Monday, March 10, 2008

New Sins, A Green Pope, Bioethics, & Human Welfare

Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, the Vatican's number two man "in the sometimes murky area of sins and penance, spoke of modern evils," reports Reuters, telling "the faithful" that they "should be aware of 'new' sins such as causing environmental blight."

So is he just another hypocrite, preaching green rhetoric with hands blackened from oil?

Actually no, he is not. Setting a supreme example for the planet, Reuters explains, the Vatican "has installed photovoltaic cells on [its] buildings to produce electricity and hosted a scientific conference to discuss the ramifications of global warming and climate change."

In addition, the Pope has "made several strong appeals for the protection of the environment, saying issues such as climate change had become gravely important for the entire human race," writes Philip Pullella of Reuters.

This is a welcomed example and decree from a religious powercenter that commands the "world's largest single religious body" and has a following of about 1.13 billion people (

One could imagine that if all of the Roman Catholics really heeded the plea of the Vatican and followed its lead, they would be able to make as big an impact as if India with close to the same population became sustainable eco-friendly humans.

This is a most powerful proposition.

Unfortunately, this was undermined by the Archbishop's remarks to the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, wherein Reuters reports, he claims that "that the greatest danger zone for the modern soul was the largely uncharted world of bioethics.

I understand the philosophical morass and moral quandry Biotechnology presents to the Vatican's ideological structure - to many ideological structures - is serious.

But, shouldn't they be more concerned with events that are currently taking place, Climate Change, rather than developments like human cloning which has not happened?

Furthermore, which is more likely to have a greater impact on the live of the 1.13 billion Catholics, or the 6.8 billion humans:

That a man is cloned, a primordial embryo is lost,


That grand glaciers melt, sea levels rise, flooding redoubles, extreme weather like tsunamis is provoked, drought and crop failures escalate (especially in the most impoverished nations on the planet), world hunger intensifies, and breathing becomes a health hazard (as is the already the case in Mexico City where breathing the air is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day) - to name a few?

Read the Reuters article.

American Pastoral

I have started engaging in discussions on what is basically an online bookclub, arguably the largest bookclub ever, called goodreads (check it out).

The first piece of fiction I has been discussing is American Pastoral by Philip Roth. He won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle prize for this. Also, the NYTimes said it was one of the best American novels written in the past 25 years.

Roth himself is the first three-time winner of the coveted Pen/Faulkner award, given only to books of exceptional caliber - sometimes it is decades or more before a book wins this award (though he did not win it for this book, see Human Stain).

Noting novels often defy life as they make order, system, and sense of out its chaotic madness - one of the exceptional things about this book is that Roth is able to intelligently execute an eloquent plot which spins on the very axis of this madness.

Here is a quote:

"What was astonishing was how people seemed to run out of their own being, run out of whatever the stuff was that made them who they were and, drained of themselves, turn into the sort of people they would once have felt sorry for. It was as though while their lives were rich and full they were secretly sick of themselves and couldn't wait to dispose of their sanity and their health and all sense of proportion so as to get down to that other self, the true self, who was a wholly deluded fuckup."

Some thoughts on the quote:

Having seen people seemingly run out of whatever it is that makes them them, I guess as many do, the quote struck home for me. It's a fascinating phenomenon worthy of study in and of itself.

I would purpose, however, a question.

Does one really run out of their "essence" or do they simply forget to water the flower, purposely shove it in a dark corner, or actively pick its petals in some sort of self-destructive pleasure?

Does this "stuff" really just disappear, or is it hiding, lurking underneath other layers of ego and self, while we have convinced others as well as ourselves it is gone?

Can we really discard ourselves without, even unconsciously, keeping enough to know who we still are, that it's still us in there?

To read my review of the book go here and go to the posting by James.