by Steven Ertelt
October 30, 2007
Rome, Italy (LifeNews.com) — Political leaders in Italy are criticizing Pope Benedict XVI for a speech he gave on Monday to a conference of Catholic pharmacists in which he said they should stand up for their right to opt out of dispensing drugs involved in abortions or euthanasia. They say Italian law requires pharmacists to fill orders for all prescriptions.
The Catholic leader urged the pharmacists to educate their customers on how various drugs work, especially those involved in the destruction of human life.
He also said they had both a religious and moral obligation to exercise their conscience rights and refuse to take part in dispensing drugs to customers that are meant to take lives.
Italy’s Health Minister Livia Turco, who has gotten in trouble with the pro-life community before for promoting the dangerous abortion drug RU 486, said the Pope can’t tell pharmacists what to do.
"I don’t think his warning to pharmacists to be conscientious objectors to the morning after pill should be taken into consideration," she told daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.
The Pontiff did not mention any specific drugs in his speech but appeared to be discussing both the morning after pill and the mifepristone abortion drug. The latter is not available in Italy, but is involved in experimental trials at some Italian hospitals.
Meanwhile, Franco Caprino, head of pharmacists’ professional group Federfarma, told Reuters that pharmacists in the European nation must fill all prescriptions.
"We can’t be conscientious objectors unless the law is changed," he said.
Other politicians, such as Lidia Menapace, a senator of the Communist Refoundation party, also condemned the speech.
Speaking to participants at the 25th International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists, the Pope said, "It is not possible to anaesthetize the conscience, for example, when it comes to molecules whose aim is to stop an embryo implanting or to cut short someone’s life."
The Pontiff also said Catholic pharmacists have a special “educational role” with their patients and must help them understand the “ethical implications of certain drugs” such as those “whose purpose is to prevent an embryo from implanting itself or to shorten a person’s life.”
"Pharmacists must raise awareness [in the public] in order that all human beings are protected from conception to natural death, and that drugs truly play a therapeutic role," he said.
The Catholic leader insisted that governments should respect the right of pharmacists to object to dispensing drugs that violate their moral or religious beliefs.