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State must ensure right to life

Angelus, August 7, 1994

Inalienable right is constitutive element of civil society, Holy Father says

Respect for the right to life of every human being from the moment of conception was the subject of the Holy Father's meditation before reciting the Angelus on Sunday, 7 August. Speaking to the faithful in the courtyard of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope expressed his hope that world leaders, particularly at the forthcoming Cairo Conference, would reaffirm the policy that "in no way should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning". Here is a translation of the Holy Father's reflection, which was given in Italian.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. At the 1984 International Population Conference held in Mexico City, it was rightly stated that "in no way should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning". I hope, we hope, that this directive will be forcefully reaffirmed at the forthcoming Conference in Cairo. Should the opposite policy be asserted instead in order further to legitimize the legal practice of abortion, humanity would suffer another great breakdown of right and justice.

The following moral principle applies not only for individuals but also for States and the international community: "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life" (CCC, n. 2270).

The Council did not hesitate to describe abortion as an "abominable crime" (Gaudium et spes, n. 51). The basis for this severe judgement is not only the word of Revelation, but also that of human reason. Today science itself offers its own confirmation of the embryo's human nature, assuring us that from the moment of conception it is an original and biologically autonomous being, endowed with an inner pattern of development that will unfold without loss of continuity until full maturity. Precisely for this reason God's commandment, "You shall not kill", applies to the embryo no less than to individuals already born.

2. The State has the task of guaranteeing and fostering respect for the life of each human being in every possible way. Freedom of conscience and choice cannot be invoked against this duty, because respect for life is the basis of all other rights, including those of freedom. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation" (CCC, n. 2273), since "the moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the State is denying the equality of all before the law. When the State does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a State based on law are undermined" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum vitae, ch. III).

3. Let us beseech the Virgin Mother of God to enlighten the consciences of leaders and to help humanity safeguard the respect owed to the dignity and value of every human life from the moment of its conception. May Mary, who had the privilege of carrying the Lord of life in her womb, enable parents to respect the life they are called to beget, society to support mothers at risk with effective measures, governments to pass laws always and only at the service of life.

4. As we now turn to the Blessed Virgin in our Angelus prayer, today too we wish to recall the noble figure of my predecessor, Pope Paul VI, the anniversary of whose death occurred yesterday. In his luminous magisterium he always courageously emphasized the dignity of every human being and the inviolable value of his life.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

To all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors I offer my cordial greetings. It is my prayer for you that the love of God and the glory of Christ will continue to transform your lives, making you ever more radiant temples of the Holy Spirit. May the blessings of the Lord's presence fill you with peace and joy.


Teachings of the Magisterium on Abortion

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