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Excommunication for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

  /   Saturday July 01, 2006  

By now, if you’ve been reading a lot of Catholic publications online, you have probably heard that Cardinal Trujillo is proposing that excommunication be the penalty for embryonic stem cell research. After all, it is the killing of a defenseless unborn child, and it is often not recognized as such by society. The penalty will reinforce the horrible nature of the act.

Of course, it’s not hard to believe that the New York Times added some stuff in that isn’t quite accurate. Let’s take a look at this quote:

“If we’re defending the principle that human life should not be touched, it should not be done in a punitive, castigatory or burn-in-hell sort of way,” said Paola Binetti, a leading Catholic politician here.

Honestly, I’m not sure what Binetti means here. Strong sanctions are often necessary to convey the seriousness of one’s sin. In this case, the idea is to prevent burning in Hell. Excommunication is designed as a medicinal penalty to help drive home the need for repentance. This seems to be lost on our NYT writer, as evidenced by the quote below:

. . . many women who have had abortions continue to practice Catholicism, and many parishes take pains to embrace and reintegrate them into church life.

First off, if you look at the requirements for excommunication, it gives the impression that the penalty rarely applies. The list includes things like not having been pressured to do it and being aware of the penalty, among other things. I believe there is also a requirement that one be at least 18 years old, which eliminates scared teenagers entirely (though they can still be in the state of mortal sin).

However, there is a more important point that I alluded to earlier that has been missed. Excommunication is a medicinal penalty. This is why, as the above quote says, many parishes take pains to reach out to women who have had abortions. They darn well should. Excommunications sometimes require the Holy See itself to lift the penalty, but I don’t think this is the case for an abortion. The point is that the penalty can be lifted, and absolution can be given in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Women who have had abortions can come home again, and I, for one, hope they do. The same is true for those involved in embryonic stem cell research, and anyone who understands the Gospel will hope and pray for their repentance and return as well.

Category: Posts imported from Danger! Falling Brainwaves, Uncategorized

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