Bishop Sgreccia Warns of U.N. Statement on Cloning

Initial Position Is Weakened, Says Vatican Official

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ROME, NOV. 22, 2004 ( A U.N.-approved statement on human cloning is virtually «useless,» warns a Vatican official.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, commented on the statement, proposed by Italy and approved last Friday at the United Nations, which prohibits the creation of «human life through processes of cloning and all research oriented to obtaining such a result.»

The nonbinding statement invites countries to adopt restrictive laws on the matter. It also calls for the establishment of a group of experts to work on what will be the United Nations’ formal statement on cloning.

The group will meet for this purpose in February, and the written text will then be submitted for a vote by member countries.

The statement adopted Friday uses the term «human life» instead of «human beings,» referring to the embryos that cloning creates.

Bishop Sgreccia, in an interview on Vatican Radio, warned that the decision represents «a weakening of the initial position, because it has become a simple, nonbinding statement.»

«Verbally what is said turns out to be ambiguous because the term ‘human life,’ which replaces that of ‘human being,’ is vague and even — I would say — useless, because a cell could also be ‘human life,'» he said.

«This expression that Italy suggested is, practically speaking, neither exact nor indicative,» Bishop Sgreccia said.

He added: «Formally there is a difficulty to admit cloning, but one also sees a strong determination to treat the reproduction processes as processes disconnected from human dignity and the human embryo as an experimental object.»

The United Nations has avoided deciding, for now, whether to ban all cloning, opting instead for a statement of principles that will guide the debate when it resumes in February.

In October, the two-day U.N. debate on the prohibition of human cloning ended without reaching a decision in the juridical committee of the General Assembly.

Countries agreed on prohibiting human cloning for reproductive purposes, but they split on whether to allow the cloning for purposes of medical experimentation.

Costa Rica had presented a resolution supported by 62 countries — and backed by the Holy See — requesting total prohibition, since any kind of cloning implies the elimination of human embryos.

For its part, Belgium presented a different resolution, seeking to allow so-called therapeutic cloning. Twenty-two countries favored this position, as did U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The debate became especially intense at the height of the U.S. presidential campaign, as incumbent George Bush favored the first prohibition proposal, while John Kerry supported the second.

Diplomatic sources said that the discussion on a convention for worldwide prohibition of cloning was deliberately postponed until after the Nov. 2 U.S. elections.

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