Sep 1, 2007

Arguments with a Philanderer

John C. Wright is in the middle of the fray again and takes on an excuse-making philanderer in a question and answer format. A few explicit words, but they are rightly used. I suspect that some blog writings of ex-atheist Wright may become a new book of apologia for Reason and Reality that will emulate the writings of St. Augustine, John Henry Cardinal Newman, and C.S. Lewis. Wright will have the advantage of hearing the pro and nay comments of many of his listeners before the final script is written, including 87+ responses on the current post. Here's an extract:
The problem is that ideas have consequences: one cannot approve of philandering without disapproving of chastity; and one cannot disapprove of chastity without coming to disapprove, sooner or later, of innocence; and one cannot disapprove of innocence, without, sooner or later, coming to disapprove of children, motherhood, patriotism, wholesomeness, beauty in art and logic in philosophy, and eventually all the other good and natural things in life.

The same argument you give to excuse philandering can be used, word for word, to excuse cowardice, cannibalism, opium-smoking, bear-baiting, suicide or any other vice or injustice.

My Favorite Prayer

When I was younger, my favorite prayer was the ACT OF CONSECRATION TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS. My parents, siblings, and I used to recite this prayer every Thursday evening at the weekly Novena. I continue to like it especially because of the detailed invocations for redemption of the enemies of Christ and His Church.

Catholic Online says the prayer was authorized by Pope Pius XI, which is consistent with Fr. Lasance's footnote in Let Us Go to Jesus. The small vest pocket prayerbook notes this particular Consecration to the Sacred Heart was
"issued on October 17, 1925 by His Holiness Pope Pius XI, for the annual consecration of the human race to the Sacred Heart on the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King, the last Sunday of October."
As I get closer to the end of my life on earth, my favorite prayer has become "HOPE AND CONFIDENCE IN GOD." Even though I appreciate the saintly paths of individuals who guide us by their example and teaching, I know Jesus came to save sinners. Consequently, hope in the incarnate Savior, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, is paramount in my life.

My God, I believe most firmly that Thou watches over
All who hope in Thee,
And that we can want for nothing when
We rely upon Thee in all things;
Therefore I am resolved for the future to have no anxieties,
And to cast all my cares upon Thee.
"In peace in the self-same I will sleep and I will rest;
For Thou, O Lord,
Singularly hast settled me in hope."

Men may deprive me of worldly goods and of honors;
Sickness may take from me my strength
And the means of serving Thee;
I may even lose Thy grace by sin;
But my trust shall never leave me.
I will preserve it to the last moment of my life,
And the powers of hell shall seek in vain
To wrest it from me.
"In peace in the self-same I will sleep and I will rest."

Let others seek happiness in their wealth, in their talents;
Let them trust in the purity of their lives,
The severity of their mortifications,
To the number of their good works,
The fervor of their prayers;
As for me, O my God, in my very confidence
Lies all my hope.
"For Thou, O Lord, singularly hast settled me in hope."
This confidence can never be in vain,
"No one has hoped in the Lord and has been confounded."

I am assured, therefor, of my eternal happiness,
For I firmly hope for it,
And all my hope is in Thee.
"In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped;
Let me never be confounded."

I know, alas, I know but too well
That I am frail and changeable;
I know the power of temptation against the strongest virtue.
I have seen stars fall from heaven,
And pillars of the firmament totter;
But these things alarm me not.
While I hope in Thee,
I am sheltered from all misfortune,
And I am sure that my trust shall endure,
For I rely upon Thee to sustain this unfailing hope.

Finally, I know that my confidence cannot exceed Thy bounty,
And that I shall never receive less than I have hoped for from Thee.
Therefore, I hope that Thou wilt sustain me
Against my evil inclinations;
That Thou wilt protect me
Against the most furious assaults of the evil one,
And that Thou will cause my weakness
To triumph over my most powerful enemies.

I hope that Thou wilt never cease to love me,
And that I shall love Thee unceasingly,
"In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped,
Let me never be confounded."

Aug 29, 2007

Catholic Bioethics

One of my children sent me an email with news from The Guardian that "Britain's leading scientists have made a final plea for the right to create the first animal-human embryos for medical research using eggs taken from dead cows." The genetic material from the cow egg is removed and DNA from a human cell is inserted. The article continues:

The Catholic Church has made clear its opposition. Bishops told the parliamentary committee scrutinising a draft bill to allow the research to go ahead, that they opposed the creation of any embryo solely for research - they believe that all life begins at conception. They said they were also anxious to limit the destruction of such life once it had been brought into existence.

In a submission to the committee, they said: 'At the very least, embryos with a preponderance of human genes should be assumed to be embryonic human beings, and be treated accordingly.'

Bioethics is an increasingly important subject for study and decision-making within the Catholic Church. The life issues of contraception, abortion, suicide, euthanasia, stem-cell research, and cloning have been reasonably well addressed, but other scientific developments affecting the initiation of a human (or semi-human) life will need to be dealt with. It seems that the Bishops of Britain, in commenting that "a preponderance of human genes" is sufficient to classify the organism as human may need additional bioethical arguments.

Synthetic biology is dedicated to the development of non-natural living beings, and once long DNA sequences can be cheaply designed and built, this technology will be transformed into a tool with enormous profit potential. DNA sequences (genetic instructions) are designed to accomplish a specific purpose and are inserted into cells that can replicate. Coded sequences of the DNA letters A, T, C, and G can instruct the organism to make a pharmaceutical or a fuel--or do other things. [However, the insertion of a genome into an egg is a different matter for bioethical consideration, if either the genome or the egg originates from a human being.]

Perhaps it is time to quickly review recombinant DNA, DNA constructed from two or more sources (e.g., animal and plant, human and animal, plant and human) and incorporated into recombinant cells that can reproduce. The Catholic Church has not objected to recombinant DNA technology when it is used to manufacture "drugs" in a pharmaceutical "factory," even though the factory uses recombinant E. coli, mammalian cells, and yeast to manufacture many human proteins. Examples include:

* insulin for diabetics
* factor VIII for males suffering from hemophilia A
* factor IX for hemophilia B
* human growth hormone (GH)
* erythropoietin (EPO) for treating anemia
* three types of interferons
* several interleukins
* granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) for stimulating the bone marrow after a bone marrow transplant
* granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) for stimulating neutrophil production, e.g., after chemotherapy and for mobilizing hematopoietic stem cells from the bone marrow into the blood. * tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) for dissolving blood clots
* adenosine deaminase (ADA) for treating some forms of severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID)
* angiostatin and endostatin for trials as anti-cancer drugs
* parathyroid hormone
* leptin
* hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) to vaccinate against the hepatitis B virus
* C1 inhibitor (C1INH) used to treat hereditary angioneurotic edema (HANE)
[Above list from here.]

Some have argued against human DNA being inserted into plant cells. I'm not sure if there is any moral difference between a technology that manufactures human proteins using animal cells and another technology using plant cells. If one technology is good (or evil), then the other is too. The question of good or evil is a bioethical one that needs much further discussion in the Catholic Church.

I recognize that genetically modified plants in the open environment will spread into the environment more quickly than modified E. coli recombinant cells grown in fermentation vats in controlled laboratories. This is a critical issue if certain recombinant cells were to be manufactured by terrorists to kill people, their sustenance, or livelihoods. That's why our country spends a huge amount of money on biological defense. Google "agricultural bioterrorism" and you'll be able to imagine a lot of nasty scenarios.

With regard to constructing specialized plant and animal organisms, I personally am more worried about the potential loss of certain plant and animal populations because poorer types will no longer be grown and the diverse genetic pool will be diminished. [Of course that has already happened with selecting the most suitable seeds and animals for human nutrients, and multiple copies of genetic libraries might be able to deal with this issue.]

New bioethical issues will hopefully be addressed properly by the National Catholic Bioethics Center. The NCBC "conducts research, consultation, publishing and education to promote human dignity in health care and the life sciences, and derives its message directly from the teachings of the Catholic Church." Ethics & Medics is a monthly commentary on ethical issues in health care and the life sciences published by the NCBC. I haven't read any issues, but the web masthead states:
The Center's staff consults regularly on life science issues and medical issues with the Vatican, the U.S. bishops and public policy-makers, hospitals and international organizations of all faiths. Vatican agencies including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers consult with the Center to help formulate magisterial teaching.
The primary NCBC contributor to discussions of bioethical issues is a relatively young priest (from his photo), Father Tad Pacholczyk, Director of Education. I've read a couple of his monthly columns and have been mostly impressed that he has the Catholic faith and scientific knowledge to adequately and correctly instruct others on Catholic bioethics. The priest contends that "Bioethics is an exceedingly important discipline for the future of our society, addressing critical issues in science and life. This discipline cannot afford to compromise its integrity as new controversies arise, selling its soul to the highest bidder or playing to powerful special-interest groups like universities or biotech companies."

I hope the NCBC expands its work to assess recent scientific efforts to create new and adapted organisms that combine genes from human beings, animals, and plants. Mostly, I hope they are guided by the Holy Spirit to be correct in their guidance to others in this critical endeavor.