Catholic Church has done itself no favours

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 October, 2010, 12:00am

The supposed battle between the Catholic Church and Science has long provided material for fiction and blockbuster films. But the Catholic Church does little to help itself from providing further material for such conspiracy theories when it appears to oppose scientific breakthroughs. Earlier this week, Britain's Robert Edwards, who pioneered in-vitro fertilisation and has since helped millions of infertile couples start a family, was awarded the Nobel prize for medicine, a recognition of research that took almost 30 years to come to fruition. However, despite the medical breakthrough to treat infertility and allow millions more join in the celebration of life, the Vatican seems to be irked by the decision. Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said the choice of Edwards was 'completely out of order'.

Monsignor Carrasco was supported by a statement by the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations which was released by the Holy See's Press Office. The catholic doctors noted that it was Edward's research which has brought about embryonic stem-cell research, which the Catholic Church also opposes. Embryonic stem-cell research makes use of embryos left over from in-vitro fertilisation. During the fertilisation process, several eggs are fertilised but only a few are selected for implantation in the mother. The remainder are destroyed.

Scientific discovery, by definition, will always bring about new moral and ethical dilemmas. The Church has always contributed to such ethical debates and this is welcome. But to blame Edwards for bringing about new moral dilemmas is akin to blaming Alexander Fleming, who also won a Nobel for his work on Penicillin, for the over-prescription of antibiotics. Scientific discoveries and medical breakthroughs should always be welcomed because they open gates to new possibilities in medicine and other advancements which could alleviate poverty and other pressing concerns affecting the world. It is how we harness new powers and use them responsibly that deserves constant scrutiny.