Friday, January 02, 2009

Good Pope, Bad Pope

First the good Pope:

The Pope praised Galileo's astronomy:

Pope Benedict XVI has paid tribute to 17th-Century astronomer Galileo Galilei, whose scientific theories once drew the wrath of the Catholic Church.

The Pope was speaking at events marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo's earliest observations with a telescope.

He said an understanding of the laws of nature could stimulate appreciation of God's work.

There may also be a Galileo's statue in the works at the Vatican. Ok - so the Vatican seems to be correcting an earlier mistake (also see this image rehabing clip from BBC about the Vatican Observatory at Castle Gandolfo).

And now on to the bad Pope:

The Vatican has released a new bioethics document, Dignitas Personae, and well -- it is again looking back in time:

The broad 32-page document, from the Catholic Church's highest rule-making authority, condemns as immoral the destruction of human embryos to obtain stem cells or treat infertility, and denounces any attempts at more futuristic possibilities such as cloning people or using gene therapy to enhance the human race.

But the church also decries procedures already commonly used to help couples have children, such as the freezing of unfertilized eggs and embryos, the injection of sperm into eggs, and genetic testing of embryos to identify those with defects. In addition, the document condemns the morning-after pill and the RU-486 abortion pill.

While many of the arguments in "Dignitas Personae" -- Latin for "the dignity of a person" -- have been made before by Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, a church "instruction" from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is far more authoritative and made a number of new declarations. It reflects the Vatican's desire to focus attention on ethical questions raised by a new generation of technologies that are becoming increasingly common in the United States and elsewhere.

"This is significant in the sense that the church has now laid down a marker on these important issues," said Thomas H. Murray of the Hastings Center, a bioethics think tank. "The church has now dug in and committed itself to an official position."

And this is an unfortunate position - and as science will progress, it will have to dig itself out again. Or the Church will become irrelevant. Read the full story here. For its impact on US politics, see this NYT op-ed piece, The Pope's real message for Obama:

Of course, many Catholic bishops and many ordinary Catholics in America believe that while Mr. Obama’s positions on abortion and stem cell research are troubling, there are also important areas of common ground.

That seems to be the balance the Vatican is trying to strike. Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram of congratulations to Mr. Obama calling his election a “historic occasion,” and the two men later spoke by telephone. A papal spokesman said the Vatican hopes to work with him on Iraq, the Holy Land, Christian minorities in the Middle East and Asia, and the fight against poverty and social inequality.

To be clear, the Vatican yields to no one in its pro-life commitments. In effect, “Dignitas Personae” is a reminder that there will be no “truce,” no strategic silence, about the defense of human life from the moment of conception. The question now is whether the Vatican will find an equally effective way to mobilize those Catholics who hope to build bridges.
Read the full op-ed here.


Anonymous said...

I myself have been very disturbed to see human being still obsessed so much with religion to deny all the good things we could have in life. I am appalled to see how long this human being who was declared "Ashraf ul Makhlooqaat" hasn't evolved yet to a level where they can embrace science as a blessing rather then denouncing it as a curse.

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