Action Alert!

Get uncomfortable

By Leila Marie Lawler ( articles ) | Feb 03, 2004

Our friend Claire, a senior at Harvard, reports some surprising discussions in her ethics class last semester.

Fellow students challenged her to clear up some perceived anomalies in the Catholic approach to bioethics. I found their interest completely contrary to what we might suppose, and our clergy might assume, about the marginalization of Catholic principles in our post-christian world.

For instance, they wanted to know why Catholics wouldn't save frozen embryos through "adoption-by-implantation" if we think they are human, and why we don't want to bury aborted fetuses if we think they are human. (Her responses: 1) We’re working on it and 2) We would if we could.)

People, even elites we expect to be indifferent or hostile to our faith, do want the Catholic Church to make sense when she approaches practical problems. In fact, they rely on us to do so -- who else would they look to? -- and they know, with an amazing finely-tuned sort of moral seismology, when we slip.

So there's something painfully clueless about Cardinal McCarrick and Rev. Kevin T. Fitzgerald "getting comfortable" with research on cell lines from aborted fetuses. For them, the issue is not only one of splitting philisophical hairs on proximity and intentionality. It goes far beyond that.

It seems that these men can't believe that an action could be required of them that would put a stop to something as remote from religion, from their point of view, as the scientific research that's being done on the cell lines. They are, in fact, afraid that they will be thought obsolete – laughable! – in, say, a Harvard ethics seminar. They think they are irrelevant because they have made themselves so. The only alternative is to get comfortable.

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