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Original scientific paper

Right to Life in Contemporary Ethical Reflections and the Social Doctrine of the Church

Miljenko Aničić ; Catholic Faculty of Theology in Đakovo, J. J. Strossmayer University of Osijek, Đakovo, Croatia
Vjekoslav Janković

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In spite of the unresolved issues and the ambivalence about the advances in technology and science, modern time can still be admired for its positive developments made to the benefit of an individual, the society and the entire mankind. One of its major achievements is the Human Rights Code. Human rights cover all the spheres of both private and social life, making them more humane. The development of modern democratic societies would be completely impossible without these rights. On the other hand, this is the area with many open issues. Not only are human rights violated without repercussions in many countries, but there are also some difficulties in their interpretation and understanding. Value systems differ from culture to culture, from one country to another; certain pluralist societies comprise various, which results in different understandings and interpretations of human rights.
This article endeavors to depict the understandings of the right to life in liberalism, utilitarianism and relativism as in predominant ideological mainstreams of our time, and to compare them to the understanding of this basic right in the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. Deprived of its transcendental origins and the normative foundations in natural law and human dignity, the right to life, within the mentioned ideological mainstreams, is either centered around itself, or finds its support in human will. However, each effort of the kind ends up tragically. In the modern inflation of often controversial rights, right to life has become the subject to manipulation and the victim of an individual’s unlimited freedom, interests or political decisions. To Christians and to the Church the issue of human rights, the right to life included, presents an exceptional challenge. The fact is that the very idea of human rights has its origins in Christian, Western culture and that Christianity provided this idea with a decisive impetus: man as a person is the very image of God. As a result of this each person possesses inviolable human dignity and inalienable rights. This truth presents the very essence of human rights and the critical corrective against any kind of manipulation and abuse. Thus the phenomena such as murder, abortion, euthanasia and other forms of manipulation with human life, which a modern man often resorts to as to kinds of right, are totally unacceptable to Christianity. God himself is the foundation of human rights. In modern liberal culture there is an increasing urgency to find the answer to the question of the foundation of human rights.


human rights, right to life, liberalism, utilitarianism, relativism, Church, social doctrine, abortion, euthanasia

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