Cloning and Catholic Ethics

The Catholic Church opposes all forms of cloning and stem-cell research. Read opinions by Pope John Paul II, an American bishop and a Catholic ethicist.


On Feb. 27, 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives voted for the second time to ban all human cloning.

The act prohibits people from knowingly attempting to perform human cloning or participating in such a procedure by shipping or receiving an embryo produced from human cloning, whether the cloned embryo is to be used for reproduction or research. A bill to allow cloning for research but ban it for reproduction failed the same day in a 231-174 vote.

The U.S. bishops' pro-life spokeswoman praised the 241-155 vote to pass the Human Cloning Prohibition Act.

"Today's vote reflects America's rejection of the notion that human life is a commodity to be created for experimentation," Cathy Cleaver, director of planning and information for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, told Catholic News Service.

A nearly identical bill was approved by the House in summer 2002, but the U.S. Senate failed to act on it. A similar bill to ban all cloning of human embryos is currently before the U.S. Senate, but it is not known when or whether senators will vote on it.

Philadelphia Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, had urged the House to pass the Human Cloning Prohibition Act and criticized the alternative cloning bill, saying it would "directly involve the federal government in registering for-profit human cloning laboratories and supervising their manufacture of human beings as research material."

Although a few fringe scientists claim to have implanted cloned embryos in the wombs of women with the hope that the practice will yield babies, there is nearly universal condemnation of such cloning for reproductive purposes. There is more vigorous debate about cloning embryos for research.

Some scientists say that stem cells culled from cloned research embryos could help people suffering from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes and many other diseases. But the benefit of embryonic stem cells is still unclear. And because the research involves destruction of embryonic human life, the Catholic Church teaches that it is immoral, no matter what its possible benefits may be.

A December 2002 claim from a tiny religious sect that a cloned baby had been born has largely been dismissed as a hoax. But in late 2001, a legitimate Massachusetts research company announced it had cloned the first human embryo, which they intended to use for stem-cell research.

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