pope john paul ii: science and conscience

I thought the wording of His Holiness’ death certificate was very interesting.
First, it acknowledged the name he was given at birth and it noted that he was a Vatican citizen. I think it’s not an uncommon thing to have one’s nationality listed but with the Pope, I didn’t expect that.
Secondly, what really struck me was the final line: “I declare that the causes of death, according to my science and conscience, are those indicated above.”, in particular the phrase “according to my science and conscience”.
So often in the secular world, we do not equate faith and reason as being fruit of the same tree. The beauty of the relationship between faith and reason is that they are related. In many debates, we, as Catholics, argue “from a strickly scientific point of view” or “morality aside” or something like that while people of limited faith simply argue, by definition, by a strickly scientific view. I argue and submit to you that we cannot allow ourselves to assert those points of view without considering the moral status of any scientific observation.
Science, by definition, is the “knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through the scientific method and concerned with the physical world and its phenomena.” Science, by definition, is limited to only the physical world. It cannot be an end on our journey of truth, it is only a means that we use to find Truth.
Learning more about nature, about our bodies, about genetics and how we advance biologically, are very important fields of study and they can lead to great advancements in terms of maintaining healthy lives, and preventing death (i.e. science of predicting weather). All of those advancements, however, must be undertaken only while maintaining a moral outlook.
Destructive research on embryos is destroying a human person which God has fused with a soul. The joining of a male sperm and a female egg in a test tube is removing and destroying the sacred connection between human intimacy and the creation of life.
God created the world and acts now using both science and conscience; what God has joined, let no man divide. (Okay okay, completely different context in the Bible but I think the connection here is valid.)

I certify that His Holiness John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla) born in Wadowice (Krakow, Poland) on May 18, 1920, residing in Vatican City, and a Vatican citizen, died at 9:37 p.m. on April 2, 2005 in his apartment in the Apostolic Palace, Vatican City because of:
– septic shock.
– irreversible cardio-circulatory collapse.
In a person also affected by:
– Parkinson’s disease.
– progressive episodes of acute respiratory insufficiency and a consequent tracheotomy.
– benign prostate hypertrophy complicated by urosepsis.
– hypertensive cardiopathy and ischemia.
The ascertainment of death was effected by means of an electrocardiogram which lasted 20 minutes.
I declare that the causes of death, according to my science and conscience, are those indicated above.
Vatican City, April 2, 2005
Director of Health and Hygiene of Vatican City State
Dr. Renato Buzzonetti





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