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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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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More Death Penalty

Interestingly, Steve Skojec has a post about the death penalty as well.  He describes his own opinion on the issue, which is rather close to mine, and I believe his post provides an interesting perspective on the issue.

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The Death Penalty

Like many Catholics and Pro-Lifers, I am against the death penalty.  However, I find I often become frustrated with other death penalty opponents for the way the issue is framed.  Basically, it seems to me that all too often, opponents of the death penalty approach it as an issue of justice.  Some will say “no one deserves to die.”  Worse, it is occasionally framed as “this is cruel to the poor murderer” (though those who use this line of argument rarely say “murderer”).  In fact, while I was in RCIA at Santa Clara, I once complained that the “prayers of the faithful” included a prayer for a condemned murderer who had killed a woman and a child, without mentioning any prayer for his victims.  As if the death penalty had just randomly been applied to him through no fault of his own.

My grandfather, who supports the death penalty, once said regarding executions by firing squad “there’s a way to avoid the firing squad.  Don’t do anything that will get you executed.”  This I think is reasonable.  The people on death row, by and large, committed acts they knew were wrong and illegal.  They committed them anyway, and were sentenced to die for them.  Now, as I said in the beginning I do oppose the death penalty.  This is predominately for three reasons.  Firstly, there is the ever-present risk that an innocent person will be executed.  Though I am sure this is rare, it is a difficulty.  Furthermore, the people responsible for deciding who will die (judges and the public [through juries]) have not always been the most reasonable or respectful group of people.

Primarily, though, I oppose the death penalty as an act of mercy.  Murderers (and in my opinion other criminals) have committed acts which make them unable to fit into society.  They furthermore have committed grave sins deserving of punishment.  Their sins are against the people and the society, not a private matter between them and God.  Therefore, the people (through the state) punish them.  However, I believe mercy to these men (and occasionally women) is necessary.  The extra years they live may lead to their repentance.  Now, death penalty supporters may say that knowing one is to be executed will prompt repentance.  This may be, but is by no means certain in every case.  To put it another way, by showing mercy we may allow someone to chose to go to hell.  However, by executing him we might be sending him to heaven, but also might be sending him to hell.  Thus, I would support a system by which we recognize which crimes are deserving of death, but does not actually apply the death penalty to these crimes.  The criminal and the general public would be aware that execution is not performed by the state, but the crime could still be seen as a crime worthy of death.

 Of course, such a system would probably not work in our legal system.  However, I hope at least that death penalty opponents in America will come to the realization that the death penalty is not wrong because it is unjust to the criminals, but rather because it is un-merciful on our part.

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Today I was reading Wikipedia about various topics, and I started to look over different Roman Emperors.  While reading about Elagabalus, a well-known weirdo, I decided to take a look at the Talk Page.  The Talk Page, for anyone who is not familiar with Wikipedia, is where users discuss factual, stylistic, and other issues regarding the entry, which is a compilation of the work of multiple contributors.  Anyway, apparently Elagabalus dressed up as a woman at times, and may have attempted a primitive sex-change operation.  Thus, someone on the talk page suggests that he be referred to as “she” rather than “he”.  I have learned in several classes at Santa Clara, of course, that transsexuals prefer to be referred to as the sex they wish they are, rather than the sex they were born into.  However, it seems to me to be quite inappropriate for this case, and most likely for most cases in which it is used.

Firstly, of course it makes sense that a transsexual would wish to use the opposite pronoun.  And I will say, in a social setting, if someone introduced themselves to me as Mary, Grace, Sally, or anything else typically considered a feminine name, I would probably refer to that person as “she” even if the person looked like a man.  However, it seems to me that referring to such a person as being an actual member of the opposite sex in writing or even in conversation with others is silly, and probably destructive.  A man cannot become a woman, and a woman cannot become a man, anymore than one may change his skin color or height.  A man may insist his friends call him “Donna”, wear women’s clothing, and even convince the great majority of people who meet him that he is a woman.  But, he still isn’t, anymore than a Swede in a dashiki is African.  The hypothetical Swede may be completely entranced by the cultures of Africa, wish he had come from that continent, feel inwardly that he should have been born there, but nonetheless he is not.  Thus, referring to a man who goes to great lengths to pretend to be a woman as a woman is not correct, despite the fact that it may be rude in certain contexts to point out that he is wrong to consider himself a woman.

Furthermore, referring to Elagabalus as “she” is in a way an illustration of the absurdity of the trend.  No Roman believed Elagabalus was a woman.  He was an emperor, not an empress.  I can envision that some activists would wish to entirely change the article, turning him into a Roman Empress, a priestess of a Semitic Sun-god, and so on.  We could completely lose the knowledge that he was in fact a man, or at least such knowledge could be obscured.

The trend of calling things what we wish they were, rather than what they are, is quite dangerous.  It should be seen, I would think, as dangerous by liberals as well as conservatives.  If one calls a man a woman, lines of reality are blurred too much.  Even radical homosexual activists should see the value in maintaining contact with reality: they will have no success whatsoever if they do not.  It is profitable to everyone to maintain contact with reality, and it is foolish of anyone who doesn’t.  In fact, it is indicative of the fact that they are wrong.

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I keep coming to the same realization. It may seem strange that I would continuously have the same realization, but I think this is the best way to describe it, as you will see as I go on. The realization is quite simple, disturbingly accurate, and profoundly pessimistic. We have everything we need to live much better lives, and we ignore it and choose our own misery.

Few people like the way the world is today. This is not merely a matter for Traditional Catholics. Most Christians and even non-Christians seem to understand that the way we live is miserable. I have heard people, even people most deeply and ignorantly immersed in the greed, lust, and gluttony of modern culture, express a great desire to have what once existed. They are fascinated by the clothes, speech patterns, and lifestyle of an earlier time, one infused with Christian thought and general respect for tradition.

However, as a group these people do not do the obvious thing: live as if the world were how they want it. There are numerous excuses. The most prevalent, and the most easily refuted, is that “the world just doesn’t work that way.” The world works the way people work: when people actively ruin their own society, society is ruined. If everyone who wishes to dress nicely were to do so, society would not only go along with it, it would be society doing it! A similar case can be made with other “traditional” concerns: reverent liturgy, well-made products, small farming, healthy families, well designed cities, good schooling, and so on. All of these are considered difficult or even unfeasible today. However, the only reason for this infeasibility is that people deny themselves what they really want. Its a kind of sick asceticism: we deny ourselves things which we desire, because we feel they in some way cannot exist. It is a modernism of the worst sort: the modernism of people who profoundly wish they did not have to be modernists.

Another common objection is that there were problems in the past, and wishing to return to any kind of golden age is mere utopianism and nostalgia. However, this is not an objection at all. Any traditionalist merely wants to maintain and preserve good things. What was not good in the past can easily be replaced or improved, without throwing out the good aspects as we have done. Furthermore, this may be an argument against the past, but it makes no case for the present. If women were degraded by not being allowed to vote, does this justify degrading them with pornography? If some families were once terrorized by authoritarian fathers, is a modern family without a father good? If physical illness prevailed in the past, should we be pleased that spiritual illness prevails now?  This objection is thus not enough to keep us from having the kind of society where at least we may be somewhat happy.

I do not believe these excuses are true: I think it is fundamentally a matter of laziness.  People do not want the hardship of being different, of fighting for a livable society.  Even most good Catholics are not willing to do the work necessary.  Without a great many people doing likewise, one person’s efforts may prove useless.  However, I think it is possible and in fact necessary that we reclaim and restore that which was good in our society, and institute that which is good, before we lose everything we had.

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This is just a quick note…but for any Catholics who are really getting tired of debates amongst themselves about such things as the liturgy, the Motu Proprio, whether it is permissible to support various Republican candidates with less than satisfactory records, or anything of the like ought to go and look at a seriously leftist website or paper.  Read it for a little, but not so long you go insane.  Then come back and read an orthodox Catholic who you have some disagreements with.  Ah, the joys of unity.

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