UP Catholic 02 24 2017 E Edition Page 14

14 February 24, 2017 THE U.P. CATHOLIC www.upcatholic.org A message to our advertisers. A number of years ago, I participated in a debate at Harvard on embry- onic stem cell research which also included a Jewish rabbi, an Epis- copalian clergyman, and a Muslim imam. The debate went smoothly and cordially, although I was the only voice in the group who defended the human rights of individ- uals who happen still to be embryos. After the debate, the Episcopalian clergyman pulled me aside and told me how he thought Catholics should consider themselves fortunate to have such an authoritative reference point in the Church and the Vatican, particularly when it comes to resolving new bioethical questions. With surprising candor, he shared how he had sat on various committees with others from his own faith tradition where they had tried to sort through the eth- ics of embryonic stem cells, and he lamented, we just ended up discussing feelings and opinions, without any good way to arrive at conclusions. Many people, indeed, appreciate that the Catholic Church holds firm and well-defined positions on moral questions, even if they may remain unsure about how or why the Church actually arrives at those positions, especially when it comes to unpacking new scientific developments like embryonic stem cell research. So how does the Church arrive at its posi- tions on bioethics? For one thing, it takes its time, and doesnt jump to conclusions even in the face of media pressure for quick sound bites and rapid-fire news stories. I once had a discussion with a journalist for a major newspaper about the ethics of hu- man-animal chimeras. He mentioned that a leading researcher working on chimeras had met the pope and afterwards implied that the pope had given his blessing to the proj- ect. I reminded him that its quite common for the pope to offer general encouragement and blessings to those he meets, though that wouldnt be the same thing as sanctioning new and morally controversial techniques in the biosciences. As a rule, the Catholic Church does not address important bio- ethical questions that way, through chance encounters with the pope as you are strolling through the hallways of the Vatican. Instead, the Church may reflect for months, years, or even decades, to identify important considerations and guiding principles when new moral dilemmas arise in the biosciences. Even with this slow and deliberative process, I think its fair to say that the Church gen- erally stays ahead of the curve. By the time of the successful cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1996, for example, the Catholic Church had already been reflecting on the question of human cloning for many years, and con- cluded, nine years prior to Dolly, that human cloning would be morally unacceptable in an important document called Donum Vitae (On the Gift of Life). This same document also identified key moral problems with doing human embry- onic stem cell research 11 years before it was even possible to destructively obtain those cells from human embryos. When the first test tube baby was born in 1978, the serious moral concerns raised by the procedure had already been spelled out 22 years earlier, by Pope Pius XII, in his 1956 Allocution to the Second World Congress on Fertility and Human Sterility wherein he concluded: As regards experiments of human artificial fecundation in vitro, let it be sufficient to observe that they must be rejected as immor- al and absolutely unlawful. Whenever definitive conclusions about medical ethics are reached or otherwise clarified by the Church, they are normally promulgated through official Church docu- ments, like papal encyclicals and addresses, or, with the approval of the pope, documents and commentaries from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF the Vatican office responsible for preserving and inter- preting Catholic doctrine), or other congre- gations, councils or dicasteries of the Church. Even today, certain bioethical controver- sies remain under active discussion within the Church, such as the question of whether it would be allowable to adopt abandoned frozen embryos by implanting and gestating them in volunteer mothers. While a 2007 CDF document expressed some reservations and concerns about the proposal, debate con- tinues inside and outside the Vatican. New medical discoveries and technological developments challenge us to careful moral reflection and discernment. These scientific developments can either be an opportunity for genuine human advancement or can lead to activities and policies that undermine human dignity. The U.S. Bishops in a recent document summed it up this way: In con- sultation with medical professionals, church leaders review these developments, judge them according to the principles of right reason and the ultimate standard of revealed truth, and offer authoritative teaching and guidance about the moral and pastoral re- sponsibilities entailed by the Christian faith. While the Church cannot furnish a ready answer to every moral dilemma, there are many questions about which she provides normative guidance and direction. Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and did post-doctoral work at Harvard. He is a priest of the diocese of Fall River, MA, and serves as the Director of Education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Phila- delphia. See www.ncbcenter.org. How does the Catholic Church resolve new bioethical questions? MAKING SENSE OUT OF BIOETHICS Father Tad Pacholczyk, Ph. D This years Spring Study Day is set for March 20 at St. Peter Cathedral in Marquette. The day will focus on the message of Fatima, as 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the first appear- ance of Our Lady in Fatima, Portugal. Father Corey Litzner and his team will share with participants how to live the message of Fatima in daily life. This topic for Spring Study Day is in honor of the Blessed Mother and this anniversary, said Denise Foye, diocesan director of catechesis and adult faith formation. Other events this spring find Mary as their inspiration: The Fatima Celebration, May 13 at St. Pe- ter Cathedral, and our Hospitality Lecture, The New Evan- gelization via Mary and Elizabeth, on May 30. The monthly appariations of Our Lady at Fatima took place in 1917 beginning on May 13, when she appeared to three young children in Fatima, Portugal. The apparitions continued through Oct. 13. During the apparitions, Mary asked Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and Lucia dos Santos to pray the rosary for world peace, for the end of World War I, for sinners and for the conversion of Russia. These secrets were revealed to the children, which were recorded by Lucia and revealed by her later. Spring Study Day registration is currently open by visiting www.dioceseofmarquette.org/forms. The cost for the day is $15 and includes morning refreshments, materials, and lunch. Registration is due no later than March 20. Spring Study Day to focus on the message of Fatima JOHN FEE THE U.P. CATHOLIC The Marquette Diocese Pilgrim Virgin Stat- ue of Our Lady of Fatima on display at St. Peter Cathedral.

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