FORT MYERS | Recent headlines about the successful cloning of macaque monkeys in China have been celebrated as a breakthrough in scientific research. However, this and other giant leaps forward in science are overshadowing the bioethical dilemma that one might consider.
This was the theme of a Feb. 6 talk in Fort Myers presented by the Southwest Florida Guild of the Catholic Medical Association at the Bell Tower Crowne Plaza Hotel.
The implications of many different scientific breakthroughs and why they should create concern were explained by Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., Director of Education of the National Catholic Bioethics Center. He spoke to more than 120 people, including physicians, priests, heath care workers, teachers and students, including more than 20 from Ave Maria University.
Using the example of an infertile couple, Father Pacholczyk began by noting that in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination raise serious moral objections in that they replace, or substitute for the marital act while other treatments assist the marital act and are permissible.
When talking about this issue, he continued, there is a fundamental inequality because artificial methods attempt to bring life into this world in a different method than the marital embrace. The ideal approach to resolving infertility involves identifying the underlying causes and addressing those causes so that marital intercourse can now result in a conception.
He added that Catholic teaching on these issues is clear and explained in the 2008 “Dignitas Personae” (“Dignity of the Person”), which was released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican and provides instruction to the faithful on certain bioethical questions.
A key point in the document, Father Pacholczyk stressed, is that the body of a human being, from the very first stages of its existence, can never be reduced merely to a group of cells. The embryonic human body develops progressively according to a well-defined program with its proper finality, as is apparent in the birth of every baby.
When speaking about the cloning of monkeys and the implications it would have on humans, Father Pacholczyk was clear that human cloning for any purpose is inconsistent with the moral responsibility to treat each member of the human family as a unique gift of God, as a person with his or her own inherent dignity.
Creating new human lives in the laboratory solely to destroy them is an abuse denounced even by many who do not share the Catholic Church’s convictions on human life, Father Pacholczyk said.
Therefore, whether used for one purpose or the other, human cloning treats human beings as products manufactured to order, so as to suit other people’s wishes. Each technical advance in human cloning is not progress for humanity but its opposite.
Dr. Stephen Hannan of the Southwest Florida Guild of the Catholic Medical Association helped organize the evening and said that it is important for the faithful to have the correct information to evaluate and speak out on current topics of bioethics.
“It is not always easy to talk on these topics,” Hannan said. “We all need to maintain a respect for human dignity in all its forms; hopefully this evening will help in that effort.”