The Grand Chancellor and the Rector of the ITI met Pope Francis on 27 August

(photos: Vatican Media. / Vatican Media)

Dr. Alting von Geusau addressed the Holy Father on the relationship between science, technology and the transcendent.

The Rector remarked that “[t]hat the past 18 months have shown us in a new and pressing manner the remarkable advances and possibilities of science and technology and we are deeply grateful for that. In many ways it has saved humanity from much greater disaster. Yet we also see during the past decades that Man – encouraged by these major developments – always struggles with the great temptation that comes with these advances, and that is a lack of humility in the face of God our Creator. One may call it scientific arrogance and technological absolutism. Salvation still belongs to our God, and not solely to our human designs. For example, despite the many advantages of online meetings, the greatest suffering caused by our current crisis has been endemic fear, loneliness and poverty, also leading to a massive rise in suicides amongst isolated young people. At the same time, our impressive medical breakthroughs have brought much improvement and also saved countless lives around the world, yet fully controlling this or other dangerous pathogens has naturally once again proven impossible." (The full address of the Rector is available here).
The Holy Father observed in reply: "In our age particularly, one of the greatest challenges confronting us is is the administration of technology for the common good. The wonders of modern science and technology have increased our quality of life. “It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by the immense possibilities that they continue to open up before us, for science and technology are wonderful products of a God-given human creativity” (Laudato Si’, 102). At the same time, left to themselves and to market forces alone, without suitable guidelines provided by legislative assemblies and public authorities guided by a sense of social responsibility, these innovations can end up becoming a threat to the dignity of the human person.

This has nothing to do with curbing technological advances. By means of policies and regulations, lawmakers can protect human dignity from whatever may threaten it. I think, for example, of the scourge of child pornography, the misuse of personal data, attacks on critical infrastructures such as hospitals, and the spread of false information on social media, among other issues.  Prudent legislation can guide the development and application of technology in the service of the common good. Brothers and sisters, I heartily encourage you, therefore, to make every effort to undertake serious and in-depth moral reflection on the risks and possibilities associated with scientific and technological advances, so that the international laws and regulations governing them may concentrate on promoting integral human development and peace, rather than on progress as an end in itself. (The fulll address of the Holy Father is available here).