Addressing the issues presented by the rapidly advancing arena of biotechnology and healthcare is an extension of our primary moral obligation as Catholics—to defend the life and advance the dignity of every human person.
We meet our obligation in the realm of science and technology as in others, by identifying those in most need of our protection and acting in their defense. In the realm of bioethics, it includes those at either end of the life spectrum, and any others placed at risk by their diminished capacity, whether physical or mental and emotional. According to our moral tradition, as their vulnerability increases, our corresponding obligation to defend and protect them increases, and society can be neither humane nor survive or thrive without first heeding that directive. Consequently, each decision in health care, biotechnology and science is ultimately guided by the prudential judgment of whether it advances life and dignity in its most vulnerable state, or is only accomplished at its expense. It goes to the heart of how we care for one another.
Bioethics is an integral part of Catholic social teaching as it advances the principle of solidarity and provides a path to action. Science and technology that enforce the creation of classes of powerful and weak and give the powerful authority to extinguish or alter the lives of the vulnerable at will undermine the virtue of community and the common good. Personally applying the principles of Catholic social teaching to the details of the daily lives of those around us advances the principle of subsidiarity, and the capacity to protect the most vulnerable and build a humane society from the ground up. Science and technology give Catholics another opportunity to “serve the ‘civilization of love’ and life,” in every profession and vocation, by applying the broad principles to the smallest details and the most vulnerable and anonymous lives.
“The purpose of these Ethical and Religious Directives then is twofold: first, to reaffirm the ethical standards of behavior in health care that flow from the Church’s teaching about the dignity of the human person; [...]