Monday, 4 October 2010

In Vitro, In Utero, In Trouble

I am a Catholic, yet am concerned by the Vatican's statement tonight that the awarding of the Nobel Prize for a "father" of "test tube" conception is "unacceptable".  Theologically, it may well be - but surely, the jury in selecting its winners should be guided by scientific criteria alone.  Ironically, there is a sense that the "Literature" Nobel often goes to persons for extra-literary reasons, reasons of moral or socio-political nuance.  So perhaps the Church feels that the same moral conditions should be considered when deciding on the scientific and medical awards.  Yet, it seems the Church is making a cardinal error  - it should continue to feel able to express its own position on IVF treatment (which could change in time, and under renewed leadership later in the 21st century) - yet not propose to question the secular authority of a body like the Nobel committee.  In another paradox, Dr. Edwards has brought four more million souls into the world, with his work, than might have been otherwise.  Infertility affects 10% of all couples, and is a heart-breaking and life-changing experience.  For those millions of couples helped to have a biological birth child through this process, the joy and relief brought to them, the lifting of great sorrow, cannot be considered a moral evil.  On the other hand, the Church's position - that the infertile should adopt - is also, in some ways, admirable - and many of those for whom IVF fails, will turn to that option.  In terms of the concerns of the misuse of conjugal conception via the petri dish, as it were, I am unable to speak, as I am neither a priest, nor a scientist.  I personally feel that science and religion should work more closely together, to help shed light upon the confusion of our lives in what is still a hugely strange world of wonders, rather than divide the darkness of ignorance between them - one side morally blind, the other blind to the benefits of medical advances.  Always, though, the tension must be between "playing God", and respecting the individual's sacred self.
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