Calvarium

In Pope Francis's carefully constructed encyclical, Laudato si', chapter three is entitled "The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis." In it the pope seeks to go beyond the symptoms of the crisis, graphically depicted in chapter one, to its deeper causes. Foremost among these he singles out the dominance of the "technological paradigm" that shapes and distorts actions and perceptions. "This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. ..... It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation." (#106)
 
Francis counters this "anthropology" of the detached and dominating subject, with a vision of the radical interconnectedness of reality, especially human reality. And he is not reluctant to draw out the implications of that vision. "Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?" (#120)
 
He goes on to lament the tendency "to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development." (#136)
 
In today's Washington Post Michael Gerson comments on the "sting video" that caught the medical director of Planned Parenthood speaking about the extraction of body parts from aborted fetuses. She says:
We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part. I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact. And with the calvarium, in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex. . . . So if you do it starting from the breech presentation, there’s dilation that happens as the case goes on, and often, the last step, you can evacuate an intact calvarium at the end.”
"Control over an external object," "something formless, completely open to manipulation." Calvarium indeed.

Robert P. Imbelli, a long-time Commonweal contributor, is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. A book of essays in his honor, The Center Is Jesus Christ Himself, edited by Andrew Meszaros, was published this year by The Catholic University of America Press.

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