The clown and the children
In his postface to the book Il-Liġi, ilMorali u r-Raġuni, Peter Serracino Inglott spoke of “that sort of schizophrenia which leads one to act at variance with one’s beliefs”. Embryo freezing and abortion
Il-Liġi, il-Morali u r-Raġuni is a long conversation, published in book form, between former Chief Justice Giuseppe Mifsud Bonnici and yours truly; Serracino Inglott was praising Mifsud Bonnici by implication for living according to his beliefs.
Serracino Inglott undoubtedly had a subtle mind, equipped with vast knowledge, and it is a pity that he has still not been studied enough. The only published work I am aware of which analyses Serracino Inglott’s thoughts is Mario Vella’s Reflections in a Canvas Bag, of 1989.
Serracino Inglott viewed himself as a clown, who I understand as the incarnation of the joke made in the spirit of the sadness engendered by curiosity. If you are curious, you set out to seek knowledge, and when you find that it is impossible to harness all there is to know, you become sad, and then joke about it. Or, if you cannot joke about it, you simply fall silent. Not because you would have said all there’s to say, but because you realise that some things you simply cannot talk about. Mostly because language is not sophisticated enough to deal with everything.
Sometimes, the sadness can be due to the fact that you know that there is no real audience for your joke. A joke is like a neurotic question: it maddeningly needs an answer. The implied question is: “Isn’t the potentially sad situation described in the joke in reality funny?” If the audience agrees, then it answers by laughing, and a cathartic moment follows. If no answer is forthcoming, then the joke, which was meant to elicit hilarity, ends up being a vehicle for sadness. Sometimes, the joke is not a vehicle but is itself sad, because there is no audience for it, and it remains an unanswered question.
I think that when Serracino Inglott appeared before the Parliamentary Committee, he could have chosen to remain silent on embryo freezing. Instead, he chose to talk and I suspect he was playing an intellectual joke, which has to be partly understood in the context of his relationship at the time with the party then in government.
Christianity and Catholic dogma
The joke could also be understood in the light of the fact that in the Middle Ages, for almost 500 years, Catholic dogma was that the embryo joined humanity only when its limbs had formed. Before that moment, it was considered first like a vegetable then like an animal. (Reminds you of the famous “embryo is not a human being” insight.) In the Middle Ages, there were those who believed this moment happened on the fortieth day, others on the eightieth. Ironically, it would seem that it was Martin Luther who believed that humanity was there from the moment of conception. In a classic example The IVF procedure fulfils the wish of people to beget children, and this is the most wonderful thing in the world. It should not, however, engender ethical problems, such as the freezing of embryos and their destiny.
One consequence of freezing embryos is that it paves the way for the introduction of, at least, early-term abortion.
Many pro-abortion arguments I have heard or read seem to me child-like. “My body, my choice” and other similar battle cries seem like children who want to play football but then won’t bear the responsibility if they break a windowpane. They are the arguments of people who want to extend childhood as much as possible, who are afraid of growing up.