Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Respect for Human Life and Health

Since today is the memorial of St. Gianna Beretta Molla – wife, mother, and doctor, I found it fitting to discuss with you what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about respecting human life and health. Today’s QLC comes from the Catechism’s section on the Fifth Commandment – “You Shall Not Kill.”

It could be easily argued that St. Gianna is one of the faces of the Pro-Life movement in our modern culture. With no concern to her own life, simply that her fourth child must live, St. Gianna refused the recommendation to have an abortion. Bringing the child to full term would cause the tumor on her uterus to burst causing eventual death.

When I think of heroic virtue among our saints, she is one that immediately comes to mind for me. Being a medical doctor herself – graduated in 1949 and three years later received her specialization in pediatrics, St. Gianna understood the importance of health and medicine as well as the Catholic Church’s teaching on such matters. In the end, she chose her child’s life before her own, and her husband, Pietro Molla, who passed away in April 2010, fully understood her decision and supported her in that decision, even though he would lose his wife.


To read more about St. Gianna Beretta Molla, I would suggest reading my two previous blog posts on the Italian saint here (2012) and here (2013).

So with this being said, what does the Catechism teach on respecting human life, specifically abortion, as well as health, and medicine?

“In [God’s] hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10). [#2318]

Every human life, from the moment of conception until death, is sacred because the human person has been willed for its own sake in the image and likeness of the living and holy God. [#2319]

The murder of a human being is gravely contrary to the dignity of the person and the holiness of the Creator. [#2320]

The prohibition of murder does not abrogate the right to render an unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. Legitimate defense is a grave duty for whoever is responsible for the lives of others or the common good.

From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a “criminal” practice (GS 27 § 3), gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life. [#2322]

Because it should be treated as a person from conception, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed like every other human being. [#2323]

Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. [#2324]

Suicide is seriously contrary to justice, hope, and charity. It is forbidden by the fifth commandment. [#2325]

Scandal is a grave offense when by deed or omission it deliberately leads others to sin gravely. [#2326]

For a more detailed understanding of these points, I would encourage the paragraphs that precede these paragraphs – for Abortion, read paragraphs 2270-2275. Also see my QLC – Abortion and March for Life.

To read what the Catechism says about Respect for Health, read paragraphs 2288-2291. Also see my QLC on Euthanasia and Suicide. If you are interested in learning more about what the Catechism says about Respect for the person and scientific research, read paragraphs 2292-2296.

To learn more about Catholic Medicine and/or to locate a Catholic doctor in your area, I would suggest checking out the Catholic Medical Association. Furthermore, here is the link to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services located on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.

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