U.S. Offers Test Bed for Bioethics

National Catholic Reporter, March 26, 2004 | Go to article overview
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U.S. Offers Test Bed for Bioethics

The rebuttal by U.S. Catholic ethicists of the Vatican's most recent declaration on the use of artificial feeding and hydration for patients in a persistent vegetative state is intriguing and informative (see Page 5). It points--as does much else in U.S.-Vatican relations--to the strain of trying to mesh the world occupied by Vatican officials and thinkers, somewhat removed from the hurly-burly, with of the hands-on reality of Catholics living in the West's most hedonistic yet innovative culture.

This pontificate sees mainly the hedonism and relativism of the United States and the West, a point of view that often obscures elements of the culture that might benefit the church at large.

For better (and there is some cause in U.S. society for using the word) and for worse (and there are many reasons for that selection), the United States dictates much of what passes for values in the world. Through its almost total control of the visual media, much of it empty, amoral at best, immoral at worst; through its marketing capacity to flood the world with empty calories, health-endangering eating habits; through its swaggering economic and military might; and not least, through its rendering of the individual into little more than a disposable economic entity valued only for its ability to consume, this country can present a fearsome face to the world.

We cheer church teaching that tackles all these things head on.

We cheer the bishops' conferences when (rarely now) they go up against the United States on these core matters.

All that said, U.S. Catholics also live in a society that is constantly on the cutting edge of everything.

We are what the West and then the rest of the world is going to look like.

We are the test bed, the global case study for the future, not least on the rapidly developing bioethical issues.

If the United States is the selfish, mindless, materialistic, glitzy and empty world leader, it also can be the innovator, the developer, the imaginer and the sparkplug for many creative and utilitarian developments.

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