The Stephen L. Carter Stonewall, Day 20

Wherein Carter replies, sort of, to Chatterbox’s questions about why he went AWOL on the bioethics panel.

“Sadly, many children today grow up in an atmosphere in which the character-building institutions are quarreling instead of cooperating. Many families no longer have time for teaching the young how to behave. Many schools are terrified of mentioning right and wrong, for fear of being caught in a Left-Right crossfire, because education has become the principal battleground of what some call the culture war. As to the place of worship, fewer and fewer children attend one with any regularity. Within Christianity, even when children do go to church, some traditions seem to have abandoned interest in suggesting that God may actually have given us rules by which we are to live.”

Stephen L. Carter, “We Interrupt This Childhood: Parents Who Raise Their Children To Do Right Face a Barrage of Resistance,” in the July 9, 2001, issue of Christianity Today.

Stephen L. Carter has finally issued a response, via a spokesman at Knopf, to Chatterbox’s repeated queries asking why Carter has not been seen since February at any meetings of the President’s Council on Bioethics. Carter “has just not participated” (the words are those of panel chairman Leon Kass) in preparing the panel’s report calling for a four-year moratorium on therapeutic cloning. Until now, Carter has offered the public no explanation for his nonparticipation, which is hard to square with Carter’s well-known championing of civic virtue and the obvious public importance of the bioethics council, whose decisions will influence matters of life and death.

Did Carter fail to honor his commitment to serve on the panel, of which he remains a member, because he was too busy publicizing his summer blockbuster novel,? The fact that Carter hawked his book on NBC’s Today show on the morning of one especially crucial meeting of the bioethics council indicated to Chatterbox that the answer was “yes.” But Chatterbox thought it best to ask Carter himself. He asked once and received no reply. He asked a second time and again received no reply. Lloyd Grove of the Washington Post made a third attempt to find out and was rebuffed. Chatterbox’s Slate colleague Chris Suellentrop even tried to ask Carter about it in an online MSNBC chat, but the question got filtered out.

Now, however, Carter (or, rather, his spokesman at Knopf) has an answer. Are you ready?

The answer is: “No comment.”