Moral Decisions 3

Author: Rev. Msgr. James J. Mulligan

Article #26

MORAL DECISIONS -- Reinventing the Wheel

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

We come into the world as innocent little children. Innocent morally and every other way -- innocent of language, innocent of knowledge, innocent even of potty training. How hard life would be if we had to start from scratch. No speech until we reinvent language; no learning until we reinvent books and all the knowledge to fill them; no potty training until we reinvent plumbing. Life would be a long, hard (and somewhat unsanitary) process. The good news is that every generation inherits the discoveries and memories of earlier generations and can begin life from there. That is one of the blessings of tradition (which is the handing on of all that has gone before us). This is true in morality also. We don't have to start without a clue about right or wrong and work it all out on our own. But we sometimes try to do just that. The tradition of the Church is a gold mine of information about morality, and often it remains unused as people try to figure out what they ought to do. Earlier I have looked at various techniques for diagnosis and treatment of unborn children and outlined the general principles for moral decisions about intrauterine diagnosis. Then I presented examples of a number of methods and considered how the principles enable us to decide whether they are right or wrong. The principles I did not make up for myself. They came from the tradition of the Church. That tradition comes from experience, common sense and a deep reverence for life. Morality and medicine will disagree when medicine begins to ignore its commitment to the sacredness of life. There are few ways of practicing direct therapy on the unborn in the first few months of pregnancy. There are some things that can be done. I have given examples of those in past articles. In those examples I was not just guessing. I was using basic principles of moral theology. Those principles are rather simple, even though the complexity of medicine requires that we look carefully at what we are doing in each instance. The basic principles for therapeutic procedures on the unborn are: (1) The procedure must be therapeutic (healing). (2) It must respect and seek to preserve the life of the unborn child. (3) It must seek to preserve the integrity (the completeness) of the child. (4) It must not involve risks that are out of proportion to the good that can be accomplished for the child. (5) It must seek the improvement of the child's health or survival. When you try to make a moral judgement about a procedure, ask how it fits into each of those principles. If you are not sure, then consult with someone. Truly good medical practice will go along with every one of those principles. There is one more principle: Nothing should be done without the free and informed consent of the parents. This means that parents have the right to full information about what is going to be done, why, its results and its chances of success. This makes possible a good decision both medically and morally. We can take advantage of all the wisdom that has preceded us and we do not need to reinvent the wheel.

Article #27

MORAL DECISIONS -- Getting To Know You

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

In The King and I, Anna and the King of Siam are at odds until they pay attention and learn to appreciate each other. When they sing "Getting to Know You," you realize that they have begun to see each other as persons. No longer does each see the other as an object of curiosity. Instead, each begins to feel the pleasure and the pain in the wonder of seeing a person. What began as mere observation becomes deep appreciation. The Instruction on Procreation takes into account the need of science and medicine to come to deeper knowledge. It also insists that such knowledge of human beings is a knowledge of persons. Research or experiment on human beings must always keep before it the awareness that it deals with persons and not merely with animals or objects. In an experiment on a material object (e.g., stress tests on pieces of steel for bridge construction) it may be broken or destroyed in the process. An experiment on an animal may result in injury or death. The results, in terms of benefit to persons, may warrant the loss. It is not so in working with human beings. They should not be broken or destroyed, nor should they be made subject to injury and death. The researcher must never lose sight of the fact that he is dealing with a person. This is especially true in respect to the unborn, who cannot protect and safeguard themselves. They must depend on us. Moral theology has clear norms in this regard, and I will consider them in the future. Right now I would like to explain the difference between research and experimentation. These two words are often used to mean the same thing. In the Instruction, however, they are used more carefully, and I will try to be equally careful in the way I use them. Research is a process of systematic observation. It is primarily a matter of looking, keeping records, and learning from this information. It would not be hurtful or harmful or fatal, and so there would usually be no moral objection. Of course, the means of observation is very important. Examining the working of someone's mind by watching his actions is far different from doing it by opening his head. X-ray observation of an embryo would be destructive, while sonographic examination seems not to be. Experiment is more than observation. It involves not only research (looking) but active intervention (doing something). Experiment on a human being (at any stage of life from zygote to adult) involves doing something to that person. In medicine this could involve the performance of surgical procedures or the use of drugs or new technologies. The purpose is to verify some result or effect which is not yet known or not yet understood. It is clear that the unborn must be especially protected, since they have no way of knowing what is to be done, or choosing, or giving consent. Both research and experimentation are performed with the goal of knowledge. Work with human beings, at any stage of life, is work with persons. The researcher or experimenter would do well to keep in mind at every moment that he is not simply "getting to know it." He is "getting to know you."

Article #28

MORAL DECISIONS -- Dr. Frankenstein, I Presume

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

In 1931 Frankenstein came to the screen. Clive Colin was the misguided doctor who tried to play God and create life. Boris Karloff, the monster, had a flat head, electrodes in his neck and unfashionable platform shoes -- with which he clomped to stardom. It was entertainment, but it had a point, too. Man is not God and his efforts to the creator and lord of life end in distortion and disaster. Still, it was just a movie. No one would really try to make a live man out of bits of dead bodies. No one would experiment on living human beings and then discard them. Maybe not in 1931, but I wouldn't bet on it now. In fact, only ten years after the movie the Nazis were planning a "master race," and were cutting up the living bodies of people whom they first declared non-human and then used for experiment. Today the original Nazis are gone, but their successors are ready and willing to pick up where they left off. The new madmen have classified the unborn as non-human and they are busily cutting up small bodies, both living and dead, for their "noble" experiments. In 1988 Magnificat Press published a book, Beyond Abortion: A Chronicle of Fetal Experimentation, by Suzanne M. Rini. I recommend it for your reading. If it does nothing else, it will at least reassure you that Frankenstein is not dead. Let me give you some examples -- although the names of the people involved I will omit since I don't have sufficient room here to give all the supporting documentation. There are examples not only of the use of fetuses for experiment, but also of the lowest forms of pure commercialism. One Washington, D.C., hospital, for example, in 1976 was found to have not only charged women to perform abortions on them, but had then sold the fetuses for experiment. Through the sale they made $88,000. They claimed that the money was used to send doctors to conventions or to purchase cookies and soft drinks for visiting professors! In 1982 in California a container company tried to repossess one of its containers from a pathologist. In it they found fetuses stacked in jars and cartons. In fact, there were over 16,000 of them, some as far developed as 5 months. They had come from doctors and clinics in California and Missouri. When the district attorney tried to have them buried, he was blocked by the ACLU with a suit on behalf of a women's health center. Years later the fetuses were still sitting in that same container as the court case dragged on. In incidents in Canada in the early and mid-1970's more than 50 fetuses were delivered alive by hysterotomy (Caesarian section). They ranged in gestational age from ten to twenty-five weeks. Upon delivery they were cut open and had their adrenal and sex organs removed. This eventually resulted in criminal charges against the participants. Have you ever wondered what happens to the children who are killed in your local abortion mills? Perhaps you might consider contacting the local media to do some investigative reporting. The results could be quite informative. What are the "noble" experiments for which these living and dead children are considered so essential? I'll talk more about that the next time. For now I just wanted to let you know that Dr. Frankenstein is alive and well and is prospering right here in our own Country. Article # 29

MORAL DECISIONS -- Scientific Cyclopes

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

"How many learned men are working at the forge of science -- laborious, ardent, tireless Cyclopes, but one-eyed!" (Joseph Joubert, Pens,es, 1842). The Cyclopes -- mythological giants with one great eye. The problem is that it takes two eyes for depth perception, and depth perception is essential to see the relationship of one thing to another. Experimentation on fetuses is a perfect example of this one-eyed, flat, dimensionless vision of the scientific Cyclopes. Those who perform the most atrocious experiments try to make their work appear noble. They describe their goals in terms of the good that will be achieved for "humanity," while they routinely tear apart living human beings. Their flat vision focuses on an abstraction and ignores real persons. In 1981 one nationally known drug company is reported to have made arrangements with an Arizona abortion clinic. Free abortions were provided to 14 women, who agreed to cooperate in an experiment. They all took a new drug designed for treatment of hypertension. Blood was taken from the women each day and amniotic fluid was drawn from their wombs for examination. Finally all 14 were given prostaglandins to induce abortions and their children were then delivered in order to be put to death and examined. The hospital was reported to have been given $10,000 -- an increase over the $2800 to $3200 they might have expected as the usual abortion fee if the women had paid. In 1983 an Irish newspaper reported on the use of human fetuses in the European cosmetic industry. Fetuses of 12 to 21 weeks were aborted by hysterotomy. (Hysterotomy is one of the "antiseptic" words that experimenters are so fond of. It is the same procedure as a Caesarean Section, with one great difference -- its purpose is to kill the fetus.) It is hard to find a noble motive here, but people with flat vision focus just as well on monetary profit. There is also the issue of the traffic in fetuses which is inevitably connected with these noble experiments. In testimony before a commission in Pennsylvania in 1972, one witness described her own horror at seeing fetuses -- still moving and trying to breathe -- being packed in ice and rushed off to the laboratory to make their contribution to the advance of science. One case, of which Doctor Frankenstein himself might have been proud, occurred in 1973 in Finland. The heads were removed from 12 fetuses who had been delivered by hysterotomy. They were kept alive so that various substances could be run into their carotid arteries and then examined upon retrieval from the veins. Testimony in 1972 indicated that a doctor in California -- in the pursuit of noble goals -- performed experiments that included cutting open the rib cages of living fetuses to examine the action of the heart. Some were as old as 24 weeks and were, of course, viable babies. Why offer this catalogue of horrors to my readers? Because we can all be enticed into thinking that the noble goals of helping humanity can justify whatever scientists need to do. That sort of one-eyed vision distorts our view of reality. We need to look not only at abstract goals, but at the concrete means used to attain them. We need depth in our vision. We must realize that there is no such thing as a real "love of humanity" which can, at the same time, destroy human beings. It is a horrifyingly flat vision which says, "I love humanity. Let me murder your children to prove it."

Article # 30

MORAL DECISIONS -- Women and Children First...

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

"Women and children first..." That would once have been an expression of chivalry. It helped to determine who escaped from the sinking Titanic. It was the final utterance of unsung heroes. Alas, no longer. Now it determines who shall be first exploited by scientists. Women are breeding grounds for experimental subjects and their children are put to death under the pretext of serving humanity at large. Real people are sacrificed for an abstraction. The Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade dehumanized the unborn and set the stage for the legal murder of 1.6 million of them each year. We can all become desensitized. Horrors first discovered make us ill; but horrors repeated more than a million times a year lose their power to arouse compassion and lead to a worse horror -- the hardening of the human heart. Individuals become statistics and compassion fades into vague uneasiness and then into no feeling at all. The body of a 12 week fetus is only a few inches long. It takes up, perhaps, no more than 4 or 5 square inches when laid out flat. Can you even begin to imagine 1.6 million such tiny bodies? If side by side in rank and file they would more than overflow a football field. Perfectly formed human beings, needing only to grow in order to be able to live outside the womb. How can abortionists overcome the horror of their own actions? The fact is that some of them can't. They begin to find the whole business so repulsive that they simply leave it. Some, of course, can conquer their human decency with hard cash. Their values are centered in things, and persons become less and less important. They are really no longer doctors saving human life, but predators seeing to their own welfare. How doth the little crocodile Improve his shining tail, And pour the waters of the Nile on every golden scale! How cheerfully he seems to grin, How neatly spreads his claws, And welcomes little fishes in With gently smiling jaws! (Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, 1865)

And then there is, of course, another category. They are the ones who seem to fancy themselves heroes -- while still making a very good living. Their motto may be, "Every child a wanted child." Translated into plainer English, this really means, "Every unwanted child a dead child." And remember that these murdered children would have been born into a society in which infertility is ever more common and there is often a waiting period of five years for those who want to adopt. Unwanted? Not likely! The other self-styled heroes are those scientists who see 1.6 million dead children a year as an endless source of material for human experiment. As we have seen in earlier articles, they are even willing to buy their deaths and conduct a flourishing business in the trafficking of their bodies. They like to think of themselves as humanitarians, spending themselves in the noble effort to conquer disease. Their times and talents are given over to experiments which lead to the advance of science. (Let us not dwell on the fact that they also lead to lucrative financial grants, fame and prestige. Such ignoble motives are, no doubt, purged from their altruistic minds.) Is experiment ever allowed? If so, under what conditions? What exactly are the principles involved? We shall look at these in the next few articles. In the meantime, don't be too anxious to step forward when someone says, "Women and children first."

Article: #31

MORAL DECISIONS -- Whose Choice?

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

In the middle of the last century the hot item for politicians and for the whole country was the question of slavery. As states were admitted to the Union, would they be slave or free? One rallying cry for the pro-slavery group was "Popular Sovereignty." Each state, by election, should make the choice for itself. The typical model of that old American sense of freedom, rights and fair play? This was the position of Stephen Douglas in his debates with Abraham Lincoln. In one of the debates Douglas is reported to have said, "Every man should have the right to choose for himself if he wants to own a slave or not." Lincoln's response was, "You are in favor of a choice for everyone except for the person it matters most to -- the slave." The parallel between that situation and our own is so evident as to need no explanation. In abortion the only one who is never consulted is the one who will be murdered. The same is true when it comes to experiment on a fetus. He is nobly volunteered by a mother who doesn't want him, a doctor who doesn't mind killing him, and a researcher who can hardly wait to get his hands on the body. All of this, of course, presupposes those situations in which the fetus is to be murdered in the act of abortion or later on in the experiment. Are there other kinds of experiment which might be morally acceptable? And, if so, what moral principles would be involved? In this and the next few articles I will discuss the basic principles which govern experiment on human beings. The best way to go about this is, I think, to begin with the case of experiments on adults and then see how our principles apply to the unborn. The first point to be made is that no human being has an absolute ownership over the life of anyone, not even over his own. Life is a gift of God and our control over it is one of stewardship, not full dominion. We are to cherish it, care for it and hand it back to God, its owner, when he asks for it. This means that we have not only rights but responsibilities. We have no right to destroy our own life and we have no right to take the life of any innocent person. We have, therefore, no right to enter into any form of experiment which we know will cause us serious bodily on mental harm. Nor do we have the right to experiment in any way such as to cause that sort of harm to anyone else. We have a right to be fully and properly informed about the necessity for and possible consequences of any experiment in which we are asked to be engaged. Only in this way can we have the information that we need in order to make a proper moral judgement. And when the risks are appropriate and we see no danger of serious harm or death, even then we must be free to decide whether we are to participate or not. All of these are basic rights and responsibilities. No one has the right to volunteer another person in an experiment. That goes for adults and it most certainly goes for the unborn or for any of the other categories of persons who -- for whatever reason -- are unable to make their own free choices. In summary: No one has the right to subject himself or another to risk of harm or death for the sake of an experiment. Everyone has the right to free and informed consent. An adult may be able to exercise this right, but an unborn child has no opportunity to do so. Therefore the unborn cannot be subjected to any sort of risk for the sake of experiment. The one person who is most involved would be the one who had been given no choice.

Article: #32

MORAL DECISIONS -- Can We Have a Volunteer?

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

The magician stands, saw in hand, next to a coffin-like box on a platform. "Can we have a volunteer?" You may be upset if everyone volunteers you to get into the act. Still, it is just an act. But what it weren't? What if he has no tricks up his sleeve, but is just testing a theory that he can cut you in half and get you back together again? You certainly wouldn't jump onto the stage. Is every experimental procedure on an embryo or fetus wrong? In the preceding article, I spoke of freedom and informed consent. I said that an adult can sometimes choose to take part in an experiment even if there is some risk. Not even an adult, however, can wilfully subject himself to serious bodily harm or danger of death, for the sake of advancement of scientific knowledge. It is quite another situation if that adult is ill to the point of death and there is no safe therapy available, but there is an experimental procedure which might restore his health or save his life. In that case he can be morally justified in undergoing an experimental treatment in the hope of improvement, even though he runs a risk in the treatment itself. No one has the right to put the unborn child to death, nor does anyone have the right to subject the unborn to the risk of injury or death for the sake of science. It is quite another matter if that child is in certain danger of death and we have no safe or proven way to save it, but we do have a procedure still not fully tested yet offering some real hope of success. In that case parents can be morally justified in allowing their unborn child to be part of what is still essentially an experiment. What makes this situation different? The answer is to be found in the distinction between therapeutic and non-therapeutic procedures. Therapeutic procedures promise real therapy or healing for the person involved. When a medical procedure is clearly therapeutic, then it may be allowed even for the unborn. The purpose in such a case is not simply to advance knowledge or acquire information. Instead, the real purpose of the procedure is the honest effort to save the life of this actual person. It is not simply being done to him but for him. It does not create a threat to life, but attempts to overcome a threat. Non-therapeutic procedures are those which are not aimed at a necessary and beneficial effect on the recipient. Rather, they are purely experimental. No one has a right to subject the unborn to this. Pope John Paul II has said: "Any form of experimentation on the fetus that may damage its integrity or worsen its condition is unacceptable, except in the case of a final effort to save it from death." In its Declaration on Euthanasia, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said: "In the absence of other sufficient remedies, it is permitted, with the patient's consent, to have recourse to the means provided by the most advanced medical techniques, even if these means are still at the experimental stage and are not without a certain risk." Parents can give consent to treatment necessary to save the life of their unborn child. No one, however, can or should give consent to the use of the unborn as animals for laboratory tests. We should never volunteer a human being -- not even ourselves -- as magicians assistants, even when the magic is called science.

Article # 33

MORAL DECISIONS -- Impossible Things

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

"There's no use trying," [Alice] said, "one can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." (Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, 1872) There are some things which are impossible simply because they cannot be. You cannot have, for example, a perfect circle with a circumference formed by four straight lines and four right angles. There are other things which are "impossible," not because they cannot be, but because they are so unthinkable that no one would do them. What loving parents, for example, would keep a few of their children and then kill the rest, or give them away, or donate them to science, or freeze them until they got around (perhaps) to wanting them? Alas! no longer is it impossible, because it is no longer unthinkable. It is done more and more frequently and it is done by those who think of themselves, as and, indeed, want to be truly loving parents. Couples who long to have children, loving couples whose infertility is truly painful to them, begin a series of medical procedures intended to help them. They long to give the gift of life and they are the last people in the world who would think of hurting, let alone killing, a child. The treatments are long, difficult and expensive. Their feelings surge with hope, only to be crushed with disappointment. There comes a time when they have exhausted most of the available techniques. It is often at that point, when they feel most desperate, that the suggestion is made of in vitro fertilization. It holds out one last hope. It is then that they are most likely to do what they would once have considered impossible, at least for themselves. The doctor induces multiple ovulation. He removes eggs from the woman's ovaries. He will try to get between five and ten eggs -- although in some cases as many as twenty five have been taken. With the man's sperm they are fertilized in a petri dish (a flat plastic container, formerly made of glass -- in fact, in vitro is a Latin phrase which means "in glass"). They become human embryos -- each one a new person. Usually some, perhaps as many as six or seven, are put into the uterus in the hope that they will implant. If they all implant, there may be too many for the woman to carry to term and so a few are removed by a process called "selective reduction." Another "sanitized" term which means, "I put too many children in your womb, so I must kill a few." What of the others which were never used? They may be destroyed or "donated" to another couple or used for experiments. They may be frozen and set aside to be used or destroyed later. They are human persons doomed to be manipulated as though they were mere obects. The real tragedy is that these persons, now referred to as "spare" embryos, are doomed to a limbo of impossibility. There is no morally acceptable way in which they can be treated. They are persons and, as such, should not be thrown away or frozen or used in the laboratory or given away to other parents. The Instruction on Procreation says: "In consequence of the fact that they have been produced in vitro, those embryos which are not transferred into the body of the mother and are called 'spare' are exposed to an absurd fate, with no possibility of their being offered safe means of survival which can be licitly pursued."

Article # 34

MORAL DECISIONS -- Well, I'll Be A Monkey's Uncle!

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

When I was growing up, a ommon expressions of surprise was, "Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!" It may be that the expression goes back to the initial shock at Darwin's theory of evolution. It may some day, however, be a simple statement of fact. The Vatican's 1987 Instruction on Procreation warns that present techniques of in vitro fertilization and our interest in biological and genetic manipulation may lead to efforts at cross-breeding human beings with lower animals. Direct cross-breeding of different species is, of course, not possible. But there has been enormous interest in the possibilities of recombinant DNA. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a substance found in the nucleus of cells and is responsible for the transfer of genetic characteristics from one generation to the next. The restructuring of inherited characteristics by manipulation of DNA has been done in lower life forms and has already caused problems. Scientists have been able to change one-celled organisms in such a way as to give them new characteristics -- in effect, producing a new life-form. But how can we even begin to predict what impact these life forms will have on others? They can produce genes that may give rise to new species -- and already there is discussion on the question of issuing patents for those species! This may sound like science fiction, but in July of 1989 the federal government gave approval to a New York state research institute to begin open-air testing of an altered virus. Its purpose was to act as a pesticide. It was to be tested on cabbage plants infected with cabbage looper larvae. It is a virus which attacks insects, but not vertebrates. The new virus is designed to infect and kill insects, but to be so altered internally that it is itself unprotected from the environment and will die within a few days after it has done its job. The Environmental Protection Agency allowed the test, although, in fact, no one really knows what will happen. There is even the fear that the new virus will recombine with related types and get back its normal protection. This would allow it to continue to attack insects. Of course, we all like to swat a bug when it crawls on us, but any serious threat to insects in general would be a threat to us as well. What, for example, would be the effect on plant pollination, not to mention the myriad things that insects are responsible for in the balance of nature? In March of 1990 a National Institute of Health panel approved the insertion of new genes into the blood cells of children suffering from ADA -- which is a genetic disorder that destroys the immune system. This use, of course, seems good, but it also opens up a possible Pandora's box. Some years ago I attended a lecture given by Arthur Clarke (the author of 2001), in which he spoke of a plan in China to experiment on human and chimpanzee cells. The purpose was to create a new species of strong, docile and not overly intelligent workers. (I suppose you could also pay them in bananas.) The Instruction is not far fetched when it warns of the moral problems that could arise with plans to cross fertilize human and animal gametes (reproductive cells) or the gestation of human beings in the uteruses of animals. If we lose sight of the value of human life and human persons and begin to focus only on our power to manipulate the world, we could end up destroying what we claim to care so much for -- human life. And we really could end up being monkey's uncles.

Article # 35

MORAL DECISIONS -- Love is Not Chilly

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

In September of 1989 Judge W. Dale Young, in the Circuit Court for Blount County in Tennessee, made an eventful decision. In the case of Junior L. Davis v. Mary Sue Davis, he decided in favor of Mary Sue. The case dealt with the fate of seven embryos frozen in liquid nitrogen. The couple had begun a process of in vitro fertilization, but were divorced before the embryos were placed in the womb of Mrs. Davis. Mr. Davis now wished to destroy them, while Mrs. Davis wished to give birth to them. Judge Young ruled in favor of Mrs. Davis on the ground that, "From fertilization the cells of a human embryo are differentiated, unique and specialized to the highest degree of distinction... Human life begins at conception." One of the key witnesses in the trial was Doctor Jerome Lejeune, a world famous geneticist from France. In the course of the trial he was asked: "What ethical considerations do you have about freezing?" He responded, "I think love is the contrary of chilly. Love is warmth..." The process being discussed was cryopreservation -- the freezing of a living being in order to preserve it. It is a process now being used -- as it was in the case of these embryos -- to keep embryos alive but arrested at the earliest stage of development, when there have been only a few cell divisions. At this earliest stage the embryo is referred to by some as a "pre-embryo," another example of the sanitized language of abortionists and of those who want to feel free to manipulate human life in its earliest stages. As Doctor Lejeune said, this is simply a term invented to give the impression that the first few stages of development are something other than a human being. He described it as a change in words so that you could then justify changing your behavior. In other words, what is being frozen, even at the very first stage of cell division, is a human being -- a human person. Doctor Lejeune also gave a clear explanation of just how cryopreservation works. Tempo and temperature are interrelated. If you gradually lower temperature, you also gradually lower tempo of the movement of molecules and atoms. If it is done with sufficient care the cells will slow down until time almost stands still and they are in a state of suspended animation. Of course, there is the risk that the frozen cells may crystallize, and then the embryo is dead. Gradual raising of temperature should reverse the process, if the freezing has been done successfully. The embryologist who had done the freezing (and who was named appropriately Doctor Shivers) testified that about 30% of the embryos thus frozen are accidentally killed. Doctor Lejeune described the process as "putting inside a very chilly space tiny human beings who are deprived of any liberty, of any movement, even... deprived of time." Time is frozen for them, making them survive, so to speak, in suspended time in "a concentration can." This is not the way in which any human being should ever be treated. The intent is to help people to have children. The reality involves manipulation and possible death -- things to which no parent would want to subject a child. The Instruction on Procreation sums it up: "The freezing of embryos, even when carried out in order to preserve the life of an embryo -- cryopreservation -- constitutes an offense against the respect due to human beings by exposing them to grave risks of death or harm to their physical integrity and depriving them, at least temporarily, of maternal shelter and gestation, thus placing them in a situation in which further offenses and manipulation are possible." The warmth of human love demands more than this!

Article # 36

MORAL DECISIONS -- I'm Only Doing It For You...

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

"I'm only doing it for you..." How often we have heard or even said that. And how often it meant just the opposite of what it says. It is all too often a great way to try to justify our most selfish actions in the name of altruism. In the last column I spoke of embryo cryopreservation -- the freezing of embryos to preserve for possible future use. It is a process presented by many as a wonderful achievement. Embryos, unable to survive outside the womb, are kept alive instead of being allowed to perish. We do it for their benefit. Or do we? Even the phrase, "for possible future use," is filled with meaning that is far from altruistic. None of us like to feel "used." It is depersonalized to be treated without regard for our own value as persons and be reduced to objects used for someone else's benefit. We are dehumanized -- and no one has the right to do that to another person. It is wrong and is the exact opposite of Christian love. When embryos are frozen, in whose interest is it being done? In the interest of the individual embryo? It would seem not. In the interest of the couple who want to have a child? It would seem so. Yet it is never right to risk another person's life for my own ends, no matter how noble those ends may seem to be. Of course, there are those who argue that the freezing of embryos is done at a very early stage of development. They would say that the embryo is so incomplete that it need not be considered human. Of course, that is the same old -- and totally incorrect -- argument that is so often used to justify abortion. In that case it is used to justify the killing of the unborn. In regard to freezing, the intent would seem to be to keep the embryo alive rather than to kill it. But it is still wrong. Perhaps its wrongness is more evident if we look at it in another way. What would you think of parents who had twins and after they were born, decided that they could not handle two, so they had one frozen? It is much easier for us to see something wrong here. We are now talking about a child big enough to see and hold, a child who sees us and can respond in a clearly visible way. It is repugnant to contemplate immersing that child into liquid nitrogen and letting it sit in suspended animation until the parents decided they wanted it again. Add to this the further fact that the freezing of the child carries with it enormous risks of death or damage -- just as it does for the embryo. (The fact is that about one-third of frozen embryos die in the process.) Would you consider it good or noble or humane -- let alone Christian -- to subject the child to this for the parents' own purposes and not for the good of the child? And would it not be wrong, no matter how noble the parents thought their reasons were? There remains yet one other factor to be taken into account. Embryos are usually frozen for possible future use. The implication is that they may be "used" or they may be discarded. Fertilized embryos are held in reserve, just in case the first ones implanted don't take! What would you think if the twin who was frozen was only kept for a time in order to see if the first one turned out all right? If the first one was satisfactory, then the frozen one could be destroyed or, perhaps, given away. It is so much easier to see the wrongness of it all, once the person has become a warm and cuddly baby. Its destruction then would seem cruel and cold hearted. Yet the destruction is just as real and just as cruel when that same person has just begun his life and has grown to be only a few cells in size. The reality is the same, the principles are the same. It is just as wrong to freeze the embryo as it is to freeze the baby.

Article # 37

MORAL DECISIONS -- Ethics and Gold Teeth

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

During the Nazi era in Germany, there were atrocities beyond belief. Millions of Jews and others were imprisoned, enslaved, tortured, experimented upon and finally murdered and cremated. Everything they had was taken away from them. Their hair was used in mattresses. Fat from their bodies was used for soap. The gold was taken from their teeth so that it could be used to help finance the grand and glorious Third Reich which had made all of this legal. But woe to the one who stole the gold teeth for himself! That was unethical -- and illegal. This is the sort of "ethics" that busies itself about the smallest of all the evils when it is surrounded by wrongs so enormous as to be all but unthinkable. The people whose ethical questions were limited to the gold, were like recreation directors on the Titanic making people get into an orderly line for a turn to skate on the iceberg. There is, of course, something to be said for that sort of approach. It keeps the crowds in order. Hitler's government could put a great deal of emphasis on loyalty and industry and personal honesty. It made it all look not so bad after all. "Well, true, there may be some of things going on that I don't agree with, but then he is dong us a lot of good, isn't he? We have jobs, don't we? We're getting what we want aren't we?" In the issue of frozen embryos there is a tendency to the same sort of gold tooth ethic. The initial question of the morality of freezing embryos is not addressed. It would seem that they are not considered as persons with rights of any sort. What follows, however, makes it clear that this is perhaps not really the case. There are those who do freeze embryos and then bring up further ethical issues. What, for example, should be done with those which are not used? Should they be destroyed? Should they be given away to others? Can they be sold? If they are not persons then, of course, they have no rights and such questions should not even be asked. Or is it just a question of property rights? Whether people admit it or not, the embryo is always a living being and, indeed, a living human being. It is not just a piece of property subject to business transaction. A good example of this realization occurred in 1989 in the Tennessee frozen embryo case, when the judge made his decision precisely on the basis of the fact that the embryos were living human beings. What is frightening about this situation is that it is so wrong that there is no truly moral solution. Persons should not be sold and should not be given away and certainly should not be thrown away. All of those solutions are wrong. The only answer that even comes close to being morally acceptable is that they should be placed back in their mother's reproductive tract and given a chance to live. Yet the parents may very well not be willing to do this since they may already have succeeded in their effort and do not want more children. It can really result in a dreadful impasse -- an impasse which is one more indication that the procedure should not have been done in the first place. Finally, no one knows how long an embryo can remain frozen and survive or be able to develop into a normal child. Evidence of animal embryo freezing does prove that there is a limit, beyond which comes death or serious damage. Yet there are those who are perfectly willing to freeze embryos and then argue about the "ethics" of how long they should be preserved before being used for research or destroyed! "Ethicists" like these are impossible to understand. They are as ridiculous as people who would do all they could to assassinate someone's character and then feel remorse over having used poor grammar.

Article # 38

MORAL DECISIONS -- Designer Genes

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

Denim, the durable fabric of the poor, used to be scratchy when new; and, if you wore it without washing it first, it made your shorts turn blue. Then the Civil Rights Movement made it popular. Jordache and Calvin Klein got hold of jeans and added stitchery (a few cents' worth of thread), saved on cloth (making them so tight you had to grease your legs to get them on) and charged so much that the poor could no longer afford them. Finally they made them tattered and torn and faded -- and raised the price again. Designer jeans had arrived. If these were the only jeans that were ever tampered with, there would be no reason to bring up the topic. The poor would have lost a bargain, the rich would have found a way to waste money and the world would have gone on its merry way. But there is a kind of gene tampering that cannot be so lightly dismissed. In this and the next few columns I would like to take a look at the topics of genetic screening and genetic engineering. Genetic screening refers to the use of techniques which examine the genetic structure of cells in order to diagnose certain types of abnormality. Genetic engineering refers to techniques by means of which it is possible to alter or modify the genetic structure itself. Many columns ago I spoke of amniocentesis -- a process by means of which amniotic fluid is withdrawn from the sac surrounding the fetus in the womb. This fluid contains fetal cells which can be cultured and then examined. This makes it possible to determine a number of things about the health of the unborn child -- including the presence of certain genetic defects. It is possible, for example, to tell (with a good degree of certitude) if an unborn child has Downs Syndrome, Sickle Cell Anemia, Tay-Sacks disease or other defects. The test itself has a degree of risk for the fetus and there may be some margin of error in the diagnosis itself. The risk casts some doubt on the moral acceptability of the procedure. On the other hand, it would be morally acceptable to run some degree of risk, if in doing so we were able to offer real benefit to the health of the unborn child. That, however, is not now the case. None of the conditions mentioned above can be treated in the uterus. In fact, none of them can be effectively treated even after the child is born, even though some of the symptoms may then be alleviated to some degree. If this is the case, then why run the risk of amniocentesis at all? What good can be done for the fetus? The answer is that, at our present state of knowledge, there is no form of treatment available, but the fetus can be killed by abortion. The diagnosis becomes a means of determining whether or not to pass a sentence of death. Does this mean that all genetic screening is immoral? Not at all. In the next column I will give an example of an instance of genetic screening that can be considered morally acceptable. As we shall see, however, it happens to be a form of screening that is done after birth. If it were possible in the womb to cure or at least alleviate the genetic defects that we can now discover by screening, then our moral judgement would be different. Perhaps there will come a time in the future when real help can be given. At that time it would make sense to say that the risks of screening (in cases where there was good reason to suspect a defect) were warranted. That is not true now, and so genetic screening by amniocentesis does not benefit the unborn and so is not acceptable.

Article # 39

MORAL DECISIONS -- You Must Be Kidding

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

"You must be kidding," I can hear many people say, when I tell you that our topic for today's column is phenylketonuria. Who can talk about something that it takes a Ph.D. just to pronounce? And why talk about it anyway? Even medical professionals find that "phenylketonuria" is a bit of a mouthful, and so they refer to it as PKU. We shall do the same. We will examine it because it gives us a good example of an instance in which genetic screening serves a good and beneficial purpose. Its discovery can lead to help, and it is not just taken as an excuse to kill the one who is afflicted. PKU is inherited. In other words, it is transmitted genetically. It is a defect in metabolism and is recognized by the fact that it causes mental retardation which is seen at an early age. It has also been discovered that it can be diagnosed at an early age after birth by means of a blood test. Once it has been discovered, it can be treated by some simple changes in diet. Since PKU does occur, and since it can be so easily diagnosed and treated, many states have made testing of the newborn compulsory. The fact is that most newborns do not have PKU. The test, however, does no harm to the child and, for those who have PKU, can do a great deal of good. It should be clear that the moral implications of screening in this case are different than they are in the cases that I have referred to in earlier articles. First of all, the method of diagnosis by blood test of the already born child does not involve the serious risks that are always present when amniocentesis is performed on the unborn child. Furthermore, a positive finding in the diagnosis is not going to result in the imposition of a death sentence on the child. The treatment which is offered does not change the genetic facts. In other words, this is not a case of genetic engineering. The patient has PKU both before and after the test. But the treatment does take care of the undesirable effects of the PKU. All the indications are that both the test and the treatment are morally acceptable. I should point out that one problem has emerged. It has been found that not all of those who test positively for PKU end up showing signs of retardation -- even when the test was not followed by treatment. There has also been some evidence that in some cases the special diet may have been the cause of some harm. I am not pointing these things out with the intention of saying that the tests or the treatments are morally wrong. What I do want to point out is this: Even in what appears to be a relatively simple and straight forward situation, there can be unforeseen and unexpected results. Even a relatively simple effort at controlling genetic defects can have some unforeseen consequences. Thus far I have spoken about procedures which involve genetic screening. In other words, they are all procedures which involve the diagnosis of some genetic condition. They do nothing to modify or alter the genes themselves. The process of attempting to make such alterations is called genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is far more complex and far more dangerous in a variety of ways. In fact, it can bring about changes which can then be transmitted to future generations. This carries risks which not only involve the most serious physical effects on humanity, but also raise extremely serious moral questions. I will speak more about this in future articles.

Article # 40


by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

The human race is constantly in a process of growth. There is growth in knowledge, in culture, in spirit and growth toward fulfillment in God. There is also physical growth -- not only of each individual from conception to adulthood, but in the race itself. In general people are taller now than they were some decades ago. They are heavier -- not always to their own joy. They live longer. Much of this is due to improvement in nutrition. But can we intervene in other ways -- ways in which we can directly manipulate our own genetic structure so as to direct our own evolution from within the confines of the human cells themselves? The concept of genetic engineering indicates that we can. As we know more about our genetic makeup, it seems increasingly possible to intervene there, too. We are aware that some human defects (Downs Syndrome or Sickle Cell Anemia, to mention but a few) are genetic in origin. What if we could repair or even change those abnormal chromosomes? Should we do so? What moral implications would this have? This would be an example of genetic engineering. To attempt to grasp its moral implications, we should ask ourselves some questions. Perhaps the first among them is, "Why?" There are all sorts of possible motives. Is it to be done for the benefit of the individual unborn child? Is it simply for our own benefit? Is it done as an experiment to acquire new knowledge? If a treatment -- even one which involves genetic or chromosomal changes -- is truly being done for the benefit of the one who receives the treatment, then we are at least on the right track morally. If the benefit outweighs the risk, then we have further evidence that we are doing the right thing. If the treatment has been tried and tested and proven before it is used on human beings, we can be even more secure in our moral judgement. The fact is that these chromosomal therapies do not yet exist, nor are we likely to have them in the very near future. Some work has been done on gene changes in lower, simpler forms of life; but the more complex the organism, the less we know -- and we are aware of no life form with greater chromosomal complexity than ourselves. You may wonder, then just why I am looking at the moral implications of treatments that cannot yet be performed. I am doing so in order to point out, first of all, that there is no total moral opposition to procedures which could cause some individual genetic changes. There is no complete moral objection to real therapy for the unborn, even in this area. On the other hand, there would certainly be very serious objections to such procedures when they were performed not as therapy but to benefit someone other than the subject of the treatment. They are more objectionable when they carry risks out of proportion to their therapeutic benefit for the recipient.They would be most objectionable if done simply as experiments for the sake of further knowledge. What, then, of genetic manipulations which are not even intended as directly beneficial to the recipients, but are totally in the realm of the experimental? What should we say about efforts to control genetic structure in such a way as to change the nature of humanity itself in some fashion? It is an area for serious moral concern, because it has implications for individuals and for the future of the whole race. I am not saying that all genetic research or treatments are morally wrong. There is real potential for good. Yet we cannot close our eyes to the possible evil results of choices being made right now. It is an area which calls for the much caution. When the "All aboard" is called to get us on that train of self-made evolution, let's be very careful to see if the train is under the control of the genetic engineer.

Article # 41


by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

You may remember television's Bionic Man -- followed a few seasons later by the Bionic Woman. They were science fiction with some basis in reality. All of us are familiar with cases of reconstructive surgery. People crippled or disfigured in accidents undergo surgery whith amazing results. Nor does the reconstruction have to make use only of living, organic parts. There was a time when the use of pins to restore broken bones was considered a great step forward. Then came plastic and metal parts to replace bone structures. Heart-lung machines, pace-makers and even increasingly developed artificial hearts brought us into the age of bionics, with the possibilities not only of replacing but even improving upon normal human capacities. In the area of embryology it is possible to intervene in growth or development, even without altering the genetic structure in itself. This is possible, unfortunately, even by accident. The Thalidomide babies of some years ago were a sad example. Taken at a certain point in pregnancy, the drug caused changes which interfered with the proper development of arms and legs. Smoking during pregnancy can affect the growth of the fetus and result in smaller babies, thus exposing them to more risk at birth. Exposure to drugs, chemicals or pesticides can damage or kill the unborn. The woman who drinks alcohol during pregnancy can cause drastic changes in her child, even without any real genetic alteration. The change may even very, depending upon the time in pregnancy when the drinking occurs. Damage from fetal alcohol syndrome can be sad and extensive both physically and psychologically. If we knew more about how this happens, then it should be possible to make use of other drugs or treatments to correct some defects in the unborn, once we are aware that such defects exist. Use of vitamins or special diets during pregnancy has produced beneficial results in some instances when it was known that the embryo had or was especially prone to some pre-natal defect. If we keep in mind the general principles about which I have written so often in the past, then we could also make a positive moral judgement in this area. Treatments which are done for the benefit of the patient (in this case the embryo), cause no serious harm to child or mother, and are properly tried and tested could certainly be seen as morally permissible. There is, of course, always the need to keep in mind just how very limited our knowledge is in this area. The possibility of unforeseen side effects should always give warning that such treatments should be carefully and rigorously limited. In this whole process of fetal development, what we do not yet know is far more extensive than what we do know. Genetic engineering, however, holds out far more possibilities than those to which I have just referred, and some of them are far more frightening. This area demands ethical and moral supervision. It is unfortunate that we live in a society which has already, to a large extent, decided that fetal life in sub-human and expendable. Subjecting the life of a person (even an unborn person) to someone else's (even its mother's) supposed right of choice sets a precedent that has terrifying implications. There are those who see genetic engineering as a way not only to help to remove defects, but even as a way to bring about new kinds of human beings. It was some years ago, for example, that I first heard that there was some interest in finding ways to combine human and chimpanzee genes in such a way as to produce a class of docile and not too intelligent manual laborers. A more immediate idea seems to be the possibility of producing "made to order" children. Would you like a blond, blue-eyed, intelligent child? Combine the right genes and you can have one. What would be wrong with that? I'll say more in future articles.

Article # 42

MORAL DECISIONS -- XX, XY, Why and Why Not

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

The chromosomes which determine our sex are called X and Y. The letters don't stand for anything -- it merely happens that one looks like an X and the other looks like a Y. Female cells are always XX (having two X chromosomes) and male cells are always XY (having one of each). When eggs are formed, the 46 chromosomes split into 23 in each egg, and so each egg ends up with one X chromosome. When sperm are formed the same split occurs and so each sperm ends up with either one X or one Y chromosome. After fertilization the embryo will either be XX (Female) or XY (male). In the natural course of events the distribution of male and female children stays at just about 50-50. That explains XX, XY and why. The next item is why not. Since some sperm are X and some are Y, why not find a way to separate them and make it possible to predetermine whether a child will be male or female? "Why not, indeed," some have said. The X and Y sperm seem to have different densities. This should make it possible to separate them by spinning them in a centrifuge. In fact, some have claimed a high percentage of success in selectively using separated sperm for in vitro fertilization. Others have tried to find ways to suppress either X or Y sperm in order to insure the conception of a child of one sex or the other. The fact that the process involves in vitro fertilization and the collection of sperm by masturbation makes it morally wrong. But what if those things were not involved? Would it still be wrong? My answer is that it would be. Why would parents go to such lengths to insure having a child of one sex rather than the other? The only answers seem to be either personal preference or cultural bias. However, beneath this lies another factor which cannot be taken lightly. In vitro fertilization manipulates and causes the destruction of living embryos. Children are reduced to objects of commercial transaction in the business of surrogate motherhood. The abortion mentality makes the unborn expendable -- able to be legally killed at the whim of their own mothers. Society seems more and more inclined to see children as objects of their parents' hopes and expectations, even though children should be accepted and loved for themselves. Instead, they are frequently viewed as having to fulfill their parents' desires. Thus amniocentesis is used as a device to screen "defective" children so that they can be murdered before birth. While sex selection may seem far more harmless than the other cases mentioned, it has that same taint of distorted love. The message that is clearly being sent is this: "We will love you because you meet our expectations. You live up to our preferences." They may say, of course, that they will love any child, even though they would prefer one sex over the other. Sad to say, the facts belie the statement. To go to the lengths of entering into an expensive, complicated and involved procedure is a sign of far more than a passing preference. Children should not, at any stage of their existence, be treated as though they exist not for their own sake but to fulfill the expectations of someone else, even their parents. There is a very unhealthy attitude of demanding perfection -- not even real perfection at that, but the perfection of someone else's arbitrary standard. Is this immoral as well as psychologically harmful? I would say that it is. It is contrary to the generosity of true love, and that is at the heart of all that is immoral.

Article # 43


by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

Back in 1987 the film, Making Mr. Right, depicted the creation of the perfect astronaut. In that case it was a computerized android who in all respects began to look and act like a human being. There was the usual mixture of humor, technology and poignancy. But it was, after all, just a movie. Genetic engineering offers another possibility for making Mr. Right. It is an idea which is in some ways most intriguing and, in others, the most frightening. This is the possibility of using genetics to attempt to create "superior" human beings or babies "made to order." How would it all be done? There are various methods. We've all heard of cloning. This a process which would attempt to make carbon copies of an already existing person. The theory works something like this: The nucleus is taken from the cell of some particular person. It is then placed into an ovum whose own nucleus has been removed. The ovum -- now having its full complement of 46 chromosomes -- would be placed into the uterus of a surrogate mother to produce an identical twin of the original. This process has been performed on lower forms of animal life, but not, so far as I am aware, on human beings. It seems, however, that there are some technical problems with human beings, at least at the present stage of science. Another method would be to recombine genes by inserting them into the cells of a zygote (a fertilized ovum). The process is referred to as "transduction." A portion of genetic material is inserted into a virus. The virus can enter into a zygote and implant its new genetic material into the zygote's nucleus. This new genetic material transforms the zygote in various ways, depending on what chromosomes have been changed. This process of transduction also opens up the possibility of adding synthetic genes which do not now even exist. What would those genes be and what would they do? It is impossible even to predict. The possibilities are endless. All of these processes open up avenues which lead deeper and deeper into an attempt to "improve" the race and further and further away from the intrinsic value of the individual. They open up the terrifying possibility of changing humanity itself. It all sounds like science fiction -- but it isn't. And I have no doubt that there are zealots who are all too eager to get started. We might also keep in mind that every step in this direction would leave in its wake a trail of discarded, "spare," dead embryos -- the "failures" who fall along the way in the brave march of scientific "progress." This sort of genetic engineering has implications not only for the individuals who are produced by it, but for the whole race. Their genes also will be incorporated into future generations. No one could even predict what future combinations would produce. The justification given for taking such risks would probably be the "improvement" of humanity. But who could even presume to have the kind of knowledge that could dictate what "improvements" could be made? The desirable aspects of genetic engineering are quite limited and are related directly to therapeutic goals. Even there they are, to a large extent, more than a little unpredictable. Non-therapeutic uses carry enormous risks and no truly desirable ends. The Instruction on Procreation is right when it says: "These manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his or her identity and integrity. Therefore in no way can they be justified on the grounds of possible beneficial consequences for future humanity."

Article: #44

MORAL DECISIONS -- Let Me Help You...

by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

On Christmas morn in many a household children face the puzzle of building blocks and Tinker Toys or the mechanics of electric trains. Before long they need some help and it's Dad to the rescue. But before long it may be Dad who's doing the building or being the engineer, while the child watches in a mixture of frustration and impatience. He has not been helped; he has been replaced and the two are quite different. In this article and several which follow, we will look at the problem of infertility and some of the many things which can be done to correct it or to cope with it. Right now, however, I would like to focus on one of the various moral principles to be considered when we attempt to deal with this incapacity to have children. A very basic principle is this: Any procedure which is used must be such that it assists the natural process of procreation and does not replace it. There is a vast difference between assisting and replacing, even though at some points in the process it may not be easy to tell which is taking place. It is clear, however, that in the process of assisting, the relationship of the makers to each other is as important as is the relationship of the parts. This is not so when one or the other of the makers is replaced. All that is required is someone who has the plans and the parts and can then get along with no further help. Mutual endeavor is set aside in favor of simply getting the job done. The origin of a new human life should be more than just the coming together of an ovum and a sperm. The beginning of a life involves not just a relationship of cells, but a relationship of persons as well. Human beings should not just "breed." They should procreate. Babies should be conceived and born into a permanent and faithful marriage since it is only there that they can begin with the fairest chance of coming to the fullness of life to which they have a right. To be conceived and born in love means far more than just to "be produced." The union of husband and wife must be deeply personal, and this applies to sexual union also. Sexual intercourse is not just a mechanical means of transferring sperm into a woman's body. It's an act of self-giving in which the bond of love, which is both emotional and spiritual, is also expressed physically. These physical, emotional and spiritual aspects together form one totality, one living expression of love. Whenever we attempt to separate them we do violence to the meaning of sex and thus do violence to ourselves. In future articles we will consider a variety of methods used to attempt to overcome infertility and we will look at their moral implications. Some of them will be efforts to assist normal intercourse to become fruitful by removing obstacles to conception or pregnancy. These will usually not violate the real meaning of marital sex. Others will be far more "mechanical" and end up replacing sexual union in one way or another. These will, in some way, distort the meaning of sex, and may even come to the point of causing death more than giving life. And then there are still other methods which may be somewhat harder to judge because in them assistance and replacement come so close together. We will look at all of them with the intention of seeing what can be done to resolve the painful problem of infertility without hurting or destroying the meaning of real life-giving love.

Article: #45

MORAL DECISIONS -- Making Omelets... by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

We've all heard that old saw, "You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs." Unfortunately, it is rarely a chef who says it. Almost always the speaker is someone who is about to do something that he should probably be ashamed of. And all too often, only after the eggs are broken, it becomes painfully evident that he doesn't have the recipe for omelets. This attitude is bad enough when applied to people's jobs, company reorganizations and hostile takeovers. It is infinitely worse when applied to the lives of people. Yet this is exactly the attitude that is present in those who practice in vitro fertilization. And there the cost is not cracked eggs but an abundance of lost lives. This is the most obvious moral problem about it. The method always causes more death than life. Even before in vitro fertilization was actually used in a real attempt at achieving a pregnancy, it was preceded by innumerable tests involving the fertilization and subsequent destruction of human embryos. We are frequently given the impression in the media that this method is now highly successful. It is not. In a later article I will present some interesting statistics, but one example will serve for now. In 1990 a study was done on 296 women who underwent in vitro fertilization. A total of 1595 eggs were removed and of those 1356 were fertilized and transferred into the uterus. There were 151 resultant pregnancies (some of them multiple) in 132 women. In other words, 44.6% of the women became pregnant. However only 81 live births took place in 62 women. Of course, that is still about 21%. Let us not, however, lose sight of the reality. In the process 1356 human lives were begun in vitro. Only 151 succeeded in implanting in the womb. That is 11%. Of those only 81 (6%) lived long enough to come to term. To produce 81 successfully delivered babies, 1275 (94% of the total) were sacrificed. A further fact is that the usual practice of in vitro involves inducing multiple ovulation and fertilization. Not all of the embryos are transferred into the uterus. Some referred to as "spares" are destroyed, frozen or sacrificed for eugenic or financial reasons. Some are used for experiment or "donated" to other people. The whole process is touted as a means of giving life when, in fact, it produces far more death than life. Willful choices are made to save some and destroy others. The chance of producing a live child from all these embryos is so low as to be shameful. Perhaps the saddest part of all is that infertile couples, who may well be among the last people ever to want to kill a child, are drawn into a procedure which inevitably causes death. Because the victims are presented as "pre-embryos" or simply "fertilized ova," they can be talked about as though they were not even human. Couples who want nothing more than to be parents become part of a process that can in truth be described in no other way than violent and destructive. The whole abortion mentality of our society has certainly helped to make this situation possible. The possibility of producing a baby by in vitro fertilization is coldly and logically linked to a process that deals death. And it is not even a process which can promise anything more than a faint chance of success. It may produce a life. It absolutely will produce an abundance of deaths. The omelet makers are perfectly willing to go on breaking eggs. After all, it is a highly lucrative business. But apparently they don't even have the recipe for omelets. The number of successes compared to the number of attempts is so low that it is clearly only a matter of chance and not even a good chance at that.

Article: #46


by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

What if...? There's a standard question for scientists, researchers, philosophers, children and almost everyone faced with a question and wondering about a solution. It's an appropriate question for us right now. In the last article I spoke about in vitro fertilization and I said that one very serious problem with it was that for every six lives it creates, it kills 94. In fact, as of 1988, one-third of the fertility clinics in the United States had been in business, making lots of money, without ever producing a single live birth. They killed everybody. But what if in vitro could ensure that every or almost every embryo produced could result in a live birth? Would it then be morally acceptable? The answer is, "No!" In addition to its present logical and calculated connection with death, it has other moral problems as well. Those further problems are sometimes harder for people to see even for people who see quite clearly how destructive the present methods are and who would, therefore, not now be willing to use them. The other problems are related to the very meaning of marriage and we have to be willing to do some real thinking in order to see what they are. But that effort is amply rewarded since it allows us to understand better the nature of marriage and that understanding leads to a deeper and fuller living of the marital relationship. The results of that labor can only be good. Marriage is the only place in which children should be conceived and raised. Giving life to a child means more than physical life alone. It means bringing that child to Christian maturity. It means tending to physical, intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual needs. It means, for husband and wife, the living of a common life of unity in love which makes all of this possible. Clearly this unity is not merely "physical," since that alone could not accomplish what is necessary in the lives of husband and wife. Nor is it enough to accomplish what is needed in their life together as parents. At the same time, this commitment is not merely "spiritual" either, without regard for the more mundane and material aspects of life. Married love and commitment must involve the spirit the heart and soul of each partner but that same love takes on a material form as well. One does not substitute for the other and one certainly cannot replace the other. Mutual love and support touch heart, mind, soul and body. The bond of love which gives spiritual strength also implies the quite mundane task of earning a living. It involves a place to live, caring for property, cleaning, cooking meals, caring for each other in time of illness. These are not in the context of some sublime and purely "spiritual" love. Rather, they are the ways in which that spiritual love becomes incarnate, the way in which an inner love comes to life in a material world. The realities of daily life become tangible expressions of what exists deeply within. The commonplace aspects of a material world contain within themselves a depth of meaning which is truly spiritual. One cannot be separated from the other, because when that happens, then both begin to die. We are creatures of body and soul, and both must work as one in the living of human life. Whenever we try to pull them apart, we do violence to ourselves and to our love even when we do not at first realize that this is what is happening. In the use of in vitro fertilization this sort of separation begins to take place. That separation is not always immediately apparent, but it is nonetheless real. But for now I have run out of space, so in the next article I will pick up from here.

Article: #47


by Reverend Monsignor James J. Mulligan

Marital infidelity is a rather common theme in drama. And how often, in the course of the drama (or even in real life, for that matter), have we heard the guilty party come up with the same old ridiculous excuse? "I love you. The affair didn't really matter. He (she) doesn't mean anything to me. It was just a physical thing. It was just sex." And do you really expect the innocent partner to say, "Oh, fine. That certainly makes it all right"? Try as we might to separate sex from love, our instincts tell us that it cannot be done. They tell us that love without sex is indeed possible, but that sex apart from real love is always flawed. It is not what it is meant to be. Procreation is a collaboration of two human beings with each other and with God. Sex is not just a toy or a recreational activity. If it is what God meant it to be, then it is a bodily expression of the fullest kind of human love and union. If it is not that, then it becomes no more than a way to use someone else for our own pleasure, and what should have been mutually creative becomes, instead, mutually dehumanizing. Persons become objects. That's what is really wrong with the old excuse mentioned above. If sex outside the marriage can be so impersonal and mean so little, then it can't mean much more within the marriage either. The instinct is right on target when it indicates that it's not all right to have "just sex" outside of marriage. This also gives us a clear clue as to just what is wrong also with in vitro fertilization, even if it could be done without all of its present killing. It begins to separate "just sex" from the context of the deep personal relationship which is love. When sex is reduced to the mere mechanics of breeding, then it has begun to lose its real meaning. This is what begins to happen when the begetting of a child is separated from intercourse itself. It becomes merely the technical process of combining egg and sperm in a laboratory. Underlying this action is another attitude which is also depersonalizing. It is the attitude that the unborn are somehow fully at our disposal and can be manipulated as we desire. They, too, become objects rather than persons. Do you see what is happening here? I would describe it as a kind of "disintegration." when we split matter from spirit, so from body, we can justify all sorts of things as though they belong only to our "lower half" and do not really affect us. Infidelity is acceptable because it only affected my body, it didn't really affect me. In vitro is all right, because it's just a question of egg and sperm, not a question of us. I can do what I want to the embryo, because it is still a thing simply because I don't want it to be a person. A couple may truly and deeply love each other. They may long and yearn for a child of their own. They begin with the best of intentions. Yet even that longing and desire can begin to overwhelm them and they get caught in that trap of disintegration. A desire for a child starts to become instead the idea of a right to a child. That is the first point at which child begins to become an object. It is easy to begin to justify whatever must be done to have that desire fulfilled. Sex is more easily to be seen as a means to an end, a mode of production, and less as the physical expression of a spiritual love each inseparable from the other. To separate the begetting of a child from the physical expression of love is to begin a process contrary to procreative love. The child is a product rather than a procreation. The loving act of sex is replaced by masturbation, egg retrieval and the work of technicians. Something begins to happen to their commitment to the self-giving in which they offer to each other and only to each other the right and the gift of becoming parents only in and through their mutual love. It all becomes "just sex."


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