"On what does divine benevolence depend when I find myself facing a concrete life that I can label human? You've correctly noted that "everyone considers the newborn still attached to the umbilical cord to be a human being." But "how far back do we go from there?" Where does the "threshold" lie? You've also Fetus correctly recalled Thomas's subtle reflections on the distinct phases of the development of life.

I am neither a philosopher nor a biologist and wouldn't want to intrude myself on such questions. But we all know that we have a better understanding today of the dynamics of human development and a clearer sense of genetic determination starting from a point that, at least in theory, can be identified. From conception, in fact, a new being is born. Here "new" means as distinct from the two elements that united to form it. This being begins a process of development that will result in a baby, that "marvelous thing, a natural miracle that we must accept." From its inception, this is the being we are talking about. Identity has continuity. ...

We are talking about real responsibility toward that which is produced by a great and personal love, responsibility toward "someone". Being called upon and loved, this someone already has a face, and is the object of affection and attention. Every violation of this need of affection and attention can only result in conflict, profound suffering, and painful rending. ...

If this is the human and ethical problem, the civil problem is consequently how to help people and society at large to avert this rending?" - Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, in conversation with Umberto Eco.

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