IVF Condemned by the Vatican

ART Condemned

A document just released contains the latest in Catholic doctrine, and condemns all types of ART (artificial reproductive technology), human cloning, and embryonic stem cell research. The document termed all of these techniques: "immoral." While some childless couples of Catholic faith may be disappointed, the document represents a brave step by the Church in addressing these tough doctrinal issues relating to biotechnology.

The document is known as, "Dignitas Personae (dignity of a person), an Instruction of Certain Bioethical Questions," and is an attempt by the church to address current scientific and medical advances making this the most important study on the topic within the last two decades. The major thrust of the document relates to the Church's view that human life is deserving of respect, "from the very first stages of its existence (and) can never be reduced merely to a group of cells."

The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith issued the document, which was approved by Pope Benedict, the head of this office until he became pope in 2005. The document states that, "The human embryo has, therefore, from the very beginning, the dignity proper to a person."

On the subject of artificial fertilization, the document tell us that most techniques "are to be excluded" since "they substitute for the conjugal act ...which alone is truly worthy of responsible procreation."

Selected and Discarded

As to in vitro fertilization, the document concludes that the techniques employed "proceed as if the human embryo were simply a mass of cells to be used, selected and discarded."

A high level of technical know-how went into the formulation of the document which proclaims that only adult stem cell research is morally acceptable since embryonic stem cell research results in the destruction of the embryos. The new doctrine also condemns the freezing of embryos.

The document is considered timely due to the fact that many governments, including that of the United States, are now wrestling with the formulation of laws pertaining to embryonic stem cell research. Outgoing President George W. Bush has imposed restrictions on federal funding for this type of research, while President-elect Barack Obama has stated that he will remove all such restrictions once in office.

The concept of "designer babies," was also roundly condemned by the 35 page document, no matter whether such babies were to result from embryo selection prior to in vitro fertilization, or from future attempts at human cloning. Selecting embryos for transfer into a mother's womb, based on their fitness, sex, or maximum number for viable pregnancy and delivery was called, "shameful and utterly reprehensible."

Cloning was deemed, "to satisfy certain specific desires, for example, control over human evolution, selection of human beings with superior qualities, pre-selection of the sex of a child to be born, production of a child who is the 'copy' of another, or production of a child for a couple whose infertility cannot be treated in another way."

The document also spoke to the right of the Roman Catholic Church to create doctrine on these matters, since they speak to human life, deemed sacred from the moment of conception until the moment of death.

The document concluded, "There are those who say that the moral teaching of the Church contains too many prohibitions. In reality, however, her teaching is based on the recognition and promotion of all the gifts which the Creator has bestowed on man: such as life, knowledge, freedom and love."

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