Pope John Paul II, in excerpts of a new encyclical published by a Spanish newspaper today, takes one of his most solemn stands ever against abortion and euthanasia, condemning them as crimes no human law can justify.
In the encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" -- The Gospel of Life -- which the Vatican will publish Thursday, the pontiff said mankind is in the midst of a dramatic clash between "the culture of death and the culture of life."
Extensive extracts from the Spanish-language text appeared in the conservative Catholic Madrid newspaper ABC. The Vatican deplored ABC's action in publishing the excerpts and vowed not to lift its own embargo of 5 a.m. EST Thursday for publication in Rome.
In his 11th encyclical, the pontiff said forms of artificial conception were immoral, defended the rights of the handicapped, and confirmed church teaching that capital punishment was permissible only in extremely rare cases.
He referred to abortion and euthanasia repeatedly in parts of the encyclical devoted to the defense of life and stated his right and duty as head of the 960-million-member church to condemn them, according to the excerpts.
"With the authority conferred by Christ to Peter and his successors, in communion with the bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and willing elimination of an innocent human life is always gravely immoral," the pope said.
"No circumstance, no aim, no law in the world can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, because it is contrary to the law of God."