There seems to be something of a debate starting on the letters pages of the Irish Times on the subject of stem cell research and embryo destruction. I've sent in the following contribution:
Fr. Seamus Murphy SJ (Letters, Friday June 29) makes some valid points in his opposition to Kieth Lockiche’s support of embryonic stem cell research and the destruction of human embryos, particularly on the philosophical distinction between potential and actual.
However, his arguments would have far more credence if the dogma he defends, that of the Catholic Church, allowed that there were some circumstances where embryo destruction was justified. I refer, of course, to abortion. It is widely held in this country now that pregnancy termination is desirable where it is required to save the life of the mother. However, it was the Irish people who decided this, in the teeth of vigorous opposition by the Catholic Church. Even now it is the Church’s position that abortion is wrong in all circumstances. It is of particular interest to read in Fr. Murphy’s letter that the Church’s “contemporary clarity in its defence of the human embryo” takes into account discoveries in the 1830s. This was small comfort indeed to the unfortunate women and their families in this country who, as late as the 1970s, were forced to watch the mother die, most often in extreme pain, in order to conform to the Church’s ideas of what was right in this regard.
All of this is only explicable by reference to belief in the immortal soul, as Kieth Lockitch has asserted. Those of us who perceive the need for a debate on abortion and stem cell research, but who have no need of a supernatural being to account for our origins or of an immortal soul to influence our behaviour, have a right to insist that it should be carried out without those transcendental entities lurking in the background.