Modern Advances and the Moral Order
by Mary Walker
I think one of the most fallacious arguments I’ve heard in the context of debating religion is that the Catholic Church is patently against technology and innovation. A girlfriend whom I love dearly said to me a few weeks ago, “The Church will come around on things like birth control, it’s only a matter of time, they’re just slow to catch up on these things.” To anyone who knows the Church at all, this can be seen as plainly illogical; her teachings come from Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition, not the whims of our culture. The Church changing her teaching on a serious moral issue is exceedingly rare due to this very fact. Furthermore, the Pope has his own YouTube channel and Facebook has turned out to be a great evangelizing tool. I find great joy in finding Catholic music I can download on iTunes and rocking out to it in my car, to the bewilderment of my fellow drivers. It is possible to love some technology and to oppose the technology that disrupts the moral order. In other words, we as Catholics are totally on board with technological advances until they start being used to accomplish evil ends.
I’m speaking, of course, mostly about the reproductive arena of moral teaching. The technologies I mentioned before, the internet and sound systems, are mostly morally neutral, they can be used for good or for bad. JP II used the phrase, “language of the body” to refer to the way men and women’s bodies “speak” to each other in the marital act. For instance, most of us know what it’s like to be away from a spouse or significant other. We can talk with them over the phone or the internet, but it really isn’t the same as being right there with them. This is even more true when the conversation involves serious matters, like telling someone “I love you” or the like. It’s just not the same hearing it over the phone as it is hearing from a person sitting right in front of you. Likewise when birth control is injected into the marital act, it scrambles and distances the way our bodies talk to each other. I won’t develop the entire argument against birth control here (if you want to read more about it, see Dr. Shaughnessy’s article on it), but suffice to say, people have been trying to find ways to circumvent God’s will for centuries, a pill designed to do the same is nothing new to our Holy Church.
The same can be said for any number of modern “remedies” that require evil. Embryonic stem cell research and In Vitro Fertilization both involve the killing of unborn babies and are therefore morally unacceptable because of that evil; not because it’s some new fangled invention that the Church is skeptical of, but because of centuries-old moral teaching. There are good inventions and bad inventions and the bad ones will be deemed as such by our wonderful Magisterium. Trust that everything is judged on a centuries-old scale, which is really all we can count on in a secular world where what is bad today might not necessarily be bad tomorrow.
Just a few months ago, a girlfriend of mine was telling me she did not think the abortion issue was as black and white as we’d been raised to believe. She was telling me that she objected to, “priests telling women how to live their lives” and that, “it’s just a group of cells anyway, life doesn’t begin at conception”. But this evening, as I gaze at her Facebook wall plastered with images of the ultrasound of her unborn child, I can’t help but smile, knowing that God uses technology in such good and beautiful ways sometimes.