VATICAN CITY, 26 FEB 2011 (VIS) – At midday today Benedict XVI received participants in the annual meeting of the Pontifical Academy for Life, led by their new president, Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula.

The question of post-abortion syndrome, which is being examined by the assembly, reveals, said the Pope “the irrepressible voice of moral conscience and the terrible wound it suffers each time a human action betrays the human being’s innate vocation to good”.

“In your reflections it would also be helpful to focus attention on the sometimes-clouded conscience of the children’s fathers, who often abandon pregnant women”, he explained. “Moral conscience has the duty to discern good from evil in the various situations of life so that, on the basis of this judgement, human beings can freely orient themselves towards what is good. To people who would deny the existence of moral conscience in man, reducing its voice to the result of external conditioning or to a purely emotive phenomenon, it is important to highlight that the moral nature of human action is not an extrinsic or optional value, nor is a prerogative only of Christians and believers; rather, it unites all mankind. Through moral conscience God speaks to each of us, inviting us to defend human life at all times, and in this personal bond with the Creator lies the profound dignity of moral conscience and the reason for its inviolability”.

“Doctors”, the Holy Father went on, “must not fail in their serious duty to ensure that women’s consciences are not tricked into believing that abortion will resolve family, economic and social difficulties, or the health problems of their child. In this latter situation in particular, women are often convinced, at times by the doctors themselves, that abortion represents not only a morally acceptable choice but even a ‘therapeutic’ act necessary to avoid suffering for the child and its family, and to remove an ‘unjust’ burden from society. In a cultural context characterised by an eclipse of the meaning of life, in which the shared perception of the moral gravity of abortion and others forms of attacks against human life has been attenuated, doctors are called to show particular fortitude in continuing to affirm that abortion resolves nothing; rather it kills the child, destroys the woman and blinds the conscience of the child’s father, often devastating family life.

“However”, the Pope added, “this duty concerns not only the medical profession and healthcare workers; society as a whole must defend the conceived child’s right to life and the true good of the woman who can never, in any circumstances, find fulfilment in the decision to abort. In the same way it is important … to ensure that the necessary help is not lacking for women who, having unfortunately already chosen the path of abortion, are now experiencing all its moral and existential consequences. There are initiatives, at a diocesan level or by individual volunteer organisations, which offer psychological and spiritual support for a full recovery. The solidarity of the Christian community must not abandon this kind of shared responsibility”.

The Pope then turned his attention to the second question being examined by the annual meeting of the Pontifical Academy for Life: the use of stem cells from the umbilical cord.

“This has important clinical applications”, he said, “and is a promising form of scientific research; however its realisation depends to a large extent on the generosity of donating cord blood at the moment of childbirth, and on adapting structures in order to make the mothers’ desire to donate viable. I invite you, then, to promote genuine and well-informed human and Christian solidarity”, he said.

In closing Benedict XVI referred to the concern of many researchers regarding the increasing number of private cord blood banks for autologous use. “This option”, he said, “apart from having no greater scientific merit than the donation of cord blood, weakens that genuine spirit of solidarity which must constantly animate the search for that common good, towards which, in the final analysis, science and medical research are striving”.

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I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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