Catholic Church Holds Vatican Conference on Ethics, Human Embryos

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 27, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Church Holds Vatican Conference on Ethics, Human Embryos Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Maria Vitale Gallagher Staff Writer
February 27, 2006

The Vatican ( — The Catholic Church is holding an international conference on the ethics surrounding scientific procedures involving human embryos.

Pope Benedict XVI told participants that God’s love for human beings knows no boundaries when it comes to age — whether it’s the unborn child or an elderly person.

"The love of God does not distinguish between the newly conceived still in the womb of his mother, and the child, or the youth, or the man or elderly person," he said.

"This moral judgment is valid already at the beginning of the life of an embryo, even before it is implanted in the maternal womb, which protects and nurtures it for nine months until the moment of birth," the pontiff added.

Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, told reporters last week that “all cards are on the table” at the conference, which is addressing issues such as pre-implantation genetic screening where embryos can be checked for disease.

However, the Church is standing firm on its position condemning all forms of experimentation on human embryos.

“Today, many people believe you can experiment (on embryos), you can freeze them, you can administer the morning-after pill, you can construct embryos for the sake of experimentation, to have a brother identical to another and so on,” Sgreccia told the news media.

“So we’re asking ourselves, ‘Does the position that was taken by the Catholic Church have scientific and philosophical arguments in its favor, and thus is it supportable today ethically?’ We want to give a response. We think we have sufficient, valid arguments. We want to propose them,” Sgreccia added.

As a cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that human life begins at the moment of fertilization and deserves legal rights from that point on.

“The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life,” he wrote.

The Rev. Kevin FitzGerald of Georgetown University’s Medical Center was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that some people make a mistake when they consider pre-implantation genetic screening of embryos to be “preventive medicine.”

FitzGerald said in the AP report that such screening “only attempts to determine which embryos already have genetic features that are undesirable—not how to prevent the embryos from getting these features.”

FitzGerald points out that the screening isn’t done to correct problems in embryos but to screen out embryos to be killed.

Related website:

The Vatican: