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  1. Avatar Francis Etheredge says:

    I am delighted with Dr. Yoon Shin’s critical reading of the book, “The Human Person: A Bioethical Word”, to which I wish to respond, albeit relatively briefly; and, in doing so, I wish to promote the ecumenical aspect of the discussion and its wider, more wide ranging discussion of the significance of “relationship”; as Dr. Yoon Shin acknowledges in the following way: ‘many Pentecostals and Evangelicals will find much to agree with in Etheredge’s anthropology and bioethics, especially the relationality of human be-ing, the sacredness of marriage, and the concern for the unborn.’

    Of the three points I wish to address the first is “relationship”, the second is “singleness” and the third is infertility.

    Firstly, then, Yoon Shin says: ‘If marital union and conception are the archetype of human be-ing, then it seems that those called by God to singlehood … [are] somehow missing out on participating in a vital part of being human.’ therefore it needs to made clearer that marital union and conception are the archetype of human being in this sense: that marriage more than symbolizes the eternal relationships of the Blessed Trinity – out of whose abundant Love comes the conception of each one of us. And, therefore, in terms of human creatureliness, husband and wife are the “enfleshed” expression of divine love in the spousal reality being the created relationship out of which human conception proceeds. At the same time, husband and wife express, sacramentally, as an outward sigh of an inward grace, the mystery of the dynamic union of Christ and His Church and the fruitfulness of the baptismal beginning of our relationship to them. In other words, whether through natural conception or through the fruitful union of Christ and His Church, “relationship” expresses both a prior and irreplaceable point of departure for the human and supernatural realities. Thus this is true of the human reality even if, in actual fact, marriage is marred by human imperfection, couples may not be capable of conceiving their own children or children are conceived in other ways; for, by discovering marriage to be an expression of divine love, the very expressiveness of its meaning multiplies beyond its often inadequate expression. But, at the same time, just as a boat in a storm needs a clear goal to assist it, so marriage needs to be renewed from its divine foundations – recognizing the grandeur of reciprocal love calling us to a deeper, more during and embracing expression of it!

    Secondly, Shin says: ‘it seems that those called by God to singlehood … [are] somehow missing out on participating in a vital part of being human. As a Pentecostal, I would like to provide a pneumatological assist to my Catholic brother and suggest that a better existential starting-point for a relational anthropology is Pentecost. The movement of the Spirit in the world, the Church, and individuals establish not only human relationality, but divine-human relationality as well.’ On the one hand, then, it is “relationship” is prior to all of us even if, in certain circumstances, this is obscured but never obliterated – it is an irrevocable reality. The single state, then, whether Catholic, religious or priestly, emerges out of the dynamic of the Christian Church; and, therefore, it is never a state in isolation from the whole of the Christian identity. On the other hand, identifying Pentecost and the presence of the Holy Spirit is itself a wonderful event and rightly identified as establishing ‘not only human relationality, but divine-human relationality as well’. In the document on the Church of Christ, in the Second Vatican Council’s Lumen Gentium, the Church says that the Holy Spirit ‘being one and the same in head and members, gives life to, unifies and moves the whole body’ (7). Thus there redemption is holistically understandable in terms of the work of the Spirit’s expression of both the relationship between the Father and the Son and the “recreation” of that relationship between us – as a fruit of Christ’s incarnate death and resurrection (cf. also Gaudium et Spes, 22, 24). Moreover, the “sign” of the single person’s vocation is an indisputable and irreplaceable witness to the kingdom come amdist us!

    Thirdly, Shin says: ‘However, … [Etheredge] glosses over the problem of infertility, and his argument may be stronger if conception through marital union is seen as a better, God-intended, mode rather than presenting it as essential to human personhood.’ There is a nuance here that needs clarifying in that it is not intended to argue that a person conceived outside of marriage, in whatever way, is any the less a person than a person conceived through the union of their parents. Marriage, as the relationship through which conception occurs, reveals more fully the traces of truth expressed in diverse ways throughout the history of the human race; and, therefore, marriage is more explicitly expressing the ‘God-intended’ meaning from the beginning.

    At the same time, the parental dynamic, not without its imperfections and the constant call to conversion, is again expressive of the mystery of the dynamic interrelationship between the Blessed Trinity and each and everyone of us. As regards the psycho-dynamic reality of children discovering their identity through their relationship to their parents while at the same time unfolding their psychological development in the course of their biological growth is again about identifying the integral nature of unfolding the reality of each person as a being-in-relationship – not as judging the various real situations in which we find ourselves and meet God’s redeeming love.

    In conclusion, I am profoundly grateful to Dr. Yoon Shin and his student’s persevering read through the book as a whole and for their response; and, finally, it encourages me to hope in the ecumenical dialogue being stimulated on experiential, religious, philosophical, Scriptural and theological grounds to further development.

    Peace. Francis.

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