02/20/2007, 00.00
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Conscientious objection means assuming responsibility for the weakest, says Mgr Sgreccia

The goal is to give voice to those who have neither electoral weight nor economic power, but have the same dignity as each one of us. Today’s “ideologically tolerant” society cannot endure absolute truths. Reports that a Vatican statement on artificial contraceptives is imminent have been denied.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Conscientious objection stems from the conviction that it is necessary to avoid evil; it is not a flight from reality but helpful witness vis-à-vis situations featuring the frailty of human life. The question of personal conscience with respect to moral issues and the law in the health care field, a field open to controversy and conflict, is at the centre of an international congress entitled Christian Conscience in Support of the Right to Life, presented today in the Vatican by the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Conscientious objection, said Mgr Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Council for Life, “is not the only premise informing Christian conscience in the health care field. Indeed, Christian conscience requires a positive witness in the service, love, veneration, as someone wrote, of every brother’s life.”

Mgr Sgreccia further noted that today’s society is strongly inclined to the homogenisation of behaviours to the extent that people’s conscience can be exchanged. Given life’s fragility at a certain age or in certain situations, we “must respond to the call to awareness and responsibility that stem from our conscience which seeks inner coherence and valid support for life when it is under threat. It is our opinion that in a society that truly wants to remain democratic, one’s conscience must be able to express itself for those who have no voice or cannot speak for themselves. Christians must aim at giving voice to those who have neither electoral weight nor economic power, but have the same dignity as each one of us.”

What is more, throughout history from Socrates to Thomas More, said Mgr Jean Laffitte, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and professor of anthropology and of conjugal spirituality, “men and women have born witness—in critical moments of their life when they faced religiously or morally relevant personal choices—and found themselves called upon to disobey the law. Acts of disobedience to man-made laws must be based on one’s moral conscience in which other laws come into play, immutable and unwritten one, laws of a religious or moral nature.”

This said, in the course of time, the concept of tolerance has evolved and become “ideological.” At a social level, an ideologically tolerant society has been created. In such a society, ideological tolerance has always been “linked to an individualistic concept of moral conscience. . . . And the norms received from moral authority, from social tradition and from the teaching of the religious authorities will, at best, be considered as interesting guidelines or stimulating opinions upon which to reflect, but in no case will such norms involve the individual as a moral subject.”

Yet in practice, society finds itself “always on more theoretically tolerant positions, positions surely disturbing from the point of view of the consensual balance it claims to maintain. This way it imposes a single way of thinking that can generate a form of ideological and social totalitarianism. The only way to escape from this totalitarian hold, the only truly realistic response at a philosophical and legal level is the positive assertion of the dignity of man, of every man, as a truth valid for everyone. This makes a true debate possible because one’s interlocutor is in all cases considered worthy, i.e. someone who is a respected bearer of the freedom to which he is entitled. This attitude is truly tolerant but does not fall within the purview of ideological tolerance.”

During the meeting, Mgr Sgreccia and the director of Vatican Press Bureau, Fr Federico Lombardi, denied press reports according to which the Vatican would be making a statement on the use of artificial contraceptives.

Father Lombardi explained that such rumours might have started when Mgr Angelo Amato, secretary of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, mentioned that background research was being conducted to update the Instruction Donum Vitae. However, said Father Lombardi, the review process on the matter does not appear to be over.

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