Sunday, July 30, 2006

On another note, why don't we call them embryonic humans instead of human embryos?

I briefly locked antlers with Innocencio over at Jimmy Akin's blog (there is some related followup) over embryo adoption. I refrained from posting after a few exchanges because I've been a bit edgy lately so I found it difficult to keep treating Innocencio with the respect he (I presume Innocencio's male) deserves. It's probably from spending too much time watching debates on ISCA get obnoxious and drag on for weeks.

I'll try to clarify why I think the EA-prohibitive arguments are inadequate and then drop the whole matter. If you're interested, you can visit Jimmy or see my older post from a couple months ago to weigh the specific arguments. I'm trying to stay brief here.

Donum Vitae is very specific about how many fertility-influencing techniques are immoral for dissociating various components of the conjugal act, such as the unitive and procreative natures. However, the blacklist isn't exhaustive; there's a thread of silence regarding actual EA. The prohibitions on other techniques are banned on grounds that really don't apply. EA isn't IVF so the fertilization question is moot; it's not surrogate motherhood because it's not pregnancy for a third party. DV does mention embryonic transfer, which would cover EA, but it always cites embryonic transfer with IVF as a single illicit technique, not something condemend by itself.

Not stand-alone proof, but the holes in DV do leave an EA-shaped gap we should examine. Maybe EA's not morally tenable--there are two arguments I still find considerable--but DV doesn't close the book. It would be sloppy reasoning to suggest that DV certainly bans EA even though Cardinal Ratzinger didn't seem think of that possibility, or that he meant to but was also being sloppy.

CCC 2376 (also 2377) says, quoting DV in part, "Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife betray the spouses' right to become a father and a mother only through each other.'" It sounds pretty cut and dried, but it's not that simple. 2376 specifies these dissociative techniques as heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization, neither of which is EA. If it only used these two techniques as examples and intended to rely on the rationale of DV itself, then we're back where we started, except for the two arguments I referred to.

One comes from the DV quote in 2376 about dissociative interference violating the spouses' right only to become parents together. I don't have a solid rebuttal, but maybe someone else could make hay of the few escape hatches I can see. For one thing, a married woman who is raped by a stranger doesn't have the option of "allowing" a child so conceived to die in the interest of maintaining her marriage's integrity. For another, DV is emphatic about protecting life, not just protecting its dignity, so we should hesitate before literally throwing out the baby with...okay, the metaphorical bathwater. For yet another, traditional adoption also circumvents the normal order of a married couple raising the child they conceived normally. I'm not sure the differences from traditional adoption are that meaningful; a child's origin, proper or not, is historical and remote from the adoptive act, and the parents can accept the disruption (albeit a different sort) that opening their home to a needy child would cause. One can also suggest pregnancy itself is sacrosanct, but in light of the rape example and the uniformity of the silence in DV otherwise, I don't think this concern is developed enough to stand on its own.

The other comes from the Magisterium itself. I don't fully grasp how the Holy Spirit works, but it may very well be that CCC 2376 was a comprehensive extrapolation, a small leap of faith and logic to ban the things unspecified that resemble or relate to the things specified. Then again, 2376 and 2377 don't leave room for technological assistance in conception, which DV does provide for.

1 comment:

Ed Pie said...

I know, I was going to let it drop, but I was going through my notes and realized I forgot to emphasize a point.

Why is the union of child and womb considered sacrosanct, and the union of husband and wife sacrosanct, while the actual life of the baby is incidental? Aren't the former sacred because of the latter? Are we going to spite teleology just to avoid utilitarianism?