Vatican Preparing Bioethics Document

An Update to 20-Year-Old “Donum Vitae”

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 30, 2007 ( The Holy See is preparing a document on new bioethical questions posed by advancing biotechnology, according to the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Archbishop Angelo Amato said the document would seek to update the 1987 instruction “Donum Vitae,” signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, which dealt with the ethical side of such topics as artificial reproduction and embryonic research.

Speaking to the Italian newspaper Avvenire, the archbishop described the new document as a “Donum Vitae II,” and said that it is “not conceived to abolish the preceding one, but to address the different bioethical and biotechnological questions posed today, which at that time were still unthinkable.”

Archbishop Amato added: “‘Donum Vitae’ retains all its value and, in a certain sense, is prophetic. The problem is that, despite the fact it is already 20 years old, it is still little known.”

The archbishop said that the forthcoming document will address new bioethical dilemmas, but will not address topics such as the morality of using condoms.

The archbishop said: “The question is not a revision of moral doctrine, for example, regarding whether the use of prophylactics is licit, which does not seem to me to be on the agenda.

“Rather, it’s new challenges which are in some ways much more grave and destructive of the identity of the human person, such as an embryo which is considered a biological product rather than a human being.

“‘Donum Vitae’ affirms: ‘The human being must be respected — as a person — from the very instant of his existence.’ And this consideration, owed to the human embryo, is an anthropological principle that cannot be negotiated.”

Referring to media speculation that the Vatican might soon allow married couples to use condoms to block HIV/AIDS, the archbishop said, “The study of such delicate arguments is the competence of our congregation, which then submits its works to the Pope.

“Opinions on these issues coming from other institutions or ecclesiastical personalities, however respectable, cannot have the authority that sometimes the mass media seems to want to suggest.”

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