“Where Science Cannot Find an Answer, the Answer That Brings Light Comes From Christ”
VATICAN CITY,-Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday when he received some 200 scientists and members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, which is currently celebrating its 18th general assembly on the theme: “The diagnosis and treatment of infertility.”
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venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
dear brothers and sisters,
I am happy to meet with you on the occasion of the XVIII General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life. I salute and thank all of you for your generous service in defense and on behalf of life, in particular, Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, for the words that you spoke to me also on your behalf. The shape that you have given your work manifests that confidence that the Church has always placed in the possibility of human reason and in a scientific undertaking rigorously conducted, which always keep the moral aspect in view. The topic that you chose this year, “Diagnosis and Therapy of Infertility,” besides being humanly and socially relevant, possesses a special scientific value and expresses the concrete possibility of a fruitful dialogue between ethics and biomedical research. With respect to the problem of a couple’s infertility, in fact, you have chosen attentively to recall and to consider the moral dimension, researching paths toward a correct diagnostic evaluation and a therapy that corrects the causes of infertility. This approach is guided not only by the desire to give the couple a child but to restore to the couple their fertility and all of the dignity of being responsible for their procreative choices, of working together with God in the generation of a new human being. The pursuit of a diagnosis and of a therapy represents the most scientifically correct approach to the question of infertility, but also that which is most respectful of the integral humanity of the subjects involved. In fact, the union of the man and woman in that community of life that is matrimony constitutes the only dignified “place” in which a new human being, which is always a gift, may be called into existence.
Thus, it is my desire to encourage intellectual honesty in your work, which is the expression of a science that keeps the spirit of the pursuit of truth alive, in the service of man’s authentic good, and that avoids the danger of being a merely functional practice. The human and Christian dignity of procreation, in fact, does not consist in a “product,” but in its connection with the conjugal act, the expression of the love of the husband and wife, of their union that is not only biological but also spiritual. The instruction “Donum vitae” reminds us in this regard, that by its “intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and of woman” (n. 126). The legitimate parental aspirations of an infertile couple must, for this reason, with the help of science, find a response that fully respects their dignity as persons and spouses. The humility and precision with which you deal with these questions — seen as obsolete by some of your colleagues fascinated by artificial fertility technologies — merits encouragement and support. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the encyclical “Fides et Ratio,” I recalled how “easy gain or, worse still, the arrogance of taking the Creator’s place, sometimes play a decisive role. This is a form of the hubris of reason, which can take on dangerous characteristics for humanity itself” (Discorso ai Partecipanti al Congresso Internazionale promosso dalla Pontificia Università Lateranense, October 2008: AAS 100 , 788-789). Indeed, scientism and the logic of profit seem today to dominate the field of infertility and human procreation to the point of limiting other areas of research.
The Church pays much attention to the suffering of infertile couples, it cares for them and, because of this, encourages medical research. The science, nevertheless, is not always able to respond to the desires of many couples. I would like again to remind the spouses who experience infertility that their vocation to marriage is not frustrated because of this. The husband and wife, because of their baptismal and matrimonial vocations themselves, are always called to work together with God in creating a new humanity. The vocation to love, in fact, is a vocation to the gift of self and this is a possibility that cannot be impeded by any organic condition. Therefore, where science cannot find an answer, the answer that brings light comes from Christ.
I would like to encourage all of who have gathered here for these study days and who work in a medical and scientific context where the dimension of truth is often obscured: Continue to follow the path that you have taken of a science that is intellectually honest and that always ardently seeks the good of man. In your intellectual pursuits do not disdain dialogue with the faith. I address to you the anxious appeal of the encyclical “Deus Caritas Est”: “if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness [...] Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly” (n. 28). On the other hand, it is precisely the cultural matrix created by Christianity — rooted in the affirmation of the existence of Truth and of the intelligibility of the real in the light of the Supreme Truth — that made the development of modern scientific reason possible in the Europe of the Middle Ages, a knowledge that in the previous cultures had not progressed beyond embryonic form.
Illustrious scientists and all of you members of the Academy committed as you are to the promotion of life and the dignity of the human person, keep always in view also the fundamental cultural role that you play in society and the influence that you have in forming public opinion. My predecessor, Blessed John Paul II observed that scientists, “precisely because they know more, are called to serve more” (Discorso alla Pontificia Accademia delle Scienze, November 11, 2002: AAS 95 , 206). People trust you, who serve life, they trust in your commitment to helping those who are in need of comfort and hope. Never give into the temptation of reducing the good of persons to a mere technical problem! The indifference of conscience before the true and the good represents a dangerous threat to authentic scientific progress.
I would like to conclude renewing the greeting that the Second Vatican Council addressed to men of thought and science: “Happy are those who, possessing the truth, continue to seek it, to renew it, more deeply to understand it, to give it to others” (Messaggio agli uomini di pensiero e di scienza, 8 dicembre 1965: AAS 58 , 12). It is with these wishes that I impart to all of you who are here and to your loved ones the Apostolic Blessing.