A Right Conscience

Interview With Director of International Medical Association

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ROME, MARCH 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Conscientious objection should be used as a "last resort" in situations where acts "repugnant to the human person" are to be carried out, says a leading Catholic doctor.



Dr. José María Simón Castellví, president of the World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations, attended the congress on "The Christian Conscience in Support of the Right to Life," organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life. The congress took place Feb. 23-24 in Rome.

In this interview with ZENIT, the ophthalmologist comments on the importance of not only following one's conscience, but also of educating and informing the conscience.

Q: Is conscientious objection in the area of medicine a form of giving testimony?

Simón: Conscientious objection is the last resort, a human right and duty, to not implicate oneself in acts that are profoundly repugnant to the human person.

Of course, it is also necessary to work so that no one carries out those acts: If they are bad for me, they are also bad for others.

The fact that many people object means that these acts violate various human rights, such as the right to live.

Q: In the congress of the Pontifical Academy for Life, did they comment on specific cases of conscientious objection, or did the debate remain on the general and abstract plane?

Simón: In the congress of the academy -- of which I am not a member, but I was invited to it, and I was also able to greet the Holy Father -- they talked in general, but also about specific cases.

For example, it was surprising to learn that in the so-called democratic countries in Europe, it is not possible to study to be a gynecologist without having to perform abortions.

Q: The Holy Father said to members of the academy that sometimes the power of the most powerful seems to paralyze those of good will, and appealed to the formation of an authentic and upright conscience. What is your reaction to those words?

Simón: Power elicits complicity when it attempts to subdue good people so that they keep quiet and let the powerful act.

Many people, especially the youth, rebel against this situation and do not easily conform to a society that gives us well-being and, to a certain point, anesthetizes us with it, and makes it more difficult for us to defend the weak.

The conscience should be followed. Also, the conscience should be care for, because it can become sick. It should be educated, it should be well informed and it should be polished often as a very precise instrument. We are gambling away a lot if the conscience is not in good shape.

Q: Benedict XVI perceives a harmony between the magisterium and the lay commitment, especially in topics having to do with life. What is the role of the laity in the face of the new challenges posed by technology and medicine?

Simón: It is the work of the laity to make the world a better place. We shouldn't think that the hierarchy of the Church is going to do everything.

The laity are everywhere, and we should sweep and polish every corner of the world.

The laity should pray, make sacrifices, follow the important guidelines set out by God through the magisterium, and work, work practically without rest.