May 6, 2016
Britishscientists have created a substance that mimics a mother's womb, allowing
human embryos to implant on the side of a petri dish and continue their
development long past the previous technological limit of seven to eight days. In
short, this new technology makes it possible to grow human beings in a lab.
Completely removed from the context of a nurturing family, they are cultivated
solely for experimentation, often under the guise of curing common problems
related to pregnancy and fetal development.
Francis predicts that the technological domination of nature — and its attendant
"logic of . . . exploitation" (Laudato
Si' 230) — will only continue ever more hastily if humanity refuses a call
to conversion. But with that conversion slow in coming, how are we to counter
the logic of exploitation with what the Holy Father deemed in a July 9, 2015
homily the "logic
the moment of conception, a unique human being comes into existence — one who
possesses an innate, God-given dignity worthy of protection at all stages of
his or her development. That is true whether he or she was conceived in the
usual way or through technological manipulation. If coerced experimentation on
adults is immoral, how much more so is experimentation on a developing human
who lacks the voice to give his or her consent — or to cry out for help. It is
particularly egregious to create human beings solely for the purpose of experimentation.
Church has addressed embryo experimentation often in recent years. In Evangelium
Vitae, Pope Saint John Paul II wrote
that "the use of human embryos or fetuses as an object of experimentation
constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings who have a right to
the same respect owed to a child once born, just as to every person" (EV 63). Our U.S. bishops addressed
embryo-destructive research in their statement "On Embryonic Stem Cell Research" after taking on the many ethical problems
raised by in vitro fertilization and other artificial reproductive methods in "Life-Giving
Love in an Age of Technology." And just this year, Pope Francis dedicated an entire paragraph (n.
136) to embryo exploitation in Laudato Si'.
of God Dr. Jerome Lejeune lived a vibrantly Catholic life in which medical science
and faith were seamlessly integrated. Lejeune would have appreciated authentic
research designed to increase our understanding of miscarriage, infertility,
and birth defects. But he would have strongly condemned any research that destroys
embryonic humans in the pursuit of therapies to save others who are the same
size and age. His search for cures never competed with his respect for life. Rather
than giving in to the logic of exploitation, Lejeune's advocacy for the
defenseless and his tireless work on behalf of persons with disabilities obeyed
the logic of love.
to Mary, the heavenly Mother of all human beings, including those who will now spend
their lives trapped in a petri dish under a scientist's gaze. Entrust these tiny
children — and the scientists — to her "maternal affection" (LS 241). Pray that
we find cures through methods of research that we can all live with!
Tommy O'Donnell is a Staff Assistant for the Secretariat of
Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information
on the bishops' pro-life activities, please visit www.usccb.org/prolife.