Once an Embryo

The US bishops have issued a very clear statement on embryonic stem cell research.

It does not dwell upon the scientific nuances of the issue, but rather assists the reader to focus on the moral issues involved. The statement is not marked by condemnation, but rather by explanation. It is not a rejection of research or of those who stand to benefit from research, but rather a call to pursue the well being of those very individuals by preserving the moral standards that protect their dignity and that of the rest of us.

The statement reminds us that there is great medical promise in therapy with “adult stem cells,” which “can be obtained without harm to the donor and without any ethical problem.”

On the other hand, if human lives are destroyed for what some argue is the greater good of curing disease, this argument undermines the dignity of the very people for whom it tries to advocate. “The same ethic that justifies taking some lives to help the patient with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease today can be used to sacrifice that very patient tomorrow, if his or her survival is viewed as disadvantaging other human beings.”

Addressing the doubt some have as to whether embryos really are human, the statement reminds us, “Just as each of us was once an adolescent, a child, a newborn infant, and a child in the womb, each of us was once an embryo.”
And for those who acknowledge the humanity of the embryo but not its claim to protection, the bishops warn, “If fundamental rights such as the right to life are based on abilities or qualities that can appear or disappear, grow or diminish, and be greater or lesser in different human beings, then there are no inherent human rights, no true human equality, only privileges for the strong.”

The bottom line is that human beings can never be considered a means to an end or a mere object of research. The moral boundary of human activity in every sphere can be summarized by saying that people are not things. Every human being is a human person, and a person is never a product. From pornography to abortion, from economic oppression to unjustified warfare, from the Holocaust to the destruction of embryos, the violation of the same principle can be seen. The only appropriate response to the human person is love.

The Church in no way opposes research or the progress of medical science. Indeed, this statement is an affirmation of that fact, because by reaffirming where the bright moral lines are that research must never cross, the Church encourages researchers to work harder to discover alternatives that provide the benefits we all seek while preserving the moral foundation that provides the rationale for seeking those benefits in the first place. And those alternatives are coming to light – a fact which can help even those who justify the destruction of embryos to realize that there is no reason to take that path.

From Abortion Clinc to Baptismal Font

 “God chose us in Christ, before the world began, to be holy and blameless in his sight” (See Ephesians 1:5).On Saturday, July 12 I had the joy of baptizing three babies, chosen by God from all eternity to live. A cause of particular joy and celebration was that two of these babies were rescued from abortion. Their mothers had gone to an abortion mill in Allentown, PA, but sidewalk counselors intervened and helped them to find the strength to say “No” to abortion and “Yes” to life.

The Church was filled with pro-life advocates, including the sidewalk counselors who intervened, and all were immersed in the joy of the victory of life. Once this ceremony was scheduled, I announced it nationally, not only so that as many people as possible could come, but also so that the whole pro-life movement could be encouraged by this celebration of victory.

Yadira, one of the mothers who turned away from abortion had already gone into the facility. But a few moments later she found the strength to come out, because she looked at an image on a brochure that one of the sidewalk counselors gave her. That image showed an aborted child. It revealed the reality of what abortion does to a baby, and Yadira knew she could not do that to her baby.

And so her baby Shaelyn, along with baby Brandon, also rescued from abortion, were blessed, anointed, and bathed in the waters that make an end of sin and a beginning of eternal life. (You can see photos of this joyful event at www.priestsforlife.org).

These babies, once marked for abortion and inscribed in a scroll of death, now have their names inscribed in the Book of Life.

During the ceremony, I preached about how the Church and the pro-life movement say to these mothers and fathers, “I am with you.” We come to their side, rescuing them from despair and giving them the strength to do what is right.

We help them to see through the lies of the devil. In fact, in the baptism ceremony, everyone renews the vows of their own baptism. The question resounded through the Church: “Do you reject Satan?” “I do!”, the response thundered back. “And all his works?” “I do!” “And all his empty promises?” “I do!”

Jesus taught that the works of the devil are lies and murder. Abortion continues because of the lie, the empty promise, that freedom can be found by killing a baby.

We renounced this lie together, and we baptized the babies together. There is no such thing as a private baptism. The Church’s ritual calls for baptism to be celebrated as a communal event. The whole Church welcomes the lives that God has chosen from all eternity. His choice is more important than ours, and comes before ours. We choose life because God has already chosen to entrust us to the care of each other. On July 12, we joyfully affirmed God’s choice for Shaelyn and Brandon.