Vatican Radio has released a translation of Pope Francis’s remarks Saturday to the Association of Italian Catholic doctors. In it he praises them for “implementing the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church in the field of medical ethics”, and urges them to use the compassion of the Good Samaritan — offering concrete help — rather than the “false compassion” which is used to justify the taking of life, especially of the elderly and the unborn.
There is no doubt that, in our time, due to scientific and technical advancements, the possibilities for physical healing have significantly increased; and yet, in some respects it seems the ability to “take care” of the person has decreased, especially when he is sick, frail and helpless. In fact, the achievements of science and of medicine can contribute to the improvement of human life to the extent that they are not distanced from the ethical root of these disciplines. For this reason, you Catholic doctors are committed to live your profession as a human and spiritual mission, as a real lay apostolate.
Attention to human life, especially that in greatest difficulty, that is, to the sick, the elderly, children, deeply involves the mission of the Church. The Church also feels called to participate in the debate that relates to human life, presenting its proposal based on the Gospel. In many places, the quality of life is related primarily to economic means, to “well-being”, to the beauty and enjoyment of the physical, forgetting other more profound dimensions of existence — interpersonal, spiritual and religious. In fact, in the light of faith and right reason, human life is always sacred and always “of quality”. There is no human life that is more sacred than another – every human life is sacred – just as there is no human life qualitatively more significant than another, only by virtue of resources, rights, great social and economic opportunities.
This is what you, Catholic doctors, try to say, first of all with your professionalism. Your work wants to witness by word and by example that human life is always sacred, valuable and inviolable. And as such, it must be loved, defended and cared for. Your professionalism, enriched with the spirit of faith, is one more reason to work with those— even from different religious perspectives or thought—who recognize the dignity of the human person as a criterion for their activities. In fact, if the Hippocratic Oath commits you to always be servants of life, the Gospel pushes you further: to love it no matter what, especially when it is in need of special care and attention. This is what the members of your Association have done over seventy years of fine work. I urge you to continue with humility and trust on this road, striving to pursue your statutory goals of implementing the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church in the field of medical ethics.
The dominant thinking sometimes suggests a “false compassion”, that which believes that it is: helpful to women to promote abortion; an act of dignity to obtain euthanasia; a scientific breakthrough to “produce” a child and to consider it to be a right rather than a gift to welcome; or to use human lives as guinea pigs presumably to save others. Instead, the compassion of the Gospel is that which accompanies in times of need, that is, the compassion of the Good Samaritan, who “sees”, “has compassion”, approaches and provides concrete help (cf. Lk 10:33).
Your mission as doctors puts you in daily contact with many forms of suffering. I encourage you to take them on as “Good Samaritans”, caring in a special way for the elderly, the infirm and the disabled. Fidelity to the Gospel of life and respect for life as a gift from God sometimes require choices that are courageous and go against the current, which in particular circumstances, may become points of conscientious objection. And this fidelity entails many social consequences. We are living in a time of experimentation with life. But a bad experiment. Making children rather than accepting them as a gift, as I said. Playing with life. Be careful, because this is a sin against the Creator: against God the Creator, who created things this way. When so many times in my life as a priest I have heard objections: “But tell me, why is the Church opposed to abortion, for example? Is it a religious problem?” No, no. It is not a religious problem. “Is it a philosophical problem?” No, it is not a philosophical problem. It’s a scientific problem, because there is a human life there, and it is not lawful to take out a human life to solve a problem. “But no, modern thought…” But, listen, in ancient thought and modern thought, the word “kill” means the same thing. The same evaluation applies to euthanasia: we all know that with so many old people, in this throwaway culture, there is this hidden euthanasia. But there is also the other. And this is to say to God, “No, I will accomplish the end of life, as I will.” A sin against God the Creator! Think hard about this.
I hope the seventy years of your association will stimulate a further process of growth and maturation. May you work constructively with all the people and institutions who share your love of life and seek to serve it in its dignity, sanctity and inviolability. St. Camillus de Lellis, in suggesting the most effective method in caring for the sick, would simply say: “Put more heart into those hands.” Put more heart in these hands! This is also my hope. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Salus infirmorum, support the intentions with which you intend to continue your action. I ask you to please pray for me and I give you my heartfelt blessing.