Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 21, 1934 when Father James J. Kane offered Madison's first Mass in Madison's Memorial Town Hall.
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey
Q. How is it that suddenly a series of topics that rightly belongs to Catholic moral doctrine are being labeled "social issues" and are being discussed as political topics? What competency do politicians have regarding, for example, tubal ligations, or embryonic transfers, or contraception, or, most important, abortion? I am also angry with comedians who suggest that Catholic moral teachings ignore what is reasonable. What is going on with all these absurd claims?

A. Complaints are certainly justified in the way Catholic doctrine and theology, especially in bioethical issues, are being discussed by the secular media and entertainment figures today. And as for the charge that Catholic bioethics ignores reason, many who control the flow of information just haven’t taken the time or the energy to comprehend the Church’s sophisticated, magnificent, and perfectly consistent teachings. There is so much to learn today that too many in media positions are not really up to their responsibilities, or else they prefer to remain ignorant. It is as if they would rather not use their intellects; and, certainly, they also manifest contempt for the Sacred Scriptures as read within the Church.

The bottom line: the Church today is up against monumental ignorance or mindless disdain; and the situation grows worse with time – despite the enormous library of solid bioethical materials available to anyone who wants to know.

Regarding contraception: Pope John Paul II presented a lengthy catechesis on the "theology of the body," over an almost two-years series of instructions. Therein, John Paul explained at length that God has invested conjugal communion with two meanings that cannot be separated or tampered with by human beings without "playing God" themselves.

One dimension is unitive, or love-giving; the other, procreative, or life-giving. This theology is not only clear from the Bible as read within the Church, but also from reason. How is it not? The language of human sexuality is not man’s to change without challenging God’s plan.

As for embryonic experimentation, it clearly violates human dignity in that it involves manipulation of a human being, who is then subjected to being used as if he or she were an it and not a Thou (to use the idiom popularized by the great Jewish existentialist, Martin Buber).

Indeed, the very concept of human dignity is being assailed today by materialists and secularists, who need to be reminded that when they dehumanize embryos, they are in effect dehumanizing themselves. Wasn’t this one of the principal pathways to the Nazi crematoria at places like Auschwitz? Of course it was.

Tubal ligation falls under the category of sterilization. The basic principle here – structured in the Sacred Scriptures and reason – is that sterilization, whether permanent or temporary, for men or for women, may not be used as a means of contraception. This is not to deny that procedures are permitted which induce sterility if and when (1) they are immediately directed toward the cure or diminution or prevention of a serious pathological condition, and such procedures are not directly contraceptive; and (2) the assumption being that a simple, corrective, medical intervention is not reasonably available. (See Medicine and Christian Morality, Thomas J. O’Donnell, 1991.)

Since medical procedures vary and are constantly being updated, the ethical principles cited above are often concretized in hospital "protocols."

In addressing the questions here, I have not even gone below the surface, as it were. What about bioethics and genetic studies? Or end-of-life decisions?

To look for solid answers among politicians makes no sense whatsoever.

Msgr. Liptak co-founded the Pope John Paul II Bioethics Center at Holy Apostles Seminary, Cromwell.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.