A Vatican newspaper has suggested that abortion providers who terminate ill fetuses and proponents of euthanasia are using the same arguments in their defense as did Nazi Germany in its eugenics program of mass extermination.
The article, which appeared on the front page of the L'Osservatore Romano on May 5, is signed by Lucetta Scaraffia, an Italian historian and contributor to the Vatican newspaper. As the piece reveals, the Nazis' ideas of eugenics, which is a theory that suggests those terminally ill or disabled should be left to die while the strong ones survive, was marked down in a book by two German scholars, Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche, more than a decade before the Nazis took power.
The 1920 book, Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Living, proposes that those deemed unfit to survive should be given a "charitable death."
"A definition which paved the way to the elimination of the sick and the unfit, permitting these homicides to be justified with a morally appreciable motivation: they in fact spoke of 'charitable death' (Gnadentod). These are the same words that recur today in the writings of many contemporary bioethicists, and of many politicians who support legislative proposals of a euthanasic type," Scaraffia writes, comparing modern day decisions to euthanize people to the ideas that fueled and powered the Nazi Party in Germany during World War II.
"Contempt for imperfect human life, over estimation of the abilities of science are two attitudes that are still firmly present in our time, to show that eugenics is still alive and has not been wiped out together with the Nazi past," Scaraffia adds, again noting that the 1920s book and eugenics ideals are very much represented in modern debates on the sanctity of life.
The argument by the Vatican newspaper comes as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) gets set to rule on several pivotal cases related to abortion and euthanasia that pro-life advocates hope will help to preserve human life and dignity in Europe.
As with abortion, the Roman Catholic Church outlines its position against euthanasia in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, stating:
"Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable."
The Catechism notes, however, that certain overwhelming medical conditions may qualify as an exception to the rule.
Attitudes toward euthanasia vary among churchgoing Christians, however. In a 2007 Gallup Poll, 23 percent of respondents who attend church weekly called the practice of doctor-assisted suicide morally acceptable, compared to 45 percent of those who attend almost weekly/monthly, and 67 percent of those who seldom/never attend.