Pontifical Councils
Christians must have recourse to conscience, Vatican conference concludes

.- Christians must have recourse to conscientious objection to abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, said the President of Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, at the conclusion of a conference last week.

“Until now we were familiar with objection of conscience in two fields, against military service and war and against abortion and sterilization,” he said, but there are many other cases today. “For example, the morning-after pill, or chemical abortion, and other methods including vaccines used in the third world,” he said.

The bishop was speaking at a two-day general assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life at the Vatican, Feb. 23-24. About 400 participants from around the world participated. The theme was: “The Christian Conscience Supports the Right to Life”.

“The conscience is often called the sanctuary of the person, the most secret nucleus which decides man’s action,” Bishop Sgreccia said. “Since it is a sacred place the conscience can also be profaned, destroyed - but like the temple, it can be rebuilt.

“Conscience seen as a source of water must remain pure, upright, certain.  It can be polluted but returning to the source it is purified,” he said.

During the conference Cardinal Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral, also spoke, examining the relationship between conscience and culture and exposed his reflections on writings of John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI on conscience.

Bishop Jean Laffitte spoke about “the history of conscientious objection and different views of the concept of tolerance.”

“An ideologically tolerant society, in the present day sense of the term, cannot tolerate conscience objection because this escapes its control: in fact it cannot tolerate the idea that there is a truth to be found,” he said, referring to the paradox. “To escape this totalitarian undertaking, the only response is the positive affirmation of human dignity as a truth valid for all.”

Professors also gave overviews on relevant legislation in Europe and personal and social responsibility in the context of the protection of human life.

Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, gave the closing address. He spoke the commitment to promote life in developing countries.

The prefect highlighted three fundamental principles which should guide Christians in the promotion of life: the primacy of charity, the formation of conscience, and the necessity to renew efforts to announce God’s absolute and universal Lordship over all creation.

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