The Catholic Church has just published THIS document which will be of interest for everyone working in the applied ethics and bioethics. The Catholic Church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has put together a paper called 'Instruction Dignitas Personae ('The Dignity of the Person') on Certain Bioethical Questions' which has been approved by the Pope. In this document, the Church takes a stand on the new bioethical questions that have come up as a result of the technological development.
This document consists of three parts.
The first introductory part lays out the grounds on which the
bioethical conclusions have been made.
The basic idea is the old
one. From the moment of conception, a human being has, as a person,
dignity which demands unconditional respect. Such respect provides
each person with an inviolable right to life. The second and the
third part explain the normative consequences of this view for the
new advances in biomedical technology. The second part discusses new
methods of both procreation and interception and research done on
embryos. The third part discusses new gene techonology and cloning.
Of course, none of the ethical requirements issued are really
I was taken by how Kantian the document
is in its ethical language. I was also happy to see that the Church
is trying to rearch outside its own members. The document is after
all intended to 'all seekers of truth'. It also recognises, for
instance, the value of scientific research in the attempt to reduce
human suffering and those situation of couples that find it hard
to have children. I'm less happy though about the fact that there is
no real attempt to give arguments or to reply to any of the real
objections that have been made to the view earlier.
None of the naive worries (what's so
special about conception?, can personhood really be assigned so
early?, what happens when absolute values or inviolable rights
conflict?, what makes human life this so much more valuable than
anything else?, If human life is good, why does it matter how we
create it?, and so on) are addressed in a way that would be
convincing or illuminating. There are also glorious instances of begging
the question like the following:
'Indeed, the reality of the human being
entire span of life, both before and after birth, does not
allow us to posit either a change in
nature or a gradation in moral
value, since it possesses full anthropological and ethical status.
The human embryo has, therefore, from the very beginning, the dignity
proper to a person.
All of this makes me be suspicious
about the intellectual honesty of the document which is shame. I was
hoping that they would address me as 'a fellow seeker of truth' for
whom reasons can be given.
Anyway, the reason why I brought up the document
was that I would be really interested in hearing about the
bioethicists' reactions to it.