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Author Topic: When Does Life Begin?  (Read 1872 times) Average Rating: 0
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Jennifer
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« on: February 13, 2004, 07:11:03 PM »

I know the Catholic and Orthodox formal positions on when life begins but I'm curious as to the justifications for the "life begins at conception" idea.  We read something in my bioethics class about different ideas about when life begins.  I trust the Church's judgment and can see practical justifications for believing that life begins at conception.  

With that said, however, I'm a little confused.  My understanding is that historically abortion was forbidden after quickening (when the mother can feel the baby move in her womb).  However, historically we had a flawed understanding of pregnancy.  People from the past didn't have ultrasounds.  They didn't know the biological process.  

Also I've read that we think that only about 20% of pregnancies are carried to term.  Supposedly about 50% of pregnancies never make it past the first month meaning that women miscarry all of the time without even knowing that they're pregnant.  

I suppose that if life begins at conception then technically embryos are considered human.  Given that I'm confused over what written on another thread about how some Orthodox priests allow infertile couples to use IVF.  

I've seen the 30 million abortions figure but I wonder if anyone has any idea how many embryos have been "discarded" (technical term)?  

Maybe this should be in the "free for all" section.
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Anastasios
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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2004, 07:34:05 PM »

At SVS we discussed this issue in our dogmatics class. It was pretty clear that the Orthodox teaching is that life begins at conception because that is when a new entity is created.  That being the case, embryos are most definitely human life.

That some Orthodox priests would allow IVF is just shocking.  I suppose it is conceivable that the assumption is that one could either 1) limit the number of embryos created or 2) the couple agreed to carry all embryos created to term (but I hear sometimes it's 20 or so!).  So IVF just doesn't sound good.

anastasios
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Jennifer
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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2004, 08:06:49 PM »

Like I wrote, I can see pragmatic reasons for asserting that life begins at conception.  

Two things trouble me, however.  First, there's a short window after conception where the embryo (don't know the scientific terms) can split into identical twins.  Second, do all of the miscarried zygotes (again don't remember the scientific terms) have souls?  If they're going to split into identical twins, do they have two souls?  What if the zygote would split into identical twins but the mother miscarries, are there two souls?  Regardless of the identical twin issue, if there is a miscarriage immediately after fertilization, is there a soul?  

Supposedly many of the miscarriages come about because there's something wrong with the baby.  Like if the child was carried to term it would have a genetic abnormality.  But nature essentially takes care of the problem by causing a miscarriage.  If "nature" decides that a "baby" is "flawed" and so causes a miscarriage, does it have a soul?  

I've seen film of the fertilization of an egg in a petrie dish.  Does God "implant" a soul at that time?  

Is a zygote really a new entity?  

BTW, none of these "questions" can be used to justify abortion.  I'm talking about a time in the pregnancy when a woman wouldn't even be aware she's pregnant so couldn't seek out an abortion.
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Anastasios
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« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2004, 10:20:36 PM »

Jennifer,

In all of the above cases, a soul is created when the sperm and the egg come into contact.  In the case of the splitting and reuniting of a zygote, I believe the answer is that God knows what the ultimate outcome will be and provides the souls as such.

I also believe all the embryoes in cold storage are humans with souls.

anastasios
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« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2004, 11:46:39 PM »

Jennifer,

I also believe all the embryoes in cold storage are humans with souls.

anastasios

I agree and their disposition is highly problematic.  I can't speak for my Church (RCC) because I am a layman and I am no moral theologian but I opine that the RCC would not support morally the understandable suggestion to "adopt" these embryos--i.e., in utero transfer to a prepared human uterus--a volunteer mom to be.

I don't think Orthodoxy would support it either but I leave that to others.

So what should the disposition be?  This will sound cruel but they should pull the plug on the refrigerators (cryogenic units) and let these unfortunate souls die a natural death.  I believe the RCC would support this admittedly tragic option.  According to the RCC heroic measures to sustain life are not mandatory when that life has no chance of recovering.  I perceive that these embryos are essentially in this position.

Again, I'm speaking for myself--my impression on what the RCC might approve--and not authoritatively as representing the RCC.

Jim C.
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Anastasios
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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2004, 12:07:34 AM »

Actually there are Catholic groups who facilitate embryo adoption.

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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2004, 11:51:10 AM »

If I were married, and we were having trouble conceiving, I would certainly mention embryo adoption to my wife. I can't imagine a more Catholic answer to the problem of embryos in cold storage, waiting to have their stem cells harvested. Sad
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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2004, 03:12:18 PM »

Actually there are Catholic groups who facilitate embryo adoption.

anastasios

I may be opening my big mouth and getting myself in trouble but I frankly doubt that these are Catholic groups in the true sense of the word . . . i.e., supported by Catholic bishops acting in union with Rome and in accord with Catholic moral teachings.

If you know of any of these groups please post their names and web sites.



If I were married, and we were having trouble conceiving, I would certainly mention embryo adoption to my wife. I can't imagine a more Catholic answer to the problem of embryos in cold storage, waiting to have their stem cells harvested. Sad

See above reply.  The RCC only supports natural methods of conception to the best of my knowledge.  Implanting a  previously cryogenically frozen embryo in a female womb is no different from in vitro fertilization followed by immediate attempts at transplantation.  The RCC condemns this method of reproduction unequivocably.  There are no legitimate circumstances in which the RCC approves of this happening to the best of my knowledge.

The fact that there are thousands of frozen embryos in storage is an enormous moral problem caused by sin on a large scale by people who have sinned even with the best of intentions.  No couple has a RIGHT to bring a baby in the world.  Children are a gift from God, not a right . . . although I doubt that modern thinking would agree with this statement.

Again, this is my own opinion but I believe I have correctly stated the RCC's position even if I'm not an expert on moral theology.  The only method of conception that the RCC approves is sexual intercourse between husband and wife.

Jim


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Jennifer
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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2004, 04:41:52 PM »

I too am RC.  IMHO if (artificial methods of) birth control cannot be separated from feminism then feminism is pejorative.  However, feminism may not necessarily by definition be linked with forbidden methods of birth control.  I just can't tell myself.  I surmise the answer is based upon the life and lifestyle of individual feminists, individual by individual.  When someone tells me that he/she is a feminist (some men are too!), I’m not always sure what to think.  It depends upon the individual woman (or man!).


Feminism is about equality and equality must include a way to regulate reproductive function.  

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If you are not in favor of artificial means of birth control, then you are not a liberal in my opinion. Then again, this is my opinion only; certainly nobody is bound by my opinion (except me!).

It's not that I am opposed to artificial birth control but rather that I am obedient to the Church.  

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But you do have control over your reproductive functions!  You can choose to have sex or not to have sex without regard to the impulses men and women experience in this life, in this sex-drenched society, and even with our being burdened by the concupiscence of the flesh.

That's been the choice I've made.  But that also means I've made the choice not to marry, at least for now.  

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The Church does have an answer.  Stay single.  Being single does not necessarily mean being called to the monastic life.  

Actually my choice to stay single isn't the Church's answer to my problem.  The Church (and I don't mean the Church in its official function but its reality) is not welcoming of single people, especially single women.  

And I don't necessarily agree that I've been 'called' never to have children.  It's just that I feel like that's the choice I've been given by the Church, lots of children or no children.  

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Yeah, the "stay single" recommendation seems patently oversimplified for a clerical celibate to recommend.  But no one--man or women--according to Church teachings may ever engage in sexual intercourse outside of marriage.

I haven't been told to "stay single" by any priest.  

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If you want to say, for example, that men have it easy, that they marry, have sex, and still put their careers in first place, then you would likely be correct.  They traditionally don't catch the "hell" they should get for doing so yet a woman in the same position is condemned for this behavior.

I don't think women are "condemned" for wanting to have it all.  It's just not possible.  Most Catholic women simply ignore the Church's teaching on birth control because they know it doesn't fit into the reality of their lives.  

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Well the world is changing and not for the better.  Women are increasingly able to pull this off like the men have done.  And unfortunately they are starting to act more like men!

Women have always been more than a womb.  It's just that male society never recognized that reality.  

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Careerism is a mortal sin under many circumstances.  So is the indulgence of materialistic consumerism.  My pastor once complained from the ambo that many parents care more about buying their next large-sized, expensive, SUV than putting their children in a Catholic School.  Or a larger house or a high status, high paying job, etc.  He of course is right on . . . except I must sadly state that some of the religious education in Catholic schools is sadly lacking nowadays.

Careerism doens't necessarily equal consumerism.  Men and women are more than gamete contributors.  Women are more than wombs.  Recognizing this fact doesn't equal "careerism."  

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BTW, I'm not saying that if you work at a career, then you shouldn't marry.  My wife works.  In fact, if I croaked today, my wife would be able to support our children and still get them to adult life.  It cuts down on the need for expensive life insurance and frankly is an emotional comfort to me given the worry wart that I am!  We live below our means and are not in any debt other than a mortgage which is about to go away.  Is it because we make a lot of money?  W do well because we are both college educated and professionals.  No, we do it because we do not believe in consumer debt whatsoever.  We are not into high status or living beyond our means.  Yes, we are doing better now than when we first married but we act financially pretty much the same way as when we were first married.  

Yet we have NEVER neglect our children and we don't spoil them like so many of their friends are spoiled.  Yet it is still a lot of hard work.  My wife stayed home when our children were real young--yes women have to do this more than men.  Why?  Well you may not like this statement, but the umbilical chord doesn't really separate from the baby at work.

Why wouldn't I like that statement?  I also don't think that a mother who works is 'neglecting' her children.  

I think most women are fundamentally unsatisfied by the role assigned to them by society.  We're told that becoming a mother is supposed to fulfill us but it doesn't.  Does being a father fulfill all of your needs?  People, men and women, are intellectual beings.  

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Motherhood is the lot of women, not men.  Yes, men could do a lot better.  But most of the secular feminists refuse to acknowledge this role of women and in it's most extreme rejection of this role--pathological man hatred and lesbianism--we have big trouble for society.

I'd say that pathological male hatred and lesbianism are not caused by secular feminism but rather by male behavior.  I've read that most lesbians were sexually molested as children.  Other lesbians say that their choice is 'political,' e.g. a rejection of the patriarchial heirarchy in the 'typical' family.  

Two out of every 5 women will be the victim of sexual violence at some point in their lives.  

The surprising thing is that most women don't hate men.  Really, more of us should.  That would be a rational response to the way most of us have been treated.  

I've known a few decent men but most (I apologize for generalizing) are real jerks.  I blame society for male 'jerk-ness.'  

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I’m not saying that men too cause much of this trouble in our society.

Men are the ones with control.  

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Birth control is right or wrong based upon objective criteria.  For example, adultery is always wrong.  There can be no equivocation about it although concrete circumstances may mitigate the spiritual crime of adultery, e.g., the maturity of the offender, undue influence, poor catechesis, etc..

My parents used artificial birth control and still had four children.  Most other Catholic couples I know use birth control.  I don't think it's led to some kind of 'evil' in their relationships.  I see the Church's argument about the slippery slope and the "contraceptive" culture.  

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That's why the Lord Jesus Christ ONLY is the Judge (with a capital "J") and not us.  Even if these guys (the hierarchs) are a bunch of ignorant or prejudiced men, if what they are saying comes from God, then that is what's important.

Female opinions on this issue are fundamentally different from male opinions.  And I don't think that God has intended for women to be 'chained' to their reproductive functions.  

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 Yes, I know that these words and concepts are not of much comfort to anyone, man or woman, in this miserable life in which we live.I understand and agree to a certain extent what you have just stated above.  Nevertheless, no matter how fulfilled a man may be in reaching his career ambitions, if it hurts his family then he has not done God's will for his life and the life of his family.  Same with a mom.  Besides, marriage and sex represent a sacrifice pure and simple (well, maybe not simple!) even in the happiest and holiest of marriages.

We're not talking about career fulfillment.  That's as much as myth as 'the cult of motherhood.'  
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gregory2
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2004, 07:20:18 PM »

The Orthodox Church tradition teaches that life begins at conception.  Two days come to mind that celebrate the conception of life (there may be more, I don't know):

(1) The Conception of the Holy Mother of God by Saint Anna (Dec 9), and
(2) The Conception of the Venerable Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John (Sep 23)

And of course, there's the Annuniation (Mar 25), but this is different in that it wasn't a conception in the sense we use every day.  Some words from the troparion for the Feast of the Annunciation are "Rejoice, O Full of Grace, The Lord is with You!".....  so I'm pretty sure that we'd believe that Christ was alive in His Mother from the day of the Annunciation.

It seems to me that to be an Orthodox Christian you MUST believe that life begins at conception..... there really are no 2 ways about it!   Smiley
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