Bishops say proposed cloning laws are contempt for life

As Federal Parliament moves to consider new laws to legalise some forms of cloning, Australia's bishops say that open slather on human embryo research is not the way forward.

In a statement released yesterday, the bishops say that the Church is not opposed to stem cell research, insisting that "all of us wish to find cures and treatments for disease or genetic conditions".

"We are strong supporters of research based on adult stem cells, as well as those which are derived from umbilical cord blood," the statement said.

"Our Church supports ethical stem cell research through its research institutes, healthcare services, teaching hospitals and health professionals."

In 2002, the Federal Parliament passed legislation allowing embryonic stem cell lines to be extracted from viable human embryos "left over" from the IVF process.

"We warned that the Government had crossed a new and dangerous line by creating an expendable class of human life. The evidence of this is now sadly clear in the legislation currently before the Parliament," the bishops say.

"These new bills seek to take us from using 'spare' human embryos, created for reproduction, to creating a new class of human embryos, never to be used for reproduction, but only for research.

"This is a complete reversal of the Parliament's decision in 2002, which unanimously rejected human embryo cloning."

The bishops said that the "destruction of viable human embryos, however they are created, is never to be condoned."

According to the bishops, the new bills now before Parliament "create a new contempt for life by" by allowing the creation of human embryos "purely for the purpose of destruction, further dehumanising the human embryo" and by introducing "new categories of human embryos, including clones and embryos with mixed DNA".

The bishops describe as "deceptive" the use of terms such as 'therapeutic' cloning where no such therapies actually exist.

"We were all embryos once. Within those cells which comprise the embryo, lies all the genetic information which is essential to the people that we are today. The human embryo cannot continue to develop as anything other than a human being.

"Therefore, it has intrinsic human dignity and should be afforded that most basic of human rights - the right to live, to grow, to prosper.

"To create a human embryo with the express purpose of destroying it for research is to enter into a dangerous and perverse form of human experimentation.

"This is not a religious argument," the Bishops conclude.

"We do not argue against destructive experimentation on embryos simply because we are Catholic, but because of basic human values. As a society we cannot seek to alleviate the suffering of some people by creating and then killing human life."

American adult stem cells researcher James Sherley also told The Australian that scientists who backed cloning were misleading the public.

Professor Sherley, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said embryonic stem cells could not be used to treat diseased adult tissue. Adult stem cells held greater promise.

A statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops on human embryo cloning and destructive embryo experimentation (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, 11/10/06)
Bishops condemn cloning (The Australian, 11/10/06)
Moves to overturn stemcell ban slammed (The Age, 11/10/06)
Australia Catholic Bishops Speak Up Against Bill to Allow Human Cloning (Lifesite News, 10/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

Proponents of therapeutic cloning should cool it: Pell (CathNews, 25/8/06)
Catholic groups reject claims of stem cells breakthrough (CathNews, 24/8/06)
Poll shows Australians against cloning, Campion Director says (CathNews, 22/8/06)
Abbott lashes "evangelical" stem cell scientists (CathNews, 21/8/06)
Catholic parliamentarians in firing line again over stem cells (CathNews, 16/8/06)
Catholic union official compares therapeutic cloning to Nazi experiments (CathNews, 4/8/06)
Premiers face stem cell backlash as Hart criticises debate (CathNews, 24/7/06)
Catholics divided over stem cells (CathNews, 14/7/06)
Don't lift ban on cloning, says Brennan (CathNews, 23/6/06)
RU486 decision a bitter pill (CathNews, 17/2/06)
Pell says Australia changing its mind on abortion (CathNews, 15/2/06)
Catholic groups decry Senate vote (CathNews, 10/2/06)
Catholic and Evangelical students join Muslims in RU-486 fight (CathNews, 9/2/06)
Abbott says attacks are sectarian (CathNews, 9/2/06)
Bishop Fisher says RU406 won't curb abortions (CathNews, 7/2/06)
Catholic GPs ready to quit over RU-486 (CathNews, 3/2/06)
Life Office criticises advertiser's gag on abortion debate (CathNews, 1/2/06)
Churches lead RU406 protest (CathNews, 30/1/06)
Day of action to fight abortion drug move (CathNews, 27/1/06)
Melbourne Archbishop says maintain abortion drug ban (CathNews, 25/1/06)
Pope says 'no' to gay marriage, abortion pill (CathNews, 13/1/06)
Catholic Health to address abortion pill inquiry (CathNews, 15/12/05)

11 Oct 2006