Conciliar Personalism and Anthropology of Humanae Vitae. Two Rival Paradigms at the Origins of Catholic Bioethics

Variant title

Personalismo conciliare e antropologia dell’Humanae Vitae. Due paradigmi rivali alle origini della bioetica cattolica


The article outlines the origins of Catholic bioethics demonstrating the central role assumed by the theological-moral renewal induced by Vatican II, and highlights the work done by theologians in spreading bioethics in Europe starting from this conciliar renewal. The article also examines the reason why this renewal seems not to have been incorporated within “official Catholic bioethics,” as demonstrated by the theological and bioethical debate held on in vitro artificial fertilization and on the Vatican document Donum Vitae. The publication of this document marks a turning point by starting “official Catholic bioethics,” which obliterates the conciliar theological-moral renewal and marginalizes the pioneers of Catholic bioethics in Europe. This official line of Catholic bioethics is promoted by the magisterium of Saint John Paul II and the documents produced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and based on the theoretical axis established between “magisterial personalism” and Elio Sgreccia’s “ontological personalism.”

Article history

Received 08 October 2021. Revised 18 November 2021. Accepted 20 November 2021. Published online 24 January 2022




Italian (it)


Sebastiano SerafiniIstituto Teologico Marchigiano Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose – Ancona


Orbis Idearum Volume 9, Issue 2 (2021), 27-58
On the History of Bioethical Ideas