First Bioethics School Is Inaugurated

Science Needs Ethical Judgments, Says Bishop Sgreccia

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ROME, OCT. 19, 2001 ( While noting that “morality must not muzzle or confine science,” a Vatican aide insisted that “ethics must intervene correctly wherever it is necessary,” as he helped to inaugurate the world´s first school of bioethics.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, gave the address at the inauguration Thursday in Rome. The new school was created by the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, a university institution administered by the Legionaries of Christ.

In his address, Bishop Sgreccia, president of the school´s Scientific Council, responded to the fundamental question posed by this initiative: Why is bioethics necessary?

According to the bishop, bioethics does not just affect questions linked to health professions.

“The justification of bioethics must be addressed especially in the dialogue with the experimental sciences,” he said. Bioethics, he noted, poses a fundamental question: Can science be governed without ethics?

Bishop Sgreccia replied that “science must be respected,” but quickly added that “ethics must intervene correctly wherever it is necessary, in dialogue with experimental science, but free of abuses or confusions.”

To explain science´s need for an ethical judgment, Bishop Sgreccia gave the example of “experimentation with stem cells, which uses the same methods, regardless of whether the embryos are those of humans or of rats.”

“The laboratory makes no distinction between man and rats,” he observed. “Hence, experimental research omits an important part of reality; it diminishes the very value of reality.”

“Therefore, in order to evaluate these phenomena completely, it is necessary to take a broader look,” the bishop continued.

“For this reason, scholars in the philosophy of science have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to understand ethics in order to obtain complete results” — hence, the birth of bioethics as an interdisciplinary subject of study, he said.

The new school offers bachelor´s degrees, licentiates and doctorates. It aims to form professionals in bioethics who will be able to address difficult ethical problems in biomedical and biological sciences.

In addition to Bishop Sgreccia, the school´s Scientific Council includes Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Genoa; Robert Spaeman of the University of Munich; Edmund Pellegrino, professor of medical ethics at the Center for Clinical Bioethics of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; and Francesco D´Agostino, honorary president of the Italian Bioethics Committee.

The school, officially approved by the Vatican in May, offers job opportunities on the bioethics committees of clinics, hospitals and centers of biomedical and biological research; in universities; in institutions dedicated to the study of marriage and the family; in service and aid organizations; and in ecclesiastical organizations.

More information is at

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