According to recent news from the Vatican, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is experiencing aggravated kidney failure and had a pacemaker recently fitted. The Pontiff – whose worsening condition is under close medical observation – has been a long-time vocal defender of the right to life from conception to natural death.
Benedict XVI spent much of his eight years as pontiff of the Catholic Church addressing world leaders, governments, and international organizations such as the United Nations. He also composed a number of communications and encyclicals – letters from a pope to bishops. In his speeches and writings, Benedict constantly addressed the the dignity of human life and the need to protect it.
In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), Benedict addressed the social issue of the environment. He explained that if there is to be a true respect for nature, humanity must understand that man (the human being) is the focus of creation. If human nature cannot be respected from conception onward, then the ecological environment cannot be honored.
In order to protect nature, it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; not even an apposite education is sufficient. These are important steps, but the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society. If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology.
Pope Benedict XVI visited the U.S. in 2008. In his address to American bishops in Washington, D.C., he spoke of the growing secularism in our society and its consequences in the lives of individual citizens.
The Pope went on to say that the most scandalous example of this is the promotion of abortion as a right by Catholics.
During the same trip, Benedict XVI visited the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City. His address to UN representatives centered around human rights. At a time during which governments and institutions around the world were increasing their human rights rhetoric, the Pope proposed that human rights must stem from the dignity of human life. He expounded on the fact that human rights cannot have any meaning if they do not originate from the idea that the human being is created by God.
At the same time, the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights all serve as guarantees safeguarding human dignity. It is evident, though, that the rights recognized and expounded in the Declaration apply to everyone by virtue of the common origin of the person, who remains the high-point of God’s creative design for the world and for history. They are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations.
During his time as head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict also defended the family as the basis of a healthy society. His pontificate ended in 2013.