Speculation surrounds possible new bioetchics encyclical

Pope Francis encyclical

There is speculation an encyclical focused on contraception, assisted procreation and palliative care from Pope Francis is imminent.

The speculation comes from a late-2021 three-day seminar convened at the Vatican by the Pontifical Academy for Life.

An essay titled “Rileggere l’etica teologica della vita” (“Re-reading the theological ethics of life”) was published on June 30 in La Civilta’ Cattolica. The essay provides an overview of a 528 page book published after the seminar.

“It is legitimate to ask if Pope Francis will give us a new encyclical or apostolic exhortation on bioethics that might be called ‘Gaudium Vitae.’ [‘The Joy of Life’],” said Jorge José Ferrer SJ, the essay’s author. He is a priest and professor of moral theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico.

If a papal document were published, it would ignite a wide-ranging reflection on the ethics of human life. This could lead to a new and definitive papal teaching document on issues as polarising as contraception, assisted procreation and palliative care.

Twenty theologians from Europe, Latin America, Africa and the United States attended the seminar, including lay women and men. They gathered to listen, study and reflect on theological ethics, and bioethics in particular, from the teachings of Pope Francis.

“We followed a path of study and reflection that led us to see the issues of bioethics in a new light, starting with the role of discernment and the formed conscience of the moral agent,” said Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, in an interview about the book with Vatican Media.

“We did this not only in an atmosphere of parrhesia [a bold and courageous freedom of speech] that stimulates and empowers theologians, academics and scholars. But also with a procedure similar to the quaestiones disputatae: to pose a thesis and open it up to debate.”

Pope Francis has revitalised the Catholic Church’s understanding and approach to theological ethics and moral theology by empowering dialogue without repercussions.

It is Francis’s influence on how theology is taught in Catholic universities and seminaries worldwide. Allowing scholars the freedom to explore Catholic theology affecting the real-life issues of the faithful.

In four of his landmark papal documents – “Evangelii Gaudium” (2013), “Laudato Si’” (2015), “Amoris Laetitia” (2016) and “Veritatis Gaudium” (2018) – Francis encouraged the dialogue of an individual’s informed conscience and the role of discernment in moral decision-making.

It remains to be seen whether Pope Francis will publish an exhortation or encyclical on theological ethics that addresses these and other urgent topics in our human history.


America Magazine

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