24 May 2009

A Dialogue With Modernity But Beware of Seductions

It seems a long time since I last reported on the Vatican's daily news. I have probably missed a lot of details but from looking at today's epistle, the message remains the same. The Vatican has a difficult task ahead in reconciling science with Catholic doctrines but that is the aim it has set itself. But scientists must be made aware that the same spiritual predator hides behind its new lab coat. A certain "accommodation" with science is seen as necessary only in so far as it propagates the Catholic teachings. History has finally taught the curia that to oppose scientific theories is futile and, what is worse in their eyes, it can turn Catholics away from the faith and into the arms of atheism or (heaven forbid!) Buddhism.

The Osservatore Romano of the 24 May 2009 has two articles of interest. It leads with a talk given by the Pope to the Pontifical Academy in which he stresses that priests must engage in a dialogue with modernity without getting sucked in by "earthly logic". This is, of course, the great fear about this new project; that those Catholics of imperfect faith may be seduced by the mundane world and cast aside their heavenly mission. This is merely a reminder that Catholic faith and morals have primacy over any secular philosophy that its priests may come into contact with.

We can see later in this edition how such Catholic morals are expressed in "earthly" political power as American Bishops reiterate their opposition to both abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Monsignor David Malloy stresses that it is "a central scientific fact" that the extraction of embryonic stem cells will lead to the destruction of a "human being in the very first stages of development." He also calls on the US administration to look at existing alternatives, such as the ability of adult cells to revert to pluripotential stem cells.

On this last point, there are actually very cheap and simple methods to stimulate the production of adult stem cells but these have largely been ignored by funding bodies in favour of intensive research on the far more expensive processes of genetic engineering. However, this is not the argument put forward by the Catholic Bishops. Their stance is based on the superiority of their morals and not such mundane matters as the vested interests in the medical and genetic communities - that problem will have to wait for another time.

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