In 1729, Irish writer Jonathan Swift published a straight-faced satire called A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick.
More commonly known by its abbreviated title, A Modest Proposal made the case that the poor in Ireland could kill two birds with one stone, as it were–reducing the number of mouths to feed, and enjoying a hearty repast–by eating their children. Swift wrote, famously:
I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy Child well Nursed is at a year Old, a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome Food, whether Stewed, Roasted, Baked, or Boyled, and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a Fricasie, or Ragout.
Swift, in the bold satire, intended to shock people into realizing the plight of the poor.
He cited the Catholics (“Papists”, he called them) who had, according to his tongue-in-cheek prose, conceived more children during Lent because of the nutritional value of fish:
Infant’s flesh will be in Season throughout the Year, but more plentiful in March, and a little before and after; for we are told by a grave Author an eminent French physitian, that Fish being a prolifick Dyet, there are more Children born in Roman Catholick Countries about nine Months after Lent, than at any other Season, therefore reckoning a Year after Lent, the Markets will be more glutted than usual, because the Number of Popish Infants, is at least three to one in this Kingdom, and therefore it will have one other Collateral advantage by lessening the Number of Papists among us.
Swift insisted, at the end, that he had no personal stake in the discussion, but merely wanted to help others. “I Profess in the sincerity of my Heart,” he wrote,
“…that I have not the least personal Interest in endeavouring to promote this necessary Work having no other Motive than the publick Good of my Country, by advancing our Trade, providing for Infants, relieving the Poor, and giving some Pleasure to the Rich. I have no Children, by which I can propose to get a single Penny; the youngest being nine Years old, and my Wife past Child-bearing.
Our modern society has been working hard to bring this bizarro quest to fulfillment:
- Christians have long campaigned against use of fetal tissue (embryonic stem cells) in laboratory research or in treatment of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s. Likening the practice to the use of human skin to make lampshades during the Holocaust, Christian ethicists insist that utilizing the cells from another human being, thereby ending its life even at early stages, is intolerable.
In recent months, however, society’s tolerance for harvesting humans for profit has reached a new high:
- There was the horrific story in the London Telegraph in March, reporting that than 15,000 fetuses had been incinerated in the U.K., burned by hospitals and some used as fuel in “waste to energy” plants.
- That story was repeated in April in Brooks, Oregon, where fetal remains from hospitals in British Columbia were delivered along with other waste for use in waste-to-energy production. Marion County Commissioners imposed a moratorium and initiated an investigation, once they realized that human remains had been shipped along with other waste.
- And now, Business Weekly reports that academicians at the University of Cambridge are researching whether bulletproof vests manufactured from human stem cells could provide an extra measure of protection for the wearer. The research has been funded by the Royal Society, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council (MRC). Researchers claim to have discovered a property, known as auxeticity, which could be used to produce materials strong enough for soundproofing and even bulletproof vests. They are encouraging scientists throughout the world to advance their research through further studies. Business Weekly reports:
Dr Kevin Chalut from the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, who led the study, says: “This is a pretty bizarre finding and very unexpected.
“When the stem cell is in the process of transforming into a particular type of cell, its nucleus takes on an auxetic property, allowing it to ‘sponge up’ essential materials from its surrounding. This property has not, to my knowledge, been seen before at a cellular level and is highly unusual in the natural world.”
The auxetic properties only appear in the stem cell’s nucleus when it is in the transition stage, changing from an embryonic, non-specific stem cell into a differentiated, tissue-specific cell, such as a heart tissue cell.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains why it is NEVER ethical to utilize human (embryonic) stem cells in research:
 It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material.
Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity which are unique and unrepeatable.
 Research or experimentation on the human being cannot legitimate acts that are in themselves contrary to the dignity of persons and to the moral law.
See also the Pontifical Council for the Family, Charter of the Rights of the Family, 4b. Respect for the dignity of the human being excludes all experimental manipulation or exploitation of the human embryo.