BRONX, NY — Different interpretations of the status of the embryo and aborted fetus have forged discordant views within the Roman Catholic Church on the morality of human stem cell research, said Margaret Farley, Ph.D, a professor of Christian ethics at Yale University Divinity School, during a lecture at the William D. Walsh Family Library on Feb. 11.
“So much agreement on fundamental approaches to human morality, yet disagreement on specific moral rules, is not surprising,” said Farley. “For one thing, affirmations of the goodness of creation, human freedom of agency, and principles of justice and care do not always yield directly deducible recommendations on spe-cific questions like stem cell research.”
Farley shared the Catholic perspective on both sides of this debate during her lecture titled “Research on Stem Cells: Ethical Issues Regarding Derivation from Embryos.” The lecture was part of a series hosted by the Fordham University Center for Ethics in Education. Daniel Sinclair, a visiting professor at Fordham Law School from the Law School of the Tel Aviv College of Management, offered a response to her lecture.
Farley said Catholic opponents of embryonic stem cell research believe that an embryo has the same moral standing as a human person, hence the termination of the embryo when the stem cell is removed is wrong. They argue that an individual human person is created after fertilization because a new genetic code exists.
Others within the Church do not consider the embryo a human person, stressing that conception is not a moment in time, but rather a continuous process that takes approximately 14 days.
“Neither side in this debate wants to sacrifice the Catholic tradition’s commitments to respect human life, promote human well-being, and honor the sacred in created realities,” said Farley. “I believe the ongoing Roman Catholic conversation on all of these matters can be of assistance to others in a pluralistic society as long as it remains open to wider dialogue and respectful of all partners, while retaining its own integrity.”
In response to Farley’s lecture, Sinclair discussed how religious principles find their way into mainstream society. He said he felt that legislation and judicial decisions are the most realistic channels for religious beliefs to filter into society.
The Center for Ethics Education was created in 1999 to promote high-quality teaching, research and service through intellectual appreciation of moral values and critical thinking about ethical practices. For more information about the Center for Ethics Education or the spring 2004 lecture series visit www.fordhamethics.org or call 718-817-0926.