Opponents of the proposed Amendment 2, which guarantees constitutionally the right to clone human life in order to destroy it at the embryonic stage of development for the harvest of embryonic stem cells, are frequently accused of a lack of compassion. Faithful Catholics, in particular, are accused of adhering rigidly to a religious belief about the beginning of human life, while coldly permitting children and adults with dread diseases or with serious injuries to remain without the cure which supposedly embryonic stem cells would provide for them.The complete article can be read here.
Former Sen. John Danforth, one of the most prominent and active supporters of Amendment 2, referring to the death of his brother Don from Lou Gehrig’s disease, declares:"No religious doctrine, however earnestly formulated, will ever convince me that cells in a laboratory are so significant that my brother should be denied the benefits of medical research. The very notion goes against both my reason and my deepest feelings" (Faith and Politics, New York: Viking, 2006, p. 94).A most serious question, however, is raised by Mr. Danforth’s declaration: Does compassion for the suffering of one human life justify the lack of compassion for another human life? To be clear, is it truly compassionate to destroy the tiniest of human lives in order to treat an illness in one of us who has developed to a bigger size? And, if the answer to the question is "Yes," then who judges which human life can be sacrificed for the sake of saving another?
Mr. Danforth, while arguing that the blastocyst is "pre-embryonic" human life, states that maintaining the legal protection of the right to life of the blastocyst is denying hope to "identifiable people" (Faith and Politics, p. 93). But what makes a human life identifiable? Is not the blastocyst, which is a 5- to 7-day-old human embryo, identifiable as human life?
Human compassion, that is, the compassion taught us by the natural moral law and confirmed by the teaching and life of our Lord, does not permit us to make distinctions of persons in what pertains to their fundamental right to life. Compassion as a human and Christian virtue extends to all human life, without borders.Because the blastocyst, which is truly human life, with its full identity, is, in the words of Mr. Danforth, "a pre-embryonic cluster of cells smaller than the period at the end of this sentence," does not take away its dignity and right to life.
The so-called compassion which excludes certain human lives, according to the criteria of size or age or intelligence or any other criterion, is not compassion at all. In fact, it opens the door to the denial of compassion to any class of persons who, according to those in power, are somehow "not human," even though they have a full human identity and are growing and developing, as we all have done and are doing.
Friday, October 13, 2006
The compassion of safeguarding embryonic human life
Excerpts from Archbishop Burke's weekly column: