14 December, 2008

Catholic Church Surveys State of Modern Medicine, Runs Screaming for the 12th Century

It took them more than twenty years to not come to terms with advances in biomedicine? Geez:

First up from the God Machine this week, the Roman Catholic hierarchy has weighed in, officially, with its first authoritative statement on reproductive science in decades. Those hoping that the church would show a new tolerance for scientific advancement were left disappointed.

The Vatican issued the most authoritative and sweeping document on bioethical issues in more than 20 years on Friday, taking into account recent developments in biomedical technology and reinforcing the church's opposition to in vitro fertilization, human cloning, genetic testing on embryos before implantation and embryonic stem cell research.

The Vatican says these techniques violate the principles that every human life -- even an embryo -- is sacred, and that children should be conceived only through intercourse by a married couple.

The 32-page instruction, titled "Dignitas Personae," or "The Dignity of the Person," was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, and carries the approval and the authority of Pope Benedict XVI. It was developed to provide moral responses to bioethical questions that have been raised in the 21 years since the congregation last issued instructions.

Church leaders took a rather inflexible stand on pretty much every advancement made under reproductive science in recent years, including emergency contraception, and a variety of common producers used to help couples have children, such as freezing embryos, in vitro fertilization, and the injection of sperm into eggs.

While the Vatican's position on these issues has been well known, the Washington Post noted that "a church 'instruction' from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is far more authoritative and made a number of new declarations."

For a church that has been accused of being out of step with the beliefs and needs of modern Catholics around the world, the new "instruction" is not exactly a step forward.

Give 'em dance lessons and they're still clumsy oafs. Sigh.

I suppose we should give them some time. It always seems to take the Church hierarchy at least a century or two before they really come to grips with science. In the meantime, I recommend patting them on the head, saying "That's nice, dear," and then chucking their statements right out the window.

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