New Vatican Document Reaffirms Opposition to Cloning, Embryonic Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 10, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Vatican Document Reaffirms Opposition to Cloning, Embryonic Research

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 10
, 2008

The Vatican ( — The Catholic Church released a new document on Friday that reaffirms its opposition to anti-life bioethics practices like human cloning and embryonic stem cell research. The document also tackles problems with in-vitro fertilization and even embryo adoption.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the papers, known as "The Dignity of a Person" to provide more clarity on the Catholic pro-life teachings as they relate to bioethics issues.

It confirms the teachings set forth by the Pontifical Academy for Life that human life begins at conception, or fertilization, and that human beings should not be created by scientists in a lab setting.

The document opposes the practices of human cloning and embryonic stem cell research because they involve the purposeful creation and destruction of human life.

But the teaching also extends to in-vitro fertilization — which can include the creation of multiple human embryos who will only wind up destroyed. That means the Catholic Church is also opposed to selective reduction of embryos, pre-implantation diagnosis and embryo freezing.

Regarding embryo adoption, the document lauds pro-life advocate who support the "praiseworthy" goals of adopting human embryos instead of letting them die in fertility clinics.

But it said embryo adoption puts a good face on the practice of destroying human life.

The pro-life teachings also extend to opposing abortion, the dangerous abortion drug RU 486 (mifepristone) and birth control methods such as the morning after pill that have the ability to destroy a unique human being shortly after conception.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told in a statement that he welcomed the new document.

"We welcome the Instruction as theologians, medical personnel, researchers and married couples consider new scientific and medical procedures that have profound ethical implications bearing upon the procreation of children," he said.

"We applaud developments which advance medical progress with respect for the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception," he said. "We oppose discarding or manipulating innocent lives to benefit future generations, or promoting the creation of new human life in depersonalized ways that substitute for the loving union between a husband and wife."

While some may see the document as a list of ‘nos,’ Cardinal George said its purpose is to defend the dignity of human beings throughout their life from conception onward.

The Instruction notes that "behind every ‘no’ in the difficult task of discerning between good and evil, there shines a great ‘yes’ to the recognition of the dignity and inalienable value of every single and unique human being called into existence."

Cardinal George also noted that Dignitas Personae approves fertility treatments that "succeed in re-establishing the normal function of human procreation" as well as "stem cell research and therapies that respect the inherent dignity of the human person."

He also noted the Instruction’s encouragement for assisting infertile couples through both adoption and research into infertility.

The Vatican Instruction is September 8 but released December 12.

It builds upon Donum vitae, the 1987 CDF instruction on reproductive technologies and embryo experimentation, and discusses more fully the threat of human cloning.

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