The study of virtues in the ethics of life is the theme chosen for the general assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, currently underway. In his address today to the members, Pope Francis affirmed that it is “a theme of academic interest that transmits an important message to contemporary culture: the good that man does is not the result of calculations or strategies, or even the product of genetic programming or social conditioning, but is rather the fruit of a well-disposed heart and of the free choice that tends to true goodness.”
“In our time, some cultural orientations no longer acknowledge the imprint of divine wisdom either in the realities created, or those of man,” the Pope said. “Human nature is thus reduced to mere matter, that may be moulded according to any design. Our humanity, however, is unique and so precious in God’s eyes. For this reason, the first nature to protect, so that it may bear fruit, is our human nature itself.”
“Virtue,” he continued, “is the most authentic expression of the good that man, with God’s help, is able to achieve. … It is not merely a habit, but the constantly renewed decision to choose good. … It is the highest expression of human freedom. Virtue is the best that the human heart offers.”
“The Sacred Scripture shows us the dynamic of the hardened heart: the more the heart tends towards selfishness and evil, the more difficult it is to change. As Jesus affirms, ‘Everyone who sins is a slave to sin’. And when the heart is corrupt, there are grave consequences for social life, as the prophet Jeremiah reminds us. … This condition cannot change either through theories, or by the effect of social or political reforms. Only the work of the Holy Spirit may change our hearts, if we collaborate: God Himself, in fact, assures His effective grace to all those who seek it and those who convert with all their heart.”
Francis went on to comment that nowadays there are many institutions committed to service to life, through research, assistance and the promotion not only of good actions, but also passion for goodness. But there are also many structures governed by economic interests rather than concern for the common good.
“Nowadays there is no lack of scientific knowledge and technical tools able to offer support to human life in situations in which it is shown to be weak, but at times humanity is lacking,” he said. “Acting for good is not the correct application of ethical knowledge, but rather presupposes a real interest in the fragile person. May doctors and all healthcare workers never neglect to unite science and technology with humanity.”
“Here I would like to repeat something I have said a number of times. We must be wary of the new ideological colonisations that enter into human and even Christian thought, in the form of virtues, modernity and new attitudes. They are colonisations – that is, they take away freedom, and they are ideological – that is, they are afraid of reality as God created it,” he concluded.
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