On Tuesday the 17th Mons. Rino Fisichella was called by Pope Benedict XVI to succeed Mons. Elio Sgreccia as the head of the Pontifical Academy of Science, Social Sciences, Life. His Excellency was also raised to the title of archbishop while maintaining his role as Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome.

The Pontifical Academy for Science, Social Sciences, Life has as its scope: “to pay honor to pure science, wherever it is found, and to assure its freedom and to promote its research, which constitute the indispensable basis for progress in science.” It assures dialogue on bioethical issues while defending those primary moral values of the Church and its position on non-negotiable issues such as, research on stem cells, human embryos, cloning, euthanasia and other bioethical and scientific issues.

The position of the Church on bioethical issues is often incorrectly interpreted by secular academic circles as an obstacle to scientific research and progress. This is a common mistake that representatives of the scientific world easily run into and is usually dictated by ignorance of the purpose of the Church’s mission, which is to act for the preservation of human dignity and for the salvation of souls.

In Veritatis Splendor, one of many of Pope John Paul II ‘s encyclicals, there is a passage that clearly mentions how human knowledge cannot be sufficient to grant true freedom and truth to mankind:

the development of science and technology, this splendid testimony of human capacity for the understanding and for perseverance, does not free humanity from the obligation to ask ultimate religious questions. Rather, it spurs us to face the most painful and decisive struggles, those of the heart and of the moral conscience.

The Pope also underlines the role of Church in safeguarding man from relativism and from the false conviction that God’s law is a burden, a restriction to his freedom. It is quite the opposite, man is as much free as he can understand God’s teachings and accept his commands. Therefore, the Church, being the body of Christ, has the “duty in every age of examining the signs of the times and interpreting them in the light of Gospel, so that she can offer in a manner appropriate to each generation replies to the continual human questionings on the meaning of this life to come and how they are related.”

Archbishop Fisichella will certainly be able to face such a task, thanks to his excellent academic background and his personal concern for the promotion of human dignity. He is long time Acton friend and was an important speaker at two of the Centesimus Annus Conferences on May 4 2006 and on May 2 2007. During his participation at the Centesimus Annus Conferences, archbishop Fisichella recalled how the social teaching of the Church “consists in favoring, promoting and defending the central role of the dignity of the human person, of every person, of the entire person, of every individual without any exception.”

There is no choice to make because there is no opposition, there simply cannot be knowledge without truth, or scientific research without the raising of further questions or of new challenges that will require answers. These answers can be found in Christ, who is always present in the Church.


  • http://www.jmcenter.org Robert V. Ritter

    Science or religion — a false choice. Quite the contrary. Science and religion are incompatible — except when people compartmentalize the two.

    I found this to be true over 40 years ago when I left the Catholic church. Since then, I have yet to find any credible evidence supporting the existence of a god or gods.

    We are all atheists when we are born, and then we get indoctrinated into believing that there is a god if we have theistic parents.

    That the Catholic Church is permitting nonconflicting science into its beliefs is better than none, but a far cry from what reason requires.

    Last, a note about values, ethics and morals — which term one prefers. We need not be of a religious mental condition to have them. Reason provides us with values second to none.

  • DanVB

    “Science or religion — a false choice. Quite the contrary. Science and religion are incompatible — except when people compartmentalize the two.

    I found this to be true over 40 years ago when I left the Catholic church. Since then, I have yet to find any credible evidence supporting the existence of a god or gods.”

    Maybe the reason you have yet to find the evidence you desire is because you stopped looking.

    I have yet to find evidence of the existence of protons and electrons. Then again, I’m not looking for it either.

    “We are all atheists when we are born, and then we get indoctrinated into believing that there is a god if we have theistic parents.”

    What about children of atheists who become believers later on? Wouldn’t those children have been indoctrinated into nonbelief by their atheist parents? Or are religious parents just better at teaching their children their values?

    Your whole back story makes your argument untenable. You were indoctrinated into belief (either by your parents, someone else, or by yourself) and then voluntarily left into unbelief. You made a choice independent of your upbringing. How is it that when a grown up makes the opposite choice that choice was dictated by their upbringing?

    “Reason provides us with values second to none.”

    Is that the same reason that Hitler used to justify the Holocaust? I have to apologize. I don’t normally make comparisons to Hitler to make a point or to demonize my opponent, but your thesis that “reason provides us with values second to none” was obviously vulnerable to such a comparison.

    It was fun debating you. You were easy to defeat.

  • http://www.jeremiahfilms.com/released/news/062508.html Jeremiah Films

    Hat Tip: PowerBlog

    The position of the Church on bioethical issues is often incorrectly interpreted by secular academic circles as an obstacle to scientific research and progress.

  • http://www.jmcenter.org Robert V. Ritter

    Dan, you have hardly defeated me. Rather, I am just getting around to seeing your reply. While it’s true that I don’t go around looking for evidence of the existence of a god or gods — why waste my time — I would like to think that I have an open mine if such evidence is forthcoming. I would point out that you haven’t provided any such evidence. Guess you don’t have any.

    With respect to the Holocaust, it is my understanding that Hitler was a Catholic.

    We in the ethical atheist community certainly don’t recognize Hitler as one of our own.

    And look at the tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of deaths deaths resulting from G.W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. And the warmonger calls himself a Christian? Is this the society you are advocating?

    It was fun debating you. You were so easy to beat. Could have done it with my eyes closed, but I can’t type that well with them shut.

  • DanVB

    “With respect to the Holocaust, it is my understanding that Hitler was a Catholic.”

    Old argument, and you missed the point. The holocaust was a result of the “values” that the reason of the age produced (Social Darwinism, anyone?).