Please, explain: Part Deux
A post below about Obama’s follow-up musings on stem cells and ethics prompted some interesting discussions, in particular surrounding a paper that Cathleen Kaveny cited, “The Ethics of Stem Cell Research,” by Gene Outka, a Lutheran ethicist at Yale. The paper is posted at the web site of the President’s Council on Bioethics, and it defends using “spare embryos” from fertility treatments.
That is one “exit strategy” for the untold thousands of frozen embryos that will expire even in their suspended animation within a few years. Another is embryo adoption, by which couples can take such embryos and the woman can attempt to gestate them. Granted this is rare thing, and would likely “save” only a small percentage of frozen embryos. But what is somewhat perplexing to me is that the Vatican appears to have put the kybosh on this option. A Catholic News Service story after the release of “Dignitas Personae” on Dec. 12 features the consternation of a New Hampshire couple that has given birth to three children who were adopted as frozen embryos “and believes their road to parenthood was morally righteous.”
The Vatican apparently hasn’t made a final call, but is clearly leaning against allowing this:
Speaking at the Dec. 12 Vatican press conference to explain the document, Bishop Elio Sgreccia — former president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who helped prepare the Vatican’s new bioethics document — told reporters: “The basic advice, explicitly stated in the document, is that embryos must not be frozen. It is one of those actions that has no remedy. Once it is done, correcting it implies committing another error.”
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, current president of the academy, told reporters that “the discussion is still open” and the Vatican has not completely ruled out the possibility of embryo adoption, although it is leaning toward an entirely negative judgment because embryo adoption involves the future parents in an immoral process.
My question: Such a ban would create a difficulty for Catholics (like me) in explaining the church’s approach to embryos, which the church considers human life, or human beings. The current stance seems to be that this human life cannot be discarded, yet neither can it be saved. That seems like an unusual dead-end, a damned-if-you-do-or-don’t conclusion. Is that unusual in Catholic (or other) ethics? Is there another morally viable option?