Vatican Address at U.N. That Urges Ban on All Human Cloning

«An Affront to the Dignity of the Person»

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NEW YORK, SEPT. 24, 2002 ( Here is the statement by Archbishop Renato Martino, apostolic nuncio and Vatican permanent observer to the United Nations, before the Ad Hoc Committee on an International Convention Against the Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings. He gave his address Monday at the United Nations.

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Thank you, Mr. Chairman

The position of the Holy See is well known. The Holy See supports and urges a worldwide and comprehensive ban on human embryonic cloning for both reproductive and scientific purposes. Human embryonic cloning, even when done in the name of bettering humanity, is still an affront to the dignity of the human person. Embryonic cloning objectifies human sexuality and commodifies human life.

As Pope John Paul II recently stated, «Human life cannot be seen as an object to do with as we please, but as the most sacred and inviolable earthly reality. There can be no peace when this most basic good is not protected. To [the list of world injustices] we must add irresponsible practices of genetic engineering, such as the cloning and use of human embryos for research, which are justified by an illegitimate appeal to freedom, to cultural progress, to the advancement of mankind. When the weakest and most vulnerable members of society are subjected to such atrocities, the very idea of the human family, built on the value of the person, on trust, respect and mutual support, is dangerously eroded. A civilization based on love and peace must oppose these experiments, which are unworthy of man.»(1)

Based on the biological and anthropological status of the human embryo and on the fundamental moral and civil rule, it is illicit to kill an innocent even to bring about a good for society.

The Holy See looks upon the distinction between «reproductive» and so-called «therapeutic» (or «experimental») cloning to be unacceptable. This distinction masks the reality of the creation of a human being for the purpose of destroying him or her to produce embryonic stem cell lines or to conduct other experimentation. Human embryonic cloning must be prohibited in all cases regardless of the aims that are pursued.

The Holy See supports research on stem cells of post-natal origin since this approach — as has been demonstrated by the most recent scientific studies — is a sound, promising, and ethical way to achieve tissue transplantation and cell therapy that could benefit humanity. As His Holiness, Pope John Paul has stated, «In any event, [scientific] methods that fail to respect the dignity and value of the person must always be avoided. I am thinking in particular of attempts at human cloning with a view to obtaining organs for transplants: these techniques, insofar as they involve the manipulation and destruction of human embryos, are not morally acceptable, even when their proposed goal is good in itself. Science itself points to other forms of therapeutic intervention which would not involve cloning or the use of embryonic cells, but rather would make use of stem cells taken from adults. This is the direction that research must follow if it wishes to respect the dignity of each and every human being, even at the embryonic stage.»(2)

Embryonic cloning accomplished for biomedical research or producing stem cells contributes to assaults against the dignity and integrity of the human person. Cloning a human embryo, while intentionally planning its demise, would institutionalize the deliberate, systemic destruction of nascent human life in the name of unknown «good» of potential therapy or scientific discovery. This prospect is repugnant to most people including those who properly advocate for advancement in science and medicine. Since embryonic cloning generates a new human life geared not for a future of human flourishing but for a future destined to servitude and certain destruction, it is a process that cannot be justified on the grounds that it may be able to assist other human beings. Embryonic cloning violates the fundamental norms of human rights law.

«Since 1988, two great global divides have grown deeper: the first is the ever more tragic phenomenon of poverty and social discrimination, and the other, more recent and less widely condemned, concerns the unborn child, as the subject of experimentation and technological intervention (through techniques of artificial procreation, the use of ‘superfluous embryos’, so-called therapeutic cloning, etc.). Here there is a risk of a new form of racism, for the development of these techniques could lead to the creation of a ‘sub-category of human beings,’ destined basically for the convenience of certain others. This would be a new and terrible form of slavery. Regrettably, it cannot be denied that the temptation of eugenics is still latent, especially if powerful commercial interests exploit it. Governments and the scientific community must be very vigilant in this domain.»(3)

Since the founding of the United Nations, the centrality of the welfare and protection of all human beings to the work of this organization is beyond question. The safekeeping of present and succeeding generations of human beings and the advancement of fundamental human rights is critical to the work of the UN. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights reiterates the sanctity of all human life and the compelling need to protect it from harm.

In this regard, Article 3 of the Declaration asserts that everyone has the right to life. With life comes hope in the future — a hope that the Universal Declaration protects by acknowledging that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights. With the right to life comes liberty and security of the person. To ensure this, the Universal Declaration confirms that each human being is an entity who is guaranteed a future filled with the hope of self-determination. To further this end, conditions that degrade any human being with servile status and deny the fundamental rights to life and self-determination are reprehensible and unacceptable.

Regardless of the objective for which it was done, human embryonic cloning conflicts with the international legal norms that protect human dignity. International law guarantees the right to life to all, not just some, human beings. Facilitating the formation of human beings who are destined for destruction, the intentional destruction of cloned human beings once the particular research goal is reached, consigning any human being to an existence of either involuntary servitude or slavery, and conducting involuntary medical and biological experimentation on human beings are morally wrong and inadmissible.

Human embryonic cloning also poses great threats to the rule of law by enabling those responsible for cloning to select and propagate certain human characteristics based on gender, race, etc. and eliminate others. This would be akin to the practice of eugenics leading to the institution of a «super race» and the inevitable discrimination against those born through the natural process.

Embryonic cloning also denies those subjects who come into being for research purposes international rights to due process and equal protection of the law. In addition, it must be remembered that state practice and the development of regional treaties have acknowledged that human embryonic cloning conducted for any end is contrary to the rule of law.

Mr. Chairman, we must remember that every process involving human cloning is in itself a reproductive process in that it generates a human being at the very beginning of his or her development, i.e., a human embryo.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


(1) World Day of Peace Message, 1 January 2001, No. 19.
(2) Address of Pope John Paul II to the 18th International Congress of the Transplantation Society, 29 August, 2000, No. 8.
(3) Holy See’s Contribution Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance-Durban, Sou
th Africa, 31 August to 7 September 2001, No. 21.

[Text distributed by Holy See mission]

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