Historically man has been capable and often willing to massage an idea, a commandment of God or an obvious truth in order to advance his own agenda. Adam and Eve bit the apple due to a misunderstanding, or so they would have us believe were we to ask them. God’s simple command became confusing when interpreted by the serpent.
The same thing is still happening today. Tragically, in many cases, it occurs at the hands of the very people who know better but prefer to dabble in a little tinkering instead. For example, in 1995, Pope John Paul II presented the Catholic Church, and more specifically the pro-life movement, with the incredible teaching document, Evangelium Vitae. Upon reading it, some bishops, theological scholars, political opportunists and activists decided to misconstrue a single paragraph in that document. Section number 73, paragraph 3 was then, and continues to be, butchered, massaged, misrepresented and otherwise distorted in order to provide shelter for those among us who support abortion in some cases.
The Holy Father’s carefully nuanced statement expressing what an elected official “could” do if no other recourse existed other than casting a vote for a bill that would limit abortion seemed clear to us. But that language became a thorn in the side of sincere pro-life people. The reason, quite simply, is that while Pope John Paul II never gave anyone permission to authorize the killing of a preborn baby, those with political motives argued otherwise.
Regretfully it is happening again! The same dirty work is afoot regarding the language contained in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s clear teaching contained in Dignitas Personae. Once again there are those who are determined to create an opportunity to accept the unthinkable by distorting clear teaching.
Calling for an apology from the perpetrators in this case, Debi Vinnedge, founder of Children of God for Life, points out that she is among those who have praised the clear teaching contained in the document. However, she points out that where clarity once existed, some are creating mud.
The problem began with a brief in December 2010, May Researchers Use “Biological Material” Unjustly Obtained? (see http://culture-of-life.org//content/view/684/111/ ) in which Senior Fellow William E. May opined on Sections 34 and 35 of the Church directive.
Mr. May contended that Dignitas Personae provides “exceptions” allowing researchers to use “illicitly obtained biological materials.” However, a careful reading of the Church instruction states the complete opposite.
A second article appeared in ZENIT January 12, 2011 as a question that was answered by Mr. May, titled Using Vaccines Obtained From Intentionally Aborted Human Embryos—Further Clarification Needed for Parents, Researchers.
“Mr. May uses the same concluding arguments in both articles, citing Dignitas Personae, yet the two are completely different situations,” stated Ms. Vinnedge. “And in each one, he is misstating the facts.”
In both publications May cites from the writings by Christian Brugger, who opines that Dignitas Personae and the Pontifical Academy for Life’s, Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived from Aborted Human Fetuses do not provide sufficient guidelines for researchers using aborted fetal or embryonic cell lines.
Vinnedge has carefully analyzed the problematic nature of Professor May’s opinions and has concluded that a great deal of damage will occur because many Catholic researchers, understanding what Dignitas Personae actually says, have begun pursuing ethical alternatives in their cell research and vaccine development.
Vinnedge has responded to May’s article with an eight page dissertation, “Twisting the Truth in Dignitas Personae.” The document is replete with direct quotes from Catholic teaching and devoid of attempts to minimize or twist those quotes. Vinnedge sets the record straight.
It is time for those Catholics in responsible positions whose viewpoints are valued as credible to either cease efforts to twist words into contorted ideas that have no basis in fact or remove themselves from public discourse. Too much is at stake including, we dare say, the decision to either respect the human person or kill him.
Mucking up truth has deadly consequences.