Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Great Resource for Great Triumph

"Medical science has proven time and again that when the resources are provided, great progress in the treatment, cure, and prevention of disease can occur."
Michael J. Fox


Last week, President Bush issued the third veto of his presidency on legislation expanding funding for embryonic stem cell research, regardless of the fact that it passed Congress with an overwhelming, bipartisan majority.

The debate between those who want the government to fund the study of stem cells and those who think using these stem cells is equivalent to killing a baby has been a source of confusion for me and others who are grappling between the need to let science find a cure for horrible diseases, such as Parkinson's Disease and Diabetes and following Church doctrine.

The question of what is ethical is where many differ from the Catholic Church. Most Americans have had some sort of a biology course in high school and/or college. Few, however, have had specific courses in molecular genetics or bioengineering. We may have some general idea about this topic, but the average person cannot possibly grasp the core issues of stem cell research without the help of someone who has the education and knowledge to do so, scientists.

Over the last few decades the Catholic Church has decided that the human embryo is to be valued and, in effect, treated as a person from the time of fertilization forward. The Instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is careful to note that the Church has not taken a philosophical position on the time of ensoulment. However, "From the moment of conception, the life of every human being is to be respected in an absolute way…" (Donum Vitae, Introduction). The human embryo is not to be destroyed or seen as disposable tissue that can be used in research as any other tissue might be. Nor should such embryos be generated specifically for research purposes.

But how does that square with the Church looking the other way when it comes to in-vitro fertilization? Although the official word from Rome is that they are opposed to in-vitro fertilization in all instances, yet they have turned their head and will rarely make mention of it, knowing full well that the embryos that are no longer necessary after the mother becomes pregnant are disposed of by the labs. On the other hand, they will give passionate sermons at Mass, trot out hateful guys like Bill Donahue, and tell their congregations not to vote for a candidate who is pro-choice on the abortion issue, yet they support a president who started and supports a war that the Pope condemns? Is the Catholic Church sitting on the fence in the issue of the destruction of human embryonic stem cells? Are they silent in their condemnation for fear of losing the income of Catholics who can afford in-vitro fertilization? Also, why is the Catholic Church, especially the fundamentalists within the Catholic Church, backing George W. Bush even though he decided to continue to use particular lines of these embryonic stem cells that were available? Are those cells deemed not worthy of being respected as "life", as per the Catholic Church?

One Christian group had decided to start an adoption agency for these frozen embryo's and dubbed them "Snowflake Babies". Back in 2005, President Bush made quite a fanfare when he invited 21 families to the White House to honor them because they, "answered the call to ensure that our society's most vulnerable members are protected and defended at every stage of life." Well, that sounds nice, but doesn't he or the Catholic Church realize that when those embryos are implanted in the mothers womb, they are sent three embryos to implant? Once the embryo attaches and the woman becomes pregnant, the other two are thrown away. By the way, the reason I was thrown off Curt Jester's blog is because I asked how many of them have adopted "Snowflake Babies" and if not, why hadn't they? I guess I hit a raw nerve.

Like many Americans, I try to follow my instincts and educate myself as much as possible before making judgments on subjects such as this. I've also been a strong advocate of the separation of Church and State and feel that our government has no business dictating Christian ethics to all Americans, whether they are Christian or not, with their laws.

So, where does that leave us who want to follow the church doctrine and yet feel they have not explained their inconsistencies on the issue of embryonic stem cell research? I guess it leaves us in Limbo....wait a minute, the Catholic Church says that Limbo doesn't exist anymore. Dang!