E. Christian Brugger, Ph.D., Senior Fellow in Ethics. Culture of Life Foundation
A Catholic mom recently sought my advice on a weighty medical decision for her young daughter with which she and her husband are struggling.
Date posted: 2014-12-11
A Polish fireman whose spinal cord was completely severed due to a knife attack has regained the limited ability to walk, thanks to a successful transplant of his own nasal cells into the site of the injury.
Date posted: 2014-12-01
Nobody is saying it, but many are thinking it. The unfolding controversy over Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics looks eerily like the run up to the publication of Humanae Vitae in 1968.
Date posted: 2014-10-25
Some theologians claim that the Council of Trent lends support to the idea that the Catholic Church could accept divorce and remarriage. Careful scholarship reveals that this is not true.
Date posted: 2014-10-25
I am optimistic that programs could be developed that are sophisticated enough to make good 'decisions' most of the time. I confess, however, that I'm very worried about who will be chosen to write the programs.
Date posted: 2014-09-30
Fukuyama's thesis is naive. In the name of progress, we've entered a neo-barbarian age, more antiseptic and better dressed to be sure, but no less hostile to culture, Christianity, truth and goodness than the fifth through eighth centuries. The Church will always be in the world; always a vessel of redemption; always 'on the side of humanity.' But as Western man inexorably moves away from Christianity, the stakes that the Church plants in defense of man are increasingly outside the camp.
Date posted: 2014-04-12
Is the idea of a naturally-knowable and universally-binding law of right and wrong (i.e., a "natural law") sustainable in the face of the widespread moral disagreement we see around us today?
Date posted: 2014-02-27
Is it legitimate for business owners who want to provide health insurance to their employees to comply with the odious contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act?
Date posted: 2014-02-23
Marlise Munoz is apparently "brain dead"; her body on life support continues to gestate her baby. Here are a couple of my thoughts.
Date posted: 2014-01-18
The authority, continuity and clarity with which the traditional norm has been repeated (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Familiaris Consortio, no. 84) establish the doctrinal conditions for a clear reassertion of the norm by Pope Francis and the synod next year. This alone will not solve the pastoral problems raised by the large numbers of couples in irregular unions. But neither will flirting with pastoral solutions that contradict divinely established norms. As Pope Benedict XVI taught us so clearly, caritas and veritas must never be separated.
Date posted: 2013-11-09
The Catholic position on family planning is sometimes caricatured as if the Church intends the faithful not to discern their family size responsibly, but rather to have as many children as their fertility will allow, what Pope John Paul II referred to in 1994 as "an ideology of fertility at all costs." This is silly and anyone who believes it has not made a serious effort to find out the truth.
Date posted: 2013-11-02
In 2002 Belgium became the second country in the world, after The Netherlands, to legalize euthanasia. "Euthanasia" (or "mercy killing") means intentionally killing a person in order to relieve suffering.This is slightly different from "physician assisted suicide" (legal in Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Montana), where a doctor prescribes a lethal cocktail of drugs, but the patient must self-administer the cocktail.
Date posted: 2013-10-16
Because of the pope's intervention, radical theological dissent in Catholic theology has been in retreat for twenty years. In gratitude, I would like to recall some early events surrounding the publication of the encyclical. This might help us to see more clearly the task before us as we face challenges still posed to the Church by dissenting Catholic theologians.
Date posted: 2013-10-02
We mustn't lose hope that reason will prevail over lust in the field of regenerative medicine. Where scientific genius is guided by good morals, remarkably good things can happen. Shinya Yamanaka's breakthrough with iPS cells in 2007 is merely the most recent example.
Date posted: 2013-09-21
If we could cure Down's syndrome, should we do it? The media's been abuzz with the question since scientists at UMass Medical School announced last month that they'd found a way to silence the chromosome that causes Down's.
Date posted: 2013-09-07
The U.S. military is increasingly relying on drones to fight its War on Terror. Drones were first used in the 1990s for surveillance and reconnaissance. Under Obama, they've become the outstanding aerial combat asset against foreign terrorists. ... Using killer robots to carry out the dirty business of war may save U.S. lives and taxpayer funds, at least in the short run. But if waging drone warfare results in the eroding of our good and healthy inhibitions against killing, then we risk becoming like those who hate us.
Date posted: 2013-08-22
Two recent stem cell studies by Japanese scientists have caught the attention of the media. They may have implications for human medicine. The first may allow scientists within a few years to grow human organs inside of living animals for use in organ transplantation. The second involves the use of stem cells to create complex organ tissue.
Date posted: 2013-07-31
From John Steinbeck's Novel The Grapes of Wrath: Men stood by their fences and looked at the ruined corn, drying fast now, only a little green showing through the film of dust. The men were silent and they did not move often. And the women came out of the houses to stand beside their men - to feel whether this time the men would break... After a while the faces of the watching men lost their bemused perplexity and became hard and angry and resistant. Then the women knew that they were safe and that there was no break... Women and children knew deep in themselves that no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole.
Date posted: 2013-06-22
Good people today also feel the weariness. They too look forward to the freedom that comes "after this our exile." But their death is no annihilation. Rather it can be the definitive putting on of the new man, Jesus Christ. And so, there's hope. Despite the graceless finale, The Plague is actually a profitable book to read. It offers few solutions. But it does shed light on how we got into our appalling condition.
Date posted: 2013-06-14
In my last brief, I summarized the chilling argument from the 2012 Journal of Medical Ethics (JME) defending the indefensible practice of killing infants after birth (so called "after birth abortion"). I described how the authors argue that neither fetuses nor newborns are persons and therefore can be treated in a subpersonal way (killed). And I noted that the May 2013 issue of the JME continues the appalling conversation over the legitimacy of infanticide.
Date posted: 2013-05-19
The GM argument for killing infants, as shocking as it sounds, is nothing more than a variation of a weak and weary but common philosophical argument going back to the 1980s denying that fetuses and newborns are "persons."
Date posted: 2013-05-16
A recent headline on The Huffington Post announced: "Gay Marriage: America's Last Major Civil Rights Movement." Halfway through the article, in a flourish of journalistic enthusiasm, the author, Bryan Wood, proclaims: "Same-sex marriage has become the latest, and possibly one of the last, battlegrounds for civil rights in America." Wood's proposition is problematic for many reasons.
Date posted: 2013-04-18
True doctors and abortionists are different kinds of persons because they perform different acts as they carry out different proposals: the one, a proposal to remove a non-viable child to save the mother; the other, to kill that child for the mother's benefit.
Date posted: 2013-04-09
VSED stands for "voluntary stopping of eating and drinking." In 2011, C&C launched a nation wide campaign entitled, "Peace at Life's End - Anywhere" to educate people on the virtues of VSED as a legally protected way of committing suicide in all 50 states. Since suicide is no longer criminalized, and competent persons cannot be forced to eat and drink, patients who want to die are advised to choose to stop eating and drinking.
Date posted: 2013-03-21
How should morally conscientious people assess the situation? Is pot smoking okay? Or is it wrong? Are the marijuana laws of Colorado and Washington just laws? I offer my own reflections on the situation.
Date posted: 2013-03-05
Studies denying pain awareness invariably focus on a single point: fetuses cannot give self-report in the form of language; therefore we cannot know for sure whether the multiple reactions they exhibit towards noxious stimuli are correlated to a conscious awareness of pain, or are more akin to reflex reactions occurring beneath the level of consciousness. This is true enough. Fetuses cannot tell us through the use of language whether they are in pain. But this is by no means the end of the conversation. Do unborn children feel pain when they are being aborted? The question has taken center stage in the last decade in the U.S. abortion debate.
Date posted: 2013-01-17
Although fear at the thought of our dying may feel unavoidable, it's a bad basis from which to make end-of-life decisions. It tends towards two extreme mindsets, either "treat-me-at-all-costs" or "give-me-a-hasty-exit". These mindsets correspond to the two paradigmatic problems in end-of-life care: overtreatment and premature refusal.
Date posted: 2012-12-29
A crisis of masculinity dawned on the Catholic Church forty years ago and now we're squinting in the noonday sun wondering 'what happened?' It's time to admit that one of the most critical features of the new evangelization, if not the most critical, is the re-evangelization of men to Christ.
Date posted: 2012-12-29
Here I want only to say that although signing a living will (or a POLST form) is not in itself evil, nevertheless, it is a bad idea. Because in the absence of a living will or similar type of document, health care workers are required to administer reasonable medical treatment in light of a patient's presenting condition, the only reason to complete a living will is to prevent medical workers from intervening to sustain life (i.e., to refuse treatment).
Date posted: 2012-12-29
In 2006/7 Japanese cell biologist Shinya Yamanaka published important research showing that specialized adult cells such as skin cells could be "reprogrammed" to become pluripotent stem cells. Yamanaka called the reprogrammed cells "induced pluripotent stem cells" (or iPSCs) and the type of research "cell reprogramming".
Date posted: 2012-11-01
Advances in science, medicine and information technology (as well as hacking and piracy) have complicated the maintaining of rightful patient privacy. Sophisticated methods for securing and storing personal information, even down to an individual's complete genetic blueprint, are fast becoming commonplace. And keeping cultural time is our oral fixation on the concept of "confidentiality."
Date posted: 2012-10-23
For all the weaknesses with Catholic moral theology in the two centuries before Vatican II, one weakness it did not suffer from was a lack of consistency with the settled doctrine of the Church on matters of sex and marriage.
Date posted: 2012-10-23
I am a theology teacher in an all-boys Catholic high school in New Jersey. While discussing the morality of end-of-life issues, specifically the moral imperative in transplant medicine to comply with the "dead donor rule" (it would be wrong to harvest organs from a person who is almost dead) a student asked why if Jesus' sacrifice for us on the cross is morally good, wouldn't it also be morally good for someone near death to offer a vital organ to save another's life ("Go ahead and remove my heart and give it to the chap who needs it; I am going to die soon anyway")? In both cases persons are giving their lives for the benefit of others.
Date posted: 2012-07-24
I am a nurse in a surgical intensive care unit. It is not uncommon for family members to announce that their incapacitated loved one would not want all of the invasive equipment such as ventilators, feeding tubes, vasopressive medications, etc. We are not infrequently directed to remove tubes and medications and to start a morphine infusion and to titrate it upward to make the patient comfortable. Is it licit for me to carry out these orders?
Date posted: 2012-07-24
The Church's teaching on contraception can only be rightly understood in the context of its wider teaching on the nature and goods of marriage. But the norm itself against contraceptive acts, taught and defended since the early Church, binds universally - in the language of moral theology, semper et pro semper, without exception. It singles out a particular type of freely chosen behavior, namely, deliberate acts intended to render sexual intercourse infertile.
Date posted: 2012-03-06
There is a lot of anger over the Obama administration's recently announced decision to require religiously-affiliated employers to cover contraceptive services in their insurance plans, and rightly so. On Friday, the secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, announced that institutions such as Catholic universities and hospitals have one-year to "adapt" their policies to ensure employee coverage for all FDA approved contraceptives, including the abortion drug Ella, no copays, no deductibles.
Date posted: 2012-02-12
Priscilla K. Coleman, of Bowling Green State University in Ohio, published an influential statistical analysis of the existing research on the question of abortion and mental health. Her study concludes that women who have induced abortions because of unwanted pregnancies suffer an incredible 81% increased risk of mental health problems across a variety of categories.
Date posted: 2012-02-12
Can Catholic licitly teach and practice the SDM?
Date posted: 2012-02-12
Now that Geron has discontinued its embryonic stem cell research, while at the same time adult stem cell experiments have had a number of successful trials, what does this mean for the stem cell debate?
Date posted: 2011-12-22
My friend has a 21-year-old daughter who suffers from a developmental disorder that makes her behave significantly younger than she is. I too have a daughter with a similar disorder (she's 12). Because some people prey on girls who do not understand what is going on or do not have the reasoning skills to stop a situation, my friend put her daughter on "birth control" to protect her.
Date posted: 2011-12-03
Since the pragmatic argument is far from certain, and since opposing PIs risks scandal, I recommend that our bishops and other pro-life leaders, even those with misgivings, offer at least qualified support for Mississippi's initiative and others like it; and urge Catholics and all citizens, after serious consideration of the issues at stake, to vote in the way they judge to be most effective in protecting the lives of human persons from fertilization to natural death.
Date posted: 2011-11-05
For those concerned about the exploitation of human embryos, the announcement deserves the harshest censure possible. Creating disabled human life and then destroying it in order to devise ways to assist human healing is a bad means to a good end: a radical injustice to the victimized embryos, further unraveling of our community's respect for the good of life, and degrading of the moral characters of the researchers who do such deeds.
Date posted: 2011-10-26
Does induced abortion increase a woman's risk of mental health problems? The question has been asked continually over the past several decades with dozens of studies indicating a positive correlation, but a few well-publicized studies are arriving at the opposite conclusion.
Date posted: 2011-10-26
The POLST-type law grants adults the civil right to direct healthcare professionals to remove life-sustaining procedures when those procedures are not futile and when the burden imposed by them would be offset by a reasonable hope of recovery. It juridically extends the ordinary context for the refusal of life-support to include the motive of bringing about death. Without using the term, the new law authorizes euthanasia.
Date posted: 2011-09-08
Euthanasia advocates, of course, have always argued that there are some lives that are 'not worth living.' But in the jurisprudence of medicine, cases dealing with the lawful withholding of life-sustaining care from patients whose preferences are not clearly stated have drawn the line at consciousness. That line is now fading.
Date posted: 2011-08-25
If a type of action always destroys, damages or impedes some basic element of human good, then no ranking of proportional outcomes can make that action consistent with integral human flourishing. To deliberately choose that action makes us bad. This is why John Paul II taught in "Veritatis Splendor" that Proportionalism is both unsound and unfit for use in Catholic moral reasoning (nos. 76, 79).
Date posted: 2011-08-07
Activists organized themselves in the 1930s around the former Protestant minister Charles Potter (who first abandoned the Baptist and then the Unitarian church because both were too conservative), and formed the Euthanasia Society of America. The movement remained on the social fringe until the 1970s, when the case of Karen Ann Quinlan mobilized its energies.
Date posted: 2011-08-02
My friend Richard Doerflinger, hearing that the FDA was investigating the Bayer drug (again) for posing to women an 'unacceptable risk' of lethal blood clots, quipped, "You mean the FDA thinks there's an acceptable level of risk?!" Apparently. The BMJ studies concluded that women who use oral contraceptives such as YAZ have a two- to three-fold higher risk for developing potentially serious blood clots than women taking earlier-generation drugs.
Date posted: 2011-07-18
You might recall that last summer a federal judge put a temporary hold on all government funding for human embryonic stem cell research (hESC) in the United States.
Date posted: 2011-06-04
In publishing "Humanae Vitae," the Pope had to break with the views of a majority of his cardinal and bishop advisors, as well as with his own personal theologian. Recalling Father Ford's comments on the disproportionate results of the consultation, Grisez writes: "Plainly, Ford observed, when Pope Paul reorganized the commission, he hardly tried to load it against change; rather, he wanted to give the proponents of change every opportunity to make their case." They made their case, and the Pope rejected it as wanting.
Date posted: 2011-05-14
The Catholic Church teaches that in vitro fertilization (IVF) is always wrong. I understand this to be the case when embryos are made and destroyed. But my doctor said that IVF could be used in a way that wouldn't create and destroy "extra" embryos, even though it would lower our chances for a successful pregnancy. If this is true, why is IVF wrong when used by husbands and wives?
Date posted: 2011-04-18
Could you please clarify the concept of a "savior sibling"? Some argue that a child conceived to save his older brother or sister is "conceived to be used." But the child per se is not used at all, only the child's umbilical cord. Please clarify.
Date posted: 2011-04-05
As difficult as reasoned argument is, it's all that separates liberal political discourse from beast-like behavior. We can't let Darwin's principle guide the settling of questions this important. Rhetoric about 'gay rights' being civil rights, about 'overcoming discrimination' and 'progress in equality' has been shaken about in the faces of defenders of marriage like a drunkard's fist for two decades. Rhetoric without argument will not do. We can't let it. We should hold the administration's feet to the fire and make it set forth arguments for the rational plausibility of its decision.
Date posted: 2011-03-24
In mammals -- and so humans -- parthenogenesis refers to a process in which an egg (oocyte) begins to divide without being fertilized by a male sperm. Since mamalian reproduction is sexual, parthenogenesis in humans is a profoundly abnormal process. Although we use the same term as we do with insects and lizards, we don't know if true reproduction ever takes place in human parthenogenesis. By "reproduction" I mean embryogenesis, the coming into existence of an embryo, not full-term fetal development, which, because the developmental potential of an unfertilized human oocyte is very minimal, is probably not possible.
Date posted: 2011-03-06
Recall the pope says that death consists in the "disintegration of that unity and integrated whole that is the personal self" (no. 4), and that we can identify biological signs that follow upon the disintegration. It seems to follow that an apparent absence of certain biological signs of somatic (bodily) disintegration can raise reasonable doubts as to whether death has occurred. ... Does this judgment of the reliability of the neurological ("whole brain death") standard for ascertaining human death and so for securing moral certitude constitute, properly speaking, an authoritative teaching of the Magisterium?
Date posted: 2011-02-07
The 50s had Benjamin Spock. The 90s had Oprah. We have the sage wisdom of Rep. Louise Slaughter. Concerned over the bloodshed in Tucson last weekend - who isn't? - the democrat from New York zeroed in on the social problem with that razor sharp sagacity that only liberal politicians possess. The real issue behind the violence in our country? The media - it's "what they're hearing over the airwaves."
Date posted: 2011-01-18
Maggie Datiles wrote a Culture of Life piece in October explaining how Northern Ireland's High Court had rejected a so-called "wrongful life" suit brought by two IVF children against the clinic where they were created.
Date posted: 2010-12-28
Now that the media furor has subsided regarding Benedict XVI's remarks about male prostitutes and condoms, I thought a brief consideration of one relevant unsettled question in Catholic moral theology might be valuable to ZENIT readers.
Date posted: 2010-12-25
Is it ever legitimate to remove or withhold life-sustaining procedures from a patient in order to save excessive expenses to persons other than that patient (e.g., the patient's family, the community)?
Date posted: 2010-11-26
The science of fetal pain remains uncertain, but we still have a duty to avoid the possibility of inflicting undue suffering.
Date posted: 2010-11-14
What are some ethical issues surrounding the taking of anti-depressants? Does their mood-altering affect raise moral problems for people preparing their consciences for death?
Date posted: 2010-11-08
To the infertility industry, eggs spell enormous profit. The natural monthly rhythm of a woman's cycle is far too inefficient to satisfy the industry's voracious appetite. Consequently, egg donors are in hot demand. Infertility programs and their egg brokers place ads targeting young, healthy, college-aged women, characteristically altruistic, and short of cash, promising up to $50,000 in exchange for a carton of fresh eggs. A few weeks is all it takes. The risks are played down and the benefits seem obvious.
Date posted: 2010-10-19
My recent Zenit pieces on marital consummation precipitated a delicate question related to the satisfaction of spouses - particularly wives - in marital conjugal relations. I offer here some general thoughts on the question. This essay's content may not be appropriate for children to read.
Date posted: 2010-10-01
In a previous piece "Contraception and Marriage", I argued that contraceptive intercourse is not suitable to consummate a validly ratified marriage. I will briefly summarize my argument. To be consummative (i.e., to be an act by which the spouses become one flesh), intercourse must be "marital." To be marital, it must be performed "in a human way" and must be "in itself suitable for the procreation of children" (1983 Code of Canon Law, Canon 1061).
Date posted: 2010-09-16
Pro-lifers are no strangers to the euphemistic tactics of abortion activists. But the new depths to which the FDA has sunk with its recent approval will test their patience. The secret that the Ella establishment doesn't want you to know is this: from a pharmacological perspective, Ella is not an emergency contraceptive (EC). It is an abortion drug.
Date posted: 2010-09-04
I believe a priest who knows that a couple intends to practice contraception after they marry should do his best to persuade them otherwise. His attempt at persuasion should involve more than telling them that what they are doing is wrong. He should explain as clearly as he can the reasons that contraceptive intercourse is wrong; and do so with charity and patience realizing that for many people, including many Catholics, the truth of the wrongness of contraception is very hard to see.
Date posted: 2010-08-28
People who sterilize themselves in order to prevent conception commit a grave offense, but their condition of itself does not prevent the validity of a marriage. Catholic Canon Law teaches: 'Sterility neither prohibits nor invalidates marriage' (can. 1084, no. 3).
Date posted: 2010-08-28
For those interested in the Pontifical Council collaborating with NeoStem, the PCC is a department ("dicastery") of the Holy See that assists the pope in bringing the Gospel to the world of culture. It promotes dialogue between Christianity and contemporary science in order to dispel the poisonous misconception that faith and science are incompatible. Not only are they not incompatible, they are integrally complementary. John Paul II taught wisely that faith needs science to protect it from falling into superstition and science needs faith to protect it from idolatry.
Date posted: 2010-08-03
Here are two questions on bioethics asked by ZENIT readers and answered by the fellows of the Culture of Life Foundation.
Date posted: 2010-07-27
John Paul II says the choice whether or not to have more children "must not be motivated by selfishness or carelessness;" and then states: "When there is a reason not to procreate, this choice is permissible and may even be necessary."
Date posted: 2010-07-10
In an attempt to keep pace with the advocacy journalism of Time magazine, its rival liberal weekly Newsweek recently published an unflattering piece on the Catholic Church entitled "Banned by the Pope." It was written by, of all people, Rev. Charles E. Curran, now 80 years old, the controversial leader of the 1968 dissent against Humanae Vitae.
Date posted: 2010-07-05
The fact that a reputable journal such as Bioethics would feature an article promoting ODE illustrates how deeply our moral sensibilities against killing have already eroded. They eroded as a result of past proposals to make 'exceptions' to the norm against killing in the delivery of health care. Travelling further down this same road by sanctioning ODE may profit us in the short run by gaining us a few extra organs to transplant; but the moral cost to our community will be very dear indeed.
Date posted: 2010-06-20
In this piece, we would like to define the condition to which the term "vegetative state" refers, discuss certain facts about the tragic condition, introduce key ethical principles for analyzing duties that we have to persons in it, and update our readers on the current state of Catholic teaching on providing food and water to patients in a persistent vegetative state.
Date posted: 2010-06-01
Technology is now making possible interventions that in addition to a therapeutic aim are intended to augment healthy human capacities. There is a gradual but steady enlargement taking place in medical ideals from simply healing to healing and enhancement. We are all too familiar with “performance enhancing drugs” in professional sports. But biotechnology promises to make possible forms of enhancement that go far beyond muscle augmentation.
Date posted: 2010-05-11
Question: In considering embryo adoption I am wondering if an unintended consequence to the promotion of embryo adoption would be the creation of a market for embryos. Answer: This question is very insightful and well formulated. Although I believe that embryo adoption is in principle legitimate and even can be praiseworthy, the problem of unintended harmful consequences is very real... If a market develops, these clinics might fashion themselves doing a service to the community by storing and making available abandoned embryos, giving the sordid practice a sheen of social legitimacy.
Date posted: 2010-04-25
Now when really smart people insist that we're ridiculous in believing in an immortal soul, we can tend to doubt ourselves. 'Maybe I am being unreasonable; after all, we cannot prove the existence of the soul; am I being superstitious holding onto a mentally fabricated crutch in order to save myself from psychic distress?'
Date posted: 2010-04-10
It may be obvious by now, but I do not think that concern for a boy's appearance and peer acceptance are alone adequate reasons to amputate a functional body part, albeit one of minor importance. In fact, such procedures - again, when not performed for strictly therapeutic reasons - seem to me to fall under the condemnation of acts of mutilation.
Date posted: 2010-04-08
In late December, Montana became the third state (behind Washington and Oregon) to permit physician assisted suicide to terminally ill patients. The State Supreme Court in Baxter et al. v. State of Montana was considering an appeal of a ruling from a lower district court dated December 2008 finding in Montana's Constitution a "right" of the terminally ill to kill themselves with the assistance of physicians (implying that the doctors assisting them were to be shielded from prosecution under the state's homicide laws).
Date posted: 2010-03-29
Embryo adoption chosen to save the life of an endangered human being has as its end the rescue of the threatened human person (which is good) and as a means an act of uterine nurture, which given a iusta causa (a serious reason) can be morally legitimate. Although it may be wrong to choose in particular cases, chiefly if a woman has good reason to believe that adopting the burdens of pregnancy will compromise her ability to fulfill well her already existing duties, the act cannot be intrinsically evil.
Date posted: 2010-03-21
The humanity of the human embryo is not a religious question, but a matter of empirical fact. What is at stake at present is the production of tiny human lives for reasons entirely unrelated to the good of those lives. A new watershed is about to be crossed in our nation no less momentous than the one crossed in 1973 when the Supreme Court invented the constitutional right of abortion. And given the fact that there are morally acceptable alternative sources for stem cells - for example, stem cells found in adult bone marrow, adipose tissue, fetal umbilical cords and placenta, which, according to the latest research, promise equal if not greater results than embryonic stem cells - the question of proceeding with the making and destroying of human embryos should not even be an issue. After the grave mistakes and horrors of the past century, shouldn't we resist the temptation to watch silently while an entire class of human beings, in this case embryonic human life, is resigned to a moral status no higher than a laboratory rat?
Date posted: 2009-12-27
This is the second part of a two-part series on the U.S. Bishops' new document on reproductive technology, Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology, issued on November 17. In the first essay I discussed the document's ethical framework for analyzing particular forms of reproductive assistance. In this essay I review the document's ethical teaching on the following forms: using gamete donors, surrogate motherhood, homologous artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and cloning.
Date posted: 2009-12-21
The Bishops end their preliminary analysis by teaching that when spouses procreate, they cooperate with God in bringing into existence a new human being. This extraordinary gift of sharing in God's creative act requires resolute determination on the part of spouses to treat human life in its origins as God desires, as the bishops say, "in a uniquely personal way." And although the desire to bring children into the world "is positive and natural," not all means of doing so "respect this great gift."
Date posted: 2009-12-06
Because of that irritating and self-reasserting problem of natural human equality, eugenicists always feel obliged to explain why the unlucky victims of their initiatives are unfit for the protections they themselves enjoy. Karen Lebacqz, for example, is happy to affirm the intrinsic value of the embryo, a value, she says, that is not dependent on utilitarian calculations: "respect sees a value in itself beyond usefulness." Nevertheless, because that value is inferior to fully human value, "such an entity can be used in research and can even be killed. To do so is not in itself disrespectful".
Date posted: 2009-10-10
Speaking about laws that legalize abortion, Pope John Paul II states flatly in Evangelium Vitae that "there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection". It is clear from the context in the encyclical that "oppose them by conscientious objection" refers to laws that require one wrongfully to cooperate in doing evil. In such a case one has a "clear obligation" to refuse, even when one's refusal threatens considerable sacrifice. For example, doctors, nurses, and medical students have an obligation to refuse to participate in performing abortions or abortion training. When following a human law means violating God's law, we are not only justified but have a duty to refuse to follow the law - as St. Peter proclaims before the Sanhedrin, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
Date posted: 2009-09-04
As now is widely known, Pope Benedict XVI recently issued his third Encyclical, entitled Caritas in Veritate Most of us are familiar with pope's issuing encyclicals. But some of us might not be clear on what precisely an encyclical is. In this blast I would like to explain briefly some pertinent points about the nature and issuing of papal encyclicals.
Date posted: 2009-07-31
The differences between the eugenicists of Gattaca's world and the increasing number of eugenicists in our own are less than you might think. The 'benevolent' motives are similar: to eliminate illness, heal suffering, and satisfy the desires of parents. The means both use are alike: the commodification of human beings and the elimination of the weak. And the moral sentiments built up are identical: an intolerance with the imperfections of human nature and impatience with all limitations on the liberty to manipulate nascent human life.
Date posted: 2009-07-31
Even those minimally familiar with the stem cell debate are aware of the vast disparity that presently exists between the clinical usefulness of human adult stem cells (hASCs) and embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Not only have hESCs, despite billions of dollars spent, not given rise to a single clinical success (none, zero); but until recently, there had not even been a single clinical trial using hESCs accepted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This illustrates the concern of that regulatory body and the wider field for the serious problems associated with hESC therapies, the most serious of which is tumor formation.
Date posted: 2009-06-09
Successful human cloning has been actively pursued for nearly ten years. But the interest in clones has not been to bring to birth a live baby. Cloned embryos have been (and are) desired for their stem cells, which, being genetically identical to the somatic cell donor, would be of considerable clinical value to him or her. Research teams going back to 2001 have claimed they've successfully created early cloned embryos, although it was not till 2008 that credible evidence was published supporting the claim. The grave moral problem with this type of so-called 'therapeutic' cloning is, of course, that the little cloned embryos - which are fully human - are created to be killed for their stem cells.
Date posted: 2009-05-07