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THE DOCTOR AND THE PRIEST


 

by:

 

Dom Basilio Magno




A. The Church’s Teaching.

Doctor: Reverend Father, the Church condemns abortion, the killing of the unborn child. I wish to make it clear that you and I also condemn abortion.

Priest: Yes. With the Church I strongly condemn abortion. It is simply murder.

Doctor: Our discussion now, Father, is to comment on the fact that many think there are ways of family planning that are abortifacient and some that are not. And they base their arguments on when life begins.

Priest: If the egg is already a human being you may not destroy it; if it is a human being, to destroy it is abortion.

Doctor: Of course, Father, as you well know, all the family planning techniques are abortifacient. The only ones not abortifacient are the Catholic Church’s abstention and the use of condom and one or two more. But that is not our topic.

Our topic is when does life really begin so that destruction of it will be abortion or pure murder. If we settle this matter, we can easily judge which techniques are abortive and which are not.

Priest: That's right. Because life is precious and everything in our power must be exerted to care for it and protect it. For to destroy life in any of its stages is like offering human sacrifices as in pagan religions and can only come from the devil.

However, just because some techniques are not abortifacient does not mean they are allowed by the Church.

Doctor: You know, Father, we in the medical profession, with the help of science, are humbled by the fact that we have no way of proving when human life begins. We have the same problem with death. We don’t know at all when the soul has left the body. And so most of the time when organs are removed from donors for transplants, we quite suspect that the donor is really alive. The sad thing is that we proceed in removing the organ even if we are in a state of doubt.

Priest: Now, that is wrong. When there is doubt in matters of morality, as in this case, you must not act.

Doctor: Going back to our topic, Father… when does human life start?

Priest: We were taught that the fertilized egg is endowed with a human soul only during the implantation.

Doctor: Are you sure of this Father, because that is not the impression I got from the teachings of the Church.

Priest: Yes, I am sure. That’s what we learned in the seminary. Before the implantation, that fertilized egg is just like a bacterium or virus or an amoeba that can be destroyed.

Doctor: That is what your seminary professor taught you, but have you checked on your own if this is the true teaching of the Church?

Priest: They won’t teach you wrong things in the seminary. Besides, can you imagine me checking everything my teachers taught me?

Doctor: Of course, Father. But you know, I am sure you read and pray and we get wiser as we grow older. And you are acquainted with the recent statements of the Church. When you read, for instance, Humanae Vitae, don’t you check the doctrine you hold?

Priest: Well, I glance over these encyclicals and I think they say the same thing as my professor.

Doctor: That…

Priest: The soul is given to the fertilized egg during implantation.

Doctor: You know, Father, as a Catholic doctor, I have to read those same encyclicals because it affects so much our medical profession. And frankly, I don’t get it the way you get it. I don’t think that that’s the Church’s teaching.

Have you checked what the teaching of the FATHERS of the CHURCH is on this?

Priest: I am sure my professors did. I don’t read the FATHERS. I feel they are old-fashioned and their teachings are no longer pertinent today.

Doctor: But the FATHERS wrote about fallen human nature and that has not changed. And what they say jibes with the recent Papal documents; but their teachings are different from yours. I hope I am reading everybody right.

Priest: And what did you learn from them?


B. Implantation

Doctor: First, let us define implantation because I might be at fault here, Father. I might be misunderstanding your concepts.

Priest: Implantation is when the fertilized egg lodges on the wall of the womb.

Doctor: That’s how we also described it in medicine. Now you say, Father, that the fertilized egg is endowed with a human soul only when it is implanted in the womb.

Priest: Yes, and that’s what we were taught.

Doctor: You have to show me, Father, in what document the Church teaches that. Now, why can’t that fertilized egg have a soul three days or one second before implantation?

Priest: Because of the fact that it is in the womb that it is able to receive a soul.

Doctor: Let me put that question another way. What is so special about that womb that the human soul can only be given there and not before?

Priest: Well, this is God’s strange ways. We cannot understand His ways.

Doctor: Do you have any proof from Scriptures or otherwise showing that the fertilized egg is endowed with a soul only in the womb?

Priest: None that I know of. We take it by faith. Do you have any?

Doctor: None also, Father. Now, since we don’t have any proof, isn’t it possible for the fertilized egg to have a human soul one second or three days before implantation and we wouldn’t know it?

Priest: Yes, that’s possible. But I stand by my professor’s teaching that there is no life before implantation and therefore the egg, even if it is fertilized, can be destroyed before implantation and this is not abortion.

Doctor: Shouldn’t you check your professor’s teaching now, Father?

Priest: No, he has practically taught all our priests in our congregation and all our priests agree on this.


C. The Fertilized Egg.

Doctor: Be patient with me, Father. I am trying to find out why we don’t agree on what is the Church’s teaching considering that we are both Catholic and against abortion. Maybe it is in the definition of terms. At least we are agreed on the definition of implantation. Now, let us define fertilization.

Priest: Fertilization is when the egg or ovum is fertilized or pierced by the sperm.

Doctor: The whole medical profession will agree with you on that. Now where does fertilization occur?

Priest: If I recall my biology right, in the Fallopian tube.

Doctor: And it takes the fertilized egg three to four days to travel and lodge on the walls of the womb, i.e., three to four days before implantation. You didn’t think the egg was fertilized in the womb, did you Father?

Priest: Does it matter?

Doctor: Yes, Father. That could be the cause of our differences. If you thought that the egg is fertilized in the womb, then you are right, the fertilized egg receives the human soul only in the womb. But if the egg is fertilized in the Fallopian tube, it could receive the soul there and therefore is already a human being even before it reaches the womb… while still in the Fallopian tube.

Don’t you think that the egg receives the human soul because it is fertilized and not so much because it is in this or that place?

Priest: Even if the egg is fertilized in the Fallopian tube, the fertilized egg still has no soul. There is nothing human in it. It is just a blob, no different from a plankton. It is only when it reaches the womb that it receives the soul.

Doctor: But Father, in the womb, it is still a blob as it was in the Fallopian tube. There must be something special about that womb that it can give life while the Fallopian tube cannot.

Priest: Only God can give life and soul to that fertilized egg, not the womb.

Doctor: And when does God give that life?

Priest: When he sees that the fertilized egg is in the womb.

Doctor: I didn’t know that that’s how God does it. Where did you learn that? From where did you read it?

Priest: Our teacher in theology said so. Though I never read that in Scriptures or anywhere else. I really wonder where he got it.

Doctor: Science cannot prove or disprove when that fertilized egg has a soul. Shouldn’t we play safe and just assume that it is human the moment it is fertilized, because if we act otherwise, we could be guilty of abortion?

Priest: Our teachers were very sure, so do not fear. It’s safe. These are theologians, the best in the land. The fertilized egg in the Fallopian tube is just a tiny animal.

Doctor: The best theology, I was told, is written by those who most deeply conform their lives to God.


D. Ectopic Pregnancy.

Doctor: Father, have you heard of ectopic pregnancy?

Priest: I think I have an idea. I heard of a young wife who had this and the child died.

Doctor: That’s what usually happens. In this pregnancy the egg, as usual, is fertilized in the Fallopian tube but gets stuck there. So it is unable to roll down the womb. And this fertilized egg develops there into a baby, in one rare case, up to its full 9 months period. Father, that baby has a soul, yet it never reached the womb.

Priest: Of course, when it grows into a baby it will have a soul.

Doctor: When did it receive the human soul?

Priest: When it developed further in the Fallopian tube.

Doctor: Even without reaching the womb?

Priest: Yes.

Doctor: So it is possible for a fertilized egg to receive a human soul even while in the Fallopian tube.

Priest: If it is stuck there, yes.

Doctor: Or probably, the soul was already there from the very moment of fertilization.

Priest: Why do you keep on insisting on that?

Doctor: Because there is nothing in the Fallopian tube and there is nothing in the womb that could bestow a soul on that egg except the fact that it is fertilized.

Priest: That is very good common sense reasoning, doctor. But what I have said is the common opinion that must be accepted without questioning.

Doctor: Going back to ectopic pregnancy, you would not abort that baby, I am sure, even if it is stuck up there is the Fallopian tube.

Priest: Of course, that would be abortion, obviously.

Doctor: It is obvious because you clearly see a baby. But what if it is not obvious; it looks like a blob and that’s how it also looks in the womb, shouldn’t we just play safe and believe that that egg is endowed with a soul at the moment of fertilization and destruction of it, even one second after fertilization, is abortion?

Priest: Doctor, you worry too much. We are certain of our stand. We teach this to our thousands of students and in all our lectures and retreats. We write this in our columns in the newspaper.

By the way, don’t doctors remove the fetus in ectopic pregnancies to save the mother’s life? Isn’t that abortion?

Doctor: If the baby is alive, yes it is abortion.

Priest: Then the mother, if she is truly Christian must refuse abortion even if it endangers her life, “No love is greater than this, that one lays down his life for a friend.” And this is her child! She should not undergo operation unless it is proven that the fetus is dead.

E. The Annunciation, the Incarnation, Conception and Fertilization

 

Doctor: That was well said, Father. Now, our only basis in believing that the fertilized egg is a human being is taken from Scriptures, i.e., in the mysteries of the Annunciation, Incarnation and Conception.

Priest: I have never heard these mysteries used for this purpose.

Doctor: It seems that Scriptures use the words Incarnation and Conception to refer to fertilization.

Priest: Were the ancients knowledgeable about fertilization?

Doctor: Oh, yes. And for them fertilization is incarnation, or conception.

Priest: So what are you driving at, doctor?

Doctor: Can you describe to me briefly the mystery of the Annunciation?

Priest: An angel appears to Mary and declares that she is highly favored before God. And that she will be with child.

Doctor: Why “she will be…” and not “she is with child”?

Priest: Because she is not yet with child; she has not yet given her consent.

Doctor: And how will she have this child?

Priest: Well, that was Mary’s question before she gave her “Fiat.” And the angel answered: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

Doctor: In other words, God the Father and the Holy Spirit fertilized in a mysterious way an ovum of the Blessed Mother.

Priest: That is the mystery of the Annunciation.

Doctor: ….and of the Incarnation or Conception of Christ. For at that instant of conception, the Word was made Flesh. You see, Father, that egg was Jesus Christ at the moment of conception. There is no reason why God has to wait 3-4 days until the fertilized egg reaches the womb to endow it with the Divine nature of His Son.

It is like when you conceive an idea, the idea is there at the first moment of thought, and not 3 0r 4 days later.

Priest: But when Elizabeth greeted Mary, her words were “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”

Doctor: And rightly so, because when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, several days had passed and so the divine fertilized egg was already in the womb. More so because “womb” refers to the general description of the biological process.

Priest: And that is the more reliable proof, the Visitation, because John the Baptist leapt for joy at the divine presence in Mary’s womb.

Doctor: In that, Father, we are all agreed because several days had elapsed. But our problem is, is it a human being at the moment of fertilization. And our belief is the same with regard to the Immaculate Conception of Mary… wherein we believe that Mary was free from original sin from the very instant of conception, i.e., fertilization.

Priest: Then why do we say “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb…”

Doctor: Because when Elizabeth said that, Christ was already in the womb … and for a literary purpose, I suppose. It’s not nice to hear “Blessed is the fruit of thy Fallopian tube, Jesus.”

Priest: This is really the first time I hear these mysteries used to prove this. It makes a very convincing argument.

Doctor: Mary was lucky she had an angel informing her that she was with child at the very moment of conception. No other mother ever had or will ever have that knowledge. By the time they find out that they are in the family way, the fertilized egg has long been in the womb, a human being.

Priest: Which makes it impossible to destroy the fertilized egg before implantation. So my family planning technique of destroying the fertilized egg before implantation becomes an exercise in futility.

Doctor: Not a mere exercise in futility but murder by intention, since the fertilized egg is already a human being.

You know, Father, there is no reason why God has to wait for 3-4 days before endowing that fertilized egg with a soul. Like in Charles Darwin’s theory, there is no reason for God to wait millions of years before endowing that ape with a human soul. God can more easily create a human being as instantaneously in the womb as in the garden of Paradise. He does not have to wait.

There is a great need to clarify your stand, Father.

Priest: What for, since there is no way of finding out the existence of the fertilized egg 3-4 days before implantation?

Doctor: Because before, that fertilized egg was safe for the first few weeks in the mother’s womb. But today, because of in vitro fertilization, the fertilized egg from its first moment of fertilization is in a test tube and at the mercy of man.

Priest: Can you explain "in vitro" briefly?

Doctor: It all began as a desire to help childless couples. Several eggs were fertilized with the husband’s sperm in a test tube, then implanted in the wife’s womb.

Priest: Isn’t that nice.

Doctor: Yes, but from the many fertilized eggs, only a few are chosen, and from the chosen few, one is finally chosen. All the rest of the fertilized eggs are washed down the drain. You see, Father, if life begins at fertilization, we are washing human beings down the drain.

Priest: What do the scientists believe?

Doctor: All agree that the fertilized egg is the beginning of life; and so they took the spare or excess fertilized eggs and began studying the beginnings of life in a test tube.

Priest: How do they do this?

Doctor: They simply apply a droplet of sperms in a dish of eggs. Conception begins; then they study human life at its beginnings up to 12 days.

Priest: At 12 days these fertilized eggs are human beings.

Doctor: And these scientists believe that they are so from the first moment of fertilization. They know they are not studying an egg or sperm but the beginnings of human life.

Priest: And what do they do after 12 days?

Doctor: They flush these human beings down the sink drain.

Priest: So it all began with helping childless couples….

Doctor: And now they fertilize for pure experimentation.

Priest: Why did they choose a 12 day maximum?

Doctor: Guilty conscience. Because around the 20th day the beginnings of a human brain appear. It’s too human to drain down the sink.



F. Tradition

Doctor: If you recall your Patrology, what did the FATHERS say about this?

Priest: Nobody consults the FATHERS anymore. They are antiques, passe. You must be up-to-date. But anyway, I don’t know what they said.

Doctor: It seems your theology professor withheld from you the good writers. Well, Father, their teaching is that, when the marital debt is rendered, it must be done as an act of love open to life. Any plan to prevent that life from being born is an act of hatred open to death. Their teaching is: “Don’t even think of touching that fruit, much more destroy it.”

How different we are today from the first Christians, isn’t it? We perform the act and the first thing we think about is how to prevent life.

Priest: Yes, indeed. Children have become obstacles to our enjoyment of life. The price we have to pay for progress, if you can call it progress when mothers transform their chambers of life into chambers of death.



G. Checking your doctrines.

Doctor: Is there any agency or office that takes care of priests, seeing that they seek first the kingdom of holiness and checking on their doctrines?

Priest: Well, we have our professors and superiors who do that. How about in your profession, doctor?

Doctor: With us, none really. You see, Father, when we commit a mistake the patient merely dies. But in your case, if you commit a mistake, your patient could go to hell. Your responsibility is greater. When our patients die, that is God’s will; when your patients go to hell, that is against God’s will.

Priest: Our theology professors cannot teach wrongly because I guess they get their teaching materials from theological books.

Doctor: Written by whom?

Priest: By theologians.

Doctor: Human theologians whose end we do not even know. Why don’t you concentrate first on the writings of saints, like the FATHERS. At least we are sure they are in heaven and can lead us there. Wasn’t it the late Pope Paul Vl who said that the greatest destroyer of souls today are books with imprimaturs and nihil obstats but filled with errors? And now, you even study non-catholic theologians.

Priest: These days it is good to be broad-minded and know what everybody has to say.

Doctor: But can you distinguish what is true from what is false, right from wrong? Does the Vatican supervise you?

Priest: Yes. There is a Pontifical Office in the Vatican whose only role is to lead all priests to holiness and purify their doctrine.

Doctor: Yes. Now I remember. I talked to some in that office and asked them what program they had to lead priests to holiness, and they said that they were still figuring it out.

Priest: How can they purify our teachings and lead us to holiness if they are still figuring it out? Like you said, doctor, if you commit a mistake your patient dies physically only; when we commit a mistake our patient dies spiritually.

Doctor: Has this Pontifical Office guided you in anyway towards holiness or the true doctrine?

Priest: I don’t think they even know I exist. Understandably so, since there are so many priests. Besides, if they are still figuring things out, how can they?

Doctor: Isn’t it sad that we, Catholics, are succumbing, not to the most sophisticated weapon of the devil, but to his most primitive weapon… ignorance… sadly in an age that is glutted with information and facts.

Priest: Doctor, you should have been a priest.

Doctor: Father, if I were a priest, I would not have known about Fallopian tubes. So Father, what is our conclusion? When does human life start?

Priest: Okay, doctor, for your peace of mind, at the instant of fertilization.

Doctor: I hope you are not just saying that to finish our conversation.

Priest: No, doctor. More because it seems you are more convinced of your stand than I am of mine.

Doctor: Father, can we end this with a prayer?

Priest: Okay:

Father in heaven,
You have kept the Blessed Virgin Mary sinless from the
FIRST MOMENT OF HER BEING
Help us by her prayers
To live worthily in your presence. Amen.


Doctor: That’s a lovely, short prayer, Father. Where did you get it?

Priest: From the Mass of the Immaculate Conception.



 

(updated 01-03-02)

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