Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Man will always be greater than all that which makes up his body; in fact, he bears the power of thought, which is always directed toward the truth about himself and about the world." With these words, Benedict XVI has taken part in the discussion about the "New frontiers of genetics and the risk of eugenics" organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life and currently underway. Receiving the members of the Academy, on the occasion of their 15th General Assembly, he cautioned against a devastating new form of eugenics that discriminates "against the sick and disabled, or, even worse, goes so far as the selection and rejection of life in the name of an abstract ideal of health and physical perfection."
The pope's words come as the debate continues in Italy over the case of Eluana Englaro, a woman who had spent 17 years in a vegetative coma, and died after her nutrition and hydration were removed by judicial decree. In the rest of the world, in addition to attempts to pass laws on euthanasia, there are also widespread efforts to manipulate embryos and fetuses in the search for "healthy children." The pontiff noted that today there is rejection of the eugenics of the past, "forcibly imposed by a state regime, or the result of hatred toward a race or a population," and that this is also condemned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , but "a new mentality is insinuating itself, which tends to justify a different consideration of life and personal dignity, based on one's own desire and individual freedom. The tendency, therefore, is to give precedence to the active faculties, to proficiency, to physical perfection and beauty, to the detriment of other dimensions of existence that are not thought to matter. This weakens the respect that is due to every human being, even in the presence of a developmental defect or a genetic illness that could be manifested at some point in his life, and those children whose life is judged as not worth living are punished from the point of conception."
And he added: "If man is reduced to an object of experimental manipulation from the very first stages of his development, this means that medical biotechnology has given in to the will of the strongest. Confidence in science may not overshadow the primacy of ethics when human life is at stake."
Benedict XVI stressed the great progress that has been made in the area of genetics, but asked that this science grow in tandem with the other sciences, in order to avoid "genetic reductionism, inclined to identify the person exclusively with regard to genetic information and its interactions with the environment." And in order to communicate the absolute value of the human person, the pontiff quoted the thinker and scientist Blaise Pascal: "Man is a reed, the weakest thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed. The whole universe does not need to take up arms to crush him; a vapor, a drop of water, is enough to kill him. But if the universe were to crush him, man would still be nobler than what killed him, because he knows he is dying and the advantage the universe has over him. The universe knows nothing of this" (Pensées, 347).
The pope also urged those present to "reinforce the culture of acceptance and love, which testify concretely to solidarity with those who suffer, knocking down the barriers that society often sets up by discriminating against those who are sick or disabled." "Biological, psychological, and cultural development, and the condition of one's health," he added, "may never become elements of discrimination."