Confession and Reconciliation

Biotechnology and the Givenness of the Good: Posing Properly the Moral Question Regarding Human Dignity

David L. Schindler

I.


(1) It is difficult to exaggerate the depth, subtlety, and comprehensiveness of the challenge presented to human culture in biotechnology/ bioethics today: in vitro fertilization; embryonic-pluripotent stem cell research; cloning; the nature and origin of gender/sexual difference. At stake is the integrity of the human being as born not manufactured and as naturally apt in his or her bodiliness for the expression of gift.

(2) Veritatis Splendor states that the problems now facing Christian morality not only involve specific teachings but reach to the very foundations and nature of the moral life. The problems have their origin in patterns of thought “which end by detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive relationship to truth” (n. 4). Paragraphs 46–50 discuss this detachment in terms of a division, or extrinsicism, between freedom and nature or, more precisely, between freedom and human nature in its bodiliness.

Thus the encyclical affirms “the unity of the human person, whose rational soul is per se et essentialiter the form of his body” (n. 48). Given this unity of body and soul, “the person, by the light of reason and the support of virtue, discovers in the body the anticipatory signs, the expression and the promise of the gift of self, in conformity with the wise plan of the Creator” (n. 48).