“The reigning mentality sometimes proposes a ‘false compassion,’” said Pope Francis Saturday, “the idea that supporting abortion somehow helps women, or that euthanasia is an act of dignity.”
The Pope was speaking in the Vatican to a large group of participants of the Italian Catholic Medical Association, using the opportunity to weigh in on a number of bioethical issues.
Along with abortion and euthanasia, the Pope held up two other examples of this “false compassion,” typical of the modern world. The first is to consider it “a scientific breakthrough to ‘produce’ a child that people think they have a right to, rather than accepting it as gift.” The second would be “to use human lives as guinea pigs presumably to save others.”
Francis contrasted this false compassion with what he called “evangelical compassion.” This real compassion “is the one that accompanies others in times of need.” The model of evangelical compassion is the Good Samaritan, said Francis, “who ‘sees,’ ‘is moved with compassion,’ draws near, and provides practical help.”
“We are living in a time of experimentation with life,” said the Pope. “‘Making’ children rather than accepting them as a gift, playing with life. Be careful because this is a sin against the Creator, against God.”
The Pope also challenged the concept of “quality of life,” so common in bioethical discussions today, suggesting that “quality of life” is always present.
“By the light of both faith and right reason,” the Pope said, “human life is always sacred and always of ‘quality.’ There is no human life more sacred than another: all human life is sacred! Just as there is no human life qualitatively more significant than another.”
“In many places,” Francis continued, “quality of life is tied primarily to economic resources, to ‘well-being,’ to the beauty and enjoyment of physical life, forgetting other more profound dimensions of existence–the interpersonal, spiritual, and religious.”
The Pope related that many times in his life as a priest people have asked him, “But tell me: Why is the Church opposed to abortion? Is it a religious problem?” The Pope said that he would answer that it was “not a religious problem.” The next question would be, “Is it a philosophical problem?” and he would state, “No, it isn’t a philosophical problem. It is a scientific problem because there is a human life, and it is not lawful to destroy a human life to solve a problem.”
“The same applies to euthanasia,” the Pope continued. “We all know that in our culture of waste, with so many elderly people, euthanasia is practiced in secret, and sometimes openly. And this is to say to God, ‘No, I will end life as I want to’–a sin against God, the Creator. Think about this.”
Pope Francis issued a specific challenge to Catholic doctors: “Your work is to witness by word and by example that human life is always sacred, valuable, and inviolable, and as such, must be loved, defended, and treated,” he said.
He called them to be Good Samaritans, “taking special care of the elderly, the sick, and the disabled,” something that may require, he said, “courageous and unpopular choices that, in particular circumstances, may even come to conscientious objection.”