Constantine the Emperor, afflicted with leprosy, was advised to bathe himself in the blood of three thousand children as a therapeutic remedy for his illness. However, he refused to do so. This mix of history and legend tells that, after this refusal, he was healed by St. Sylvester, who appeared to him in a dream. The fresco that recounts this episode shows Constantine facing the mothers pleading mercy for their children.
The remedy proposed to the Emperor, which today appears to us clearly anti-scientific and inhuman, probably was not considered as such in the cultural milieu of those ancient times. We hope that the bath in the stem cells of thousands of embryos, sacrificed with the aim of treating diseases so far considered incurable, will not be identified, in future, as a sign of the cruelty of our time.
Constantine’s refusal happened before his conversion to Christianity; it was, therefore, a decision of a laymen, entirely respectful of the dignity of man and of human life. This decision was made by somebody who held an absolute power, but he did not remain indifferent to the cry of those mothers, speaking for their children, who did not have any other way to defend themselves.
Nowadays, the controversy on embryos manipulation surreptitiuosly moves the object of discussion from a cultural position on the irreducibility of the value of human life, to a series of empty chatter, embroidered with scientific terms, that show their inconsistency, while trying to define timing and methods of the origin of life. Doing so, the discussion is functional to the ideology and to the speculation of those who only care for their own interests.
We hope that the lay power, which defines itself as enlightened, will know how to take actions which will be remembered for their integrity and their respect for life. Rather, we wonder who will speak for those who have no voice, and ask the men of power to be wise in their role of lay governors and scientists, with the strength of reason that belongs to those who know how to love the lives of their children.