MS-Word Document

The Moral-Theological Significance
of Modern Reproductive Medicine

Virgin and Child, Chamberry
BM 0001, f175, 1470






This course will study modern developments in reproductive technology and genetics from the perspective of Roman Catholic moral theology. Central to the course will be consideration of three Catholic teaching documents: Humanae Vitae (Pope Paul VI), Evangelium Vitae (Pope John Paul II), and Donum Vitae (CDF).

The richly-diverse social, cultural, and ethnic traditions represented both by the students who take this course and by the communities they will serve will provide the background against which the following contemporary issues will be studied in light of Roman Catholic moral teaching: (1) Human Fertility and Infertility, (natural family planning, contraceptive technology, abortion); (2) Research and Experimentation on the Unborn, (cloning, stem-cell research; human embryos and tissue/organ donation); (3) Genetic and Embryological Dilemmas at the Beginning of Life (pre-natal diagnosis, embryological and fetal malformation, intra-uterine medical and surgical interventions); (4) The Perennial Specter of Eugenics; (5) Terminal Illness and Disability In Infants (euthanasia, nutrition and hydration, withdrawing life support)..






The Student will be able to apply Catholic moral teaching to complex issues concerning reproductive technology and human fertility. The student will be able to identify important persons, issues, and schools of thought that influenced the development of Catholic teaching concerning the beginning of life. The student will learn to make use of relevant primary and secondary sources available in both printed and electronic formats, and will become familiar with appropriate reference works in Catholic bioethics.






1.  This course will combine lecture and class discussion. In order to maximize the effectiveness of lectures in our culturally diverse student population, audio-visual materials used in class will be available on DVD and on webpages available through the course website. The weekly discussion will be based on assigned readings from the textbook and from sources available on-line.  Relevant sources should be downloaded from the course website and read in advance. Active participation in discussions is essential, and will figure into the final evaluation.

2.  A set of pastoral “take-home” essay questions will be distributed as a mid-term examination.  Students are expected to turn in their answers at the beginning of class one week later: these must be typed, double-spaced, and at least three pages in length.

3.  The final examination will be identical in format to the mid-term examination.

4.  Late work will be accepted for a grade only if the professor grants an extension.  Out of fairness to those who submit their work on time, late work will normally be graded down by one-half letter grade for each day it is late.

5.  In exams students must clearly distinguish between their own words and sources they are citing.  Failure to credit sources that are cited constitutes plagiarism and may result in a grade of “F”.

6.   The final course grade will be computed as follows:

Class participation


Midterm/Final (Take-home essay questions)








 Ford, Norman M., The Prenatal Person, ISBN: 0631234926, Blackwell Publishers, 2002

Jones, David Albert, The Soul of the Embryo, An Inquiry into the Status of the Human Embryo in the Christian Tradition, ISBN: 0826462960, (Continuum, London, 2004).

May, William, Catholic Bioethics and The Gift of Human Life ( ISBN:  0879736836, Our Sunday Visitor, 2000)






(available on course website)

John Paul II: Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life); Salvifici Doloris (On The Christian Meaning Of Human Suffering); On Life- Sustaining Treatment and the Vegetative State.

National Conference Of Catholic Bishops: Nutrition and Hydration; Moral and Pastoral Reflections

 Sacred Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith: Declaration On Procured Abortion; Jura et Bona (Declaration on Euthanasia);Donum Vitae (On Respect for Human Life in its Origin); Persona Humana (Declaration on Sexual Ethics); “Uterine Isolation”and Related Matters”.






Coleman, Gerald Human Sexuality, an All-Embracing Gift, (ISBN:  081890643X, Alba House, 1992)

Engelhardt, Tristram, The Foundations of Bioethics, Second Edition (Oxford University Press, 1996) ISBN : 0195057368.

Finnis, John, Moral Absolutes: Tradition, Revision and Truth, (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1991).

Fisk, Nicholas M. and Kenneth J. Moise Jr. (eds.), Fetal Therapy: Invasive and Transplacental, (Cambridge University Press, 1997).

Ford, Norman, When Did I Begin? Conception of the Human Individual in History, Philosophy and Science, (Cambridge: University Press, 1988).

Genovesi, Vincent, In Pursuit of Love , (ISBN: 0814655904, Michael Glazier)

Heaney, Stephen J. (ed.), Abortion: A New Generation of Catholic Responses, (Braintree, Mass.: The Pope John Center, 1992).

Humber, James M. and Robert Almeder (eds.), Human Cloning, Biomedical Ethics Reviews, (Totowa, NJ: Humana Press, 1998).

Shannon, Thomas A. (ed.), Bioethics, (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1993).

Shannon, Thomas A. and Lisa Sowle Cahill, Religion and Artificial Reproduction, (New York: Crossroad, 1988).






Class will meet Wednesdays from 2:00-3:50 pm in Classroom 5.

1. The World and the Church Today: an overview of Catholic moral principles and issues affecting protection of the most vulnerable members of our society.
Readings: Course Website, selections from: The Catechism of the Catholic Church (on Human Sexuality and Fertility); Evangelium Vitae,
Humanae Vitae.

2. The Historical Development of Roman Catholic Moral Teaching Concerning the Beginning of Life
Readings: Course Website; May, (Catholic Bioethics), 47-64; Ford: ch. 1, pp. 1-52; Grisez, The Way of the Lord Jesus, vol. 2, ch. 8 (course website); Jones (The Soul of the Embryo), sel’s. available on course website and in course documents..

3. Human Embryology and Reproductive Physiology.
Readings: Course Website; Ford, (Prenatal Person), ch. 4, pp. 53-74; Jones (The Soul of the Embryo), sel’s. available on course website and in course documents.

4. Recent Catholic Teaching Documents Concerning the Beginning of Life;
Readings: Course Website: Humanae Vitae; Donum Vitae; Evangelium Vitae; The Theology of the Body; Dignitatis Personae; Caritas in Veritate; May: 19-45; 65-70.

5. Moral Issues Concerning Human Fertility and Infertility: (contraceptive technology, abortifacient contraception; natural family planning,);
Readings: Course Website; May: 119-150 ; Ford, ch.6, pp. 100-120.

6. Research and Experimentation on the Unborn: Cloning, Stem-Cell Research; human embryos and tissue/organ donation
Readings: Course Website; May: 71-118; 191-228.

7. Genetic and Embryological Dilemmas at The Beginning of Life (pre-natal diagnosis, embryological and fetal malformation, intra-uterine medical and surgical interventions)
Readings: Course Website; Ford, ch.7, pp. 120-166.

8. The Perennial specter of Eugenics
Readings: Course Website.

9. Terminal Illness and Disability in Infants (euthanasia, nutrition and hydration, withdrawing life support).
Readings: Course Website; May: 235-316 ; Ford: ch.9, pp. 168-187.

10. Abortion: Sociology, Politics, and the Catholic Church.
Readings: Course Website; May: 151-186 ; Ford: ch.5, pp. 77-89.

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