Cloning and
Catholic Ethics

Statement by the Vatican
on Cloned Human Embryo

COMMUNIQUE ON ANNOUNCED CLONING OF HUMAN EMBRYO IN U.S. VATICAN CITY, NOV 27, 2001 (VIS) - Following is the communique released yesterday afternoon by the Holy See Press Office regarding the announcement on Sunday in the United States of the successful cloning of a human embryo:

"The original article in the magazine 'The Journal of Regenerative Medicine', that the researchers of Advanced Cell Technologies published with the date of November 26, 2001, shows in all its dramatic nature the gravity of the event that has been realized: the in vitro production of a human embryo, as a matter of fact, several embryos, that have been developed, respectively, to the stage of two, four and six cells. This event was documented with clear color images from a scansion microscope, that point out the first phases of development of these human lives, which began not through the insemination of an egg with a sperm, but by activating eggs with nuclei of somatic cells.

"The authors repeated that their intention is not to give rise to a human person. But what is it that they, as scientists, call in their article 'early embryo', an embryo in its initial stages? Here we have the bioethical question of 'when does human life begin' returning once again as a topical matter, though in all truth, this is a question that has never abated. Beyond the scientific event, in fact, this remains as the object of contention, being beyond doubt - as indicated by the researchers themselves - that here we find ourselves facing human embryos and not cells, as some would have us believe.

"The event therefore, powerfully, brings us to repeat with force that the beginning of human life cannot be fixed by convention at a certain stage of development of an embryo; it exists, in reality,at the very first instant of existence of the embryo itself. This is understood more easily in the 'human' method of insemination between egg and sperm, but we must learn to recognize it also in the face of an 'inhuman' method, such as that of the reprogramming of a somatic nucleus in an egg cell; even with this method a new life can be created - as shown unfortunately in the experiment that was announced - a life that preserves, in any case, its dignity just as that of every human life brought into existence.

"Therefore, notwithstanding the declared 'humanistic' intentions of those who announce amazing cures through this method, that will go via the cloning industry, a calm but firm evaluation is necessary that will show the moral gravity of this project and motivate its unequivocal condemnation. The principle that de facto has been introduced, in the name of health and well- being, sanctions, in fact, a true and proper discrimination among human beings based on the measure of time of their development (thus an embryo is worth less than a fetus, and a fetus less than a child, a child less than an adult), overturning the moral imperative that imposes, instead, the greatest care and maximum respect precisely of those who are not in a condition to defend themselves and to show their intrinsic dignity.

"On the other hand, stem cell research shows that other paths are available, morally licit and valid from a scientific point of view, such as the utilization of stem cells that have been taken, for example, from an adult individual (there are many in each one of us), from maternal blood or from fetuses that were aborted spontaneously. This is the path that every honest scientist must follow to the end of reserving maximum respect for man, that is, for himself."

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