It was a Saturday, around 7:00 in the morning. I was preparing to leave the house to attend a meeting of the Council on Bioethics of the CEM, which my husband and I are a part of, when my eight-year-old daughter Fernanda, the fifth of nine, thinking it odd to see me go out so early on a Saturday, asked,
“Where are you going, Mommy? Did something happen?”
“Daddy and I have a meeting of the Council on Bioethics. We won’t be late, I promise."
“Council on Bioethics? What does that mean, Mommy?"
With this question a thousand words flooded my mind, none suitable for explaining something like this to a little girl of eight years: “human embryo statute”, “therapeutic abortion”, “euthanasia and eugenics”, “artificial insemination”, “cloning”…whew! I took a deep breath and looked up to heaven for the help I needed explaining to an eight-year-old in five words and five seconds (because my husband was waiting for me in the car) a concept that a lot of adults don’t even understand.
“Look,” I told her, trying to put it in simple terms, “Bioethics studies whether it is good or bad when mothers kill their babies if they don’t want them.”
I must confess that I felt pretty foolish when I heard my own words, a feeling confirmed by my little girl:
“Mommy-y-y, stop making things up,” she told me, letting loose a shout of laughter, “everybody knows that is bad. How in the world are they going to study that?”
“I’m not making it up,” I said, smiling also, seeing that my explanation had seemed so ridiculous to her, “Cross my heart, it’s what bioethics studies. But they also study whether it’s right or wrong for grandchildren to kill their sick grandparents.”
“Ha ha ha!” she started to laugh again, even harder this time, “you’re kidding me, nobody would study something so silly…killing your grandparents… ha!”
“Well…wait…Bioethics also analyzes whether it’s good or bad when moms and dads cut themselves inside so that they can’t have babies, because they’re afraid of them.”
“Mommy, how are parents going to be scared of babies?”
“Well, some are, believe it or not,” I told her, crouching down so that I could be at her height. “There are lots and lots of daddies and mommies who are really, really afraid, terrified…that an unexpected baby will arrive and…bam! – just like that, ALL of their money, ALL of their time, perhaps even their health…will be all gone. So, they take special pills that will make them not have babies, and lots of them even take out part of their insides, so that babies…don’t even come around.”
“Oh, that can’t be true, Mommy…babies are always wonderful to have,” she said, still smiling and leaning over to pick up the smallest of my children, the ninth, who had come crawling toward us, “You’d better go now, or Daddy will fuss at you… later you can explain it to me better.”
And…giving me a goodbye kiss, she ran away with the little one in her arms to the living room, where three or four of her siblings were playing “I Spy”.
She left me just as the conversation was starting to get good, so then I couldn’t explain to her the other interesting things bioethics studies, like for example… if a newly-conceived baby in its mother’s womb is really a baby, or if what is growing there is, for a few weeks, some type of tadpole that can be extracted and experimented on.
Neither could I explain that bioethics also studies whether it is right or wrong for a mother to produce ten embryos in a little glass container, so that she can put just one of them inside of her (because she only wants one baby), and keep the other nine siblings in a freezer…forever.
Anyway…we attended our Council meeting, my daughter’s laughter still echoing in my brain, and there at the meeting, as always, we talked seriously and at great length about these things which I had told her - things related to life...or rather, things related to death (perhaps it should be called "bio-death-ics" instead of bioethics): abortion, euthanasia, sterilization, experimentation on embryos, and of course, how to counteract proposed laws that attempt to make us belief that it really is good when mothers kill their babies, or when grandchildren kill their ill grandparents. Such laws would have us believe that it is not wrong to keep little brothers and sisters frozen, and that babies are not babies from the very beginning of their existence, but rather some sort of tiny frog.
I couldn’t help but feel very uncomfortable at seeing these great Christian minds – doctors, lawyers, priests and bishops, myself along with them – using precious time to plan strategies (dossiers, press releases, pamphlets, protest marches) to demonstrate to the world that these things are not good, when it is so obvious even to the most simple of minds, and that merely imagining such things made my eight-year-old daughter burst out laughing at the absurdity.
But…it did serve one purpose, because that day I understood the words of Jesus: “Except you become like a little child, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
God is near to us, life is beautiful, children are treasures, everything is simple, and the world has made it all complicated and difficult.
I believe that our challenge as Catholics, more than using our time and energy writing thick scientific dossiers for our lawmakers, is putting 100% into returning that simplicity and clarity to our world (and most of all, to our lawmakers), that view of the value of life possessed only by children and those who have not yet been contaminated with the poison of the culture of death.
Any ideas that anyone can come up with for a good plan of action to achieve this are most welcome, please send them to me at my personal e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org; or better yet, post them in our discussion Forums so that many more people can benefit.
Translation: Elizabeth Segura - Catholic.net Volunteer
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