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Pope: Experimenting with life is a sin

Pope Francis kisses a child during a special audience at the Vatican. Associated Press/Photo by Alessandra Tarantino

Pope: Experimenting with life is a sin

Pope Francis reiterated his support for pro-life causes this weekend, telling an audience of 6,000 Italian Catholic doctors that playing with life is a sin. During his remarks, he called euthanasia a form of “false compassion” and also condemned abortion, in vitro fertilization, and other forms of human experimentation.

“We are living in a time of experimentation with life. But it is a bad form of experimentation,” he said. “Playing with life … is a sin against the Creator.”

Though scientific advances can improve human life, science must adhere to its ethical root, he said. And the gospel especially obligates doctors to respect and protect life. “In the light of faith and good reason, human life is always sacred and always ‘of quality,’” Francis insisted. “There does not exist a human life that is more sacred than another.”

The pope delivered his comments two weeks after American cancer patient Brittany Maynard chose euthanasia, and became the darling of “right to die” advocates in the United States. Though he didn’t address Maynard’s death specifically, the pope did say the common definition of a “quality life” is inadequate. “In many contexts, quality of life is linked predominantly to economic conditions, ‘well-being,’ beauty, and pleasure of life in a physical sense, forgetting other deeper dimensions—relational, spiritual, and religious—of existence,” he said.

Doctors’ commitment to the “gospel of life” may lead doctors to conscientious objections and “to the many social consequences that such fidelity leads to,” the pope said. He concluded his remarks by encouraging doctors to be “good Samaritans” as they encounter suffering—especially in caring for the elderly, sick, and disabled.

The pope’s comments could quell ongoing speculation that he’s on a path to abandoning traditional Roman Catholic teachings in favor of an emphasis on social justice issues. He has particularly faced criticism from conservatives over what they fear is a softening stance toward homosexuality. But during a three-day marriage conference that started today at the Vatican, Francis noted the declining culture of marriage contributes to a host of other problems.

“Evidence is mounting that the decline of the culture of marriage is associated with an increase in poverty and a series of other social ills that disproportionately affect women, children and the elderly,” he said.

The conference is meant to address ways to strengthen natural marriage and includes Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders. Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, is one of the evangelicals in attendance. Earlier this month, in announcing his intention to attend the event, Moore acknowledged his own occasional criticism of the pope for some of his comments, especially about homosexuality. But he said he hoped they could stand together with other religious leaders to recognize marriage and family as necessary for human flourishing and social good.

“And I hope that those of us from the believers’ church tradition can represent well our views of how marriage is more than just a natural good (although it is never less than that), but is a picture of the gospel one-flesh union of Christ and his church,” he said.

During his opening remarks at the conference, Pope Francis announced he would attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year. His visit may include stops at the White House and the United Nations in New York City, The Wall Street Journal reported.

WORLD Radio’s Joseph Slife and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Courtney Crandell Courtney is a former WORLD correspondent.

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