Brennan warns of cost of embryos moral purity

Jesuit human rights advocate Fr Frank Brennan has said that an attitude of moral purity towards experimentation with embryos "will do nothing to command the respect or assent of lawmakers wanting to know the appropriate legal limits to impose."

Addressing the Federation of Parents and Friends Associations of Catholic Schools Queensland at Yeppoon on Saturday, Fr Brennan said that in the field of bioethics, the next national debate will be about the recommendations of the Lockhart review on stem cell research and experimentation on human embryos.

The review into human cloning and embryo research, chaired by the late John Lockhart, was delivered to the Minister for Ageing in December last year.

The review endorsed the overwhelming support it found from the general public and the medical and scientific communities for the continued use of adult and embryonic stem cells but rejected human cloning.

"Some church leaders are convinced that even the deliberate creation of excess embryos so as to assist an infertile couple with IVF is morally wrong," Fr Brennan said. "But even they would need to admit that the conscience of the nation is not with them on that."

He asserted that everybody knows couples who have undergone IVF "with a desire and deep respect for human life."

"Many of them deny doctors the right to experiment on their excess embryos. They agree to the creation of sufficient embryos for the doctors to be able to choose a suitable embryo for implantation," he said.

Fr Brennan said that if the Catholic view "will not permit even the creation of embryos in these circumstances", then the moral purity of the view will fail to command the respect or assent of lawmakers seeking "the appropriate legal limits to impose on citizens of all faiths and none."

"There are many issues in our lives today which are so complex that they do not permit of simplistic assertions by church leaders insufficiently engaged with people's experiences," he said.

Calling for more nuanced Catholic view on social issues, Fr Brennan also took aim at Sydney Cardinal George Pell's recent comments about global warming as "a symptom of pagan emptiness."

"This is all very well for a Cardinal breathing the clean air of Sydney," Fr Brennan said. "It came as no surprise to me to learn that Fr Warren Kinne wrote [in The Tablet] a very strong rebuke from his Shanghai apartment where the carbon monoxide emissions are infecting the lungs of believers and secularists indiscriminately."

"There are times when I think church leaders like Cardinal Pell do a superb job in presenting the Catholic view to the world," he said, "but there are occasions when we must be able to disagree respectfully and publicly."

Frank Brennan SJ: Let's Educate Self Determining Authentic Students who Think and Act in a Catholic Way (2006 Jack Woodward Memorial Lecture, to Federation of Parents and Friends Associations of Catholic Schools Queensland, Yeppoon 3/6/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Queensland Catholic Education Commission
Federation of P&F Associations
Schools + Parents (Queensland Government)

Brennan foreshadows lower minimum wage (CathNews 2/5/06)
Brennan castigates public for complicity in kickbacks (CathNews 3/3/06)
Church 'regret' at embryo cloning approval (CathNews 22/12/05)
Church reacts to embryo cloning advance (CathNews 20/12/05)
Too early to judge embryo-friendly stem-cell advance (CathNews 18/10/05)
Catholic ethicists oppose cell research fasttrack (CathNews 30/9/05)
Pell calls for stem cell research ban (CathNews 21/9/05)
Pell announces new grant for adult stem cell research (CathNews 26/7/05)
Cardinal Pell hails stem cell discovery (CathNews 22/3/05)
Sydney Archdiocese announces Church funding for adult stem cell research (CathNews 26/3/03)

6 Jun 2006