"The embryo is a person from conception," Marcello Pera said today in a public discussion with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the Lateran University.
At one point, Pera, a former professor of the philosophy of science, asked in a loud voice who decides when life begins: "A gynecologist? A pharmaceutical company? Parliament?"
"The risk today is that just because something is technically and scientifically possible, one decides to do it. Perhaps just because of a whim one decides that a desire is a right and then even an absolute principle. This leads to doing many things with much irresponsibility," Pera warned.
Addressing those who do not believe in any religion, Pera advised them "not to be in a hurry to convert desires into rights, and rights into sacrosanct principles." The audience broke into applause.
Although the philosopher-politician described himself as a "nonbeliever," he said that he believes in the same values that Christians believe in. "Perhaps the difference is that I believe in the values, but I do not believe in a person."
Cardinal Ratzinger, commenting on what the Senate president said, explained that "for us the human person is not a thing."
He made an appeal for "the untouchability of the person" in all the phases of life. "Man is an absolute in his dignity," the cardinal said.