Freedom and the Law

The Widening Gap Between Technology and Morality

Rome, (Zenit.org) Dr. Donald DeMarco | 1141 hits

It is most interesting to me how much information about our present culture can be packed in a single snippet of news.

In March of 2013, an Oklahoma woman was arrested for trying to sell her two young children via Facebook. She claimed that she needed the money to spring her boyfriend from jail. What first struck me when I read of this incident is how the gap between technology and morality seems to be widening.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. described it well: “The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” It may be argued that this woman from the Sooner state, as well as her boyfriend, and the prospective purchasers are all somewhat misguided. We may place some of this aberrance on a culture that encourages the separation of freedom from lawfulness.

The computer, including email and Facebook, is an achievement of unquestioned intellectual genius. Progress may belong to science, but can it also be said of morality? The computer, in so many ways, has made life more convenient for people. At the same time, the wide world of the web can turn people into electronic abstractions in their relationships with one another. How does this Oklahoma woman view her two children? Are they offspring from her flesh? Or are they commodities to be bartered away or sold? How do they appear to potential buyers on Facebook? Are they consumer objects to be acquired? What kind or relationship other than monetary does the seller have with the buyer? The intimate, personal love that children crave and need can be easily lost in the alluring light of economic gain.

The brave new world of reproductive technology has done much to make offspring appear to be commodities. Even gametes are offered for sale. One particular website, in the interest of producing more beautiful children, auctions eggs from supermodels and sperm from super-males to the highest bidder. The notion that a child is the incarnation of his parents’ love is giving way to a world of freedom wherein marriage, love, commitment, and the nuclear family, have been reduced to options.

Technology brings about more freedom, but can human morality keep pace with an ever-widening field of choices? The purpose of law is to safeguard people from the negative effects of immorality. But can the law protect people from the illicit activities they arrange through the Internet? It is indeed a strange attitude wherein a person would accept the equation “$1,000 = 2 young children = bail money to release a prisoner”. The equation sign creates false identifications while denying the inestimable value of human beings. The law also protects people from acts of desperation. Money seldom if ever solves deep personal problems.

Furthermore, is the willingness to pay $1,000 sufficient to qualify for adopting and raising two children? Just as the children can be reduced to commodities, prospective child-raisers can be reduced to consumers. The law is instituted to protect people. What laws will protect the children? Is freedom of choice outpacing the law?

Let us imagine that the Oklahoma mother carries out her plan successfully. She sells her children and uses the money to free her boyfriend. But this is not a happy ending. Where does this leave them? Both have little regard for the children. They may resume their relationship, but it was purchased at the expense of compromising the very interpersonal qualities that are necessary for a good relationship. It leaves them unrepentant and unreformed. They may continue to believe that there is nothing wrong with placing price tags on children, even their own.

Our computer culture has brought about an array of new problems that should inspire us to develop a better moral appreciation of the primary significance of authentic human relationships. It bears repeating to say that the computer is only a tool and was never intended to serve as a light that guides us through life. If we have made an idol of this technology, it becomes all the more important to return to a more authentic life among the living. This, too, is a way of being pro-life.

Dr. Donald DeMarco is adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College & Seminary in Cromwell, CT, a Senior Fellow of Human Life International and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. This article has been published by kind permission of Human Life International's Truth and Charity Forum.