One of the obvious but decisive facts about parenting is that prior to embarking upon the relationship, we dont know who is coming. We receive and live out our responsibilities toward our children, whoever they turn out to be, simply because they are ours and we are theirs, and most of the time that is enough to bring us to welcome and cherish and protect them. We do it whether they are beautiful or homely, brilliant or ordinary, cheerful or fretful. Even when they grow into adolescents with strange haircuts who, it seems, can hardly stand us, by and large and with varying degrees of struggle, we continue to welcome and cherish and care for them. Parenting is the most routine and the most socially essential form of welcoming the stranger.
It is this unreserved and uncalculated commitment to accept and love the children we are given that makes the relationship between parent and child so central a metaphor for our relation to God, who welcomes and receives and cares for us, whoever we are. In this most fundamental and natural of all social relationships, we see the nearest analogue for the divine charity which loves each of us in her or his particularity, but universally and without conditions.
It now seems likely, due to certain recent advances in scientific technique, that soon we will develop the capacity to make changes in the genetic makeup of human beings, including changes that they will pass to their descendants. The challenge this presents is, how much should we try to determine about our offspring?
The possibilities go all the way from that offered by cloningwhich would allow us to select a complete genome (the total complement of chromosomes of a species) as long as we had an existing "template" to reproduceto much more modest alterations in a single gene designed to prevent the development and transmission of a particular genetic disease.