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Saturday, August 30, 2014

What's so bad about embryonic stem cell research?

Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,     
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

 “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus” --Pope Francis  (Evangelii Gaudium, #120)

Question:  What's so bad about embryonic stem cell research? 

Please note:  We are talking about embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), not all stem cell research. ESCR = bad. Stem cell research = good.  (Just like the difference between acid rain and just plain rain.  Acid rain = bad.  Just plain rain = good. *:) happy)  One little adjective can change the meaning immensely!

Short answer:  Embryonic stem cell research uses a human person, in its earliest stage of development, for the (potential)* benefit of society.  It is always, everywhere, in all situations, gravely immoral and offensive to our inherent dignity to use another person as an object.

It is an intrinsically evil act to kill an innocent person so that another may benefit.

Longer answer:  The Catholic Church is nothing, if not consistent.  So if the Church teaches that it's gravely immoral to abort a fetus at 20 weeks gestation, it would make sense that the Church, consistently, declares, "It is also wrong to abort a human person at 10 days gestation."  Thus, from the moment of conception, in which an entirely new organism is created, with its own DNA, to our natural death, human life is worthy of the right to live.  

I have heard some arguments presented in favor of ESCR as:  "I am against abortion, when there is a fetus. But the blastocyst (formed after conception) consists of only about 150 cells.  A housefly is more complex than this blastocyst, and the Catholic Church doesn't have a problem with our swatting a housefly, so why should the Church have a problem with using 150 cells for research, especially if it could potentially provide a cure for millions of people who suffer horribly from diseases?"

The Catholic response is:  because these 150 cells are a human life.  Personhood is not dependent upon the number of cells we have in our body.

It might be helpful to ask this ESCR supporter:  how many cells would it take for you to be against research on this organism?  Is 150 cells ok to use for research, but a 1500 cell organism is wrong to experiment on? Do you believe that at 10 days gestation it's ok to use for research, but not on a fetus that is 20 weeks old? What has changed in this organism that makes one not worthy of life but the other worthy?"

I don't think that a logical answer can be offered by a ESCR supporter.  At least, not if she is against abortion but pro-ESCR.

The Church's teaching against ESCR is clear and concise.  The dignity of the human person begins at the very moment of its existence, because we are made in the image and likeness of God.  

From Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae:

Even if the presence of a spiritual soul cannot be ascertained by empirical data, the results themselves of scientific research on the human embryo provide a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of a human life: How could a human individual not be a human person? 

*Regarding the potential benefit that may be achieved from ESCR--my understanding is that NO RESEARCH has demonstrated any true benefit from embryonic stem cells.  It is actually adult stem cells which seem to hold some promise for future cures/therapies for ALS, Diabetes, Parkinsons, etc etc etc.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Monday, August 11, 2014

Didn't the Church just invent the dogma of the Assumption in 1950?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Question: Regarding the dogma of the Assumption, didn't the Church just invent this dogma in 1950?

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:  August 15
By a special and singular privilege bestowed by God, the Virgin Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven and re-united with Our Lord Jesus Christ to reign with Him in His kingdom for all eternity.

Answer:  While it is indeed true that the Catholic Church did not officially define the dogma of Mary's Assumption into heaven until 1950:  "The Immaculate Mother of God, Mary Ever-Virgin, after her life on earth, was assumed, body and soul, into heavenly glory"

this in no way means that Christians did not profess and proclaim the Assumption until 1950. That is, Christians have believed in Mary's Assumption into heaven from the very beginning of the Church.  

That it wasn't defined until 1950 is actually irrelevant.  

When something is solemnly pronounced, or formally declared and defined is not an indicationthat it only came to be believed at that point.

For example:  the dogma of the Trinity was not formally defined for over 300 years in the early Church.  However, it would be erroneous to declare, "The Church simply invented this teaching in the 4th century!"  Most Christians understand that from the very beginning the Apostles and early Church believed in the Trinity.  It only came to be formally defined in the 4th century when certain factions of Christianity called this teaching into question.

The Church calls councils at various points in history for a multitude of reasons, sometimes to formally define a teaching when the understanding of the faithful may be lacking.

An analogy helps illustrate this:

It has been the "constant teaching" in our house that when the kids come home from school they are to do certain things: hang up their backpacks, put their shoes away, wash their hands, take off their uniforms, eat their snack, finish their chores, practice their piano, etc etc etc.

Despite the fact that they have been doing this every school day for over 15 years every once in a while we need to have a "family meeting" to pronounce, declare and define exactly who should be doing which job and how it is to be done. (Note: I try to ignore their incredulous looks that say, "What? We're supposed to hang up our backpacks again this year?" or "What? You've never said that we had to take off our uniforms and hang them up!" )

At this council we recall what’s been done in the past, review the current norms and define again exactly what’s the expectation. Sometimes the kids complain that we are “making up new rules”, claiming we’ve “never done it this way before” when in actuality we are just pronouncing, declaring and defining a standard norm of our family.

Thus, the solemn declaration of the dogma of the Assumption was not newly formed in 1950. It was a constant belief held and spoken of for many years, sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly.  

However, this dogma was ancient, dating back to the times of the apostles. Perhaps in order to alleviate any doubt and to correct any wrong information, God chose 1950 as the time to pronounce, declare and define this belief and practice.

Sometimes our Protestant brethren recoil at the idea of Catholics professing Mary's assumption into heaven, as if that gives her some co-equality with Christ, or perhaps even a primacy over Him.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Mary is and always will be a creature, NOT DIVINE.  Her assumption was done by God's grace, NOT OF HER OWN POWER.  While Her Son ascended into heaven by his own divine power, Mary was taken up (assumed) only through the power of God.

Also, there are numerous Scriptural examples of other good and holy souls being assumed into heaven, so why would it be such a stretch to assume (haha!) that God wouldn't do this for Mary as well.  

When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” (Genesis 5:21-24)

“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God.” (Hebrews 11:5)

“Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal… And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” (2 Kings 2:1,11)

Thus, while we have nothing explicitly in Scripture which says Mary was assumed (and where, BTW, does Scripture demand that everything we believe as Christians must be found explicitly in the Bible?  Nowhere), we do have some examples of some holy men who were assumed into heaven.  

And we have no examples in the early Church of Christians venerating Mary's relics, as they did with other saints.

Finally, it simply makes sense that Christ would so honor His mother by preserving her body from corruption by assuming her into heaven in a special way to be with Him.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15