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Catholicism and Organ Trade

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Lukas posted on Wed, Nov 12 2008 6:31 PM

I know there are a number of Catholics, at Mises and in other places, that draw on the Scholastic Tradition to provide an ethical grounding for free market principles in Catholic teaching.

Now Benedict XVI has recently come out against a free market in organs:

As I said in my first encyclical, the body can never be considered as a mere object (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 5); to do otherwise would impose on it the logic of the market. The body of each person, together with the spirit that is given to each one individually, constitutes an inseparable unity upon which is impressed the image of God himself. To prescind from this dimension brings to mind points of view that are incapable of understanding the totality of the mystery present in each person. It is necessary, then, that priority must be given to respect for the dignity of the human person and the protection of individual identity.

Regarding the technique of organ transplants, this means that one can only donate if this act doesn't put one's own health and identity in serious danger, and if it is done for a valid moral and proportionate reason. Any reasons for the buying and selling of organs, or the adoption of utilitarian and discriminatory criteria, would clash in such a way with the meaning of gift that they would be invalidated, qualifying them as illicit moral acts.

What is it about body parts that makes any transaction involving them immoral unless they are given away for free? Does donating somehow objectify the human body less than selling (parts of) it? Or are organs so sacred (being made in God's image) that selling them would be simony?

I don't really blame Benedict for not recognizing that a market would solve the problem he decries earlier ("the long waiting list of those whose only hope for survival is linked to the small number of [...] donations."), he's no economist, after all, and this sort of thing is, alas, not common knowledge. But is there any substance to his argument that organ sales should be considered inherently immoral? Do I misunderstand him?

Thanks in advance for your comments,

A lapsed Catholic

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No, there isn't any substance. It's just religious twaddle of the same sort as hatred of selling one's labor.

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Lukas replied on Wed, Nov 12 2008 6:49 PM

Knight_of_BAAWA:

No, there isn't any substance. It's just religious twaddle of the same sort as hatred of selling one's labor.

I was talking about substance in the context of Catholic ethics.

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Answered (Not Verified) nameless replied on Wed, Nov 12 2008 10:17 PM
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I'm a Protestant and thus not a Catholic, but I can understand Pope Benedict's point of view.

I think the most important thing to remember here is that in Christian ethics, your body is sacred and made in the image of God.  The pope may be saying that we do not rightfully "own" our bodies per se but are mere stewards of a God-given vessel.  I suppose that the pope may be misinterpreting the reason that one may sell his organs.  That is, I think the pope is under the impression that one may sell the body to make money.  So yes, I think that the pope is saying that selling organs objectifies the body, but donating is an act of altruism.  Although the concept of human altruism is probably debatable, I nonetheless think that Pope Benedict XVI is most against the objectification of the human body, or at least the attitude that most people may have towards organs if they are to sell them.

Again, you may discount this since I'm not a Catholic.

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Lukas replied on Thu, Nov 13 2008 1:15 PM

nameless:
That is, I think the pope is under the impression that one may sell the body to make money.  So yes, I think that the pope is saying that selling organs objectifies the body, but donating is an act of altruism.  Although the concept of human altruism is probably debatable, I nonetheless think that Pope Benedict XVI is most against the objectification of the human body, or at least the attitude that most people may have towards organs if they are to sell them.

I appreciate your response, even though you are not a Catholic. That being said, I still don't understand Benedict's reasoning. Doesn't selling labor objectify the body much in the same way?

 

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Lukas:
Doesn't selling labor objectify the body much in the same way?

By Benedict's logic, yes.

Lukas:
I still don't understand Benedict's reasoning.

I don't mean to sound contemptuous, but I'm guessing that he doesn't understand his reasoning either.

Diminishing Marginal Utility - IT'S THE LAW!

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Chris replied on Thu, Nov 13 2008 11:32 PM

In the New Testament the body is of course held in high regard because Jesus Christ is part of those who have faith.  Christ is within the believer which includes the body such as when we receive Communion and receive the blood and body of Christ.  I'm assuming the Pope may consider this as selling a part of Christ.  I am a Catholic but I don't keep up to date with the Pope much.  Although I attend church regularly I enjoy my personal relationship rather than a church hierarchy with God and our Lord Jesus Christ as I'm sure many believers do.  :) God bless

 

In liberty,

Chris

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I am mostly ignorant of christian theology, but didn't Jesus basically sell his body as a ransom in order to free mankind from their sins? Please correct me if this view is way off base.

"I cannot prove, but am prepared to affirm, that if you take care of clarity in reasoning, most good causes will take care of themselves, while some bad ones are taken care of as a matter of course." -Anthony de Jasay

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Chris replied on Fri, Nov 14 2008 12:37 AM

Solid_Choke:

I am mostly ignorant of christian theology, but didn't Jesus basically sell his body as a ransom in order to free mankind from their sins? Please correct me if this view is way off base.

Jesus Christ didn't "sell" his body; he died so that we could be forgiven of our sins through faith in him.  He was raised from the dead by God for our justification and so he could ascend to Heaven where he is seated at the right hand of God and when he returns he will judge the living and the dead.   He says, "The Father is in me and I am in the Father." and "He who has the Son has the Father, but he who does not have the Son does not have the Father" (may not be exact words, this is from memory).  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was in fulfillment of the Scriptures (though I admit I am not very familiar with the Old Testament).

In liberty,

Chris

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Lukas:
But is there any substance to his argument that organ sales should be considered inherently immoral? Do I misunderstand him?

Relating it to the Church's position on selling sex gives you somewhere to start. Catholics are ordered to not participate in sex markets, but this is not the equivalent of government prostitution prohibition.

Benedict's goals are irreconcilable. He regrets the organ "shortage" but is opposed to the selling of organs. I believe he makes the connection between price and supply, but feels an organ market is a greater moral hazard than an organ shortage.

Benedict might feel people demean themselves by selling their organs, but you won't see him preventing people from doing it.

Peace

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Lukas replied on Fri, Nov 14 2008 5:19 PM

Solomon:

Lukas:
I still don't understand Benedict's reasoning.

I don't mean to sound contemptuous, but I'm guessing that he doesn't understand his reasoning either.

I disagree. He usually chooses his words very carefully, and he puts a lot of thought into what he says.

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Lukas replied on Fri, Nov 14 2008 5:36 PM

JonBostwick:

Lukas:
But is there any substance to his argument that organ sales should be considered inherently immoral? Do I misunderstand him?

Relating it to the Church's position on selling sex gives you somewhere to start. Catholics are ordered to not participate in sex markets, but this is not the equivalent of government prostitution prohibition.

In these parts, the Catholic Church lobbies quite heavily against the legalization of prostitution :-) Anyway, that wasn't my question.

JonBostwick:

Benedict's goals are irreconcilable. He regrets the organ "shortage" but is opposed to the selling of organs. I believe he makes the connection between price and supply, but feels an organ market is a greater moral hazard than an organ shortage.

Well, there already is an organ market. It's just not legal.

JonBostwick:

Benedict might feel people demean themselves by selling their organs, but you won't see him preventing people from doing it.

Again, this doesn't address the question. What is it that makes selling one's organs immoral? Demeaning oneself is (can be) humility, a Catholic virtue.

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Lukas:
What is it that makes selling one's organs immoral?

I'm not about to put words into anyone's mouth. Benedict gave his reason.

Personally, I wouldn't sell one of my kidneys. And I would think twice about buying one that was harvested from a living person. Of course, many of the problems of the current organ market are the problems of prohibition.

 

Oops, why does it let you recommend your own post?

Peace

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Lukas:
I still don't understand Benedict's reasoning.

Solomon:
I don't mean to sound contemptuous, but I'm guessing that he doesn't understand his reasoning either.

Lukas:
I disagree. He usually chooses his words very carefully, and he puts a lot of thought into what he says.

Be that as it may, he still doesn't understand his reasoning. It involves rationalizing the destruction of self-ownership.

 

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Lukas replied on Fri, Nov 14 2008 7:55 PM

JonBostwick:

Lukas:
What is it that makes selling one's organs immoral?

I'm not about to put words into anyone's mouth. Benedict gave his reason.

He gave his reason, but I don't understand it.

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