Catholics urged to speak up on cloning

The Sydney Archdiocesan Life Office is calling on Catholics across Australia to take action to prevent changes in cloning legislation which could allow embryos to be created specifically for scientific research before being destroyed.

The Catholic Weekly reports that the independent Lockhart Committee, established to review the Prohibition of Human Cloning Act 2002 and the Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2002, held its first meeting at the start of the month.

Aside from consulting widely with State and Territory Governments and experts in the field, the committee is seeking submissions from the general public.

Currently only excess IVF embryos can be used for research under Australian law, but embryo-research lobbyists are pressing the Government to open up the laws to allow the deliberate creation of human embryos for use in research.

Dr Brigid Vout of the Life Office told the Weekly that the submission process presents all Catholics with an opportunity to voice their fears and concerns.

"This is an important way which Catholics can respond to proposed changes in the legislation," she said. "Individual responses are very important and we would encourage as many people as possible to write to the committee and express their views."

Dr Vout said the Life Office and other pro-life groups will be campaigning to convince the committee to recommend that lifting the ban on human cloning, or any move towards allowing the creation of embryos specifically for research, is the wrong option.

"At the moment there is a complete ban on human cloning and there needs to be a big push to maintain that ban in Australia," she said.

Meanwhile in Mexico the President of the Committee on Missions of the Bishops' Conference of Mexico, Bishop Florencio Olvera Ochoa of Cuernavaca, said this week that the new Compendium of the Catholic Church calls on the faithful to exercise civil disobedience against anti-life laws, noting that the human person "cannot go against nature."

"Laws that approve euthanasia, cloning or homosexual marriage trample upon human dignity, and we cannot allow this," the bishop explained. He said the call to civil disobedience should be heeded "in Mexico and throughout the world."

And in the US, the head of the Bishops' pro-life committee has urged the Senate to support a bill funding research using stem cells from umbilical cord blood and to reject legislation that would fund embryonic stem-cell research, which destroys human embryos.

"Umbilical cord blood stem cells have successfully treated thousands of patients with dozens of diseases," said Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore in a letter written on Monday to senators in support of a bill sponsored by Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.

The cardinal, chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities of the US. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said stem cells obtained from umbilical cord blood have similar properties to embryonic ones.

"They grow rapidly in culture, producing enough cells to be clinically useful in both children and adults; they can treat patients who are not an exact genetic match, without being rejected as foreign tissue; and they seem able to produce a wide array of different type cells," he said.

Catholics urged to speak up on cloning (Catholic Weekly 17/7/05)
Catholics should engage in civil disobedience against anti-life legislation (Catholic News Agency 13/7/05)
Cardinal urges federal funds for umbilical cord stem-cell research (Catholic News Service 13/7/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Life Office, Archdiocese of Sydney
Independent committee to review human cloning and embryo research legislation - 2005 (Hon Julie Bishop MP - Minister for Ageing 17/6/05)

Church pushing for status quo on cloning (CathNews 5/7/05)

Cardinal urges Senate to support umbilical cord blood stem-cell research (Catholic News Agency 13/7/05)
Stop threatening the dignity of life, say South Korean bishops (AsiaNews.it 13/7/05)
On Feminism, Eugenics and "Reproductive Rights" (Zenit 12/7/05)
Spain greenlights therapeutic cloning (The Register 11/7/05)
Mexican Bishops Urge Anti-Euthanasia Law (Zenit 10/7/05)
Catholic Church Leader Backs Ethical Embryonic Stem Cell Research (LifeNews.com 27/6/05)
Human cloning review starts up (The Australian 5/7/05)

14 Jul 2005