I just finished reading this article on Slate magazine about the recent discussion by Catholics and Jews about The Global State of Stem Cells & Cloning in Science, Ethics & Law. If you've ever heard a person scoff at bioethics proponents as being simple theologians who are ignorant and/or afraid of Science, this article is the perfect counterexample. Almost half of the Catholic priests who attended were scientists. You could just imagine the author's bewilderment in this paragraph:
The first presenters, a couple of scientists, summarize the state of stem cell research. When they're done, a soft-spoken young priest in the front row raises his hand. "In a case of aneuploidy, it may be possible to laser ablate one or two of the blastomeres," he says. A priest in the back row asks about "aberrant silencing of the IGF and IGF2 receptor." I can hardly believe what I'm hearing. Afterward, I ask the first priest, Father Tad Pacholczyk, where he learned this stuff. Turns out he's got a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Yale, plus a research stint at Harvard Medical School and undergraduate degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology.
Wow. Anyway, the author of the article points out (on several occasions) something that I think is very important when it comes to understanding the Catholic opinions on biological research. It is that Catholics have clear, concrete, non-random definitions (made even more concrete by recent scientific studies) on important ideas that virtually everybody else is fuzzy about. For example, Catholics believe that we "become human" (i.e. start enjoying human rights) at the moment of conception (i.e. the moment the sperm fertilizes the egg); who else has such concrete beliefs on the matter? The truth is that everyone who wanted to oppose the Church's stand on abortion (and therefore, stem-cell research) had to invent their own ideas on when exactly is it murder and when is it just plain "tissue removal" because no one else had any such ideas, which makes the non-Catholic definitions nothing more than ad hoc, convenient, improvised philosophy.
This is the secret of Catholicism vs. Heresy, and why the Church has always resisted the Gates of Hell. Even before the heretic began to dissent, the Church already had an answer. There is no Satanic lie that She hasn't been prepared for. Yet the heretic blunders on with his alibis, like a delinquent child lying to his Mother.