Friday, January 2, 2009

Correction about frozen embryo confusion

I have read that some very loving and well meaning Catholics have trouble with Catholic doctrine opposing the creation and use of human embryos. For example, these Catholics question why they should not "rescue" frozen embryos that were created for someone else's in vitro fertilization and is no longer needed, and thus are kept frozen indefinitely or discarded.

I think people need to be very clear about one thing before the dialogue (and disagreement) continues.

The Church is correct to state that frozen embryos have "dignity." This is a very precise word that does not imply they have a soul. As I've blogged about this before, but to re-summarize, a soul is created by God and given to an embryo at the moment that it is created and "quickens." This means that the embryo must be attached to the mother's womb and making its first cell division of life. God does not put souls in inanimate objects, such as a frozen embryo. The Church is very wise to use the term "dignity" because even though the frozen embryo is not yet living it is full of the potential for a human real life and thus it has the full dignity of its potential. As such it must be guarded as diligently as a living embryo. This is why the Church correctly opposes the existence of frozen embryos, regardless of the good intentions of the would-be parents. When one has a frozen embryo one has in uncommitted hands the full potential of a life with dignity. Fortunately God, in his wisdom, does not allow humans to play God and have souls placed in frozen inanimate potential humans.

Thus someone who "rescues" a frozen embryo cannot do so by justifying that the embryo has a frozen soul in there. Good grief, humans have already made a horror show of life, can you imagine if souls were actually "freezable" in embryos? Only humans can think of such a scenario, not God.

Having said that, even "without a soul" the embryo is entitled to full dignity because it, like all embryos, are a "promise" from God, a promise that a human life with soul comes into being if the embryo is unfrozen, implanted in a woman and quickens into life. If the embryo does not naturally take to the placenta and quicken then it never received the soul.

Thus I fully understand why the Church is discouraging the enabling of what they consider to be an initial wrong, the creation of a "just in case we ever want to use it" embryo that is frozen and thus robbed of its dignity, with a questionable but well intentioned intervention of adopting a frozen embryo and implanting it.

The Church is correctly concerned of two problems with frozen embryo adoption. One is that humans assume that they can invoke an embryo and a soul and freeze it, thus making people who are horrified at this scenario feel pressured to act to "rescue the frozen soul." That is science fiction, not reality. No souls are frozen in human embryos. So the Church is worried that frozen embryo rescuers have an erroneous and very painful and alarming view of the frozen embryo as not just having dignity, which it has, but a trapped frozen soul, which it does not.

The second problem the Church is concerned with is providing a moral escape hatch for an immoral practice. Thus instead of those who produce frozen embryos having the onus on them of doing something wrong, the faithful are felt that if they don't intervene with adoption that they are allowing a horror to continue (the embryo being frozen indefinitely or discarded). To use an example, the comedy magazine "National Lampoon" once had on the cover the photograph of a cute dog with a gun being held to its head, the caption reading "Buy this magazine or we will shoot this dog!" That was, obviously, an example of subversive humor, satire and irony rolled into one. This was a long time ago but I think I remember that in the inside of the magazine they had a photograph of the dog lying down with the caption, "We shot it anyway."

This is a trivial but wise in human understanding, this ironic humor from years ago, of how to "transfer guilt and complicity." It is one of Satan's favorite tools. It allows someone to initiate the sin and then force through guilt and good intentions someone else to take "moral" responsibility for "fixing" the original wrong and sin. The Church is correctly very alert and wise to this tool of Satan's, to transfer guilt from the guilty to the innocent.

Trust the judgment of the Church for they know well this device. Refuse to be the one who is "handed the guilt" of someone else's wrong doing, bad judgment or sin.

This is not to say that someone who adopts a frozen embryo and brings a child to term has now committed the sin of the people who created the frozen embryo in the first place. However, they have inadvertently provided moral "cover" to the people who did so, not in God's eyes, but in the secular world's eyes, thus removing impetus to re-evaluate and correct a moral problem such as frozen embryos. This is nothing new except in the subtlety of the temptation to take responsibility for "fixing" someone else's ongoing wrong.

This is an important distinction. You can fix a wrong or a sin that has happened and is completed. You cannot fix a wrong or a sin that is ongoing. The ongoing sin, wrong or error must be re-evaluated and corrected, not enabled by the just taking responsibility for perpetuation of the actions of the unjust.

For example, you would rescue a starving person and feed them. But you would not agree to allow a family to starve their child, and you visit once a week to give the child just enough food to keep on clinging to life. That is the difference between correcting a wrong and enabling a wrong. In such a scenario the abusers could argue that you agree that starvation of a child is acceptable, and that if the child dies it is your fault because you did not show up on time for the once a week giving of just enough sustenance for the child to continue to survive.

Listen to the Church, for she is wise in these ways of Satan and of weak and sinful humans. Do not accept responsibility for a wrong that is ongoing and if anything increasing.

I hope that you have found this helpful; this transfer of guilt from the unjust to the just is one of the fundamental moral crises of modern humanity and one must be wise and vigilant to not co-depend and enable error, bad judgment (even if "well intended") and ultimately sinfulness and lack of dignity throughout the whole process of life.

AND, no, I would not "feel different" about it if it were "my own embryos." If anything I would be more determined that they should be discarded since I have never given permission for my eggs to be kept and frozen, nor would I have ever given permission, nor would I have ever given permission for being part of a frozen embryo. Thus if anyone did that "behind my back" as the result of the surgeries I had, I would be the first to insist that they be respectfully discarded because the only reason someone does this type of thing behind someone's back is for occult reasons. I would never consider for one second having a "different" view of this matter and if anything, I would point to the grave moral peril that all who engage in these activities are in.