As we move along in time, more and more of our language is being corrupted. The problem is acute and international in scope.
Recently, a Korean court ruled that frozen embryos are “not human”. A group of parents, philosophers, physicians and biologists opposed using “leftover” frozen embryos from in-vitro fertilization procedures for scientific research. The judge ruled against them.
In the wake of the decision, Catholic Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-Suk expressed concern, saying, “We will continue to raise public awareness on the sensitive issue of respecting life from conception until natural death.”
This language mirrors an earlier prayer intention announced by Pope Benedict XVI. His June intention is “[t]hat every national and trans-national institution may strive to guarantee respect for human life from conception to natural death.”
Unfortunately, people who wish to confuse the public have victimized the word “conception.” Thus, the use of this word has become problematic, for we know that there are human beings who do not begin their lives according to the sexual method of procreation, but rather come into being by what is defined as asexual means. In fact, in the New Catholic Encyclopedia, under the title “Human Embryology,” the facts regarding asexual reproduction of human beings are defined with precision.
Yet the word conception continues to be used. We realize that the Church and her leadership would never intentionally make a statement or use a word that might be interpreted to mean that some human beings are not to be included within the protective embrace of Catholic teaching. This is why we have suggested to the Vatican that they use precise language.
For example: “Every innocent living human being has the inherent right to life from the beginning of their biological development as human organisms, including conception, and the inherent right to a natural death.”
Such a clarification would be welcome not only to those of us striving to achieve legal and cultural recognition of every human being as a person. It would also make it far more difficult for arrogant judges, lawmakers, scientists, theologians and philosophers who persist in ignoring science when it suits their agenda to do so.
Clearly, the situation in the Korean court is not isolated. In fact, the alleged status of what is falsely defined as a “pre-embryo” has haunted the pro-life effort for years. It is, in fact, sad to admit that this is so because of Catholic bioethicists like Jesuit Fr. Richard McCormick.
This is why language is so important and the correct science so absolutely necessary.
Way back in 2005 (an eternity in terms of false science), New York scientist Stuart Newman sought to patent a process that combines human embryo cells with cells from the embryo of a monkey, ape or other animal. To be fair, Newman was actually opposed to the process and wanted to set a precedent that might stop others. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected his request (but a victory for Newman), according to the Washington Post, because the hybrid “would be too closely related to a human to be patentable.”
Too closely related? That may sound far-fetched, but to the surprise of few, all sorts of experimentation utilizing human embryo cells is alive and well. Just a few days ago in Ohio, the state legislature passed a bill that outlaws human-animal hybrids, but permits human cloning! Human cloning is a process of scientifically creating human beings asexually. This is why the word conception cannot stand alone any longer.
Those of us who defend the integrity of the human person, regardless of how he comes into being, have understood for a very long time that if our language is imprecise, people could pay for our errors with their very lives.
That is why news reports like the latest out of Korea and Ohio are sounding a warning. We must step up the effort to make sure that the language we use is as all-inclusive of human beings as possible.
There is much to be lost should we fail.