Conclusions of the International Congress of European Pro-Life Movements in Granada
CONCLUSIONS OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF EUROPEAN PRO-LIFE MOVEMENTS IN GRANADA
Pro-Life Movements of Europe
Over 2,000 people gathered from 7 to 9 April in Granada, Spain, for the European Congress of Pro-Life Movements, with the theme: "Europe for Life: Evangelium vitae in the Third Millennium".(1) There was also a significant presence of American dignitaries at this Congress, which was meant to strengthen relations between Europe and America in the defence and promotion of life. On 8 April during the Congress, the Meeting of Young Europeans for Life was also held, with more than 1,800 participants from the four corners of Europe.
We, the Pro-Life Movements of all Europe called together by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, President of the Pontitical Council for the Family, Archbishop Antonio Canizares Llovera of Granada, Spain, and Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla, Chairman of the Subcommission for the Family and Life of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, present the following conclusions of the European Congress of Pro-Life Movements, held in Granada from 7 to 9 April 2000, which include a number of recommendations:
1. Human life is the first gift we receive and the foundation on which a person's other gifts are built. This life has a unique dignity: man is created in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:26). Our Pro-Life Movements recognize this unique dignity of the human person.(2) The divine action creating the human person confers a certain sacredness on the act of cooperation with God by which life is communicated and which must remain open to it.(3) By its origin and divine vocation, human life is inviolable from its first moment to its natural end.
2. The European Pro-Life Movements agree in declaring that God has inscribed in the human heart the ability to recognize human dignity and its requirements. The natural law is a valid reference-point for social dialogue on the defence of life with all people of good will. We must increase our efforts to be present in society, seeking ever greater conviction on the truth about human life in all European societies. A minority often uses statistics to manipulate public opinion, while the majority is basically pro-life. In the present situation it is urgently necessary to realize that the legalization of abortion, and possibly of euthanasia, can easily convince people that these actions are therefore morally licit. For this reason politicians and legislators have a serious responsibility to safeguard and promote fundamental values, particularly that of life. In Europe we have reached the point that laws have been woven into a network which will be difficult to dismantle in a short period. However, there is a pressing need to slow the race to new and ever more permissive cases, as well as to limit the damage and reduce their negative effects, wherever appropriate.(4) We thank the Pontifical Council for the Family, in the person of its President, for their valuable work of coordinating, motivating and encouraging the Pro-Life Movements and all who appreciate the defence of life throughout the world. We also declare our firm support for the Holy See's valuable activity as a Permanent Observer at the UN in promoting human life and its dignity at this important world forum of debate and decision-making, which is the United Nations.
3. The sexual difference between man and woman, which is at the basis of human life, was desired by God.(5) This truth is compromised by the ideology of "gender". In the integration of his personality, the person gradually becomes aware of his identity in a process of recognizing his own being and, consequently, the sexual dimension open to life, thus growing in awareness of his sexual identity and difference. Awareness of the psychobiological identity of one’s own sex (and its difference from the opposite sex) and of the social and cultural identity of the role in society played by persons of a given sex complement one another in a harmonious process of integration, in which human life finds the natural setting for its origins. People live in society and transmit life through conjugal love in accordance with the cultural aspects which correspond to their own sex. In this way, the integration of the personality is a recognition of the fullness of the person's inner truth. The ideology of "gender", on the other hand, holds that sexual identity is independent of personal sexual identity. Male and female, in themselves ordained to the transmission of life, are considered merely a "social construct", unrelated to the truth of the person, human love and life. Any sexual behaviour, even if closed to life, is justifiable according to this ideology of "gender". Sexual education that is open to life should be suitably introduced.(6) It is necessary to curb the tendency of international institutions to impose as obligatory a type of legislation and education in social values that is opposed to the family and to life.(7) In Europe we are seeing an attempt to replace families based on marriage with various kinds of de facto unions (including homosexual unions) contrary to the natural law. Our Pro-Life Movements adhere to the Declaration of the Pontifical Council for the Family regarding the European Parliament's recent resolution to propose iniquitous laws in this area to the parliaments.(8)
4. Marriage is the natural institution for the transmission of life. Only in this way is it possible to safeguard the child's right to be born, accepted, loved and raised in a family to which he brings a new dimension that enriches the spouses in their conjugal love and therefore the family and society as well. The current crisis of marriage and the family is one of the basic causes of the climate of hostility to life which we see in our day. Family and life are intimately linked. The essential properties of the institution of conjugal love are inscribed in human nature itself.(9) Love in marriage is fruitful. Our organizations know that separating sexual life from the transmission of life distorts the meaning of sexual life and of the difference between the sexes. The "trivialization" of sexual life is at the root of frequent marital crises and has also led to a terrible fall in the birth rate, especially evident in our European countries, which have deep Christian roots. As a result, children are no longer accepted for themselves and are reduced to objects of selfish desire, with all the limitations implied by such a desire. We hope that European governments will develop aid policies that will help families to grow. Greater consideration must be given to the financial aspects.
5. From the first moment the human embryo is a person endowed with a uniqueness already demonstrated by biologists. The embryo is therefore a person from conception.(10) As a human person from the very moment of his conception, the unborn child is a subject of rights, first and foremost the natural right to life, which must be recognized by law through a juridical statute in conformity with the ontological reality and regulating society's duty to give him adequate protection. To deny this duty of the juridical order is arbitrary. Our Pro-Life Movements wish to sensitize society as a whole to the fact that abortion is not one injustice against the human person among many others, but the gravest, since it is committed against the most innocent and defenceless human person: the embryo, from the moment of conception. Neither the mother nor the doctors have the right to dispose of life, much less of the life of another person. When abortion is legalized in any way, it opens the door to every other exception, such as the elimination of the disabled or the elderly. Permissiveness about abortion leads to the idea that there is a right to eliminate people. All this violates objective moral principles. This is a truth which natural reason can grasp by calm, objective reflection on the data of contemporary science and on natural ethical principles. From the beginning Christianity has had a clear awareness of this universal moral truth about the human person. The most ancient Christian writings say: "Do not kill a child by abortion" (Didache, 2, 2). "Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose their offspring" (Letter to Diognetus, 5). The second great commandment of the Old Testament extends to the embryo, that of love for neighbour, and later Jesus' new commandment at the Last Supper: to love one another to the end as Christ loved us (Jn 13:34). The person of the embryo must not only be respected, as natural reason itself recognizes, but also loved in his embryonic state as Christ loves him. God wants to protect him, like any human person, with the fifth commandment, which makes his elimination or manipulation always a grave sin.
6. Euthanasia is also gravely illicit. In all its forms it is murder and a violation of the divine commandment "Thou shalt not kill". Even when requested by a patient, it is still a direct, immoral cooperation in suicide.(11) Man does not forfeit his dignity in suffering or in his declining years. We would like to help the sick resist the temptation to despair. (12) This is true compassion. It is a very selfish attitude on the part of those close to the sick person to suggest his euthanasia as a way of avoiding the inconveniences he causes them. It is the duty of doctors and all other professionals to help restore the sick person to health, and when this is no longer possible, at least to alleviate his suffering. Palliative care, while avoiding the danger of aggressive treatment, is a sign of genuine mercy and respect for the terminally ill, and its quality must be improved much more than it is at present. It should never be put at the service of death. Since Pro-Life Movements are in favour of life, we are categorically opposed to euthanasia. Contemporary history teaches that opening the door to euthanasia is a slippery slope: from a desire to a need, from a need to a right, and eventually to that great violation of the sick person's rights, when euthanasia is applied against his will. The noblest medical traditions, beginning with Hippocrates, tried to close the door to this aberration. Human dignity remains intact in the extreme helplessness of the seriously or even terminally ill person. This helplessness is similar to that of the embryo in its mother's womb.
7. These principles, inspired by human dignity, prompt our Pro-Life Movements to dedicate themselves to the service of human life and therefore to denounce the many serious ways it is currently being attacked. In the first place, the situation of hunger and poverty found in vast areas of the globe due to serious imbalances. We likewise deplore the war and genocide that continue to violate human dignity. It is urgently necessary to issue laws that protect human life from unacceptable practices such as the use of embryos for experimental, commercial or therapeutic purposes (in the last case, when it is at the expense of the embryo), "embryo reduction", prenatal eugenics and human cloning. We also note the abortifacient effects of certain methods presented as contraceptives (13) and the tendentious use of the term "pre-embryo" to justify abortion procedures. Recent developments in the area of biotechnology are a concern to us, as is the existence of frozen embryos, a serious problem caused by artificial fertilization and the sign of a grave lack of responsibility and sensitivity to human life. Research on embryonic stem cells in order to develop procedures for replacing damaged tissues(14) is causing great concern, since it involves using the tissues of embryos and fetuses that are later destroyed. The combination of these procedures with that of cloning (called by experts "therapeutic cloning") entails a serious violation of the right to life of every human person, a right which the embryo also has. Equally worrying is the continuing research on the human genome, which is now in its final stage.
There is a possibility that this knowledge will be used to identity, at modest cost, embryos suspected of having "abnormalities", with the danger that this involves. We must denounce this new form of eugenic abortion. It is up to political leaders, especially lawmakers and those who vote for them, to give priority to the defence of the most vulnerable lives.
8. Our Pro-Life Movements want society to have a more and more favourable attitude towards life. We express our gratitude to John Paul II for his tireless service on behalf of human life and its dignity on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Encyclical Evangelium vitae, which encourages us in our vocation and in our struggle to promote the dignity of the human person and his rights in contemporary European society, especially that right which is the foundation of all others: the right to life. The Holy Father's tireless service is a precious gift which comforts and strengthens us in our task. We fervently thank him for his fatherly greeting and for the Apostolic Blessing he gave us on the occasion of this meeting. As we noted in the written message which the Congress sent to His Holiness: "We recognize in you and your words the great defender of human life in its weakest and neediest forms. All of us members of the Congress see Your Holiness' message as a powerful encouragement for the task we have set ourselves, that is, to study and increasingly absorb the prophetic message contained in your Encyclical on life". Together with the participants in the Meeting of Young Europeans for Life, we reaffirm the support and warm affection for John Paul II which we expressed in our message. We are grateful for the presence at this Congress of dignitaries and participants from America, who accepted our invitation, which was meant to increase our contacts in order better to promote human dignity, in service to the family and life. In this regard, the initiative, already welcomed by various countries,(15) to establish a day for commemorating the dignity of the unborn child is particularly timely. We are very pleased, then, with the observance of the "Day for Unborn Children" throughout the European continent. We suggest combining this day with the Catholic Church's celebration of the Solemnity of the Incarnation of the Lord on 25 March, the day when the Son of God became man in Mary's womb.
1 The Congress was chaired by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, by Archbishop Antonio Canizares of Granada and by Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Segorbe-Castellon de la Plana. Taking part were leading figures such as Cardinal Thomas Joseph Winning, Archbishop of Glasgow, Bishop Francisco Gil Hellin, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Archbishop Renato Martino, the Holy See's Permanent Observer at the UN in New York, former Presidents Carlos Saul Menem of Argentina and Belisario Betancourt of Colombia, Mrs Alicja Grzeskowiak, President of the Polish Senate, Mrs Vilija Aleknaite-Abramikiena, Chair of the Parliamentary Commission for Family and Children's Issues of Lithuania, Mr Carlos Barra, President of the Judge Advocate General's Office of Argentina, Mrs Janne Haaland, former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, Mr Andres Ollero, Member of the Spanish Parliament, Mr Carlo Casini, President of the Italian Pro-Life Movement, among the many European and American dignitaries.
2 "The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God—it is not 'produced' by the parents—and also that it is immortal", Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 366. Cf. Pius XII, Encyclical Humani generis: DS 3896; Paul VI Profession of Faith, n. 8; John Paul II, Letter to Families, n. 9; John Paul II Encyclical Evangelium vitae, n. 43.
3 Paul VI, Humanae vitae, nn. 12, 14.
4 Cf. John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, n. 73.
5 "The union of man and woman in marriage is a way of imitating in the flesh the Creator's generosity and fecundity", Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2335. Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem, n. 7.
6 Cf. Pontifical Council for the Family, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, 8 December 1995.
7 John Paul II, Address to Participants in the Second Congress of European Politicians and Legislators, 23 October 1998.
8 Pontifical Council for the Family, Statement regarding the European Parliament's Resolution on granting the same status enjoyed by the family to "de facto unions", including those of homosexuals, 16 March 2000.
9 The Catholic Church holds as a firm truth that Jesus raised marriage to a sacrament, that is, to an effective sign of the love between Christ and the Church; cf. Eph 5:32.
10 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 2273ff.; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum vitae, n. 3.
11 Life has been given to us by God to cooperate in building the kingdom: "Trade with these till I come" (Lk 19: 13).
12 Christian spirituality teaches that the sick, including the dying, do not lose their ability to work for the kingdom. They must therefore learn to join themselves to the saving passion of Jesus, not forgetting that it is the culmination of all his redemptive work. Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris.
13 The abortifacient effect of some of these techniques (RU 486, the "morning-after pill", Norplant, so-called "emergency contraception", which is actually abortifacient, etc.) is well known. On the relationship and distinction between contraception and abortion, cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium vitae, n. 13
14 It is currently being tested on diseases such as diabetes or degenerative diseases of the nervous system (senile dementia, extrapyramidal illnesses, etc.).
15 It should be pointed out that the law approved by the Argentine Parliament at the request of former President Carlos Saul Menem played an important part in this initiative.
Weekly Edition in English
17 May 2000, page 8
L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.
The Weekly Edition in English is published for the US by:
The Cathedral Foundation
L'Osservatore Romano English Edition
320 Cathedral St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Subscriptions: (410) 547-5315
Fax: (410) 332-1069