Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pope Benedict's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Africae Munus

Pope Benedict XVI to close his recent visit to Benin presented a document – Africae Munus a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, which sets out a charter for the evangelization of the African continent in the coming years.  
The document is comprehensive and is worth reading in full but it also contains very powerful recommendations on protecting life from conception to natural death and on the sacredness of the family. 
In the new document Pope Benedict praised the Synod Fathers for the concern expressed by them in respect of anti life measures, which use confusing and ambiguous language in international documents on women’s reproductive health, which could suggest support for abortion.
The following is an extract from the document

A. The protection of life
70. Among the initiatives aimed at protecting human life on the African continent, the Synod members took into consideration the efforts expended by international institutions to promote certain aspects of development.[109] Yet they noted with concern a lack of ethical clarity at international meetings, and specifically the use of confusing language conveying values at odds with Catholic moral teaching. The Church is perennially concerned for the integral development of “every man and the whole man”, as Pope Paul VI put it.[110] That is why the Synod Fathers took pains to emphasize the questionable elements found in certain international documents, especially those concerned with women’s reproductive health. The Church’s position on the matter of abortion is unambiguous. The child in his or her mother’s womb is a human life which must be protected. Abortion, which is the destruction of an innocent unborn child, is contrary to God’s will, for the value and dignity of human life must be protected from conception to natural death. The Church in Africa and the neighbouring islands must be committed to offering help and support to women and couples tempted to seek an abortion, while remaining close to those who have had this tragic experience and helping them to grow in respect for life. She acknowledges the courage of governments that have legislated against the culture of death – of which abortion is a dramatic expression – in favour of the culture of life.[111]
71. The Church knows that many individuals, associations, specialized groups and states reject sound teaching on this subject. “We must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the thinking of this world (cf. Rom 12:2). We must be in the world but not of the world (cf. Jn 15:19; 17:16), drawing our strength from Christ, who by his death and resurrection has overcome the world (cf. Jn16:33).”[112]
72. Serious threats loom over human life in Africa. Here, as elsewhere, one can only deplore the ravages of drug and alcohol abuse which destroy the continent’s human potential and afflict young people in particular.[113]Malaria,[114] as well as tuberculosis and AIDS, decimate the African peoples and gravely compromise their socio-economic life. The problem of AIDS, in particular, clearly calls for a medical and pharmaceutical response. This is not enough, however: the problem goes deeper. Above all, it is an ethical problem. The change of behaviour that it requires – for example, sexual abstinence, rejection of sexual promiscuity, fidelity within marriage – ultimately involves the question of integral development, which demands a global approach and a global response from the Church. For if it is to be effective, the prevention of AIDS must be based on a sex education that is itself grounded in an anthropology anchored in the natural law and enlightened by the word of God and the Church’s teaching.
73. In the name of life – which it is the Church’s duty to defend and protect – and in union with the Synod Fathers, I offer an expression of renewed encouragement and support to all the Church’s institutions and movements that are working in the field of healthcare, especially with regard to AIDS. You are doing wonderful and important work. I ask international agencies to acknowledge you and to offer you assistance, respecting your specific character and acting in a spirit of collaboration. Once again, I warmly encourage those institutes and programmes of therapeutic and pharmaceutical research which seek to eradicate pandemics. Spare no effort to arrive at results as swiftly as possible, out of love for the precious gift of life.[115] May you discover solutions and provide everyone with access to treatments and medicines, taking account of uncertain situations! The Church, indeed, has been pleading for a long time for high quality medical treatment to be made available at minimum cost to all concerned.[116]