02 December 2020
2006 fr shane responds to article in tribune


In last weeks edition of the Tullamore tribune, there was an interesting article entitled "Common  Sense Prevails in Frozen Embryo case". The column, by Patsy McGarry, questioned the sense of believing that human life begins at conception Basically the article stated "the Catholic Church of course insists that life begins at conception. But for the greater part of a thousand years it did not hold that view". The article concludes by quoting many of the great teachers of the Church. All seem to back the idea that the Church’s teaching on the beginning of human life at the moment of conception as something relatively new.
The Church firmly teaches that life begins at conception. Often times the Church is portrayed as the big stuffy spoilsport.  No matter what is asked of it, it will inevitably say no, but the Church, in fidelity to Jesus Christ, must defend the sanctity and dignity of human life, in all its forms. From the time that the ovum is fertilized, a new life has begun which is neither that of the father nor of the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. To this modern genetic science brings valuable confirmation. It has demonstrated that, from the first instant, the program is fixed as to what this living being will be: a human being. This individual human with its characteristic aspects already well determined. If you goggle 'images of baby in the womb' on the net, you will get thousands of pieces of photographic evidence that life is there and there abundantly. When an egg is fertilized in the womb, it takes on life of its own. An individual sperm and egg do not constitute life, but from the moment of fertilization an entirely new reality is formed. The cells created divide and multiply in their own right. Obviously such cannot exist out side to the womb, but life has begun and takes on its own momentum.

So what of embryos created in vitro, where an egg is fertilized in a laboratory not using the natural process of conception? Can such embryos be regarded as human life? Regardless of the moral questions arising from this process, successfully fertilized eggs are not immune to the same dignity afforded to the developing in the womb.  The psalm says "in the womb before the dawn I begot you" or in another place "before I came to birth you knew me, for you knitted me together in my mothers womb". The Scriptures, which all Christians follow, are laced with references to the dignity God has given to life from conception

Taking all the arguments of philosophy and religion on board that Church has come to believe that life begins at the very moment of conception. At the time of Galileo, the Church was hesitant to accept the world was round. The Church grows in understanding along side the rest of humanity.  However, the Church cannot change in being authentic to the teachings of Jesus, and cannot easily swing with the moods and temperament of any one time or another. The death penalty, for example, was once supported by the Church. Today it is nearly impossible, if not impossible, for a Catholic to argue in its favor.  The same can be said about slavery, the same can be said about religious freedom, and so on.  A human being has been created in the image and likeness of God, although still developing. Human development does not stop in the womb or after birth or at age two.  We constantly change and develop though out our lives. No one stage is more important than the other, all are sacred, all are valuable.

The Gospel is about Jesus Christ; the way, the truth and the life. Jesus himself says in John 10:10 "I have come that you may have life and have it to the full" The Second Vatican Council asserts that the Church must oppose what ever is opposed to life in what ever form that takes.  Be it genocide or abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, torture or slavery, all off these sell short the God given value of human life.  Where people are treated any less than the wonderful creation that they are evil exists. Human society is poisoned, and moreover supreme dishonor is paid to the Creator (Gaudium et Spes, Vatican II.)

Life is precious at all its stages.  Mr McGarry stated that one of the reasons the Church formulated so clearly its teaching on the conception as the Mr McGarry stated that one of the reasons the Church formulated so clearly its teaching on the conception as the beginning, to bolster Blessed Pius IX's Declation of the dogma of the Immacualte Conception.  Of course the Conception of Jesus took place in another way altogether (ie. by the work of the Holy Spirit and not by a man). It would be very hard to deny that Christ was not the Word made flesh from the first moment of his conception. The Catholic Church must continue to teach that life begins at the moment of conception. Anything else is an attack on the very foundation of human society and identity.

Fr Shane Crombie, CC
November 06