Sunday, November 18, 2007

Balancing act

In reading up on presidential candidates' positions regarding embryonic stem cell research, I came across this July 2006 statement from Hillary Rotten Clinton. It was delivered on the Senate floor calling for passage of a bill that would allow federal funding for research on new embryonic stem cell lines. Thank God our president immediately vetoed the bill which passed through congress. (Another reason we need a solid pro-lifer in the Oval Office come January '09.)

Her Thighness begins:

I welcome this vote on such an important piece of legislation, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.
Funny how they always forget to specify which type of stem cell research they are talking about. Here the Senator from New York is speaking of the kind that kills innocent human beings.
A broad consensus in New York and across our country has brought us to this debate and vote. There has been an upsurge of demand. It has crossed every line we can imagine, certainly partisan lines, ethnic, racial, geographic lines, people in every corner of our nation demanding that we in Washington open the doors to this promising science.
True. But those aren't the only lines being crossed.

So long, reason and the dictates of the natural law; enter emotional appeal:
You know, my friends Christopher and Dana Reeve, whom we have lost in the last several years, were eloquent, passionate advocates for this research. Christopher, from his wheelchair, performed his greatest role. He may have been Superman in the movies, but he was a super human being after his accident which paralyzed him, consigned him to a wheelchair, to help with his breathing and respiratory functions. But he never gave up. He launched his greatest battle to try to bring our nation to the point where we would take advantage of the most innocent and defenseless among us without the distractions and frustrations of morality and bio-ethics.
Oops. Strike that. Here's what she actually said.
He launched his greatest battle to try to bring our nation to the point where we would take advantage of the science that is there. He worked and struggled on behalf of all who might benefit from stem cell research and other scientific breakthroughs.
All, that is, except those countless thousands who might be forced to give their lives in pursuit of promised breakthroughs.
His brave, beautiful wife, Dana, who passed away just this past March, showed a devotion to her husband and her son that was just inspirational. She, too, continued Christopher's work through the Reeve Foundation, and I know that both of them are looking down upon this debate and so pleased and relieved that this day has come.
How does Mz. Clinton know they're "looking down"? I suspect they might be looking up. But who knows. Continue...
As I travel around New York, I run into constituents every time I'm anywhere who speak to me about this issue. They're living with Type I diabetes or their children are. They're suffering from Parkinson's. They have a relative who is struggling with Alzheimer's. They're paralyzed from an accident, like Christopher was. And they believe that this holds promise for their lives, for their futures, and if not for them in their lifetimes, certainly for their children and their grandchildren.
It goes without saying that Mz. Clinton is unfamiliar with and not interested in Catholic theology which distinguishes between suffering (not intrinsically evil, sometimes good and benefitial -- cf, the Cross) and sin (intrinisically evil). This understanding was perhaps best captured by Cardinal Newman who expressed it thus:

The Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.
We need to have additional stem cell lines in order to pursue the promising avenues for research.
Promising avenues? Oh, those.
But we can't make the progress that we need to make for sake of new treatments, for the sake of new discoveries, for the sake of new hope, for countless millions of people who are alive today, who are suffering, for those who are born with diseases and conditions that could be ameliorated, even cured.
Translation: We can't make the progress that we need to make without breaking a few eggs. No pun intended.
This is a delicate balancing act. I recognize that and acknowledge it. I respect my friends on the other side of the aisle who come to the floor with grave doubts and concerns, but I think we have struck the right balance with the legislation we will vote on this afternoon.
Balancing act indeed.


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You seem to imply that Christopher and Dana Reeve are in hell. What on earth makes you think this? Isn't God the only judge of who goes to heaven and who goes to hell? Despite the fact that they supported stem cell research Christopher and Dana Reeeve seemed like very fine, upstanding people to me. I actually agree with many of the points you made in this post, but I find it a bit arrogant that you claim to know whether or not Chris and Dana Reeve are in heaven!

Tom & Carrie Herring said...

"You seem to imply that Christopher and Dana Reeve are in hell. What on earth makes you think this?"

First of all, let's recap.

Clinton said, "I know that both of them are looking down upon this debate and so pleased and relieved that this day has come."

And I asked, "How does Mz. Clinton know they're 'looking down'? I suspect they might be looking up. But who knows."

Now, to be sure, none of us really knows where the Reeves are at. The good Senator claims she "knows" where they are, and I say I "suspect" where they might be. Set aside for a moment, the "where," and look at it from the degree of certainty alone.

You are angry with me for suspecting where they are, but content with Clinton "knowing" where they are.

An interesting observation in itself.

Now for the "where."

Clinton says heaven, no questions asked. I ask questions, and suspect hell. I'm not saying they're in hell. But I'm saying it's possible. Especially when we consider their passion for the grave, intrinsic moral evil of embryonic stem cell research.

There are two get-out-of-jail-free cards for all of us. Repentance and ignorance.

I don't recall ever hearing Christopher recant his zeal for destroying human embryos. I could very well be wrong on this, and he may have done so without ever making it known. (For instance, moments before death.) This is always a possibility, and one we should always hope for.

Ignorance, according to Augustine is the 8th sacrament and one which saves countless souls. But I'm not sure the Reeves were entirely ignorant of the fact that they advocated for the destruction of innocent human life.

It's one of those things that get's brought up in a debate. As a matter of fact, it's the only reason there's any debate at all.

So I hope they were ignorant, that their consciences were clean. I really do. But I have this nagging feeling in my gut...

"I actually agree with many of the points you made in this post"

Glad to hear it. I hope this one comment doesn't trouble you so much that you lose sight of my main points and all those things we agree on.

"but I find it a bit arrogant that you claim to know whether or not Chris and Dana Reeve are in heaven!"

Again, we're back to the knowing vs. suspecting. I have my suspicions -- suspicions I would not have verbalized had Clinton not claimed to *know* where the Reeves ended up.

Yet it's suspicion that troubles you, whereas "knowing" where they are gets a pass.

Anonymous said...

I have been a follower of you blog for a long time, though I've never posted a comment. Like the other anonymous comment I agree everything that you say about stem cell research, but I wonder whether the comment about Mr. and Mrs. Reeve was a prudent choice. I agree with you the Senator Clinton's statement implying that the Reeves are unquestionably in Heaven was arrogant, uncalled for, and a cheap trick to score points and influence people. That being said I see you stating what you "suspect" in almost the same light. I realize that the degree of certainty is clearly different, but I'm sure you also know that suspicion often carries as much weight as certainty, especially when that suspicion is stated by a respected person for public consumption. For example if an innocent person is suspected of a crime, even after their proven innocent their reputation and credibility are damaged.

As I stated before, I follow your blog pretty closely. I don't do this because I enjoy your often times arrogant and insulting comentary, but because the issues you raise make me think. I'd go as far to say they make many people think about issues and question the status quo. On that hand I think you do people a great service. On the other hand the points you try to make get buried under snide and insulting commentary that ultimately weakens your credibility.

I know that this comment probably wont change anything, but as someone who thinks some of the things you have to say are important to hear and consider, I offer this suggestion.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your blog.

Tom & Carrie Herring said...

"I have been a follower of you blog for a long time, though I've never posted a comment."

Well, thanks for reading. :)

"Like the other anonymous comment I agree everything that you say about stem cell research, but I wonder whether the comment about Mr. and Mrs. Reeve was a prudent choice."

Okay. I'm listening.

"I agree with you the Senator Clinton's statement implying that the Reeves are unquestionably in Heaven was arrogant, uncalled for, and a cheap trick to score points and influence people. That being said I see you stating what you "suspect" in almost the same light."

Here's the thing, Anonymous. Let's say I hadn't said anything about where the Reeves might be. I just left Clinton's words alone. Do you think you would have posted a comment about how "arrogant and uncalled for" it was of her to do that? Would you have even thought it? Do you think another anonymous person would have been shocked at Clinton's words? Enough to voice his/her opinion?

My point is this: I think there is a great double standard going on here. Someone can make the blanket statement, "I *know* Christopher is in _____." And we're okay with that statement so long as our "knowledge" is that they're in heaven. But if someone raises his hand to say, "Hey...wait a minute. Has this guy been canonized? Didn't he push for the killing of innocent human beings? Who are we to say for certain he ever made it to heaven?" Anonymous readers get offended.

Again, I'm not claiming to *know* anything. Clinton makes that claim. I don't. I'm only pointing out the fact that not everybody makes it to heaven. And I'm trying to highlight the danger in assuming people are in heaven "looking down on us" when the reality is, we don't have a clue what we're talking about.

Consider it this way. Reeve is in one of two places. Which, to you, is the greater offense: Christopher Reeve is heaven, and someone suggests the real chance he might be in hell; or, Christopher Reeve is in hell, and someone assures us that he's in heaven?

I would submit that, even if he's in heaven, the first isn't an offense at all (assuming we aren't wishing anyone is in hell, of course), while the second is a terrible blunder that has the potential of endangering more souls to hell. If it is true that Reeve is in hell (a regrettable thought, but a real possibility all the same) then Clinton's promise is more than just optimism, and her sort of thinking leads us to presume eternal life when there is no reason to do so.

We.simply.don't.know.

We can pray they're in heaven. We should pray for all souls who die. But that's not a short step from declaring their arrival. And in light of the terrible cause to which the Reeves dedicated their lives, *IF* we are to make stabbing guesses (which Clinton is only too happy to do), I would guess not heaven.

The whole reason I inserted the comment about them "looking up" was to remind us that all this talk about everyone "looking down" on us once they've passed away is not just a popular pleasantry or a benevolent thought. It is the sin of presumption. Presuming salvation is just as evil as despairing of it. There's not a whole lot of the latter going on these days, but Hillary Clinton's statement (so often heard about anyone who has ever died) is a sign of a society which has lost any semblance of the reality of sin, of hell, or fear of the Lord. A fear which is not only listed among the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but in the words of the Psalmist is "the begining of wisdom."

Should we be terrified of God? Of course not. But we should respect him. And we should take his warnings seriously (cf., Matthew 5:22, Matthew 5:29, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 18:8-9, Matthew 23:15, Matthew 23:33, Mark 9:47-48, Lk 10:15, Lk 12:4-5, Mt 13:41-42, etc.); all of which can be summed up by Matthew 7:13-14, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few."

We should not dismiss the warnings of hell, twisting Our Lord's words around to presume the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to heaven, and those who enter through it are many. Because that's not what he said at all.

That's really all I'm trying to remind readers of.

"As I stated before, I follow your blog pretty closely."

Thanks! That means a lot to me.

"I don't do this because I enjoy your often times arrogant and insulting comentary,"

Hmm. No thanks?

"but because the issues you raise make me think."

Well, that's two positives and one negative. I'll take it! :)

"I'd go as far to say they make many people think about issues and question the status quo. On that hand I think you do people a great service. On the other hand the points you try to make get buried under snide and insulting commentary that ultimately weakens your credibility."

Look, I appreciate the advise. I really do. And I'm not claiming to have never made a mistake, or a misjudgement on how best to word something. I know I've been too deriding in the past. But I find that sarcasm, and a well-placed jab can go a long way towards making a point. Especially when we're talking about serious issues, like killing human beings, and what effects such a mentality has on the soul. I mock Clinton not because she's a Democrat. Not because we probably differ on things like the death penalty; but because she advocates for killing babies whose only crime was they were never born. This reasoning is tantamount to that of the Nazi's who advocated killing folks whose only crime was they were not gentile. It's madness. Our country is mad.

But we've grown so passive, so PC, so lukewarm and appeasing about *everything* (embryonic stem cell research, the reality of Hell, IVF, contraception, abortion, sodomy, divorce, pornography, materialism, relativism, you-name-it) that it's tough to wake someone up to the ideological-cesspool we're swimming in *without* a little provocation like, "How does Mz. Clinton know they're "looking down"? I suspect they might be looking up. But who knows."

"I know that this comment probably wont change anything, but as someone who thinks some of the things you have to say are important to hear and consider, I offer this suggestion. Thanks for reading and thanks for your blog."

Thank you, Anonymous for your comments. I hope you do keep reading, and I hope you're able to take my sarcasm with a grain of salt, even if you disagree with or don't understand it. Your comments are, as you know, always welcome.