The Dignity of Human Life

Pope St. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici 38 [T]he common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights – for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture – is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with the maximum determination.

The dignity of human life from conception to natural death is the foundational human right.

It excludes, abortion, euthanasia, human embryonic research and manipulation, whether to obtain embryonic stem cells or for artificial reproduction technologies, and any other intentional killing of the innocent in peace or war. The taking of innocent human life is an intrinsic evil which may never be justified.

Even the criminal deserves to have his human dignity respected.

The taking of the life of the criminal guilty of a capital crime, if deserving in justice of that penalty, or an enemy combatant in wartime, although they are not innocent still deserve a rigorous application of the norms concerning self-defense.

The innocent unborn human being has no such protection!

The elderly, the terminally ill, the severely emotional distressed, and the person in a so-called "vegetative state," increasingly are finding that governments, courts, and caretakers believe they have the authority to decide the life and death of the innocent. It all started with de-humanizing the unborn child.

Pope St. John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium Vitae 58

Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an ‘unspeakable crime’.

EV 59

[O]ne cannot overlook the network of complicity which reaches out to include international institutions, foundations and associations which systematically campaign for the legalization and spread of abortion in the world.

EV 71

The legal toleration of abortion or of euthanasia can in no way claim to be based on respect for the conscience of others, precisely because society has the right and the duty to protect itself against the abuses which can occur in the name of conscience and under the pretext of freedom.

EV 74

Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God's law.

Pope St. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 30

[A]ny violence applied by such authorities in favor of contraception or, still worse, of sterilization and procured abortion, must be altogether condemned and forcefully rejected. Likewise to be denounced as gravely unjust are cases where, in international relations, economic help given for the advancement of peoples is made conditional on programs of contraception, sterilization and procured abortion."

Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Caritas in Veritate 51

If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves. The book of nature is one and indivisible: it takes in not only the environment but also life, sexuality, marriage, the family, social relations: in a word, integral human development...It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society."

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship 22

There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called ‘intrinsically evil’ actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, ‘abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others’ (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed."

Ibid. 44

Human life is sacred. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Direct attacks on innocent persons are never morally acceptable, at any stage or in any condition. In our society, human life is especially under direct attack from abortion, which some political actors mischaracterize as an issue of "women’s health." Other direct threats to the sanctity of human life include euthanasia and assisted suicide (sometimes falsely labelled as ‘death with dignity’), human cloning, in vitro fertilization, and the destruction of human embryos for research.

Forming Consciences 64

Our 1998 statement, Living the Gospel of Life, declares, "Abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human life and dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental good and the condition for all others" (no. 5). Abortion, the deliberate killing of a human being before birth, is never morally acceptable and must always be opposed. Cloning and destruction of human embryos for research or even for potential cures are always wrong. The purposeful taking of human life by assisted suicide and euthanasia is not an act of mercy, but an unjustifiable assault on human life. Genocide, torture, and the direct and intentional targeting of noncombatants in war or terrorist attacks are always wrong.

Forming Consciences 65

Laws that legitimize any of these practices are profoundly unjust and immoral. Our Conference supports laws and policies to protect human life to the maximum degree possible, including constitutional protection for the unborn and legislative efforts to end abortion, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. We also promote a culture of life by supporting laws and programs that encourage childbirth and adoption over abortion and by addressing poverty, providing health care, and offering other assistance to pregnant women, children, and families.

Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life)

Resource Type: Document Library

THE GOSPEL OF LIFE is at the heart of Jesus' message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as "good news" to the people of every age and culture.

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Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

"If indeed ‘the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics,’ the Church ‘cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.’" So writes Pope Francis, quoting Pope Benedict XVI.

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