Catholic Bioethics

  Bishop Teaching, Medieval illum ms.

0. POPE PAUL VI: Humanæ Vitæ

1. SACRED CONGREGATION for the DOCTRINE of the FAITH: 1.1 Declaration On Procured Abortion, (1974); 1.2. Jura et Bona, (Declaration on Euthanasia, 1980; 1.3. Donum Vitae (On Respect for Human Life in its Origin, 1987); 1.4. Dignitas Personae (On Certain Bioethical Questions, 2008).

2. POPE JOHN PAUL II: 2.1. Salvifici Doloris, (On The Christian Meaning Of Human Suffering, 1984); 2.2. Evangelium Vitae, (The Gospel of Life, 1995); 2.3. On Life-Sustaining Treatment and the Vegetative State, (March, 2004); 2.4. On Palliative Care, (Nov., 2004).

3. U.S. CONFERENCE of CATHOLIC BISHOPS:  Ethical and Religious Directives, rev.ed., 2010.















0. Humane Vitae



  Humanæ Vitæ, (1968)





II. [Doctrinal Principles: Conjugal Love]


[0.II. 8. Truly, conjugal love most clearly manifests to us its true nature and nobility when we recognize that it has its origin in the highest source, as it were, in God, Who “is Love” and Who is the Father, “from whom all parenthood in heaven and earth receives its name.”

8. Iamvero coniugalis amor tune nobis maxime veram suam naturam nobilitatemque ostendet, si illum, quasi a supremo quodam fonte, a Deo manare cogitaverimus, qui Caritas est, quique Pater est, ex quo omnis paternitas in caelis et in terra nominatur.

It is false to think, then, that marriage results from chance or from the blind course of natural forces. Rather, God the Creator wisely and providently established marriage with the intent that He might achieve His own design of love through Men. Therefore, through mutual self-giving, which is unique [propriam] and exclusive to them, spouses seek a communion of persons [personarum communionem]. Through this communion, the spouses perfect each other so that they might share with God the task  of procreating and educating new living beings.

Tantum igitur abest, ut matrimonium e casu quodam vel e caeeo naturalium virium cursu nascatur, ut reapse illud sa­pienter providenterque Creator Deus ea mente instituerit, ut in hominibus suum amoris consilium efficeret. Quocirca per mutuam sui donationem, quae ipsorum propria est et exclu­soria, coniuges illam persequuntur personarum communionem, qua se invicem perficiant, ut ad novorum viventium procrea­tionem et educationem cum Deo operam socient.

Moreover, for the baptized, matrimony is endowed with such dignity that it is a sacramental sign of grace representing the union of Christ and His Church.

Sacro autem baptismate ablutis, matrimonium eiusmodi praeditum est dignitate, ut gratiae sacramentale signum exsi­stat, cum Christi et Ecclesiae coniunctionem designet.





[0.II. 10. [...] [2] If then we look to the innate impulses and inclinations of the soul, responsible parenthood asserts that it is necessary that reason and will exercise mastery over these impulses and inclinations of the soul.

Si deinde ad impulsus innatos et ad animi affectus specta­mus, paternitas conscia necessariam declarat dominationem, quam ratio et voluntas in eosdem exerceant necesse est.

    [3] If we look further to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by[:]

1. those who, guided by prudent consideration and generosity, elect to accept many children.

2. Those are also to be considered responsible, who, for serious reasons and with due respect for moral precepts, decide not to have another child either for a definite or an indefinite amount of time.

Si postea ad condiciones physicas, oeconomicas, psycholo­gicas et sociales respicimus, ii paternitate conscia fungi dicendi sunt, qui aut,

prudenti consideratione magnoque animo ducti, statuunt numerosiores suscipere liberos,

aut, seriis causis moralibusque praeceptis observatis, animum inducunt ut, vel ad certum vel ad incertum tempus, alium filium non gignant.





[0.II. 11. The conjugal acts by which spouses intimately and chastely unite, and by which human life is transmitted, are, as the recent Council reiterated, “good and worthy of human dignity.” 11. Hi actus, quibus coniuges intime et caste copulantur, et per quos vita humana propagatur, quemadmodum recens Concilium admonuit, honesti ac digni sunt;
    Conjugal acts do not cease being legitimate if the spouses are aware that they are infertile for reasons not voluntarily caused by them; these acts remain ordained to expressing and strengthening the union of the spouses. Indeed, as experience shows, new life does not arise from each and every act of conjugal union. God has wisely arranged the natural laws and times of fertility so that successive births are naturally spaced  iidemque legitimi esse non desinunt, etsi infecundi praevideantur propter causas a coniugum voluntate nequaquam manantes, cum non cesset eorum destinatio ad coniugum coniunctionem significandam roborandamque. Revera, ut usu noscitur, non ex una­quaque coniugali congressione nova exoritur vita. Deus enim naturales leges ac tempora fecunditatis ita sapienter disposuit, ut eadem iam per se ipsa generationes subsequentes intervallent
But the Church, which interprets natural law through its unchanging doctrine, reminds men and women that the teachings based on natural law must be obeyed , and teaches that it is necessary that each and every conjugal act remain ordained in itself to the procreating of human life. Verumtamen Ecclesia, dum homines commonet de observandis praeceptis legis naturalis, quam constanti sua doctrina interpretatur, id docet necessarium esse, ut quilibet matrimonii usus ad vitam humanam procreandam per se destinatus permaneat.12





Inseperability of Procreative and Unitive Meanings


[0.II. 12. The doctrine that the Magisterium of the Church has often explained is this: there is an unbreakable connection  between:

[1] the UNITIVE meaning and

[2] the PROCREATIVE meaning [of the conjugal act],

and both are inherent in the conjugal act. 

12. Huiusmodi doctrina, quae ab Ecclesiae Magisterio saepe exposita est, in nexu indissolubili nititur, a Deo statuto, quem homini sua sponte infringere non licet, inter

[1] significationem unitatis et 

[2] significationem procreationis, 

quae ambae in actu coniugali insunt.

This connection was established by God and Man is not permitted to break it through his own volition.

Therefore, because of its intrinsic nature,  the conjugal act, which unites husband and wife with the closest of bonds, also makes them capable of bringing forth new life according to the laws written into their very natures as male and female. And if both essential meanings are preserved, that of union and procreation, the conjugal act fully maintains its capacity for [fostering] true mutual love and its ordination to the highest mission of parenthood, to which Man is called. Men of our time, we think, are especially able to understand that this teaching is in accord with human reason.

Etenim propter intimam suam rationem, coniugii actus, dum maritum et uxorem artissimo sociat vinculo, eos idoneos etiam facit ad novam vitam gignendam, secundum leges in ipsa viri et mulieris natura inscriptas. Quodsi utraque eius­modi essentialis ratio, unitatis videlicet et procreationis, ser­vatur, usus matrimonii sensum mutui verique amoris suumque ordinem ad celsissimum paternitatis munus omnino retinet, ad quod homo vocatur. Putamus nostrae aetatis homines aptissimos esse ad perspiciendum, quam haec doctrina sit humanae rationi consentanea.





Unintended Sterility is Permissible

[0.II. 15. The Church, moreover, does allow the use of medical treatment necessary for curing diseases of the body although this treatment may thwart one’s ability to procreate 15. Ecclesia autem illas medendi rationes haud illicitas existimat, quae ad morbos corporis curandos necessariae sunt, etiamsi exinde oriatur procreationis impedimentum,

   Such treatment is permissible even if the reduction of fertility is foreseen, as long as the infertility is not directly intended for any reason whatsoever.40,41

icet praevisum, dummodo Tie hoe impedimentum ob quamlibet rationem directo intendatur.”

The Morality of Recourse  to the Infertile Period



NFP Charts:

1. Billings Method

    2. Sympto-Thermal Method

     Certainly, there may be serious reasons for spacing offspring; these may be based:
  [1] on the physical
  [2] or psychological condition of the spouses,
  [3] or may be based on external factors.
The Church teaches that [in such cases] it is morally permissible [for spouses] to calculate [their fertility by observing the] natural rhythms inherent in the generative faculties and to reserve marital intercourse for infertile times. Thus spouses are able to plan their families without violating the moral teachings set forth above.43

Si igitur iustae adsint causae generationes subsequentes in­tervallandi, quae a coniugum corporis vel animi condicioni­bus, aut ab externis rerum adiunctis proficiscantur, Eeclesia docet, tune licere coniugibus sequi vices naturales, generandi facultatibus immanentes, in maritali commercio habendo iis dumtaxat temporibus, quae conceptione vacent, atque adeo nasciturae proli ita consulere, ut morum doctrina, quam modo exposuimus, haudquaquam laedatur.2°





Prophetic Consequences:
Serious Consequences Of The Use Of Artificial Methods Of Birth Control

[0.II. 17. Responsible individuals will quickly see the truth of the Church’s teaching about [contraception], if they consider what consequences will follow from the methods of contraception and the reasons given or use of contraception. They should first consider how easy it will be [for many] to justify behavior leading to marital infidelity or to a gradual weakening in the discipline of morals. Not much experience is needed to understand human weakness and to comprehend that human beings, especially the young, are so susceptible to temptation that they need to be encouraged to keep the moral law. It is wrong to make it easy for them to violate this law. Indeed, it is to be feared that husbands who become accustomed to contraceptive practices will lose respect for their wives. They may come to disregard their wife’s psychological and physical equilibrium and use their wives as instruments for serving their own desires. Consequently, they will no longer view their wives as companions who should be treated with attentiveness and love. 17. Probi homines satius etiam sibi persuaderi possunt de veritate doctrinae, quam Ecclesia hac in re proponit, si mentem convertant ad ea, auae secutura sunt vias rationesque, ad natorum incrementa artificio coercenda adhibitas,  In primis secum recogitent, quam lata et quam facilis via hac agendi ratione patefieri posit, sive ad coniugum infidelitatem, sive ad morum disciplinam passim enervandam.  Neque diutunus rerum usus necessarius est, ut quis compertam habeat humanam infirmitatem, atque intellegathomines – ac praesertim iuvenes cupiditatibus tam obnoxious – incitamentis indigeread moralem legem servandam, ac nefas esse iisdem facilem praebere viam ad legem ipsam violandam.  Id etiam reformidandum est, ne viri, hisce usibus conceptioni officientibus iam assueti,mulierum reverentiam obliviscantur, earumque corporis animique aequilibritate posthabita, easdem quoddam reddant instrumentum suae ipsorum cupiditati inserviens, nec iam eas ut consortes existiment, quas observantia et amore prosequi debeant.

this prophetic warning casts in the negative a profound insight into what NFP provides through spouses sharing insight with one another.  Each is regularly reminded of the other's vulnerability, and invited to protect it.

        And, then, let [reasonable individuals] also carefully consider that a dangerous power will be put into the hands of rulers who care little about the moral law. Would anyone blame those in the highest offices of the state for employing a solution [i.e. contraception] considered morally permissible for spouses seeking to solve a family difficulty, when they strive to solve certain difficulties affecting the whole nation? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring what they believe to be the most effective contraceptive methods and from mandating that everyone must use them, whenever they consider it necessary? `Denique diligenter perpendatur, quam periculosa potestas hoc modo iis publicae rei Moderatoribus concedatur, qui de legis moralis praeceptis minimae sint solliciti. Numquis reprehendat supremos Civitatis Moderatores, qui ad totius suae Nationis componendas difficultates id usurpent, quod coniugibus tamquam licitum adnoscatur ad quondam familiae difficultatem dissolvendam? Quid prohibeat, quominus publicae Auctoritates viis concipiendae prolix contraries faveant, quas efficaciores esse duxerint, immo eas omnibus adhibendas praecipiant, quotiescumque id necessarium reputaverint?
And clearly it will come about that Men who desire to avoid the difficulties that are part of the divine law, difficulties that individuals, families, or society may experience, will hand over to the will of the public authorities the power of interfering in the most exclusive and intimate mission of spouses. Ita sane fiat, ut homines, cum divinae legi insitas difficultates vitare percipiunt, quas singuli, vel familiae, vel socialis convictus experiantur, publicarum Auctoritatum arbitrio potestatem permittant, sese in coniugum maximae proprium et intimum munus interponendi.
       Therefore, if we do not want the mission of procreating human life to be conceded to the arbitrary decisions of Men, we need to recognize that there are some limits to the power of Man over his own body and over the natural operations [munera] of the body, that ought not to be transgressed. No one, neither a private individual nor a public authority, ought to violate these limits. [...] Quare, nisi velimus ut procreandae vitae officium hominum arbitratui concedatur, necessario aliquos fines, quos ultra pro­gredi non liceat, agnoscamus oportet illi potestati, quam homo in proprium corpus in eiusque naturalia munera habere po­test; fines, dicimus, quas nemini, sive privato sive publica auctoritate praedito, violare licet.





Principle of Gradualness


[0.III. 29. Refusal to compromise anything concerning the saving doctrine of Christ is an outstanding act of charity to souls; yet, at the same time it is necessary always to combine this with tolerance and charity. When He spoke and associated with Men, the Redeemer Himself exemplified this truth. Coming not to judge the world but to save it, He was severe against sin but patient and merciful to sinners.67

29. Porro si nihil de salutari Christi doctrina demittere prae­cellens quoddam caritatis erga animos genus est, at idem sem­per cum tolerantia atque caritate coniungatur oportet, quarum ipse Redemptor, cum hominibus et collogeens et agens, exempla prodidit. Is enim, cum venisset non ad iudicandum, sed ad salvandum mundum,” acerbe quidem severus in pec­cata, sed patiens ac misericors in peccatores fuit.

Therefore, let spouses in their times of trouble find in the speech and hearts of their priests, the image of the voice and love of our Redeemer.

Suis igitur difficultatibus afflictati, coniuges in sermone et in corde sacerdotis expressam veluti imaginem vocis et amoris nostri Redemptoris inveniant.

So Beloved Sons, preach with full confidence and be certain that the Holy Spirit of God, who guides the Magisterium in its teaching, will illuminate the hearts of the faithful and invite them to give their assent. Teach spouses the indispensability of prayer; instruct them properly so that they may come regularly and with great faith to the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance and that they may never become discouraged because of their weakness.

Fiduciae autem pleni loquamini, dilecti Filii, pro certo ha­bentes, Sanctum Dei Spiritum, dum adest Magisterio rectam proferenti doctrinam, intus corda fidelium illustrare eosque ad assentiendum invitare. Coniuges vero necessariam precandi viam edocete, apteque instituite, ut saepius magna cum fide ad Eucharistiae et Paenitentiae sacramenta accedant, neque umquam pro sua infirmitate animos demittant.













for the

Bishops and Pope Exhort the Kingl







1.1 Declaration On Procured Abortion, (1974)



1.1.  Declaration On Procured Abortion, (1974)







[1.1.] 7. In the course of history, the Fathers of the Church, her Pastors and her Doctors have taught the same doctrine - the various opinions on the infusion of the spiritual soul did not introduce any doubt about the illicitness of abortion. It is true that in the Middle Ages, when the opinion was generally held that the spiritual soul was not present until after the first few weeks, a distinction was made in the evaluation of the sin and the gravity of penal sanctions. 7. Saeculorum decursu, Sancti Ecclesiae Patres eiusque Pastores ac Doctores eandem doctrinam tradiderunt, neque tamen diversae sententiae de puncto temporis, quo spiritualis anima in corpus infundatur, ullam umquam fecerunt dubitationem de abortus illiceitate. Verum quidem est Media Aetate, qua communiter existimabatur animam spiritualem nonnisi post primas hebdomadas in fetu praesentem adesse, diversam aestimationem de tali peccato deque poenarum gravitate esse factam;
 Excellent authors allowed for this first period more lenient case solutions which they rejected for following periods. But it was never denied at that time that procured abortion, even during the first days, was objectively grave fault. This condemnation was in fact unanimous.  scilicet probatos quoque auctores pro hoc priore vitae tempore, in solvendis casibus, benigniores quasdam sententias retinuisse, quas tamen pro insequentibus graviditatis temporibus respuebant. Nihilominus ab its numquam tune negatum est abortum, etiam primis its diebus, objective grave esse peccaturn.

[...] In our days the recent Roman Pontiffs have proclaimed the same doctrine with the greatest clarity. [...] Paul VI, speaking on this subject on many occasions, has not been afraid to declare that this teaching of the Church “has not changed and is unchangeable.”

 Nostris temporibus postremi Romani Pontifices eandem doctrinam quam accuratissime declaraverunt [...] Paulus VI, qui saepius de hoc argumento ser monem habuit, asseverare non dubitavit huiusmodi Ecclesiae doctrinam (( neque esse mutatam, neque posse umquam mutari





[1.1.] 10. In regard to the mutual rights and duties of the person and of society, it belongs to moral teaching to enlighten consciences; it belongs to the law to specify and organize external behavior. 10. Circa mutua iura et officia personae atque societatis, ad moralem disciplinam spectat conscientias illuminare, ad ius vero definire atque ordinare quae sint officia praestanda.
 There is precisely a certain number of rights which society is not in a position to grant since these rights precede society; but society has the function to preserve and to enforce them. Iamvero, complura quidem iura sunt, quae humana societas tribuere per se nequit, utpote quae ei praecedant, quae tamen et tutari et efficacia reddere debet :

These are the greater part of those which are today called “human rights” and which our age boasts of having formulated.

huiusmodi sunt, maxima ex parte, ea quae hodie o iura hominis » appellantur, quaeque nostra haec aetas se plane declaravisse gloriatur.





[1.1.] 11. The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and some are more precious, but this one is fundamental -  the condition of all the others. Hence it must be protected above all others. It does not belong to society, nor does it belong to public authority in any form to recognize this right for some and not for others: all discrimination is evil, whether it be founded on race, sex, color or religion. It is not recognition by another that constitutes this right. This right is antecedent to its recognition; it demands recognition and it is strictly unjust to refuse it.

11. Primum personae humanae est ius vivendi. Ei alia quidem sunt bona, quorum nonnulla sane pretiosiora sunt, at ius ad vitam fundamentum est atque condicio ceterorum, ac proinde magis quam cetera protegendum est. Ad societatem vel publicam auctoritatem, quaecumque est eius forma, nullo modo spectat illud ius aliis reservare, aliis autem auferre : quodlibet huius generis discrimen, turn nom.ine stirpis vel sexus, turn no-mine coloris corporis vel religionis factum, semper iniquum est. Illud enim est ius non ex gratia aliena profluens, sed cuilibet gratiae antecedens, ac postulat proinde, ut agnoscatur; si denegatur, stricta iustitia violatur.





[1.1.] 12. Any discrimination based on the various stages of life is no more justified than any other discrimination. The right to life remains complete in an old person, even one greatly weakened; it is not lost by one who is incurably sick. The right to life is no less to be respected in the small infant just born than in the mature person. In reality, respect for human life is called for from the time that the process of generation begins. 12. Si ratio discriminis innititur diversis vitae hominis aetatibus, non minus excusatione caret ac aliae quaelibet rationes. Ius ad vitam integre pertinet ad senem vel maxime debilitatum; ab eo qui insanabili aegritudine afficitur, non amittitur; legitimum est non minus puero recens nato, quam homini maturitatem habenti. Revera quaevis vita humana observanda est ex eo ipso tempore, quo generationis processus incipit.

From the time that the ovum is fertilized,

a life is begun

Simul atque ovum fecundatum est,

iam inchoata est vita,

 which is neither that of the father nor of the mother, it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already.

 quae neque patris neque matris est, verum novi viventis humani, qui propter se ipsum crescit. Is numquam humanus fiet, nisi iam tunc talis fuit.





[1.1.] 13. To this perpetual evidence - perfectly independent of the discussions on the moment of animation - modern genetic science brings valuable confirmation. 13. Scientia genetica recentioris temporis praeclare confirmat has res, quae manifesto semper patuerunt, quaeque minime tangunt disputationes de certo animationis tempore.



Following is the text of

footnote 19:



[19] This declaration expressly leaves aside the question of the moment when the spiritual soul is infused. There is not a unanimous tradition on this point and authors are as yet in disagreement.

Haec declaratio consulto quaestionem reliquam facit, quo temporis momento anima spiritualis infundatur. Qua de re ut traditio non est unanima, ita auctores inter se differunt.

For some it dates from the first instant; for others it could not at least precede nidation. It is not within the competence of science to decide between these views, because the existence of an immortal soul is not a question in its field.

Nam cum alii affirment id primo vitae tempore fieri, aliis placet non hoc ante fieri, quam germen in sua sede steterit. Nimirum non est scientiae eas dirimere quaestiones, quia existentia animae immortalis ad eiusdem provinciam non pertinet.

It is a philosophical problem from which our moral affirmation remains independent for two reasons:

Agitur enim de quaestione philosophiae propria, a qua haec moralis affirmatio nullo modo dependet, duabus his de causis:

(1) supposing a belated animation, there is still nothing less than a human life, preparing for and calling for a soul in which the nature received from parents is completed,

(1) quia, etiam si ponatur infusionem animae tardius supervenire, est nihilominus in fetu incipiens humana vita (de qua biologicae scientiae ope constat), quae et praeparat et exigit animam, per quam natura a parentibus accepta perficiatur;

(2) on the other hand, it suffices that this presence of the soul be probable (and one can never prove the contrary) in order that the taking of life involve accepting the risk of killing a man, not only waiting for, but already in possession of his soul.

2) quia si solum tamquam probabilis illa animae infusio, de qua dicimus (non enim de re contraria umquam constabit), iudicetur, vitam ei adimere idem est ac periculo se committere occidendi hominis, non tamquam in spe, sed omnino anima instructi.





It has demonstrated that, from the first instant, there is established the program of what this living being will be: a man, this individual man with his characteristic aspects already well determined. Right from fertilization is begun the adventure of a human life, and each of its capacities requires time- a rather lengthy time- to find its place and to be in a position to act. Ipsa videlicet demonstravit iam a primo momento adesse fixam structuram seu programma geneticum huius viventis : hominem nempe, et quidem hunt hominem individuum, omnibus suis notis propriis praefinitisque iam ornatum. Ab ipsa fecundatione iniit mirificus cursus cuiusdam vitae humanae, cuius singulae potentes facultates tempus poscunt, ut recte ordinentur atque ad agendum praeparentur.
The least that can be said is that present science, in its most evolved state, does not give any substantial support to those who defend abortion. Hoc saltem dici potest, scientiam aetatis nostrae, etiam perfectissimam, nullum efficax adiumentum suppeditare abortus fautoribus.
Moreover, it is not up to biological sciences to make a definitive judgment on questions which are properly philosophical and moral such as the moment when a human person is constituted or the legitimacy of abortion. Ceterum non pertinet ad scientias biologicas decretoriam sententiam ferre de quaestionibus proprie philosophicis et moralibus, cuiusmodi est quaestio de momento quo constituitur persona humana, vel de abortus legitimitate.
From a moral point of view this is certain: even if a doubt existed concerning whether the fruit of conception is already a human person, Ex ratione vero morali hoc constat : etiamsi forte dubitetur sitne fructus conceptionis jam persona humana,

it is objectively a grave sin to dare to risk murder. “The one who will be a man is already one.”[20]

 objective jam grave peccatum est se committere in periculum homicidii faciendi. « Homo est et qui est futurus






1.2. Jura et Bona, (Declaration on Euthanasia, 1980



1.2.  Jura et Bona
Declaration on Euthanasia,



 II.  Euthanasia


      [...] IT is, therefore, necessary to state clearly in what sense the word is used in the present document. By euthanasia is understood an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated.

Necessarium igitur est ut plane pateat, quae notio huic voc in praesenti documento tribuatur. Nomine euthanasiae significatur actio vel omissio quae suapto natura vel consilio mentis mortem affert, ut hoc modo omni, ,dolor removeatur.

      Euthanasia’s terms of reference, therefore, are to be found in the intention of the will and in the methods used.

Euthanasia igitur in voluntatis proposito et in procedendi rationibus, quae adhibentur, continetur.

IT is necessary to state firmly once more that nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Iamvero, denuo firmiter declarandum est neminem nihil­que ullo modo sinere posse ut vivens humanum innocens occi­datur, sive sit fetus vel embryon, sive infans vel adultus, sive senex, sive morbo insanabili affectus, sive in mortis agone constitutus.
Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Praeterea nemini licet mortiferam hanc ,actionem petere sibi aut alii, qui sit ipsius responsabilitati commissus, immo in eadem ne consentire quidem potest expli,cite vel implicite.
Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. For it is a question of Nec auctoritas ulla potest eam legitime iniun­gere vel permittere. Agitur enim de

[1] the violation of the divine law,

legis divinae violatione,

[2] an offense against the dignity of the human person,

de offensione dignitatis personae humanae,

[3] a crime against life,

de crimine contra vitam,

[4] and an attack on humanity.

[Aquin. S.T., II-II, Q. 64, Art. 5]

 de facinore in hominum genus.


      It may happen that, by reason of prolonged and barely tolerable pain, for deeply personal or other reasons, people may be led to believe that they can legitimately ask for death or obtain it for others. Although in these cases the guilt of the individual may be reduced or completely absent, nevertheless the error of judgment into which the conscience falls, perhaps in good faith, does not change the nature of this act of killing, which will always be in itself something to be rejected. Fieri potest ut ob diuturnos ac vix tolerandos dolores, ob rationes in animi affectibus innixas, vel ob alterius generis cau­sas, aliqui ad persuasionem adducantur se legitime posse mor­tem sibi petere aut aliis afferre. Quamquam hisce in casibus hominis culpa imminui aut omnino deesse potest, nihilominus error iudicii in quem conscientia, bona fide fortasse, incidit, naturam huius actus mortiferi non mutat, qui per se repudian­dus semper erit.
The pleas of gravely ill people who sometimes ask for death are not to be understood as implying a true desire for euthanasia; in fact, it is almost always a case of an anguished plea for help and love. Gravissime aegrotantium implorationes, quan­doque mortem invocantium, haud intelligendae sunt quasi veram euthanasiae voluntatem significent; etenim fere semper agitur de anxiis invocationibus auxilii et amoris.

  What a sick person needs, besides medical care, is love, the human and supernatural warmth with which the sick person can and ought to be surrounded by all those close to him or her, parents and children, doctors and nurses.

 Praeter medicas curas, id quo aegrotus indiget, est amor, est fervidus animi affectus humanus et supernaturalis, quo proximi omnes, pa rentes et filii, medici et aegrotorum ministri eum complecti possunt ac debent.

III.  The Meaning of Suffering
for Christians and the Use of Painkillers


Nevertheless it would be imprudent to impose a heroic way of acting as a general rule. On the contrary, human and Christian prudence suggest for the majority of sick people the use of medicines capable of alleviating or suppressing pain, even though these may cause as a secondary effect semiconsciousness and reduced lucidity. As for those who are not in a state to express themselves, one can reasonably presume that they wish to take these painkillers, and have them administered according to the doctor’s advice.

Nihilominus a prudentia alie­num est heroicam quandam agendi rationem tanquam gene­ralem normam imponere. E contrario humana et christiana prudentia pro pluribus aegrotis suadet usum eorum medica­mentorum quae apta sint ad leniendum vel auferendum dolo­rem, etiamsi inde, ut secundarii effectus, torpor et imminuta animi conscientia consequantur.

Quod autem ad eos attinet quibus deest facultas sensa sua exprimendi, recte praesumi potest ipsos velle haec doloris leni­menta sumere, eademque sibi ministrari secundum medico­rum consilia.



IV.  Due Proportion in the Use of Remedies


  EVERYONE has the duty to care for his or he own health or to seek such care from others. Those whose task it is to care for the sick must do so conscientiously and administer the remedies that seem necessary or useful

Uniuscuiusque officium est consulere valetudini suae et effi­cere ut sibi curationes ministrentur. Ii autem quibus infirmo­rum cura concredita est, omni cum diligentia operam suam praestare debent ac remedia praebere, quae necessaria vel utilia videantur.

However, is it necessary in all circumstances to have recourse to all possible remedies?

Suntne igitur in omnibus rerum adiunctis cuncta prorsus remedia experienda ?

      In the past, moralists replied that one is never obliged to use “extraordinary” means. Haud multo ante moralis disciplinae cultores respondebant usum mediorum « extraordinariorum „ numquam praecipi posse.
This reply, which as a principle still holds good, is perhaps less clear today, by reason of the imprecision of the term and the rapid progress made in the treatment of sickness.   Huiusmodi responsio, quae, ut principium, semper valet, hodie fortasse minus perspicua apparet sive ob parum definitum dicendi modum, sive etiam ob celeres progressus, qui in re therapeutica facti sunt.
Thus some people prefer to speak of “proportionate” and “disproportionate” means. Hinc est quod quibusdam potius placet loqui de mediis , proportionatis » et « non proportio­natis ».
In any case, it will be possible to make a correct judgment as to the means by studying [:] Utcumque res se habet, recta mediorum aestimatio fieri poterit,

[1] the type of treatment to be used,

si artis therapeuticae genus

[2] its degree of complexity

eiusque difficultatum

[3] or risk,

et periculorum gradus

[4] its cost

ac sumptus necessarii

[5] and the possibilities of using it,

necnon possibilitas eodem utendi,

and comparing these elements with the result that can be expected,

 cum effectibus, quos exspectare licet, comparentur,  

taking into account debita ratione

[1] the state of the sick person

habita tum status aegroti

[2] and his or her physical

tum ipsius corporis

[3]  and moral resources.

et animi virium.

      In order to facilitate the application of these general principles, the following clarifications can be added:

Quo facilius haec generalia principia ad rem deducantur, iuvare poterunt accuratiores explicationes, quae sequuntur

- If there are no other sufficient remedies, it is permitted, with the patient’s consent, to have recourse to the means provided by the most advanced medical techniques, even if these means are still at the experimental stage and are not without a certain risk. By accepting them, the patient can even show generosity in the service of humanity.

- Si alia remedia non suppetunt, licet, ex consensu aegroti, media adhibere, quae novissima medicae artis inventa protulerunt, etiamsi haud satis adhuc experimentis probata sint nec aliquo periculo careant. Aegrotus, qui ea accipiat, poterit etiam exemplum generosi animi praebere in bonum generis humani.

- It is also permitted, with the patient’s consent, to interrupt these means, where the results fall short of expectations. But for such a decision to be made, account will have to be taken of the reasonable wishes of the patient and the patient’s family, as also of the advice of the doctors who are specially competent in the matter.

- Pariter licet horum mediorum usum abrumpere, quotiescumque exitus spem in eis repositam fallit. At in hoc ca­piendo consilio, ratio habeatur iusti desiderii aegroti eiusque familiarium, nec non sententiae medicorum, qui vere periti sint;

      The latter may in particular judge that the investment in instruments and personnel is disproportionate to the results foreseen; they may also judge that the techniques applied impose on the [suffering] patient hi profecto prae ceteris aequam aestimationem facere po­terunt, cum sumptus instrumentorum et hominum in id impen­dendorum non respondet effectibus qui praevidentur, et cum medicae artis adhibita subsidia imponunt aegroto

 suffering [pain]

or strain [inconvenience]

dolores aut


out of proportion with the benefits which he or she may gain from such techniques.

 graviora quam utilitates quae inde ei afferri possunt.

- It is also permissible to make do with the normal means that medicine can offer. Therefore ONE CANNOT IMPOSE ON ANYONE the obligation to have recourse to a technique which is already in use but which .

- Semper licet satis habere communia remedia, quae ars medica suppeditare potest. Quapropter nemini obligatio imponenda est genus curationis adhibendi quod, etsi in usu iam est, 

[1] carries a risk  [danger] or

[2] is burdensome.  [onerous]

adhuc tamen non caret periculo

 vel nimis est onerosum

Such a refusal is not the equivalent of suicide; on the contrary, it should be considered as 

Quae remedii recusatio comparanda non est cum suicidio verius habenda est vel simplex

[1] an acceptance of the human condition, or 

[2] a wish to avoid the application of a medical procedure disproportionate to the results that can be expected, or 

[3] a desire not to impose excessive expense  [burden] on the family or the community.

acceptatio condicionis humanae; 

vel cura vitandi laboriosum rnedicae artis apparatum cui tamen par sperandorum effectuum utilitas non respondet;

 vel denique voluntas onus nimis grave familiaee aut communitati non imponendi.

- When inevitable death is imminent in spite of the means used, it is permitted in conscience to take the decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted. In such circumstances the doctor has no reason to reproach himself with failing to help the person in danger.

- Imminente morte, quae remediis adhibitis nullo modes impediri potest, licet ex conscientia consilium inire curationi­bus renuntiandi, quae nonnisi precariam et doloris plenam. vitae dilationem afferre valent, haud intermissis tamen ordinariis curis, quae in similibus casibus aegroto debentur. Tune, causa non est cur medicus animi angore afficiatur, quasi alicui,. qui in periculo versaretur, auxilium negaverit.


1.3. Donum Vitae (On Respect for Human Life in its Origin, 1987)



1.3.  Donum Vitæ
On Respect for Human Life in its Origin,



[1.3. I.]  1. Certainly no experimental datum can be in itself sufficient to bring us to the recognition of a spiritual soul; nevertheless, the conclusions of science regarding the human embryo provide a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of this first appearance of a human life: how could a human individual not be a human person?  Fatendum quidem est nullum indicinm ex experimentis deductum per se satis esse ad animam spiritualem demonstrandam ; conclusiones tamen, ad quas pervenerllnt scientificae investigationes de humano embryone, pretiosa suppeditant elementa, ex quibus rationis ope dignosci potest personam iam adesse praesentem inde ab hac prima vitae humanae significatione : cur igitur vivens creatura humana non esset etiam persona humana?

 The Magisterium has not expressly committed itself to an affirmation of a philosophical nature, but it constantly reaffirms the moral condemnation of any kind of procured abortion. This teaching has not been changed and is unchangeable.(26)

   Magisterium Ecclesiae expresse auctoritatem suam non interposuit circa hanc affirmationem, quae proprie ad philosophiam pertinet, at constanter moralem reprobationem confirmat cuiusvis abortus procurati. Quae doc•trina neque mutata est neque mntari potest.'‑

Thus the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is to say from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality.

  Quare fructus generationis humanae, inde a primo temporis momento quo exsistere incipit, hoc est a momento quo formatio zygoti inchoatur, absolutam illam exigit observantiam, quae ex lege morali homini debetur quoad totam suam rationem corporalem atque, spiritualem.

The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life. Creatura humana ut persona observanda atque traetanda est inde ab eius conceptione, ac propterea inde ab illo temporis momento ipsi agnoscenda sunt iura personae, quorum primum recensetur ius inviolabile ad vitam, qno nnusquisque creatura humana innocens gaudet.

This doctrinal reminder provides the fundamental criterion for the solution of the various problems posed by the development of the biomedical sciences in this field: since the embryo must be treated as a person, it must also be defended in its integrity, tended and cared for, to the extent possible, in the same way as any other human being as far as medical assistance is concerned. 

  Doctrinae capita modo exposita criterium praebent fnndamentale ad varia solvenda problemata, quae e progressu disciplinarum biomedicarum gignuntur in hoc campo : quoniam scilicet embryon ut persona tractandus est, inde seqnitur ut ei debeatur etiam snae integritatis defensio, idemque curandus ac sanandus sit sicut quilibet homo, quantum fieri potest, in ambitu medicae assistentiae.

* The zygote is the cell produced when the [nuclei of the] two gametes have fused. 

 • Zygotum est cellula orta a fusione duorum gametum.







If prenatal diagnosis respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human foetus and is directed towards its safeguarding or healing as an individual, then the answer is affirmative.

  Si diagnosis praenatalis tuetur vitam et integritatem embryonis et fetus humani atque spectat ad singulum embryonem servandum et eurandum, responsio est affia-matira.







As with all medical interventions on patients, one must uphold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it but are directed towards its healing, the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival.

   Sicut quilibet artis medicae interventus in aegrotis, ita interventus in humano embryone liciti habendi sunt hac condicione, ut embryones vitam integritatemque observent, ne secumferant pericula haud proportionata sed spectent ad morbi curationem, ad salutis statum in melius mutandum et ad ipsius singularis fetus superstitem vitam in tuto ponendam.







Human embryos obtained in vitro are human beings and subjects with rights: their dignity and right to life must be respected from the first moment of their existence. It is immoral to produce human embryos destined to be exploited as disposable “biological material

  Embryones humani in vitro producti habendi sunt creaturae humanae et iuris capaces : eorum dignitas eorumque ius ad vitam observanda sunt inde a primo eorum vitae momento. Morum igitur honestati contrarium est embryones humanos gignere ad abutendum, scilicet ut efficiantur cc materia biologica », quae praesto sit ad usum.







Techniques of fertilization in vitro can open the way to other forms of biological and genetic manipulation of human embryos, such as attempts or plans for fertilization between human and animal gametes and the gestation of human embryos in the uterus of animals, or the hypothesis or project of constructing artificial uteruses for the human embryo. These procedures are contrary to the human dignity proper to the embryo, and at the same time they are contrary to the right of every person to be conceived and to be born within marriage and from marriage. Also, attempts or hypotheses for obtaining a human being without any connection with sexuality through “twin fission”, cloning or parthenogenesis are to be considered contrary to the moral law, since they are in opposition to the dignity both of human procreation and of the conjugal union. 

   Rationes technicae fecundationis in vitro aditum patefacere possunt ad alias formas artificiosae tractationis biologicae vel geneticae embryonum humanorum, cuiusmodi sunt. conatus vel proposita fecundationis inter hominum et animalium gametes, et gestationis embryonum humanorum in uteris animalium ; coniecturae vel consilia artificiales uteros fabricandi ad embryones excipiendos. Huiusmodi procedendi rationes repugnant creaturae humanae dignitati quae ad embryonem spectat, simulque ius laedunt uniuscuiusque personae ut concipiatur et nascatur in matrimonio et ex matrimonio.32 Conatus quoque vel coniecturae eo spectantes ut creatura humana gignatur absque ulla colligatione cum sexualitate per (( fixionem gemellarem )), clonationem, parthenogenesim, uti aiunt, habenda sunt pro re morum honestati contraria, quippe quae cum dignitate sive procreationis humanae sive coniugalis coniunctionis nullo modo cohaereant.

The freezing of embryos, even when carried out in order to preserve the life of an embryo - cryopreservation - constitutes an offence against the respect due to human beings by exposing them to grave risks of death or harm to their physical integrity and depriving them, at least temporarily, of maternal shelter and gestation, thus placing them in a situation in which further offences and manipulation are possible

   Ipsa embryonum congelatio, etsi peragatur ad embryones in vita conservandos — quod (( crioconservationem » vocant — observantiam violat viventibus humanis debitam, cum eorum phisicam integritatem in gravia mortis vel damni pericula adducat, eos privet saltem ad tem‑pus materna receptione ac gestatione, eosdemque constituat talibus in adiunctis, ut inde via pateat ad novas violationes novasque artificiosas tractationes.

Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. These manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his or her integrity and identity. Therefore in no way can they be justified on the grounds of possible beneficial consequences for future humanity. Every person must be respected for himself: in this consists the dignity and right of every human being from his or her beginning. 

  Nonnulli conatus interveniendi in patrimonio cromosomico vel genetico non sunt therapeutici, sed spectant ad viventes humanos gignendos, selectos secundum sexum vel alias proprietates iam antea praestitutas. Huiusmodi artificiosae tractationes adversantur personali humanae creaturae dignitati eiusque integritati atque identitati. Eaedem igitur nullo modo comprobari possunt ob commoda, quae in societatis humanae bonum forte inde obvenire posse praevideantur.33 Quaelibet humana persona per se ipsam observanda est : in hoc dignitas et ius consistunt uniuscuiusque creaturae humanae inde ab ipsius initio.













[i.e. where the gametes are from donors - not the parents] , [not permissible because] from the moral point of view a truly responsible procreation vis-à-vis the unborn child must be the fruit of marriage  







No, for the same reasons which lead one to reject heterologous artificial fertilization: for it is contrary to the unity of marriage and to the dignity of the procreation of the human person.

   Nullatenus; et id quidem iisdem de causis, quibus est fecundatio artificialis heterologa reicienda: opponitur enim tum unitati matrimonii, tum etiam dignitati procreationis personae humanae.

IIB Homologous Artificial Fertilization














[...] In homologous IVF and ET, therefore, even if it is considered in the context of ‘de facto’ existing sexual relations, the generation of the human person is objectively deprived of its proper perfection: namely, that of being the result and fruit of a conjugal act in which the spouses can become “cooperators with God for giving life to a new person”.

  [...] In methodo FIVET homologa, igitur, etsi consideretur in eontextu actuum coniugalium qui reapse exsistunt, nihilominus generatio personae humanae obiective destituitur perfectione sibi propria, qua scilicet illa est terminus et fructus actus coniugalis, per quem coniuges fieri possunt Dei cooperatores tradendo vitae donum novo alicui homini ».50

Certainly, homologous IVF and ET fertilization is not marked by all that ethical negativity found in extra-conjugal procreation; the family and marriage continue to constitute the setting for the birth and upbringing of the children.  Nevertheless, in conformity with the traditional doctrine relating to the goods of marriage and the dignity of the person, the Church remain opposed from the moral point of view to homologous ‘in vitro’ fertilization. Such fertilization is in itself illicit and in opposition to the dignity of procreation and of the conjugal union, even when everything is done to avoid the death of the human embryo.

  Fatendum sane est in methodum FIVET homologam non cadere omnia admissa contra morum honestatem, quae deprebenduntnr in procreatione extra matrimonium effecta; familia enim et matrimonium pergunt esse ambitnh, in qno filiorum nativitas et educatio continentnr. Attamen, iuxta traditam doctrinam de matrimonii bonis et de personae humanae dignitate, morale Ec•clesiae iudicium perstat contrariurn fecttndationi homol,ogae in ritro: haec est intrinsecus illicita, ac dignitati procreattionis et coniunctionis coniuyalis tunc etiam repugnat, cum >Ri~il omittitur ut embryonis mors praecaveatur.

Although the manner in which human conception is achieved with IVF and ET cannot be approved, every child which comes into the world must in any case be accepted as a living gift of the divine Goodness and must be brought up with love

  Etei nullo modo probari possit agendi ratio, qua conceptio humana obtinetur per methodum FIVET, nihilominus puer in lncem editus excipi debet tamquam vivens Bonitatis divinae donnm, et cum amore est educandus.







Homologous artificial insemination within marriage cannot be admitted except for those cases in which the technical means is not a substitute for the conjugal act but serves to facilitate and to help so that the act attains its natural purpose. 

  Seminatio artifcialis homologa intra ambitum matrimonii admitti nequit, exeepto casu in quo apparatus technicus non sit substitutivus actus coniugalis, sed se praebeat ut adiumeutum ad naturalem eius finem facilius assequendum.

[...] If the technical means facilitates the conjugal act or helps it to reach its natural objectives, it can be morally acceptable.

[...] Quare, si medium technicum faciliorem reddit actum coniugalem aut eum adiuvat ad fines suos naturales assequendos, licite adhiberi potest.







A medical intervention respects the dignity of persons when it seeks to assist the conjugal act either in order to facilitate its performance or in order to enable it to achieve its objective once it has been normally performed

Medicus interventus tunc personarum dignitatem tuetur, cum actum coniugalem adiuvare studet, sive ut facilins expleatur, sive ut idem, iam rite expletus, finem suum assequi possit."  

On the other hand, it sometimes happens that a medical procedure technologically replaces the conjugal act in order to obtain a procreation which is neither its result nor its fruit. In this case the medical act is not, as it should be, at the service of conjugal union but rather appropriates to itself the procreative function and thus contradicts the dignity and the inalienable rights of the spouses and of the child to be born.

Ex contrario, quandoque fit ut medicus interventus, artis te.chnicae ope, substitutivus sit actus coniugalis ad procreationem obtinendam, quae propterea neque effectus est neque fructus einsdem actus : quo in caeu, actus medicus non videtur deservire, sicut oportet, coniugali iunctioni, sed procreandi munus sibi arrogat, sicque dignitati atqne inalienabilibus iuribus coniugum .ac nascituri contradicit.







A true and proper right to a child would be contrary to the child’s dignity and nature. The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership: rather, a child is a gift, “the supreme gift” and the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents. For this reason, the child has the right, as already mentioned, to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents; and he also has the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception. 

  Verum ac proprium ius ad filium, ipsius filii dignitati atque naturae adrersatur. P'ilius nullo rnodo aliquid est quod debetlu•, neque considerari potest ut obieeturn proprietatis; ipse potius est donum, et quidem « praestantissirntlm » 58 et maxime gratuiturn matrimonii, idemque rirens est testimoniu7rt mrutuae donationis eius parentum. Qua de causa, filius — ut supra nlemoratum est — ius habet ad exsistendum tamquam fruetus proreniens e.r aetu eoniugalis amoris proprio suorum parerttutn, idemque ius habet ad obserrantiam sibi tamquarn personae tribuerldarn inde a montento c•oneeptionis.













The inviolable right to life of every innocent human individual and the rights of the family and of the institution of marriage constitute fundamental moral values, because they concern the natural condition and integral vocation of the human person; at the same time they are constitutive elements of civil society and its order.

  Ius inviolabile ad vitam uniuscuiusque hominis innocentis atque iura familiae institutique matrimonialis, bona moralia fundamentalia censenda sunt, quippe quae condic.ionem naturalem et integram vocation?m personae humanae respiciant; suntque simul elementa quae pertinent ad ipsam civilis societatis structuram atque ordinationem.

For this reason the new technological possibilities which have opened up in the field of biomedicine require the intervention of the political authorities and of the legislator, since an uncontrolled application of such techniques could lead to unforeseeable and damaging consequences for civil society. Recourse to the conscience of each individual and to the self-regulation of researchers cannot be sufficient for ensuring respect for personal rights and public order. If the legislator responsible for the common good were not watchful, he could be deprived of his prerogatives by researchers claiming to govern humanity in the name of the biological discoveries and the alleged “improvement” processes which they would draw from those discoveries. “Eugenism” and forms of discrimination between human beings could come to be legitimized: this would constitute an act of violence and a serious offense to the equality, dignity and fundamental rights of the human person.

  Hac de causa, novaquae progrediens res technica portendit fieri posse in campo scientiae biomedicae, requirunt ut ii, penes quos snnt civilia muneraet potestas leges ferendi, auctoritatem suam interponant, quia harum technicarum rationum usus, vigilantiae non obnoxius, perduc.ere poterit ad consectaria, quae praevideri nequeunt, et detrimentum afferre civili societati. Appellatio ad nniuscuiusqne conscientiam et ad normas sibi voluntarie impositas, a scientiae investigatoribus satis non sunt ad personalia iura et reipublicae ordinem tucnda. Si legislator, in quem onus communis boni recidit, invigilare omittat, ipse expoliari possit suis praerogativis ab investigatoribns arrogantibus sibi munus gubernandi homines, nomine novoraln inventorum biologicorum et  prosperioris vitae condicionum, quae praesumuntur ex illis manare. Ita « eugenismus » et iniusta inter Creaturas humanas discriminarata haberi possint ; id vim gravemque ininriam inferat aequalitati, dignitati et primariis iuribus personae humanae.






1.4. Dignitas Personae (On Certain Bioethical Questions, 2008).



1.4.  Dignitas Personæ - [summary]
On Certain Bioethical Questions, (2008)



Second Part: New Problems Concerning Procreation

Techniques for assisting fertility

12. In light of this principle, all techniques of heterologous artificial fertilization,[22] as well as those techniques of homologous artificial fertilization[23] which substitute for the conjugal act, are to be excluded. On the other hand, techniques which act as an aid to the conjugal act and its fertility are permitted. 

13. Certainly, techniques aimed at removing obstacles to natural fertilization, as for example, hormonal treatments for infertility, surgery for endometriosis, unblocking of fallopian tubes or their surgical repair, are licit. All these techniques may be considered authentic treatments because, once the problem causing the infertility has been resolved, the married couple is able to engage in conjugal acts resulting in procreation, without the physician’s action directly interfering in that act itself. None of these treatments replaces the conjugal act, which alone is worthy of truly responsible procreation.

 “Adoption should be encouraged, promoted and facilitated so that the many children who lack parents may receive a home… In addition, research and investment directed at the prevention of sterility deserve encouragement

In vitro fertilization and the deliberate destruction of embryos

14. The experience of recent years has shown that in all techniques of in vitro fertilization “the number of embryos sacrificed is extremely high”. Even in the most technically advanced centers of artificial fertilization, the number is above 80%. “Embryos produced in vitro which have defects are directly discarded”; a increasing number of couples “are using artificial means of procreation in order to engage in genetic selection of their offspring”; of the embryos which are produced in vitro “some are transferred into the woman’s uterus, while the others are frozen”; the technique of multiple transfer in which “the number of embryos transferred is greater than the single child desired, in the expectation that some embryos will be lost… implies a purely utilitarian treatment of embryos”

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)

17. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection is a variety of in vitro procreation in which fertilization in the test tube does not simply “take place on its own, but rather by means of the injection into the oocyte of a single sperm, selected earlier, or by the injection of immature germ cells taken from the man”.

This technique, which is morally illicit, causes a complete separation between procreation and the conjugal act

Freezing embryos

18.Cryopreservation is incompatible with the respect owed to human embryos; it presupposes their production in vitro; it exposes them to the serious risk of death or physical harm, since a high percentage does not survive the process of freezing and thawing; it deprives them at least temporarily of maternal reception and gestation; it places them in a situation in which they are susceptible to further offense and manipulation”.

19. With regard to the large number of frozen embryos already in existence the question becomes: what to do with them? All the answers that have been proposed (use the embryos for research or for the treatment of disease; thaw them without reactivating them and use them for research, as if they were normal cadavers; put them at the disposal of infertile couples as a “treatment for infertility”; allow a form of “prenatal adoption”) present real problems of various kinds. It needs to be recognized “that the thousands of abandoned embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved. Therefore, John Paul II made an “appeal to the conscience of the world’s scientific authorities and in particular to doctors, that the production of human embryos be halted, taking into account that there seems to be no morally licit solution regarding the human destiny of the thousands and thousands of ‘frozen’ embryos which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons”.

The freezing of oocytes

20. While the cryopreservation of oocytes is not in itself immoral, and is employed in other medical contexts which are not the subject of this document, when it takes place “for the purpose of being used in artificial procreation” it is “to be considered morally unacceptable”.

The reduction of embryos

21. Some techniques used in artificial procreation, above all the transfer of multiple embryos into the mother’s womb, have caused a significant increase in the frequency of multiple pregnancy. This situation gives rise in turn to the practice of so-called embryo reduction, a procedure in which embryos or fetuses in the womb are directly exterminated. From the ethical point of view, embryo reduction is an intentional selective abortion. It is in fact the deliberate and direct elimination of one or more innocent human beings in the initial phase of their existence and as such it always constitutes a grave moral disorder”.

Preimplantation diagnosis

22. Unlike other forms of prenatal diagnosis…, diagnosis before implantation is immediately followed by the elimination of an embryo suspected of having genetic or chromosomal defects, or not having the sex desired, or having other qualities that are not wanted. Preimplantation diagnosis…is directed toward the qualitative selection and consequent destruction of embryos, which constitutes an act of abortion.

New forms of interception and contragestation

23. There are methods of preventing pregnancy which act after fertilization, when the embryo is already constituted. anyone who seeks to prevent the implantation of an embryo which may possibly have been conceived and who therefore either requests or prescribes such a pharmaceutical, generally intends abortion. In the case of contragestatives “what takes place in reality is the abortion of an embryo which has just implanted… the use of means of interception and contragestation fall within the sin of abortion and are gravely immoral”


Third Part: New Treatments which Involve the Manipulation of the Embryo or the Human Genetic Patrimony

Gene therapy

26. Procedures used on somatic cells for strictly therapeutic purposes “are in principle morally licit

With regard to germ line cell therapy, “the risks connected to any genetic manipulation are considerable and as yet not fully controllable” and therefore “in the present state of research, it is not morally permissible to act in a way that may cause possible harm to the resulting progeny

27. With regard to the possibility of using techniques of genetic engineering to introduce alterations with the presumed aim of improving and strengthening the gene pool, it must be observed that such interventions would promote a “eugenic mentalityand would introduce an indirect social stigma with regard to people who lack certain qualities, while privileging qualities that happen to be appreciated by a certain culture or society; such qualities do not constitute what is specifically human. This would be in contrast with the fundamental truth of the equality of all human beings which is expressed in the principle of justice, the violation of which, in the long run, would harm peaceful coexistence among individuals… Finally it must also be noted that in the attempt to create a new type of human being one can recognize an ideological element in which man tries to take the place of his Creator.

Human cloning

28. Human cloning is “intrinsically illicit in that…it seeks to give rise to a new human being without a connection to the act of reciprocal self-giving between the spouses and, more radically, without any link to sexuality. This leads to manipulation and abuses gravely injurious to human dignity”.

30. With regard to cloning for medical therapy or research, it must be said that to “create embryos with the intention of destroying them, even with the intention of helping the sick, is completely incompatible with human dignity, because it makes the existence of a human being at the embryonic stage nothing more than a means to be used and destroyed. It is gravely immoral to sacrifice a human life for therapeutic ends”

As an alternative to therapeutic cloning some researchers have proposed new techniques which are presented as capable of producing stem cells of an embryonic type without implying the destruction of true human embryos, for example, by altered nuclear transfer (ANT) or oocyte assisted reprogramming (OAR). Doubts still remain, however, “regarding the ontological status of the ‘product’ obtained in this way.

The therapeutic use of stem cells

32. Methods which do not cause serious harm to the subject from whom the stem cells are taken are to be considered licit. This is generally the case when tissues are taken from: a) an adult organism; b) the blood of the umbilical cord at the time of birth; c) fetuses who have died of natural causes.”.

“The obtaining of stem cells from a living human embryo…invariably causes the death of the embryo and is consequently gravely illicit.

Attempts at hybridization

33. From the ethical standpoint, such procedures represent an offense against the dignity of human beings on account of the admixture of human and animal genetic elements capable of disrupting the specific identity of man.

The use of human “biological material” of illicit origin

35. With regard to the use of “biological material” of illicit origin by researchers, which has been produced apart from their research center or which has been obtained commercially, the moral requirement “must be safeguarded that there be no complicity in deliberate abortion and that the risk of scandal be avoided. [...] [W]ithin this general picture there exist differing degrees of responsibility. Grave reasons may be morally proportionate to justify the use of such ‘biological material’. Thus, for example, danger to the health of children could permit parents to use a vaccine which was developed using cell lines of illicit origin, while keeping in mind that everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other types of vaccines available. Moreover, in organizations where cell lines of illicit origin are being utilized, the responsibility of those who make the decision to use them is not the same as that of those who have no voice in such a decision” (n. 35).

2. Pope John Paul II














2.1. Salvifici Doloris, (On The Christian Meaning Of Human Suffering, 1984)



2.1.  Salvifici Doloris
On The Christian Meaning Of Human Suffering, (1984)




24. Nevertheless, the Apostle’s experiences as a sharer in the sufferings of Christ go even further. In the Letter to the Colossians we read the words which constitute as it were the final stage of the spiritual journey in relation to suffering: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church”. And in another Letter he asks his readers: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?”.

24. Apostoli tamen, qui Christi dolorum est particeps, experientiae etiam ulterius progrediuntur. In Epistula ad Colossenses haec legimus, quae spiritalis itineris veluti metam postremam, ad tribulationes quod attinet, efficiunt. Haec Sanctus Paulus scribit: “Nunc gaudeo in passionibus pro vobis, et adimpleo ea, quae desunt passionum Christi, in carne mea pro corpore eius, quod est Ecclesia”.(78) In alia Epistula eos, quibus mittitur, sic ipse interrogat: “Nescitis quoniam corpora vestra membra Christi sunt?”.(79) 

In the Paschal Mystery Christ began be union with man in the community of the Church. The mystery of the Church is expressed in this: that already in the act of Baptism, which brings about a configuration with Christ, and then through his Sacrifice—sacramentally through the Eucharist—the Church is continually being built up spiritually as the Body of Christ. In this Body, Christ wishes to be united with every individual, and in a special way he is united with those who suffer. The words quoted above from the Letter to the Colossians bear witness to the exceptional nature of this union. For, whoever suffers in union with Christ— just as the Apostle Paul bears his “tribulations” in union with Christ— not only receives from Christ that strength already referred to but also “completes” by his suffering “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”. This evangelical outlook especially highlights the truth concerning the creative character of suffering. The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world’s redemption. This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it. But at the same time, in the mystery of the Church as his Body, Christ has in a sense opened his own redemptive suffering to all human suffering. In so far as man becomes a sharer in Christ’s sufferings—in any part of the world and at any time in history—to that extent he in his own way completes the suffering through which Christ accomplished the Redemption of the world.

In mysterio paschali Christus initium fecit coniunctionis cum homine in Ecclesiae communitate. Mysterium Ecclesiae sic declaratur: in ipsa Baptismi collatione, qua Christo configuratur homo, deinde per Christi Sacrificium – sacramentaliter per Eucharistiam – Ecclesia semper ut corpus Christi continuo spiritaliter aedificatur. In hoc corpore Christus vult cum cunctis hominibus coniungi imprimisque dolentes sibi coniungit. Allata Epistulae ad Colossenses verba singularem huius coniunctionis proprietatem testantur. Etenim qui una cum Christo condolescit – quemadmodum Paulus Apostolus Christo adhaerens suas fert “tribulationes” – non solum illam virtutem a Christo haurit, quae antea est dicta, sed sua etiam passione ipse, “quae desunt passionum Christi adimplet”. In hac evangelica expositione veritas de creatrice doloris natura singulariter in lumine ponitur. Christi passio bonum redemptionis mundi effecit, quod quidem in se ipso inexhaustum est et infinitum neque ei quidquam ab ullo homine addi potest. Simul vero in Ecclesiae mysterio ut in corpore suo Christus aliqua ratione redemptricem passionem suam omnibus hominum tribulationibus aperuit. Prout homo fit Christi passionis particeps – ubicumque in orbe terrarum quolibetque historiae tempore – ita eiusmodi passionem suo modo ipse adimplet, per quam Christus mundi redemptionem est operatus.

Does this mean that the Redemption achieved by Christ is not complete? No. It only means that the Redemption, accomplished through satisfactory love, remains always open to all love expressed in human suffering. In this dimension—the dimension of love—the Redemption which has already been completely accomplished is, in a certain sense, constantly being accomplished. Christ achieved the Redemption completely and to the very limits but at the same time he did not bring it to a close. In this redemptive suffering, through which the Redemption of the world was accomplished, Christ opened himself from the beginning to every human suffering and constantly does so. Yes, it seems to be part of the very essence of Christ’s redemptive suffering that this suffering requires to be unceasingly completed.

Numquid ex hoc infertur imperfectam esse redemptionem, quam Christus ad effectum adduxerit? Non est ita. Id enim non aliud significat nisi redemptionem, quae vi amoris satisfactorii est acta, omni semper caritati patere, quae in hominis dolore ostenditur. In hoc ambitu – in ambitu scilicet amoris – redemptio, quae penitus iam perfecta est, aliqua ratione perficitur continenter. Christus redemptionem penitus quidem peregit ac quidem usque ad finem; simul tamen eam non conclusit: in redemptrice hac passione, per quam est redemptio omnium peracta, Christus inde ab initio complexus est semperque id omne complectitur, quod mortales patiuntur. Ita est: ad ipsam redemptricis Christi passionis essentiam pertinere videtur ratio, ob quam eiusmodi passio poscit ut continenter adimpleatur.


2.2. Evangelium Vitae, (The Gospel of Life, 1995)



2.2.  Evangelium Vitae
The Gospel of Life,



Evangelium Vitae






Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28): man’s responsibility for life  

“Crescite et multiplicamini et replete terram et subicite eam” (Gen. 1, 28): hominis de vita officia

[2.2.] 42. To defend and promote life, to show reverence and love for it, is a task which God entrusts to every man, calling him as his living image to share in his own lordship over the world [...]

42. Vitam tueri et provehere, eandem venerari et amare est officium quoddam singulis hominibus a Deo concreditum, cum Deus vocat eum, vividam veluti sui effigiem, ad mundi dominatum participandum quem ipse occupat:

As one called to till and look after the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15), man has a specific responsibility towards the environment in which he lives, towards the creation which God has put at the service of his personal dignity, of his life, not only for the present but also for future generations. It is the ecological question--ranging from the preservation of the natural habitats of the different species of animals and of other forms of life to “human ecology” properly speaking[1]--which finds in the Bible clear and strong ethical direction, leading to a solution which respects the great good of life, of every life. In fact, “the dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to ‘use and misuse’, or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to ‘eat of the fruit of the tree’ (cf. Gen 2:16-17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity”.[2]    

Ad mundi hortum colendum tutandumque vocatus (Cfr. Gen. 2, 15) homo peculiare quidem officium de vitae loco suscipere debet, scilicet de universo mundo quem Deus commodavit ut illius personali dignitati eiusque vitae inserviret, spectatis non modo iis qui nunc sunt, verum et qui postea nascentur. Agitur quippe de oecologica quaestione – quae hinc diversarum animalium specierum naturales sedes multiplicesque vitae formas servandas complectitur, illinc ipsam “humanam oecologiam” (Cfr. IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Centesimus Annus, 38) – et quae in bibliorum sacrorum paginis clara et ethica ratione tantopere significatur, ut vita, quaevis vita, observanter colatur. Reapse “dominium a Creatore homini datum... non est absolutum, nec potest utendi et abutendi arbitrium vocari, vel ex commodo res disponendi. Modus, quem inde a principio ipse Creator homini imposuit quique symbolica ratione exprimitur per interdictionem comedendi de ligno (Cfr. Gen. 2, 16-17), satis clare ostendit in universitate naturae visibilis... nos legibus esse subiectos, non solum biologicis, verum etiam et moralibus, quae impune violari nequeunt” (IOANNIS PAULU PP. II Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 34).





For you formed my inmost being” (Ps 139:13): the dignity of the unborn child    

“Quia tu formasti renes meos” (Ps 139 (138), 13): parvuli nondum nati dignitas

[2.2.] 44. Human life finds itself most vulnerable when it enters the world and when it leaves the realm of time to embark upon eternity. The word of God frequently repeats the call to show care and respect, above all where life is undermined by sickness and old age. […].

44. Magno in discrimine versatur humana vita cum ingreditur in mundum cumque ex hoc saeculo excedit ut in aeternitatis portum transeat. Saepius offendimus in Sacris Litteris – praesertim quod attinet ad exsistentiam cui morbo vel senectute insidiatur – hortamenta ad curam adhibendam reverentiamque. […]





Your eyes beheld my unformed substance” (Ps 139:16): the unspeakable crime of abortion 

“Imperfectum adhuc me viderunt oculi tui” (Ps. 139 (138), 16): abominandum flagitium abortus

[2.2.] 58. […] The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved. The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor! He or she is weak, defenceless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defence consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby’s cries and tears. The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb […]

Procurati ideo abortus gravitas moralis tunc quidem omni sua elucet in veritate, cum intellegitur hic agi de homicidio ac nominatim cum propria perspiciuntur adiuncta quibus illud circumdatur. Destruitur enim homo vitam modo ingrediens, quo videlicet haud potest quidquam prorsus concipi magis innocens: numquam iudicari potest adgressor tantoque minus adgressor iniustus! Imbecillis est atque inermis, adeo quidem ut minima etiam illa privetur sese defendendi ratione, quam habet implorans gemitus ac fletus nati modo infantis. Committitur usque quaque tutelae curaeque ipsius a qua in utero gestatur. […]





Poignant articulation of need for careful pastoral concern


[2.2.] 59. As well as the mother, there are often other people too who decide upon the death of the child in the womb. In the first place, the father of the child may be to blame, not only when he directly pressures the woman to have an abortion, but also when he indirectly encourages such a decision on her part by leaving her alone to face the problems of pregnancy:[3] in this way the family is thus mortally wounded and profaned in its nature as a community of love and in its vocation to be the “sanctuary of life”. Nor can one overlook the pressures which sometimes come from the wider family circle and from friends. Sometimes the woman is subjected to such strong pressure that she feels psychologically forced to have an abortion: certainly in this case moral responsibility lies particularly with those who have directly or indirectly obliged her to have an abortion. Doctors and nurses are also responsible, when they place at the service of death skills which were acquired for promoting life.

59. Praeter matrem alii item crebrius de morte infantis nondum enati decernunt. Culpari in primis potest pater infantis, non tum solum cum ad abortum aperte mulierem compellit, verum cum oblique etiam tali favet eius consilio, deserendo illam ante graviditatis difficultates (Cfr. IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Mulieris Dignitatem, 14): sic mortali vulnere percutitur familia suaque in natura uti communitatis ex amore violatur atque sua in vocatione ut “vitae sacrarium” sit. Nec impulsiones eas taceri decet quae ampliore e familiari cognatione importentur necnon ab amicis. Subicitur haud raro femina adeo vehementibus sollicitationibus ut animo sese cogi iam sentiat ad abortum accipiendum: talibus quidem in casibus nihil dubitatur quin illos praesertim premat morale officium a quibus recta obliquave via in abortum est propulsa. Responsales etiam medici ipsi esse possunt atque valetudinis curatores, cum in mortis ministerium suam peritiam destinant idcirco comparatam ut vitam provehat.

But responsibility likewise falls on the legislators who have promoted and approved abortion laws, and, to the extent that they have a say in the matter, on the administrators of the health-care centres where abortions are performed. A general and no less serious responsibility lies with those who have encouraged the spread of an attitude of sexual permissiveness and a lack of esteem for motherhood, and with those who should have ensured--but did not--effective family and social policies in support of families, especially larger families and those with particular financial and educational needs. Finally, one cannot overlook the network of complicity which reaches out to include international institutions, foundations and associations which systematically campaign for the legalization and spread of abortion in the world. In this sense abortion goes beyond the responsibility of individuals and beyond the harm done to them, and takes on a distinctly social dimension. It is a most serious wound inflicted on society and its culture by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders […]

Officio quodam similiter legum latores implicantur a quibus rogatae lataeque sunt leges pro abortu, tum, quatenus res ab iis pendet, administratores institutionum sanitatis adhibitarum ad exsequendos abortus. Non minor universim obligatio simul eos tangit qui adiuvant ut mentis habitus pro licentia sexuali ac maternitatis contemptus dispergantur, atque simul qui praestare debuerunt – et id facere omiserunt – rationes validas familiares socialesque ad familias sustentandas, potissimum frequentiores aut peculiaribus adflictas nummorum educationisque difficultatibus. Neque conivendum est illa in conspirationis iunctura eo usque pertingente ut instituta complectatur internationalia et opera fundata et sodalicia, quae certa via et ratione nituntur ut per orbem abortus sanciatur ac differatur. Hoc porro pacto excedit fines officii hominum singulorum abortus et detrimenta singulis illata, induitque sibi speciem insigniter socialem: gravissimum enim vulnus est societati ipsi inflictum eiusque humano cultui ab iis nempe qui illius esse potius debent aedificatores ac protectors[…]





It is I who bring both death and life” (Dt 32:39): the tragedy of euthanasia    

“Ego occidam et ego vivere faciam” (Deut. 32, 39): euthanasiae tragoedia

[2.2.] 65. […] Euthanasia must be distinguished from the decision to forego so-called “aggressive medical treatment”, in other words, medical procedures which no longer correspond to the real situation of the patient, either because they are by now disproportionate to any expected results or because they impose an excessive burden on the patient and his family. In such situations, when death is clearly imminent and inevitable, one can in conscience “refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted”.[7] Certainly there is a moral obligation to care for oneself and to allow oneself to be cared for, but this duty must take account of concrete circumstances. It needs to be determined whether the means of treatment available are objectively proportionate to the prospects for improvement. To forego extraordinary or disproportionate means is not the equivalent of suicide or euthanasia; it rather expresses acceptance of the human condition in the face of death.[8]

Ab ea separetur oportet consilium illud, quo quis tractationem reiciat sic dictam “vehementiam therapeuticam”, aliquos nempe medicos interventus non amplius aegrotantis statui congruentes, quia impares iam sunt iis effectibus quos sperari liceret vel etiam quia nimis omnino ipsi aegroto eiusque familiae molesti. His enim in casibus, cum nuntiata iam instat mors nec vitari potest, licet ex conscientia “consilium inire curationibus renuntiandi, quae nonnisi precariam et doloris plenam vitae dilationem afferre valent, haud intermissis tamen ordinariis curis, quae in similibus casibus aegroto debentur” (Ibid. IV). Officium certissime adest morale ut quis se curet curetque se curandum; quod tamen officium metiendum est secundum concreta rerum adiuncta: in re namque nata necesse est diiudicare conveniantne therapeutica instrumenta ad manus aliquando melioris condicionis ipsis exspectationibus. Haud vero tantum valet consiliorum extraordinariorum vel nimiorum reiectio quam voluntaria mors vel euthanasia; consensum potius illa declarat cum humano statu ante mortem (Cfr. ibid.).

In modern medicine, increased attention is being given to what are called “methods of palliative care”, which seek to make suffering more bearable in the final stages of illness and to ensure that the patient is supported and accompanied in his or her ordeal.

Recentissima in medicina arte magis magisque emergunt sic dictae “curae palliativae”, eo scilicet pertinentes ut extremo morbi tempore tolerabilior fiat dolor utque patienti ipsi consentaneus simul praestetur comitatus humanus.






[2.2.] 66. […]Even when not motivated by a selfish refusal to be burdened with the life of someone who is suffering, euthanasia must be called a false mercy, and indeed a disturbing “perversion” of mercy. True “compassion” leads to sharing another’s pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear. Moreover, the act of euthanasia appears all the more perverse if it is carried out by those, like relatives, who are supposed to treat a family member with patience and love, or by those, such as doctors, who by virtue of their specific profession are supposed to care for the sick person even in the most painful terminal stages.

Quamvis non causetur euthanasia ex eo quod, sui commodi causa, quis curare recusat patientem, eadem falsa pietas est habenda, immo eius gravis “deformitas”: nam vera “miseratio” efficit ut cum alterius dolore homo societur, non autem eum perimit cuius aegritudo tolerari non potest. Atque multo flagitiosius videtur euthanasiae facinus, si ab iis patratur, qui – ut familiares – consanguineum leniter amanterque iuvare debent vel – ut medici – suam ipsorum propter artem, aegrotum curare debent, etiamsi in condicionibus ille insanabilibus versatur.





[2.2.] 67. Quite different from this is the way of love and true mercy, which our common humanity calls for, and upon which faith in Christ the Redeemer, who died and rose again, sheds ever new light. The request which arises from the human heart in the supreme confrontation with suffering and death, especially when faced with the temptation to give up in utter desperation, is above all a request for companionship, sympathy and support in the time of trial. It is a plea for help to keep on hoping when all human hopes fail. […]

67. Omnino autem alia est amoris sinceraeque pietatis via, quam nostra humanitas communis infert quamque in Christo Redemptore fides, qui mortuus est et resurrexit, novis rationibus collustrat. Postulatio, quae ex hominis corde manat instantibus novissime dolore et morte, praesertim cum temptatur ut se ipse ad desperationem inclinet atque quasi in ea absumatur, requirit potissimum consuetudinem, solidarietatem, atque praesidium difficultatibus obvenientibus. Auxilium postulatur ad insuper sperandum, cum omnes humanae spes praeciduntur. […]





The Legislators' Unenviable Dilemma


[2.2.] 73. […] In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to “take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it”.[11]

Si ergo de lege agitur suapte natura iniqua, ut est quae abortum permittit et euthanasiam, numquam licet eidem se accommodare, nec quisquam “potest esse particeps alicuius motus publicae opinionis qui eiusmodi legi faveat, neque potest latis suffragiis sustinere”

A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations--particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation--there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.  

De conscientia nominatim agitari potest quibusdam forte evenientibus casibus, cum legatorum suffragia necessaria sunt ut strictiori legi faveatur, quae scilicet circumscribat abortuum lege admissorum numerum pro laxiore lege quae iam viget vel suffragiis probanda. Huiusmodi eventus non sunt rari. Illud enim contingit, dum orbis terrarum quibusdam in partibus leges subinde pro abortu inducuntur, suadentibus haud raro valentibus internationalibus institutis, aliis tamen in Nationibus – in illis potissimum quae iam infeliciter id genus leges sunt expertae – signa quaedam exsistunt mutatarum sententiarum. Superiore in casu, quoties vitari antiquarive non potest abortus lex, liquet legatum, qui palam alioquin vulgoque abortui adversetur, suffragari licite posse illis consiliis quae eiusmodi legis damna minuere velint et perniciosum effectum extenuare qui sive culturam sive moralitatem publicam respicit. Hac enim agendi ratione officium suum non praestat illicitae vel iniustae legi; potius vero aequus opportunusque inducitur conatus ut eius iniquae cohibeantur species.





Organ-Donation as Heroic

[2.2.] 86. As part of the spiritual worship acceptable to God (cf. Rom 12:1), the Gospel of life is to be celebrated above all in daily living, which should be filled with self-giving love for others. In this way, our lives will become a genuine and responsible acceptance of the gift of life and a heartfelt song of praise and gratitude to God who has given us this gift. This is already happening in the many different acts of selfless generosity, often humble and hidden, carried out by men and women, children and adults, the young and the old, the healthy and the sick 86. In ratione spiritalis cultus Deo grati (Cfr. Rom. 12, 1), Evangelii vitae celebratio suam postulat effectionem praesertim in cotidiana exsistentia, quae in caritate erga alios agitur atque sui ipsius oblatione. Hac ratione tota nostra exsistentia fiet vera et officii conscia acceptio doni vitae atque sincera grataque laus in Deum qui nobis talem tribuit donationem. Quod iam accidit plurimis in signis donationis, modestae saepe et absconditae, quae primos exhibent actores viros et mulieres, parvulos et adultos, iuvenes et seniores, sanos et aegrotos.
It is in this context, so humanly rich and filled with love, that heroic actions too are born. These are the most solemn celebration of the Gospel of life, for they proclaim it by the total gift of self. They are the radiant manifestation of the highest degree of love, which is to give one’s life for the person loved (cf. Jn 15:13). They are a sharing in the mystery of the Cross, in which Jesus reveals the value of every person, and how life attains its fullness in the sincere gift of self. Over and above such outstanding moments, there is an everyday heroism, made up of gestures of sharing, big or small, which build up an authentic culture of life. Hoc in rerum contextu, humanitatis caritatisque pleno, heroicae oriuntur res gestae. Quae sunt sollemnissima Evangelii vitae celebratio, utpote quae illud tota sui ipsius donatione proclament; sunt clara supremae caritatis significatio, actio scilicet ponendi vitam pro amico dilecto (Cfr. Io. 15, 13); sunt mysterii Crucis participatio, qua Iesus patefacit quantum pretium habeat sibi vita cuiusque hominis atque quo modo ea in sincerae sui ipsius donationis plenitudine efficiatur. Praeter facta celebria rerum cotidianarum exstat heroica virtus, quae parvis magnisve constat beneficentiae actibus unde verus alitur vitae cultus.
A particularly praiseworthy example of such gestures is the donation of organs, performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health and even of life itself to the sick who sometimes have no other hope. Quos inter plurimi ducenda est organorum donatio rationibus ethica disciplina probabilibus effecta, ut salutis vel etiam vitae ipsius opportunitas aegris praebeatur omni nonnumquam spe destitutis.





[2.2.] 88. […] And when earthly existence draws to a close, it is again charity which finds the most appropriate means for enabling the elderly, especially those who can no longer look after themselves, and the terminally ill to enjoy genuinely humane assistance and to receive an adequate response to their needs, in particular their anxiety and their loneliness. In these cases the role of families is indispensable; yet families can receive much help from social welfare agencies and, if necessary, from recourse to palliative care, taking advantage of suitable medical and social services available in public institutions or in the home.

Sub exitum autem terrestris vitae, caritas adhuc modos quosdam peraptos invenit ut senes, peculiariter qui opibus suis sufficienter non sunt praediti, atque insanabiliter aegrotantes, de cura humana gaudere possint ac rectas responsiones accipere postulationibus suis, singulari modo anxietati suae et solitudini. Familiarum officium substitui non potest his in casibus: suum tamen validum auxilium illae reperire possunt in socialibus adiutoriis praestandis structuris et, cum necesse est, in usurpatione curarum dolorem lenientium, aptis adhibitis sanitatis socialisque rationis ministeriis tum in hospitiis publicis tum domi praestitis.

In particular, the role of hospitals, clinics and convalescent homes needs to be reconsidered. These should not merely be institutions where care is provided for the sick or the dying. Above all they should be places where suffering, pain and death are acknowledged and understood in their human and specifically Christian meaning. This must be especially evident and effective in institutes staffed by Religious or in any way connected with the Church.   

Iterum proprie est considerandum momentum valetudinariorum, clinicarum atque curationis domorum: eorum vera proprietas non spectat solummodo ad instituendas structuras in quibus cura agatur aegrotorum et morientium, sed praesertim ad praebendos ambitus in quibus angustia, dolor atque mors agnoscuntur et explanantur in sua ipsarum humana notione proprieque christiana. Singillatim talis identitas clara et valida apparere debet in institutis quae a religiosis diriguntur vel, quavis ratione, quae cum Ecclesia nectuntur.





[2.2.] 91. Today an important part of policies which favour life is the issue of population growth. Certainly public authorities have a responsibility to “intervene to orient the demography of the population”.[12] But such interventions must always take into account and respect the primary and inalienable responsibility of married couples and families, and cannot employ methods which fail to respect the person and fundamental human rights, beginning with the right to life of every innocent human being. It is therefore morally unacceptable to encourage, let alone impose, the use of methods such as contraception, sterilization and abortion in order to regulate births.

91. Pars quidem magni momenti in arte politica pro vita hodie efficitur ex quaestionibus demographicis. Magistratuum profecto est “consilia capere ad populi demographiam dirigendam (Catechismus Catholicae Ecclesiae, n. 2372); eiusmodi tamen consilia praesumere semper et observare debent praecipuam atque non inalienabilem responsalitatem coniugum et familiarum, neque uti possunt rationibus parum reverentibus personam eiusque capitalia iura, initio ducto ab iure ad vitam cuiusvis personae humanae innocentis. Nulla ergo morali ratione permitti potest ut, ad natorum continendum numerum, suadeantur nedum iniungantur viae quales sunt anticonceptio, sterilizatio et abortus.






[1] Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 38: AAS 83 (1991), 840-841.

[2] JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December 1987), 34: AAS 80 (1988), 560.

[3] Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (15 August 1988), 14: AAS 80 (1988), 1686.

[4] Canon 2350, # 1.

[5] Code of Canon Law, canon 1398; cf. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 1450, # 2.

[6] Cf. ibid., canon 1329; also Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 1417.

[7] Ibid., IV: loc cit., 551.

[8] Cf. ibid.

[9] Ep. 204, 5: CSEL 57, 320.

[10] Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris (11 February 1984), 14-24: AAS 76 (1984), 214-234.

[11] CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Declaration on Procured Abortion (18 November 1974), No. 22: AAS 66 (1974), 744.

[12] Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2372.


2.3. On Life-Sustaining Treatment and the Vegetative State, (March, 2004)



2.3.  On Life-Sustaining Treatment and the Vegetative State
(March, 2004)



Address of John Paul II to the Participants in the International Conference on “Life-Sustaining Treatment and the Vegetative State: Scientific Progress and Ethical Dilemmas”

Discorso di Giovanni Paolo II
ai Partecipanti al Congresso Internazionale su "I Trattamenti di Sostegno Vitale e lo Stato Vegetativo. Progressi scientifici e dilemmi etici"

Saturday, 20 March 2004

(17-20 marzo 2004, augustinianum) Sabato, 20 marzo 2004

[...] 4. MEDICAL doctors and health-care personnel, society and the Church have moral duties toward these persons from which they cannot exempt themselves without lessening the demands both of professional ethics and human and Christian solidarity.

4. Verso queste persone, medici e operatori sanitari, società e Chiesa hanno doveri morali dai quali non possono esimersi, senza venir meno alle esigenze sia della deontologia professionale che della solidarietà umana e cristiana.

The sick person in a vegetative state, awaiting recovery or a natural end, still has the right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc.), and to the prevention of complications related to his confinement to bed. He also has the right to appropriate rehabilitative care and to be monitored for clinical signs of eventual recovery.

L’ammalato in stato vegetativo, in attesa del recupero o della fine naturale, ha dunque diritto ad una assistenza sanitaria di base (nutrizione, idratazione, igiene, riscaldamento, ecc.), ed alla prevenzione delle complicazioni legate all’allettamento. Egli ha diritto anche ad un intervento riabilitativo mirato ed al monitoraggio dei segni clinici di eventuale ripresa.

I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act.

In particolare, vorrei sottolineare come la somministrazione di acqua e cibo, anche quando avvenisse per vie artificiali, rappresenti sempre un mezzo naturale di conservazione della vita, non un atto medico.

Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory,

Il suo uso pertanto sarà da considerarsi, in linea di principio, ordinario e proporzionato, e come tale moralmente obbligatorio,

insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality,

nella misura in cui e fino a quando esso dimostra di raggiungere la sua finalità propria,

which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering.

che nella fattispecie consiste nel procurare nutrimento al paziente e lenimento delle sofferenze.

The obligation to provide the “normal care due to the sick in such cases” (C.D.F., Iura et Bona , p. 4) includes, in fact, the use of nutrition and hydration

L’obbligo di non far mancare “le cure normali dovute all’ammalato in simili casi” (Congr. Dottr. Fede, Iura et bona, p. IV) comprende, infatti, anche l’impiego dell’alimentazione e idratazione

(cf. Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, Dans le cadre, 2.4.4;  Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers., Charter for Health Care Workers, [1995] n. 120).

 (cfr Pont. Cons. «Cor Unum », Dans le cadre, 2.4.4; Pont. Cons. Past . Operat. Sanit., Carta degli Operatori Sanitari, n. 120).

The evaluation of probabilities, founded on waning hopes for recovery when the vegetative state is prolonged beyond a year, cannot ethically justify the cessation or interruption of minimal care for the patient, including nutrition and hydration.

La valutazione delle probabilità, fondata sulle scarse speranze di recupero quando lo stato vegetativo si prolunga oltre un anno, non può giustificare eticamente l’abbandono o l’interruzione delle cure minimali al paziente, comprese alimentazione ed idratazione.



2.4. On Palliative Care, (Nov., 2004).



2.4.  On Palliative Care
(November, 2004)



Address by Pope John Paul II On the Occasion of the International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Health Care

Discorso di Giovanni Paolo Ii In Occasione della Conferenza Internazionale Del Pontificio Consiglio per la Pastorale Della Salute

Friday, November 12, 2004

Venerdì, 12 novembre 2004

[...] 3. Love of neighbour, which Jesus vividly portrayed in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10: 2ff.), enables us to recognize the dignity of every person, even when illness has become a burden. Suffering, old age, a comatose state or the imminence of death in no way diminish the intrinsic dignity of the person created in God’s image.

3. L’amore verso il prossimo, che Gesù ha tratteggiato con efficacia nella parabola del buon samaritano (cfr Lc 10, 29ss), rende capaci di riconoscere la dignità di ogni persona, anche quando la malattia è venuta a gravare sulla sua esistenza. La sofferenza, l’anzianità, lo stato di incoscienza, l’imminenza della morte non diminuiscono l’intrinseca dignità della persona, creata ad immagine di Dio.

Euthanasia is one of those tragedies caused by an ethic that claims to dictate who should live and who should die. Even if it is motivated by sentiments of a misconstrued compassion or of a misunderstood preservation of dignity, euthanasia actually eliminates the person instead of relieving the individual of suffering.

Tra i drammi causati da un’etica che pretende di stabilire chi può vivere e chi deve morire, vi è quello dell’eutanasia. Anche se motivata da sentimenti di una mal intesa compassione o di una mal compresa dignità da preservare, l’eutanasia invece che riscattare la persona dalla sofferenza ne realizza la soppressione.

Unless compassion is combined with the desire to tackle suffering and support those who are afflicted, it leads to the cancellation of life in order to eliminate pain, thereby distorting the ethical status of medical science.

La compassione, quando è priva della volontà di affrontare la sofferenza e di accompagnare chi soffre, porta alla cancellazione della vita per annientare il dolore, stravolgendo così lo statuto etico della scienza medica.

4. True compassion, on the contrary, encourages every reasonable effort for the patient’s recovery. At the same time, it helps draw the line when it is clear that no further treatment will serve this purpose.

4. La vera compassione, al contrario, promuove ogni ragionevole sforzo per favorire la guarigione del paziente. Al tempo stesso essa aiuta a fermarsi quando nessuna azione risulta ormai utile a tale fine.

The refusal of aggressive treatment is neither a rejection of the patient nor of his or her life. Indeed, the object of the decision on whether to begin or to continue a treatment has nothing to do with the value of the patient’s life, but rather with whether such medical intervention is beneficial for the patient.

Il rifiuto dell’ accanimento terapeutico non è un rifiuto del paziente e della sua vita. Infatti, l’oggetto della deliberazione sull’opportunità di iniziare o continuare una pratica terapeutica non è il valore della vita del paziente, ma il valore dell’intervento medico sul paziente.

The possible decision either not to start or to halt a treatment will be deemed ethically correct if the treatment is ineffective or obviously disproportionate to the aims of sustaining life or recovering health. Consequently, the decision to forego aggressive treatment is an expression of the respect that is due to the patient at every moment.

L’eventuale decisione di non intraprendere o di  interrompere una terapia sarà ritenuta eticamente corretta quando questa risulti inefficace o chiaramente sproporzionata ai fini del sostegno alla vita o del recupero della salute. Il rifiuto dell’accanimento terapeutico, pertanto, è espressione del rispetto che in ogni istante si deve al paziente.

It is precisely this sense of loving respect that will help support patients to the very end. Every possible act and attention should be brought into play to lessen their suffering in the last part of their earthly existence and to encourage a life as peaceful as possible, which will dispose them to prepare their souls for the encounter with the heavenly Father.

Sarà proprio questo senso di amorevole rispetto che aiuterà ad accompagnare il paziente fino alla fine, ponendo in atto tutte le azioni e attenzioni possibili per diminuirne le sofferenze e favorirne nell’ultima parte dell’esistenza terrena un vissuto per quanto possibile sereno, che ne disponga l’animo all’incontro con il Padre celeste.

5. Particularly in the stages of illness when proportionate and effective treatment is no longer possible, while it is necessary to avoid every kind of persistent or aggressive treatment, methods of “palliative care” are required. As the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae affirms, they must “seek to make suffering more bearable in the final stages of illness and to ensure that the patient is supported and accompanied in his or her ordeal” (n. 65).

5. Soprattutto nella fase della malattia, in cui non è più possibile praticare terapie proporzionate ed efficaci, mentre, si impone l’obbligo di evitare ogni forma di ostinazione o accanimento terapeutico, si colloca la necessità delle “cure palliative” che, come afferma l’Enciclica Evangelium vitae, sono “destinate a rendere più sopportabile la sofferenza nella fase finale della malattia e di assicurare al tempo stesso al paziente un adeguato accompagnamento” (n. 65).

In fact, palliative care aims, especially in the case of patients with terminal diseases, at alleviating a vast gamut of symptoms of physical, psychological and mental suffering; hence, it requires the intervention of a team of specialists with medical, psychological and religious qualifications who will work together to support the patient in critical stages.

Le cure palliative, infatti, mirano a lenire, specialmente nel paziente terminale, una vasta gamma di sintomi di sofferenza di ordine fisico, psichico e mentale, e richiedono perciò l’intervento di un’équipe di specialisti con competenza medica, psicologica e religiosa, tra loro affiatati per sostenere il paziente nella fase critica.

The Encyclical Evangelium Vitae in particular sums up the traditional teaching on the licit use of pain killers that are sometimes called for, with respect for the freedom of patients who should be able, as far as possible, “to satisfy their moral and family duties, and above all... to prepare in a fully conscious way for their definitive meeting with God” (n. 65).

In particolare, nell’ Enciclica Evangelium vitae è stata sintetizzata la dottrina tradizionale sull’uso lecito e talora doveroso degli analgesici nel rispetto della libertà dei pazienti, i quali devono essere posti in grado, nella misura del possibile, “di soddisfare ai loro obblighi morali e familiari e soprattutto devono potersi preparare con piena coscienza all’incontro definitivo con Dio” (n. 65).

Moreover, while patients in need of pain killers should not be made to forego the relief that they can bring, the dose should be effectively proportionate to the intensity of their pain and its treatment. All forms of euthanasia that would result from the administration of massive doses of a sedative for the purpose of causing death must be avoided.

D’altra parte, mentre non si deve far mancare ai pazienti che ne hanno necessità il sollievo proveniente dagli analgesici, la loro somministrazione dovrà essere effettivamente proporzionata all’intensità e alla cura del dolore, evitando ogni forma di eutanasia quale si avrebbe somministrando ingenti dosi di analgesici proprio con lo scopo di provocare la morte.

To provide this help in its different forms, it is necessary to encourage the training of specialists in palliative care at special teaching institutes where psychologists and health-care workers can also be involved.

Ai fini di realizzare questo articolato aiuto occorre incoraggiare la formazione di specialisti delle cure palliative, in particolare strutture didattiche alle quali possono essere interessati anche psicologi e operatori della pastorale.











Bishops in Council








  fourth edition


 4. DIRECTIVES 38-54

Issues in Care for the Beginning of Life




38. When the marital act of sexual intercourse is not able to attain its procreative purpose, assistance that does not separate the unitive and procreative ends of the act, and does not substitute for the marital act itself, may be used to help married couples conceive.27




39. Those techniques of assisted conception that respect the unitive and procreative meanings of sexual intercourse and do not involve the destruction of human embryos, or their deliberate generation in such numbers that it is clearly envisaged that all cannot implant and some are simply being used to maximize the chances of others implanting, may be used as therapies for infertility.




40. Heterologous fertilization (that is, any technique used to achieve conception by the use of gametes coming from at least one donor other than the spouses) is prohibited because it is contrary to the covenant of marriage, the unity of the spouses, and the dignity proper to parents and the child.28




41. Homologous artificial fertilization (that is, any technique used to achieve conception using the gametes of the two spouses joined in marriage) is prohibited when it separates procreation from the marital act in its unitive significance (e.g., any technique used to achieve extra-corporeal conception).29




42. Because of the dignity of the child and of marriage, and because of the uniqueness of the mother-child relationship, participation in contracts or arrangements for surrogate motherhood is not permitted. Moreover, the commercialization of such surrogacy denigrates the dignity of women, especially the poor.30




43. A Catholic health care institution that provides treatment for infertility should offer not only technical assistance to infertile couples but also should help couples pursue other solutions (e.g., counseling, adoption).




44. A Catholic health care institution should provide prenatal, obstetric, and postnatal services for mothers and their children in a manner consonant with its mission.




45. Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion, which, in its moral context, includes the interval between conception and implantation of the embryo. Catholic health care institutions are not to provide abortion services, even based upon the principle of material cooperation. In this context, Catholic health care institutions need to be concerned about the danger of scandal in any association with abortion providers.




46. Catholic health care providers should be ready to offer compassionate physical, psychological, moral, and spiritual care to those persons who have suffered from the trauma of abortion.




47. Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.




48. In case of extrauterine pregnancy, no intervention is morally licit which constitutes a direct abortion.31




49. For a proportionate reason, labor may be induced after the fetus is viable.




50. Prenatal diagnosis is permitted when the procedure does not threaten the life or physical integrity of the unborn child or the mother and does not subject them to disproportionate risks; when the diagnosis can provide information to guide preventative care for the mother or pre- or postnatal care for the child; and when the parents, or at least the mother, give free and informed consent. Prenatal diagnosis is not permitted when undertaken with the intention of aborting an unborn child with a serious defect.32




51. Nontherapeutic experiments on a living embryo or fetus are not permitted, even with the consent of the parents. Therapeutic experiments are permitted for a proportionate reason with the free and informed consent of the parents or, if the father cannot be contacted, at least of the mother. Medical research that will not harm the life or physical integrity of an unborn child is permitted with parental consent.33




52. Catholic health institutions may not promote or condone contraceptive practices but should provide, for married couples and the medical staff who counsel them, instruction both about the Church’s teaching on responsible parenthood and in methods of natural family planning.




53. Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution. Procedures that induce sterility are permitted when their direct effect is the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology and a simpler treatment is not available.34




54. Genetic counseling may be provided in order to promote responsible parenthood and to prepare for the proper treatment and care of children with genetic defects, in accordance with Catholic moral teaching and the intrinsic rights and obligations of married couples regarding the transmission of life.

 5. DIRECTIVES 55-66

Issues in Care for the Dying


55. Catholic health care institutions offering care to persons in danger of death from illness, accident, advanced age, or similar condition should provide them with appropriate opportunities to prepare for death. Persons in danger of death should be provided with whatever information is necessary to help them understand their condition and have the opportunity to discuss their condition with their family members and care providers. They should also be offered the appropriate medical information that would make it possible to address the morally legitimate choices available to them. They should be provided the spiritual support as well as the opportunity to receive the sacraments in order to prepare well for death.



56. A person has a moral obligation to use ordinary or proportionate means of preserving his or her life. Proportionate means are those that in the judgment of the patient[:]

[1] offer a reasonable hope of benefit and

[2] do not entail an excessive burden

[3] or impose excessive expense on the family or the community.39

  [See also § 32 on obligation to respect decision of informed conscience



57. A person may forgo extraordinary or disproportionate means of preserving life. Disproportionate means are those that in the patient’s judgment do not offer a reasonable hope of benefit or entail an excessive burden, or impose excessive expense on the family or the community.



58. In principle, there is an obligation to provide patients with food and water, including medically assisted nutrition and hydration for those who cannot take food orally. This obligation extends to patients in chronic and presumably irreversible conditions (e.g. the ‘persistent vegetative state’) who can reasonably be expected to live indefinitely if given such care.40
    Medically assisted nutrition and hydration become morally optional when[:]

[1] they cannot reasonably be expected to prolong life or

[2] when they would be “excessively burdensome for the patient

[3] or [would] cause significant physical discomfort, for example resulting from complications in the use of the means employed.”41 [41 Cong. Doct..Faith, Commentary on “Responses to Certain Questions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration.”]

 For instance, as a patient draws close to inevitable death from an underlying progressive and fatal condition, certain measures to provide nutrition and hydration may become excessively burdensome and therefore not obligatory in light of their very limited ability to prolong life or provide comfort.
[amended in Nov. 2009:]

FORMER TEXT of §58: There should be a presumption in favor of providing nutrition and hydration to all patients, including patients who require medically assisted nutrition and hydration, as long as this is of sufficient benefit to outweigh the burdens involved to the patient.



59. The free and informed judgment made by a competent adult patient concerning the use or withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures should always be respected and normally complied with, unless it is contrary to Catholic moral teaching.



60. Euthanasia is an action or omission that of itself or by intention causes death in order to alleviate suffering. Catholic health care institutions may never condone or participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide in any way. Dying patients who request euthanasia should receive loving care, psychological and spiritual support, and appropriate remedies for pain and other symptoms so that they can live with dignity until the time of natural death.42



61. Patients should be kept as free of pain as possible so that they may die comfortably and with dignity, and in the place where they wish to die. Since a person has the right to prepare for his or her death while fully conscious, he or she should not be deprived of consciousness without a compelling reason. Medicines capable of alleviating or suppressing pain may be given to a dying person, even if this therapy may indirectly shorten the person’s life so long as the intent is not to hasten death. Patients experiencing suffering that cannot be alleviated should be helped to appreciate the Christian understanding of redemptive suffering.



62. The determination of death should be made by the physician or competent medical authority in accordance with responsible and commonly accepted scientific criteria.



63. Catholic health care institutions should encourage and provide the means whereby those who wish to do so may arrange for the donation of their organs and bodily tissue, for ethically legitimate purposes, so that they may be used for donation and research after death.




 4. Catechism on Life







on Life Issues

Bishop Exhorts Faithful







Intentional homicide

Homicidium voluntarium

2268 The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful. The murderer and those who cooperate voluntarily in murder commit a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.68

2268 Quintum praeceptum tamquam peccato graviter obnoxium proscribit homicidium directum et voluntarium. Homicida illique qui voluntarie cooperantur occisioni, committunt peccatum quod ad coelum clamat vindictam postulans. 178

Infanticide,69 fratricide, parricide, and the murder of a spouse are especially grave crimes by reason of the natural bonds which they break. Concern for eugenics or public health cannot justify any murder, even if commanded by public authority.

Infanticidium, 179 fratricidium, parricidium et coniugis occisio crimina sunt speciatim gravia, propter naturalia vincula quae rumpunt. Sollicitudo pro eugenismo vel pro curanda publica valetudine nullam possunt iustificare occisionem, licet haec a publicis praecipiatur potestatibus.

2269 The fifth commandment forbids doing anything with the intention of indirectly bringing about a person’s death. The moral law prohibits exposing someone to mortal danger without grave reason, as well as refusing assistance to a person in danger.

2269 Quintum praeceptum prohibet aliquid facere cum intentione mortem cuiusdam personae indirecte provocandi. Lex moralis vetat quemdam periculo mortis exponere sine causa gravi, et etiam auxilium recusare personae in discrimine constitutae.

The acceptance by human society of murderous famines, without efforts to remedy them, is a scandalous injustice and a grave offense. Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them.70

A societate humana condiciones famis tolerari, quae mortem afferunt, quin nisus fiat ut eisdem remedium afferatur, scandalosa est iniustitia et gravis culpa. Negotiatores, quorum usurarii et mercatorii usus, suorum in humanitate fratrum famem et mortem provocant, indirecte committunt homicidium. Hoc illis est imputabile. 180

Unintentional killing is not morally imputable. But one is not exonerated from grave offense if, without proportionate reasons, he has acted in a way that brings about someone’s death, even without the intention to do so.

Homicidium involuntarium moraliter imputabile non est. Sed si quis, sine rationibus proportionatis, ita agit ut mortem adducat, etiam sine intentione illam apportandi, de gravi non excusatur culpa.

5.1. Catechism on Abortion






2270 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 (71 Cf. CDF, Donum vitae I, 1.).

2270 Vita humana, a momento conceptionis, debet absolute observari et protegi. Creaturae humanae, inde a primo eius exsistentiae momento, agnosci debent personae iura, inter quae ius inviolabile omnis creaturae innocentis ad vitam. 181

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you (72 Jer 1:5; cf. Job 10:8-12; Ps 22:10-11.).

« Priusquam te formarem in utero, novi te et, antequam exires de vulva, sanctificavi te » (Ier 1,5).

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth(73 Ps 139:15.).

« Non sunt abscondita ossa mea a Te, cum factus sum in occulto, contextus in inferioribus terrae » (Ps 139,15).

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

2271 Ecclesia, a saeculo primo, moralem affirmavit malitiam omnis abortus provocati. Haec doctrina mutata non est. Permanet immutabilis. Abortus directus, id est, tamquam finis vel tamquam medium volitus, legi morali est graviter contrarius:

You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.(74 Didache 2, 2: SCh 248, 148; cf. Ep. Barnabae 19, 5: PG 2, 777; Ad Diognetum 5, 6: PG 2, 1173; Tertullian, Apol. 9: PL 1, 319-320.)

« Non interficies foetum in abortione neque interimes infantem natum ». 182

God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.(75 GS 51 # 3.)

« Deus [...], Dominus vitae, praecellens servandi vitam ministerium hominibus commisit, modo homine digno adimplendum. Vita igitur inde a conceptione, maxima cura tuenda est; abortus necnon infanticidium nefanda sunt crimina ». 183

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,”(76 CIC, can. 1398.)“by the very commission of the offense,”(77 CIC, can. 1314.) and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.(78 Cf. CIC, cann. 1323-1324.) The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

2272 Formalis cooperatio ad abortum culpam constituit gravem. Ecclesia hoc contra vitam humanam delictum poena canonica punit excommunicationis. « Qui abortum procurat, effectu secuto, in excommunicationem latae sententiae incurrit », 184 « ipso facto commissi delicti », 185 condicionibus a iure praevisis. 186 Ecclesia sic misericordiae campum restringere non intendit. Commissi criminis manifestat gravitatem, damnum irreparabile innocenti, qui morte afficitur, illatum, eius parentibus totique societati.

2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

2273 Ius inalienabile ad vitam uniuscuiusque hominis innocentis est elementum societatis civilis et eius legislationis constitutivum:

“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”(79 CDF, Donum vitae III.)

« Inalienabilia personae iura agnosci atque observari debent a civili societate et a publicis auctoritatibus. Quae iura neque a singulis hominibus pendent, neque a parentibus, ac ne sunt quidem concessio a societate et a Civitate facta: verum ea pertinent ad humanam naturam, atque personae inhaerent vi creatricis actionis, a qua persona ipsa originem duxit. Inter haec fundamentalia iura, ad rem quod attinet, recolere oportet: ius ad vitam et ad corporis integritatem, quo unaquaeque creatura humana gaudet a conceptionis momento usque ad mortem ». 187

“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. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.”(80 CDF, Donum vitae III.)

« Cum lex civilis cuidam hominum coetui praesidium aufert, quod lex praebere debet, eo ipso tunc respublica negat omnium civium aequalitatem coram lege. Cum respublica vim suam non adhibet ad iura uniuscuiusque tuenda, maxime debiliorum, tunc labefiunt ipsa fundamenta Civitatis legitime constitutae. [...] Ex observantia atque tutela quae nascituro debentur, inde a conceptionis momento, consequitur ut lex congruas poenas praevideat contra quamlibet deliberatam violationem iurium ipsius ». 188

5.2. Rights of the Embryo  

2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

2274 Embryo, quippe qui tamquam persona, inde a conceptione, est tractandus, in sua integritate est defendendus, curandus et sanandus, quantum fieri potest, sicut quaelibet alia humana creatura.

Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, “if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe guarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence.”(81 CDF, Donum vitae I, 2.)

Praenatalis diagnosis est moraliter licita, si « tuetur vitam et integritatem embryonis et fetus humani atque spectat ad singulum embryonem servandum vel curandum [...]. Ea tamen graviter legi morali adversatur, si, prout erit eius exitus, admittat abortum fieri posse: diagnosis [...] aequiparanda non est damnationi ad mortem ». 189

2275 “One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival.”(82 CDF, Donum vitae I, 3.)

2275 « Interventus in humano embryone liciti habendi sunt hac condicione, ut embryonis vitam integritatemque observent, ne secumferant pericula haud proportionata sed spectent ad morbi curationem, ad salutis statum in melius mutandum vel ad ipsius singularis fetus superstitem vitam in tuto ponendam ». 190

“It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material.”(83 CDF, Donum vitae I, 5.)

« Morum [...] honestati contrarium est embryones humanos gignere ad abutendum, scilicet ut efficiantur "materia biologica", quae praesto sit ad usum ». 191

“Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity”(84 CDF, Donum vitae I, 6.) which are unique and unrepeatable.

« Nonnulli conatus interveniendi in patrimonio cromosomico vel generativo non sunt therapeutici, sed spectant ad viventes humanos gignendos, selectos secundum sexum vel alias proprietates iam antea praestitutas. Huiusmodi artificiosae tractationes adversantur personali humanae creaturae dignitati eiusque integritati atque identitati » 192 unicae, non iterabili.

5.3. Euthanasia






2276 Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible.

2276 Illi, quorum vita impedita est vel infirmata, specialem postulant observantiam. Personae aegrotae vel aliqua incapacitate (handicap) laborantes sustineri debent ut vitam degant ita normalem, quantum fieri potest.

2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.

2277 Euthanasia directa, quaecumque sunt eius motiva vel media, consistit in fine imponendo vitae personarum aliqua incapacitate (handicap) laborantium, aegrotarum vel morientium. Moraliter inacceptabilis est.

Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.

Sic actio vel omissio quae, ex se vel in intentione, mortem causat ad dolorem supprimendum, occisionem constituit dignitati personae humanae et observantiae erga Deum viventem, eius Creatorem, graviter contrariam. Iudicii error, in quem quis bona fide incidere potest, naturam non mutat huius interficientis actus qui semper proscribendus est et excludendus. [(193) Cf Sacra Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei, Decl. Iura et bona: AAS 72 (1980) 542-552.]

2278 5.4. Discintinuing Procedures - Palliative Care


2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are [:]

2278 Cessatio a mediis medicinalibus,



extraordinary, or

disproportionate to the expected outcome



extraordinariis vel

talibus quae cum effectibus obtentis proportionata non sunt,

can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

legitima esse potest. Haec est recusatio « saevitiae therapeuticae ». Hoc modo, non intenditur mortem inferre; accipitur non posse eam impedire. Decisiones suscipiendae sunt ab aegroto, si ad id competentiam habeat et capacitatem, secus autem ab illis qui ad id, secundum legem, habent iura, rationabilem aegroti voluntatem et legitimum commodum semper observantes.

2279 Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.

2279 Etiamsi mors imminere consideretur, curae, quae ordinario personae aegrotae debentur, nequeunt legitime interrumpi. Analgesicorum medicamentorum usus ad moribundi dolores sublevandos, etiam cum periculo eius dies breviandi, potest esse dignitati humanae moraliter conformis, si mors neque ut finis neque ut medium est volita, sed solummodo praevisa et, tamquam inevitabilis, tolerata. Curae lenientes formam constituunt excellentem caritatis gratuitae. Hac ratione foveri debent.

5.6. Suicide






2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

2280 Unusquisque suae vitae est responsabilis coram Deo qui illam ei donavit. Ipse eius Dominus permanet summus. Tenemur eam cum gratitudine accipere et ad Ipsius honorem praeservare atque ad animarum nostrarum salutem. Vitae, quam Deus nobis concredidit, administratores sumus et non domini. De illa non disponimus.

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

2281 Suicidium naturali creaturae humanae contradicit inclinationi ad eius vitam conservandam et perpetuandam. Graviter iusto sui ipsius amori contrarium est. Pariter amorem offendit proximi, quia iniuste solidarietatis frangit vincula cum societatibus familiari, nationali et humanae, erga quas obligati permanemus. Suicidium amori Dei viventis est contrarium.

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

2282 Suicidium, si intentione committitur ut exemplo sit, praesertim iuvenibus, gravitatem etiam sumit scandali. Cooperatio voluntaria ad suicidium est legi morali contraria.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

Graves perturbationes psychicae, angustia vel gravis timor probationis, doloris vel cruciatus responsabilitatem se ipsum interficientis possunt imminuere.

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

2283 De salute aeterna personarum, quae sibi ipsis mortem intulerunt, desperari non debet. Deus potest, viis, quas solus Ipse noscit, occasionem illis praebere salutaris poenitentiae. Ecclesia orat pro personis quae vitae suae intulerunt vim.

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