper meaning, who grasp its utter gratuitousness, its beauty and its invitation to freedom and responsibility.

“This outlook does not give in to discouragement when confronted by those who are sick, suffering, outcast or at death’s door. Instead, in all these situations it feels challenged to find meaning, and precisely in these circumstances it is open to perceiving in the face of every person a call to encounter, dialogue and solidarity.”

Cardinal Pell contended, then, that “a primary task for the pro-life movement is to draw society into deeper reflection about the mystery, wonder and value of human life.”

He added: “We need to promote an alternative to the technological outlook which seeks to control and manipulate birth and death, to reduce nature to ‘matter,’ to elevate having over being, to depersonalize the body and sexuality, and to replace the criterion of personal dignity with the criterion of efficiency, functionality and usefulness.

“Our task is to call our brothers and sisters’ hearts and minds to wonder and awe.”

Changing tides

Cardinal Pell was awarded the prize, in part, for the founding of the Australian campus of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family while he was archbishop of Melbourne, the establishment of the Archdiocese of Sydney’s biannual grant of 100,000 Australian dollars (US $87,442) to support adult stem cell research in Australia, and the formation of a support service for pregnant women in Sydney.

“It is an immense honor to receive this prize, and I am particularly delighted to receive it from Cardinal [Nicholas] Cheong who has himself given such distinguished and effective leadership to pro-life efforts in his region,” Cardinal Pell said.

He added: “In 2005, for example, Cardinal Cheong committed $10 million to the establishment of the Catholic Institute of Cell Therapy in Seoul to support adult stem cell research.

“The year before the institute was established, 60% of government and private funding for stem cell research was directed to embryonic stem cells and cloning. This situation has now been reversed, with 60% of funding from all sources last year going to adult stem cell work.

“Cardinal Cheong and his collaborators are creating new and effective ways of promoting a culture of life from which the Church throughout the world, and in Australia, can learn.”

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a micro-donation

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a micro-donation