This question was answered in Lourdes by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers and John Paul II's special envoy to World Day of the Sick celebrations, which end Wednesday.
On the eve of the World Day, the cardinal addressed a congress on "The New Paradigm: Bioethics That Is Closed and Bioethics That Is Open to the Transcendent."
He warned that a "New Paradigm" is being imposed, a new concept of ethics closed to transcendence, for which human life has no absolute character.
This ethic might accept the divinity, but it "is a poetic and aesthetic god that each one makes up for himself," according to Cardinal Lozano Barragán. It is not the God of the Bible, he said.
This new view of ethics, which only accepts principles agreed on by consensus, is being promoted by the United Nations, in particular, by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the cardinal said.
According to the cardinal, this view, known as "global ethics," also has three non-governmental organizations among its important promoters: the Women's Environment & Development Organization, Earth Council Green Peace, and International Planned Parenthood Federation.
According to this ethic, the papal envoy said, "the different religions existing in the world have not been able to generate this global ethic; therefore, they must be replaced by a new spirituality that has as its objective global well-being within sustainable development."
"The religions existing to date have been concerned with the other life; this spirituality is concerned with this earthly life," he added. "It is a spirituality without God, at the secular level. Its ultimate objective is the viability of the present world, and man's well-being in it."
Cardinal Lozano Barragán explained the most important "anti-value" of the New Paradigm is this "new spirituality that replaces all religions, as the latter are inept in preserving the ecosystem."
"Practically speaking," he added, "it is a new secularist religion, a religion without God, or, if one wishes a new god, that would be the earth itself, to which the name Gaia is given. This divinity would have man as a subordinate element."
"The series of values upheld by the New Paradigm are values subordinated to this divinity, which is translated into the supreme ecological value that it calls sustainable development," the cardinal said. "And within this sustainable development is the supreme ethical objective of well-being."
There are values within this paradigm, as for example, respect for nature, which can be shared. But "the New Paradigm is not accepted because of its denial of God and its denial of the other life," he said.
Christianity "accepts the equality of the sexes, but not in the sense of homosexuality and destruction of the family," the cardinal continued. "It accepts the control of birth, but not its destruction as planned in the culture of death, applied especially in the Third World."
"The New Paradigm faces one of its greatest problems when it realizes that it must base everything on a consensus that does not stem from objective truths, but from subjective opinions; then it makes an effort to forge artificial consensus," the cardinal said.
"Such consensus is absolutely vain. This is why an ethic or bioethics based on the New Paradigm has no consistency," he said.
Bioethics open to transcendence has as its first principle the conviction that "human life is created by God," the papal envoy continued.
And from this stems the second principle: "Human life is received by humanity, not as property but as administration," he said. "Human life is inviolable from its conception until its natural end. The dignity of the human person is inviolable."
Cardinal Lozano Barragán added: "The human person is the synthesis of the universe and is the reason for everything that exists. Present-day biomedical sciences and technologies must be at the service of human life and not vice versa. They are to construct man, not to destroy him."