By Gudrun Schultz

  VATICAN CITY, February 14, 2007 ( – Natural law must not be abandoned in favor of moral relativism and the unquestioning acceptance of technological advances, said Pope Benedict XVI at a conference on natural law and morality at the Pontifical Lateran University, held Feb.12-14.

  While noting “the great advantages” of technological progress along with “the threats menacing the destruction of nature,” the Pope warned of another danger, “less visible but no less alarming: the method that enables us to have an ever greater understanding of the rational structures of matter, makes us ever less capable of seeing the source of this rationality: creative Reason.”

“There is an urgent need to reflect upon the question of natural law and to rediscover its truth,” he said, which “is common to all mankind. … This law has as its first and most general principle that of ‘doing good and avoiding evil’,” from which “derive all the other more specific principles that regulate ethical judgments on the rights and duties of everyone.”

  Included in these principles is that of respect for human life from conception to natural end, since “life is not the property of man but a gratuitous gift of God.” The duty to seek the truth and the fundamental principle of human freedom are founded on natural law, as well—since human freedom “is always shared with others, …[it] can only be found in that which is common to everyone: the truth of human beings, the fundamental message of existence itself, in other words the ‘lex naturalis’.”

“Natural law, is the source from which, along with fundamental rights, flow ethical imperatives that must be honored,” the Holy Father said. “Modern legal ethics and philosophy reveal the widespread influence of the postulates of juridical positivism. As a consequence legislation often becomes a mere compromise between various interests; there is an attempt to transform into law private interests or desires that clash with the duties deriving from social responsibility.”
“In this situation, it is well to recall that all legal systems, both internal and international, ultimately draw their legitimacy from their rooting in natural law, in the ethical message inscribed in human beings themselves. … Knowledge of this law … increases with the development of moral conscience.”

“The primary concern for everyone, and especially for those charged with public responsibilities, must then be that of promoting the maturation of moral conscience.”

  The protection and ultimate survival of the family depends on the establishment of natural law as the foundation of all legal systems, Pope Benedict emphasized.

“What we have said so far has very concrete applications if referred to the family, to ‘the intimate partnership of married life and love established by the Creator and qualified by His laws.’ … Indeed, no law made by man can overturn the norms written by the Creator, without inflicting a dramatic injury to society in what constitutes its most basic foundation.”

  In closing, Pope Benedict addressed again the danger of blindly accepting scientific advances without careful moral and ethical evaluation.

“Finally, I feel the need to reaffirm once again that not everything that is scientifically possible is also ethically legitimate. Technology, when it reduces the human being to an object of experimentation, ends up by abandoning the weak to the power of the strongest.”

“Entrusting oneself blindly to technology as the only guarantee of progress, without at the same time presenting an ethical code, … would be an act of violence against human nature, with devastating consequences for everyone.”

  With files from Vatican Information Service.

  Read full coverage from VIS: