Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Judeo-Christian Bioethics

Eric Cohen has an opinion piece in the current issue of First Things titled "A Jewish-Catholic Bioethics?" Basically, he argues that we Jews should be following the Catholic position on bioethical issues.

He starts off with this:

The term "Judeo-Christian" has entered our civic vocabulary for good reason. On many of the deepest issues of human life--the meaning of sex, the dignity of the family, the creation of human beings--Jews and Christians stand together against the secular image of man.
My first reaction was, "Eh, no! We disagree with Catholics on those issues." Then I realized that what he meant was not that Jews and Catholics agree entirely on these issues, but that we disagree with secular approaches. OK. We all agree that we have to acknowledge God's and sanctity's roles in these matters. Call that "Judeo-Christian" if you want but that does not mean that we arrive at the same answer on all, or even many, of the aspects of these topics. Just see R. David M. Feldman's classic Birth Control in Jewish Law for some major distinctions in attitude and in practice.

Jews, Cohen points out, have overwhelmingly supported embryonic stem-cell research--from the Reform through the Orthodox. Some Jews, including R. Yitzchok Breitowitz, are even in favor of reproductive cloning in certain cases.

But Cohen's point seems to be that, regardless of what Jewish tradition indicates and the majority of Jewish experts seem to think, we should be following the Catholic position. He ends:
But on most things that count--including embryo research--faithful Jews should stand alongside their Catholic friends as Judeo-Christians, opposing together the imageless image of man that secularism offers. I only hope that my Jewish friends, for Jewish reasons, will become more reasonable than they sometimes are.
In other words, in order to oppose the secularists, we need to take a religious stance. So let's take the Catholic position. Huh? Let's take the Jewish position, wherever that leads us! Being "Judeo-Christian" is not an end in itself. When it happens that there is a mutual position, we can join forces with our Catholic friends. When not, we respectfully part ways and follow our religion.

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