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By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

Cloning Raises Many Questions

Q U I C K S C A N

Do Cloned Babies Have Souls?
Investing Ethically
Why No Bells at Mass?
Can Flags Be Displayed in Church?


Do Cloned Babies Have Souls?

Q: The Roman Catholic Church says that a soul is present in a new human being once the moment of conception occurs, when nuclei from the sperm and ovum fuse. In the case of cloning, however, there is no conception because the new human grows from a single cell.

Does this new human have a soul? If so, how does this happen? If not, is this new creature really human?

A: Your question is currently hypothetical because there is no evidence that it is possible to clone a human being.  Although human tissue has been cloned and animals have been cloned, it is uncertain that a person can be cloned, that God's careful handiwork can be duplicated apart from using sperm and egg.

If a new creature appears to be human and is generally regarded as human, we can only assume that he or she is human because a human soul is already present. The Church opposes the cloning of humans because this is the creation of human life apart from the family unit, apart from a clear sense of who is responsible for caring for this person.

On December 28, 2002, the Raelian organization claimed that it had helped a cloned baby to be born two days earlier. Later they claimed two more cloned babies had been born. No proof has been offered for any of these claims and scientists are extremely skeptical—partly because the Raelians have no previous experience in scientific research. Their claim that human life on earth is cloned from extraterrestial beings raises further doubts about their credibility.

We must presume that any child recognizable as a human being has a human soul. How that happens with cloning is no more difficult to explain than for a child conceived naturally or through in vitro fertilization, which the Catholic Church opposes. After all, sperm and egg do not each contribute half a soul to form a baby's soul. Only God creates souls.

Investing Ethically

Q: Several years ago, our family put most of its savings in mutual funds. Most funds keep holdings in diverse categories of business, including small percentages in biotechnology, health care and/or pharmaceuticals that may, and some must, manufacture products for abortion or human cloning, both of which are gravely immoral.

It seems nearly impossible to identify and track products in which mutual funds have been invested since they constantly buy and sell shares in companies.

I do not want in any way to cooperate in abortion or human cloning. I am at a loss regarding my obligation because there is nothing else in which one can invest without some unintended or remote cooperation.

If I invest in certificates of deposit or simply have a bank account, I have no control over how my money is used. The bank might loan money to someone getting an abortion or they might loan money for abortion clinics. That seems to be the same unintended, remote cooperation in evil as if I invested in mutual funds. I have a dilemma!

What is my moral obligation in this situation?

A: In cases like these, Catholic theology asks what a reasonable person would conclude about the decision in question. Without such a standard, all followers of Jesus might become hermits to avoid any "cooperation in evil."

Because other ethically concerned investors share concerns similar to yours, they have organized the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (475 Riverside Drive, Room 550, New York, NY 10115).

At www.ResponsibleShopper.org, consumers can find out where some of the largest consumer product companies stand on labor, environmental, civil- and human-rights issues. This site also allows visitors to send e-mail letters to companies, letting them know how their practices cause people to patronize or avoid them. This Web site is part of a much larger consumers' action group, the Responsible Shopper Initiative.

Two investment groups that address these issues are Ave Maria Catholic Values Fund (managed by Schwartz Investment Counsel) and Aquinas Funds (managed by Aquinas Investment Advisors). I am not promoting either fund, simply pointing out that you are not alone in asking questions about ethical investments.

To those who say the connection between individual investor and larger social injustice or evil is too remote or that stockholders cannot influence a company's policies, consider that economic pressure on South Africa's apartheid government helped bring fundamental changes there, including extending the vote to the vast majority of that country's citizens.

Celebrities with their own line of clothing, well-known shoe manufacturers and producers of apparel displaying college logos have made significant changes because they have been challenged about inhumane working conditions where these products are made.

An ethically responsible person cannot say, "That's fine but it's moral nitpicking. This is business." The Good News of Jesus Christ does not allow for compartmentalizing one's life that way.

On the other hand, an ethically responsible person cannot allow himself/ herself to be constantly tied up in knots about the same moral issues. Some decision must be made—one that could be defended before God if necessary.

The fact that you raise this question indicates that you are trying to live in a morally responsible way. I encourage you to wrestle with this situation until you have the information and courage necessary to make a good moral judgment.

Why No Bells at Mass?

Q: My parish's liturgy committee has been discussing the use of bells during the eucharistic prayer. Can you give me any information on why bells are not used in many churches today?

A: They are not required. The original reasons for using them (Mass in Latin, no microphone at the altar and a priest with his back to the people) have largely disappeared. Today we have Mass in the local language and the priest facing the people. Most parishes have microphones on the altar or portable microphones.

When I learned how to be an altar server in the 1950s, ringing the bells helped people to focus on the start of the Offertory, the Holy, Holy, the consecration of the bread and wine and preparations for distributing Holy Communion.

Responding to Vatican II's emphasis on "full and active participation" in the Eucharist, people today have numerous visual and auditory clues, plus the availability of personal missals or worship aids, about each part of the Mass.

Now that I think of it, for all the Masses that I attended at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome when I lived there during the 1980s and 1990s, I cannot remember that bells were ever used during the pope's Mass.

Can Flags Be Displayed in Church?

Q: What is the Catholic Church's position on displaying the American flag in the sanctuary on a permanent basis? Is it O.K. to display it elsewhere in church? I have gotten different answers from Catholics whom I've consulted.

A: Believe it or not, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (fourth edition, 1975) does not address this issue. It speaks of other furnishings in the sanctuary but does not mention flags. The Code of Canon Law does not address this practice, either.

Many Catholic parishes that displayed both the U.S. and the papal flag in the sanctuary quietly removed them during renovations or the construction of new buildings. The reason is that sanctuaries can easily become overloaded with symbols: altar, cross, lectern for reading Scripture and the presider's chair—all of which are called for in the General Instruction. And the tabernacle may be in the sanctuary.

The local bishop has the right to issue regulations on an issue such as flags. Most bishops discourage the permanent placement of flags in sanctuaries but allow their occasional use on special days (Memorial Day, Fourth of July or Thanksgiving, for example). The flag can be permanently placed outside the sanctuary or in the church's vestibule, especially near a book of prayer requests.

Catholics who are American citizens are proud of their country, but they also remember that, as the Pledge of Allegiance says, ours is "one nation, under God...."


If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

 

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