I enjoy Scientific American. I really do. So when it published an article on the newly issued document Dignitas Personae from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I hesitated to comment here. It seems I so often criticize SciAm in this blog.
But then the secular pro-life blog Secondhand Smoke (hat tip to Der Wolfanwalt) made scathing remarks about the article, doing much of the job for me (and doing it better than I would have). So I really have no excuse not to make a few additions.
I am thunderstruck that when SciAm decided to interview an expert about a Vatican theological document, it chose a secular commentator, Josephine Johnston. This would be like interviewing an economist rather than a physician about a new recommendation by the FDA or the Surgeon General. And predictably, she makes both herself and SciAm look ridiculous by stating explicitly that she does not understand what she is talking about:
[The document] opposes IVF even if it doesn't involve embryo loss, because the Vatican is committed to conception that involves the conjugal act. This I don't really understand.She does not understand it because she has no background in Catholic theology. But it stems from theological principles that underlie everything the magisterium has promulgated about sex and reproduction in the past 50 years. Dignitas Personae is completely consistent with Humanae Vitae, the landmark document that reaffirmed the church's opposition to artificial contraception, and John Paul the Great's theology of the body.
Johnston also sounds a little ridiculous at the end of the interview, when she says "I don't know enough about how Catholicism works in practice" and then implies that perhaps the Church should operate as a democracy when it comes to teaching. In theory and practice, Catholicism is not a democracy, but a Kingdom. Truth is objective regardless of fickle public opinion, and even if some members of the Body of Christ dissent, the whole of that Body will always be subject to his truth.