CLAUSE OF CONSCIENCE – ANNEX OR THE FIRST DUTY?
FR. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
On the occasion of canonization of blessed John Paul II, dr. Wanda Półtawska wrote an open letter to catholic doctors and students of medicine in Poland, suggesting the so-called Faith Declaration of doctors in the subject of sexuality and human fertility. She stated that for the Holy Father – once being a priest of doctors, whose attitude concerning the human life and health is clear and is included in many documents – not essays, symposia and congresses, but personal registered and readable Faith Confession of doctors would be the most beautiful votive of gratitude. She reminded that Fr. Karol Wojtyła, appointed in Cracow by cardinal Adam Sapiecha as a pastor of Health Service, took this ministry to his heart very sincerely and was trying to serve to doctors throughout his life, helping them in their inner development and fulfilling his life vocation. Cooperating closely with him in this sphere for 65 years, she has been serving to the pastoral ministry of doctors and has deep reflections in this sphere. Therefore, in his letter, she asks doctors and students of medicine to note that their vocation comes from God and completely belongs to Him.
So, a doctor should consider the fact that not only a human spirit but also the body is marked with God’s action and has an eternal destination. It entails a complete attitude of a doctor towards a patient. Therefore, in his teaching John Paul II drew a special attention to natural death and that his attitude towards the human being is extremely essential in his work.
As we notice, together with the dynamic civilizational development there was also a big development of medicine. Today medical examinations are extremely precise. The man can reach various developmental phases of the human life, he has also got a look into prenatal life and a possibility of treatment of many illnesses in this phase of human life.
But, unfortunately, scientific temptations are accompanied by bigger moral dangers, taking away life from the man who does not meet criteria of a standard. How much John Paul II was full of grief when he found out that the Polish parliament acknowledged the law of killing all unborn children. As dr. Półtawska writes ‘he even banged his fist at the table and shouted: ‘And where are pediatricians? Why don’t they defend ill children, why don’t they react?’ So, Dr. Półtawska makes her environment become convinced that: ‘I think that we, Poles and Polish doctors have a kind of debt towards this Great compatriot – and maybe this initiative will be an atonement? (…) I know that doctors can have an influence on people and they will surely report their behavior to the very God how they realized their vocation’.
The appeal of dr. Półtawska was responded to very positively by many employees of the health service, but there were also those who were threatening with imposing consequences on doctors who sign this declaration.
However, we must note that in the world there is the idea of conscience clause that a believer has a right to be faithful to his beliefs. It is impossible to leave conscience behind the door -as it has already been once suggested by somebody – and nobody can dismiss anyone from work or deprive him of his rights for the behavior according to the conscience. Declaration which states clearly that ‘not imposing one’s opinion, beliefs on anybody – Catholic doctors have a right to expect and demand respect for their opinions and freedom in doing their job with the biggest care and about their health and life’ – states the Polish Federation of Pro-Life Movements in its letter in defence of signatories of Faith Declaration. So, each man has a right to such an action which is compatible with his conscience and, what is more, once he will be judged on the basis of this action.
So, Dear brave doctors, please, take cordial congratulations with such a consistent attitude from us, the Catholics, and let our great trustfulness to you be the natural evidence of our recognition and gratitude.