Papal Address to Catholic Pharmacists
You "Must Invite Each Person to Advance Humanity"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican
translation of Benedict XVI's address Oct. 29 to participants of the
25th International Congress of Catholic Pharmacists, held in Rome.
* * *
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO MEMBERS OF THE
OF CATHOLIC PHARMACISTS
Monday, 29 October 2007
I am happy to welcome you, members of the International
Congress of Catholic Pharmacists, on the occasion of your 25th
Congress, whose theme is: "The new boundaries of the pharmaceutical
The current development of an arsenal of medicines and the
resulting possibilities for treatment oblige pharmacists to reflect on
the ever broader functions they are called to fulfil, particularly as
intermediaries between doctor and patient; they have an educational
role with patients to teach them the proper dosage of their medication
and especially to acquaint them with the ethical implications of the
use of certain drugs. In this context, it is not possible to
anaesthetize consciences, for example, concerning the effects of
particles whose purpose is to prevent an embryo's implantation or to
shorten a person's life. The pharmacist must invite each person to
advance humanity, so that every being may be protected from the moment
of conception until natural death, and that medicines may fulfil
properly their therapeutic role. No person, moreover, may be used
thoughtlessly as an object for the purpose of therapeutic
experimentation; therapeutic experimentation must take place in
accordance with protocols that respect fundamental ethical norms. Every
treatment or process of experimentation must be with a view to possible
improvement of the person's physical condition and not merely seeking
scientific advances. The pursuit of good for humanity cannot be to the
detriment of people undergoing treatment. In the moral domain, your
Federation is invited to address the issue of conscientious objection,
which is a right your profession must recognize, permitting you not to
collaborate either directly or indirectly by supplying products for the
purpose of decisions that are clearly immoral such as, for example,
abortion or euthanasia.
It would also be advisable that the different
pharmaceutical structures, laboratories at hospital centres and
surgeries, as well as our contemporaries all together, be concerned
with showing solidarity in the therapeutic context, to make access to
treatment and urgently needed medicines available at all levels of
society and in all countries, particularly to the poorest people.
Prompted by the Holy Spirit, may you as Catholic
pharmacists find in the life of faith and in the Church's teaching
elements that will guide you in your professional approach to the sick,
who are in need of human and moral support if they are to live with
hope and find the inner resources that will help them throughout their
lives. It is also your duty to help young people who enter the
different pharmaceutical professions to reflect on the increasingly
delicate ethical implications of their activities and decisions. To
this end, it is important that all Catholic health-care professionals
and people of good will join forces to deepen their formation, not only
at a technical level but also with regard to bioethical issues, as well
as to propose this formation to the profession as a whole. The human
being, because he or she is the image of God, must always be the centre
of research and choices in the biomedical context. At the same time,
the natural principle of the duty to provide care for the sick person
is fundamental. The biomedical sciences are at the service of the human
being; if this were not the case, they would have a cold and inhuman
character. All scientific knowledge in the health sector and every
therapeutic procedure is at the service of the sick person, viewed in
his integral being, who must be an active partner in his treatment and
whose autonomy must be respected.
As I entrust you as well as the sick people you are called
to treat to the intercession of Our Lady and of St Albert the Great, I
impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the members of your
Federation and your families.
NaPro Technology: Moral and Better than In Vitro
Attorneys Anthony and Stephanie Epolite married
in their late thirties, and after trying for some time to have a baby,
they were deeply disappointed. When Stephanie was approaching her
birthday without any prospect for conceiving, they went to see their
doctor. He referred them to a fertility clinic. When they asked their
parish priest about pursuing in vitro fertilization (IVF) he told them
"Do whatever you feel comfortable with." (Pray for that man!)1
So, off they went. They met with a doctor who
did no tests, took no blood, and seemed very cold, very matter of fact.
He told them they had only one option, what with Stephanie about to
turn 39, IVF. Next they met with a kind of sales person to decide which
"package" they wanted, one cycle, two or three. They weren't warming up
to this whole thing but it seemed like their last hope, so they forged
They would remove several ova (eggs) from
Stephanie surgically, and then introduce a sperm cell from Anthony in a
Petri dish. They would observe under a microscope to see if
fertilization would occur. If it did, she would be invited back in to
insert the embryo into Stephanie's womb. For two cycles of work, the
price was a cool $25,000, with no guarantee that there would even be a
fertilization. During the two months of preparation, Anthony had to
inject his wife with several drugs in several parts of her body.
When they completed their part of the procedure,
they went home to await the call. The call they got was to tell them it
didn't work. Their comment at the end of the consultation was, "You
will probably never have a family." And, of course, the $25,000 was
down the tubes.
Studies show IVF problems
Their story is not unique. CDC data for 2003
indicate that the success rate for Assisted Reproductive Technology
(ART), of which in vitro fertilization is virtually always involved in
one form or another, was 32.3 % live births per cycle. Of that 32.3%,
12%, or slightly over 1/3 were "multiple fetus pregnancies."2 For those
women in Stephanie Epolite's age category (ages 38-40) the success rate
for live births was just 20.2 % per cycle.3 Quite a gamble at about
$10,000 per cycle! A study in the New England Journal of Medicine
discovered that ART babies had a 9% rate of birth defects, vs. the
national average of 4.2 %. Other studies have shown an increase among
these babies of cancer, low birth weights and other problems.4
The Church on IVF
The Church's teaching on artificial reproduction
has been in effect since the pontificate of Pius XII, who taught in
outside of marriage [i.e., with single persons] must be condemned as
immoral purely and simply.
within marriage, but by means of . . . a third person, is equally
What of the liceity of
artificial insemination in matrimony? . . . the desire for a child — a
completely legitimate desire of the married people — does not prove]
that artificial insemination is legitimate because it would satisfy
such a desire . . .
Though new methods cannot be
excluded a priori simply because they are new, in the case of
artificial insemination, one should not only keep a cautious reserve,
but must exclude it altogether. This does not necessarily forbid the
use of certain artificial means . . . either to facilitate the natural
act, or to enable the natural act, normally carried out, to attain its
Let it not be forgotten that
only procreation of a new life according to the will and plan of the
Creator, carries with it, to an amazing degree of perfection, the
realization of intended aims. It is at the same time in conformity with
the corporal and spiritual nature and the dignity of the marriage
partners, and with the normal and happy development of the child.5
Pius spoke again on this subject, giving more
reasons for his position, in 1951:
[In our address in 1949] We
formally rejected artificial insemination in marriage. The marital act,
in its natural setting, is a personal action. It is the simultaneous
and direct cooperation of husband and wife, which by the very nature of
the agents and the propriety of the act, is the expression of the
mutual giving which, in the words of Scripture, results in the union
"in one flesh."
There is much more than the
union of two life seeds, which can be brought about even artificially,
that is, without the cooperation of husband and wife. The marital act,
in the order of, and by nature's design, consists of a personal
cooperation which wife exchange as a right when they many.6
And, finally, the same Pius XII explained
further his rejection of artificial insemination in a 1956 address:
The Church has rejected the .
. . attitude, which would pretend to separate, in generation, the
biological activity in the personal relation of the married couple. The
child is the fruit of the conjugal union when that union finds full
expression by bringing into play the organic functions, the associated
sensible emotions, and the spiritual and disinterested love which
animates the union. It is in the unity of this human act that we should
consider the biological conditions of generation. Never is it permitted
to separate these various aspects to the positive exclusion either of
the procreative intention or of the conjugal relationship. The
relationship which united the father and the mother to their child
finds its root in the organic fact and still more in the deliberate
conduct of the spouses who give themselves to each other and whose will
to give themselves blossoms forth and finds its true attainment in the
being which they bring into the world.7
The Catechism of The Catholic Church covers this
issue as well. First it condemns donor artificial insemination
(involving sperm or ovum taken from someone other than the husband or
wife) as violating the right of the child to be born of parents known
to him within marriage (para. 2376). Techniques which involve only the
couple are also morally unacceptable, because:
They [separate] the sexual
act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into
existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to
one another, but one that "entrusts the life and identity of the embryo
into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination
of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a
relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and
equality that must be common to parents and children."8 "Under the
moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it
is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the
specific act of the spouses' union . . . Only respect for the link
between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of
the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the
dignity of the person"9 (CCC 2377).
The Catechism goes on to say:
A child is not something owed
to one, but is a gift. The "supreme gift of marriage" is a human
person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to
which an alleged "right to a child" would lead. In this area, only the
child possesses genuine rights: the right "to be the fruit of the
specific act of the conjugal love of his parents," and "the right to be
respected as a person from the moment of his conception."10 (CCC 2378)
NaPro saves the day
Returning to Anthony and Stephanie Epolite, in
2001 she called a longtime friend who was a certified instructor and
practitioner in the Creighton FertilityCare system, a natural family
planning method developed by Dr. Thomas Hilgers at Creighton University
in Omaha, Nebraska. She was well qualified in natural procreative
(NaPro) technology. Right away her friend taught Stephanie how to chart
her fertility signs. This data would be analyzed by a NaPro doctor to
determine just what was keeping the Epolites from getting pregnant.
According to Dr. Hilgers, developer of the NaPro
method at the Paul VI Institute for The Study of Human Reproduction,
"Most medical approaches today bypass the woman's problem or simply
override her natural processes altogether. With NaPro we find out why
the body is not functioning correctly, then apply treatments that work
cooperatively with the body."11
Once the doctor evaluates the data, and
discovers the problems, he can use one of the state-of-the-art medical
procedures spelled out in Dr. Hilgers' 1300-page book, Medical and
Surgical Practice of NaPro Technology (Pope Paul VI Press, 2004). In
it, Dr. Hilgers explains some key advances in dealing with
endometriosis, polycystic ovarian disease, blocked fallopian tubes, and
hormonal disorders. These are often some of the problems that underlie
Once the Epolites had sent in their data, they
went out to Omaha, to the Paul VI Institute, and they found it anything
but the cold, impersonal environment of the artificial insemination
clinic. The people treated them with, "respect, kindness, compassion
and love." It was July 2001. They had been getting Stephanie's blood
samples for several months on certain days near their home. In Omaha,
Dr. Hilgers had some diagnostic tests done and determined that she
suffered from endometriosis and blocked fallopian tubes. Anthony's
sperm count was discovered to be low.
During their two weeks in Omaha, doctors
performed NaPro surgery on Stephanie, and Anthony was given a list of
nutritional supplements to take. They waited and waited. It seemed like
forever. When they were invited to speak at a natural family planning
conference in March 2002 about their IVF fiasco, they agreed, but were
not enthusiastic about it.
By the time they got to the conference, they had
more than their IVF misadventure to report. Stephanie announced that
they were 7 weeks pregnant! They received a tearful standing ovation.
On October 31, 2002, Claire Marie Epolite was
born. NaPro had succeeded where IVF had failed.
In July 2004, a NaPro conference was held in
Omaha, Nebraska, attended by over 400 physicians, pharmacists, medical
practitioners and patients. Several patients told their own stories of
how NaPro had helped them.
One mother of eight was trying to home school
her children while dealing with oppressive depression. She had already
been treated successfully at the institute for repeated miscarriages.
Her depression came up in a subsequent phone conversation, and a nurse
picked up on that. She asked the woman to send in a blood sample, and
they discovered her hormone level to be one-third the normal. She was
treated for this and the depression disappeared.
A 19-year-old college student had such terrible
cramps during her menstrual period that for days each month she was
immobilized with pain. Doctors suggested either pain medication or the
birth-control pill. The latter gave her slight relief. Her parents had
heard about Dr. Hilgers, and called the Institute. Following a short
period of charting, Hilgers discovered she had endometriosis. She had
surgery and was vastly improved.
One mother suffered such post-partum depression
she was beginning to feel as if having children was a huge mistake. Her
doctors told her this feeling was normal and prescribed
anti-depressants. She contacted Dr. Hilgers and he recognized this was
way out of line. He prescribed progesterone treatment, and her heavy
load was lifted. She quickly returned to her old, cheerful self.
One couple had six heart-breaking miscarriages,
and the wife was pessimistic that Dr. Hilgers could help. Her attitude
was, "If God wants you to have children he will give them to you." Dr.
Hilgers commented, "If you have a clogged sink, are you just going to
pray about it, or are you going to call a plumber?" He went to work
with them and two babies later they beamed with joy, now firm believers
Helpless in New York?
One woman who lived in New York City went to a
highly recommended OB/GYN (obstetrician/gynecologist) there when she
got engaged, to ask about possible fertility problems. She explained to
him all her symptoms and wondered if he would explore the possibility
of her having endometriosis. He didn't. He patted her on the back and
walked her to the door, having prescribed some painkillers. She blurted
out, "But I read [that] the only way this can be diagnosed is through
laparoscopic surgery." (She was quite right)13
"Surgery!" he blustered. "You don't need
surgery." He said she was in good health and had no reason for any
concern. Well, 2 1/2 years into marriage and with no success at getting
pregnant, Deborah was treated for Graves disease. When that didn't
solve her fertility, her OB/GYN started blindly looking for problems in
her reproductive system. He suggested she should think about seeing an
She had no use for artificial reproduction, so
she went home and started researching other possibilities on the
internet (smart woman). She found the Paul VI Institute, and called,
hoping to get to see Dr. Hilgers. She was disappointed to learn that
before seeing him she had to do two months of "NaPro tracking" in which
she charted her monthly cycles, and a month-long series of hormone
tests before she could get to see him. Of course, she later came to
appreciate this delay for testing, as this is a scientific approach to
the problem, which is at the heart of the Creighton Model fertility
program. She was able to do these things locally.15
By the time she got to Dr. Hilgers, he already
had a strong suspicion that she had endometriosis. And, she had low
levels of pre-ovulation estrogen. He did the laparoscopy and discovered
she did indeed have endometriosis, and he treated it with laser surgery
during the laparoscopy (60% of the cases can be treated during the
initial laparoscopy). He also treated partial blockages in her
fallopian tubes (which had been declared "clear and normal" in New
York).16 Also, by doing ultrasound tests during her two-week Omaha
visit, they discovered that she had "premature follicle rupture."17
With all the data in, he recommended hormone
treatment to deal with her low estrogen. She became pregnant within
weeks of her treatment. Her baby, Olivia June Colloton was born April
21, 2004. So much for New York medicine.18
Just the facts
Some astonishing facts about NaPro are:
* It is more effective than
IVF. Success rates are said to range from 40% to 60% vs. the IVF rate
of 32.3% per cycle.
* It costs only a fraction of
what IVF costs.
* It is almost 80% effective
in bringing about childbirth after several miscarriages.
* It is 95% successful in
treating premenstrual syndrome.
* It is 95% successful in
treating postpartum depression.
* It cuts the rate of
premature birth by almost 50%, thus lowering the frequency of
* With NaPro, you can have
more children after the first without paying the same large cost
The list of benefits seems to go on and on. The
only thing lacking now is getting the word out. NaPro has a great
1. Most of this article is based on
"Agents of Change" by Chuck Weber, at
2. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, 2003 Assisted Reproductive Technology Success Rates,
published 2005 by US Dept. of Health and Human Services, p. 18.
3. bid., p. 32.
4. Weber, "Agents of Change."
5. Pius XII, Votreprésence.
29 Sep 1949, To the fourth International Congress of Catholic Doctors,
AAS 41 (1949) 557-561; English trans. in Liebard, 96-100. This quote
from pp. 99, 100.
6. Pius XII, Vegilare con
sollecitudine. 29 Oct 1951, To the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives,
AAS 43 (1951) 833-854; English trans., Liebard, 101-122. This quote
taken from p. 118.
7. Pius XII, Nous vous avez
exprimé. 19 May 1956, To the Second World Congress on Fertility
and Sterility, AAS 48 (1956) 467-474; English trans., Liebard, 173-179.
This quote taken from p. 176.
8. From Congregation for The
Doctrine of The Faith, Donum vitae, 1987, II, 5.
9. Whole paragraph from Catechism
of The Catholic Church, para. 2377. Quote taken from: Congregation for
The Doctrine of The Faith, Donum vitae, 1987, II, 4.
10. From Congregation for The Doctrine of
The Faith, Donum vitae, 1987, II, 8.
11. Weber, "Agents of Change."
12. All these stories from Weber, "Agents
13. Jean Blair Packard, editor, In Their
Own Words, Women Healed, Omaha, NE: Pope Paul VI Inst. Press, 2004, p.
14. Ibid., pp. 61, 62.
15. Ibid. p. 62.
16. Ibid., pp. 63, 64.
17. Ibid., p.64.
18. Ibid. pp. 65, 66.
19. Weber, "Agents of Change."
20. For more information on NaPro go to
www.popepaulvi.com. Doctors who wish to learn more about NaPro
technology may find detailed information in Dr. Hilgers' book, Medical
and Surgical Practice of NaPro Technology, Omaha, NE, Pope Paul VI
Reverend Thomas G. Morrow has a doctorate in
Sacred Theology from the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage
and the Family. His book, Saints for Families (Emmaus Road), a
compilation of 27 lives of saints appropriate for family reading time,
appeared in 2002. He is a parochial vicar at St. Catherine Laboure
Parish in Wheaton, Md. His published booklets and leaflets can be seen
at www.cfalive.org. His most recent booklet is Achieving Chastity in a
Pornographic World (New Hope Publications, 2006).
The Fate of Frozen Embryos
October 02, 2007
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column about
StemLifeLine, a California company that has recently begun offering a
unique service to couples who have created human embryos by means of in
vitro fertilization (IVF). The company offers to take their remaining
frozen (cryopreserved) embryos and "transform" them into "useful" stem
cells. The company's entire premise-to take these embryos,
destroy them, and derive from them stem cells that would be
"customized" for use by either the father or mother-is, as I pointed
out, a complete sham: IVF Embryo Being Handledtissues developed from
stem cells derived from these embryos, if implanted in either parent,
would require life-long immunosuppression, lest the tissues be rejected
by their bodies. So much for "customized" stem cells. As I stated
at the time, however, the very existence of this
company-notwithstanding its phony advertising-is a powerful reminder
that the age of embryo-based biomedicine is now upon us.
For the past two years, we have also seen
significant efforts in the U.S. Congress to press for legislation that
would "free up" the existing population of frozen IVF embryos for
research purposes. In spite of these efforts, it is clear that
under the present administration the current federal prohibition on
using federal funding to destroy IVF embryos for research will
stand. (It may not in future administrations.)
But such realities have brought to the
forefront a difficult and disturbing moral question: what can be
done ethically with those IVF embryos judged unsuitable or no longer
intended for transfer into the womb?
In the survival-of-the-fittest world of
IVF, multiple embryos are manufactured from the eggs and sperm of
couples pursuing pregnancy by this means. Surplus embryos-those not
implanted immediately-are placed in suspended animation, their initial
cellular development arrested at the very outset of their existence,
sometimes Frozen Embryoeven at the one-cell stage. Immersed in a soup
of cryoprotectant chemicals, then sucked into straws, these embryos are
then entombed in tanks of liquid nitrogen and instantaneously
frozen. Just under four hundred thousand such embryos are
preserved in IVF clinics in the United States alone according to the
most recent, reliable study produced in 2003 by the Rand corporation.
The Catholic Church continues to teach
that recourse to IVF as a remedy for infertility is morally
illicit. The Church rejects this as a morally viable option on
the grounds that children have a right to be brought into the world,
not through the dexterity of lab technician's hand, but through the
unitive and procreative act of conjugal intercourse of a man and woman
united in marriage. Children brought into the world through
IVF are not generated, but literally manufactured. . While the
Church endorses any number of licit means of assisting the marital act,
we maintain that it is morally illicit to substitute that act with
technical interventions-which is precisely what happens in the case of
There should not be 400,000+ human embryos
currently stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen. The entire IVF enterprise
is to be credited for bringing about the stunning and absurd moral
predicament. The probing question that now faces so many
IVF parents is: what to do with the remaining embryos that they
do not intend to gestate?
in this situation are forced to choose from the following
options: allow their offspring to be kept in frozen storage
indefinitely; have the embryos removed from frozen storage and allowed
to expire naturally or be "disposed of" as laboratory waste; give up
the embryos to scientific research; or give up the embryos for adoption
by another couple.
I would suggest that choosing to keep the
embryos in frozen storage indefinitely only delays the
inevitable-eventual death through organismic decay while in the frozen
state. Noting that the thawing process itself often kills IVF
embryos being prepared for transfer, some moralists object to the
prospect of a couple choosing to thaw their embryos, allowing them to
expire naturally. I believe that a sound argument can be made for
the removal of frozen embryos from their storage containers on the
grounds that continued cryopreservation In Vitro Embryoconstitutes an
extraordinary and ultimately futile means of continued existence-an
absurd and tragic existence to be sure. Allowing the embryos to die is
not the same as directly killing them. Directing lab technicians to
"dispose" of the embryos is ethically unacceptable as this entails
taking actions directly on the embryos with the intention of destroying
them. A recent study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania
discovered that protocols for the disposal of excess embryos at
American IVF clinics varies in surprising ways, including
quasi-religious ceremonies. The study also suggests that such disposal
creates serious problems of conscience for clinicians, many of whom opt
out of involvement in the disposal procedure.
Parents who decide to remove their embryos
from frozen storage to allow them to die naturally should be encouraged
to ask their pastor whether some blessing or other appropriate ceremony
might be possible. The remaining embryos (though microscopic) should be
treated with the degree of respect due to all human remains.
Obviously, embryos should never be
sacrificed upon the altar of biomedical research. Such a decision would
constitute a grave affront to human dignity and a direct assault on
innocent human life. No putative medical benefit can justify the direct
killing of a human being.
I would not exclude the possibility of
donating cells from an embryo after its death. If a criterion for
embryonic death can be established, it may be moral to donate cells
from a deceased embryo just as one might from any child who dies.
Catholic theologians continue to be of
diverse opinions, however, on the question of embryo adoption:
the licitness, that is, of implanting unwanted IVF embryos into the
wombs of women willing to gestate them to term with the intention of
"rescuing" them from almost certain death, or even to adopt them
outright. The Holy See has not expressed a definitive moral judgment on
the matter. Some theologians hold that such a proposition is not
only morally licit, but even heroic. Others hold-at least in the case
of married women-that such a prospect (which entails the woman's
becoming pregnant apart from the intervention of her husband), though
noble in its intention, would constitute a grave violation of the
Embryo Adoption BookAt a Westchester
Institute Scholars Forum, held in October 2004 we engaged in a thorough
examination of Catholic arguments for and against embryo
adoption. These arguments were later gathered and published in
detail in a volume of essays entitled Human Embryo Adoption:
Biotechnology, Marriage and the Right to Life. Later this week, I
will be speaking on this topic at a gathering of the Catholic Medical
My on-going exposure to the field of embryonic
stem cell (ESC) research compels me to believe that the interest in
embryo-based scientific research is growing-research we should remember
that might have little or nothing to do with eventual cures to which
such research might directly or indirectly contribute. I am convinced
that today we stand on the verge of an era in which such
embryo-destructive research could become common-place. There are
any number of grim indications that a majority of Americans are slowly
being cajoled into endorsing such a barbarous plan. To avoid such a
future, we must demand that lawmakers pursue a complete federal ban on
the creation in vitro of human embryos for any purpose other than
implantation in a human womb. Surely Americans have not yet
reached such a state of moral confusion as to fail to see the
reasonableness of such a moral boundary line. But I have reasons to
Ugly New World
company has innovative uses for your new or leftover embryos.
By Father Thomas Berg
People who have undergone in vitro fertilization
(IVF) in order to have children face vexing moral choices about what to
do with the remaining embryos that were not implanted. Now they have a
new option: to develop personalized stem-cell lines from their unused,
stored embryos. A new company called StemLifeLine has begun promoting
this “service” for customers.
This is from the company’s website:
Until now, individuals who
have undergone in vitro fertilization have had only three options for
their remaining stored embryos after individual childbearing needs have
been fulfilled. They could be donated to research, given up for
“adoption” to other couples or discarded.
StemLifeLine provides a
fourth option for these embryos — to generate personal stem cell lines
that may, in the future, benefit you and your family. StemLifeLine is
proud to offer this service to individuals with remaining embryos after
in vitro fertilization.
The website, it must be said, is almost too much
to believe. Is there really a market for parents to destroy some of
their own offspring — the siblings to their own born children — for
personal gain? My first reaction was to wonder whether it wasn’t some
kind of a gimmick. For example, this is on the site’s “getting started”
section — it reads like something right off the script for the movie
As soon as the fertility
clinic receives your completed information, StemLifeLine will make
arrangements with your clinic to transfer your remaining embryos to our
During the derivation
process, we will keep you informed each step of the way. You can also
inquire about the status of your cells by contacting us at any time.
Once we have derived and cryopreserved your stem cell line we will
provide you with detailed documentation of the derivation process and
stem cell characterization.
Apparently, the company is for real. Founded in
2005, StemLifeLine just received its tissue bank license in May of this
year. So, only recently has it begun in earnest its one and only
“service” of “developing” and “transforming” unwanted IVF embryos into
“useful” stem cells. Such are the idyllic euphemisms employed on the
website to smoke screen the reality of the company’s dedication to
Slate’s William Saletan cut through the
euphemisms when he recently blogged about StemLifeLine. It’s not
“developing” [an embryo into stem cells], wrote Saletan, “it’s killing.”
But there is more
deception here than mere
language games. For starters the company promises to offer clients
“personal stem cell lines” that will provide them and their families
with their “own high quality, genetically-matched stem cells.” Experts
have been quick to point out, of course, that this is scientific
nonsense. In a recent San Franciso Chronicle op-ed, stem-cell
biologists from the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology observed
that left-over IVF embryos “are not genetically identical to the couple
or their children, any more than siblings are to each other or children
are to their parents.” Dr. Markus Grompe, director of the Oregon Stem
Cell Center, and senior fellow of the Westchester Institute, noted that
“if either parent were to use tissues derived from their own IVF
embryos, full-fledged immunosuppression would be essential. Recourse to
these tissues would give the parents no therapeutic advantage
But I would argue the deception gets even deeper
and more disturbing. Couples are encouraged to “commit at least ten
remaining embryos to ensure high probability for the successful
derivation of a personal stem cell line.” That’s a claim that should
give us pause.
It takes a considerable number of cryopreserved
IVF embryos to yield a line of embryonic stem cells. According to the
2003 Rand study — an analysis of the few published studies available —
technicians (including those at StemLifeLine) would have to allow for
the fact that: a) only 65 percent of frozen embryos will survive the
thawing process; b) only 25 percent of those will then develop to the
blastocyst stage (approximately 6 or 7 days of development, the point
at which embryonic stem cells are harvested from the embryo); and c)
based on the past ten years’ experience of deriving stem cells from
frozen IVF embryos, arguably only 15 percent of those embryos will
yield stem cell lines (this figure is consistent with recent studies).
Now, do the math yourself, but this tells me
that 10 or even 20 frozen embryos will not suffice (outside of very
rare successes) for StemLifeLine technicians to get a stem-cell line.
By the most optimistic set of stats, couples would have to commit
upwards of 40 cryopreserved embryos — a preposterous amount — to have a
reasonable hope of obtaining just one “personal” stem-cell line. Smell
fishy to you?
StemLifeLine currently “partners” with three IVF
clinics, and doubtless has a waiting list of others ready to sign on
the dotted line. Now, I don’t mean to sound cynical, but these clinics
— in the business of creating embryos — most likely have some incentive
for referring clients to StemLifeLine. And if the latter’s clients need
at least ten “extra” embryos for a “personalized” stem-cell line, these
clinics are surely ready to help: as in create more embryos. That way,
patients just “happen” to have a large number of extra embryos to
dedicate to the personal stem-cell line project.
Then what about potential customers who lack the
requisite number of “spare” frozen embryos, but still want
“personalized” stem cells from their own offspring? Current best
estimates by stem-cell experts suggest that as few as three or four
“fresh” human embryos — not frozen — can successfully yield one line of
embryonic stem cells. Is it far-fetched to think that such customers
would create fresh embryos for their stem cells or that StemLifeLine
might just suggest that they do so as a matter of course?
And it won’t be an exaggeration to push this
scenario a bit further. Perhaps customers will actually go to all the
trouble of creating fresh embryos, and since an average round of IVF
normally yields as many as six or eight embryos or more (at least
double the number of fresh embryos needed for obtaining a stem-cell
line), why not suggest that the couple donate the remaining embryos for
scientific research? Heck, why be selfish, right? After having
“benefited you and your family” with your own “personalized” line of
stem cells, why not go the extra mile and donate those remaining
embryos so that others can “benefit”?
Does the image of Goya’s Saturn Devouring his
Children come to mind perhaps?
The very existence of this company — however
gimmicky and deceptive in its advertising — is a new and powerful
indicator that the age of embryo-based science, medicine and commercial
emporiums is now upon us. New enterprises like StemLifeLine will
continue to appear. Most, if not all, will fly under the banner of
“cures” and of “benefiting you and your family.”
Those cures may never come; but all the while,
these enterprises will be the conduits for a steady supply of fresh
human embryos for the basic scientific research that thousands of
developmental biologists are so anxious to engage in, much or most of
which will have little or nothing to do with cures. We urgently need
Congress to produce legislation prohibiting the deliberate creation of
human embryos ex vivo — by in vitro fertilization, cloning or any other
technique — for research or purely therapeutic purposes.
If the present generation of Americans simply
blinks at the existence of enterprises like StemLifeLine, then we will
have become mere spectators of Brave New World at its ugliest, and have
guaranteed a horrific and monumental defeat for humanity.
— Fr. Thomas Berg is executive director of The
Westchester Institute for Ethics & the Human Person.
The Search for Perfection
Eliminated as New Eugenics Gains Force
By Father John Flynn, L.C.
ROME, JUNE 25, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The desire for
perfect babies combined with the possibilities of biotechnology is
taking an ever-higher toll. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD),
and other forms of screening enable the detection of genetic defects,
leading either to embryos being eliminated before implantation when
combined with in vitro fecundation, or to abortion in the case of
pregnancies already in progress.
Philosopher Michael J. Sandel considered some of
the ethical questions involved in this practice in the book "The Case
Against Perfection," published in May by Belknap Press. A professor of
government at Harvard University, Sandel starts his brief book by
asking if, even when no harm is involved, there is something troubling
about parents "ordering up a child" with certain genetic traits.
Sandel's approach is nonreligious and does not
fully embrace the position of the Church. For example, he defends
embryonic stem cell research. Nevertheless, the book provides a useful
series of reflections which invite the reader to consider the
implications of both eliminating individuals with genetic defects and
also efforts to "improve" physical or mental capabilities.
This "drive to mastery," as Sandel terms it,
runs the risk of destroying our appreciation of the gifted character of
human powers and achievements. In other words, "that not everything in
the world is open to any use we may desire or devise."
When it comes to parenthood, Sandel comments
that unlike our friends, we do not choose our children. "To appreciate
children as gifts is to accept them as they come, not as objects of our
design, or products of our will, or instruments of our ambition."
Thus, he continues, the problem with wanting to
choose children with or without certain genetic characteristics is in
the hubris of the parents. Such a parental disposition, he adverts,
"disfigures the relation between parent and child." As a result the
unconditional love that a parent should have toward a child is placed
Sandel also warns that if we erode the sense of
the gifted character of human powers and achievements we will damage
three important elements in society: humility, responsibility and
A school for humility
Parenthood is a school for humility, according
to Sandel, in which we care deeply about our children, and also live
with the unexpected. When it comes to responsibility, the more we
become involved in determining our genetic qualities, the greater the
burden we will bear for the talents we have and how we perform.
For example, once giving birth to a child with
Down syndrome was considered a matter of chance. Today parents who of
children with Down syndrome or other disabilities feel blamed for not
having eliminated the child before birth.
In turn, this growth in responsibility could
well damage solidarity, Sandel continues, because there is a very real
risk that those who are less fortunate will come to be seen not as
disadvantaged, but as simply unfit.
Sandel is not the only one to be worried over
what happens to those who are less fortunate in the genetic stakes. A
number of press articles over the last few months have taken up the
matter of the elimination of embryos detected with Down syndrome.
On May 9 the New York Times published an article
reporting that, following a new recommendation by the American College
of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, doctors have begun to offer a
screening procedure to all pregnant women, regardless of age, for Down
syndrome. About 90% of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome
diagnosis normally choose to have an abortion, the article reported.
The article then went on to describe the efforts
by some parents to educate the medical profession about the fulfilling
lives that children suffering from disabilities can lead. Advances in
medical treatment and appropriate attention means that, despite not
inconsiderable difficulties, Down syndrome children can achieve much in
The New York Times returned to the argument on
May 13 with another article. Among other testimonies was that of Sarah
Lynn Lester, a supporter of abortion rights, who nevertheless continued
her pregnancy after learning her child had Down syndrome. "I thought it
would be morally wrong to have an abortion for a child that had a
genetic disability," she told the newspaper.
Earlier this year the Canadian Down Syndrome
Society launched a public awareness campaign to counter the trend
toward genetic testing, reported the National Post newspaper Jan. 10.
The campaign came just as the Society of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada released a recommendation
that all expectant mothers undergo screening for Down syndrome.
The article also quoted Dr. Will Johnston,
president of the Vancouver-based organization Physicians for Life, who
said his members find the move toward more fetal screening to be
"I think it shows our inability as a culture to
be as inclusive and accepting of diversity as we would like to think we
are," he said.
Italy is another country where genetic screening
is increasing. According to a March 11 report in the national daily
newspaper La Repubblica, by 2005 no less than 79% of Italian women were
having three or more ultrasound examinations during pregnancy.
The tests, however, can sometimes have a tragic
outcome. On March 7 the Italian news agency ANSA reported on the case
of a 22 week-old fetus aborted because of a mistaken diagnosis of a
After the ultrasound examination, which
erroneously seemed to reveal a problem, the mother decided to abort.
The baby survived the abortion, but the following day ANSA reported
that it had died.
As biotechnology develops, genetic screening
seems destined to expand even further, with ominous consequences for
babies. On May 6 the London-based Sunday Times reported that the Bridge
Center Fertility clinic had received the go ahead from the Human
Fertilization and Embryology Authority to screen a couple's embryos in
order to create a baby without eyes affected with cross-eye, also known
as a squint.
The article also noted that screening has now
started for some forms of cancer and early-onset Alzheimer's.
"We will increasingly see the use of embryo
screening for severe cosmetic conditions," Gedis Grudzinskas, medical
director of the clinic, told the Sunday Times.
David King, director of Human Genetics Alert,
was critical of the decision to allow such screening. "We moved from
preventing children who will die young to those who might become ill in
middle age," he noted. "Now we discard those who will live as long as
the rest of us but are cosmetically imperfect."
Concern over such trends was also expressed by
Benedict XVI in an address given Feb. 24 to members of the Pontifical
Academy for Life. "A new wave of discriminatory eugenics finds
consensus in the name of the presumed well-being of the individual, and
laws are promoted especially in the economically progressive world for
the legalization of euthanasia," the Pontiff warned.
In today's increasingly secularized world our
consciences face increasing obstacles in distinguishing the correct
path to take on these and other issues, the Pope added. This is due
both to a growing rejection of the Christian tradition and also to a
distrust of the capacity of our reason to perceive the truth, he
"Life is the first good received from God and is
fundamental to all others; to guarantee the right to life for all and
in an equal manner for all is the duty upon which the future of
humanity depends," the Holy Father concluded. A duty made increasingly
urgent in the face of increased pressures to manipulate life.
Faith, Reason and Bioethics
With Director of Linacre Center
LONDON, JUNE 18, 2007- Rational arguments need
to take priority in the debate on bioethical issues, says the director
of the Linacre Center for Healthcare Ethics.
Helen Watt, of the only Catholic bioethics
center in the United Kingdom and Ireland, recently spoke about the
opportunity Catholics now have to engage modern Europe in an
authentically grounded ethical debate.
The Linacre Center's International Conference is
being held July 5-7 on the topic of "Incapacity and Care: Moral
Problems in Healthcare and Research."
Q: How is the ethical debate on health care
issues in Europe today different from 30 years ago?
Watt: Thirty years ago, in vitro fertilization
was a new and shocking development -- as were the embryo experiments
which paved the way for it. Now IVF is standard procedure for anyone
who wants to have a child, and does not object to the manufacturing
process and attitudes involved. The embryonic child resulting is
treated more like a possession than like a new member of the family.
Often the debate is now between extreme
libertarians, who defend a frankly consumerist attitude to medicine and
parenthood, and those who want to set some limits, but lack the moral
framework they need to do so in a credible way. This means that the
principled approach offered by the Church often gets pushed to the
sidelines -- though fortunately not always.
Q: Where are the main battle lines now drawn
with regard to bioethical issues in Europe?
Watt: One battle line is euthanasia, by act and
by omission. Another is respect for unborn life, in relation to
abortion, IVF and embryo experimentation.
Another battle line is, of course, marriage and
parenthood. This last area is closely linked to IVF -- as in, for
example, the bid to expunge the requirement in British law that
fertility doctors must take account of the child's need for a father.
While some in Britain hope to tighten abortion
laws, other countries in the European Union are under pressure to
"liberalize" restrictive laws on abortion. There is also a strong push
for European Union funding of embryonic stem cell research.
The hope is that countries which have recently
joined the European Union, such as Poland, will bring fresh insights to
the rest of Europe, rather than be themselves caught up in the
Q: What are the signs of hope that the trend
toward the legalization of euthanasia and stem cell research will be
Watt: The Dutch experience has shown how close
the link is between voluntary and nonvoluntary euthanasia, once some
lives are deemed not worth living.
While Belgium followed its neighbor and
legalized euthanasia, similar legislation was recently defeated in
Britain by a coalition of pro-life and palliative care groups --
although there is certainly a need for vigilance with regard to
euthanasia by omission.
On the stem cell front, there are wonderful
advances being made with adult and umbilical cord stem cells -- ethical
alternatives to the use of cells from destroyed human embryos. It's an
exciting time for adult stem cell researchers, who can point to many
actual treatments of human patients.
Italy is one country that has made huge strides
in enacting laws protecting human embryos, showing that progress in
this area can be made even after many years of permissive practice.
Q: The issues of IVF, human cloning and embryo
screening all revolve around the status of early human life. Why is it
so difficult to convince people of the humanity of the embryo, or even
to keep it in the common consciousness as an issue?
Watt: It's a combination of pragmatism and a
failure of imagination. On the one hand, people want to be able to keep
doing embryo experiments and using abortifacient contraception. On the
other hand, the embryo is challenging in its appearance, despite the
powerful case for its continuity with the older human being.
We live in an image-led age. The embryo is
small, and looks different from the adult -- which does not, of course,
prevent it having human rights and interests, just like any other child.
The kind of emotional engagement that ultrasound
makes possible for older unborn children is often not possible with the
embryo. There is a need to appeal to reason rather than just to the
Q: How can the Church better educate Catholics
about contentious ethical issues?
Watt: The Linacre Center specializes in
providing arguments for the Catholic view of bioethics which do not
require a prior acceptance of the Catholic faith.
We aim to show that the merits of this view can
be recognized by anyone of good will using their reason. This approach
encourages a robust realism that reaches out to people of other faiths
and of no faith.
Recently, Benedict XVI spoke of the need to
rediscover the natural law tradition, especially in an age of
skepticism and relativism. He was, I think, encouraging the Church to
speak out on issues affecting public policy in a way that uses reason
to reveal the objective basis for her teaching.
It would be good to see bioethical issues given
a little more priority in teaching from the pulpit. Many people are
simply unaware that the Church opposes IVF, for example. Even those who
know this may be quite unaware of the riches of Catholic theology on
sex and marriage.
It is important to reach young people at school
and university before they have committed themselves, in their work or
personal lives, to secular ideologies. The Linacre Center hopes to do
more in this area, funding permitting -- as well as providing
information and support to health professionals under pressure to
conform to an anti-life culture.
Q: Why do you think the Church's contribution to
ethical debates is ignored so readily in modern Europe?
Watt: Ethical debates in Europe vary from
country to country. In Britain the dominant philosophy is one of
pragmatism coupled with scientism, and a suspicion that any reference
to moral absolutes must be religiously grounded.
A result is that there is very little rational
debate in bioethical areas. Debate is seen as merely a way of placating
the public, or at best reaching a compromise between differing
interests without articulating a coherent moral framework.
This is not the case in some other countries,
where there are much stronger religious and cultural supports for moral
reasoning of a kind that can enlighten our understanding of human life
and its purpose.
All too often, the Church is ignored because she
is seen as anti-science -- instead of anti-killing -- and as
anti-freedom -- instead of anti-oppression of others and enslavement of
The media is often irresponsible in its
portrayal of Church teaching and generally too shallow in its approach
to allow people to see the rationality and beauty of the Church's
Moreover, it must be said that many of us, both
clergy and laypeople, are far too timid when it comes to expressing
Church teaching in these areas, and why it is true and good and leads
It would be a good start if we began holding our
governments to account -- and judging ourselves by the same yardstick
by which we assess them. We have a wonderful message to convey, and
should do so with confidence and enthusiasm.
Papal Address on Stem-Cell Research
"A Good Result Can Never
Justify Intrinsically Unlawful Means"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 4, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation
of the address Benedict XVI gave Sept. 16 to the participants in the
symposium on "Stem Cells: What Future for Therapy?" organized by the
Pontifical Academy for Life.
* * *
Hall of the Swiss, Castel Gandolfo
Saturday, 16 September 2006
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I address a cordial greeting to you all. This meeting with you,
scientists and scholars dedicated to specialized research in the
treatment of diseases that are a serious affliction to humanity, is a
special comfort to me.
I am grateful to the organizers who have promoted this Congress on a
topic that has become more and more important in recent years. The
specific theme of the Symposium is appropriately formulated with a
question open to hope: "Stem cells: what future for therapy?".
I thank Bishop Elio Sgreccia, President of the Pontifical Academy for
Life, for his kind words, also on behalf of the International
Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC), an association
that has cooperated in organizing the Congress and is represented here
by Prof. Gianluigi Gigli, outgoing President, and Prof. Simon de
When science is applied to the alleviation of suffering and when it
discovers on its way new resources, it shows two faces rich in
humanity: through the sustained ingenuity invested in research, and
through the benefit announced to all who are afflicted by sickness.
Those who provide financial means and encourage the necessary
structures for study share in the merit of this progress on the path of
On this occasion, I would like to repeat what I said at a recent
Audience: "Progress becomes true progress only if it serves the human
person and if the human person grows: not only in terms of his or her
technical power, but also in his or her moral awareness" (cf. General
Audience, 16 August 2006).
In this light, somatic stem-cell research also deserves approval and
encouragement when it felicitously combines scientific knowledge, the
most advanced technology in the biological field and ethics that
postulate respect for the human being at every stage of his or her
The prospects opened by this new chapter in research are fascinating in
themselves, for they give a glimpse of the possible cure of
degenerative tissue diseases that subsequently threaten those affected
with disability and death.
How is it possible not to feel the duty to praise all those who apply
themselves to this research and all who support the organization and
cover its expenses?
I would like in particular to urge scientific structures that draw
their inspiration and organization from the Catholic Church to increase
this type of research and to establish the closest possible contact
with one another and with those who seek to relieve human suffering in
the proper ways.
May I also point out, in the face of the frequently unjust accusations
of insensitivity addressed to the Church, her constant support for
research dedicated to the cure of diseases and to the good of humanity
throughout her 2,000-year-old history.
If there has been resistance -- and if there still is -- it was and is
to those forms of research that provide for the planned suppression of
human beings who already exist, even if they have not yet been born.
Research, in such cases, irrespective of efficacious therapeutic
results is not truly at the service of humanity.
In fact, this research advances through the suppression of human lives
that are equal in dignity to the lives of other human individuals and
the lives of the researchers themselves.
History itself has condemned such a science in the past and will
condemn it in the future, not only because it lacks the light of God
but also because it lacks humanity.
I would like to repeat here what I already wrote some time ago: Here
there is a problem that we cannot get around; no one can dispose of
human life. An insurmountable limit to our possibilities of doing and
of experimenting must be established. The human being is not a
disposable object, but every single individual represents God's
presence in the world (cf. J. Ratzinger, "God and the World," Ignatius
In the face of the actual suppression of the human being there can be
no compromises or prevarications. One cannot think that a society can
effectively combat crime when society itself legalizes crime in the
area of conceived life.
On the occasion of recent Congresses of the Pontifical Academy for
Life, I have had the opportunity to reassert the teaching of the
Church, addressed to all people of good will, on the human value of the
newly conceived child, also when considered prior to implantation in
The fact that you at this Congress have expressed your commitment and
hope to achieve new therapeutic results from the use of cells of the
adult body without recourse to the suppression of newly conceived human
beings, and the fact that your work is being rewarded by results, are
confirmation of the validity of the Church's constant invitation to
full respect for the human being from conception. The good of human
beings should not only be sought in universally valid goals, but also
in the methods used to achieve them.
A good result can never justify intrinsically unlawful means. It is not
only a matter of a healthy criterion for the use of limited financial
resources, but also, and above all, of respect for the fundamental
human rights in the area of scientific research itself.
I hope that God will grant your efforts -- which are certainly
sustained by God who acts in every person of good will and for the good
of all -- the joy of discovering the truth, wisdom in consideration and
respect for every human being, and success in the search for effective
remedies to human suffering.
To seal this hope, I cordially impart an affectionate Blessing to all
of you, to your collaborators and to your relatives, as well as to the
patients who will benefit from your ingenuity and resourcefulness and
the results of your work, with the assurance of my special remembrance
The Physician's Relationship With Morality
From President of World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations
ROME, DEC. 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of a document
released by the World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations.
* * *
Letter to Catholic Physicians Worldwide on
"The Physician's Relationship With Morality"
By Dr. José María Simón
World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC)
Relations between the physician and the moralist have not always
been easy. Numerous colleagues from different countries are asking for
reflections to help them to practice the medical profession with moral
security. One of the requirements of this moral security is frequent
consultation with experts to enlighten the professional conscience. In
order to be truly human, it must be well trained and correctly informed
and must be frequently refined in its permanent search for the truth.
In recent times, given the nature of the answers of the experts, it is
worth offering certain clarifications on the quality and scope of these
The natural law exists
The natural law is the ability of straightforward human reason to
know and to stick to the truth. There is no other profession that
appreciates the existence of this law as much as physicians.
Although the natural law does not coincide with biological law, we
are perfectly aware that if we underestimate human physiology, for
example, our patients will be sick. No one can, for example, eat stones
without transgressing the laws of our body and, therefore, falling ill.
This can help us to understand that there is also a law which helps us
to value human dignity. We all "know" that it is bad to kill an
innocent human being. Or that it is bad to steal. We know that if we do
not consider the human being also as a psychological, spiritual, family
and social being, our duty to transform suffering into well-being (as
physicians we are like Nazarenes, like Cyrenaics, who help to withstand
the weight of the disease and the pain) will never fully attain its
Although the absolute majority of the inhabitants of planet Earth
believe in a Supreme Being, in many Western societies many thinkers and
opinion creators do not. We can also give them natural reasons for what
is good or bad for the human being. Furthermore, it will sometimes be
with these reasons that they will perceive how sublime our thinking is.
In view of the existence of the "natural law," given its
complexity (although some rules are very simple), and as it is obvious
that we human beings have suffered from serious limitations since the
times of Adam, we can wonder whether there is some ultimate authority
which can interpret this law correctly. Numerous intermediate
jurisdictional levels help or hinder the perception of this law.
Our ultimate personal authority is our personal professional
conscience, which will trigger the decisions on medical acts. Indeed,
each of us just with our own reason can go far in the search for the
truth. But there is a safe, genuine and objective, and therefore useful
and good authority for a general interpretation of the law, something
which prevents us from making glaring errors with the human being and
which moreover seeks the transcendental happiness of people.
God is the Creator of the universe and of man. And, as some
political constitutions say, God made man free. Free to choose the
truth and good. But also free to choose evil. Experience tells us that
good and evil are entwined in countless shades inside our health-care
structures. If evil exists, confusion and error also exist. Both
blameworthy and blameless error (we must fight against both!).
Moreover, it is possible that some people are particularly determined
to spread the confusion. And evil can establish real "sin structures,"
places, establishments or laws which do not serve the human being.
The Church interprets the natural law
Our Creator stipulated that it is the Church that should interpret
the "natural law" in an authentic manner. It moreover looks after
everything that he revealed and which is not in nature. As human beings
we are only passing through this world as a test, to a certain extent
isolated from God but not at all forsaken. In the Lord's Prayer we say
"Our Father, who art in heaven," which already shows that we are on
another level, not in Heaven. "Thy kingdom come" and "deliver us from
evil" clearly show us that there is a better condition which can come
and which has not yet fully come and that the Creator can do
everything. The teachings of the Catholic Church can help us on not
leaving us alone. The Church speaks with human language (and in
different languages) about everything that happens to man.
Another truth that our own and historical experience perceives is
the reality of the progress of medicine, irrespective of the fact that
there have also been advances, backward movements and asymmetries in
different countries and cultures. As human beings we have numerous
surprises to discover in nature itself and we are capable of inventing
and of building no end of things, which makes living a passionate and
never complete experience.
Progress should be made using both sides of the coin: science and
ethics. In recent years the name and contents of a supposed new
discipline, bioethics, have made a fortune. Personally, I believe that
many years ago as physicians we already had equivalent disciplines. I
recently read books on medical morals and on professional ethics from
the beginning of the last century and they are treatises on bioethics …
The teachings accompany the progress of medicine
The progress of medicine is also accompanied by a deployment of
the teachings of the Catholic Church. New techniques, new discoveries,
call out to physicians, who find support in the teachings. Support is
security. Moral security is necessary in order to practice our
profession. The [Church] teachings enlighten the professional
conscience in order to practice with good, adapting to the times and
moments of progress. The teachings intervene after considering the data
obtained by the experimental sciences. They do not save us from the
effort of studying the world by ourselves. On the contrary, they impel
us to do this de facto and de iure.
Ecclesiastic common sense tells us that, although all of us who
are baptized are the Church and we all do our bit for it, it is the
Pope and the bishops in communion with him who exercise the teachings
of the Catholic Church. It could not be otherwise. The Almighty became
one of us and left representatives, acting as they want and how they
want, but adapting to the logic written by himself. It is not
reasonable for anyone, in any way, to produce teachings or to try to
interpret the "natural law" authentically.
Therefore, when a papal or episcopal document appears on a subject
of interest to the profession, the Catholic physician should be
critical with the legion of moralist theologians who interpret and
reinterpret it in the media. As if the Pope did not write clearly. As
if as Catholic physicians we could not understand it by ourselves! They
should not offend the intelligence of professionals or of the
population in general. I know that some theologians have the backing of
numerous publications, have been prestigious university lecturers for
years or are linked to us by friendship. Emotivity can turn heads that
are well screwed on and, on the other hand, also make people understand
by other means what they do not understand through reason.
Any ordinary person understands the saying "What the boss says
goes." This should be enough to silence anyone who shamelessly takes
over someone else's duties.
It is essential to take into account that, as in the case of
personal appearances or revelations, the public aspect of the Catholic
Church takes precedence over private teachings. The public teachings of
the Catholic Church on the subjects which affect us thus always have
priority and truth. The private teachings of theologians must always be
rejected if they contradict the teachings of the Catholic Church. And
even if they appear to contradict them.
One of the principles of communication in the Catholic Church is
that of clarity and non-contradiction. There are no secrets in the
Catholic Church. The major truths are public and are clear (they can be
found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church). When a mystery is
proclaimed, it is clear and it is classified as such.
The life of people on this Earth is aimed at their eternal
destiny. Man cannot be measured in just two dimensions. The third
dimension, the one that points upward, is the one that gives our lives
An exemplary case
This is a case of a declaration of experts on the possible
legality of the transfer of an altered nucleus to an egg to obtain stem
cells. The genetic material from one cell would be altered in such a
way that the product resulting from the insertion of this material into
an egg and its activation would not give rise to a human being. It
would be something like the hydatidiform mole, which also comes from an
altered egg and spermatozoid, although in this case naturally.
The exemplariness of the case comes from the intelligence of
considering the possibility, from the way of prudently expressing
opinions, from the sincerity of the signatories admitting that each is
an expert only in one area and that they are not speaking in the name
of their Church or work institution, and from the fact that they
propose beginning the research with animals.
When making decisions the problem should be framed
On many occasions as Catholic physicians we come across moral
dilemmas and have to make decisions. It is therefore important to know
how to distinguish between good and evil, which it is impossible to do
on the fringes of the Church (this is the way things are).
When making decisions, it would be good to take into account the
ancient principle of "primum non nocere" (first, do no harm) and the
evangelical principle "no more burdens than necessary." Also, that of
working with an overabundance of good. This allows us to go much
further on facing problems with humanity.
Although we are not usually responsible for the evil that third
parties do or for finding ourselves working within sinful structures,
we should never lose the strength of the ideals of youth, the freshness
of wanting to change things, however deeply rooted they appear to be,
or the conviction that we are never alone.
Before making decisions, the physician takes stock of the
situation on facing a specific problem. It is good to fit things into
the big picture (the frame) and from a healthy anthropology. I remember
the time I was invited to one of the mass media for a debate on
artificial insemination in lesbian couples. The different opinions were
supposed to be balanced. The guests, however, were a gay activist, a
lesbian, a bisexual, a libertine and a heterosexual. Moreover, the
presenter and the supporting reports were light-years from the thought
of the heterosexual minority. On asking the program editors about such
a coarse manipulation, I had to hear that everything had been designed
to ensure the strictest equality of opinions …
In this case, the frame of the issue is not whether or not this
kind of couple has a right to insemination or whether there are
heterosexual couples who ill-treat their children. The broader
perspective can help the fertility professional to be a conscientious
objector. Because what is ideal, with the millions of couples and
children who are and have been happy, is for children to be born
naturally in the family, to a man and a women. This is where we should
take the debate because this is where it really lies.
Can you do harm to do good?
Although in general the problems in medical decisions do not tend
to be presented as harm which does good, the truth is that this is the
key to the issue on many occasions. And the principle of never doing
harm to do good (the end does not justify the means) is essential.
Medical decisions are moral acts. Life's routine often means that
we do not see them as such. Maybe one day we considered the morality of
a procedure or protocol, we decided that it was fair, and we applied it
to our different patients without thinking any more about it.
Automatisms form part of nature and help us to live without wasting
huge quantities of mental energy. However, on some occasions -- not
just in extraordinary cases -- the moral act should be studied with
The traditional dissection of the moral act into object, aims and
circumstances is useful. A good act requires the simultaneous goodness
of these three elements which constitute the morality of human acts.
Sometimes we have to sharpen our wits to put everything in its place
and to clearly detect what object we are assessing. In short, what we
are really talking about.
For example, can you get drunk (an evil act) in order to have
decayed teeth removed (a laudable aim) in the absence of medicines (a
setting favoring the act)? Is this not accepting that the end justifies
the means or that harm can be done (getting drunk) in order to do good
(health)? The answer to this apparent dilemma, which can be applied to
many other cases but not to all, is that we have classified the act as
"getting drunk" whereas really it is an "anaesthetic" act. Alcohol is
an anaesthetic, although of a secondary category. Our practical reason,
with a little training and practice, will help us to classify the moral
There are behaviors whose choice, because of their nature, is
always wrong. For example, in the case of abortion, it cannot be stated
that sacrificing the child to supposedly favor the mother is a good
act. However you look at it.
The double effect
The double effect theory has a bad reputation in Europe due to the
discredit of the so-called collateral damage in recent wars. You bomb
the enemy and, unintentionally, your action injures innocent civilians.
This is terrible.
However, medicine holds firm because we accept the theory.
Chemotherapy is intended to eliminate cancerous cells while also
damaging healthy cells. We remove a sick uterus despite the fact that
the woman will be infertile forever. We vaccinate thousands of children
despite the fact that some will die from the side effects.
Obviously we must do everything possible to minimize side effects,
just as we should do everything possible to prevent a war. With the
double effect, it is not a question of doing bad to achieve good. The
bad is not wanted. It appears like an unwelcome and persistent guest.
With so-called therapeutic or eugenic abortion, to make it clear
that here there is no double effect and that what is being fought first
here is the embryo, John Paul II himself stated that the death of an
innocent can never be legitimized.
With indirect abortion, although it is right to treat a mother
even if we expect the side effect to be the death of the embryo or
fetus, some people have given us a solution to moral problems with an
excess of good. This is the case of Dr. Gianna Beretta, who refused
treatment so as not to harm her pregnancy. She died and her son lives.
The lesser evil
It has become fashionable to talk about the lesser evil as if it
were something desirable. But no. You can never do bad, however little
it may be or you may consider it to be. Bad is always bad. The theory
of the lesser evil does not refer to doing but rather to tolerating.
The lesser evil is decided by one or more third parties without us
intervening. We have to tolerate certain evils because we are not
Quixotes who must fight against everything and moreover the human being
is free even to use this freedom badly. Our obligation is never to do
bad. Always to do the most good possible. What we should not get used
to is to tolerating the bad inflicted on innocents. These are never
Collaboration with evil
With the current state of the world, we often have to consider
whether to avoid collaborating with those people and structures which
go against the dignity of the human being. Although they may find
others who will collaborate with evil, they will not find us. It should
not be attributable to us, and, if possible, we should try to lead
these situations down the correct paths.
On some occasions we have doubts, especially if the collaboration
is remote. Remote collaboration, although effective, is not
attributable to us if we do not want it to be. It is good to avoid
scandal and not to become contaminated by it. But we cannot isolate
ourselves in a glass bubble and stop being a good substance in the
world around us.
Freedom and moral security
The Catholic physician has broad freedom to practice the
profession. We have intelligence and we need to make it perform to the
maximum. Moreover, the security that we are acting correctly (moral
security) can be achieved with a minimum ethical training, accepting
the [Church's] teachings and consulting certain cases with senior
colleagues or with a priest who knows the correct doctrine. Thousands
of physicians worldwide practice daily with the peace of mind that they
are acting correctly.
As Catholic physicians we have great models on which to base our
actions. They have simply identified themselves perfectly with the
principle of ethics: "Christus medicus." St. Luke, St. Cosme, St.
Damian, St. Joseph Moscati, St. Gianna Beretta, St. Richard Pampuri,
Father Pere Tarrés, Dr. László
Batthyány-Strattmann, and many more,
have preceded us and have become the giants of medicine. Curiously,
patients often venerate them more than us, the physicians …
Some reflections on specific issues
The "affaire" of using condoms to prevent infection with AIDS or
unwanted pregnancies is another of the things that drives activist
Catholic physicians mad. But we should not let ourselves be led to
territories which are not ours. Sexuality is one of the gifts of
marriage and within marriage it is expressed to the maximum. As
Catholics, and in marriage, we live sexuality to the full. Sexuality
outside marriage, between males or polygamous sexuality, does not form
part of our anthropology. The Church cannot be accused of spreading
AIDS (the other 29 sexually transmitted diseases are almost always
forgotten) when it preaches abstinence, faithfulness and patience. This
is useful to prevent diseases or teenage pregnancies. But the main
purpose of chastity is not to prevent an epidemic but rather to promote
virtue and to provide happiness.
It is obvious that Catholic physicians, who work in a world in
which there is a bit of everything and in which the same health
structures are often perverted, will come across people who will want
to continue practicing sequential polygamy or homosexuality. It will
not be ingenuous, in an environment of good physician-patient
relations, to present them with our proposals. If the person insists
implicitly or explicitly on continuing with their practices, the
physician will talk to them about the condom as the more or less
imperfect "barrier," without presenting it, and especially not
recommending it, as something good. And, finally, if the person is
infected, they will treat them with affection and professionalism.
It is important to take into account that the Catholic Church's
mission is not to promote solutions so that the human being can
continue to carry out improper behavior. And as far as possible we
should prevent the media from using us to promote unworthy conduct.
There is scientific knowledge which is not obtained from reading
the science sections of the media. Thus, knowing that hermaphrodites
exist, that post-abortion syndrome is frequent and painful, or that
homosexuals can often change, is learned in specialized journals or
from experienced teachers.
It is good to always bear healthy anthropology in mind and to
think that the mass media understand what is simple better, that they
are obliged to have striking headlines and that they can rarely hold a
good moral debate.
Euthanasia: dying is not the same as being killed
We cannot abandon a terminal patient, we cannot be cruel to them
and we cannot kill them. The only decent thing that we can do is to
provide them with quality palliative health care. This should take into
account the biopsychosocial, spiritual and family dimensions of the
person. This is the path that we should take.
Euthanasia kills freedom. It is a supposed free decision which
means that the person will not ever again make free decisions. Not even
the very human decision of rectifying. Euthanasia, its popularization
or legalization, are on the dark side of the profession, whoever
Cases of consultations on whether or not the treatments for the
terminally ill are proportional are extremely frequent. Medicine can
never refuse hydration, nutrition, hygiene, oxygenation, basic
medicines. Recently, an elderly man presented cardiac insufficiency and
the ethical committee of his hospital recommended only a treatment with
morphinic drugs, while awaiting his death. But the physician dealing
with the case solved it with a diuretic, oxygen and digoxin. The true
sage was the ordinary physician.
As human beings we were deliberately created incomplete by God.
Man needs woman to be fulfilled and woman needs man to be happy.
Furthermore, man and woman also need children to complete their
plenitude as a family. Husband and wife have all the children that they
can maintain and bring up. The number of children depends on many
factors and should be decided on with generosity. Large families are a
joy for society and for the Church. In my personal opinion, it would be
unnatural for the mature human to do without the other sex, unless it
becomes a supernatural good, as with celibacy for the Kingdom. There
are of course causes of "force majeure" [greater force] or imponderable
causes which mean that a person cannot be fulfilled with a partner.
The sex act holds such a sway that it leaves no one indifferent
and always has consequences. It unites man and woman in an incomparable
manner. It should take place in a context of maturity, commitment and
exclusivity: marriage. Man and woman give each other everything,
including the ability to generate new human lives. This is good.
There are times when, objectively, for medical, social or family
reasons, the responsibility of the parents leads them to avoid a new
birth. This possibility is already foreseen in the "natural law." Women
are only fertile for a few days a month. Natural fertility regulation
methods (Billings, sympto-thermal, etc.) allow these infertile periods
to be used for man and wife to remain in communion with sexual
relations and thus overcome the unhealthy attraction of other flesh.
Pope Paul VI, in the encyclical "Humanae Vitae," warns that
physicians and health care personnel should consider it their
professional duty to obtain all the science necessary in this field in
order to be able to give the married couples which consult us wise
advice and healthy guidelines which they are fully entitled to expect
Contraceptives infringe several human rights: the right to life
(in the case of the abortion or morning-after pill), the right to
health (they have side effects, unlike natural methods), the right to
education (people are entitled to know about their own fertility) and
the right to equality between the sexes (the contraceptive burden
always tends to fall on the woman).
In July 2005, the International Agency for Research on Cancer
(Lyons, France), of the World Health Organization, reported on the
carcinogenicity of oral contraceptives with combined estrogen and
progestogen, based on the conclusions of an "ad hoc" international work
group. They were classified as Group 1 carcinogens.
Regrettably, dear colleagues, at present we are unable to provide
natural methods for all those who need them. The low fertility rates in
countries with a Catholic majority (Spain, Italy), together with the
low knowledge of these methods, means that many married couples use
artificial methods. If we take into account that they are relatively
rich countries, it cannot be said either that they are especially
generous with the number of children. We have an immense challenge
here. We should never put out the torch that has been lit in favor of
Unfortunately, contraception is not the only challenge of Medicine
and of society. Also, we are unable (us and nations in general) to
provide means against malnutrition, malaria and the vertical
transmission of AIDS. We have the knowledge and some means but we
cannot make them available to the needy. There is therefore no lack of
Without judging married couples who use artificial contraceptives
-- our job is not to judge -- we should never forget this professional
duty to offer natural means and to dissuade from using artificial
means. It is a sign of progress to understand nature well and to help
it as far as possible. The world is incomplete. We have work to do.
And, when we do it, the progress can be seen.
Is there anything worse than dragging a child out of its mother's
womb? Can abortion be explained to a 5-year-old child? Does a woman who
loses a child through miscarriage not weep as if she had lost a child?
Do we as physicians do everything possible to transform the suffering
of parents with problems in pregnancy into happiness and joy? The
Catholic physician practices the preferential option for mothers. Not
sole or exclusive but preferential.
We know very little about the physical beginning of the human
race. Without falling into scientism, we will need to wait decades
until science enlightens us more on this subject. It is not known how
or when one species changes into another, if this occurs at all. A
large part of what has been written on this subject is provisional and
As you know, except in extremely exceptional cases, amniocentesis
is performed to provoke abortion if a fetal malformation is suspected.
Therefore, as this practice is not carried out for the good of the
fetus and the mother, it cannot be considered as a correct medical
The physician can and must help
infertile couples, but cannot substitute them. This principle is very
useful to understand that, despite the popularity of so-called assisted
reproduction techniques, we cannot give in to easy, profitable,
temptations. All efforts should concentrate on improving the fertility
studies for couples and on treating what can be treated, which is a
lot. Given the obsession that many clinics have with in vitro
fertilization, it would be good to explain to couples that the medical
function is not to replace them, that amniocentesis is almost always
performed to abort defective children, that surplus embryos are often
eliminated, that children are frozen.
Catholic gynecologists are the heroes of present-day medicine. Their
care and promotion are a top priority for the associations of Catholic
physicians and for the FIAMC. General practitioners and other
specialists can also contribute wise advice on matters of fertility.
Respect for the embryo: stem cells
I sincerely believe that the most coherent position with the knowledge
that we have on the embryo is scrupulous respect from the moment of
conception. And that this is the position that avoids the most
problems. Our coherence is highlighted when defenders of whales and
seals, death penalty detractors, human rights activists and different
sorts of philanthropists accept the destruction of an embryo without
batting an eyelid (always with therapeutic aims, of course).
Conception lasts for some time, but the process has already been
triggered and respect for the wholeness of the embryo starts much
earlier: it starts with respect for the union of a man and a woman,
avoiding in vitro conceptions. Human beings should not introduce chaos
into the bios.
To make a comparison with the beginning of the Gospel according to St.
John, we can say that in the beginning is the genetic message, and the
genetic message is in life and the genetic message is life. When there
is a complete genetic message, which can be expressed and which is
expressed in a continuous, coordinated and gradual manner, unstoppable
if it were not for adverse external factors, then there is a unique and
unrepeatable human being which must be respected. It comes to us and
its family (us) must accept it and welcome it.
It is understood that, although any cell, for example from our skin,
contains the complete human genetic message, it is not a human being in
itself. The expression of this message, which is partial, means that it
is not a human being. It is the fertilized egg which is already acting
like a human! In the beginning, we are a single and unrepeatable
message surrounded by some membranes, RNA, energy reserves and other
services. To date, no researcher has "created" life. Human beings are
only capable of transmitting it, correctly or incorrectly.
Embryonic stem cells exist to give rise to the embryo. And adult stem
cells exist to regenerate tissues. It is that simple.
Strictly speaking, the human being does not have any right to life.
Life is a gift that we receive. Before existing we were nothing and we
were not therefore subject to rights. What we are entitled to is to not
having our life taken away by another human being!
Our profession is perhaps the most admired profession in the world and
the one that people expect the most from. I would recommend that you
never stop studying, that you bear in mind the physician's promise and
prayer (www.fiamc.org), that you do not fall into the temptation of
venerating the god Mammon (money) and that you consider the possibility
of bringing colleagues to the already existing associations of Catholic
José María Simón
December 1, 2006
P.S. I am grateful to Monsignor Maurizio Calipari, ecclesiastic
assistant of the FIAMC, for the advice that he has given me for the
final version of this letter. Although under the supervision of the
hierarchy, the Code of Canon Law gives widespread autonomy to the
international Catholic organizations such as the one that I chair. The
FIAMC is a public-law organization in the universal Church, and
therefore "speaks and acts in the name of the Church." This is a clear
sign of ecclesiastic trust in lay people.
Tony Blair's Bioethical Legacy
Interview With John Smeaton of SPUC
LONDON, FEB. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The United Kingdom is exporting
anti-life and anti-family values, says John Smeaton, director of an
organization campaigning for pro-life laws.
Smeaton, the national director of the U.K.-based Society for the
Protection of Unborn Children, spoke with ZENIT about the present and
the future of bioethics in Britain.
Q: Tony Blair expects to step down as prime minister this year. How has
the bioethical landscape in Britain changed during his tenure?
Smeaton: Under Tony Blair's leadership, the government and parliament
have plunged Britain into an ethical abyss, in which there is no right
or wrong but simply administrative and technical questions to be
resolved by the implementation of new anti-life evils.
Two of the first things Tony Blair did in office was to establish a
strategy on teenage pregnancy and to revive proposals to change the law
on end-of-life treatment.
The former involves supplying abortion and birth control drugs and
devices to schoolgirls as young as 11 without parents' knowledge or
consent; the latter has led to a law -- the Mental Capacity Act 2005 --
which allows, and in certain circumstances requires, doctors to starve
and to dehydrate to death vulnerable patients.
The Blair government exports abortion-on-demand to the developing world
under the guise of the Millennium Development Goals and it has
increased funding for population control agencies -- such as the
International Planned Parenthood Federation and the United Nations
Population Fund -- complicit in China's one-child policy.
Tony Blair has personally championed destructive experiments on cloned
human embryos. In general, there is virtually no area of pro-life or
pro-family ethical concern which has not been made worse by the Blair
In addition, the U.K. is a major influence within the European Union
and in many other parts of the world in support of anti-life,
Q: How does the level of bioethical debate in Britain compare to the
rest of the world? The United States, for instance? Or Australia? Or
Smeaton: The level of bioethical debate compares badly with the rest of
The mass media in Britain, led by the so-called quality media, such as
the Times and the BBC, present the debate on bioethical issues such as
human cloning, embryonic stem cell research, and abortion, in an almost
entirely one-sided way.
Scientific and ethical considerations which suggest why human embryonic
stem cell research is ethically irresponsible are either not included
at all in such media coverage, or they are presented in a totally
inadequate way. Also, the government of the day appears to have an
infinite capacity to manipulate the terms of bioethical debate.
For example, the government succeeded in enshrining euthanasia by
neglect in law in April 2005 while simultaneously successfully assuring
politicians and church leaders that they were completely opposed to
Q: Christian leaders in Britain in recent years have lamented the state
of religion, as witnessed in low church attendance. Has that affected
Smeaton: Whatever the fundamental cause of low church attendance, the
situation is worsened by the lack of clear teaching on culture of life
Tragically, in Britain, induced abortion and birth control drugs and
devices are provided to children at school, including Catholic schools,
under the age of 16 without parental knowledge or consent.
Last year, a teacher at a mixed Catholic school in Kent, in England,
spoke out publicly about the sex education given to her class of 13- to
14-year-old children. The teacher, a Miss McLernon, said: "I think
people should be aware of what is going on in schools. I witnessed the
nurse using a plastic model to show these children how to put on what
she said was a chocolate flavored condom."
Miss McLernon said: "Every child in the class was given a card
explaining where you could get free contraceptives and the
abortion-inducing morning-after pill. The card also gave details of a
website for young people explaining how a surgical abortion could be
arranged. This is a Catholic school where you would expect children to
be protected from this sort of thing."
Sadly, more and more Catholic parents are approaching the Society for
the Protection of Unborn Children with terrible experiences in Catholic
schools, both at the secondary and primary school level. Protests on
the part of Catholic parents and teachers seeking to protect young
people do not appear to be heard.
Furthermore, the British and European Union governments have enacted a
body of law on the equal employment rights of male and female
homosexuals and bisexuals and transsexuals which is to be enforced with
the threat of severe legal sanctions.
Q: Does debate in Britain have the philosophical and theological
language necessary to handle bioethical issues well?
Smeaton: Britain has not only lost its moral compass. For the most
part, it has also lost both the language and the capacity to think in a
morally rational way.
For most, morality is primarily connected with a curious mixture of
self-interest, compassion, and the desire to avoid pain, suffering and
inconvenience. This explains the capacity of the British to be both
pro-choice about abortion while at the same time feeling a moral unease
about it all.
Even the word "discriminate" has been appropriated as a word with
wholly negative connotations when in the not-so-distant past to be
called discriminating was a compliment.
Thus has the distinction between just and unjust discrimination
disappeared from the moral lexicon. There is no objective language to
categorize moral rightness or wrongness where sexual conduct is
concerned, but at the same time there is a moral Stalinism in the legal
insistence that all employers employ a person irrespective of their
declared sexual orientation and personal living arrangements.
Q: If things stay on course, what will Britain look like -- culturally,
ethically -- in 25 years?
Smeaton: The answer lies in Rome and in the appointment of courageous
bishops. If the Catholic Church begins to provide an unambiguous lead
in defense of life and the family and, in particular, on the
inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative aspects of
sexual intercourse, the work of lay secular movements like the Society
for the Protection of Unborn Children which have been working for over
four decades will bear fruit and things will improve.
A peaceful pro-life and pro-family movement, increasing in numbers,
sharing its values with their fellow-citizens, will have a growing
influence in society.
[If not,] lay people who seek to defend life, marriage and the family
may be imprisoned. The Mental Capacity Act 2005, in certain
circumstances, already criminalizes doctors who insist on giving
patients food and water.
Legislation promoting homosexual rights is becoming ever more draconian.
Health professionals who refuse to refer patients for abortion will
become unemployable as will teachers who refuse to obey the
government's secret abortion policy for children.
Parents who provide their children with traditional Christian teaching
regarding homosexuality may have their children taken into care by the
state. Authentic moral values will be taught in secret or not at all.
Britain will continue to be a major influence in the European Union and
other parts of the world in support of abortion, embryo research, human
cloning, euthanasia and homosexual "marriage."
Christopher Pearson: Ethics and the embryo (July 29, 2006)
LAST week I had occasion to praise Bob Carr for his love of history and
his role in restoring it to a place of honour in the curriculum in NSW.
This week, after an ill-judged entry into the debate on stem cell
research and therapeutic cloning, it's time to focus on some of his
The particular defects I have in mind are his populist boosting of
highly questionable research, his vulgar utilitarianism and a
surprisingly low-brow, relentless secularism.
When it comes to embryonic stem cell research and its possibilities,
Carr is an uncritical, born-again believer. He says it has "the most
remarkable potential of any scientific discovery ever made in human
health". He expects it will have an effect on all the lives "invaded by
cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's, motor neurone disease, severe
burns", not to mention Alzheimer's.
The rhetorical strategy is plain to see. This is a short list of the
commonest causes of death and some of the most debilitating afflictions
of old age. According to Carr, opposing research that may hold out the
prospect of cures for them is pointless self-denial based on
superstition. Worse, it cruelly denies people already suffering those
diseases the chance of a cure.
As for therapeutic cloning, the notion that it may be a matter of any
moral complexity strikes Carr as preposterous. "No sperm. No fertilised
egg. Nothing returned to the womb. No human reproduction. The 'embryo'
we are talking about? It's something smaller than the full stop at the
end of this sentence. That resembles something from any species, even a
sea urchin. Weigh that against the living human being you love."
Putting inverted commas around the embryo, as if to call its existence
into question without quite saying so, is a nice touch. So is the
suggestion that something the size of a full stop (as we all once were)
is inherently inconsequential, and that human and non-human embryos
have a great deal in common. What Carr never quite comes to grips with
is that therapeutic cloning involves the deliberate production of a
human embryo for experimental purposes.
Instead he introduces us to a friend dying of motor neurone disease.
"Paul and his wife, parents to two girls, know that somewhere in
embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning lies the most
promising prospect of cracking the code of this awful disease. I joined
Paul and others in the 2002-03 battle to legalise embryonic stem cell
research. The objections are derived from the same notions of medieval
science - outdated since Galileo - that generated opposition to birth
control. Now the sufferers and their families will have to win the
debate all over again. Medical science will provide the only miracles
they will ever see."
In professional rhetoric, this is what's called a sucker punch. It aims
to overwhelm reason with a tug at the heartstrings and an appeal to our
common humanity. It's an anthem to modernity and a fearless repudiation
of any old mumbo-jumbo that stands in the way of progress.
It's also quite disingenuous. For example, Paul and his wife may think
they know that embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning are
the most promising prospects for curing motor neurone disease. However,
this is much more a matter of faith than empirical knowledge. The most
important breakthroughs in recent science have relied on adult stem
cells and umbilical cord stem cells, which raise no comparable ethical
If he has done his homework, Carr should know that and have the
intellectual honesty to say so. But, then again, this is an argument
short on detail and long on militantly atheistic flourishes. It's not
true, for example, to say that the objections to experimenting with
human embryos rely on medieval science where, at least in Thomas
Aquinas's view, life began at the quickening of the fetus in the womb.
On the contrary, the concern with the inviolability of the embryo is
based on a contemporary understanding of the earliest stages of human
Why does Carr say the science in question has been outdated since
Galileo? Not because Galileo is relevant or contributed anything to the
sum of knowledge about reproduction but because the Catholic Church
mistakenly forced him to recant his heliocentric discovery and, by
implication, the church is once again on the side of ignorance and
superstition. Just to reinforce the point, there's a disparaging - and
quite gratuitous - reference to anyone old-fashioned enough to be
opposed to contraception.
Through the last years of his premiership, Carr often struggled to
contain his loathing of Christianity in general and in particular the
tribal Catholicism of his faction, the NSW Right. His performance at
Hillsong was, for many observers, all the more mesmerising on that
account. But now that he has left politics, he's free to air his
dismissive attitude to religion with the in-your-face line: "Medical
science will provide the only miracles they will ever see." Face facts,
there is no other kind, is what he's telling us.
As a distinguished Dominican scholar once remarked: "The only
difference between front-bar atheism and the senior common-room variety
is in the quality of the port. Atheists on the whole aren't interested
in sophisticated elaborations of a position. They just believe they're
right and that it's all self-evident."
I think that sums up Carr's mind-set nicely. He thinks an open-slather,
utilitarian attitude towards medical research is the only conceivable
It never seems to have occurred to him that Western philosophy,
Christian and otherwise, has devoted vast time and intelligence to the
ethical questions surrounding human life. Like many a patchily educated
autodidact, he's unaware of the nuanced conversation he has blundered
Nor, despite his disdain for the beliefs of others, does he have enough
self-knowledge to discern his deep-green environmentalist convictions
and uncritical attachment to catastrophist greenhouse science for the
pagan pieties they are.
An article on the ethics of stem cell research by John Martin, a former
professor of medicine at the University of Melbourne, appeared in the
Fairfax press last week.
He argues: "In all of medicine and related research, when undertaking a
certain procedure requires that ethical barriers be surmounted, the
more formidable the barrier, the greater must be the benefit of the
It's a utilitarian approach that pays some heed to community attitudes
and makes no mention of metaphysics, but it's much subtler and more
qualified than Carr's.
Discussing the progress of research undertaken using surplus in-vitro
fertilisation embryos, he reaches conclusions very different from
Carr's. "Since the licensing system was introduced in 2002 there have
been no discoveries through this work to support arguments for an
urgent need for somatic cell nuclear transfer, often called therapeutic
cloning." It's a far cry from the former premier's assessment of "the
most remarkable potential of any scientific discovery ever made in
human health". It almost makes you wonder whether he, or perhaps his
employers at Macquarie Bank, have underperforming shares to talk up in
some of the new medical technology corporations.
Martin poses the question of whether there has been sufficient evidence
to warrant therapeutic cloning and concludes: "Proof
of this as an approach has never been obtained from any experimental
model of disease in animals."
He cites the various diseases where cloning is thought to hold great
promise and notes: "For several of these conditions there are
experimental models that can be studied in animals, but embryonic stem
cells have never yet been shown in animal research to provide a cure
sufficiently prolonged and free of complications to warrant human
studies. To accept the urgency of work on embryonic stem cells in the
face of the ethical barriers, then at least one experimental example of
safe, prolonged and substantially effective treatment better than any
existing treatment should be provided."
Martin also gives the lie to the argument "that an embryo is not an
embryo unless it is implanted in the uterus, that it is something quite
different if it stays in the laboratory and is used for research". As
he says: "This is pure sophistry."
His verdict on human therapeutic cloning is: "If and when it happens,
the question will still need to be asked: is there a compelling reason
to do this work? On present evidence there is none."
Even if the signs from animal experimentation are encouraging, in
company with most of the respectable philosophers during the past 300
years, he cautions against "the questionable utilitarian principle that
the end always justifies the means".
Europe Bishops' Statement on
Stem Cell Program
"Risk of Promoting the
Destruction of Human Embryos"
BRUSSELS, Belgium, JULY 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the statement
issued today by the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the
European Community on the implications of the European Union's 7th
Framework Research Program for the period 2007-2013.
The program provides for the financing of research and consequent
elimination of human embryos. The statement, slightly adapted here, is
entitled: "Setback for the Protection of Embryos: The European Union
Faces a Major Bioethical Challenge."
* * *
The Secretariat of COMECE has followed the preparation of the 7th
Framework Research Program for the period 2007-2013. It expresses its
profound [disappointment] regarding the decision of the European
Council of Ministers on July 24, 2006.
The Catholic Church recognizes the importance of developing an economy
based on knowledge, research and innovation in the European Union. To
this end the 7th Framework Research Program is an essential instrument
to support research and innovation at the European Union level. The
COMECE plenary session in November 2005 acknowledged that: "Science and
research make major contributions to the quality of life, especially in
the area of health where new therapeutic options are available. They
are also an important factor for economic development."
Like the preceding program, in its current form the 7th FPR continues
to promote research on stem cells from human embryos with the support
of the European Parliament. This is the present situation
notwithstanding the opposition of certain Member States which were not
able to achieve better guaranties for the respect of human dignity in
the negotiations at the European Council of Ministers on Monday, July
In order to complement the agreement reached in the Council of
Ministers, the European Commission added a 12-point declaration which
foresees in particular that the 7th FPR will not fund the destruction
of human embryos, but will fund research on embryonic stems cells
resulting from such destruction.
This declaration is most unsatisfactory because European funding of
research on embryonic stem cells entails the risk of promoting at the
level of the Member States the destruction of human embryos. Therefore
the Secretariat of COMECE reiterates its objection to EU funding of
research which implies directly or indirectly the destruction of human
embryos. In this respect, it recalls the statement of the Executive
Committee of COMECE, May 31, 2006: "Treating the human embryo as an
object for research is not compatible with human dignity."
The use of human embryos for research purposes (i.e., their destruction
or the research with stem cells derived from these embryos) is not
acceptable. Furthermore there is no necessity to undertake this
research; according to experts, adult stem cells and stem cells from
the umbilical cord, offer an alternative path with interesting and real
perspectives for therapy.
The Secretariat of COMECE is perplexed by the contradiction between
this decision which is an attack on human dignity at the beginning of
life and the objective of the European Union to promote therapies
aiming to save human life. This decision contradicts also the Charter
of Fundamental Rights of the EU which states in Article 1: "Human
dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected."
Therefore we draw the attention of public opinion to the gravity of
this decision. We underline once again the fundamental importance of
the social-ethical and bioethical dimensions of this debate for Europe
and its future. We invite our fellow citizens and especially Catholics
to recognize the anthropological significance of this debate regarding
human dignity. We call on them to do all in their power to foster such
a debate at the level of the European institutions, in the Member
States and in civil society. This is vitally important in view of the
second reading in the European Parliament in autumn.
Bishop Adrianus Van Luyn, bishop of Rotterdam, president
Monsignor Noël Treanor, secretary-general
3 Million IVF Babies
Concern Over Ethical
LONDON, JULY 1, 2006 (Zenit.org).- More than 3 million babies have been
born as a result of in vitro fertilization treatment. News on the IVF
numbers came from Jacques de Mouzon, of the International Committee for
Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ICMART), reported
Reuters on June 21.
The announcement came during the annual meeting of the European Society
of Human Reproduction and Embryology, held June 18-21 in Prague, Czech
Republic. The ICMART report, which includes data from 52 countries,
covers two-thirds of the world's IVF treatments.
The report noted the uneven distribution of IVF births. Nearly 56% of
all IVF treatments are in Europe. And almost half of the techniques are
performed in four countries -- the United States, Germany, France and
The news on the numbers of babies born through IVF was well received by
the secular media. But other reports from the conference were not so
positive. A June 19 press release by the organizers reported on
research presented at the meeting warning that the conditions in which
embryos are cultured in the laboratory during IVF could be causing
genetic errors. These errors are associated with developmental
syndromes and other abnormalities in growth and development, such as
low birth weight.
The fears come from research on genetic imprinting in mouse embryos.
That research has shown that certain culture media and concentrations
of oxygen altered the _expression of several imprinted genes.
Imprinting is the process by which some genes are activated or
inactivated depending on whether they have been inherited in
chromosomes from the mother or the father. The results, however, are
only preliminary, cautioned Paolo Rinaudo, a scientist at the Center
for Reproductive Sciences, University of California, San Francisco.
Another problem treated at the meeting was that embryos conceived using
IVF have a higher chance of being male, the Australian newspaper
Sun-Herald reported June 25.
Australian embryologist Jean Scott told the conference that this
phenomenon took place when the embryos are grown for a longer period of
time before being implanted. When the egg and sperm are mixed outside
the body, and the embryo is grown to a blastocyst before being
transferred back to the woman, there is a 56% chance the child would be
IVF Australia director Dr. Ric Porter said this occurred due to the
fact that doctors would select the embryo that was dividing fastest and
these tended to be male, reported the Sun-Herald.
The conference also heard of the need to be on the guard against
identity fraud. Dr. Luca Sabatini, from the Center for Reproductive
Medicine at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, said that research had
shown that many clinics in the United Kingdom felt they did not have
sufficient safeguards to properly check patients' identities.
The St. Bartholomew's Hospital team surveyed 70 licensed clinics in the
United Kingdom. Of these 45 responded, and 37% reported they had
experienced or suspected cases of patient identity fraud.
"Our overwhelming feeling is that there are insufficient measures to
protect the unit, the patient's legal rights, and most importantly the
future welfare and well being of the unborn child," said Sabatini.
Fraudulent behavior can involve attempting to obtain public funding
that would normally exclude the patient. It can also occur when the
couple in the process of being treated splits up and one of them tries
to continue the treatment with a different partner. Or there can be
cases when sperm from a younger man could be substituted for an older
one, while maintaining the pretense that the older man will be the
Weeding out the "unfit"
The most controversial theme raised during the European Society of
Human Reproduction and Embryology conference was over genetic
screening. British doctors announced they had developed a new test to
detect genetic disorders in embryos, Reuters reported June 18.
Instead of searching for an altered gene linked to an inherited
illness, the new test looks for DNA fingerprints, or markers, near the
gene. In this way the problematic embryos are excluded and only healthy
ones are used for implantation during the IVF process.
The test was developed at Guy and St. Thomas' National Health Service
Foundation Trust in London. So far it has been used on seven women,
five of whom are now pregnant.
Criticism of the new test was immediate, reported Britain's Daily Mail
newspaper the next day. "It is not about taking an embryo and curing
it," said Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics,
"but about diagnosing and then throwing away."
Simone Aspis, of the British Council of Disabled People, warned:
"Screening out autism would breed a fear that anyone who is different
in any way will not be accepted. It would create a society where only
perfection is valued."
The Daily Mail also published an opinion article alongside the news
report, by Virginia Bovell, mother of an autistic 11-year-old, Danny.
After declaring she was "appalled" by news of the test, Bovell
explained that she well understood the difficulties of having a child
But, she added, "the 'problem' lies not with autism itself but with the
way in which our society responds to it." For a start, the government
could help couples with handicapped children a lot more, Bovell
"Yes, caring for him can be draining and isolating, but I can
unequivocally say that Danny is the best thing that has ever happened
to me and the idea that we might have somehow been 'better off' if he
had never been born is intolerable," she concluded.
Others, however, welcomed the announcement of the new test. Sunday
Times columnist Minette Miriam, writing on June 25, described the new
technique as almost "godlike" and called it the best news she had heard
She rejected the criticisms that getting rid of embryos with problems
was playing God. "But what on earth is wrong with humans playing God?"
wrote Miriam. "I am all for it, especially as God doesn't seem to be
doing it." She concluded: "What a piece of work is a man and partly,
now, it is the work of godlike humankind."
Earlier this year Benedict XVI defended the value of life in its first
stages, offering a notably different interpretation of how God values
life. His comments came in a Feb. 27 address to participants in a
congress titled, "The human embryo in the pre-implantation phase,"
organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life.
We can find a number of references in sacred Scripture, the Pope noted,
that show God's love every human being, even before they are formed in
the womb. In Jeremiah 1:5, God told the young prophet: "Before I formed
you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you."
"God's love does not differentiate between the newly conceived infant
still in his or her mother's womb and the child or young person, or the
adult and the elderly person," the Pontiff explained. The human person,
he continued, is endowed with a very exalted dignity, rooted in the
bond with the Creator. This exists in every person, in every stage of
life. For this reason the Church defends human life as sacred and
inviolable from the moment of conception until its natural end. That
inviolability is under increasing threat these days.
Harvard's stem cell misstep
By Michael Cook
Wednesday, 28 June 2006
Harvard University has given the cause of therapeutic cloning the
backing of its immense prestige. A stem cell scientist tells
MercatorNet that this is based on inflated hopes and bad science. ?
Earlier this month, world-renowned Harvard University announced that it
would become the first non-commercial institution in the US to attempt
human embryo cloning. All funding is to come from private donations
because of restrictions imposed by US President George W. Bush. The
decision was made after two years of discussion amongst eight
institutional review boards at five institutions. Like many other
observers, the New York Times praised the decision as "bold moves made
after intense soul-searching". However, not all stem cell researchers
approved of the decision. James L. Sherley, of near-by Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, and a Harvard graduate, explains why in this
exclusive MercatorNet interview.
MercatorNet: How soon could human embryonic stem cells be used for
cures? Harvard is telling potential donors to its stem cell institute
that "in as little as a decade" there will be treatments for
Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes. It also suggests that the names
of many incurable diseases will be eliminated from our grandchildren's
vocabularies. Are these predictions realistic?
James L. SherleySherley: The question "How soon," is pre-empted by the
question: "Could human embryonic stem cells ever be used for cures?"
When the errant biological properties of human embryonic stem cells are
considered, it is difficult to foresee them ever being used directly as
cures in children or adults. This promise was the earliest misleading
misinformation from proponents of human embryo research. Because many
factors that guide the normal development of embryonic cells are absent
in mature tissues, embryonic stem cells placed in adult tissues produce
malformed tissues that are cancerous. So, figuring out how to use human
embryonic stem cells directly by transplantation into patients is
tantamount to solving the cancer problem.
Human embryonic stem cell scientists, who lacked sufficient knowledge
of the cell biology of mature tissues, naively promised to develop new
therapies with mature cells produced from embryonic stem cells. These
scientists overlooked the fact that mature cells, which lack the
renewal capability of stem cells, cannot be used for long-term
treatment in mature tissues, which require continuous renewal.
There is one strategy by which embryonic stem cells might be used to
develop therapies for the tissues of adults and children. If embryonic
stem cells could be used to produce tissue-specific adult stem cells,
the adult stem cells could be tried for mature tissue therapies.
However, since natural adult stem cells are available from informed
consenting adult donors, this possible embryonic stem cell-dependent
strategy is not absolute, as has been suggested by proponents of human
Moreover, if derivation of specific adult stem cell types from
embryonic stem cells is found to be possible, the derivation process
will take longer than using natural adult stem cells and may still
produce defective and possibly tumour-forming adult stem cells.
However, more to the point, why pursue this uncertain path that
requires destruction and exploitation of human embryos, when adult stem
cells can be used instead?
Recent articles in the Boston Globe and the Harvard Gazette report that
Harvard scientists are claiming two future advances from research with
embryonic stem cells derived from cloned embryos. Their first claim is
for new cures based on using human embryonic stem cells. Clearly, this
will not occur. Their second claim is trumpeted above their now
admitted misgivings about the first.
By studying embryonic stem cells derived from human embryos cloned from
the cells of individuals with particular chronic diseases, Harvard
scientists claim that they will obtain new knowledge about how chronic
human diseases develop. It is amazing that such words come out of the
mouths of noted developmental biologists who have known for years that
simple embryonic stem cell culture is an inadequate model for human
MercatorNet: Is there a lesson to be learned from the Hwang debacle? Is
fraud an inherent danger in human cloning research -- or was this a
unique case which is unlikely to happen again?
Cloning an embryoSherley: There will be few who are immune to the
temptations of the potential for significant personal gain from hyping
the value of human embryo research. In the current unsettled moral and
ethical climate around human embryo research, in the minds of many
scientists, being first to clone human embryos guarantees a Nobel Prize
and bronze statues in their likeness. When such motivation for fame and
fortune is combined with the fragmentary, variable, and overall
uncertain regulatory environment surrounding human embryo research, the
risk for ethical misconduct is high and pervasive.
This danger is already evident in the "ethical guidelines" that have
been developed by Harvard scientists and national scientific
organisations like the US National Academy of Sciences. These
guidelines and recommendations ignore the fact that the US public is
still wrestling with the moral status of human embryos. In the current
void of a federally legislated policy, they are racing ahead with human
embryo research and announcing obtuse so-called ethical recommendations
that ignore the issues of the humanity, right to life, and right to
privacy of human embryos. An incorruptible scientific body would
self-impose a moratorium on such research until the public debate was
resolved. Instead, human embryo research scientists are racing ahead
without regard for human life, before the public discovers all the
truth and begins to protect human embryos as worthy human beings.
MercatorNet: After four years of debate, do you think that the public
is more aware of the difficulties involved in cloning embryos and stem
Sherley: The public is somewhat more aware of the challenges because
significant time has passed without the major breakthroughs that were
promised. The investment community has also pulled back, too, upon
greater appreciation of both the societal concerns and technical risks
involved. However, because feasibility is implicit in most reports on
promised human embryonic stem cell therapies, the public largely
believes that developing therapies from human embryonic stem cells may
be difficult, but not impossible. If the public understood that no
wonder therapies were likely to come from embryonic stem cells, the
discussion would be over, and human embryos would be safer.
Many who support human embryo research do so because they were told
that many IVF embryos were discarded anyway and the death of human
embryos would benefit themselves or their loved ones. The first excuse
turned out to be a misleading statement by promoters of human embryo
research that has now been discredited in several recent newspaper
articles. The second excuse pits "a greater good" against "the
destruction of embryos for the gain of others," and this is a moral
dilemma for sure. However, if the public were fully informed that "a
greater good" was extremely unlikely and perhaps impossible, the racers
to clone human embryos would be disqualified overnight.
MercatorNet: Harvard reached its decision after two years of
consultation with eight institutional review boards and stem cell
oversight committees at five institutions. Do you think that the
fundamental ethical issues were deeply studied in this process?
Sherley: Recent reports on the outcome of the process indicate that
much time was spent on important ethical issues like how to recruit,
treat, and compensate women who donate eggs for cloning procedures.
However, like the deliberations of the US National Academy of Sciences,
the fundamental moral questions of the humanity, right to life, and
right to privacy of human embryos seem to have been largely evaded.
MercatorNet: Obtaining eggs from women volunteers is essential for
Harvard’s experiments. Do you foresee any problems?
Sherley: Very knowledgeable human endocrinologists, bioethicists, and
women's rights advocates have provided prescient warnings regarding the
potential for exploitation of women in meeting the demand for egg
donors that may be created by human embryo cloning research. There is
already an active unregulated service economy based on provision of
human eggs for IVF in the US. Currently, women receive significant
financial compensation for undergoing an invasive procedure for harvest
of their artificially hormonally-matured eggs. The US National Academy
of Sciences has recommended that women who donate eggs for human embryo
cloning experiments receive no compensation beyond the costs they incur
for participation. This is the policy to which Harvard reports that its
scientists will adhere.
Even Economics 101 is not required to realize that this is plan may
potentially reduce the plight that cloning experiments pose for human
embryos. Harvard scientists are likely to find that they cannot recruit
sufficient women who will volunteer their eggs to make embryos that
will be killed for cloning research, when instead they could receive as
much as US$15,000 for eggs that will be used to conceive babies for
MercatorNet: As a world-renowned university, Harvard prides itself on
the calibre of its cutting-edge academics, not only in science, but
also ethics, theology and politics. But has the desire to maintain
Harvard's reputation affected its ethical judgement?
Sherley: The public should demand to hear this question addressed by
Harvard professors of ethics, politics, history of science, and
economics and also by Harvard professors who have a dissenting view.
They may be silent, muted, or unreported on the issue. The public needs
to know which is the case. Surely, this revered faculty of original and
independent thinkers, who recently cast out their President for his
regressive prejudicial ideas, is not monolithic in its view on the
moral status of human embryos and their treatment by Harvard scientists.
MercatorNet: You suggested recently that stem cell researchers at
Harvard and elsewhere are making contradictory promises. On the one
hand, they were saying a couple of years ago that they would never
allow cloned embryos to mature. But now they need more developed
embryos to study diseases. What do you mean by this?
Sherley: Embryonic stem cells are an artifact of cell culture. The
cells from which they originated in early embryos have different
properties in the embryo. Many of the diseases proposed for targeting
(eg, diabetes, Parkinson's) emerge in the context of many precise
interactions among different types of cells that are not present in
embryonic stem cell cultures. If these diseases do emerge during
embryonic development (which is a proposal, not a certainty), studying
them will require that the embryos be matured until the point of their
emergence. Human embryo scientists have tacitly agreed that cloned
embryos should not be matured beyond an arbitrary early stage of embryo
development. (This agreement highlights the deception of their feigned
uncertainty on the question of whether human embryos are living human
However, it is very likely that diseases of adult life, if they show
any manifestation in embryos at all, will do so well after this
arbitrary stage of maturation. The public can be sure that Harvard's
and other scientists, like camels in a tent, will keep inching this
boundary forward with newly-crafted, misleading excuses for doing so.
MercatorNet: You seem pretty convinced that human embryos are human
beings. Can you explain briefly why?
Sherley: My answer is, "What else could they be -- aliens?" Scientists
who want to conduct experiments with human embryos are quick to say
what human embryos are not. I challenge them to tell the public what
human embryos are. There is only one answer to this question, "living
MercatorNet: But why can't you convince your colleagues at Harvard and
MIT of your point of view? What's the stumbling block?
Sherley: When scientists arrange their own press conferences to
announce promises for the future that involve significant self-gain,
let the public beware. The stumbling block is non-scientific
MercatorNet: Stem cell research is an exciting field. As a professor at
MIT, do you find that the brightest and best students are entering it?
How does a younger generation of scientists view the ethical debate?
Sherley: I do not presume to know the answer to how younger scientists
view this issue. The leadership of professional scientific
organizations like the American Society for Cell Biology and the
International Society for Stem Cell Research have been unwilling to
poll their memberships electronically to evaluate such questions. Even
for the undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-doctoral
associates with whom I work, who are aware of my position and ideas on
the subject, I do not know their views.
This being said, many of them are considering or planning careers in
adult stem cell research. There is so much exciting science to be done
and so much potential for biomedical applications from stem cell
research that does not require the death and exploitation of human
embryos, that I am absolutely confident that the best and the brightest
minds will continue to be attracted to this remarkable field of
investigation and application.
James L. Sherley is an Associate Professor of Biological Engineering at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Michael Cook is Editor of
Polish Bishops on Funding Human Embryo Research
"Human Dignity Is Inviolable.
It Must Be Respected and Protected"
POZNAN, Poland, JUNE 29, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of
the statement published Sunday by the episcopal conference of Poland on
the European Parliament's decision to finance research on human embryos
and embryonic stem cells.
On June 15, 2006, the European Parliament in the first reading voted on
the seventh Framework Program on scientific research and development,
and called for the European Union funding of research on human embryos
and embryonic stem cells. Given the nature of this decision which
clearly has its ethical dimension, the episcopate of Poland gathered at
the 336th plenary session in Poznan, wish to present their opinion on
We are in favor of scientific development in the European Union and we
advocate greater funding for scientific research. We respect and
support the right to freedom of research, each man's right to health
and treatment, and the duty to assist those who are ill. We are aware
of the fact that research into human stem cells holds great promise
from a cognitive and therapeutic point of view.
Nevertheless, the result of the vote in the European Parliament gives
rise to our grave ethical objections since research into human
embryonic stem cells undertaken out of concern for some people's health
and life is done at the expense of destroying other human beings. Such
objections cannot be passed over in silence and therefore, we must
express our determined opposition to the financing of research by the
European Union which leads to the destruction of human embryos.
Research into embryonic cells is carried out at the expense of human
embryos who from their very beginning, that is from the moment of
conception, have the right to that unconditional respect which is
morally due to the human being ("Evangelium Vitae," no. 60).
The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights contains a provision that says:
"Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected" (art.
1). Such dignity is due to every human being from conception to natural
death. Treating a human embryo as an object of experiments and, thus
its instrumentalization is a flagrant violation of this dignity.
The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Poland ruled that such
activities are incompatible with the principle of a democratic state
governed by the rule of law: "A democratic state governed by the rule
of law holds man and his most precious weal as a supreme value. By this
weal, we understand life which in a democratic state governed by the
rule of law must enjoy constitutional protection in each stage of its
development" (Ruling by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of
Poland dated May 28, 1997).
The decision of the European Parliament also raises serious objections
in view of the fact that the EU fundamental principle of subsidiarity
is not respected in this case. The European Union is expected to
provide funding for research which is incompatible with national legal
systems in place in many member states, including Poland. The area that
provokes such controversy: The regulation of ethical questions belongs
solely to the competence of member states.
Following the decision of the European Parliament, research which is
unlawful under national law should be financed from the EU budget, and
in this way, also from the contributions of the states where such
research is illegal. The promotion of such a practice in the European
Union would be detrimental to its cohesion, subjectivity and would
clearly lead to unnecessary conflicts. This is why we are outspokenly
against such solutions.
The Polish bishops attending the 336th plenary session of the
conference of the episcopate of Poland fully endorse the position taken
by the commission of episcopates of the European Community, as
expressed during its plenary session in November 2005. It was later
reiterated by the COMECE bureau in May this year. It is our conviction
that the European Union should focus its research on many other
promising areas also involving stem cells but the ones procured from
As it was expressed in the position of the Permanent Council and the
Scientific Council of the conference of the episcopate of Poland, Feb.
26, 2004: "such a form of therapy does not raise any ethical doubts and
is a genuine hope for those ill and suffering, unlike the creation and
use of embryonic stem cells."
We urge the European Parliament to revise its decision on this issue.
It does not promote the cause of respecting dignity of the human being
nor does it serve the common weal. Such a mistaken decision which fails
to take into account a fundamental value, i.e. that of human life,
undermines confidence in the European Union and its decision-making
We call on all people of good will, on the Council and on the European
Commission, to take all measures in order not to allow the
implementation of the decision taken by the European Parliament on the
financing of research on embryos and embryonic stem cells.
Signed: Polish cardinals, archbishops and bishops attending the 336th
plenary session of the conference of the episcopate of Poland
Poznan -- Gniezno, June 25, 2006
"Assisted Dying" Defeated, for Now
British House of Lords Rejects
LONDON, MAY 20, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Britain's House of Lords sidelined
an attempt to facilitate assisted-suicide for those seriously ill. Lord
Joel Joffe, who has made other similarly defeated attempts in the
recent past, proposed for consideration the Assisted Dying for the
Terminally Ill Bill.
The bill had divided opinions over the last few months, culminating in
a seven-hour debate and vote in the Lords on May 13. The next day's
Times newspaper reported that the House of Lords was packed as on few
other recent occasions for the debate. There were even three baronesses
present, in motorized wheelchairs, to oppose the bill.
In the end the Lords voted 148-100 to delay the bill for six months.
Afterward, Joffe pledged to continue his campaign for legalizing
Churches and pro-life groups had carried out a well-organized campaign
to defeat the proposal. On March 16, Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff
sent a letter to all parish priests in England and Wales explaining how
the Catholic Church was organizing to defeat the bill.
The archbishop, who is chairman of the Department for Christian
Responsibility and Citizenship of the bishops' conference of England
and Wales, also sent out for use in the parishes a leaflet explaining
what individuals could do to defeat the proposal. The leaflet was
produced by the Care Not Killing Alliance, which is formed by medical
groups, organizations representing disabled people and churches,
including the Catholic Church.
In April, leaders of various faith groups wrote an open letter to all
members of Parliament and the House of Lords. The groups, which ranged
from Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Jews, to Muslims and Sikhs,
expressed their concern at the attempt to change the law and added that
they "hold all human life to be sacred and worthy of the utmost
The letter also commented that palliative care is advancing very
rapidly, both in relieving suffering experienced by those with a
terminal illness, as well as in providing support for their families.
The leaders called upon politicians to take steps to ensure adequate
training is given to doctors and nurses to adequately treat such
patients. They also asked that more centers of specialist palliative
care be established.
"The argument that assisted suicide or euthanasia is necessary to deal
with the suffering of terminal illness is false," they argued.
Moreover, they added that in countries where assisted suicide or
euthanasia is legalized there are serious concerns over how it is
applied. In the Netherlands, for example, 1 in every 32 deaths arises
from legal or illegal euthanasia. As well, Dutch pro-euthanasia groups
are campaigning for further relaxations of the law to extend it, for
example, to people with dementia.
The faith leaders also noted that most doctors oppose assisted dying.
In fact, medical opposition has actually intensified in recent years.
Just prior to the parliamentary debate, some of the leaders wrote
another letter, published May 12 in the Times. It was signed by
Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, Cardinal Cormac
Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster, and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
"We urge legislators to withhold support for this Bill," the leaders
wrote, "so as to ensure that British law continues to safeguard the
principle that the intention to kill, or assist in the killing, of an
innocent human being is wrong."
"Compassion for the terminally ill is incumbent on all of us," they
stated. But this does not mean there is any "right to die." Such a
"right" would, for the vulnerable, soon become "a duty to die," the
religious leaders warned.
The danger that Joffe's bill would lead to more and more widespread
euthanasia was one of points highlighted in a briefing paper prepared
by the Care Not Killing Alliance.
The bill contained within it the seeds of its own extension, the paper
explained: "If we are allowing assisted dying for reasons of
compassion, then why deny it to patients who are suffering unbearably
but not terminally ill?" The paper warned that legal challenges under
the Human Rights Act would very probably, and quickly, lead to a
situation where assisted suicide would be established as a therapeutic
option for anyone.
The briefing also dealt with the question of autonomy, since supporters
of assisted suicide often push their proposals under the justification
of allowing people to take charge of their own lives. "Autonomy is
important," stated the paper, "but we have laws because autonomy is not
Moreover, the paper continued, the plea for personal autonomy must be
weighed against other factors, such as the following:
-- Most people who ask for euthanasia do not actually want it.
Terminally ill people often suffer from depression which can foment
suicidal thoughts. In most cases this can be effectively treated. What
is needed, therefore, is better care.
-- Vulnerable people will feel pressure to request euthanasia. People
who are dying might often feel they are a burden on relatives and
society short of resources. A law allowing euthanasia would put
pressure on them to consider assisted suicide as a therapeutic option.
-- Euthanasia cannot be controlled. Experience in the Netherlands
clearly shows that there is a progression from assisted suicide to
voluntary or involuntary euthanasia.
-- Euthanasia would change the nature of medicine. Euthanasia would
split the medical profession, leading many doctors who conscientiously
object to be excluded from specialties where euthanasia becomes part of
the normal range of services.
Not a civilized option
The campaign leading up to the parliamentary vote also saw many
personal testimonies by handicapped people or those who had suffered
serious illnesses, warning against the temptation to make it easy for
people to choose suicide.
In the Observer newspaper on May 7, David Williams, now 51, told how
when he was 35 he was diagnosed with a tumor and was given only a few
years to live. Williams said if doctor-assisted suicide had been
available he would have considered it, "purely on the basis of the
suffering my wife was going through." Instead he was treated for the
pain and later the cancer went into remission. Moreover, a few years
after his recovery, his wife died suddenly from liver cancer. Had
Williams chosen suicide his children would have become orphans.
Writing in the May 9 issue of the Guardian newspaper, Jane Campbell, a
Disability Rights commissioner, explained how she suffers from a severe
form of spinal muscular atrophy.
"Many people who do not know me," she commented, "believe I would be
'better off dead.'"
This sort of view is based mainly on ignorance, or even prejudice,
argued Campbell. In fact, she noted, Joffe's bill failed to get the
endorsement of a single organization of disabled people. Groups
representing the terminally ill and disabled, frightened by what the
bill seeks to achieve, formed a coalition, Not Dead Yet, to fight the
"The defeat of Lord Joffe's Bill is very important and welcome,"
commented Archbishop Peter Smith in a press release Tuesday. He warned,
however, that the issue will return to Parliament in the future. The
archbishop recommended that the Care Not Killing Alliance continue to
press for improvements in palliative care. "Assisted suicide and
euthanasia," he concluded, "cannot be the way forward for a civilized
Tactics to Promote Euthanasia
Interview With Dr. Margaret
Somerville of Montreal
MONTREAL, MAY 19, 2006 (Zenit.org).- In the battle for the legalization
of euthanasia, two tactics used by proponents are redefinition and
confusion -- and these point to a larger societal issue, says a
Dr. Margaret Somerville, founding director of the Center for Medicine,
Ethics and Law at McGill University in Montreal, spoke at the recent
annual Seminar on Bioethics sponsored by the Catholic Organization for
Life and Family. The seminar focused on euthanasia and end-of-life
In this interview, she speaks on the ethical issues at hand
and the wider social-cultural implications.
Q: Why is there such pressure to redefine euthanasia, and what would
such a new definition entail?
Somerville: Redefinition is a particular strategy to promote
euthanasia. It confuses euthanasia with other medical interventions
that are acceptable, such as consenting to withdrawal of life-support
The pro-euthanasia advocates are using the term "physician-assisted
death" -- we can all agree we want physicians to care for us when we're
dying -- and saying that physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are
just different modes of all such treatment. The common "neutral" phrase
is euthanasia's just a "last act of good palliative care" which sounds
fine, and many people are buying it as a viable option.
In fact, those who argue for euthanasia are proposing to make a
continuum of all end-of-life interventions, and arguing they are all of
the same kind, just different in degree. Thus to be consistent we must
either accept all of them or reject all of them. No one wants to do the
latter -- it could mean not having access to necessary pain relief --
so the only option is to choose to accept everything.
The people who take the other side of the debate state that euthanasia
and physician-assisted suicide are different in kind, not degree, from
other end-of-life measures.
As to why there are these pressures, at one level it is personal belief
in rights to self-determination, a need for control, a reaction after
having seen a terrible death, fear of many things, terror management
and so on.
Q: What is the implication of the proposed legalization of euthanasia
on the greater society?
Somerville: At a more general societal level it is an important battle.
In these culture wars we are experiencing, there is a battle about the
nature of the societal cultural paradigm, the worldview that should
govern us in the future, which new values we should adopt and which
older values we should reaffirm as part of it.
There are, I propose, three competing possibilities for this new
worldview, each of which has a very different relationship to the new
The first is the ''pure science'' view, which takes a position that
science does or will be able to explain everything, including those
characteristics such as altruism and morality, that we regard as
distinguishing us from other animals and most clearly identifying us as
It seeks meaning in human life mainly or only through science and,
likewise, seeks to exercise control through this. There is no
recognized space for the spirit. It supports the view that one's own
death is a purely personal matter involving only individual values and
In contrast, the second view, the ''pure mystery'' view, often decries
science or is expressly anti-scientific. This view adopts an intense
sanctity-of-life stance, which can be compared to respect or reverence
for life, and most importantly, to respect or reverence for death.
For instance, many people who hold this view believe that all medical
treatment must be continued until no vestige of life remains. These
same people could also have difficulties with providing necessary
pain-relief treatment that might shorten life.
The ''science-spirit'' view, the third view, seeks a structure to hold
both science and the human spirit. For some people this view is
expressed through religion, but it can be, and possibly for most
persons is, held independently of being religious at least in a
It recognizes that human life consists of more than its biological
component, wondrous as this is. This worldview includes a sense of a
space for the human spirit and of the secular-sacred.
It recognizes that human life consists of more than its biological
component, wondrous as this is. This worldview includes a sense of a
space for the human spirit and of the secular-sacred. Most importantly,
it's a bridge between all people who care about being moral and ethical
whether or not they religious.
This view experiences our new science as eliciting wonder at both what
we know, and, as a result of this, what we now know that we do not
know. It seeks meaning through a combination of science and spirit,
which could create a different reality from the other two views.
Q: How would legalized euthanasia change the way we understand
ourselves and the meaning of human life?
Somerville: We come closer to being disposable products: The attitude
taken by some who support euthanasia is, "When we are past our 'best
before' or 'use by' date we should be checked out as quickly, cheaply
and efficiently as possible."
Q: What elements in Canadian culture contribute to the present conflict
over legalizing euthanasia?
Somerville: We run into trouble due to the sole reliance on reason --
especially when we see science as the only way to know, not just one
way; intense individualism; loss of a shared religion; and secularism.
Our Parliament and highest courts are the new high cathedrals, while
the media in general is expressing approval of euthanasia and
disapproval of resisting it. I speak at length on this subject in my
book "Death Talk: The Case against Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted
Q: What suggestions would you make to the average lay person, faced
with this issue? Would you encourage people to make a fundamental
decision about where they stand on euthanasia?
Somerville: Yes. Ask yourself how you want your
great-great-grandchildren to die if we legalize euthanasia now. It
radically affects the values, especially of respect for life, that we
pass on to future generations.
For those who want to stand up against it, they must make a secular
case against euthanasia. They must talk to the people who are not
convinced it is a bad idea, not just reassure each other they are
correct to be against it, as I find most anti-euthanasia Christians do.
Q: How is confusion used as a means of making a case for euthanasia?
Somerville: If the word "euthanasia" is redefined to contain everything
within a continuum of options for dying people, then many will think
that everything, including real euthanasia, should be accepted and
People are asked questions in euthanasia surveys that make a clear
answer impossible -- for example, Are you for or against euthanasia for
dying people who are in terrible pain?
The answer "I'm for all necessary pain relief treatment and against
euthanasia" is impossible. Most people will answer "for" -- thereby
supporting euthanasia -- because they do not want to be left without
Q: Would you say then that it is a fear of suffering that motivates
support for euthanasia?
Somerville: Yes, but to seek control over suffering is also a natural
response to it.
We know that suffering is reduced when we feel we have control over it.
We look for suffering reduction mechanisms or terror management
devices; I think euthanasia is seen as both.
We have intense free-floating anxiety in our societies. We focus on
death as the source of our fears. We seek control over those fears by
seeking control over death, and that feeling of control reduces our
experience of suffering.
What we really need is to search for other ways to reduce fear of dying
and death and give a sense of control to people.
What motivates people to consider assisted suicide? Fear of pain,
abandonment and being a burden. Sometimes people see physician-assisted
suicide as a rational response to those fears.
Sometimes it is depression. But some well-conducted research published
in the New England Journal of Medicine found it was a condition the
research psychiatrists called hopelessness -- nothing to look forward
to -- a condition they differentiated from depression.
Dying people need hope, a sense of connection to the future. They can
have this sense even with a very short future to connect to -- for
example, looking forward to seeing the sun come up or hearing the birds
sing the dawn chorus tomorrow.
As I wrote in "The Ethical Canary": "Hope is the oxygen of the human
spirit; without it our spirit (which encompasses the will to live)
Lots of Data Point to Fewer Births
Pope Cites a Problem That Few
Would Argue With
ROME, MAY 6, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI cited an "urgent need" for
reflection in the area of demography, in a message he sent April 28 to
participants in a meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
Experts agree that an increase in life expectancies is being met with a
drop in birthrates, the Pope noted. Societies are aging and "many
nations or groups of nations lack a sufficient number of young people
to renew their population," he wrote.
Attention has increasingly focused on the social and economic
consequences of too few babies. Last Sunday the New York Times
commented on the case of Ogama, a village in rural Japan that has
declined to only eight elderly residents. Town members have decided to
pack everything up and sell the site to a company that will turn it
into a landfill.
Sixty years ago the village had around 30 households, each with eight
to nine people. Ogama belongs to the municipality of Monzen, which has
140 villages, 40% of which have fewer than 10 households, mostly
composed of elderly people, the article observed.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that the Japanese government is
considering allowing TV ads for matchmaking agencies, in the hope of
encouraging marriage, and more children. Data from Japan's Health
Ministry show that the average age of women on their first marriage is
now 27.8, compared with 25.8 in 1988.
On Wednesday the Guardian newspaper of Britain reported on the plunging
birthrate in Europe. The report came the day after the German
government decided to increase financial incentives for couples to have
more children. Measures include tax breaks, more nursery places and
government funds for men to take time off after a baby's birth.
But more money may not be sufficient to solve the problem, the article
commented. Germany already spends 3.1% of its gross domestic product on
families and children, well above the 2.1% average for countries in the
The increased funds came after opinion was shocked by official figures
published in March. Those figures showed that last year between 680,000
and 690,000 babies were born in Germany. This was less than in the
final year of World War II, commented Rolf Wenkel in an opinion article
published March 16 by Deutsche Welle.
"[W]e've completely failed to react to the fact that Germany's
birthrate has been galloping downhill for the last 30 years," contended
On Tuesday the Guardian published the results of a poll carried out in
Britain showing that people feel forced to delay family life by career
pressures and the growing difficulty of finding a partner. Around 20%
of British women reaching the end of their fertile life are childless,
according to the British Office of National Statistics. This compares
with 10% in the 1940s. And in 2004 the fertility rate in the United
Kingdom was 1.77 children per woman, well down from the 1960s peak of
Commenting on the poll, Libby Brooks noted that another key reason
cited for the low birthrate is that couples do not stay together in the
same way as in the past. The "modern absolutes of autonomy and
independence" may well be hindering the formation of stable marriages
and childbearing, according to Brooks.
By contrast, France is doing relatively well. Reuters on April 26
reported that France's average of 1.9 children per woman is the
second-highest rate in the European Union (after Ireland's level of
1.99). Even so, none of the 25 countries in the European Union meet the
2.1 level needed to maintain current population levels.
The French government wants a further increase in numbers of children.
Last September Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said the birthrate
was insufficient to ensure a stable population and announced new
incentives for having babies.
Not surprisingly, population is forecast to decline in Europe. Details
recently appeared in the bulletin Statistics in Focus (3/2006), a
publication of Eurostat, the EU statistical agency.
The bulletin contains a diversity of forecasts, depending on how
fertility levels evolve and how many immigrants are allowed into EU
countries. Nevertheless, "in all variants deaths will outnumber births
and positive net migration will postpone the population decrease only
temporarily," the publication states.
The population will be notably older. In 2004 there was one elderly
non-working person for every four persons of working age. By 2050 there
would be about one inactive person for every two of working age. And
the number of persons aged 80 and over is expected to nearly triple,
rising from 18 million in 2004 to about 50 million in 2051.
Even relatively high levels of immigration will not solve the problem.
Assuming positive net migration of around 40 million people over the
period up to 2050, by that date the working age population of the
European Union would have decreased by 52 million. The total population
would have dropped by 7 million.
A recent book examined some of the implications of these changes. "The
Baby Bust: Who Will Do the Work? Who Will Pay the Taxes?" (Rowman &
Littlefield Publishers) is edited by Fred Harris.
In their chapter on Europe, Hans-Peter Kohler, Francesco Billari and
Jos? Antonio Ortega observe that the demographic changes will have
profound social effects. Fewer siblings and increased childlessness
diminishes the potential of family networks to provide social and
After a detailed analysis of the causes of low fertility, the authors
express doubts over the success of government incentives to encourage
more births. There is a positive relationship between reproductive
behavior and a range of policies, but it is weak and takes time to have
Low fertility is not limited to the European Union. In the first half
of 2005 the Russian population shrank by 400,000, the London-based
Financial Times reported April 21.
The number of children per woman plunged from 2.19 in 1986-7, to 1.17
in 1999. It has since risen to 1.3. The situation is worsened by a drop
in marriage rates, and increased divorce. As well, Russian men have a
life expectancy of just under 60 years. As a result, some forecast the
population of 146 million in 2000 could fall to only 100 million by
Even countries with historically high numbers of children are seeing
birthrates drop dramatically. A few decades ago Mexican women on
average had families of almost 7 children, but this is down to just
above 2 nowadays, reported the Wall Street Journal on April 28.
Among other consequences, this fall in natality could reduce in the
future the numbers of Mexicans entering the United States. Right now
there are millions of Mexicans in their 20s and 30s looking for work.
By 2050 the median age of Mexico's population, now 25, will rise to 42,
reported the Journal, citing data from the U.N. Population Division.
The United States now has a median age of 36, set to rise to 41 by
In his message Benedict XVI noted that the causes of low birthrates are
multiple and complex. But, while they are often economic and social,
the "ultimate roots can be seen as moral and spiritual." There is, he
added, a "disturbing deficit of faith, hope and, indeed, love." That's
a deficit not readily fixed by economic policy.
Use of the condom within marriage to protect against AIDS
The ABC reports on the mixed
international responses to Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini's interview in
Italian weekly magazine L'Espresso last month, which sparked off
the debate over condom use in AIDS-infected conjugal relationships,
including the views of Martin Rhonheimer, an Opus Dei priest and
Professor of Ethics and Political Philosophy at the Opus Dei University
Fr Rhonheimer told the ABC that the Church does not teach how to render
intrinsically immoral behaviour - such as sex outside marriage - less
But "somebody who is not ready to change behaviour, he at least shows a
kind of responsibility if he tries to prevent infection [AIDS]," he
said. "I think that's commonsense."
Fr Rhonheimer said that the position of the Church has not changed on
the issue. But that "the position of the church has to be clarified in
these issues, and that in consequence, certain theological approaches
to it should be modified".
"Many theologians believe that the norm of contraception told by the
encyclical Humanae Vitae, Paul VI, has already settled the question,
but I think this is not true," he said.
"Humanae Vitae specifically tackled the problem of responsible
parenthood and contraception, that is, the question of intentionally
separating one's sexual behaviour from its meaning of serving the
transmission of life.
"From the moral point of view, using a condom to prevent infection
simply has nothing to do with contraception, it's another question," he
"So while the good and normal way of preventing infection is to abstain
from the act which might transmit the disease, of course, that's
abstinence. This perhaps is not always possible," he said.
"It's clear that a married man, for example, who is infected and uses a
condom to protect his wife from infection, is not actually to render
procreation impossible, so he's not doing a contraceptive act."
2 Key Threats to the Family
According to Theologian Father
NEW YORK, APRIL 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of an address
Father Michael Hull of New York delivered at a theologians
videoconference last Tuesday. The Congregation for Clergy organized the
* * *
Threats to the Family
By Father Michael Hull
The family is the beginning and the basis of all human society. Thus
has it been from creation: "Then the Lord God said: 'It is not good
that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'"
Aristotle has a sense of this when he describes the family as the
fundamental community between men and women ("Politica" I.2). St.
Augustine speaks of marriage as "the first natural bond of human
society" ("De bono conjugali" 1.1).
Threats to the family are those that imperil this bond, especially when
it is sealed as a sacrament. Perhaps the two gravest threats to the
family are divorce and artificial birth control. The former destroys
the family by tearing it asunder; the latter frustrates natural
expansion of the family and the human community.
Civil divorce has become de rigueur in many developed countries and is
on the rise all over the world. In most countries these days, divorce
is a simple civil matter, easily obtained and no longer socially
stigmatized. The breakup of families is common and carefree, with
little concern for Our Lord's solemn admonitions against divorce
(Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; cf. 1 Corinthians
In the United States of America, for example, surveys place the current
divorce rate at about 40% among the general population and 20% among
Catholics. Interestingly enough, these rates are significantly lower,
approximately 10% to 15%, than they were 10 years ago.
The reason? Marriage has fallen into such disfavor that many couples
elect to live in sin, either temporarily or permanently. Many young
adults engage in a number of short-term or even long-term relationships
before they marry -- if they ever marry at all.
Many younger and older couples decide specifically against marriage and
opt to live their lives in so-called common-law marriages. Surely the
Church must minister to the divorced -- as is illustrated so well in
Pope John Paul II's "Familiaris Consortio" (see Nos. 83-84) -- but the
Church must continue to speak out vociferously against the breakup of
marriages and, therefore, families.
Like divorce, artificial birth control seems to be the order of the
day. On the one hand, it is utilized by those who are married,
frustrating or limiting God's plan of procreation. On the other hand,
it contributes substantially to the contemporary malaise of sin by
eradicating many of the consequences of immoral sexual intercourse.
Both Pope Pius XI in "Casti Connubii" (Dec. 31, 1930) and Pope Paul VI
in "Humanae Vitae" (July 25, 1968) put a special emphasis on artificial
birth control as a principal threat against the sanctity of marriage
and the family in modern times.
Pius was clear: "Any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a
way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to
generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and
those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin"
(CC, No. 56). Paul was prescient when he noted that artificial birth
control would "open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general
lowering of moral standards" (HV, No. 17).
There is no doubt that such unfaithfulness is on the rise as moral
virtue declines. Indeed, artificial birth control has opened the way so
wide and facilitated such a lowering of moral principles that Paul's
words seem but modest and understated.
In order to defend the family, the Church must be vigilant in
proclaiming the sanctity, inviolability, and permanence of marriage, as
well as the importance of leaving the marital act open to life. The
aforementioned threats to the family are best met by remembering what
the family is, namely, the cornerstone of society and the domestic
Church ("Lumen Gentium," No. 11; FC, No. 21), without which man is
bereft of his natural and supernatural community.
Benedict XVI's Address on the Human Embryo
Congress Convoked by
Pontifical Academy for Life
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of Benedict
XVI's address to the participants in the 12th General Assembly of the
Pontifical Academy for Life, which focused on the topic "The Human
Embryo in the Preimplantation Phase."
* * *
Monday, 27 February 2006
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate
and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I address a respectful and cordial greeting to everyone on the occasion
of the General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the
International Congress on: "The human embryo in the pre-implantation
phase," which has just begun.
I greet in particular Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragáán,
president of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health
Care Workers, as well as Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the
Pontifical Academy for Life, whom I thank for the kind words with which
he has clearly presented the special interest of the themes treated on
this occasion, and I greet Cardinal-elect Carlo Caffarra, a
Indeed, the study topic chosen for your Assembly, "The human embryo in
the pre-implantation phase," that is, in the very first days subsequent
to conception, is an extremely important issue today, both because of
the obvious repercussions on philosophical-anthropological and ethical
thought, and also because of the prospects applicable in the context of
the biomedical and juridical sciences.
It is certainly a fascinating topic, however difficult and demanding it
may be, given the delicate nature of the subject under examination and
the complexity of the epistemological problems that concern the
relationship between the revelation of facts at the level of the
experimental sciences and the consequent, necessary anthropological
reflection on values.
As it is easy to see, neither sacred Scripture nor the oldest Christian
Tradition can contain any explicit treatment of your theme. St. Luke,
nevertheless, testifies to the active, though hidden, presence of the
He recounts the meeting of the Mother of Jesus, who had conceived him
in her virginal womb only a few days earlier, with the mother of John
the Baptist, who was already in the sixth month of her pregnancy: "When
Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leapt in her womb" (Luke
St. Ambrose comments: Elizabeth "perceived the arrival of Mary, he
(John) perceived the arrival of the Lord, the woman, the arrival of the
Woman, the child, the arrival of the Child" ("Comm. in Luc." 2: 19,
Even in the absence of explicit teaching on the very first days of life
of the unborn child, it is possible to find valuable information in
Sacred Scripture that elicits sentiments of admiration and respect for
the newly conceived human being, especially in those who, like you, are
proposing to study the mystery of human procreation.
The sacred books, in fact, set out to show God's love for every human
being even before he has been formed in his mother's womb.
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I
consecrated you" (Jeremiah 1:5), God said to the Prophet Jeremiah. And
the Psalmist recognizes with gratitude: "You did form my inward parts,
you did knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for you are
fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are your works! You know me right
well" (Psalm 138:13-14).
These words acquire their full, rich meaning when one thinks that God
intervenes directly in the creation of the soul of every new human
God's love does not differentiate between the newly conceived infant
still in his or her mother's womb and the child or young person, or the
adult and the elderly person. God does not distinguish between them
because he sees an impression of his own image and likeness (Genesis
1:26) in each one.
He makes no distinctions because he perceives in all of them a
reflection of the face of his Only-begotten Son, whom "he chose ...
before the foundation of the world. ... He destined us in love to be
his sons ... according to the purpose of his will" (Ephesians 1:4-6).
This boundless and almost incomprehensible love of God for the human
being reveals the degree to which the human person deserves to be loved
in himself, independently of any other consideration -- intelligence,
beauty, health, youth, integrity, and so forth. In short, human life is
always a good, for it "is a manifestation of God in the world, a sign
of his presence, a trace of his glory" ("Evangelium Vitae," No. 34).
Indeed, the human person has been endowed with a very exalted dignity,
which is rooted in the intimate bond that unites him with his Creator:
a reflection of God's own reality shines out in the human person, in
every person, whatever the stage or condition of his life.
Therefore, the magisterium of the Church has constantly proclaimed the
sacred and inviolable character of every human life from its conception
until its natural end (cf. ibid., No. 57). This moral judgment also
applies to the origins of the life of an embryo even before it is
implanted in the mother's womb, which will protect and nourish it for
nine months until the moment of birth: "Human life is sacred and
inviolable at every moment of existence, including the initial phase
which precedes birth" (ibid., No. 61).
I know well, dear scholars, with what sentiments of wonder and profound
respect for the human being you carry out your demanding and fruitful
work of research precisely on the origin of human life itself. It is a
mystery on whose significance science will be increasingly able to shed
light, even if it will be difficult to decipher it completely.
Indeed, as soon as reason succeeds in overcoming a limit deemed
insurmountable, it will be challenged by other limits as yet unknown.
Man will always remain a deep and impenetrable enigma.
In the fourth century, St. Cyril of Jerusalem already offered the
following reflection to the catechumens who were preparing to receive
baptism: "Who prepared the cavity of the womb for the procreation of
children? Who breathed life into the inanimate fetus within it? Who
knit us together with bones and sinews and clothed us with skin and
flesh (cf. Job 10:11), and as soon as the child is born, causes the
breast to produce an abundance of milk? How is it that the child, in
growing, becomes an adolescent, and from an adolescent is transformed
into a young man, then an adult and finally an old man, without anyone
being able to identify the precise day on which the change occurred?"
And he concluded: "O Man, you are seeing the Craftsman, you are seeing
the wise Creator" ("Catechesi Battesimale," 9, 15-16).
At the beginning of the third millennium these considerations still
apply. They are addressed not so much to the physical or physiological
phenomenon as rather to its anthropological and metaphysical
significance. We have made enormous headway in our knowledge and have
defined more clearly the limits of our ignorance but it always seems
too arduous for human intelligence to realize that in looking at
creation, we encounter the impression of the Creator.
In fact, those who love the truth, like you, dear scholars, should
perceive that research on such profound topics places us in the
condition of seeing and, as it were, touching the hand of God. Beyond
the limits of experimental methods, beyond the boundaries of the sphere
which some call meta-analysis, wherever the perception of the senses no
longer suffices or where neither the perception of the senses alone nor
scientific verification is possible, begins the adventure of
transcendence, the commitment to "go beyond" them.
Dear researchers and experts, I hope you will be more and more
successful, not only in examining the reality that is the subject of
your endeavor, but also in contemplating it in such a way that,
together with your discoveries, questions will arise that lead to
discovering in the beauty of creatures a reflection of the Creator.
In this context, I am eager to express my appreciation and gratitude to
the Pontifical Academy for Life for its valuable work of "study,
formation and information" which benefits the dicasteries of the Holy
See, the local Churches and scholars attentive to what the Church
proposes on their terrain of scientific research and on human life in
its relations with ethics and law.
Because of the urgency and importance of these problems, I consider the
foundation of this Institution by my venerable Predecessor, John Paul
II, providential. I therefore desire to express with sincere cordiality
to all of you, the personnel and the members of the Pontifical Academy
for Life, my closeness and support.
With these sentiments, as I entrust your work to Mary's protection, I
impart the apostolic blessing to you all.
Jews and Catholics on Respect for Human
Final Statement of the
ROME, MARCH 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the final statement of the
Bilateral Commission Meeting held in Rome, from Feb. 26-28 (Shevat
28-30, 5766) by the Delegation of the Holy See's Commission for
Religious Relations with the Jews and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel's
Delegation for Relations with the Catholic Church.
* * *
1. At the sixth meeting of this bilateral commission held in Rome, we
have addressed the subject of the relationship between human life and
technology -- conscious of the far reaching advances in medical science
and the challenges as well as opportunities that these present.
2. We affirm the principles of our respective Traditions that God is
the Creator and Lord of all life and that human life is sacred
precisely because, as the Bible teaches, the human person is created in
the Divine Image (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). Because life is a Divine gift
to be respected and preserved, we perforce reject the idea of human
ownership of life and of the right of any human party to decide its
value or extent. Thus we repudiate the concept of active euthanasia
(so-called mercy killing) as the illegitimate human arrogation of an
exclusive Divine authority to determine the time of a person's death.
3. We give thanks to the Creator for the capacities which He has given
to humankind to heal and preserve life and for the remarkable
achievements facilitated in this regard by contemporary science,
medicine and technology. Nevertheless we recognize that these blessed
achievements bring with them greater responsibilities, profound ethical
challenges and potential dangers.
4. In this regard we reiterate the teachings of our heritages that all
human knowledge and capacities must serve and promote human life and
dignity and thus be in harmony with the moral values that emanate from
the aforementioned principles. Accordingly there must be limits to the
application of science and technology in recognition of the fact that
not everything which is technically feasible is ethical.
5. Respect and care for human life must be a universal moral imperative
guaranteed by every civil society and its laws, thereby promoting a
culture of life.
6. While rejecting human assumption of the Divine prerogative to
determine the time of death, we affirm the obligation to do the utmost
to alleviate human suffering.
7. We urge medical practitioners and scientists to engage with and be
guided by the wisdom of religion in all matters of life and death.
Therefore we recommend in such matters, in addition to due consultation
with the families concerned, that this always take place with the
relevant religious authorities.
8. The conviction that we share, that life on earth is but one stage in
the soul's existence, must only lead us to a greater respect for the
vessel -- the human form -- in which the soul resides in this world.
Accordingly we totally reject the idea that the temporary nature of
human existence on earth allows us to instrumentalize it. In this
regard we strongly condemn any kind of bloodshed to promote any
ideology -- especially if this is done in the name of Religion. Such
action is nothing less than a desecration of the Divine Name.
9. Therefore we seek to advance the common good of humanity through
promoting respect for God, religion, its symbols, Holy Sites and Houses
of Worship. Abuse of any of these must be rejected and condemned.
10. At the same time such abuses and the current tensions between
civilizations demand of us to reach out beyond our own bilateral
dialogue which has its unique compelling character. Thus we believe
that it is our duty to engage and involve the Muslim world and its
leaders in respectful dialogue and cooperation. Furthermore we appeal
to world leaders to appreciate the essential potential of the religious
dimension to help resolve conflicts and strife and call on them to
support interreligious dialogue to this end.
February 28th, 2006 -- Shevat 30th, 5766
Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen
(Chairman of the Jewish Delegation)
Chief Rabbi Ratson Arussi
Chief Rabbi Yossef Azran
Chief Rabbi David Brodman
Chief Rabbi David Rosen
Mr. Oded Wiener
Ambassador Shmuel Hadas
Cardinal Jorge Mejíía
(Chairman of the Catholic Delegation)
Cardinal Georges Cottier, O.P.
Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo
Monsignor Pier Francesco Fumagalli
Father Norbert Hofmann, S.D.B.
"Quality of Life" -- Its Bioethical Downside
Interview With Philosopher
MADRID, Spain, JAN. 9, 2006 (Zenit.org).- "Quality of life" is not the
same as "dignity of the person," a juridical challenge that bioethics
must elucidate, says a philosopher of law.
José Miguel Serrano Ruiz-Calderóón has written a
book on this subject entitled "Juridical Challenges of Bioethics"
(Eunsa), in which he addresses the moral challenges posed by
The author is professor of philosophy of law at Madrid's Complutense
University and academic director of the Institute of Marketing Studies.
He was an adviser of the Spanish Ministry of Justice and a member of
his country's delegation to the U.N. agreement on cloning.
Q: What is bioethics greatest juridical challenge today?
Serrano: Perhaps the greatest challenge is to articulate a juridical
answer to bioethical questions that guarantees the values of our common
It is a question of keeping the essence of law as object of justice
that guarantees human dignity -- avoiding the use of man as a means --
and equality -- preventing definitions of person that distinguish some
human beings from others.
In this connection, over the last 30 years the radical agenda has made
an enormous effort to impose laws that do not recognize that all men
are persons in the juridical sense. They quickly forget the lessons of
the past, just 20 years after the end of World War II.
It is well known that contrary to what happened with totalitarianism,
the "deconstructions" of human dignity to reverse this acquisition make
use of alleged subjective rights. Thus every deed carried out against a
human group is justified by a subjective right and a liberation.
Abortion was imposed given the mother's "privacy," the reduction of the
embryo to an object given the desire for paternity-maternity, the
homicide of the defective given the autonomous desire for a dignified
death, the systematic destruction of embryos given the hope of alleged
groups of patients and so on.
Q: The sacredness of human life is called into question. Is it possible
to come to an agreement on this point with the hardest scientists?
Serrano: No. I doubt that such an agreement ever existed. In all ages
there are ideological currents that deny the sacredness of human life.
In the 20th century itself, the greater part of the world was dominated
by ideologies that expressly denied it.
Of course, there is a common tradition that expresses this principle in
a very adequate way and, in postwar legislations, precisely through the
juridical recognition of the notion of dignity, it was forcefully
However, it is well known that every time there has been a strong
interest in denying this right to some group, generally through a
restrictive definition of humanity, false argumentations have been made
with this end in mind.
We can say that there is a combination between the two causes of
corruption of justice that St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out: the false
prudence of the wise man and the abuse of the powerful. At present a
radical scientific spirit along with a certain utilitarianism are the
theoretical positions that more forcefully threaten the sacredness of
A moral absolute, such as "you shall not kill the innocent," cannot be
understood from a consequential ethic. This, we must clarify, is not a
"defect" of the formulation of the moral absolute but a proof of the
incapacity of consequential ethics to account for human action.
Q: What is the distinction between quality of life and dignity of the
Serrano: Every person is really worthy and cannot be reduced to the
condition of a means, as a carrot is that is life.
The claim of some is that not every human being has a personal
condition; that is why they say that human rights must be replaced by
the rights of the person. What is important is to affirm that every
human being, members of the species, no matter what his degree of
development or qualities, is worthy and is entitled to juridical
The height of cynicism is found in the tendency to deny the "rights of
man" to affirm the "rights of the person," another change of terms that
has ideological intentions.
Q: Why is the term "quality of life" destructive, bioethically speaking?
Serrano: It is the instrument used to deprive dignity of meaning. In
the beginning the term referred to the surpassing of certain standards
of living, seeking a way that was more in keeping with human nature
which was not merely productive.
Reinterpreted by a certain bioethics it means that whoever does not
comply with certain minimums of productive capacity and enjoyment --
let us not forget that we are in brutally hedonist societies -- does
not have a worthwhile life.
It allows for distinctions in the unborn, the newborn, the sick, the
dying and, consequently, denies the strict right to life. It is carried
out cynically for the good of the one eliminated.
It is very revealing that to redefine the concept of lives lacking
vital value, which appeared in the brutally eugenic work of Binding and
Hoche, this apparently more sophisticated concept is constructed but
which leads to the same conclusion: Under certain levels the "quality"
of human life is not worth living nor -- let us not forget it -- is it
Umbilical Cord Stem Cells Are Curing Patients
Interview With Two Pioneer Scientists
ROME, JULY 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Rome's Gemelli
works with an international network to make umbilical cord stem cells
to patients with acute leukemia, thalassemia, lymphomas and congenital
The clinic runs a bank for umbilical cords, and any
from anywhere in the world, who is genetically compatible with one of
units of blood of the umbilical cords stored, can receive a unit of
from the umbilical cord for transplant purposes.
An international network to identify donors has been
since 1995, thanks to a computer file which has data on marrow and
blood donors worldwide.
The bank's activities are coordinated by professor
Leone, director of the Institute of Hematology of the Catholic
of Rome, and professor Salvatore Mancuso, director of the Department
the Protection of Woman and Nascent Life.
In this interview with ZENIT, Leone and Mancuso
the present state of stem cell research.
Q: What is your response to those who say that using
stem cells, and not those from the umbilical cord, is the answer for
such as leukemia, or of the blood in general?
Leone: First of all, let's speak from a clinical
of view: Cells from embryos have never been used and they have
not demonstrated therapeutic capacities.
On the contrary, adult stem cells, and those of the
cord, have demonstrated their validity in marrow transplants, for
in the case of patients with thalassemia, or children with leukemia. At
present, there is no patient who has been cured with embryonic stem
This must be clarified.
To those who say that ethics removes a "possibility"
cure, one should say that at most it removes a "hope." But if we want
speak of hope, then we can experiment with animal embryos. Once we have
studied animal embryos we will be able to say something on the subject,
we will have understood a bit more. I do not see any reason why at
human embryos should be used. Ethical problems to one side, animals
be studied first.
Q: Are women told about the possibility of donating
umbilical cord to one of these banks?
Mancuso: Increasingly. When they come to give birth
our department, they request that the blood of the umbilical cord be
because of the spirit of solidarity that is increasingly spreading.
not all umbilical cords can be collected and kept for donation, as
are certain minimum requirements on the family history of both spouses.
It is necessary that the pregnancy come to its
as there is a whole series of counter-indications. We can collect for
between 30-35% of the umbilical cords from births that take place in
department. But much of the blood collected from umbilical cords is
At present, there is great interest in research, not
in our department, but also in hematology, cardiology and neurology, as
adult stem cells have an extraordinary versatility and, in fact, are
Q: How long can these cells be stored?
Mancuso: I would dare to say that they can be stored
an infinite amount of time. Today there are cells that have been stored
for 30 years and that, to a large extent, maintain their capacity to be
used. At present, the scientific community in several research centers
is seeking to store and multiply them in vitro, as the amount of stem
that can be collected from a cord are not that many.
Leone: They have been used, above all, to patients
acute leukemia, thalassemia, lymphomas, or congenital
These sicknesses are benefiting at present the transplant of stem cells
from the umbilical cord. Research, obviously, tries to go further. The
blood of the cord can give us hope for other pathologies. Now there are
hopes for heart disease.
Q: When you say that sicknesses "are benefiting,"
do you mean?
Leone: In the case of acute leukemia, there is a
number of patients that are cured, in the case of thalassemia, the
is higher. In the case of immune-deficiencies, 70-80% are cured. In the
case of leukemia, it is 35-40%. We are talking, that is, of cures.
(Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference)
A Discussion Paper on Ethics, Law & Medical
CLONING & STEM CELLS:A CONTRIBUTION TO THE NATIONAL DEBATE
20 Sep 2001 Printable Version
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on
and Constitutional Affairs has reported on the regulation of cloning in
Australia. The recommendations of this Committee come after a lengthy
of consultation with the scientific community, relevant interest
and the general public. This brief paper seeks to contribute to the
on-going debate in Australia and overseas concerning, on the one hand,
cloning and related matters such as the harvesting and attempted use of
embryonic stem cells, and on the other, the formulation of public
and the framing of legislation to regulate these scientific
The Australian community will continue to be
by the wide range of scientific, legal and ethical dilemmas posed by
At the level of public policy and the formulation of laws with respect
to artificial reproductive technology ("ART") of which cloning is
a topical and prominent part, it is essential to recall basic
of long-standing with respect to human dignity, ethics and the rule and
role of law.
While our religious tradition is consistently strong
respect to the protection of all human life,1 we are mindful that there
is a significant legal and human rights tradition from which all may
It is from that tradition that the following points are primarily taken.
Human Dignity & the Rule of Law
The High Court has stated often enough that "human dignity is a value
to our municipal law and to international instruments relating to human
rights." The Court has also commented on the responsibility of the law
to "protect equally the dignity of the hale and hearty and the dignity
of the weak and lame; of the frail baby and of the frail aged; of the
able and of the intellectually disabled. ...Our law admits of no
against the weak and disadvantaged in their human dignity."1 The human
embryo is a member of the human family but rarely, if ever, does it
any "voice" in the formulation of laws which determine whether this
vulnerable member of our community will prosper or perish. Laws with
to cloning are laws of this kind, and we are honour bound to be a voice
for this particular group within the Australian community.
In addition to protecting the vulnerable and regulating against the
a long-standing feature of law is that it should educate citizens for
common good.2 As Archbishop Hickey said in his Opening Statement to the
House of Representatives Committee on 29th March 2000, "Through their
educative and symbolic effect, our laws will reflect the parliament's
for the inherent dignity of all human life both in its generation and
The inherent dignity of all members of the human family is commonly
in the preambles to international instruments relating to human rights
to which Australia is a signatory.4 In keeping with this tradition, the
UNESCO Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights
provides that "the human genome underlies the fundamental unity of all
members of the human family, as well as the recognition of their
dignity and diversity. In a symbolic sense, it is the heritage of
The Declaration continues, "Everyone has a right to respect for their
and for their human rights regardless of their genetic characteristics.
That dignity makes it imperative not to reduce individuals to their
characteristics and to respect their uniqueness and diversity."6 These
principles relating to (a) human dignity and (b) that no member of the
human family is reducible to the utility or combination of their genes,
require also that no human embryo is exploitable because of the unique
"embryonic stem cells" they contain.7
The Council of Europe has added its voice against those who seek to
the human embryo and to advance an unfettered right to clone. In the
Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and
of the Human Being with Regard to the Application of Biology and
on the Prohibition of Cloning Human Beings (1998), the Council states
`considering the aim to protect the dignity and identity of human
"any intervention seeking to create a human being genetically identical
to another human being, whether living or dead, is prohibited." 8 We
laws which unequivocally ban cloning in all of its forms.
The inherent dignity of all members of the human family, and the
of the law to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities,
us to claim the protection of the law for all human life from its first
moment of existence. It follows from this claim that no part or aspect
of human life should be exploited for commercial gain. Nor should any
life be regarded as expendable or used for the sake of others.
human embryos, who are always without voice and often without the
of the law, must never be created in order to harvest from them any
including embryonic stem cells. Our laws should also protect embryos
created but who, as members of the "frozen generation", are usually
to languish in a frozen wasteland.
Law & Ethics
Our legal tradition is supported by broad and venerable ethical
For example, the Hippocratic tradition is predicated upon the
principle of "first, do no harm." Applying this ancient principle to
involving ART generally and cloning in particular, no embryo should
be created so that embryonic stem cells can be harvested. The
of these cells ensures the destruction of the embryo. Equally, the use
of so-called "spare embryos" from IVF programs for "research", which
ensure their destruction, violates every principle known to God and man
concerning human dignity.9
The Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights says
"practices which are contrary to human dignity, such as reproductive
of human beings, shall not be permitted."10 Our laws must reflect this
growing international view that cloning is inimical to principles of
law concerning the dignity of the human person.
The Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights also
plain that "research, treatment or diagnosis affecting an individual's
genome shall be undertaken only after rigorous and prior assessment of
the potential risks and benefits pertaining thereto...."11 Consistent
this time-honoured principle of scientific research, and in keeping
the recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council
- Australian Health Ethics Committee to similar effect,12 research in
to cloning should always be carried out not on embryos - whatever their
source - but on appropriate animals prior to the application of that
to humans. Our laws must promote ethical research in this regard.
The Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights also
unambiguously that "the human genome in its natural state shall not
rise to financial gains."13 It is essential, both as a principle of law
and of ethics, that conflicts of interest should be avoided. It is well
known that many scientists who conduct research on embryos, in the
of cloning and otherwise, hold significant financial stakes in
companies who invest in, and stand to gain financially from, this
Just as our laws proscribe this kind of financial conflict of interest
in, say, the field of company law, so too in relation to research
human life, it is essential that there be appropriate regulation to
There is another important aspect arising out of the inevitable
between the financial investment by researchers in their own research
human life. That is that human life is not, and never can be, a
or commercial commodity. Already there is significant evidence that
stem cells have been purchased both in Singapore and the United States
and imported for the purpose of research. In the former case, this was
to avoid existing State legislation which prohibits destructive embryo
A final aspect needs to be noted and emphasised. Embryonic stem cells
but one, selective source for stem cells. There is a growing body of
evidence to confirm that adult stem cells is both a medically more
source of such cells (because it avoids immuno-suppressive problems
would inevitably arise from the use of embryonic stem cells) and an
For the above reasons, we are strongly of the view that appropriate
of cloning is essential in Australia. In keeping with the Universal
on the Human Genome and Human Rights cloning should be banned. It makes
no difference that, in some self-interested circles, cloning is
between "reproductive" and "therapeutic" cloning.
Both involve the destruction of nascent human life
therefore, is contrary to the consistent and universal injunction that
all human life must be protected and accorded rights in keeping with
inherent and inviolable dignity.
Cloning, however executed and for whatever goals, distorts the human
of procreation. Cloning must not be allowed to disfigure the dignity of
all human life, nor to pervert the intrinsic beauty and goodness of
procreation between a man and a woman in marriage. Cloning in a
is no substitute for human, married love.
Appropriate regulation must also prohibit commercial gain and
trafficking in human life. Human life is neither expendable nor
1 E.g. Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994)
Evangelium Vitae (1995); Reflections on Cloning (Pontifical Academy for
1 E.g., Secretary, Department of Health and Community
Services v JWB and SMB (Marion's Case) (1992) 175 CLR 218 at 266 per
2 E.g. Institutes of Justinian, Bk.I,I "On Justice and
Law;" Cicero, On the Laws; Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics Bk.V (on the
of "justice") and Politics Bk.III; Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II
ff on the virtue of "justice."
3 ACBC Opening Statement of Archbishop B.J. Hickey to
the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and
Affairs, Inquiry into scientific, ethical and regulatory aspects of
cloning, 29th March 2000, par.4. The Archbishop also spoke about the
that respect for human life must always take precedence over market
and academic/scientific freedom.
4 See, for example, the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights (1966) and the Convention on the Rights of the
5 Article 1.
6 Article 2.
7 For an overview and discussion of the various ethical
theories current in bio-medical discourse, such as utilitarianism, see
the Submission from the ACBC Research Department to the House of
Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on cloning, 14th
March 2000 and the literature there referred to.
8 Article 1.
9 It is also a fact that "imperfect embryos" are
as a matter of course in laboratories because they are deemed
even for experimental purposes.
10 Article 11.
11 Article 5(a). This principle is consistent with
medical research protocols, such as the Nuremburg Code and the
of Helsinki: Recommendations guiding physicians in biomedical research
involving human subjects, as adopted by the World Medical Assembly and
amended at its respective Assemblies. The text used is that dated
1989 (Hong Kong).
12 See the AHEC Advice to the Commonwealth Minister for
Health and Aged Care, NHMRC-AHEC Scientific, Ethical and Regulatory
Relevant to Cloning of Human Beings, 16 December 1998, Appendix 1,
Resources for Research in Embryology and Developments in Australia."
13 Article 4 (emphasis added).
14 See the Pontifical Academy for Life's recent
on the Production and the Scientific and Therapeutic Use of Human
Stem Cells (25 August 2000) and the scientific literature there cited.
Same-Sex Marriage Bringing Chills in Canada
Catholic Church Intensifies Its Opposition
OTTAWA, JULY 16, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The approval of
allowing marriage by same-sex couples in Canada has been strongly
by the country's bishops. On June 28 the lower house of Parliament, the
Commons, passed the bill, which is now before the Senate. This
chamber is controlled by a majority of members appointed by the ruling
Liberal Party, and approval of the law is expected shortly.
In a statement released on the same day the Commons
in favor of the bill Archbishop Brendan O'Brien, president of the
conference, expressed regret for the "unfortunate step toward
civil and social recognition and appreciation for the unique importance
of the committed relationship of a man and a woman in marriage."
He insisted that by allowing same-sex couples to
the government is placing at risk "the future of marriage as a
social institution, together with the importance that society accords
irreplaceable role of a husband and wife in conceiving and raising
Archbishop O'Brien also noted that there is a
deterioration" of communal values in Canada, with high rates of
breakdown and abortion, and a declining number of births.
Following the vote in Parliament there is also
controversy over the issue of support by some Catholic politicians for
The Ottawa Citizen newspaper on July 6 reported that
Angus, a member of Parliament for Timmins-James Bay, has been denied
possibility of receiving Communion by his parish priest. Father John
had warned Angus some months ago that this would happen if he continued
to support the same-sex marriage bill, the article said. The priest's
was supported by Archbishop Paul Marchand of Timmins.
Another Catholic parliamentarian, Joe Comartin, a
for Windsor-Tecumseh, has been barred from teaching marriage classes in
his local parish, the National Post reported July 9. The article quoted
Sylvain Salvas, director of communications for the bishops' conference,
who said there are no national guidelines on how each diocese should
But Salvas observed: "We have made our national
on the issue quite clear. The conference has intervened almost 30 times
before the Supreme Court and the Senate opposing same-sex marriage."
Bishop Ronald Fabbro of the London Diocese, in which
parish is located, distributed a letter to parishioners explaining the
The Vatican has made clear that Catholic politicians
not vote for same-sex marriage. On July 31, 2003, the Congregation for
the Doctrine of the Faith published a statement entitled
Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between
All Catholics, the document stated, "are obliged to
the legal recognition of homosexual unions" (No. 10). It added:
politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way." Regarding
proposals on the matter, "the Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to
his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in
favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral."
Witness to truth
The Vatican document also asked that if legislation
same-sex marriages is approved, "the Catholic politician must oppose it
in the ways that are possible for him and make his opposition known; it
is his duty to witness to the truth."
All Catholics, in fact, are asked to oppose such
once in place. "One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in
the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as
possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application.
In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious
Another question in play is if the ruling Liberal
will suffer a backlash from Catholics over its push for same-sex
A commentary by Jeffrey Simpson in Wednesday's issue of the Globe and
newspaper pondered the phenomenon of Catholic support for the ruling
Simpson noted that in elections since 1965 Catholics
Quebec have preferred Liberals in Ontario and Atlantic Canada by an
of 18 points over other parties. In Ontario, Catholics make up 30% of
electorate, and 40% in the Atlantic provinces. "Without the big lead
Catholics, the Liberal lead would evaporate in both regions -- and,
it, the party's grip on power," commented Simpson.
The Senate Standing Committee on Legal and
Affairs has been hearing evidence on the bill to allow same-sex couples
to marry in past days. On Wednesday Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop
Quebec and primate of the Church in Canada, and Hélène
a lawyer and mother from Gatineau, presented a brief outlining the
opposition to the proposed law.
The Church's submission noted: "Neither the state
religions invented marriage nor determined its natural components. They
merely institutionalized a reality that existed well before them,
recognizing that the inherent characteristics of this reality -- the
of the couple, as well as the procreation and education of children --
would assure the common good of society."
The decision to give legal recognition to same-sex
is, the brief said, based on a false understanding of what equality
persons means and on the question of human dignity and minority rights.
The brief also explained that marriage is more than
a relationship between two consenting adults, aimed at mutual
"It possesses another constituent element, namely, the procreative
of the man and woman who are making the commitment."
And concerning the question of children: "It must
be added that with regard to education of children, the same values
reasonably be attributed to both types of union. The principal right of
children is to be born of an act of love and to live in complete
with a father and mother."
Given this situation, discrimination is not suffered
homosexuals who cannot marry each other; rather, same-sex marriage
be unjust and discriminatory toward heterosexual couples. The brief
"The state must accord special treatment to a man and woman who marry,
not because of the exclusivity, dependence, duration or sexual nature
their union, but because of its vital function of procreation and its
of socialization that encourages complementarity between man and woman
for the greater good of their children."
The submission explained that promoting same-sex
on the grounds of "equal rights" is based on a misunderstanding of what
human dignity means. "The equality and dignity of persons do not depend
on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or marital status," it said.
"Their dignity and equality are based on the simple fact that they are
members of the human race. To respect their dignity, neither the state
nor society is obliged to legally accept their 'lifestyle' that has no
reason to be publicly recognized as a social value."
The submission also expressed fears over what will
regarding Catholic opposition to same-sex marriage. While the bill
that freedom of religion is protected and that those who perform
can refuse to marry same-sex couples, much will depend on how willing
provinces are to guarantee this right.
In recent years, opposition to same-sex marriage has
described as homophobic. "Once the state imposes a new standard
that homosexual sexual behavior is a social good, those who oppose it
religious motives or motives of conscience will be considered as
anti-gay and homophobes, and then risk prosecution." The stage seems
for further controversy.
On Feminism, Eugenics and "Reproductive Rights"
Interview With Journalist Eugenia Roccella
ROME, JULY 12, 2005 (Zenit.org).- "Reproductive
are a means to wield demographic control in poor countries and to
the experience of being a woman, says journalist Eugenia Roccella.
A 1970s leader of the women's liberation movement,
is the author of essays on feminism and women's literature. With
Scaraffia, she has just published the book "Against Christianity: The
and European Union as New Ideology," published by Piemme.
In this interview with ZENIT, Roccella talks about
anti-birth ideology of international institutions such as the United
and European Union.
Q: You maintain that so-called reproductive rights
a deception to foster family planning and genetically selective births.
Can you explain the evolution of "reproductive rights" and how
to births has been transformed into eugenics?
Roccella: What must be clarified in the first place
that so-called reproductive rights are in reality rights not to
oneself, and they have been made concrete in governments' control over
feminine fertility by a worldwide policy of dissemination of abortion,
contraception and, above all, sterilization.
It is generally believed that the adoption of these
by international organizations has been a victory of the women's
But from the documents one can see that this is not so.
Historically, the right to family planning arose
the pressure of powerful international anti-birth lobbies -- for
the Rockefeller Foundation -- helped by the West's desire to exercise
control over the Third World.
Suffice it to consult the excellent documentation in
book provided by Assuntina Morresi, which demonstrates how much
of a eugenic vein have influenced U.N. policies, through NGOs such as,
for example, the IPPF [International Planned Parenthood Foundation].
Anti-birth attitudes and eugenics have been closely
from the beginning: The idea of building a better world through genetic
selection was very widespread at the start of the 20th century, and
great credibility even in learned circles. The objective was to prevent
the reproduction of human beings regarded as second-class, namely,
imperfect, even through coercion.
The adoption of eugenic theories by the Nazi regime
the theories and elicited international condemnation. But associations
born for this purpose -- among them, precisely, the IPPF -- have
changing their language and using, in an astute and careless way after
the '70s, some slogans of the women's movement, such as "free choice."
In reality, international conferences on population,
is, on demographic control, have always preceded conferences on women,
and have prepared their code words. For example, it was at the Cairo
of 1994 on population and development that the old "family planning"
replaced by the new definition of "reproductive rights."
The following year, the definition was uncritically
and appropriated by the Women's Conference in Beijing, without changing
Feminism has been, paradoxically, an easy mask to
control practices that are often savage and violent on women's bodies,
especially in Third World countries.
In the book, among other things, we illustrate some
by way of example, such as the anti-natal policies adopted in China,
India and Bangladesh, where poverty and the absence of consolidated
mechanisms have made women easy victims of experimentation,
dangerous to health, massive sterilizations and forced abortions.
Q: It is a widespread opinion that the feminist
has contributed to the obtaining of women's rights. You maintain,
that there are ambiguities and mistakes. Could you explain what these
Roccella: Feminism is a galaxy of different
and philosophies which is absolutely not homogenous.
International organizations have adopted a rigidly
version which tries to equate men and women as much as possible. This
translated, for example, in the idea -- never explicitly stated but
present -- that maternity is an impediment to women's fulfillment, and
not a central element of the gender's identity which must be valued and
Thus, in the U.N. and the European Union an
feminism has been created based altogether on individual rights and
which has chosen reproductive rights as its own qualifying objective.
There is, instead, a feminine philosophy of an
sign -- the so-called philosophy of difference -- which maintains that
the myth of equality prevents women from thinking of themselves
and that the sexual difference, rooted in the body, is not only a
fact, but something that encompasses the whole experience of being
With this feminism, the Church has had an open dialogue for a long
suffice it to read Pope Wojtyla's letter on the feminine genius, and
the most recent one addressed to bishops and signed by the then
But at present, at the international level, it is
feminism "of rights" which has prevailed, imposing reproductive rights
as a flag that must be flown always and everywhere. Instead, women's
in the various geographic areas, are different: In Africa, there is the
urgent and dramatic problem of containing birth and postnatal
There is also the problem of sexually transmitted diseases and
In the Muslim theocracies the objective for women is
equality and liberation from the oppressive control over public
-- for example, the use of the burkha. In Europe, the problems are
different, and so on. The U.N. resolutions stem from the assumption
the offers of abortion and contraception are, in any context, elements
of emancipation, including empowerment, that is, the enhancement of
But the concrete cases analyzed in the book show
this is not the case. In Iran, for example, programs for the
of control of fertility have been very successful, but women continue
be regarded as second-class citizens, subject to masculine authority.
Q: On the great topics regarding the defense of life
of the natural family, the Holy See has often confronted the
organizations, particularly the United Nations and the European Union.
You entitled one of the chapters in the book "Europe Against the
Could you explain the essence of the controversy?
Roccella: The prevailing cultural plan in Europe is
secularist extremism that regards religions as potential bearers of
The European Union, however, adopts many
both political as well as verbal, in the face of the Muslim world. They
are precautions that would be comprehensible if they did not create a
imbalance vis-à-vis the Vatican, which instead is attacked with
perfect serenity every time it is possible.
The result is that Catholicism appears as the
enemy of woman in the international realm, because it is opposed to the
ideology of reproductive rights and demographic control.
This cultural operation is resolved in a sort of
of identity, as has already occurred with the mention of the Christian
roots in the European Constitution. ... It must not be forgotten that,
from the beginning, Christianity has had an extraordinary idea of
and it is no accident if the fight for sexual equality has developed
in the Christian area.
Among all the religions, the Christian religion is
only one, for example, whose rite of initiation, baptism, is open to
sexes. Within the Catholic realm there is a strong feminist philosophy,
and the two last papacies have given great cultural dignity to this
But all this is silenced by a plan that favors the
element. The EU, even if it maintained the same policy, could modulate
in a different way its attitude to the different religious creeds,
motives for agreement.
For example, it would be easy to find instances of
with the Holy See on the protection of maternity, on international
against maternal and infant mortality and on feminine schooling, or
on the recognition of women's political and economic rights.
Instead, preference is given to putting all
in the same bag and pointing to the Vatican as the enemy par excellence
of feminine emancipation.
Who Invented Marriage?
Interview With Canonist Juan Ignacio Bañares
PAMPLONA, Spain, JUNE 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Who
marriage? Can the law "meddle" with something as personal as marriage?
These are some of the questions answered in this
with ZENIT by Father Juan Ignacio Bañares Parera, a canon lawyer
from the University of Navarre.
Father Bañares has just written a book on
Conjugal Dimension of the Person: From Anthropology to Law," published
by Rialp and the Library of the Institute of Sciences for the Family of
the University of Navarre, of which he is a director.
Q: What is the conjugal dimension of a person?
Father Bañares: The human person exists
as a feminine or masculine person. Both are persons, but they are so in
a different way.
Despite the popular _expression "to find my other
woman and man are not "halves of anything": because a half is only half
of something; because half is identical to the other half; and because
half of anything does not interact with the other half: it contributes
more of the same.
Instead, this differentiation between a feminine and
person, which is established in the very structure of the personal
comprises the whole person -- in the physical, psychic and spiritual
-- and implies a potential of enrichment for each one, which
From whence arises the possibility to communicate,
love, and to give oneself to the other specifically "insofar as man or
woman," that is, in what is conjugable.
We might call the character or generic dimension of
woman or man "spousalness," as a dimension that soaks the whole
structure of the human being, and conjugal dimension the possibility
this complementarity offers to constitute oneself woman or man in a
in nature: the conjugal partnership. United here are the truth of
the sovereign strength of freedom and the grandeur of the ends.
Q: According to the book, a person is led naturally
marriage. But there are other options in life, such as yours, the
Can you explain this?
Father Bañares: I would prefer to say, not
a "person is led naturally to marriage," but that the person is
structured to be able to enter marriage: the anthropological
exist in all human persons.
However, although marriage is "possible" for all, it
up to each one to decide freely to exercise this fundamental right of
citizen and faithful.
In turn, the decision to remain single can have many
some very worthy and of great nobility. But I understand that, not only
the priesthood, but all apostolic celibacy is neither a form of
-- no matter how worthy the latter may be -- nor an initiative of the
It is always a gift of God and a response of man.
In this connection, and in keeping with John Paul
thought, it can be said that in celibacy as a vocation, man or woman
him/herself totally to God, also according to the structure of his
or her femininity. So, the spousal dimension of the human being can be
the basis for making oneself a gift to God through the gift to the
-- and that is to constitute the conjugality, marriage -- or giving
directly to God, without the mediation of a creature.
Let's be clear: This does not mean to minimize
On the contrary, it means to underline that marriage is not only an
of two people but the will of God through the other in the personal
of sanctification and evangelization, and in the contribution to the
and to civil society.
Q: Who invented marriage?
Father Bañares: Marriage was designed by
love. It is offered by the reality of nature, it is constituted by the
freedom of the man and woman and it is "received and witnessed" by
as an inherent relationship of justice.
Q: Can the law "meddle" -- these are your words --
something as personal as marriage, you ask in your book, and you argue
that it can. Why?
Father Bañares: In fact, it's not that the
"meddles," but that marriage has within itself relations of justice.
Conjugality is established in the order of being --
"is" husband, as one "is" father, mother or daughter -- but in making a
gift of oneself in all the masculine or feminine dimension, the future
is being committed. That is, one gives oneself not only for an instant,
but for all time.
That, obviously, is the consequence of love, which
to give itself totally and without drawing back. But at the same time
is a relationship of justice.
After "being" spouses, the conjugal and family
are "due." Given that the "being" has been given -- in that dimension
in view of some ends, the "doing" is equally given, which is the
proper of the free human being in his historical dimension, in his
The role of society through the law consists in
the exercise of the fundamental right of the person, in recognizing --
in an appropriate way -- the sovereignty of the spouses, and in
the truth of the institution itself.
Problems With Artificial Reproduction
European Conference Reveals Flaws
COPENHAGEN, Denmark, JUNE 25, 2005 (Zenit.org).- A
of news stories on in vitro fertilization techniques emanated from the
21st Annual Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and
The conference, held from Sunday to Wednesday in Copenhagen, heard from
speakers about the latest research developments.
A press release posted Monday on the conference Web
explained that scientists in the United Kingdom have proved that human
embryonic stem cells can develop in the laboratory into the early forms
of cells that eventually become eggs or sperm. This opens up the
that eggs and sperm could be grown from stem cells and used for
reproduction, cloning and the creation of stem cells.
Behrouz Aflatoonian, from the Center for Stem Cell
at the University of Sheffield, stressed that there was still a lot of
work to be done before the early laboratory results could be translated
A report on the experiments at the University of
published last Sunday by the Associated Press noted that some experts
concern over ethical issues. "It opens new and challenging
said Anna Smajdor, a medical ethicist at Imperial College in London.
the technique can be used to generate eggs from a man's [adult] cells,
gay couples could have children genetically related to both."
Another press release by conference organizers on
announced that scientists in Belgium have discovered how to clone human
embryos from eggs that have been matured in the laboratory. Previously,
attempts at human cloning have had to use naturally matured eggs taken
The research carried out at Ghent University
could make it easier for scientists to create embryonic stem cell lines
from cloned embryos. Researcher Bjorn Heindryckx warned, however, that
there were still many problems to overcome. "None of these early
developed to the blastocyst stage, and failure to do so could reveal
problems in gene activation, especially in cloned embryos," he
The conference also heard that the number of
couples who have difficulty in conceiving children could double over
coming decade, reported the London-based Times newspaper on Tuesday.
There are four main factors causing a decrease in
explained Bill Ledger, of the University of Sheffield. These are: the
age at which couples first try for a baby; the increase in sexually
diseases; rising levels of obesity; and declining male fertility.
One way in which couples are responding to fertility
is by traveling to countries where laws governing IVF treatment are
stringent. This "reproductive tourism" was welcomed by Guido Pennings,
professor of ethics and bioethics at the University of Ghent, Belgium,
according to a press release Monday.
He explained that there is a general move to Eastern
centers, due to the lower costs. Spain is also attracting more people,
as the law allows payment for egg donation. Pennings said he preferred
a situation where liberal laws prevailed, and was critical of the
in Italy, where voters recently rejected an attempt to repeal the law
But not all of the conference presentations were so
in their portrayal of IVF techniques. A Reuters report on Tuesday noted
the difficulties associated with babies born through these methods.
Babies conceived by means of IVF are usually born
than naturally conceived babies. As a consequence they have a lower
weight, leading them to spend more time in hospital after the birth.
Diane De Neubourg, of the Center for Reproductive
in Antwerp, Belgium, said that the cause of the earlier births is in
number of embryos transferred into the woman's womb during IVF
"We believe that our work shows clearly that single embryo transfer is
best for both the mother and child," she told the conference Tuesday.
Anja Pinborg, of the University of Copenhagen, added
the difference in the health of babies following single- or
transfers could be competition in the womb. Multiple embryos vie for
nutrients and blood supply. And, even if only one of two embryos
it will not have had the same early advantage as a child from a
According to Reuters the average number of embryos
during IVF varies widely. The average number of single-embryo transfers
is 12% in Europe. But dual-embryo transfers rose from 46.7% in 2000 to
51.7% in 2001, according to data presented at this week's meeting.
transfers dropped from 33.3% in 2000 to 30.8% during the same period,
four-embryo transfers fell from 6.7% to 5.5%.
An Associated Press report last Tuesday noted that a
presented in Copenhagen showed that women who become pregnant with
eggs are more likely to suffer miscarriages and dangerous high-blood
than those who undergo fertility treatments with their own eggs.
SunHwa Cha of Sungkyunkwan University School of
in Seoul, South Korea, explained that the risk was even higher if the
egg came from a woman who was not related to the patient. The greater
are thought to be due to the fact that donated eggs, like transplanted
organs or tissue, are not genetically identical to the recipient and
awaken the immune system.
Another presentation at the meeting warned of the
to women of a pregnancy later in life, the Scotsman newspaper reported
Wednesday. Michael de Swiet, of Queen Charlotte's Hospital, London,
that the ideal age to have a baby was between 20 and 30.
He explained that a woman over 35 who already had
than one child had nearly a hundredfold increased risk of dying from a
blood clot in her lung compared to the risk to a first-time mother aged
20. And a woman over 40 in Britain had the same mortality risk as an
mother in Eastern Europe -- that is, about three times as high as the
average. Moreover, by the time women reached the age of 42, more than
of all pregnancies resulted in the loss of the baby.
"Women need to be better informed. I'm not really
that I think women shouldn't have babies over the age of 40," he said.
"I just think they ought to be aware of the risks."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in Nos.
briefly outlines the ethical principles involved in considering IVF
After expressing compassion for the plight of couples who are unable to
conceive, the text explains that the Church is in favor of research to
help them overcome this problem. But it also warns that such efforts
be placed in the context of serving the human person and respecting
Techniques that use eggs or sperm from someone
the married couple are unacceptable as they do not respect the marriage
bond and also deny the child the right to be born of a mother and
known to him.
The Catechism also expresses serious reservations
techniques involving only the married couple, in which the sexual act
dissociated from the procreative act. Furthermore, the text explains
"A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift" (No. 2378). It is
not a mere piece of property, and, likewise, there is no "right to a
Points that provide a useful orientation in the midst of constant
Seeking an Ethical Option to Embryonic Stem Cell
Interview With Father Thomas Berg of Westchester
NEW YORK, JUNE 13, 2005 (Zenit.org).- There might be
ethically acceptable alternative for obtaining embryonic stem cells,
Legionary of Christ Father Thomas Berg, executive
of the Westchester Institute, a Catholic ethics think tank located in
New York, sees hope for a process known as altered nuclear transfer. He
gave an overview of the status of stem cell research in this interview
Q: What is the ethical problem with embryonic stem
Father Berg: The problem is that the methods
used to obtain these cells -- pluripotent stem cells -- require
to kill living human embryos in the process.
In the case of so-called therapeutic cloning, which
been accomplished twice and recently streamlined by a group of South
researchers, it requires the intentional creation of human embryos
for their destruction in the course of harvesting stem cells from them.
Q: Are not human adult stem cells sufficient for all
therapeutic purposes we could want?
Father Berg: We really can't say enough in praising
promoting the inroads that have been made in developing therapies from
adult stem cells.
Decades of research have yielded some 70 diverse
and clinical applications in treating diseases and disorders, including
heart damage, spinal injury and several kinds of blood diseases.
By contrast, the research on deriving therapies from
embryonic stem cells is more nascent; it has only been going on in
for the last four or five years. Will it yield therapies? Quite
-- that's what scientists on both sides of the life issue tell me. It's
too early to tell.
So, we should be guarded in our optimism with regard
the potential of adult stem cells.
Q: Can you explain again the difference between
of stem cells?
Father Berg: In the case of embryos, we distinguish
pluripotent and totipotent.
Pluripotent cells can give you -- to use an analogy
painting -- all the colors on the palette, but not the whole picture.
is to say, they give you all the human tissues.
Totipotent cells, on the other hand, can give you
whole picture -- a whole human being. It's the pluripotent cells that
of interest to the researchers.
Human adult stem cells are normally referred to as
There is ongoing debate as to whether certain kinds of adult stem cells
-- for example, MAP-Cs, or multipotent adult progenitor cells -- can be
coaxed to give rise to all tissue types. There are some reports that
are perhaps on the right trail, but no conclusive studies yet.
Q: How does cloning relate to stem cell research?
Father Berg: Cloning is the creation of a unique
individual through a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer.
A donor donates a body cell from which the nucleus
taken and then transferred into an enucleated human egg. Factors in the
cytoplasm of the egg are responsible for literally reprogramming the
nucleus to a pristine state, that of a one-cell human organism or
When coaxed with electrical stimulation, this clone
to undergo the normal process of cell division which leads to the
stages of otherwise normal embryonic development. So the link with stem
cell research is the following.
Cloning has been proposed as the ideal means of
tailor-made embryonic stem cell lines. The DNA of the clone is an exact
match of the donor's. The clone is developed to the blastocyst stage,
6 days, at which point, its inner cell mass is extracted -- killing the
human clone in the process.
From the inner cell mass of the clone are then
in culture a new line of pluripotent stem cells which are a perfect
match to the donor. These lines of stem cells could be used to develop
tissue replacement therapies for the donor -- should he or she
need them -- with no risk of immune rejection because the tissue is
Q: Has anyone yet cloned a human being?
Father Berg: Yes. The South Korean team led by Woo
Hwang reported, in February 2004, the first successful creation of
In 2004 they created some 30 embryos and allowed
to develop to the blastocyst stage. They were then destroyed in order
create lines of embryonic stem cells. On May 19 of this year, they
that they have now honed their technique and claim to have created 11
lines of human embryonic stem cells.
Q: Do you defend the Bush policy on funding of
stem cell research?
Father Berg: While I am open to better arguments, I
to defend the policy as the best prudential judgment President Bush
have made at the time.
You will recall that it was his decision on Aug. 9,
to allow federal funding of research using lines of human embryonic
cells created prior to Aug. 9. The president clearly demonstrated his
condemnation of the evil of embryo destruction which was entailed in
creation of those lines. By this policy, he assured that no federal
would contribute to any new killing of embryos.
I think in hindsight we can make the case that by
a trickle of funding, he was able to forestall the evil that is now
up on us. Had he completely banned federal funding, there would have
an extreme reaction from the scientific sector which would have
perhaps considerably more state and private funding. That's what is
Q: Are there morally acceptable means of obtaining
embryonic stem cells?
Father Berg: If it were shown to be feasible to
pluripotent stem cells by ethically acceptable means, I would support
encourage scientific exploration of their potential therapeutic value.
The President's Council on Bioethics recently released a white paper
several possible alternative means.
Q: Can you briefly explain these alternative means
obtaining human pluripotent stem cells as described recently by the
Council on bioethics?
Father Berg: That paper reported on, and gave an
ethical evaluation of, four proposals for obtaining pluripotent stem
without killing human embryos. The proposals are as follows in simple
The first was proposed by Dr. Don Landry and Dr.
Zucker, both of Columbia University. They would seek to obtain
stem cells from embryos that have been determined to be clinically
in IVF [in vitro fertilization] clinics and that are about to be
The second would perform a biopsy on an eight-cell
to remove an early forming stem cell, presumably without harming the
The third, called altered nuclear transfer, ANT, and
by Dr. William Hurlbut of Stanford University is to create a
biological artifact akin to a tumor that would nonetheless produce the
equivalent of pluripotent stem cells.
And the fourth proposal would endeavor to convert
cells into pluripotent stem cells by reprogramming the nucleus of the
cell to a pluripotent state. While the bioethics council could not
the "biopsy" proposal, it did encourage the pursuit of research on the
other proposals using animal models.
Q: Why pursue these alternative means for obtaining
Father Berg: I think in light of the fact that we
live in Brave New World, in which embryos are being created en masse,
in which there will be a growing demand for new embryonic stem cell
I believe we have a moral obligation to look seriously at alternate
to obtaining them through non-embryo destructive means.
Q: Is there a down side to pursuing any of these
Father Berg: Potentially, and that's what makes them
from the moral perspective and that's why we need to see the animal
done for these proposals.
With ANT, we have to be able to arrive at the moral
that the product of ANT is not an embryo; it may also run the risk of
fomenting whole new avenues of human engineering.
The Zucker-Landry proposal may risk opening up a new
for the IVF industry, since it proposes removing intact embryonic stem
cells from IVF embryos about to be discarded. But again, we may well
sufficient reason to tolerate the chances of any of this happening.
Q: You are on public record as supporting Dr.
proposal, ANT. Is that correct?
Father Berg: Yes. I, along with several other
have recently endorsed pursuing ANT on animal models -- not with human
cells -- especially in a more recent and very specific rendition of ANT
called oocyte assisted reprogramming.
Q: How did you get involved with Dr. Hurlbut?
Father Berg: When I thought carefully about what he
proposing, I felt we had almost a moral obligation to study his
seriously, so I contacted him about the possibility of getting some
together to look at the moral side of the proposal. That was last
Q: Explain altered nuclear transfer and new version
referred to called oocyte assisted reprogramming.
Father Berg: ANT is a broad conceptual proposal and
be accomplished in many different ways. The steps involved in oocyte
reprogramming would be the following.
First, a cell is removed from a donor and the DNA in
nucleus of that cell is "altered" in an effort to change the
that this nucleus would be giving to the cell, keeping in mind that a
nucleus essentially determines what kind of cell it will be.
Then, the nucleus is removed from an oocyte, or egg
and this enucleated oocyte, now essentially a sack of cytoplasm, is
to the donor cell with the altered nucleus.
This process of cell fusion -- also called nuclear
-- is the same has used in cloning, but the product would be radically
different in this case. This newly constituted cell would neither be an
egg, nor an embryo, nor would it any longer be the cell it once was.
Rather, it would now be a hybrid that would show or
the properties programmed into it by the changes made to the nucleus.
way the scientist in our working group have conceived of it would
that the new cell would be programmed to essentially act like and
pluripotent stem cells.
These stem cells would be genetically identical to
donor and could conceivably be used for research and therapeutic
So essentially, it would mean going from an adult cell to stem cells,
the creation and destruction of embryos in the process.
So, the long and the short of it is that a growing
of scientists are quite confident that ANT-OAR would actively and
convert adult cells directly into pluripotent stem cells without
Q: So what exactly does the egg do in this process?
Father Berg: The egg's cytoplasm will strip the
type of the adult cell nucleus, reverting to an undifferentiated, more
plastic, and virginal state as it were.
Yet, unlike cloning, the adult cell nucleus will not
converted to a totipotent state -- a state that could generate a whole
human embryonic organism. Rather, should the ANT-OAR proposal work, the
alterations made to the donor nucleus will ensure that the cell
is not an embryo, and will immediately be able to multiply itself,
a new line of pluripotent stem cells.
Q: Some people would wonder if ANT does not entail
in the evil of human embryonic stem cell research. They might ask: Why
mess with human eggs and genetic material?
Father Berg: We all share a sense of profound
and respect to be owed to those elements -- human eggs, sperm, human
material -- that are the essentials of human life.
Nonetheless, their use for human benefit is not
intrinsically evil. In other words, while we don't go at it lightly, we
have to recognize that there can be legitimate and morally
uses for them.
As long as in using human eggs, human genetic
does not in itself cause us to transgress some absolute moral norm,
as the norm prohibiting the creation or destruction of embryos, and as
long as it is pursued in light of some substantial and probable
then such research could proceed.
Could there be some foreseeable downside of doing
For example, does it contribute to a thinning out of our respect of
That is hypothetical, but even were that the case, I think in light of
the fact that we now live in Brave New World, in which embryos are
created en masse, and in which there will be a growing demand for new
stem cell lines, we have proportional reason to pursue this research
to tolerate the potential negative consequences.
Scientific Basis for Doubts About Stem Cell
Embryology Points to Humanity of Nascent Life
WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 4, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The
debate has heated up with the recent approval by the U.S. House of
of funding for stem cell research on human embryos and the combined
of human cloning in South Korea and England. The cloning experiments in
both cases were designed with the end of producing stem cells for
research and eventual treatments.
A common argument used by researchers is that the
cells used in their research are not really human life anyway, but just
a collection of cells. Moreover, many supporters of allowing these
dismiss opposition as being anti-scientific and an attempt by moralists
to impose their views on society.
After U.S. President George Bush threatened to veto
additional stem cell financing approved by Congress, a New York Times
of May 26 said: "His actions are based on strong religious beliefs on
part of some conservative Christians, and presumably the president
Such convictions deserve respect, but it is wrong to impose them on
On the same day Washington Post columnist Richard
also criticized opposition to stem cell research saying: "I grant you
we are embarking on a wondrous and scary intellectual and ethical
but we are doing so to save lives, to make them bearable, to mend the
and cure the sick. What is wrong with that?" He also condemned those he
termed "religious conservatives" who "have imposed their religious
on the rest of us."
Good for all
Attacking religion could just be a rhetorical trick
to willfully ignore the validity of the arguments raised by opponents
cloning and stem cell research. But it does raises questions about the
basis of opposition to these techniques.
Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan,
provided an answer to these questions in an article published in the
daily newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, on May 25. Titled, "The Good of
Life is a Good of All and for All," it was written in the context of
Italian referendum over the law on in vitro fertilization which will be
held on June 12-13.
The archbishop started with some reflections over
legitimacy of defending human life in its initial stages. He raised the
1. Human life is always a good. In fact, it is the
precious good that exists and is the foundation of all other goods that
a human can possess. Moreover, the life of every person has such a high
value that it cannot be compared to the worth of the life of other
The cardinal clarified that he was not only talking
a believer in God. He was also making an appeal to human reason, in the
sense that the value of human life is something that can be grasped
the use of reason and is, therefore, a principle that can be
2. Protecting human life is a duty that falls upon
one of us, to be taken up with responsibility and decision. It is, in
a civic duty given that the protection of human life is an
condition for ensuring the common good of all.
3. The Church and the Christian community is united
those who defend human life from the moment of conception until death.
The fact that certain rights and duties are defended by the Church does
not, however, cancel out their civil legitimacy or their authenticity
a secular point of view.
It should be clear, stated Cardinal Tettamanzi, that
human life is a prerogative of all, not just of Christians. Moreover,
would be a grave case of ideological intolerance if civil activity,
in itself, were marginalized merely because it comes from Christians.
itself would be the loser if this were to happen.
4. Caring for human life during its beginnings is
important, given its vulnerability at this stage of development.
this protection, either at the individual or social level, carries the
risk of creating irremediable damage, or even the destruction of the
Concerning the debate over how to relate morality
law, Milan's archbishop explained that they are connected in the sense
that morality can illuminate our conscience, while the law codifies how
we should act. It is important to remember, he added, that the state
not create human rights, and likewise cannot destroy them.
Moral norms and civil law are, indeed, distinct one
the other. But the civil law does have the important role of promoting
the common good of all, even if it cannot pretend to abolish all
If, then, it is legitimate for Christians to have a
on laws governing human life, is it the case that in the early stage we
are dealing with something that is human? This point was debated in a
of articles in the fall/winter issue of New Atlantis. The magazine is
by the Washington, D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center.
In their contribution, Robert George and Patrick Lee
to arguments in favor of stem cells research advanced by two members of
the President's Council on Bioethics, Paul McHugh and Michael Sandel.
is a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and a member of
the bioethics council. And Lee is professor of philosophy at the
University of Steubenville.
The two said that there would not be any objection
using embryonic stem cells for research or therapy if they could be
without killing or harming embryos. "The point of controversy," they
"is the ethics of deliberately destroying human embryos for the purpose
of harvesting their stem cells."
Both contemporary human embryology and developmental
"leave no significant room for doubt" about the human status of embryos
at the initial stage of their life, argue George and Lee. "Each of us
by a gradual, unified and self-directed process from the embryonic into
and through the fetal, infant, child and adolescent stages of human
and into adulthood, with his or her determinateness, unity and identity
We value human beings precisely because of the kind
entities they are, and they point out "that is why we consider all
beings to be equal in basic dignity and human rights." This dignity is
intrinsic and does not depend on any accidental characteristics. For
reason we do not kill retarded children to harvest their organs.
While no one claims that embryos are mature human
at the same time it is correct to argue that human embryos are human
"that is, complete, though immature, members of the human species."
Embryology, they explain, shows the following:
-- The embryo is from the start distinct from any
of the mother or the father, and grows in its own distinct direction,
its growth being internally directed to its own survival and maturation.
-- The embryo is human, since it has the genetic
characteristic of human beings.
-- The embryo is fully programmed, and has the
disposition, to develop himself or herself to the next mature stage of
a human being. And unless prevented by disease, violence, or a hostile
environment, the embryo will actually do so. None of the changes that
to the embryo after fertilization, for as long as he or she survives,
a new direction of growth.
There are, naturally, ample religious and
grounds on which to oppose sacrificing embryos for research. But many
are based on science and a rational ethical analysis, and are,
no imposition on pluralism.
Human Cloning: the Ongoing Battle
Some Scientists Reject Limitations on Research
LONDON, OCT. 23, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Limitations on
manipulation and destruction of human life are looking shaky in the
of sustained efforts in a number of countries to extend human cloning.
At the international level the question of cloning is once more under
in the United Nations. A proposal by Costa Rica to ban cloning was
last year, but is once more on the agenda.
The president of Britain's Royal Society, Lord May,
efforts to promote a ban on all forms of human cloning, Reuters
last Sunday. Last month U.S. President George Bush spoke in favor of
Costa Rican proposal in a speech to the General Assembly. But Lord May
favors of a proposal made by Belgium that would outlaw cloning for
purposes, but allow it for therapeutic ends.
The renewed effort to obtain a worldwide ban comes
scientists in South Korea announced earlier this year that they had
humans and extracted embryonic stem cells. The experiments were carried
out at the Seoul National University, reported the New York Times on
The United Kingdom may be the next in line to clone
Cloning for therapeutic purposes was made legal in 2001, but the first
permission was given only recently. On Aug. 11, BBC reported that the
Fertilization and Embryology Authority gave the go-ahead to scientists
at the University of Newcastle to clone human embryos. According to BBC
it is believed this is the first time such a license has been granted
After this first approval, a team led by the
who cloned Dolly the sheep also applied for a license to clone human
BBC reported Sept. 28. Researchers at Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, led
by professor Ian Wilmut, hope to develop a cure for motor neurone
through experiments using the cloned embryos.
In the United States, scientists from Harvard
are also attempting to gain permission to clone human embryos, the
Globe reported Oct. 13. According to the report, two separate teams of
researchers want to use cloning to produce embryonic stem cells that
the genetic material of patients with juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's
and other illnesses. The teams are part of the recently formed Harvard
Stem Cell Institute, established by the university earlier this year.
Cloning is legal in the United States, noted the
but the scientists must first receive approval through an institutional
review process, which could take months.
In another recent move, Singapore has opened up the
of cloning, Reuters reported Sept. 2. Parliament passed a law that bans
human cloning for reproduction, but allows it for research purposes.
law will allow scientists to clone human embryos and keep them alive
14 days to produce stem cells.
Japan is also moving toward allowing cloning. The
supreme science council has voted in favor of policy recommendations
would permit human embryos to be cloned for scientific research, the
Press reported July 23.
Japan banned human cloning in 2001, although it does
researchers to use embryos that aren't produced by cloning. After the
in favor, the science council, headed by Prime Minister Junichiro
will now ask government ministries to come up with guidelines for
Human cloning is often defended on the grounds of
for those suffering serious illnesses. Typical of the claims advanced
a comment reported in the Scotsman newspaper on Sept. 29, following the
application by the Roslin Institute for permission to clone. Dr. Brian
Dickie, from the UK's Motor Neurone Disease Association, said the
would be a breakthrough and patients could be benefiting from it within
A more extreme statement in favor of cloning was
of Terence Kealey, a clinical biochemist and vice chancellor of the
of Buckingham in England. In an opinion article for London's Times on
17, Kealey stated: "Human cloning is almost magical in its potential."
Opponents of cloning were dismissed as
or as suffering from "medieval bigotry." "Since our only obstacle to
these nascent sciences is the traditionalists' invocation of mystical
a future of universal good health awaits us," he concluded.
Defending human life
The moves in favor of human cloning have not gone
by pro-life forces. The approval by authorities in England was
by Dr. Helen Watt, director of the Linacre Center for Healthcare
"Therapeutic cloning creates a human life in exactly the same way as
cloning does," she stated in an Aug. 11 press release. "The only
is that the embryo is intended not for birth but for laboratory
She also called into question the approval "at a
when adult stem cells are already used to treat a whole range of
By contrast, "Cells from early embryos are difficult to control and
not so far produced a single treatment," added Watt.
The German Medical Council also condemned the
Deutsche Welle reported Aug. 13. The association called for a ban on
forms of human cloning. "We can't allow embryos to be harvested like
materials," said association president Jörg-Dietrich Hoppe.
Germany's National Ethics Council has also called
a ban on cloning humans for research, Deutsche Welle reported Sept. 13.
The body, set up in 2001 by the federal government to offer advice on
issues in the life sciences, announced its opposition after more than a
year of study. The German Parliament voted in 2002 to outlaw cloning.
"Crescendo of hyperbole"
John Paul II commented on cloning, and research in
in a message sent to a meeting organized by the movement Communion and
Liberation in Rimini, Italy, last summer. In the text dated Aug. 6 the
Pope spoke of the risk that progress in scientific knowledge and
means "would become an absolute value, even the source itself of every
The result of this tendency is that "Truth and
would no longer be superior instances, criteria of justice which man
follow in directing the actions that fuel progress itself, but would
a product of his research activity and manipulation of reality."
The Holy See also issued a declaration, dated Sept.
concerning the renewed U.N. debate over human cloning. The statement
that the Holy See is in favor of research in the fields of medicine and
But, continues the document, "The Holy See opposes
cloning of human embryos for the purpose of destroying them in order to
harvest their stem cells," as it is "inconsistent with the ground and
of human biomedical research, that is, respect of the dignity of human
As an alternative the statement noted the proven
already obtained with adult stem cells. By contrast, "Embryonic stem
experiments have not yet produced a single unqualified therapeutic
not even in animal models." In fact, the declaration cited a number of
scientific sources that detail the risks involved with the use of
cells. In this context the text criticized "the crescendo of hyperbole"
extolling the use of human clones.
In terms of a moral judgment the declaration notes
therapeutic cloning is ethically worse than when it is undertaken for
purposes. In the latter case at least the human life has a chance of
instead of being used "as mere laboratory material." Attention is now
on the United Nations to see if it will step in to defend innocent
Spare Parts or Human Life?
Embryos Sacrificed for Research
LONDON, FEB. 12, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Human
and Embryology Authority has given the go-ahead for the cloning of
embryos. BBC reported Tuesday that the creator of Dolly the sheep, Ian
Wilmut, obtained a license to clone embryos in order to study motor
disease (MND). This is the second time the fertilization authority has
given approval for human cloning since it was made legal in the United
Kingdom in 2001.
Wilmut, together with researchers from Kings College
plans to clone embryos that have the disease in order to study how it
in the early stages, and to try out new drugs to see how they work.
patient groups, including the MND Association, have supported the
Not everyone welcomed the announcement, however. In
press release Tuesday from the Society for the Protection of Unborn
the group's political secretary, Anthony Ozimic, assailed Wilmut's
"Any 'license to clone and kill' strikes at the very heart our
basic rule for living together in peace, which is 'do not kill the
because the cloning process kills many embryonic human children at
most vulnerable stage of life," Ozimic said. "All of those killed are
never-to-be-replaced, totally innocent human individuals."
Another press release, issued by Julia Millington,
director of the ProLife Alliance, stated: "All human cloning is
wrong and should be outlawed. However, the creation of cloned human
destined for experimentation and subsequent destruction is particularly
Moreover, Millington questioned the approval to use
at a time when much greater scientific progress is being reported using
ethically acceptable adult stem cells, and cells taken from the
cord of newborn babies.
In the United States, meanwhile, the Christian
Association also took Wilmut's plan to task. In a Tuesday press
David Stevens, executive director of the 17,000-member association,
"It's dressing a wolf in sheep's clothing to claim that you're somehow
helping humanity when in fact you're killing living human beings." He
"So-called therapeutic cloning is hardly therapeutic for the living
subjects destroyed in the process."
There was bad news for embryos in Spain, too. On
Health Minister Elena Salgado announced a new proposal to govern in
fertilization. The measure could be in force by year-end, and would
a substantial relaxation of the norms approved by the previous
in 2003, the Spanish daily ABC reported Wednesday.
Among the changes announced by Salgado would be one
allows parents to choose embryos that can help to cure existing
by using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. The legislation would
cloning for reproductive purposes, but is silent as to whether it will
be allowed for research purposes.
The legislation would also allow research on the
embryos from IVF treatments. This would be a change from the 2003
which only permitted research with those embryos frozen at the time the
law came into force.
Coincidentally, this past Tuesday also saw the
of an article by Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical
for Life, on questions related to the human embryo. Writing in the
newspaper Corriere della Sera, Bishop Sgreccia noted that many
justify using an embryo during the first days of life by denying it has
reached a stage when it is truly human. Thus, during the first 14 days,
the researchers often refer to the "pre-embryo" stage of development.
The Vatican official, however, observed that from a
scientific point of view it is perfectly evident that from the moment
ova is fertilized by the spermatozoa, there is a distinct form of life
with its own genetic identity and biological unity. Moreover, after the
initial fertilization there is no subsequent qualitative change that
the process of development of the new life.
Bishop Sgreccia added that from the moral viewpoint
is sufficient to merely suspect the possibility that in the embryo we
a human person, in order to justify prohibiting its use in scientific
Thus the Church has insisted on an absolute respect for life right from
the moment of conception.
Struggling to define life
The human status of the embryo is also being debated
legal tribunals, with some positive results. Last week a Cook County
in the state of Illinois allowed a Chicago couple to sue a fertility
that destroyed one of their embryos. A Feb. 5 report in the Chicago
explained that Alison Miller and Todd Parrish had gone to the Center
Human Reproduction for help in conceiving a child, but that one of the
fertilized ova was discarded in an error by a clinic worker.
In his decision, Judge Jeffrey Lawrence II said "a
is a 'human being' ... whether or not it is implanted in its mother's
As a result, the couple may seek the same compensation awarded to other
parents whose children are killed. Commentators noted that the judgment
will almost certainly be appealed.
Another recent legal case involving unborn life was
of the murder of Laci Peterson, who was pregnant when her husband
her. The lengthy legal process finished last November, when Scott
was declared guilty by the jury. The jury convicted Peterson of
murder of his wife and second-degree murder of his 8-month-old unborn
In an article published Nov. 13 by the Christian
an analyst for Focus on the Family, Carrie Gordon Earll, explained that
"the murder conviction of Scott Peterson in the death of his wife and
son, Conner, is further evidence of the growing shift in U.S. law
protection for all human life, including young humans who still reside
in their mother's wombs."
Earlier in the year, the California Supreme Court
ruled that a 1970 state law could be used to charge assailants with the
death of a fetus when a pregnant woman is attacked. Charges regarding
murder of the fetus can be brought even if the aggressor did not know
victim was pregnant, the Los Angeles Times reported April 6.
Another victory, albeit limited, for the embryo came
the decision by the Kentucky Supreme Court. The court ruled that murder
charges can be brought if the fetus at the time it was killed would
been viable outside the mother's womb. The court thus overturned a
decision that had barred homicide charges against someone accused of
a fetus, according to a report June 18 in the Courier-Journal newspaper
With its decision, the Kentucky Supreme Court
a fetus as a person at the point of viability. The ruling did not
decide the constitutionality of the new "fetal homicide" law passed
year by the Kentucky Legislature. The law allows homicide charges to be
brought when a fetus is killed -- regardless of whether it is viable.
Another 2004 case saw Quenten Qortez Thompson
of feticide by a jury in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
June 11. Thompson was found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide
of Nicole Blake and first-degree homicide of an unborn child, under a
Meanwhile, during its first stages of development
embryo remains under threat from scientific researchers who seem to
it as a source of spare parts.
"A Patient in a Vegetative State Is a Human
Interview With Dr. Gian Luigi Gigli, of a Catholic
ROME, FEB. 28, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The vegetative
is a "pejorative term" which implies lack of humanity, warns Dr. Gian
Gigli, president of the International Federation of Catholic Medical
Gigli is co-author with Dr. Nathan Zasler of the
"Life-Sustaining Treatments in Vegetative State: Scientific Advances
Ethical Dilemmas," reprinted in a special issue of the
review, published by Iospress. The book is the result of a congress on
Q: What does it mean to be in a vegetative state and
is the Church's position?
Gigli: A vegetative state is verified in some
when they come out of a coma, and it is characterized by a prolonged
of wakefulness without apparent awareness on the part of the patient
of himself or of his surroundings.
The physiotherapy for this disorder is not yet
and the cerebral lesions that can cause it are of different types and
The patient, alternating sleep with wakefulness,
not give answers that seem to make sense. It is not a terminal illness
and does not require machines to guarantee vital functions.
However, the patient needs care, in particular, to
hydrated and fed, sometimes with patience through the mouth, more often
with a probe or a tube in the abdominal wall, the PEG [percutaneous
For the Church, the patient in a vegetative state is
human person, in need of affectionate care. The discussion that has
place between moralists and Catholic health institutions in past years
has focused on indefinite continuation of hydration and nutrition, even
if hopes for a resumption, though partial, of consciousness seem to be
Some have seen in the prolongation of hydration and
aggressive therapy; others have interpreted it as euthanasia by
of the suspension of care, considering the mortal consequences that
From outside the Church, the pressures of scientific
magistrates and some family members are very strong, as is occurring in
the Terri Schiavo case in the United States, in favor of the suspension
of hydration and nutrition. They are pressures based on the attribution
of the little value of life, when its "quality" is greatly reduced.
However, resistances are also very strong by those
see in such procedures a surreptitious method to authorize, in fact,
in countries where it is prohibited, extending it later, as is already
occurring, to other conditions such as dementia, mental retardation or
Q: Up to what point is the vegetative state
Gigli: Beyond the term, which should be reformed
of its pejorative character -- referring to a condition of the
lack of humanity -- it must be acknowledged that a rudimentary
of pain cannot be excluded, as there are studies that prove the
of rudimentary processes of recognition and discrimination of stimuli.
An indirect proof that there are doubts of a
and neurophysiological order on the total lack of perception of pain in
these patients is the common practice of subjecting them to
sedation during the 15 days in which the death of the patient is
after the suspension of hydration and nutrition.
The vegetative state is diagnosed too often with
speed, with a high percentage of mistaken diagnoses, including within
health institutions. In particular, it must not be confused with other
neurological conditions in which there is a state of prolonged
of the levels of consciousness.
Q: What did John Paul II say that was new in the
of patients in vegetative state in his historic address last March 20?
Gigli: The Holy Father, in as you say his "historic"
pronounced words that serve to clarify misunderstandings among
avoiding -- for example -- suspension of hydration and nutrition in
in which it should not be done, as unfortunately has occurred in some
American Catholic hospitals.
Despite the fact that there are many attempts by
and Catholic health institutions to reduce the scope of the Pope's
his message was very clear. For the Pope, judgment on the quality of
and on the costs of care cannot prevail over the respect due to the
Hydration and nutrition must be considered as
and proportionate means for the objective that they intend, i.e. to
the patient. As such, they are morally obligatory, even if they are
through a tube.
For the Pope, the fact that there is a high
that the patient will not recover consciousness cannot justify the
of basic care, including hydration and nutrition. Otherwise, there is
Moreover, the Pope called for the raising of our
level of civilization, supporting with attentive solidarity the
of patients in vegetative state.
After the Pope's words, I believe that for a doctor,
nurse or a Catholic health institution nutrition and hydration may only
be interrupted if they no longer achieve their effect, or impose grave
burdens on the patient -- who on the other hand appears to tolerate
in an admirable way over many years -- or family members, something
should not occur in civilized countries, in which basic care should not
be a luxury.
Q: You wrote the book with Dr. Nathan Zasler, a
doctor. Is there a meeting point between Catholics and Jews on the
of nutrition and hydration in the vegetative state?
Gigli: The Jewish world is very diversified. Rabbi
Dorff's article, which forms part of the work, clarifies adequately
for the majority of Orthodox rabbis and for many Conservative rabbis
doctor has the obligation to do everything possible to maintain the
of the patient in vegetative state.
Other rabbis allow treatments not to be established,
prohibit their suspension once begun.
Instead, the Reformed and secularized Jews tend to
according to their conscience.
In general lines, however, it seems that we could
that the Jewish tradition is hesitant when it comes to suspending
such as hydration and nutrition, on which the life of a patient in
The congress and the volume that derived from it
demonstrate great respect for the Catholic position on the part of
Gauging What "Quality of Life" Means
Vatican Conference Considers Ethical Principles
ROME, MARCH 5, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The much-bandied
"quality of life" was the theme of the annual meeting of the Pontifical
Academy for Life. The Feb. 21-23 general assembly of the Vatican body
together Church dignitaries, along with experts in medicine and
to reflect on the subject of "Quality of Life and the Ethics of Health."
In his presentation, the president of the academy,
Elio Sgreccia, observed that the terms "quality of life" and "health"
become a sort of absolute, "to be pursued to the point of a sort of
The terms, he noted, reflect a strong influence of
utilitarian philosophy so widespread in English-speaking societies.
has led to a widespread belief that "the human being who does not
the desired minimal 'quality' does not deserve to be kept alive --
the proposal of eugenic parameters for the purpose of selecting those
do deserve to be accepted or kept alive and those who are to be
or suppressed via euthanasia."
Trying to understand what the concept quality of
means was dealt with by A. Gómez-Lobo, professor of metaphysics
and moral philosophy at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. The
that lives can be judged according to their quality goes back to the
Greek philosophers, he noted.
It is a concept that covers diverse dimensions of
but in the area of health the expectation of a low quality of life has
become a standard rationalization to justify euthanasia,
explained. However, claiming to benefit a person by intentionally
someone with a low quality of life is "deeply wrong," he argued.
A person suffering from health problems "is still
the basic good of life, a good that is distinct from any evil the
may be undergoing," the professor said. Moreover, for an external
to judge that the patient is a life "not worth living" is "an
presumption," he added.
The prohibition against killing an innocent person,
continued, is based on respect for the dignity of the person, "and
dignity is logically independent of, and not reducible to, the quality
of a person's life because dignity is an intrinsic property that does
admit of degrees." In fact, he added, "The suffering and the weak have
a special claim on us." And the quality of life of the patient should
affect this obligation.
The question of what to do with persons who are in a
state was addressed by Gian Luigi Gigli and Mariarosaria Valente. They
are, respectively, the president of the World Federation of Catholic
Associations, and director of the Department of Neurosciences at the
Maria della Misericordia hospital in Udine, Italy.
In analyzing the current situation they observed in
statement: "Faith in the omnipotent power of technology of being able
ameliorate the quality of life and lack of moral principles combine
This technological approach considers every action ethical if it is the
result of free choice, and every action legitimate if it is socially
Regarding the vegetative state they explained: "This
is still affected by important clinical uncertainties, leading to
misdiagnosis." It is difficult to distinguish between the vegetative
and the persistent, also called permanent, vegetative state. In the
case no recovery is expected, but the point of division between the two
is not clear. They added that there are well-documented cases of
who have recovered consciousness even after the criteria for permanence
have been met.
So-called right-to-die advocates argue that once a
state is diagnosed as permanent there should be a presumption against
feeding. In addition, the provision of food and water is redefined as a
medical treatment, rather than the provision of basic needs. "According
to this view, the ensuing death by dehydration and starvation should be
regarded as a natural death," Gigli and Valente wrote.
However, they explain, in this situation patients do
die because of the vegetative state, but of malnutrition and renal
"The outcome (death) is fully intended."
The two explain that understanding how we have
to intending the death of someone in this state is linked to
the quality of life. Often, in measuring the quality of life, the
is reduced to the ability to produce and to be useful. It follows,
that using health resources for people who cannot return to a
life is considered wasteful.
The withdrawal of nutrition and water from persons
the permanent vegetative state can lead to a dangerous attitude in the
medical profession, Gigli and Valente warned. "Withdrawal of nutrition
and hydration could be the key to open the still strong existing
which oppose the legalization of euthanasia in the majority of
they added. As well, in the long term, having doctors hastening death
destroy the relationship of trust between patient and physician.
Another set of questions regards the quality of life
newborn babies. This was dealt with in the paper presented by Patricio
Ventura-Juncá, director of the Center for Bioethics of the
University of Santiago, Chile.
Newborn babies are highly vulnerable as well as
incapable of evaluating their situation or expressing preferences. In
last few decades, neonatal care has made enormous strides, explained
Many of the immature functions of prematurely born infants can be
replaced by mechanical means. But the ethical problem that exists is
whether to withhold or withdraw treatment.
She explained that many parents have difficulty in
the medical information they are given and to make a decision. In
however, parents are more in favor of intervening to save the infant
are health care professionals. In this situation the opinion and the
of the doctor in charge have a great influence on the parents.
The situation of persons suffering from mental
was addressed by professor Wanda Poltawska, a psychiatrist from the
of theology of the University of Krakow, Poland. "A human being is
human irrespective of the stage of his or her physical or mental
Families burdened with a mentally diseased person
often divided over the best way to cope with this problem. In order to
affront the burden, family members need a deep understanding of the
In deciding what to do when confronted with this
Poltawska stated: "The life of a human being, its beginning and its end
are in the hands of the Creator -- when we try to manipulate human
or human death we transgress our authority."
Handicapped persons are a challenge to society, she
and our own value as persons can be assessed by examining our attitudes
toward the ill, the old and the disabled.
In a letter dated Feb. 19, directed to Bishop
on the occasion of the congress, John Paul II drew attention to "the
quality that distinguishes every human creature as that of being made
the image and likeness of the Creator himself" (No. 3).
This dignity and quality of the person "endures
every moment of life, from the very moment of conception until natural
death," the Pope stated. "Consequently, the human person should be
and respected in any condition of health, infirmity or disability."
Infertility Treatments, in Accord With Church
Interview With Dr. Thomas Hilgers of the Pope Paul
OMAHA, Nebraska, JULY 16, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Many
couples who experience infertility can achieve pregnancy without
to immoral medical treatments, says an expert in natural procreative
Dr. Thomas Hilgers, director of Pope Paul VI
for the Study of Human Reproduction, explained to ZENIT some of the
methods he has developed that are in accord with Church teachings.
Q: What are the main causes of infertility?
Hilgers: Infertility is due to many causes. It is
called multifactorial, but unfortunately the medical profession only
focuses on one issue at a time.
The main causes of infertility include
polycystic ovarian disease and pelvic adhesive disease, along with a
of underlying hormonal dysfunctions and ovulation-related
Tubal disease and obstruction is also a cause of infertility, but not
common as the others.
Q: Among the causes, how important is the role of
diseases contracted through premarital relations; past use of certain
of contraception; and the decision to delay having children?
Hilgers: It is difficult to say exactly how often
are linked. Certainly, sexually transmitted diseases can cause pelvic
disease and tubal obstruction.
My own concern is with the incompleteness and
nature of premarital relationships when sexual intercourse is involved.
I think that, in many cases, women who have premarital sex use
so that they do not become pregnant; later, when it is difficult for
to become pregnant, they can experience resentment and anger.
This makes it very complex, and the chronic stress
develops from this may be another underlying factor to infertility.
Q: What is the institute's success rate in
Hilgers: Our approach to the evaluation and
of infertility is one that looks at the underlying problems -- the
-- that cause infertility and then treats those diseases successfully.
This is the primary approach that we use in
or natural procreative technology.
NaProTechnology is a new women's health science that
been described in the new medical textbook, "The Medical and Surgical
of NaProTechnology" [Pope Paul VI Institute Press].
In this situation, our success rates are
much better than the artificial reproductive technologies. In fact,
average about two to three times more effective. Generally speaking, we
will see effectiveness rates in the 50% to 80% range, depending upon
problem and the extent of the abnormality.
Q: Briefly, what fertility methods are in accord
the teachings of the Catholic Church? Which are not?
Hilgers: Those approaches that do not separate love
life are the methods that are in accord with the teachings of the
Church. These do not include such approaches as artificial insemination
and in vitro fertilization.
Those that are acceptable are the approaches that
used in NaProTechnology. This scientific method looks for the basic
medical problems that are associated with infertility and then corrects
Q: Why is it so important for Catholics to use
methods that do not contradict what the Church teaches?
Hilgers: The Church has been extremely wise in its
relative to reproductive-related issues.
It teaches, first of all, that marriage is a sacred
and that children are the supreme gift of marriage. It does not treat
as commodities. The Church's approach makes good psychological and
sense, as well as good medical sense.
Unfortunately, over the years, only artificial
technologies have been available. Because of the breakthrough research
that has been ongoing at the Pope Paul VI Institute, methods are now
that are very effective, medically authentic and completely consistent
with the teachings of the Church. In many ways, it proves the validity
of what the Church has been teaching all of these years.
Q: How can Catholics find doctors in their area who
help treat their infertility but not compromise their beliefs?
Hilgers: I would personally refer them to a Web site
one can find a teacher of the Creighton Model FertilityCareTM System --
the system that has been developed at the Pope Paul VI Institute. The
trained in that system are allied health professionals who can guide
toward physicians who have training in these areas.
Q: The desire to have children is very strong. What
you say to couples who cannot conceive using those methods approved by
Hilgers: No program of infertility treatment is
or 100% successful. In fact, there is no program for the treatment of
that even comes close.
If one watches the news or morning television
one gets the mistaken impression that the artificial reproductive
are almost the only alternative available to women with infertility
What they do not tell you is that they are extremely
the dropout rate in their use is extraordinarily high, and that,
they help less than 1% of women with fertility problems in any given
Physicians who are involved in the provision of
reproductive health care do not have to apologize for the services they
have to offer. In fact, they can be extremely proud of the good record
they have and the ability to help women and married couples in a way
is morally consistent.
At the same time, adoption is a very fulfilling way
family building for many couples.
In our program at the Pope Paul VI Institute, 90% of
couples who come to us either have a biological child of their own or
an adopted family. This is an incredible success rate and we are very
Is Marriage a Form of Discrimination?
Commentary by R.M.T. Schmid of Oxford
ROME, JULY 12, 2004 (Zenit.org).- This commentary on
unions appeared in the weekly edition of the English-language
Romano, by R.M.T. Schmid, of St. Hugh's College at the University of
* * *
Justice requires that equals be treated equally and
unequally. Discrimination is a distinction or the differential
based on such a distinction. Whether discrimination is justified
on the answer to what Aristotle calls "the difficult question": equals
and unequals in what? Unjust discrimination either fails to ask the
question or fails to act on the right answer.
In contemporary political discourse the term
itself has come to signify injustice. While this reflects the truth
all human beings have equal dignity simply in virtue of belonging to
human species, it can obscure the fact that human dignity also requires
recognition of the truth that, though equal, not everyone is the same.
To deny driving licenses to the blind does not
that they do not deserve equal respect and consideration as persons,
that they are different from other persons in respects relevant to
Some countries have introduced, and others are
the extension of the legal recognition and social benefits of marriage
to persons in homosexual relationships, in order to "put an end to
Are homosexual relationships equal to marital
The first and most ambitious argument from
proposes that homosexual relationships are equal to marital
in those respects that justify the privileged treatment of marriage.
Exclusivity, dependence, duration and sexual nature
not the relevant aspects why marriage is privileged by the State. They
are only the conditions of those aspects that make marriage unique: the
vital function of procreation and the socializing functions of bridging
the male-female divide and raising children.
When the State uniquely privileges marriage it takes
position that it is in the best interest of society for children to be
born and raised in a community where they experience the cause of their
biological and historical identity as a loving union preserved by each
parent placing the needs of others over their own. By promoting
to be the exclusive union between one man and one woman, the State not
only protects the rights of children but encourages the values of
restraint and diversity that are needed to preserve community at large.
One objection to this is that not all marriages lead
children. Of course, the State cannot anticipate whether or not couples
will have children, but it is clear that only one man and one woman
can be the biological parents of a child and can raise it with the
of motherly and fatherly love. Marital acts are procreative in
even if non-behavioural conditions do not allow for conception.
The other objection is that marriages fail, to the
of children, spouses and families at large. But if individual marriages
are in crisis, the correct inference cannot be that social policy
institutionalize this failure rather than counteract it. Through
benefits the State promotes rather than rewards ideal conditions for
Are legal recognition and governmental support
When the State uniquely privileges marriage,
relationships are in no way singled out for "unequal treatment". There
are any number of relationships that do not qualify for the benefits of
marriage. The question then is why homosexual relationships should be
as uniquely analogous to marriage.
The aspect that differentiates homosexual unions
other non-marital relationships of dependence and duration is their
sexual nature, and it is not clear why this should single them out for
governmental support. Preferential treatment of this sort would
against all those in dependent relationships of a non-sexual nature: an
unmarried woman who cares for her aging mother or two widowed sisters
share a household could not claim privileges and protection from the
In France the perception of this problem has led to
more liberal model of civil unions, open to any two citizens. Even this
model discriminates against some, as it provides no justification why
or singles should be financially and socially disadvantaged.
Crucially, in an open-to-all policy marriage loses
uniquely privileged position it deserves for practical and symbolical
The extension of marriage privileges to non-marital unions inevitably
resources, dilutes meaning and diminishes status of marriage as
understood. Rhetorical efforts to maintain some distance between
and homosexual unions cannot hide this fact.
A minimalist version of the argument for homosexual
suggests that with "legal recognition" nothing more is at stake than
formal registration of a social phenomenon. In most cases, though, such
"legal recognition" does in fact confer to homosexual relationships
previously reserved to marriage. This involves a re-evaluation of what
contributes to the common good, how social benefits should be
and what the rights of children are.
But even if no benefits and privileges were
to single out the social phenomenon of homosexual relationships for
registration is either arbitrary or it suggests an analogy to the only
other legally recognized relationship, which is marriage.
In an attempt to justify this analogy, proponents
to the category of "committed relationships" to describe both
and marital relationships. This falsely suggests that commitment in
is worthy of privileges for its own sake, while in fact the privileges
promote the vital and social functions of marriage, for which
is only the condition.
Consequently, for the State to promote a homogenized
of "committed relationships" amounts to the decision no longer to
ideal conditions for procreation and socialization.
Conferral of marital status to homosexual unions?
The second argument from discrimination takes a
approach. Now the contention is not that homosexual unions are equal to
marriage in relevant aspects but that the disadvantages homosexual
suffer in society ought to be compensated for by conferring marital
to homosexual unions.
Because only homosexual persons are disadvantaged in
particular way the question whether the State should extend the
to other non-marital relationships does not arise. The burden of proof
then no longer lies with homosexual unions and their contribution to
in comparison to marriage, but with individual homosexuals and the
Naturally, the argument will encounter less sympathy
these sufferings are in any way self-inflicted - hence, the importance
of shifting responsibility away from those who share the homosexual
to others who by their actions allegedly make it oppressive.
The argument from identity often assumes a unique
in knowledge and understanding of human nature and elevates
perceptions and practices to a normative status. Different perceptions,
such as the traditional heterosexual model of marriage envisaged by
and Aristotle, are explained by their relation to an inferior
of the "facts" about homosexuality. Their objection to homosexuality,
on the notion that homosexual persons engage in unnatural and therefore
immoral acts, now can be dismissed because we "know" that homosexuality
is a "natural condition" and ought to be treated as an "identity".
But are these established facts?
While so far there is no empirical evidence that
is biologically predetermined and unchangeable, there seem to be
factors that can contribute to the development of homosexual
just as there are in the case of aggressiveness or athleticism.
the claim of a biologically determined and clearly delineated
identity is rendered problematic in theory by Foucault's sexual
and in practice by the bisexual and paedophile fringes of the category.
Regardless of whether sexual orientation is chosen,
determined or psychologically enforced (as it seems to be the case with
many victims of abuse), no account of the origins of homosexuality can
establish that the inclination must constitute an identity.
Next to the identity claim, the argument for
has to rely on the perception that the disadvantages homosexual persons
face are substantial.
In this regard there can be no doubt that the
of being ostracized or persecuted among many homosexual persons is
even if the truth of the feeling is increasingly difficult to establish
as a truth of fact. Homosexual persons enjoy the full protection of the
law, and in many countries additional antidiscrimination laws are in
that single out sexual orientation for particular protection. They
above average professional success and financial power (in the U.S.
twice the average household income) and are present in high proportion
in politics and among opinion-shaping elites.
This is not to say that they do not face very real
but so far it has been impossible to show that they are related to
discrimination. The significantly higher rates of mental illness,
abuse, domestic violence and suicide among homosexual persons seem to
independent not only of HIV status, but there is no reduction in these
rates among those who live in a social milieu where homosexuality is
accepted and legally recognized.
If social acceptance does not affect these problems,
is unclear how increased social status could remedy them.
Opposition to homosexual unions does not mean lack
Thin evidence for societal discrimination weakens
compensation argument, as the discrimination for which marriage is
to compensate appears to consist mostly in the fact that homosexual
cannot marry. Because this is true for any number of relationships, the
question returns why homosexual persons should be singled out for
Here emerges the perhaps most problematic aspect to
compensation argument. If it turns out that the discrimination to be
for consists not so much in acts that unjustly discriminate against
persons but simply in the fact that homosexual behaviour is morally
this raises questions of freedom of conscience.
Is the introduction of homosexual unions ultimately
symbolize that there is no right to freedom of conscience on the matter
of homosexual acts and that conscientious objectors are to be
in public life?
Already the appeal to conscience in any matter
to homosexuality risks being dismissed as "homophobia". Understood as a
pathological fear, this disqualifies the position of opponents as an
Beyond that, it has also come to imply an
or even hostile attitude. Because the condemnation of homosexual
objects to acts, not to persons, the conclusion that any opposition to
homosexual unions indicates lack of respect and care for people is a
If the line of reasoning is that homosexuality is so
to the human person that it is impossible to morally disapprove of
acts and not thereby discriminate against the person, then by the same
token conscientious beliefs central to the human person could not be
without discriminating against the person.
The exhortation that "religious belief must not lead
the discrimination of homosexual persons by refusing them the right to
marry" sets up a false problem. Not all arguments made by religious
can be reduced to their religious beliefs or are justified on the basis
of their beliefs alone, and not all the reasons why the State should
privilege marriage depend on the immorality of homosexual acts.
The contribution of religious believers to the
debate on homosexual unions cannot be dismissed as inherently
and biased without denying them equality as citizens.
Moral objections to sexual orientation are not
irrational, and it is only unjust to discriminate on the basis of these
objections in areas where the sexual orientation of the individual is
It cannot be allowed that in political discussion pathological
bad motives or even hatred are freely ascribed to opponents of
unions, disregarding basic rules of evidence.
The same is true for the voice of the Catholic
Scripture and Tradition are unequivocal in the condemnation of
behaviour, but the difference between homosexual relationships and
has not been invented by Christianity, nor is it upheld only by
If in the name of truth rational arguments can be
because they accord with conscientious beliefs, and in the name of
conscientious belief can be silenced, then freedom is not for all.
Christian Personalism's Place in Bioethics
Interview With Bishop Elio Sgreccia
VATICAN CITY, JULY 6, 2004 (Zenit.org).- In the face
approaches that diminish man and even attack respect for life,
personalism "reveals itself as an indispensable basic option," explains
Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
It is, moreover, a cultural platform that has given
in Rome just over a year ago, at the initiative of the Center of
of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, to the International
of Centers and Institutes of Bioethics of Personalist Inspiration
On June 21-22, the federation held its second
at the university. To understand Christian personalism and the FIBIP
ZENIT interviewed its president, Bishop Sgreccia.
Q: What is understood by Christian personalism?
Bishop Sgreccia: When, 20 years ago, the School of
of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart decided to establish the
Institute of Bioethics, a choice was made of constructive and solid
namely, to put at the center of bioethical reflection the dignity of
human person, recognized in every human being from conception until
death, in all conditions of life, sickness, proximity of death,
This idea corresponds to the position of Christian
especially from the ontological point of view, which refers to the
being, who must be valued and promoted. This choice has revealed itself
increasingly as a basic, indispensable and distinctive option.
Q: There are other schools of bioethics that
themselves as more oriented to freedom ...
Bishop Sgreccia: Freedom does not subsist without
For example, a family that builds itself in freedom without
means that it is open to divorce, abortion, de facto unions and even
There is no freedom without responsible commitment
other human beings; for this reason the freedom of personalism is true
freedom, charged with responsibility.
Q: There is also a current of thought that defines
Bishop Sgreccia: Utilitarianism is oriented to the
of problems, to cancer sufferers or terminal patients, only insofar as
they are useful, and thus proposes euthanasia and no access to certain
treatments or surgical interventions for the elderly.
Utilitarianism values persons and treatments
to their economic viability. Therefore, it proposes taking human
as they might be useful to produce medicines, to produce cellular
all this without respecting human dignity.
We are also opposed to so-called contractualism
ethics follows the majority. Executing a contract between social agents
results in attacking those in society who are voiceless, namely,
the sick, the elderly, the mentally ill, the disabled.
These are persons who cannot enter into a contract,
there are persons who negotiate for them to their detriment. This
and diverse cultural scene calls for dialogue with personalism which is
a strong concept, for a committed dialogue which appreciates the whole
man and all men, and the common good, which is not only the good of the
majority, but the good of all through the good of each without
anyone, especially the neediest.
Q: What place does personalism have in the
of Bioethics Centers?
Bishop Sgreccia: Personalism is the cultural
on which different bioethics centers have found themselves, among which
are the School of Bioethics of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical
and other centers of Argentina, Chile, the United States, etc.
It was born from their spontaneous desire to be
Established last year, then made official as the Federation of Centers
and Institutes of Bioethics, it assumed Christian personalism as its
philosophy. The federation has the formal affiliation of 31 centers in
five continents. We have received new requests for affiliation which we
Besides this organization, we organized two days of
to see how, through personalism, we could address certain problems, not
only those of biomedicine, which perhaps are many, but also those of
education, health, ecology, and bio-law.
The European Constitution has just been launched
especially on the concept of family and the mention of the Christian
it doesn't seem to move in the direction of Christian personalism. What
is your opinion in this regard?
Bishop Sgreccia: I think that this Constitution does
respect the European reality. From the objective point of view, it is
lacking and does not reflect the truth. Europe has a multi-century and
multi-generational relationship with the Christian tradition. To deny
is a historical and cultural falsehood.
Moreover, not to pronounce oneself on decisive
such as those relating to the family, which is the fundamental cell of
civil and social coexistence; not to stress respect of life from
to natural death; not to make reference to these strong values -- means
to prefigure a Europe that will be lacking in adequate cultural
for its construction.
It is known, for example, that in demographic terms,
is committing suicide. The percentages of fertility are very low;
is under zero. We are witnessing the phenomenon of empty cradles. It is
clear that children are born from families. To destabilize the family
to undermine the process of procreation, not to defend the family and
means not to prefigure a Europe of the future.
It is well known that even the economy cannot make
without solid families and many children. Several Nobel Prize
have demonstrated that an economy is solid when there is a sufficient
of children born in solid families.
Immigration is helping us, but the European
is moving backward. Europe must choose if it wants to be an old
in which only the ruins remain, or if it wishes to be a Europe in
and confront its human capital with other cultures.
It is obvious that the loss of Europeans would be a
for the whole world. The cultural and civil qualities of Europe were
thanks to the interior cement of the Christian faith. It is a real
to see the Constitution born under the wind of secularization, a wind
I hope is passing away.
Q: The Earth Charter is mentioned in the European
which some Catholic scholars like Michel Schooyans define as neo-pagan.
What do you think?
Bishop Sgreccia: I think analogously that the Earth
suffers from a biocentric approach, where man is no more than one
among others, defined in fact as the most harmful of the biosphere.
However, I think that to safeguard the earth and
its great heritage it is important to exalt human responsibility,
the only being responsible for the other beings is man. Nothing less
come about from his humanity and his responsibility. To wish to reject
man's activity in the universe means to allow the patrimony of all the
several forms of life to drift.