President Obama and Pope Benedict met in Rome today. As reported by Reuters:
Obama and Benedict held private talks for about 40 minutes in the pope’s frescoed study in the Vatican’s apostolic palace and the Vatican said bioethics and life issues were a central part of the discussion.
In a surprise move, the pontiff gave Obama a booklet explaining Vatican opposition to practices such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research, which Obama supports.
The booklet was Dignitas Personae, described by the news service as the document that “defends life from conception to natural death.” And a Vatican statement issued after the meeting said the topics discussed included “the defense and promotion of life and the right to abide by one’s conscience.”
Here’s what the president will find in the opening sentences of the document:
The dignity of a person must be recognized in every human being from conception to natural death. This fundamental principle expresses a great “yes” to human life and must be at the center of ethical reflection on biomedical research, which has an ever greater importance in today’s world. The Church’s Magisterium has frequently intervened to clarify and resolve moral questions in this area. The Instruction Donum vitae was particularly significant. And now, twenty years after its publication, it is appropriate to bring it up to date.
The teaching of Donum vitae remains completely valid, both with regard to the principles on which it is based and the moral evaluations which it expresses. However, new biomedical technologies which have been introduced in the critical area of human life and the family have given rise to further questions, in particular in the field of research on human embryos, the use of stem cells for therapeutic purposes, as well as in other areas of experimental medicine. These new questions require answers. The pace of scientific developments in this area and the publicity they have received have raised expectations and concerns in large sectors of public opinion. Legislative assemblies have been asked to make decisions on these questions in order to regulate them by law; at times, wider popular consultation has also taken place.
No reason to pussyfoot around it, the Vatican said:
The pope’s private secretary told reporters after the meeting: “This reading can help the president better understand the Church’s position on these issues.”
“We know that this (abortion) is a crucial theme for the pope. There is no need to hide it. It (giving him the booklet) was an attempt to be clear, it was not polemical,” Lombardi said.
No reports that the pope compared Obama to Alexander the Great.