Conscientious Objection Focus of Congress

Pontifical Academy for Life to Host a Gathering

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2007 ( Conscientious objection can be a testimony of help and service to life, says the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia used these terms at a press conference in the Vatican today to present the open-door congress on the theme "The Christian Conscience in Support of the Right to Life," organized and hosted this Friday and Saturday by the pontifical academy.

The role of the Christian conscience and the urgency of its formation will be addressed in the first part of the congress, explained the prelate.

"The topics of tolerance, democracy, moral autonomy, especially in regard to the individual's choices and scientific research seem at first glance to be opposed to the formation and manifestation of conscience," he said.

Bishop Sgreccia asserted that "not only is there a legitimate place for the Christian conscience in the pluralist society," but it is useful "for the whole society when the Christian conscience can express itself and offer its contribution."

This requires "among believers true, certain and upright consciences conditions that in no way can be taken for granted, or that are the result of improvisation, but rather of reflection, dialogue and at times of valiant effort," he continued.

Life issues

Beginning at this point, the second part of the congress will focus on the relationship between the Christian conscience and support to life, a topic "in which the problem of conscientious objection is situated," noted the 78-year-old prelate.

Bishop Sgreccia pointed out that such action "is not the only instance of the Christian conscience in the health field," but that above all "conscience calls for positive testimony in the service" for life.

"But precisely because of the service to life, an honor that corresponds to every living man, it is necessary to avoid evil and, when it occurs, to activate conscientious objection and protest," the Vatican official said.

Therefore, it does not imply "a fleeing from responsibilities but, on the contrary, an assumption of a testimony of help," he added.

It is specifically in "the sector of life and holiness" where a whole series appears "of new situations where doctors and other figures linked to their activities are called to activate the claim of objection," the bishop said. "In a society that wishes to be genuinely democratic, conscience must be able to speak for those who do not have a voice or are unable to express themselves."

No voice

The prelate added: "The aim of Christians, therefore, is also this: to give voice also to those who do not have an electoral voice, or economic power, but who have the same dignity as each one of us."

During the journalists' question time, Bishop Sgreccia warned about the tendency not to recognize conscientious objection. Although the latter does not remedy everything, he pointed out that it is a personal act that must be "protected as liberty of the person."

The international congress will aim to reflect on the ethical and juridical foundation of conscientious objection in the face of action that violates the right to life.

The working sessions will consider aspects of the topic from the moral, theological, juridical, political and professional point of view.