Thursday, April 9, 2015

A compressed 500-word summary of 'Evangelium Vitae' by Pope John Paul II (1995)

     Impermissible "crimes against life" include abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, capital punishment, genocide, and suicide. Artificial reproduction, prenatal medical testing, and organ donation are acceptable in some circumstances.
     The full meaning of life is found in eternal Christian life, but life on earth is also sacred. Christ is in everyone, so to attack life is to attack God. Even a murderer has dignity. God, although he punishes, has mercy.
     Killing should not be justified in the name of "individual freedom." Abortion degrades the medical profession and doctors should conscientiously object.
     Young people must be taught the meaning of sexuality, love, procreation, marriage, and chastity to form a pro-life conscience. It is disturbing when the conscience against abortion is missing.
     The materialistic worldview separates the "unitive" and "procreative" meanings of sexual intercourse. A couple should not wish to unite without procreating, nor to procreate without uniting. The married couple are "co-workers with God" as God's image appears in their child.
     New reproductive technology is troublesome because embryos conceived in a laboratory have a high fatality risk, and extra embryos are treated as material and discarded. Prenatal diagnostic tests are acceptable if aimed at the treatment of the baby, but unacceptable if aimed to selectively abort the fetus. Organ donation is "praiseworthy" but should not hasten the death of the donor.
     Although the culture considers suffering itself to be evil, suffering is really a mystery with meaning and value. The blood of Christ represents life and hope. The meaning of life can be learned through dying for one's brothers and sisters.
     Humans were given "dominion" over the world, but this should not be misconstrued as the right to use and misuse natural resources. We have moral responsibilities to the natural world. Man's "lordship" over himself and the world should reflect God's lordship.
     Popular consensus or "relativism" doesn't make a crime acceptable. The Biblical prophets "condemn offences against life" and "awaken hope for a new principle of life."
     Violence should not be used to protect public safety "if bloodless means are sufficient." A pro-life politician may support legislation aimed at limiting the harm of abortion.
     Deliberately killing an innocent person, from embryo to old age, can never be permitted, even as means to an end. No one can ask or consent to be killed or to kill someone in their care. A threat to a mother's health does not justify abortion. Choosing to die in childbirth is "heroic."
     Euthanasia is based on the idea of the elder as a burden. While there is no obligation to share Jesus's passion by refusing painkillers at the end of life, patients should not be drugged unconscious without good reason, so they may fulfill their "moral and family duties." True compassion means sharing someone's pain.
     "Suicide is always as morally objectionable as murder." (3.66)
     Democracy becomes empty if its moral foundation of respect for life is even questioned. Rejection of human life is rejection of Christ.
     Women who've had an abortion may repent and take the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Pope John Paul II. Evangelium Vitae [The Gospel of Life]. Papal Encyclical, Rome, March 25, 1995. Official Vatican English translation.

This summary was written in 2005, along with a series of other 500-word summaries of philosophy books, as an exercise in brevity.

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