On Saturday the Holy Father met with participants of a congress titled, “New frontiers of genetics and the dangers of eugenics." In his address, the Pontiff cautioned against the threat of eugenics and encouraged his audience to love those often rejected by society.
Speaking to a congress sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life on the occasion of its 25th general assembly, Pope Benedict first praised the scientific progress made in the world of health, and then discussed “genetic reductionism,” a term which refers to identifying “individuals exclusively in terms of genetic information and its interaction with the environment.”
Through the collaboration among the various branches of science, said Pope Benedict, it is possible to avoid the risk of genetic reductionism. He also stressed that man will always be greater than his genetic information and his interactions. “He has, in fact, the power of thought which always tends towards the truth about himself and the world."
"Each human being, then, is much more than an individual combination of genetic information transmitted by his or her parents,” he said. “The arrival of a new person into the world is always a new creation.”
Referring then to the dangers of eugenics, the Holy Father noted how, despite its having been condemned in the past, "worrying manifestations of this odious practice," still persist. "A new mentality is insinuating itself," he cautioned, "one that tends towards a different view of life and of personal dignity founded on personal desires and individual rights.
“The tendency is to favor operative capacity, efficiency, perfection and physical beauty, to the detriment of other dimensions of existence which are not considered to be worthy. In this way, we diminish the respect that is due to each human being, even in the presence of a defect in his or her development or of a genetic ailment which may manifest itself during the course of a person's life; while children whose lives are judged as being unworthy to be lived are penalized from conception.”
Pope Benedict then underscored the fact that all forms of discrimination against “individuals, people or ethnic groups on the basis of differences in real or presumed genetic factors is an attack on the entire human race.”
All human beings “by the very fact of having been born, enjoy equal dignity,” he taught. “Biological, mental and cultural development, or the state of a person's health, must never become a factor for discrimination."
Benedict XVI ended his address encouraging his audience to “consolidate a culture of acceptance and love, showing real solidarity towards those who suffer and breaking down the barriers that society often puts up to discriminate against people affected by disabilities or serious illness or, worse still, to select and reject life in the name of an abstract ideal of health and physical perfection.”
“If man is reduced to an object of experimental manipulation from the earliest stages of his development, this means that medical biotechnology submits to the will of the strongest.
“Faith in science must not make us forget the primacy of ethics when human life is at stake," he advised.