What does the Catholic Church have to say about biotechnology — and is she as “backward” thinking as most people believe? Rebecca Taylor and I discuss in the latest episode of BioTalk:
In his second encyclical, Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict warned that “If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man’s ethical formation, in man’s inner growth (cf. Eph 3:16; 2 Cor 4:16), then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world.”
Take assisted reproductive technology (ART), for example. The Church rejects third party reproduction not because she hates science, but because she recognizes that the act of creating life outside the womb and the loving embrace of husband and wife remains contrary to the dignity of the child, the dignity of the spouses and their relationship, and Man’s status as a creature. Now, looking at what ART has wrought over the past few decades — children and adults confused about their identity, women exploited and abused, astronomical numbers of lives lost and perpetually frozen — it’s not hard to see the wisdom of the Popes and Catholic bishops who have been ridiculed over the years for warning against the use of this technology from the beginning.
It is disturbing how willing we are to leave important ethical decisions up to anybody wearing a white coat these days. Self regulation science doesn’t work. That is why the Catholic Church, grounded in faith and reason, routinely challenges scientists and doctors with her teaching.
The Church is not against scientific or biomedical progress. In fact, she has made many unique contributions to the development of the arts and sciences in Western culture (including ethical and effective treatment for infertility). It’s time we stopped seeing the Church as some antiquated organization that refuses to “get with the times.” She is, in fact, one the most forward thinking institutions in the world and it’s about time we started listening to Her.
“Behind every “no” in the difficult task of discerning between good and evil, there shines a great “yes” to the recognition of the dignity and inalienable value of every single and unique human being called into existence.” (Dignitas Personae, Conclusion)
A few related links:
The Church Is Not Backward, But Forward — expanded thoughts from Rebecca on the far-reaching wisdom of the Church.
The Catholic Church is No Enemy of Science or the Infertile — the Church might reject third party reproduction, but she doesn’t condemn the use of science to treat infertility. In fact, she has helped develop highly effective reproductive medicine.