Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sins, Part 2

As a follow up to yesterday's blog on sinning, I thought I might also mention the Vatican's recent updating of their Deadly Sins list. In addition to the Seven Deadly Sins (lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy and pride), new sins the Vatican has issued include using and trafficking mind-altering drugs, despoiling the earth or polluting the environment, social and economic injustices, and genetic manipulations, though not necessarily in that order. According to the number two man at the Vatican, Archbishop Franco Girotti, the issue most troubling to the Holy See is that which deals with bioethics in general and cloning specifically. The present Pope and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, have both expressed their displeasure with the prospect of human cloning, but have gone out of their way to also register opposition to any future embryonic stem cell research that might involve the destruction of fetuses. This is the basic position that President Bush adhered to when he banned all embryonic stem cell research that did not emanate from what he described as "the existing 60 lines." Most researchers claim that only a small percentage of the existing lines have any real scientific potential for success. Another method that has also proven to be of research utility is the genetic engineering technique of creating a human ovum with a donated nucleus. This is called therapeutic cloning or somatic cell nuclear transfer. But because the only way to produce additional lines requires either destroying a viable human embryo or employing therapeutic cloning, pro-life advocates decry any attempts to add new lines other than to utilize the ones in which these life and death decisions had already been made years ago. The late Christopher Reeve advocated for enlarging the numbers of embryonic stem cell lines because of the great hope he and scientists saw in increasing the chances for a normal life for spinal cord injury victims such as himself. Likewise, Michael J. Fox, the unfortunate victim of Parkinson's Disease, has spoken before Congress about the possible benefits to those like himself who look to stem cell research as a possible "silver bullet." Meanwhile, advocates of cord stem cell research, a technique that does not require taking a life or genetically engineering material that has the potential for life, got a big boost yesterday when the Today Show spotlighted a hapless two-year-old victim of cerebral palsy. Doctors were amazed at the miraculous near total recovery from the disease following the mining for stem cells from his own umbilical cord. The grateful parents decided to register the birth cord just weeks before what they expected would be a routine delivery and had been reluctant to do so because the cost of $2000 associated with it was not covered by their health insurance. To read more about this incredible story go to: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23572206/
The Vatican's labeling of drug traffickers as sinners sounds a bit like trying to stop a charging bull with the wave of a hand. Threatening morally corrupt drug pushers with eternal damnation or excommunication seem empty gestures. If the Church truly wants to stem the tide of drug proliferation, it might not lump the distributors into the same roux as users, who have been shown to be victims of disease and not the uncaring monsters who seek out billions of dollars of profits at the expense of human lives. Greed also figures into the raping of the earth and environmentalists are probably happy that the Church decided to go "green" with its newest pronouncement of sins. Yet, aside from the United States, the biggest offenders seem to be in the two most populous countries, China and India, neither of which seems in any hurry to get its environmental act together. The influence of the Church in both countries is minimal at best. Where it may play a more significant role is in South America, but only time will tell. The ages old problem of social injustices perpetrated by the haves over the have nots has long been a problem addressed by the Church. Labeling them as rich sinners might not get them any more money on the communal plate, but might put a spark of human compassion into their already dark souls. We shall see.

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