By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
New technology that allow parents to choose the genetic characteristics of their babies threatens to breed new forms of racism, the Vatican said during a United Nations conference on racism which was held recently in Geneva.
The forum, which was designed to confront modern forms of discrimination, made headlines when members walked out during an anti-Semitic rant by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“The Holy See is also alarmed by the still latent temptation of eugenics that can be fueled by techniques of artificial procreation and the use of ’superfluous embryos’,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Vatican observer to the U.N.
“The possibility of choosing the color of the eyes or other physical characteristic of a child could lead to the creation of a ’subcategory of human beings’ or the elimination of human beings that do not fulfill the characteristics predetermined by a given society.”
He went on to list discrimination against a variety of groups ranging from immigrants, to girls, to “persons perceived to be or who are in fact different.”
“(I)n all its manifestations, racism makes the false claim that some human beings have less dignity and value than others; it thus infringes upon their fundamental equality as God’s children and it leads to the violation of the human rights of individuals and of entire groups of persons,” the Archbishop said.
He also warned that “increased security concerns” in a world plagued by terrorism “have created a greater lack of confidence among people of different cultures and have exacerbated the irrational fear of foreigners.”
The solution doesn’t lie in international covenants and changes in the law, he said.
“Without a change of heart, laws are not effective. It is the heart that must continually be purified so that it will no longer be governed by fear or the spirit of domination, but by openness to others, fraternity and solidarity.”
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1. Is racism a sin? (Read Nos. 1928 – 1935 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, available here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s1c2a3.htm )
2. What does the Church believe is the root of all racism, discrimination and intolerance? (Read Nos. 13-15 in The Church and Racism, by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, available here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/PCJPCHRA.HTM )
3. What are the four kinds of racism? (These are found in the pastoral letter, Dwell in My Love, by Francis Cardinal George, by scrolling down in the document available here: http://www.archdiocese-chgo.org/cardinal/dwellinmylove/dwellinmylove_2.shtm )
4. For Reflection: Take a moment to consider any prejudices you may have against people who are different from you. What do you believe is the source of these feelings – fear, insecurity, upbringing, ignorance? Have you ever acted on these feelings? Is repentance needed?
5. Has it ever occurred to you that the use of technology to create “designer babies” or to determine which embryo lives and which one dies, is a form of eugenic discrimination? How does this information impact your idea of the proper use of bio-technology?