Church's development

Question: By way of disclosure, I am a former Catholic who left out of annoyance at all the layers and structures we find in the Church. The events surrounding the papal conclave make me wonder if the apostles would recognize the simple and humble Church they had, compared with the pompous and ceremonial Church of today.  

Jonathan Fischer, San Diego, Calif.

Answer: Well, I am not so sure. It’s kind of like asking if Orville and Wilbur Wright would recognize the simple wooden and cloth plane they flew, compared with the modern jetliner of today. To some extent they certainly would see the basic structure, but they would also marvel at all the magnificent developments that their simple idea ushered in.  

It would not be reasonable to assume that they would wag their finger and insist we go back to planes made of cloth and wood. It seems more reasonable that they would admire the developments that had ensued, all of which built on the basic ideas that they set forth. 

I think it would be similar with the apostles. It is clear that doctrine has developed over the years, as has liturgy and other necessary structures in the Church. But these things developed from the structures that were already there from the beginning. The hierarchal structure, established by Christ himself, has expanded to meet the needs of a now worldwide Church.  

You are free to consider things you don’t like as pompous, but others see such things as dignified and appropriate. God and the things of God are rightly to be honored with some degree of ceremony and respect. 

Morality of job

Question: I have been offered a job with a large pharmaceutical company, which, among other things, supplies materials for stem cell research.  Am I able to take such a job?  

Name Withheld, Portland, Ore. 

Answer: Part of the answer depends on an important distinction in the Church’s teaching about stem cell research.  The Church does not oppose all stem cell research. There are, for example, no moral issues with using stem cells harvested from adults or from umbilical cords. It is only the use of stem cells acquired from human embryos that the Church opposes, because it requires the killing of human life in order to obtain them.  

Hence the company in question is not committing sin per se in supplying material for stem cell research. Only those who use stem cells acquired from embryos commit wrongdoing.  

However, let us suppose that it is clear to you that the company is supplying some materials for the specific purpose of embryonic stem cell research. The morality of you accepting employment with this sort of a company would vary.  

Let us presume the company is large and supplies a vast variety of pharmaceuticals for a wide array of medical purposes. In such a scenario, taking employment would only involve you in remote material cooperation. And such associations, while not ideal, are morally permissible.  

However, if the position would require you to promote embryonic stem cell research to advance the sales of specific products related to embryonic stem cell research, such work would be of a more direct material cooperation. In such a case, you ought not take the job.  

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.