What’s the Value of a Man? Pope Francis Shares His Insights

What is the value of a man?

Benjamin Franklin quipped that from the neck down, a man was worth a couple of dollars a day; but from the neck up, he was worth anything he could think of.

As donated organs and parts, a human body might be worth several million dollars.

Broken down into its constituent chemicals, it’s worth only about $4.50.

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Pope Francis has answered this question in his own way, in a message this morning to participants in the General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The Academy, celebrating its twentieth anniversary, dedicated this year’s assembly to the theme of “aging and disability”; and Pope Francis noted that this is a very current theme, one that is dear to the Church. “In our society,” he said,

…there is a tyrannical dominance of an economic logic that excludes and at times kills, and of which nowadays we find many victims, starting with the elderly.”

The pope decried the “throwaway” culture, in which those who are excluded are not only exploited, but also rejected and cast aside. So what is the value of a man? “Health,” continued the Holy Father,

…is without doubt an important value, but it does not determine the value of a person. Furthermore, health is not by itself a guarantee of happiness, which may indeed by experienced even by those in a precarious state of health.”

Therefore, he added,

poor health and disability are never a good reason to exclude or, worse, eliminate a person; and the most serious deprivation that the elderly suffer is not the weakening of the body or the consequent disability, but rather abandonment, exclusion, and a lack of love.”

He called the family the “teacher of welcome and solidarity.” It is there, in the bosom of the family, he said,

…that education draws in a substantial fashion upon relationships of solidarity. In the family, it is possible to learn that the loss of health is not a reason to discriminate against certain human lives.

The family teaches us not to fall prey to individualism and to balance ‘I’ with ‘we’. It is there that ‘taking care’ of one another becomes the foundation of human existence and a moral attitude to promote, through the values of commitment and solidarity.”

The Pope emphasized the importance of listening to the young and the old whenever we wish to understand the signs of the times, and commented that

a society is truly welcoming to life when it recognizes its value also in old age, in disability, in serious illness, and even when it at its close; when it teaches that the call to human realization does not exclude suffering, but instead teaches to see in the sick and suffering a gift to the entire community, a presence that calls for solidarity and responsibility.”

Pope Francis blessed the work the Academy performs, which he described as the diffusion of the “Gospel of Life”–a task that is “often tiresome as it means going against the grain, but always precious.”

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  • oregon nurse

    I so agree with what he said about health not necessarily being synonymous with happiness. I don’t think happiness or health should factor into our value systems as much as they do. But I also think we are in danger of too much emphasis on life for life’s sake as a defining value as well (just read lifesitenews). I see us often playing God on the opposite side of the coin to the extent of going to great lengths to deny natural death. Public Catholic recently had a column on growing new organs for transplant. So far, like organ donation, this is totally consistent with Catholic moral values but the potential Frankensteinian abuses of this type of technology scares me. I have never been comfortable with the idea of organ transplants and I think the Church may have missed on this one.