Pope Benedict XVI & USCCB on Life Issues

Select Quotations on Life Issues from His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI & the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

On the Fundamental Right to Life

Pope Benedict XVI:

  • God's love does not differentiate between the newly conceived infant still in his or her mother's womb and the child or young person, or the adult and the elderly person. God does not distinguish between them because he sees an impression of his own image and likeness (Gn 1:26) in each one.1
  • [L]ife is the first good received from God and is fundamental to all others; to guarantee the right to life for all and in an equal manner for all is the duty upon which the future of humanity depends.2
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
  • [T]he failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the 'rightness' of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community. If we understand the human person as the "temple of the Holy Spirit" – the living house of God – then these latter issues fall logically into place as the crossbeams and walls of that house. All direct attacks on innocent human life, such as abortion and euthanasia, strike at the house's foundation. These directly and immediately violate the human person's most fundamental right – the right to life. Neglect of these issues is the equivalent of building our house on sand. Such attacks cannot help but lull the social conscience in ways ultimately destructive of other human rights.3


Pope Benedict XVI:
  • Children truly are the family's greatest treasure and most precious good. Consequently, everyone must be helped to become aware of the intrinsic evil of the crime of abortion. In attacking human life in its very first stages, it is also an aggression against society itself. Politicians and legislators, therefore, as servants of the common good, are duty bound to defend the fundamental right to life, the fruit of God's love.4
  • As far as the right to life is concerned, we must denounce its widespread violation in our society.... Abortion and embryonic experimentation constitute a direct denial of that attitude of acceptance of others which is indispensable for establishing lasting relationships of peace.5
  • [E]ven in the most difficult circumstances human freedom is capable of extraordinary acts of sacrifice and solidarity to welcome the life of a new human being.6
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
  • Among important issues involving the dignity of human life with which the Church is concerned, abortion necessarily plays a central role. Abortion, the direct killing of an innocent human being, is always gravely immoral (The Gospel of Life, no. 57); its victims are the most vulnerable and defenseless members of the human family. It is imperative that those who are called to serve the least among us give urgent attention and priority to this issue of justice.7
  • While at times human law may not fully articulate the moral imperative – full protection for the right to life – our legal system can and must be continually reformed so that it will increasingly fulfill its proper task of protecting the weak and preserving the right to life of every human being, born and unborn.8

Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Pope Benedict XVI:
  • Research [involving the destruction of human embryos]...is not truly at the service of humanity....History itself has condemned such a science in the past and will condemn it in the future, not only because it lacks the light of God but also because it lacks humanity.9
  • [N]o one can dispose of human life. An insurmountable limit to our possibilities of doing and of experimenting must be established. The human being is not a disposable object, but every single individual represents God's presence in the world.10
  • [T]he new frontiers reached in bioethics do not require us to choose between science and morality: rather, they oblige us to a moral use of science.11
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
  • We must help those who are suffering, but we may not use a good end to justify an evil means. Moreover, treatments that do not require destroying any human life are at least as promising – they are already healing some conditions, and are far closer to healing other conditions than any approach using embryonic stem cells. The choice is not between science and ethics, but between science that is ethically responsible and science that is not.12

Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide

Pope Benedict XVI:
  • The freedom to kill is not true freedom, but a tyranny that reduces the human being to slavery.13
  • More and more lonely elderly people exist in big cities, even in situations of serious illness and close to death. In such situations, the pressure of euthanasia is felt, especially when a utilitarian vision of the person creeps in. In this regard, I take this opportunity to reaffirm once again the firm and constant ethical condemnation of every form of direct euthanasia, in accordance with the Church's centuries-old teaching.14
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
  • Euthanasia and assisted suicide can appear a reasonable and even compassionate solution to the suffering of individuals and families struggling with illness or the dying process. Yet these are not real solutions – they do not solve human problems, but only take the lives of those most in need of unconditional love.15

1 Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants at the 12th General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life and Congress on "The Human Embryo in the Pre-Implantation Phase" (February 27, 2006), https://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/february/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060227_embrione-umano_en.html.

2 Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants in the General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life (February 24, 2007), https://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2007/february/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20070224_academy-life_en.html.

3 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics" (1998), /prolife/gospel.shtml.

4 Pope Benedict XVI, Address at a Meeting on Family and Life Issues in Latin America (December 3, 2005), https://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2005/december/documents/hf_ben_xvi_spe_ 20051203_family-america-latina_en.html.

5 Pope Benedict XVI, Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace (January 1, 2007), https://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20061208_xl-world-day-peace_en.html.

6 Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to Participants at the International Congress "Oil on the Wounds: A Response to the Aftermath of Abortion and Divorce," organized by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family and the Knights of Columbus (April 5, 2008), https://www.zenit.org/article-22218?l=english. (Full Italian text is available at https://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2008/april/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20080405_istituto-gpii_it.html)

7 States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities: A Campaign in Support of Life" (2001), /prolife/pastoralplan.shtml#intro.

8 Ibid.

9 Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants in the Pontifical Academy for Life Symposium on "Stem Cells: What Future for Therapy?" (September 16, 2006), https://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060916_pav_en.html.

10 Ibid.

11 Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See for the Traditional Exchange of New Year Greetings (January 7, 2008), https://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2008/january/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20080107_diplomatic-corps_en.html.

12 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Stem Cell Research and Human Cloning: Questions and Answers" (2004), /prolife/issues/bioethic/stemcell/answers08052004.shtml.

13 Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at Mass of Possession of the Chair of the Bishop of Rome (May 7, 2005), https://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20050507_san-giovanni-laterano_en.html.

14 Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Pontifical Academy for Life Congress on the theme: "Close by the Incurable Sick Person and the Dying: Scientific and Ethical Aspects" (February 25, 2008), https://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2008/february/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20080225_acd-life_en.html.