Natural Law and Reproductive Ethics

The readings this week took what we have learned so far and expanded upon it while also bringing in a Christian and Catholic perspective.

The first reading was on the book of Genesis, chapters one and two. This reading was much different than what we have considered before in this class. Instead of an anthropological text, the book of Genesis is a religious text which forms the basis of the Christian religion. The first chapter, also known as the creation story, focused on how God created the world as we know it, with the sky, ground and waters as well as day and night. Furthermore, God created humankind in His image to rule over all the other creatures on the Earth. What I found to be particularly interesting in relation to this class was section 1:27-1:28: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon this earth.’ “ I believe these lines have two distinct points. First, it gives humans the belief that they have authority over all and are created perfectly “in his image.” I’d like to emphasize that both male and female were created this way and so here there is no authority given to man over woman. Second, these lines give humans a purpose – to procreate and fill the earth.

The second chapter slightly contradicts the equality of male and female. In this chapter, the woman is created out of man to be his helper (Genesis 2:18-2:24). These lines suggest a lower status for woman to serve at man’s need. Furthermore, these lines recognize the purpose of a wife. Once a man has passed a time of needing his parents, he moves to a wife to be “one” with. Where do these roles come into play when considering reproductive technologies?

Donum Vitae is an explanation of the Catholic Church’s view on reproductive technologies. The Catholic Church’s stance is important to both Christians and non-Christians because many “recognize the church as ‘an expert in humanity’ with a mission to serve the ‘civilization of love’ and of life” (Donum Vitae 142). Thus, the impact of these teachings can be viewed as more universal.

Donum Vitae references the same lines of Genesis that I referenced above, 1:27-1:28. The purpose is different than I described previously; it is about how science and research are taking the role of human domination to a new level (Donum Vitae 143). The power to create life out of seemingly nothing can be viewed as an attempt for human’s to obtain too much power. Nonetheless, the church’s stance on these issues are not strictly against them. The church supports any medical intervention that respects the life and dignity of human life, specifically the embryo’s. It is mainly against intervention that is not explicitly therapeutic and “aimed at the improvement of the biological condition” (Donum Vitae 145). While this text addresses many different, specific reproductive technologies and their moral complications, I am going to focus on a couple that I felt summed up the church’s thought as a whole.

Abortion is a reproductive technology that questions when human existence begins. When considering abortion, the church claims, “Life once conceived, must be protected with the utmost care; abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes” (Donum Vitae 148). The church believes life to start at conception because that is when the human’s spiritual soul is created. Once this soul is created, a human being exists and the life must be protected. This same argument is the backbone for the church’s view against research on embryos that are not strictly therapeutic and working to preserve the child. Additionally, “The corpses of human embryos and fetuses, whether they have been deliberately aborted or not, must be respected just as the remains of other human beings” (Donum Vitae 152). Again, this all relates back to the belief that a human soul is created at conception and lives within the embryo. These same rights apply no matter how the embryo was created, whether through sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilization.

In regards to reproductive technologies, the church is against any technology that involves anyone outside the husband and wife. These technologies are “contrary to the unity of marriage, to the dignity of the spouses, to the vocation proper to parents, and to the child’s right to be conceived and brought into the world in marriage and from marriage” (Donum Vitae 159). The case of technologies used solely between a husband and a wife are more complicated and relies on a careful analysis of certain principles related to the marriage of the husband and wife. Overall, I believe the following quote sums up this decision making process: “Homologous artificial insemination within marriage cannot be admitted except for those cases in which the technical means is not a substitute for the conjugal act but serves to facilitate and to help so that the act attains its natural purpose” (Donum Vitae 166).

The last section of Donum Vitae addresses the role of civil authorities. The church views civil law as a way to prevent immoral behavior from being legitimized. If the law does not support a behavior, people will be less likely to practice the behavior and attempt to justify it as morally acceptable. Thus, “The task of the civil law is to ensure the common good of people through the recognition of and the defense of fundamental rights and through the promotion of peace and of public morality” (Donum Vitae 170). I find this view quite controversial because it relies on civil authorities to know what is morally correct. I would argue that leaving certain practices legal would allow each individual to decide what is morally correct and make the decision since most of these issues are not as black-and-white as the church seems to believe.

The article written by Nan T. Ball demonstrates the power that civil law has when it comes to reproductive technologies. While this is not written from the religious perspective, it integrates itself with Donum Vitae in that it emphasizes civil authority taking on the debate of ARTs to prevent its abuse. Ball describes how the French used civil law to limit ARTs to only traditional families in order to keep order in French society. He describes the history of the French, emphasizing the natural family as heterosexual parents and children. Furthermore, Ball dives into Rousseau as an explanation for the traditional French family unit serving as a sign of stability. For example, “Rousseau hoped to signal political change through familial discourse” (Ball 564). This idea stemmed from the view that each family was like a miniature society. These miniature societies together made up a larger society, the nation. Thus changing each miniature society could change the nation. Therefore, any threat to the traditional family could threaten the stability of the nation. This also answered the question of why so many people cared about ART when it only affected a small population of the nation (Ball 559).

As a result of the politician’s fear of destroying the traditional family, ART was legalized under certain strict constraints: “The man and woman forming the couple must be alive, of procreative age, married or able to prove that they have lived together for at least two years and have consented to the transfer of embryos or insemination” (Ball 571). These constraints eliminated the fear of homosexual couples and couples above procreative age having genetically-related children and hence kept the traditional family unit alive.

The last section of Ball’s article addresses the concept of nature. The French argued that ART is an unnatural form of procreation because it is a form of human manipulation (Ball 571). Therefore, they were able to restrict access to ART on a moral level. Since homosexual couples and older couples could not conceive naturally, they should not be able to use ART to conceive. This relates back to Donum Vitae in that it is keeping reproduction between a husband and a wife, within the family unit.

18 Replies to “Natural Law and Reproductive Ethics”

  1. Izzy,

    Great blog post! You really covered and analyzed each reading in depth while maintaining an unbiased, logical and straightforward approach. I specifically enjoyed reading your thoughts on the book of Genesis and how you related them to the perceived status and roles of men and women in society. For the purpose of this response I am going to focus on your critique of the book of Genesis reading we did.
    A line that really struck me was one you quoted, saying “So God created humankind in his image.” For some reason I just find this fascinating. What exactly is or was God’s image? What does that mean? Are we, as humans, simply projections of a greater being’s internal thoughts. This is clearly something people have been wondering forever and will continue to never know, yet I still feel the need to mention it because it is such a captivating thought that truly encompasses the study of religion and human beings.
    Furthermore, the way that passage you quoted ends with the phrase “and over every living thing that moves upon this earth,” in suggestion that God controls all beings, also struck me a certain way. It honestly startled me a little bit in the sense that we as humans do not have the freedom to create our own destiny. For I viewed this line as suggesting that God controls all beings, almost like a puppet master. In other words, we are under the impression that we are making our own decisions and forging our own paths, yet in reality, according to this passage, we are not and everything is already set in stone. Thinking about this just kind of startled me in the sense that I am not in control of myself and I thought it was worth noting.
    Additionally, I agreed with the two distinct points you suggested these lines have. These lines make humans think they have authority over all and have a defining purpose; however, I think these lines also have an underlying tone that suggests that rather than having authority and a purpose, humans also have a responsibility to adhere to certain bylaws and take care of the earth rather than rule over it. I think this underlying notion of human responsibility ties directly to the 2nd chapter in the Book of Genesis in relation to the roles of men and women. A direct example that comes to mind is that women are responsible for playing the role of wife and mother, and I think this thought process and lens ties directly into your suggestion that the 2nd chapter slightly contradicts the equality of man and women. Furthermore, this notion of human responsibility is also a great introduction to the discussion of reproductive ethics, specifically abortion. I support abortion because I think that if one is un-fit to have a child then it is there responsibility to not have it, yet other religions clearly have different views on this matter. It is just unique how all three of these readings can be tied together in many interesting ways.
    Overall, solid thought provoking post. Thank you.

  2. Izzy,

    I very much enjoyed the way you organized the readings in this blog post. I agree with you that they build off of each other as the book of Genesis is the religious foundation for Donum Vitae and the position of the church, while Ball’s discussion of French Political strategies regarding bioethics highlights the capacity of a religious text to influence civil law and civil rights.

    One point that I would like to add is Ball’s commentary regarding the re-emerging importance of the child to the traditional French family and how this catalyzes the oppression of lower class citizens in addition to non-traditional families. The focus of the child as the future of society re-centers the importance of reproduction through cultural and social means in addition to biological procreation. Bell further explains this by defining the family as a “small society” in which the child was “the future beneficiary of [Enlightenment] knowledge” (Bell, 559). This meant that not only is a child to carry their family’s DNA, but they become an extension of their parents’ social and cultural status and values.

    The secondary claim that Bell is making in this article speaks not only to suppression of the non-traditional family, but also to those of lower social status and class. This argument is carefully woven into the text, most obvious to me when Bell quotes Rousseau’s definition of “the family as a privileged unit of social reform and change” (Bell, 559). The use of the word privilege infers that social, cultural, and biological reproduction was limited to higher class traditional heterosexual couples with resources to raise children with a high class standard of housing, medical care, nourishment, health, and education. Stripping the low class family of power to promote their opinions towards social reform, these standards are an attempt to purify the French population to high class, heterosexual traditional families.

    I find the disapproval of ART to be controversial to this in one particular dimension that Daniel’s comment provoked: If a lower class woman were to become pregnant although she deemed herself unfit for raising a child, she would not be able to get an abortion and she would have to proceed with her pregnancy and therefore her social and cultural reproduction of lower class rank. Doesn’t this directly contradict the effort of the French to “purify” their population? Or do the benefits of preventing homosexual or sterile couples outweigh the costs of permitting lower class reproduction?

  3. Hi Izzy,

    Your blogpost and reflection on the readings shows how much religion and culture overlap and exist together.

    Genesis tells the story of the creation of humans, man, and women, however, different people will interpret the biblical text differently – perhaps disagreeing with your statement that man and woman are portrayed as equals. We should be careful to assume the Christian and/or Catholic perspective is uniformed throughout different communities. Some may say that yes, women are indeed inferior to men because of what is written in the Bible. Their biblical interpretation may even lead to Christian schools teaching students that men and women have different number of ribs (which is most cases, incorrect). Others may interpret the Bible in a manner, similar to you, and believe that men and women were supposed to rule over everything by the decree of God. Depending on the culture of how, when, and where we grew up, we may be more inclined toward one interpretation than another — something to keep in mind.

    Regarding Donum Vitae, I disagree with you that the Catholic Church’s teachings and views should be viewed as universal. The teachings are biased in many ways, assumes certain definitions, and thus, cannot be universally applied. For starters, on the last page of Donum Vitae, we can clearly see that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Alberto Bovone – already we are missing a female perspective. An definition and assumption that Donum Vitae takes on is that all human have rights and humans are human starting at the point of conception, BUT it is never specified what it means to be human.

    Through both Donum Vitae and Ball’s The Reemergence of Enlightenment Idea in the 1994 French Bioethics Debates, we see religion and culture intertwined again. Male-Female relationships are the “norm” distinguished in both pieces. In Ball’s writing, he explains how opposition to the “norm” or tradition/natural family model is a problem of static nature. And so we might ask ourselves, would it be appropriate to say that the Catholic Church’s stance falls into the problem of static nature? I personally think so.


  4. Thanks for the post Izzy.

    Genesis was an interesting text to include in this week’s reading. Though it is cited in Donum Vitae, I felt it actually gives a slight counter to the point Donum Vitae was attempting to prove. By “having dominion over the earth” would this not mean humans could not alter and decide fates as they so choose? At what point did humans overstep their powers? Reproductive technology is apparently that limit. Virtually every single reproductive technology, save embryo treatments, was struck off by the Church as illicit.

    I agree with your assessment that relying on the lawmakers to uphold and set the benchline for morality would be fundamentally flawed. Though the Church claims it would work in theory, in practice there is a high probability this would not be the case.

    Regarding Ball’s essay, the point you mentioned about Rousseau carrying such significance in the family unit is very valuable. France followed his philosophy toward family as justification for their decisions regarding reproductive technology: the family is the unit that embodies society as a whole. By restricting the technology to only heterosexual couples, society would be “maintained” and remain “natural.” Whether this viewpoint is correct in its basis or is purely discriminatory in nature is up in the air. My question would be how much influence did the committee actually give philosophy? Had Rousseau or any other philosophers wrote praising nontraditional structures, would that be reflected in policy or are the peoples’ individual personal biases affecting results?

  5. Hey Izzy, thanks for your blog post! I enjoyed reading your analysis of the Genesis chapters and I thought that you made some good points. To elaborate on your interpretation of the verses you had cited from the first chapter and your point that God had created male and female as equals and their purpose was to procreate. I found that this was important in regards to different assisted reproductive technology. If the church truly believes that a man and wife should reproduce in order to fulfill their life purpose, one would think that they would be less restrictive in their rules on certain assisted reproductive technologies. Additionally, I agree with Pamela’s comment on your thought about the Catholic church’s teachings and how they should be viewed as universal. The teachings and rules taught by the church are strict and can be interpreted in different ways, which is why we must be careful in suggesting a universal rule. Much of the church’s rules are very restrictive in terms of any assisted reproductive technologies. I want to ask then, if the church believes that a man and a woman should fulfill their purpose of procreation, why be so restrictive on certain procedures, if it could help a couple reproduce?

    Furthermore, I wanted to elaborate on Paige’s comments about the French effort to “purify their population.” You mentioned that the French believed that ART was an unnatural form of procreation and were able to excuse their rulings on who was able to have access to ART and who was not allowed access. The French were also very concerned about their image, which is why they had a unilateral view of what the “normal” family should look like. They only allowed those with high social class use certain assisted reproductive technologies; however, if a woman in a lower class was pregnant and was not able to have an abortion, then she would completely ruin their view of the the perfect society. It is evident that although the French worried about their reputation and wanted to form the normal family, they only paid attention to those living in the elite classes and completely disregarded the lower classes.

  6. Hi Izzy,

    This blog post flows very well and connects the main points of the readings nicely – thanks! I’d like to touch on a few of your points, beginning with your question regarding marriage roles that you posit in your third paragraph. You ask – “where do these roles come into play when considering reproductive technologies?” Evident from Donum Vitae, the Catholic Church holds the marriage between a man and a woman in the upmost regard as a sacred bond bestowed by God. As portrayed in the Book of Genesis, woman was “made” from man. In class discussion, we’ve spoken about how women serve in roles that provide foundation for kinship around the world. It would be close-minded to separate those views from duties and issues of reproductive technology. These gendered roles certainly persist in questions of reproductive technology today, where I would argue that a woman who observes Catholic faith may have a certain duty separate from that of her husband to uphold the sanctity of her pregnancy and ensure that harm does not come to the fetus through any illicit means. Donum Vitae further delineates viewpoints on the use of medical technologies, such as prenatal exams (Donum Vitae 149-150), used to gather information about a fetus and mother. The need to further define such actions creates inherent, gendered roles in using technology for reproductive purposes.

    I agree with your statement regarding the controversial nature of using “civil law to ensure the common good of people,” and that it does create a morally ambiguous slippery slope of decisions that legislators can make. I do acknowledge, though, that Donum Vitae qualifies such a claim, recognizing that “In no sphere of life can the civil law take the place of conscience or dictate norms concerning things which are outside its competence” (Donum Vitae 170). The text further stresses the importance of respecting human rights with respect to human nature. I found thoughts from Ball’s article as well as the Book of Genesis to involve in a continuous cycle of respecting human rights and nature. As Ball’s article eloquently explains the differing views of nature and its role over time and in different philosophies, the Book of Genesis provides perhaps one of the most widely-accepted descriptions of nature and humans’ interaction with it in the world. The place of public influence in this is to balance what state can and cannot control. In a French society with a large Christian demographic, the people who make public laws make it with preconceived notions of nature and boundaries. Therefore, society possesses inherent influence that affects people’s lives and prevents true agency in their decisions.

    I’d like to end with a question regarding “Local Moral Worlds,” a term we discussed during last week’s class. Being the everyday interactions we see between people as well as what they observe, I believe that local moral worlds play a large role in decisions regarding reproductive technology and religion. I am curious as to how everybody thinks that Local Moral Worlds reflect theories of natural law, agency, and religious influence. How can something as exalted as the Book of Genesis be seen in people’s everyday lives and influence views of kinship and culture?

  7. Izzy, first off I want to say that you did a great job summarizing the readings and shining light on important subjects within each text. Genesis chapters 1 and 2 give us insight into the role of human beings and what God had in mind when putting us on this earth, particularly when the text states that we were put on this earth to procreate and fill the earth. I consider this to be similar to the view of a popular political philosopher, John Locke. Locke states that humans were put on this earth to fulfil God’s mission and utilize what he put forth for us, which is consistent with Genesis where God discusses our rule over just about everything else on this planet such as fish and land. As humans, we are blessed with the ability to rule over these other species under the condition that we reproduce and extend the human race. Although women are placed slightly lower than men in the second chapter, it is important to consider that there are two parts to the whole in this case, and both man and woman are needed in order to bring out God’s mission of reproduction.

    As for the power and use of civil law, it should be the case that authorities implement civil laws that are legitimate and promote the right type of behavior. It can be controversial, but I find it more likely that the laws put in place are meant to benefit society and attempt to bring humans as a whole to newer heights. In my opinion, this ties in with your point of the Catholic Church’s view on reproductive technologies to be universal. From a broader perspective, the laws put in place are meant to better the people that follow them, however there will always be intricacies in which some people disagree with certain rulings. The reality is that there will never be a law that appeals to all followers.

    Lastly, I like the point that you make regarding Rousseau and the miniature families that in turn make up the society as a whole. By altering the configuration of the smaller families, the anatomy of the nation would consequently change.

  8. Hey Izzy,

    Thanks for your blog post! I feel that it was very comprehensive and I agreed with your viewpoints for the most part. I also enjoyed the format in which you briefly summarized each article before delving deeper into the passages themselves and included citations.

    That being said, I think the readings we had for this week really ties back to our first class on how culture and religion integrate and overlap.

    In the book of Genesis, I do agree with your interpretation of the text. However, interpretations vary from person to person and obviously culture to culture. Others may read it as obvious findings that a woman is inferior to a man and should cater to his needs. From my personal opinion, religious texts are more so moral guidelines than a universal law that we must follow word for word. And of course, what has encouraged me to shift my opinion from maybe the law of the land to a guideline has been the influence of culture.

    I agree with Pamela that although you provided a great summary of Donum Vitae, the Catholic Church’s teachings and views should not be viewed as universal. The authors of this article are, as Pamela mentioned, only male and although they may be “leading authorities” on the Catholic interpretation of the Bible, they aren’t the Pope, who is regarded as THE authority (Just my opinion, if you’re going to trust a source). Something I’d like to point out from this reading is the authors operate on many assumptions. One of those assumptions are that the people who follow the teachings of the Catholic Church follow EVERY teaching and have never sinned. This is exemplified by the authors claiming that the child is a symbol of the love and devotion that BOTH parents not only have for the child but also for one another. There are more than a few times where the father is absent, abusive, or straight up never there for when the child grows up. I would actually venture out and agree with most of this article, given that ALL of the assumptions that the authors make are followed and correct. The problem is that they aren’t, and I have to say I don’t agree.

    If you asked me when I was in elementary or middle school, I would have wholeheartedly agreed with Ball’s article that it wouldn’t be natural to procreate with ART. I was and to some extent still am a proponent of “nature” and having things occur “naturally”, from eating to working out to even reproduction. I’m curious, however, had our culture been completely different, if there would be different interpretations and perhaps ART would be legalized completely and for everybody?

  9. Hi Izzy,

    I think you did a really good job at summarizing the three different readings for this week, particularly the first two chapters of Genesis and the Donna Vitae. I think that you made a good point in highlighting the gendered differences in the first two chapters of Genesis and questioning the point of this. Much of the Bible puts women in a subservient position. In context of the Donna Vitae, it seems to match – these are men writing the decisions on what, primarily, is a women’s reproductive health issue. (Obviously, I don’t mean to throw away men’s role in this, but men can walk away from a situation like this whereas women cannot.)

    Also, I like that you highlighted the importance of the Donna Vitae beyond just the scopes of Catholics and included that the Catholic church often serves as a moral authority and reference for many outside of followers of the religion. I agree with you that it is controversial to rely on civil authorities to know what is morally correct. Politicians and others in charge of these are easily influenced and corrupted, whether by their own personal beliefs or money from outside sources. Individuals cannot be held responsible for the morality of society as a whole, only themselves.

    In Ball’s article, I think it is important for your summary to make note that the French also turned to the concept of “nature” as a reference and justification for excluding homosexual couples, as well as single women and older women. This argument is inherently problematic as nature does not have the same morals that humanity does – nature, the environment, constantly changes to adapt to its circumstances the same as humans do. Other things in nature, such as sexual coercion and rape, are considered immortal yet they are a part of nature.

  10. Hi Izzy!

    I’d like to add to what you’ve stated was the importance of the spiritual soul in the Church’s eyes. The article states that physicality is not everything and that science and doctors have no claim to the course of a human’s life. Although physicality may help a person express themselves, the true importance of a human is that expression itself which, in the Church’s eyes, manifests from the soul. I found it interesting that the Church ties several principles to the spiritual soul, as the article implies that once the biological identity of the embryo is created, the soul is conceived as well. I also agree that the principles of the Church seem to be set in stone and do not allow for any flexibility.

    Personally, I found that the French National Assembly shared in the inflexibility and that the Church and the Assembly parallel each other in two separate forms of thought. One thought is based on a specific religious belief (in the case of the Church) and the other is based on thoughts from the Enlightenment.

  11. Thank you for the blog post. I thought it was well written and you explained you views fairly well. I also very much appreciate how it was stylized. Interpretation religious texts are often difficult, as most of the time they are left up to a religious figure (such as a Rabbi or Priest). While interpretations may vary, they usually are rooted in the same fundamental outcomes. I agree with Jefferey on the part that religious texts should be considered guidelines, and not the rule of law. I believe that since times are constantly changing, so are the interpretations of the texts. That why I agree that since interpretations will be a constant changing process, that they should not be solidified as a law.

    Much like my fellow students, I also agree about the Church’s teachings not being universal. The hard about this is assessing if the acquisitions made in the teachings are 100% correct. While I believe that the author is making a strong argument, as well as logically sound, it may not all be correct. While a person can make an argument air tight on the basis of logic, it doesn’t guarantee that what’s underneath is entirely correct, which may have happened in this article. However, I myself am no expert on religion or anything close to it, so who am I to say.

    Finally, I’d like to finish with a different approach. Much of what is being looked at is through the lens of religious figures and theologians. I find what we are learning to be very intriguing, however I myself am an economics major, and since I am from a different discipline, would love to see how other disciplines think about this subject.

  12. Hi Izzy,
    I really enjoyed how you organized your thoughts in this post. I disagree with your point on God creating man and women as equal because as you mentioned, chapter two has several points that contradict the claim of equality. Something that you did not mention was that God took a rib from man and from that created woman. I find this line interesting because man was creating after the image of God from dust which was one of his previous creations. The text explicitly states man is created in the image of God but it does not state that for woman. This made me wonder if woman was also made in the image of God or rather in the image of man.
    I thought you did a wonderful job summarizing the key points of Donum Vitae. I agree with you on which technologies best church’s key points on determining whether a technique was acceptable or unacceptable. Something I noticed while reading the article was that the author referred to the church as “her”. I found this interesting because it follows the trend of gender association that we have seen from Delaney’s article.
    Lastly, I also thoroughly enjoyed your paragraphs on Ball but I felt that discussing the concept of restoring rather than creating something new is a key concept that you only lightly touch on in the last paragraph. I feel like this concept generalizes the criteria for the French government as well as many other thoughts about ART including the catholic church’s.

  13. This is such an insightful blog post! I thought the part you mentioned from chapter one of the Book of Genesis is interesting as well. I too interpreted this as two-part, with the latter focusing on man’s duty to procreate. Regarding reproductive technologies, the teachings of the Church also emphasize techniques that assist and dominate procreation as being morally licit (Donum Vitae, 141). It is evident that the foundations of this push for procreation is deeply rooted in history. The other piece of this quote relates to domination of man over all creatures on Earth. This strikes me as a bit different from the idea in Donum Vitae of the teachings of the Magisterium that no person should claim the knowledge/have the power to destroy any form of human life. It seems a bit counterintuitive that God’s original idea of man was for him to have authority over all, yet some of the ideas on procedures in vivo on the embryo are considered morally illicit because of the confusion over who gets the say in if it protects the human rights of the embryo.

    Another interesting parallel can be made with the ideas in Donum Vitae about heterologous artificial fertilization and the reading from the Clarke article. In Islam, ART is considered wrong if it involves a third party that is not either spouse. Both indicate a loss of a filial relationship between the parent and child. However, an additional concept is introduced in Donum Vitae of the relationship of the parents. The conjugal act of procreation is seen as a sign of unity and love between a man and a woman. Heterologous artificial fertilization inhibits the respect between a man and his wife and their ideas of parenthood. These ideas translate into the Ball article, but in a more political way. We see the influences of traditional views in policymaking, as well as the pushback from people like Rousseau in these traditional ideas. Ideas that “nature” is not permanent and universal, but rather fluid and dynamic is crucial in the new ideas of family and reproductive technologies.

  14. Hi Izzy,

    I wanted to start with what Jeffery already eloquently stated, where he noticed that this interpretation by the Catholic Church can be questioned as non-definitive, as it is lacking higher approval like the pope’s. This is an important distinction, as with a body as large as the Catholic Church, it can be difficult to mark a definitive stance as fully endorsed. One of the most important, recent examples of this conundrum is with Pope Francis’ unclear views on homosexuality. Last year alone, he has said on the topic of gay children “Do not condemn. Dialogue. Understand.”, and that homosexual men in priesthood is “something that worries me.” As such, the very nature of the Donum Vitae reading must be taken in the context that it does not speak for all who practice Catholicism.

    Secondly, I find it interesting that the assigned readings were of the primary religious text (Genesis) and this secondary understanding (Donum Vitae). Relating back to our early ideas of cultural relativism, this format of primary and secondary sources from within the culture allow us a greater understanding of both what exact words are being interpreted, and of how those interpretations are made by leaders within the culture. While ideas such as the holiness of human life are spelled out, word for word in the text, other core ideas of the religion are simply based on a leaders interpretation. An example would be life at conception, comparing abortion directly to “infanticide.” Written in the Donum Vitae, this comparison is not in the bible, but stands as just as important and powerful a concept when it is applied to human law, such as ART. Going forwards, it is important to analyze which aspects of a culture and a religion come from its sacred texts and rituals, and which come from human interpretation along the way.

  15. I wanted to compliment you on how clearly written and organized your blog post was in describing the main ideas of both the Genesis and the Donum Vitae, and how you interpreted each to then connect to French laws in Ball’s article.

    I wanted to touch upon your interpretation of Genesis’s chapter on creation. You emphasized that because God created both man and woman and gave them dominion over everything, that this means that there is no authority given to man over woman. While I agree with you that yes, it is not explicitly states that man was given more authority over his dominion given by God, it is also not stated explicitly that because of this men have no authority over women. I think it is here and the next chapter that allows for a wide range of interpretations of religious texts, as you have shown us. Your interpretation of the Creation Story does not necessarily mean it is the same interpretation others would have.

    When reading Donum Vitae, I understood the text as Catholic officials’ own interpretations of the Bible rather than a text of religious laws. This is where I believe can lead to major arguments about abortion or reproduction technologies and why there are many different views on then throughout The Church. Some believers of the Catholic faith will choose to follow the Donum Vitae word for word, while others choose to interpret it as it fits them. This reminded me of last weeks text on Ali and his struggle to proceed with organ donation. People embody different ideas on the will of God based on their own circumstances. For example, as you stated, the Catholic Church is against intervention that is not explicitly therapeutic and “aimed at the improvement of the biological condition” (Donum Vitae 145). However, this can be interpreted by Catholic couples as it fits to their circumstances. Overall, I feel that it is very interesting how strong religious texts influence people opinions on medical technology when the religious laws that are in place are basically human interpretations of these texts rather than God’s explicit will.

  16. Hi Izzy!
    Thank you for the summary of the reading and the commentary. I liked the points you brought up about the contradictory nature of the book of Genesis on the ideals of men and women. I was raised catholic, so the idea of women being made for men was always something that I had a noticed while practicing. I found the first two chapters to be helpful in understanding Donum Vitae. I found it interesting that that a reason against reproductive technologies was because the Catholic Church though it gave too much power to humans, power that only God had the right to exercise. Reproduction is viewed as gift from God to mankind, and reproductive technologies disregard that gift. While some types of reproductive techniques were seem as more “right” or “wrong” than others (for example homologous IVF isn’t as negative as heterologous IVF), all of them left the child with some sort of imperfection. But any child born regardless of the reproductive technique used, will be seen as a gift from God. Similar to the book of Genesis, I felt the ideas were somewhat contradictory. How can something that is inevitably imperfect be seen as a God’s living gift.
    Similar to how the Donum Vitae uses the book of genesis to justify claims on reproductive technology, the reading by Bell explained how the French Bioethics debate used Enlightenment ideas to justify policy of reproductive technology. The family was thought of as the basic unit of society and to disrupt the building blocks would inevitably disrupt the whole. A point I really thought was interesting though was in the justification of limiting reproductive technologies to what was found in nature. Nature is often seen as this authoritative force, but in reality, we conform nature to our life experiences.

  17. Izzy,
    I am impressed by your thorough analysis of these articles. I especially appreciated your recognition of the discrepancy between man described in Genesis 1 versus in Genesis 2. You share this observation with many bible scholars, including Soloveitchik. The difference between these two versions of Adam is significant and could even pertain to our class. Simply, Soloveitchik argues that Adam 1 engages in a practical, utilitarian relationship with Eve while Adam 2 engages with Eve in an ontological togetherness unlike Adam 1 experiences. Why? Because in Genesis 2:24 we read “hence a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, so they become one flesh.” I say this as a background to your theme of family that is recurrent in this blog. Perhaps it was implied, but I did want to elaborate on why the French and the Catholics believe in the structures of traditional marriage and family that they do. You actually referred to this becoming of “one” in the early section of your blog but did not make the explicit connection to the latter half in your discussion of ART in the Ball post. Why is the policy written in that way? Perhaps it stems from this very quote. Excuse me if I missed the implied connection, but I did want to elaborate on and highlight this biblical origin of religious and even national dogma. Thanks for a great blog.

  18. I liked the points that you chose to highlight in each of the readings. I also liked your interpretation of the important lines in the book of Genesis; you chose important lines that were later discussed in Donum Vitae. As you stated, Genesis 1:27 and 1:28 are critical lines, and while it is unclear what it means that “God created humankind in his image,” 1:28 demonstrates that humans are encouraged by God himself to have dominion over other living creatures. It is also important to realize that there was an order to the way that God created the world as written in the Book of Genesis. This order was clearly made distinct by the author of the Book of Genesis as many lines in the first chapter are solely devoted to this. If humans are indeed to have dominion and human life, including those of an embryo as the Catholic Church notes, why then did God create nature and even other organisms such as “sea monsters” and “wild beasts” before humans?

    I do agree with Eleni though; the word of the Catholic Church can be seen either as a simple interpretation of the Book of Genesis or as strict rules to be followed. The outlook that an individual chooses powerfully impacts his or her beliefs, morals, and values about reproductive technologies. The most important basic points outlined in Donum Vitae were that “The human being must be respected-as a person-from the very first instant of his existence” (Respect For Human Life, 147), and “Heterologous artificial fertilization is contrary to the unity of marriage, to
    the dignity of the spouses, to the vocation proper to parents, and to
    the child’s right to be conceived and brought into the world in marriage and from marriage” (Respect For Human Life, 159). You mentioned these points, which I applaud you for. These are two of the basic principles that the Catholic Church based its opinions of embryos, biomedical research, and third parties involved in reproductive technologies on.

    As for Ball’s article, I did not agree with many of his points. Donum Vitae was a more striking article for me because it clearly establishes the position of a powerful force in global opinion – the Catholic Church. I felt that Ball’s article recycled a lot of the interpretations of the Catholic Church but with less convincing evidence. While small parts of the nation (neighborhoods, cities, states, etc.) do make up the larger whole, the use of ART cannot be seen as destabilizing. The French argue also that the family unit, consisting of heterosexual parents and their children, must be kept intact at all costs, but without the authority and weight of the word of the Catholic Church, I found it to be less impactful.

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