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Archive for May, 2008

Before I begin this post, I should probably start by saying that I am no authority on the subject.  If you find this post looking for advice on how to follow the Church’s teaching, I am not competent to give that.  Rather, the purpose of this post is to pose that very question: how may a Catholic work out the complex moral issues surrounding the “adoption” of frozen embryos.  The process itself is this: there are embryos which have been created, but not used, in the process of in-vitro fertilization.  Such embryos will either be discarded, used in research, kept frozen indefinitely, or “adopted” by couples or individual women who will implant the embryos and possibly bring them to term.

First, I will explain what many non-Catholic liberals think of “Snowflake” adoptions: the embryos are not people, and are therefore not adopted.  Rather they are purchased (which is, in fact, what happens legally).  Some of the more extreme sorts (who I read on the Daily Kos) seem to think Snowflake adoptions are a sinister plan by President Bush to reward Christian families with babies to indoctrinate, while denying children to gay couples (or something along those lines).  The arguments against Snowflake adoptions from non-Christian perspectives are normally utilitarian (we could use them for research!) or ideological (this is being done by the Christian Right!).

The arguments about it from the Catholic perspective are somewhat different.  I believe all faithful Catholics can acknowledge that creating embryos outside the act of sex inside of marriage is immoral.  The debate comes in when we discuss how to deal with the embryos that exist.  The Church has not spoken on the issue, though they have spoken on enough related issues that we can attempt to get the sense of what the Church would want us to do.  I have heard faithful orthodox Catholics arguing about this issue, and I will repeat the three positions that were raised in the discussion here (mind you, no one in my recent conversation took any of these positions fully, but I will present each position in its “purest form,” so to speak.)

One position taken was this: these embryos never should have been created in the first place.  To implant them in a woman who is not biologically connected with the embryo further seperates reproduction from sex (which is already one of the major problems with in-vitro).  Implanting them is also likely to result in them being treated as property, an overabundance being implanted, and soforth.  Leaving them frozen is contrary to their dignity as human beings, and it is not natural for human beings to exist for as long as a frozen embryo to exist.  Therefore, they should simply be destroyed and entrusted to God’s mercy.

Another position was the following: the embryos’ creation seperated the sexual act from reproduction, and implantation would further seperate the two.  Destroying the embryos would be an active killing of thousands of human individuals.  Therefore, they ought to simply be left frozen until they are destroyed either by natural deterioration or disaster.

A final position was that they should be available for implantation.  Destroying them and leaving them frozen are both contrary to human dignity, as is embryonic stem cell research.  Thus, women who chose to have them implanted, and especially families that raise the children, are doing the right and heroic thing.

Each position seems to have certain problems.  The first idea, to willingly destroy the embryos, has a fairly clear downside: namely, that we would be willingly destroying human beings.  I suppose it would serve to eliminate the danger of further seperating the sex act from reproduction, but it would also spell the destruction of embryos whose existance, while far from ideal, does not seem to constitute any kind of torture or even unpleasantness.

The second idea has the huge advantage of being passive: it does not constitute taking a sinful action.  Neither is it a sin of omission, as few would argue that women have a duty to adopt frozen embryos.  However, leaving these embryos in existance but frozen seems to be contrary to their nature, as they are suspended, unable to die or develope.

The third idea seems to rest on one crucial hinge, and one more minor one.  The crucial hinge is whether Snowflake adoption is seen as seperating the sexual act from reproduction, or whether the act of creating the embryos in the first place entirely caused that separation, and the adoptive mother is simply making the best of a bad situation.  One could make legitimate arguments either way, though I tend to think that the sin is in the creation of the embryo, and not its implantation.  The other problem is that often multiple embryos are implanted, usually far more than will likely be brought to term.  The reason this is a minor problem, in my mind, is that using either of the other alternatives the embryos will die without any chance to develop.  Perhaps this option accelerates their deaths, but it also gives them a chance.

I would be quite interested in anyone’s ideas or information on this issue.  My suspicion is that the Church will not speak on it: any interpretation the Church would take would be frought with the possibility of misunderstanding and deliberate misinterpretation.  If the Church sided with the first option (in my opinion the least likely), it would look like the Church out of every secularist’s nightmare, screaming “Sacrilege!” and destroying (babies/research opportunities).  If it were to chose the second option (which is essentially what it choses by not clarifying this issue) confusion would continue, and Catholics would act according to their individual consciences, but sometimes without considering the Church’s teaching at all.  If it were to chose the third, it would risk making it look like the Church approves of in-vitro now, and that a Snowflake-like plan can always exist just to keep things from getting out of hand.  Here the Church risks appearing too liberal, and seeming to approve of in-vitro in certain circumstances.

I welcome anyone’s opinions on this issue, especially if anyone has thought of an alternative theory to the ones above.  Again, I am no expert on the subject, so I am mostly looking to learn from those who might be.

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Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the PentecostMass at St. Anthony of Padua in Fresno.  I greatly regret that I don’t have any pictures to post, but some of the ushers were taking pictures which will hopefully be on the Latin Mass Society’s website soon.  Also, they might end up in the Fresno Bee, as I understand the usher was going to send some to them.

What really struck me as I was at Mass was how easy it is to understand, at the Tridentine Mass, that the priest is not acting as himself but rather as Christ.  The vestments and the ritual take away his individual personality.  This is actually a good thing: he returns to being himself, a humble man, for the sermon, and then after mass when we all talk to him and thank him for saying mass for us.  However, during the mass and especially the consecration you can see that he is not simply behaving as a man, he is acting as Christ.

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It seems that in my hiatus from blogging Fr. Darren Zehnle tagged me for a couple of memes.  Allow me to give my answers here, before any more time goes by without answering them.

First up, Five Things I Love about Jesus:

1. The fact that he saved us from damnation.

2. The fact that he came to earth as a real man, not as some apparition, like a pagan god.

3. The way he prayed, even though he was already God.

4. That he can make us saints.

5. That he loves us more than we could possibly love him.

 

Then, a book meme (my favorite type!)

One book that changed your life:  Tolkien: Man and Myth by Joseph Pearce.  I read this my first year of high school, and I wonder whether I would have become Catholic without it.  I had already read The Lord of the Rings, and this book taught me that Tolkien was Catholic.  It made sense to me that he would be, and after that I always felt that if I were to become a Christian, I would be a Catholic as well.

One book that you’ve read more than once: The Lord of the Rings is an obvious answer, but it’s true.  I’m re-reading it currently, in fact.

One book you’d want on a desert island: If I could get something like The Complete Works of All Catholic Authors then I might be almost satisfied.  Otherwise, I don’t really like the idea of being stuck on an island without books.  I want to be a little like Atrus from the Myst video game: my deserted island would have an ornate, well-stocked library.

One book that made you laugh: Stories of Our Century by Catholic Authors, an old book from Image books that I picked up at a used book sale.  Some stories were serious, some were funny, some were sad, but they all gave me a slightly humorous look at what a Catholic culture might be like.

One book that made you cry: I can’t think of one right now.  Usually books make me happy or angry (in a constructive, let’s fix this kind of way).  I don’t usually get too sad from reading books…maybe I should read more novels.

One book that you wish had been written: Rule Hibernia. An alternate history where Ireland remains independent (perhaps Brian Boru is not killed at Clontarf) and allies with Spain, and this alliance competes with the British-Portuguese alliance for control of the New World.

One book that you wish hadn’t been written: Anything that started a false religion.

One book you’re currently reading: Dumbing Down Our Kids by Charles Sykes.  Given that I want to be a teacher, this book is filling me with desire to change the way the education system works.  Also, desire to homeschool any children I may have in the future.

One book you’ve been meaning to read: Manalive by G.K. Chesterton.

Now, I will tag anyone who reads and wants to play.  Feel free to put your answers in my comments if you don’t have a blog of you own.

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Short post: Do you ever wonder why people who seem like they should have no opinion one way or the other about the TLM seem sometimes to be bitterly opposed to it?  I have wondered, frequently, why it matters to liberals in the Church whether people who aren’t them go to a TLM.  I rarely hear anything from them along the lines of “the TLM is theologically wrong.  I want people to stop going to it so that their souls will not be in danger.”  Rather, the opposition comes usually from people who don’t care much about theological truth.  They often react more like angry barbarians attacking an old enemy that they thought was dead than like concerned Christians looking out for their brethren’s welfare.

(Note: I’m saying “people who dislike the TLM.”  As in those who want it suppressed.  Not merely those who don’t choose to attend it.)

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It seems to be an article of faith among many today that we are all members of specific generations.  That is, since I was born in 1984 I am a “Millenial” (which sounds like someone who lives in a cave and thinks the local town mayor is the Anti-Christ, but anyway).  As a Millenial, I supposedly like to “celebrate diversity,” I “make my own rules,” I “assume technology” and soforth.  Other “generations” are known for various things, both good and bad (many liberals praise the generation that was young in the sixties, while many conservatives praise the generation that was young in the forties).  Thus, we all have our characteristics mostly determined for us due to the time we were born.

Does this sound like astrology or divination to anyone else?  Now, I don’t think these distinctions have any power in themselves, but the degree to which people adopt them is really frightening.  Reasonable, scientific people who consider themselves above superstition will find themselves gladly signing on to the idea that they act the way they act because of the year they were born.  I am mystified by the appeal of such a thing: why would one wish to behave in the same way others of his generation behave?  Especially, I must add, when people claim that “challenging the rules” or something of that nature is characteristic of their generation.  If that’s true, challenge the rules and act differently!  Don’t be a slave to your generation!

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