Vatican condemns embryo stem cell research, cloning

Fri Dec 12, 2008 10:39am EST
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A Vatican bioethics document Friday condemned artificial fertilization and other techniques used by many couples and also said human cloning, "designer babies" and embryonic stem-cell research were immoral.

The long awaited document from the Vatican's doctrinal body marked a big step by the Vatican into the brave new world of biotechnology, an area in which governments around the world are struggling to formulate legislation.

The document also condemned new drugs that block pregnancy from taking hold, such as the so-called "morning-after pill" and the drug RU-486, which blocks the action of hormones needed to keep a fertilized egg implanted in the uterus.

These drugs, as well as the IUD (intrauterine device), which has been in use for decades, were deemed to fall "within the sin of abortion" and are gravely immoral.

"Dignitas Personae (dignity of a person), an Instruction of Certain Bioethical Questions," is an attempt to bring the Church up to date with recent advances in science and medicine.

The document, the most authoritative of its kind from the Vatican in 20 years, said human life deserved respect "from the very first stages of its existence (and) can never be reduced merely to a group of cells."

"The human embryo has, therefore, from the very beginning, the dignity proper to a person," said the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith's document, approved by Pope Benedict who headed the same office before his election in 2005.

It said most forms of artificial fertilization "are to be excluded" because "they substitute for the conjugal act ... which alone is truly worthy of responsible procreation."   Continued...

<p>Heavy clouds hover over St. Peter's Square at the Vatican December 5, 2008. REUTERS/Max Rossi</p>