The Promethean Complex
I never thought I would use a Greek mythology story as a an article header for our apostolate. However, it fits perfect here. Medical Research is very important! We have a responsibility to find out remedies and new medications to advance the treatment of the illnesses of the human mind. However, we must be careful because there are moral grounds that protect the dignity of the human person. We must be careful NOT to cross them. We simply can not make our human nature change into whatever we feel is necessary for medical progress.
For instance, it is morally illicit to advocate for research that promotes or uses stem cells from aborted babies. This is what embryonic stem cell research does. The advocacy organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), who are secular and not faith-based do such things by giving large grants to accomplish the latest research. If we are to maintain our Catholic mission, we can not associate or link to such organizations no matter how much good work these organizations accomplish or how helpful they may be for us in our advocacy and ministries. This does pose certain difficulties as there is not much out there in ways of Catholic support. But nevertheless, we can not compromise who we are.
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia explaining Prometheus:
In Greek mythology, Prometheus (/prəˈmiːθiːəs/; Greek: Προμηθεύς, pronounced [promɛːtʰeús], meaning "forethought") is a Titan, culture hero, and trickster figure who is credited with the creation of man from clay, and who defies the gods by stealing fire and giving it to humanity, an act that enabled progress and civilization. Prometheus is known for his intelligence and as a champion of mankind.
The punishment of Prometheus as a consequence of the theft is a major theme of his mythology, and is a popular subject of both ancient and modern art. Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, sentenced the Titan to eternal torment for his transgression. The immortal Prometheus was bound to a rock, where each day an eagle, the emblem of Zeus, was sent to feed on his liver, which would then grow back overnight to be eaten again the next day. (In ancient Greece, the liver was often thought to be the seat of human emotions). In some stories, Prometheus is freed at last by the hero Heracles (Hercules). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus)
Quite a few years ago, I met a gentleman who was, at the time, studying for the priesthood within my own diocese. His name was Tad and he is now a Catholic priest known for his writings in Bioethics. He wrote an article recently on what he calls Promethean Medical Temptations. This speaks to the point I am trying to convey around being careful to uphold our Catholic and Christian moral framework while looking for the best remedies for the illness of the human mind.
Just so you know, it was the decision of the Board and myself to remove all links to organizations such as NAMI that were not Catholic and possibly even opposed Catholic teachings. You will not find any of those links here on our website and of you ever do, please let me know.
I would love to hear from you.
My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Promethean Medical Temptations
Father Tad Pacholczyk Director of Education The National Catholic Bioethics Center
"Today, as modern medicine tries to rebuff death and control our humanity in ever more sophisticated ways, new temptations arise"
Superheroes attract us. From Greek gods to Superman and Spiderman, our fascination with the awesome deeds of superheroes beckons us to become Masters of our own destiny. Yet even as we enjoy the fantasy of acquiring Promethean powers to combat our enemies and conquer evil, we have legitimate misgivings about mere mortals taking on god-like powers in real life. We are concerned about those who play with fire just like Prometheus did, at the risk of harm and great destruction. Today, as modern medicine tries to rebuff death and control our humanity in ever more sophisticated ways, new temptations arise that challenge us to choose between life and death, between living in reality and living in a fantasy world where we elevate ourselves as “Masters of our own destiny.” We encounter these Promethean temptations today in the expanding fields of reproductive medicine and infertility. We may be drawn to the idea of “manufacturing” children through in vitro fertilization and related forms of assisted reproductive technologies. By producing and manipulating our children in laboratory glassware, however, we cross a critical line and sever our obedience to the Giver of life. We assume the role of Masters over, rather than recipients of, our own offspring. We allow our children to be mistreated as so many embryonic tokens — with some being frozen in liquid nitrogen and others being discarded as biomedical waste. We take on the seemingly divine role of creating another human being and reigning supreme over his or her destiny. We are tempted toward this same type of Promethean mastery at the other end of life. While we recognize that we cannot avoid death, we may be troubled and vexed by the possibility of a protracted and painful dying process. We may decide that the best answer is to “take charge” of the situation and move into the driver’s seat, resolutely calling the final shots ourselves. By ending life “on our own terms” through physician-assisted suicide, we hope to steer around the sufferings and agonies of the dying process. Yet suicide clearly goes against the grain of the kind of creatures we are, creatures intended for life, not death. The temptation that flashes before us when we consider suicide is the fantasy of becoming “Master” over our destiny by arrogating to ourselves direct power over life and death. We begin to accept the falsehood that we are uniquely in charge of our own destiny, and can remake or destroy ourselves as if we were gods. It is but a short step, then, for us to take further powers unto ourselves, lording it over the fate and destiny of others through activities like euthanasia, direct abortion, and human embryonic stem cell research. Although we are creatures intended for life, we may not be entirely clear about how we came to possess that life. We sense how we have been cast headlong into existence without asking for it, and we know, with certainty, that we did not create ourselves or have any role in bringing ourselves into being. The fact that we were created entirely apart from our own will means that our existence has been intentionally chosen by Another. The goodness and beauty of our life has been independently conferred on us by One who has radically willed our personal existence. Because that existence is good and beautiful, it ought always to be treated as such, and never directly violated. The goodness and beauty of the human life we have received is also connected to the gift of our masculinity or femininity. Yet here we also face the temptation of Promethean mastery as we imagine we can become the opposite sex, or that we needn’t be either male or female, but can be any of dozens of different “gender identities.” We engage in the fantasy that our embodied nature is fluid and malleable, and that we can vanquish our birth sex, remaking ourselves through the gender bending powers of medicine and science. But the damage that this fantasy can wreak in a short space of time — the hormones, the surgeries, the irreversible decisions and mutilated bodies — is not trivial. The lives of many thousands of individuals, convinced they have become Masters of their own identities, have already been irretrievably altered or ruined, often with the assistance of other medical or political Masters. The ever-expanding powers of biomedicine call us to careful ethical reflection and discernment, so we do not fall prey to the temptation of seeing ourselves as Masters, rather than collaborators with God, our inalienable Source of life and being.
National Catholic Bioethic Center:
Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and did post-doctoral work at Harvard. He is a priest of the diocese of Fall River, MA, and serves as the Director of Education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. Father Tad writes a monthly column on timely life issues. From stem cell research to organ donation, abortion to euthanasia, he offers a clear and compelling analysis of modern bioethical questions, addressing issues we may confront at one time or another in our daily living. His column, entitled “Making Sense of Bioethics” is nationally syndicated in the U.S. to numerous diocesan newspapers, and has been reprinted by newspapers in England, Canada, Poland and Australia.