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July 11, 2006

Comments

Mike

Well, at least there's some good news. Keep in mind, the political issue of embryonic stem cell research in the past few years has had absolutely no effect on the legality of the research and has hindered no one with the financial resources from conducting said research.

All they're talking about here is funding. Basically it's a question of how much of our federal income tax funds this gravely immoral research. There has been little movement to ban the research.

We live in a scary time. Almost all of our childhood immunizations (chicken pox, MMR)developed as a result of aborted fetal tissue research. Organs for transplants are often taken from "brain dead" donors, while the heart still beats. "End of life care" dances the line between prudence and euthanasia.

Thank God for the holiness of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who have stood strongly for truth in these times, and have helped guide us and teach us during this age. Unfortunately, the medical and scientific community ignore them.

Gary

> the Holy See has defended the right of Catholics not to use these treatments even if they are required by local laws
> (e.g., as part of childhood vaccinations).

Which vaccines? I've never heard of this issue before... could someone give me a reference on it?

decker2003

JImmy,

You state that Catholics are permitted to hold either the opinion that: 1) experimenting on stem cell lines (at least in certain circumstances) does not encourage embryo-killing and is therefore permissible cooperation in evil; or 2) experimenting on stem cell lines DOES encourage embryo-killing and therefore is NOT permissible cooperation in evil. If that is so, then doesn't the same reasoning apply to voting for politicians who support embryonic stem cell research? Are Catholics not permitted to hold either the position that: 1) voting for such politicians (at least in certain circumstances) does not encourage embryo-killing and is therefore licit cooperation in evil, or 2) voting for such politicians does encourage embryo-killing and is therefore NOT licit cooperation in evil? In fact, the case of voting for the politician seems even easier to justify, since we can think of many political offices (e.g. mayor) that have no authority to encourage or discourage embryonic stem-cell research.

Catholic Whiteboy

Just to further clarify, two questions come to mind:

1. The current state of affairs is thus that the Church seems to permit Catholics to hold either position: that it is permissible to fund, research, or take treatments based on stem cell lines coming from embryos as long as one isn't improperly cooperating in the deaths of new humans OR that one should refuse to fund, research, or take treatments based on such cell lines in order to avoid rewarding/encouraging those who would kill babies.

What exactly is the standard for "improperly cooperatingin the deaths of new humans?" Is this stating that the creation of new lines is wrong? Or is the suggestion that someone receiving a cure, generally speaking, is so far removed from how the research is initiated to absolve (or at least limit) any problems.

2. I think you're right that the Anne Frank scenario, while nightmarish, is a dead on comparison. That could be one that the combox goes a few rounds over. But is there an answer? I can see arguments either way (pro: not involved in her death, it's already occurred, God can bring some good out of it; con: you'd at least be passively condoning what happened, it was obtained in an objectively evil manner) - but is there an objective moral standard to that scenario?

John E

Which vaccines? I've never heard of this issue before... could someone give me a reference on it?


Gary, check out http://www.cogforlife.org/

http://www.cogforlife.org/fetalvaccines.htm

Honora

There is a failsafe for Catholics in using stem cell lines in which no Pandora's Box of human horror need be opened further. Since it is not necessary to use embryonic stem cells (umbilical cord stem cells are found to be as malleable), one can simply never accept stem cells except from these cords or from living people who willingly nodded to let theirs be used.

Bender

I wonder if those who support embryonic stem cell research "to save lives," also support the practice in China of killing prisoners in order to extract their organs, or merely taking out their organs while still alive, so that they can "save the lives" of sick people who desparately need transplants?

Bender

From the "INSTRUCTION ON RESPECT FOR HUMAN LIFE IN ITS ORIGIN," Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect (1987) --

"Thus the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is to say from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life. . . .
"If the embryos are living, whether viable or not, they must be respected just like any other human person; experimentation on embryos which is not directly therapeutic is illicit.(29) No objective, even though noble in itself, such as a foreseeable advantage to science, to other human beings or to society, can in any way justify experimentation on living human embryos or foetuses, whether viable or not, either inside or outside the mother's womb. . . . To use human embryos or foetuses as the object or instrument of experimentation constitutes a crime against their dignity as human beings having a right to the same respect that is due to the child already born and to every human person. . . .
"Human embryos obtained in vitro are human beings and subjects with rights: their dignity and right to life must be respected from the first moment of their existence. It is immoral to produce human embryos destined to be exploited as disposable 'biological material'. . . . It is a duty to condemn the particular gravity of the voluntary destruction of human embryos obtained 'in vitro' for the sole purpose of research, either by means of artificial insemination of by means of 'twin fission.' By acting in this way the researcher usurps the place of God; and, even though he may be unaware of this, he sets himself up as the master of the destiny of others inasmuch as he arbitrarily chooses whom he will allow to live and whom he will send to death and kills defenceless human beings." (emphasis in original)

Catholic Whiteboy

Bender,

I don't think anyone here is trying to say that killing off embryos for research is a good thing. In fact, Jimmy addresses that at the top if his answer - the action of killing an embryo is always intrinsically wrong. Same for your example about China - the standard isn't "killing people for their organs is wrong," it's "killing people is wrong." It strikes me that portion of the discussion isn't even in question.

What IS in question is the person whose life may be saved from what happens after the immoral act. It's the crux of the Anne Frank scenario Jimmy posts - the act of killing her is an evil act. But you, a person who had no hand in killing her, have the choice to receive her blood to save your life. Same question for the person to receive the organ transplant in your example (assuming something ghastly didn't occur, like paying for the person to be killed) - they needs a transplant, and organ is available. How culpable are they in accepting the transplant?

Same question for stem cells - a cure is developed from the research (which Jimmy points out, the research itself on stem cell lines isn't intrinsically evil). How culpable is the person in accepting that cure? That seems to be the part of the doctrine that isn't well developed.

Dean

Wasn't there an arguement over the ethics of using data obtained by Nazi scientists experimenting on human prisioners a few years ago?

Kevin Jones

I'm surprised remote vs. proximate material cooperation didn't come up in the discussion already. That's some of the relevant jargon for this subject.

Michael Sullivan

It seems to me that the answer to the transplant/Anne Frank transfusion/stem cell question is pretty clear. It would be morally wrong to accept them in any case.

It's immoral to knowingly receive or repurchase stolen property, right? Why? Because it didn't belong to the person giving/selling it to me in the first place and therefore wasn't his to give; and so not mine to receive. If I buy something I know was stolen I am not merely implicitly encouraging future theiveries, I am now actively complicit in THIS one.

So in this case the person who was killed had his life and body stolen from him injustly, and it would be unjust for me to appropriate any part of it for myself.

The same principle seems to be at work in the canon law that states if I kill my wife A in order to be with my mistriss B, I am canonically unable to contract a valid marriage with B (the impediment of "crimen").

The situation seems to be different when dealing with knowledge gained by immoral means. If murdering someone is the means of obtaining general knowledge about the human body etc, the murder is wicked, but the wickedness does not seem to attach to the (otherwise licit) use of the knowledge itself. The knowledge is not something owned by or part of the victim and not something he is unjustly deprived of. A parallel: I murder someone and in the process of trying to dispose of the body I discover something about the rate of decay. Later on I become a forensic pathologist. Am I under a moral obligation to forget what I learned about decay even when it would serve a good end, or to "relearn" the information from somewhere else? I don't think so.

Margaret

A practical note on ESCR-- as far as I can tell, from reading the research on the topics, ESCR, to work as intended, wouldn't simply rely on some anonymous zygote in a lab somewhere, perhaps an IVF leftover. The whole reason cloning (often euphemised as "somatic nuclear transfer" or some such jargon") keeps cropping up in these discussions is because we're not talking about any old zygote. We're talking about taking cell samples from the patient and cloning that into an embryo for stem cells. There's a much, much closer degree of cooperation in that scenario, because the patient (unless incapacitated) would need to actively cooperate with the cloning/killing procedure.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong...

Michael

Hi Margaret,

I'd like to make a quick clarification: "somatic cell nuclear transfer" is not so much a euphamism as it is a more accurate way of describing the process. There are many ways to clone living organisms in the laboratory and the terms "clone" or "cloning" are usually reserved for single-cell organism like bacteria or yeast that have been genetically modified, the modified cells isolated and then a colony "cloned" from a single bacterium. For example. SCNT is actually a more accurate term than clone, because if I were to extract skin cells from you and culture them they would be "human clones" but not "clone" in the way that one understands the word colloquially. It is important properly understand the scientific language and realize that it isn't jargon.

That said, you are not (entirely) wrong. ESCs from someone else would probably be rejected due to issues with histocompatibility (ie immuno-compatibility). Ideally scientists would like to take cells from your body and convert them into embryonic stem cells (which would thus be an inaccurate term; a more appropriate term would be early stem cell, because the only difference between an ESC and and ASC is age). Hopefully this can be done ethically, without the creation of a viable embryo. In my opinion, it would probably be easier then creating a full-on organism, but then again I don't work with stem cells so I wouldn't be the go-to guy for that one.

Terentia

Michael, Creation of stem cells w/o the creation of an embryo is already being done. As long as 6 years ago, I knew someone w/ breast cancer who was receiving stem cells from herself. She was given a medication that increased her blood production. Blood would be removed from her as if she were donating it. The stem cells were removed from the blood and stored. When there were enough stem cells harvested, they were given back to her. Stem cells can be harvested from blood, bone marrow, ths lining of the stomach and other areas. People have grown new heart muscle, others have regained movement as long as 15 years after spinal cord damage. Autologuous (stem cells from the person being treated) is farther along in research, has fewer side effects and is much less costly both financially and morally. The desire for cloning is less about curing disease than it is about developing "perfect" humans and even human animal hybreds, IMHO. The promises made for ESCR are just a way to get a foot in the door.

Lily

I would hope that I would have the courage to refuse Anne Frank's blood, or anything that came from the killing of unborn children...
I have to tell you, though, that I had heart surgery a few years ago, & when you are lying in that bed, in congestive heart failure, (or: insert the catastrophic illness of your choice here), that you are not entirely rational....Hence, the importance of this issue being--one would hope--soon clarified.

PS: I should, perhaps, admit that I am not Catholic; I am,nonetheless,looking forward to some clarity on the subject....If only because, if the new valve should (God forbid) fail, I would hate to think of myself, or anyone else, being offered the nightmarish choice posed here....

Selling Bad Stuff

Since it's very hard to find, I'll provide this link to a CA Live listener who was directed to a article on "Selling Bad Stuff":

http://jimmyakin.typepad.com/defensor_fidei/2005/08/selling_bad_stu.html

Michael

Michael, Creation of stem cells w/o the creation of an embryo is already being done. As long as 6 years ago, I knew someone w/ breast cancer who was receiving stem cells from herself.

Correct, but those were adult (or rather late) stem cells produced by her own body. I was discussing the creation of embryonic (or rather early) stem cells from an already differentiated cell either by a cloning procedure or de-differentiation. ESCs are totipotent (or close to it) meaning they can become any cell type whereas ASCs, which are older, have partially differentiated and are only pluripotent. A hematopoetic stem cell, for example, can become any immune cell (red blood cell, macrophage, T cell, etc) but never a heart cell.

The desire for cloning is less about curing disease than it is about developing "perfect" humans and even human animal hybreds, IMHO. The promises made for ESCR are just a way to get a foot in the door.

This is a bit cynical and off-base. Most stem cell researchers I know of are interested in curing disease. And most stem cell research is focused on understanding how an early embryo develops, rather than direct treatement of disease. The "promises" made for ESCR are a way to get a foot in the door not for some immoral, Frankenstein-esque goal but rather to convince the laymen in Congress that basic research is worth funding. If you can't somehow relate your research to cancer, you can kiss your funding goodbye. People don't understand that major breakthroughs cannot occur without all the un-sexy basic research grunt work that goes on to contribute to the base level of knowledge we have. ESCR will probably never lead directly to a treatment, but that isn't the point. Everything we learn about development from ESCR or cloning research will be valuable information. Sure, it may still be utterly immoral work because it kills innocent embryos, but this isn't some mad scientist pursuit of creating perfect humans or chimeras. That's a boogeyman that debases the important aspects of the debate.

There isn't enough being said about stem cells from a placenta and umbilical cord of a new born. It is a viable source of stem cells.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cord_blood

Perhaps the science is there, and the above posts about cloning the perfect human or animal/human hybrid etc.
BUT I know a wealthy non Catholic man, a friend not close though, and a biz associate
that went to Korea and got conned in helping his wife
went to Israel spent a lot of money
HIS WIFE IS NOT BETTER
There is no DIRECT cause and effect for curing illness
some of this is theoretical pie in the sky
giving hope where there is none
or the future

JC

I was just talking with Debi Vinnedge about how American Catholics are totally clueless about what remote material cooperation means.
Remote material cooperation means that, if you know what's going on, and you still participate, you're committing a sin. Liberal (and some conservative) theologians use it to excuse the cooperation, by emphasizing "Remote." But, for example, in his letter on politics and abortion, Cardinal Ratzinger points out that the person who votes for a pro-abortionist is committing remote material cooperation. If the person intends to vote for the pro-choice candidate, either because he is pro-choice or totally ignoring the issue, that's a mortal sin.
If the person is truly ignorant on the matter, as in all such cases, there's no culpability. But there are degrees of guilt in between, based upon the individual's intelligence adn motivation.

I could *never* avail myself of a treatment derived from ESCR.

I hate all the sob stories about "people with serious illnesses." I'm probably gonna die before I'm 50. I have a hard time even with organ donation.

The real myth here is this idea that there may be *some* forms of ESCR that "don't harm embryos." This is an outright lie, derived from the euphemisms and Satanic tricks of logic played by the people behind this whole movement, and plenty of Catholics (including some bishops) are buying into it.

When fetal tissue research started in the 60s (with vaccines, for example), doctors told patients to have abortions precisely so they could test the effects of the diseases on the babies.

There was the infamous case in the early 90s of the woman who got pregnant by her own father so they could harvest the baby's tissues to try and treat his Parkinson's.

Doctors are telling people with genetic disorders to use IVF to "prescreen" their children for the "defective" gene(s) in question adn give the "defective" embryos to ESCR.

I have a beautiful little girl who would be dissected in somebody's Petri dish if we were secularists.

I recently corresponded with a lady who was interviewed about this subject, because she carries the "breast cancer gene." The reporter tried to label her a "religious fanatic" for not using IVF!

The fact that anyone would think it's OK to be Catholic and eat of the tainted fruit of this barbarism disgusts me.

I don't need a Vatican document to tell me when something is evil.

Remember; Our Lord said "Anyone who loses his life will save it, and anyone who tries to save his life will lose it."

Tim T.

JC said:

"Remote material cooperation means that, if you know what's going on, and you still participate, you're committing a sin."

Cardinal Ratzinger said:

"[R]emote material cooperation . . . can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons."

One can "know what's going on" (JC's test for the sinfulness of remote material cooperation) and still not commit a sin if there is "proportionate reason" (Cardinal Ratzinger's test for the sinfulness of remote material cooperation).

I may be one of those Catholics who is "totally clueless" about what remote material cooperation means, but I find Cardinal Ratzinger to be pretty good company.

Tim T.

JC also misstated Cardinal Ratzinger's position on voting for a pro-choice candidate. In that regard, he said: "If the person intends to vote for the pro-choice candidate, either because he is pro-choice or totally ignoring the issue, that's a mortal sin. If the person is truly ignorant on the matter, as in all such cases, there's no culpability."

The question Cardinal Ratzinger addressed is not one of ignorance. A voter may be completely aware that a candidate is pro-choice, and if there are proportionate reasons present, the voter may vote for the pro-choice candidate without sinning. (It goes without saying that "proportionate reasons" really means proportionate reasons and should not be watered down into something else, but that's an entirely different discussion.)


JC

I am well aware of the "proportionate reason" point, and honestly thought I'd made note of it. But, as you say, the proportionate reason must be proportionate. The general attitude of people, especially where issues like ESCR and voting are concernced, is that "proportionate issue" is "anything that makes my life more comfortable."

Proportionate reason in the case of abortion would be that both candidates favor _Roe v. Wade_, but one is pro-gay marriage and the other is not (Catholic Answers did a good job of explaining this).

Proportionate reason in the case of vaccines is taht you're a woman of child-bearing age and have never been exposed to the virus, since the greatest danger is to unborn babies of pregnant women.

But the point is that "proportionate reasons" *only* remove culpability. They do not make the act "OK."

That's where heroic virtue comes in. Look at Gianna Baretta Molla. The Church says that, if a medical treatment does not directly seek to kill the baby, but may (even very likely) cause an abortion indirectly, and every effort is made to save the baby, then there is no guilt in getting that treatment.
Gianna Molla was in that situation. The doctors were not telling her to have an abortion. It was just that the treatment for her cancer--which would have been morally permissible--would probably have killed her baby.

She opted out, because it went against her conscience . That's heroic virtue: doing the best choice in a situation where the Church says you bear no guilt for the other options.

The Church says that self-defense is morally justifiable. If I'm being assaulted, and I stab my assailant, I'm not committing a sin, but I'm not performing an act of virtue, either.
But if I am being assaulted, and I "turn the other cheek," and say something like, "Go ahead and hurt me; I forgive you," that's heroic virtue.

I don't understand how people can brag about how important their Catholic faith supposedly is to them, then do everything possible, even compromisign their consciences, to prevent the possibility that maybe they'll die and get to Heaven a little sooner.

Mary

It's immoral to knowingly receive or repurchase stolen property, right?

Usually.

But if you have no other way to get food, you are morally entitled to buy food that you know has been stolen, provided that you know that the victim doesn't need it as much as you do.

This is not relevant to the case, actually, because you would be entitled to steal food in these circumstances. But in organ transplant or ESC issues, you know that the victim did need it as much as you do.

JC

But in the organ transplant, the "victim" willingly donated his or her organs. And organ transplant is only licit *if* the decedant has died before the organs are harvested (which is a sticky issue, as some argue that the patient must be technically alive for organs to be harvested at all).

As for ESCR, the victim has not voluntarily donated his or her tissues. THe victim has in fact been killed to harvest those tissues.

In the case receiving stolen goods, the salient point is that you have *no other means of feeding yourself. One other means is fasting (which is then heroic virtue). But if there's a box of crackers in your cupboard, buying a stolen cut of prime rib isn't justified.

In the case of ESCR, there are plenty of viable alternatives. For example, almost every vaccine that is created using fetal tissue has an ethical and practical alternative available *somehwere* in the world. It's just a matter of people lobbying their governments and FDA-equivalents to approve those foreign vaccines.

Plus, there are other means of preventing these diseases (e.g,. you can prevent Hepatitis-B by being chaste; most diseases like chicken pox and mumps are spread by lack of proper sanitation).

The research that is being done using ESCR has other alternatives--including adult and umbilical stem cells--and thus far those stem cells have been proven more effective. THerefore, there is no morally justifiable way to use it.
And should any treatments be derived from ESCR when other methods have been *ignored* in favor of the most morally objectionable one, then it is not justified to use those treatments, because the doctors intentionally ignored the alternativse (as the US doctors who developed the Rubella vaccine never tried just swabbing an infected child's throat, the way Japan did).

Mike E.

Jimmy,
Do you have any references that would support your view that the Church has not yet required Catholics to abstain from "immorally-derived" vaccines and other treatments?

I ask because I have been of the same mind as you on this, but recently, a comment on another blog which referenced (w/o links) a couple of things supposedly said by Rome made me question that position:

I'll take the words of the Pontifical Academy for Life anyday, and the PAL is *very* clear that using the fruits of illicit research its itself illicit, except in extreme sitautions of medical emergency. If last year's document on vaccines wasn't clear enough (which apparently, for American compromisers, it isn't), Msgr. Suaudeau issued a clarification which Children of God for Life published (with his permission) in a press release. Further, I personally corresponded with Msgr. Suaudeau, and he confirmed that conscientious objection is supported and encouraged by the Vatican.
The right--in fact, the requirement-to conscientiously object is only overridden in the case of a) a plague, b) a severe illness that makes the individual overly susceptible or c) extreme government or societal pressure (which the doucment says is itself a grave evil).

JC

You want links?
Try this one:
http://www.cogforlife.org/vaticanresponse.pdf
Or this one, where the author of the document denounces the CNS interpretation:
http://www.cogforlife.org/suaudeau.htm
This one:
http://www.cogforlife.org/thevaccinationquestion.htm
This one:
http://www.cogforlife.org/bishopvasa0506.htm

JC

You want links?
Try this one:
http://www.cogforlife.org/vaticanresponse.pdf
Or this one, where the author of the document denounces the CNS interpretation:
http://www.cogforlife.org/suaudeau.htm
This one:
http://www.cogforlife.org/thevaccinationquestion.htm
This one:
http://www.cogforlife.org/bishopvasa0506.htm

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