.- The Vatican publicized a letter from John Paul II to Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and to participants in a study congress themed, "The Quality of Life and the Ethics of Health," being held in the Vatican from February 21 to 23. In his letter, The Holy Father wrote that, "in the first place, it is necessary to recognize the essential quality that distinguishes each human being by the fact of being created in the image and likeness of the Creator Himself.”
“This level of dignity and quality”, he continued, “belongs to the ontological order and is constitutive of the human person, it endures in every moment of life, from the first instant of conception up to natural death, and it is fully realized in the dimension of eternal life. Consequently, man must be recognized and respected in any condition of health, illness or disability."
"Under pressure from affluent societies," the Pope said, "a notion of the quality of life is being favored which is at the same time both reductive and selective, and which consists in the capacity to enjoy and to experience pleasure, or even in the capacity for self-awareness and participation in social life.”
As a consequence, any kind of quality of life is denied to human beings not yet or no longer capable of expressing their intelligence and will, and to those no longer capable of enjoying life as a series of sensations and relationships."
Later in the Message, John Paul II referred to the moral dimension of the concept of health, "that cannot be overlooked." After recalling the spread of alcoholism, drugs and AIDS, he adds, "How much of life's energy, and how many young people's lives, could be saved and kept healthy if each individual had the moral responsibility to know how to promote better prevention and the conservation of that precious good we call health!”
The Pope also clarified that, "Of course, health is not an absolute good, especially when it is seen as simple physical well-being, mythicized to the point that it restricts or overlooks higher ends, even proposing reasons of health in the refusal of nascent life.”
This is what happens in so-called 'reproductive health.' How can we not recognize in this a reductive and deviant concept of health?" Health, the Pope highlighted, "can only be sacrificed to attain higher ends, as is sometimes asked in service towards God, towards the family, towards our brothers and sisters or towards society as a whole.”
He added that, “Health must be guarded and cured as the mental-physical and spiritual equilibrium of the human being. Squandering health because of various disorders, especially those associated with the moral degradation of the individual, represents a serious ethical and social responsibility."