Review: “Conscience Objection as a Fundamental Human Right”

Review: The Conscience Objection as Fundamental Human Right: in Bioethics and Bioethical Law (La Objeción de Conciencia como Derecho Humano Fundamental: en Material Bioetica y Bioderecho), Dr. Esteban Armando Kriskovich De Vargas, published by Libreria Editrice Vatican, 2015.

Ambassador Esteban Kriskovich, PhD currently serves Paraguay as Ambassador to the Holy See, bringing to this valuable position a substantial background in academia and service. He was a founding member and first President of the Thomas More Institute of the Law School of the Catholic University of “Our Lady of the Assumption” in Asuncion, Paraguay which is an affiliate of HLI. He obtained his doctorate, of which now he is publishing his dissertation, at this Law School.

The main thesis of this very important book is very timely given the political climate in much of the world: Any person that it is forced by law to discharge an action that, according to his religion or fundamental ethical principles, is an evil, has a right and an obligation to present a conscience-based objection, and he should suffer no consequences whatsoever. The conscience objection is both a right and a duty.

This work develops first the theoretical grounds of freedom of conscience as a fundamental right grounded in human nature. As such, its existence does not depend on positive law that recognizes the existence of this right; indeed, positive law is not the source of rights.  Following the constant teaching of classical philosophy the author underlines that this freedom is based in the existence of an objective moral law that teaches to avoid evil and to do what is good.

The author underlines the importance of the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right.” (# 1778)

Dr. Kriskovich then presents a detailed analysis of the right and duty to exercise the freedom of conscience and as consequence the right to formulate this objection when faced by an unjust law and always concerning problem of cooperating with evil. He argues persuasively that a judge should never apply an unjust law, because an unjust law is not really a law in its substance.

Finally, he presents an exhaustive examination of the comparative law in this topic, with a study of the exercise of conscience objection in Paraguay. In his conclusions the author underlines well how in the Twentieth century and in the first two decades of the Twenty-first we find legal systems that are responsible for so many silent genocides. Hopefully our times will be remembered also for the many that fought against these injustices.

When this most basic human freedom is menaced by a growth of totalitarian tendencies in contemporary societies we have to welcome the publication of this important work by the Vatican Library.

I should add my gratitude that in the acknowledgments Dr. Kriskovich thanks Vida Humana Internacional for the assistance provided in preparing this book. Through our bioethics library at the office of HLI Rome, we have been blessed to help many students pursuing advanced degrees at the many prestigious universities of the Eternal City. We are also grateful to see faithful students like Dr. Kriskovich continue on to influence society in such a positive way.

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