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Artificial-Natural Means? (Tue May 18, 2004 10:07 am)

When does an "artificial means" become a "natural means"? New light is focused on this question when Pope John Paul II stated: "I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life." (Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas," 3/20/04).

The Pope's recognition that what was previously considered "artificial," should now to be considered "natural," is a significant paradigm shift which few seem to have noticed. He has opened the door to the reevaluation of other medical advances which might now be considered as "natural" means, such as: 1. Might current artificial means of bringing about conception now be considered natural? 2. Might the same be said for artificial means of preventing conception? 3. When might ventilation be given "natural" status? 4. What now determines the distinction between a previously considered artificial but now considered natural medical means? 5. What other current artificial medical means might be given the status of a natural means?

These are just a few of the questions that come to mind as this paradigm shift resonates through the thought process. One can assume that opinions of theologians and medical ethicists will focus on this one instance as an exception for the preservation of life, but our Holy Father has opened the door to revising the definition of what is natural (and natural law) to incorporate natural human advancement of science and medicine.

The Pope as teacher ("magisterium") has come to recognize the fact (scientific means can be considered natural means) which has long been accepted by people everywhere ("sensus fidelium") who continuously re-inform their conscience and make moral decisions that reflect growth in wisdom and knowledge, and consider these decisions as morally good (ARCC Right No. 1). Could this be the long-sought acknowledgment by the hierarchy that the Holy Spirit dwells in, and speaks through, the people of God, the Church? PEOPLE OF GOD TAKE NOTE!!

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