Friday, 16 July 2010

The Person in the Womb

John Smeaton, the Director of SPUC, has drawn the attention of his readers to an interesting and very encouraging Zenit interview with Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, the new head of the Pontifical Academy for Life. In the course of the interview Mgr Carrasco said the following:

One of the problems we have with regard to the embryo is that it isn't seen. Instead of embryo we should speak of a child who is in the initial phase of development. Because we cannot see him, he is in a situation of tremendous danger, at tremendous risk.

The words we use are indeed extremely important. Further on in this post I'll record a few thoughts on the word "child"; but before doing so I'd like to refer to the general use of the term "unborn".

While it is of course a statement of fact, I have always felt there was a certain insufficiency in the word. My slight discomfort arises from a phrase which occasionally used to crop up in the loftier kind of political speech, when the politician wanted to inspire his listeners with a vision of the faraway sunlit uplands to which his party’s policies would undoubtedly lead the nation. He would refer to “generations as yet unborn”.

In that example the generations did not in fact exist at the time of the speech. Might the term “unborn” convey something of that same sense of non-existence - or of not yet existing - when used in reference to the child in the womb? Not to us, of course; but does its use miss an opportunity to impress upon a wider and less informed audience the reality, the totality, the existence here and now, of an actual human being, from the instant of his or her conception?

Returning to the word "child", I’d love to hear it used, as Mgr Carrasco recommends; and used as the standard term. “Baby” would be good too; but I feel that the use of “child” emphasises even more strongly the individuality, the humanity, the personhood, the sense of continuity with all stages of a person's development and growth to adulthood. So for me, it is “the embryonic child”, “the gestating child” or "the child in the womb" which fits the bill better than any other phrase.


Athanasius said...

I agree with this, although even just 'unborn person' is a step up from standard secular language.

Have tagged you in the prayer-meme by the way.

shadowlands said...

It always strikes me, that God hid the child in the womb, for his/her protection initially. Then the hidden place of safety became the murderers den. Sort of the opposite of it's original purpose. Mmm....I wonder who's idea that was?

Sorry I haven't visited here for a while. Thank you for your kind comment, the other day Dorothy, on my blog. I see I have a few of your posts to catch up with.

breadgirl said...

Hi Dorothy
Thanks for this great post. I think it pinpoints a very important issue, the term we use. We need something that will really bring home to us the fact that this little creation is actually a human child. I like the term "child in the womb". I find that powerful as well as meaningful. God bless you, Dorothy.

breadgirl said...

Hi Dorothy
I have been tagged with a Catholic meme and I have to tag five others. I am tagging you so if, like me, you don't know what it is all about, pop over to my blog and all will be revealed. Thanks Dorothy and God bless you.