either human or not

By Diogenes (articles ) | Dec 08, 2006

The French bishops have caused a ruckus, the New York Times informs us, by raising questions about a popular telethon to benefit medical research. The sticking point is embryonic stem-cell research.

“For us, these embryos are not things, but human beings,” Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, told journalists on Tuesday.

Let's hope the cardinal is the victim of some awkward translation here. Because as it stands, his statement sends exactly the wrong message.

If the embryos are human beings, they are not just human "for us;" they are human, period. As I observed yesterday, the truths of natural law (and in this case of biology) do not apply only to Catholics. If they are true, they are equally true for everyone.

A human embryo is a human person. That either is or is not a fact. Either way, your opinion will not change the reality. The challenge for Catholics and other pro-lifers is to persuade others that they must face the facts. When they do, they will be unable to resist the evidence.

On the other hand, those who support the manipulation of human life are working to convince us all that the humanity of an unborn child is a matter of opinion. If we don't recognize the embryo as a person, then it isn't a person, they argue; if the mother doesn't want to have a baby, then the thing in her womb is not a child. These creatures are not human beings "for us," they would have us believe.

So to argue that a defenseless human is a person "for us" is to concede the main point. Every human being has innate dignity. To suggest that the person's dignity is important "for us" is to accept the notion that we assign value to the human life-- and thus to lose the argument before it begins.

Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 7 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Fr. William - Dec. 10, 2006 8:41 PM ET USA

    The French & Irish bishops seem to have a lot in common. The Irish bishops recently wrote: "For Christians, sex is anything but trivial..." The French bishops pull the same diplomatic stunt. Jesus' Church needs successors to the apostles, not diplomats, not men who became bishops because they were somebody's classmate, or because they studied in Rome, or because they are good administrators. The Church needs holy, bold bishops who tell the Truth with love, not wimpy, self-seeking politicians.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 10, 2006 1:18 PM ET USA

    Didn't Cardinal Newman say something about most of our ills coming from problems with Grammar?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 10, 2006 2:27 AM ET USA

    This is essentially the same as your earlier post where the Irish Bishop said: "For Christians, sex is anything but trivial" At first hearing or seeing, such phrases (for us,... , for Christians, ...) may not sound flawed or misplaced - maybe just trite. Your exposure of the defect is concise. Thanks for helping me to become a better listener and reader. Another litmus test for the tookit. So, are these Bishops guilty only of trite phrases? Or, are these statements somehow revealing?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 08, 2006 11:08 PM ET USA

    Amen to "Gil"!

  • Posted by: Eagle - Dec. 08, 2006 6:29 PM ET USA

    I like your hammering of the "for us..." point; it is reality and truth, or it is not. Still, when people speak, particularly in this relativistic age when being "objective" is being "judgmental" and "not celebrating diversity" and not "being respectful", people adopt contemporary ways of speaking. I suspect that the "for us" was not an objective statement of relativism, but the mere, unthinking, use of a colloquialism. Your editorial is a splendid reminder of the actual meaning of "for us".

  • Posted by: - Dec. 08, 2006 4:47 PM ET USA

    Yet another example of moral relativism at work in the hierarchy. Hierarchy 101: We must not talk in absolutes lest we offend. Jesus, who we believe to be the Son of God, never offended anyone and was always very clear that what he said was his own opinion and not truth*. We seek to follow his example, as we understand it... Lord, please send us bishops who are ardent believers in you, and winnow the chaff!

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Dec. 08, 2006 2:19 PM ET USA

    You are, Diogenes, once again dead on. And once again our spiritual leaders demonstrate that they got to be bishops by being good politicians. One of the first things any politician (office, school, municipal, state, national or ecclesiastical) learns is not to offend anybody. Jesus Christ, by contrast, was a terrible politician. He offended almost everybody. And look what it got him. The bishops will avoid crucifixion. If they also avoid resurrection, well....