Monday, February 23, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI warns of the Dangers of Eugenics

Pope Benedict XVI in an address to the Pontifical Academy of Life on Saturday 21st February welcomed progress in the area of genetics which he said has “truly taken giant steps in understanding the basic language of biological information, which determines the development of a living being.” This knowledge according to the Holy Father makes it possible to more easily arrive at earlier and more effective diagnosis of genetic maladies, but also to create therapies to alleviate illnesses and, in some cases, to restore, the hope of regaining health.

Pope Benedict said that in addition to the challenges of genetics there is a danger of the re-emergence of eugenics which, in the past humiliated man and provoked immense suffering. The Pope acknowledged that while the terrible practices of former regimes were not being proposed he told his audience, that a new mentality is creeping in that tends to justify a different consideration of life and personal dignity based on individual desire and individual rights.

There is thus he said "a tendency to privilege the capacities for work, efficiency, perfection and physical beauty to the detriment of other dimensions of existence that are not held to be valuable". In this way, “ the respect that is due to every human being -- even in the presence of a defect in his development or a genetic illness that could manifest itself in the course of his life -- is weakened, and those children whose life is judged unworthy of being lived are punished from the moment of conception”.

Pope Benedict also told his audience that, “it is necessary to re-emphasize that every discrimination exercised by any power in regard to persons, peoples or ethnic groups on the basis of differences that stem from real or presumed genetic factors is an act of violence against all of humanity". What must be forcefully re-emphasized he said, "is the equal dignity of every human being according to the fact itself of having life.”

The Holy Father during the course of his address also said that “if man is reduced to an object of experimental manipulation from the first stage of development, that would mean that biotechnologies would surrender to the will of the stronger”. Confidence in science he told his audience “cannot forget the primacy of ethics when human life is at stake”.