Just prior to the joyous Advent/Christmas season, which only now is beginning to fade for another year, a host of critical religious issues has remained waiting for editorial comment or explanation. Surely one subject was Pope Francis’ brief, yet powerful talk in the fall to a meeting of members of the Catholic Medical Associates – bioethicists, physicians and various health care professionals.
For one thing, the Holy Father remarked, health care professionals are, by definition, as well as by historical record, servants of life; hence, must totally avoid being absorbed, or even affected, by the ambient "cultural disorientation." Citing Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, "openness to life is at the center of true development." This means, quite bluntly, that true human progress presumes unflagging commitment to reverence for human life. Here, Pope Francis is quick to identify the irony of the common situation today wherein persons are accorded all kinds of "new rights," yet human life as such "is not always protected as a primary value and primordial right of every human being." Nonetheless, the Pope maintains, the final objective of a physician’s service is "always the defense and promotion of life."
Secondly, Pope Francis affirms, "the Church makes an appeal to consciences," especially the conscience of health care professionals, above all, gynecologists.
On this second point, the Holy Father takes note of the "culture of waste" which is characteristic of pro-abortionists, for whom human embryos deemed superfluous or flawed (for whatever "reason") are discarded in what is obviously a barbaric process, unworthy of the ethical norms governing scientific or technological manipulations of procreation.
Concerning this "culture of waste," Pope Francis repeated the doctrine set forth so clearly by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1974: "The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and some are more precious, but this one is fundamental – the condition of all the others." (Declaration on Procured Abortion, n.11)
The Holy Father developed this doctrine in his typically frank and direct manner:
"In a frail human being, each one of us is invited to recognize the face of the Lord…Every child who, rather than being born, is condemned unjustly to being aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ…who even before he was born, and then just after birth, experienced the world’s rejection."
This same argument, the Pope added, also refers to the elderly infirm. The aged, he said, "cannot be discarded…cannot be thrown away!"
The third and final point made in his 20 September address to medical personnel is that their tasks do not merely constitute a profession, but rise to the level of a true ministry "where the charity of the Good Samaritan is the first seat of learning and the face of suffering man is the Christ’s own Face" (as Pope Benedict once put it).
Besides, Pope Francis concluded, everyone engaged in health care is called to revere life from the very beginning. Nor is this principle defensible by reference to religious life alone. On the contrary, reason is likewise a principal support of the same premiss. Indeed, Socrates and the Athenian philosophers who taught before Christianity was born, knew the same principle. Also knowable by reason is the truth that "there is no human life more sacred than another." Hence, the "credibility of a healthcare system is not measured solely by efficiency, but above all by the attention and love given to the person, whose life is always sacred and inviolable."