Interview: Retired Pontifical Academy for Life Head Launches New Pro-life Initiative

Tue Jan 6, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, January 6, 2008 ( – When the former head of the Vatican’s pro-life office retired, he moved directly into the work of “educating consciences” to help re-build a Culture of Life in the Catholic Church in Italy. Bishop Elio Sgreccia, in an interview with, explained that his work with the newly founded Ut Vitam Habeant (“That They May Have Life”) Foundation is the next natural step in a lifetime of work in the field of Catholic medicine and bioethics.

Bishop Sgreccia’s name will be familiar to long-time (LSN) readers, as the former president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life. During his time in that position he became a familiar voice defending the right to life of the unborn and the vulnerable ill and elderly, from the heart of the Roman Catholic Church.  

He spoke to LSN about his new Foundation, the purpose of which is “the dissemination of truth in the pastoral service of life.”“It is a spiritual, pastoral initiative,” he said, “not political. But indirectly, its purpose is the education of conscience.”
  In a career spanning 50 years, Bishop Sgreccia has been one of the leading lights in the academic world in the field of bioethics. He has authored text books on bioethics and was the founder of the bioethics institute at the Catholic University in Rome. During his presidency, he helped the Pontifical Academy for Life broaden its areas of competence to include issues such as cloning, artificial means of procreation and euthanasia.

Bishop Sgreccia told that his main interest with his new project is in the “education of conscience.” The foundation brings together experts in law, philosophy and bioethics to support priests and lay people in their educational work in parishes and Christian communities, and all those who have “deep-seated reasons for a project of life, love and giving of yourself.”

Bishop Sgreccia’s foundation, based in the diocese of Rome, will disseminate information on the “many complex problems of bioethics that touch all ages and different situations: risk behaviors in adolescence, recourse to abortion, surgical and chemical, the spread of pornography, drugs, alcoholism and violent behaviour.” Its primary purpose, he said, is to “preserve the life of the most vulnerable and most fragile” in the face of aggression against life and the “disintegration of the person.”

It is meant also to “provide a particular service” to engaged couples preparing for marriage to inform them about issues related to procreation “in the light of science and the truth about man and revealed faith.”

In regards to euthanasia, he said, the foundation’s work will involve raising the awareness of the duty to provide adequate care for the sick, elderly and dying and working against the trend towards the “utilitarian mentality of isolation and abandonment” that characterises the euthanasia movement.

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