either human or not
The French bishops have caused a ruckus, the New York Times informs us, by raising questions about a popular telethon to benefit medical research. The sticking point is embryonic stem-cell research.
“For us, these embryos are not things, but human beings,” Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, told journalists on Tuesday.
Let's hope the cardinal is the victim of some awkward translation here. Because as it stands, his statement sends exactly the wrong message.
If the embryos are human beings, they are not just human "for us;" they are human, period. As I observed yesterday, the truths of natural law (and in this case of biology) do not apply only to Catholics. If they are true, they are equally true for everyone.
A human embryo is a human person. That either is or is not a fact. Either way, your opinion will not change the reality. The challenge for Catholics and other pro-lifers is to persuade others that they must face the facts. When they do, they will be unable to resist the evidence.
On the other hand, those who support the manipulation of human life are working to convince us all that the humanity of an unborn child is a matter of opinion. If we don't recognize the embryo as a person, then it isn't a person, they argue; if the mother doesn't want to have a baby, then the thing in her womb is not a child. These creatures are not human beings "for us," they would have us believe.
So to argue that a defenseless human is a person "for us" is to concede the main point. Every human being has innate dignity. To suggest that the person's dignity is important "for us" is to accept the notion that we assign value to the human life-- and thus to lose the argument before it begins.