MADRID, July 30, 2003 ( – The Spanish Episcopal Conference’s executive committee has proposed the ‘unfreezing’ of human embryos left over from fertility treatments.  Zenit news reported on a note published by the Conference which was issued in response to a Spanish law reform that would allow left over embryos to be experimented on with the consent of the parents.  The Conference note explained that “to keep frozen human embryos is an abusive situation against those lives, which can be compared to therapeutic cruelty.” Unfreezing thus puts “an end to such an abuse” and allows “nature to take its course, namely, to produce death.” The note adds, “To allow to die in peace is not the same as to kill.”  However, in a disturbing portion of the Catholic Conference’s note, the authors say embryos, “unfrozen in the circumstances mentioned, could be considered ‘donors.’ According to the note, the cells of these embryos “could be used for research in the framework of strict control, similar to that established for the use of organs or tissues from deceased persons who donated them for this purpose.”  The suggestion is ethically problematic in that donors are normally required to give consent and in this case the parents who were intentionally responsible for the death-dealing circumstances of their embryonic children could not give valid consent for their children.

The Vatican has also struggled with the matter of what to do with frozen human embryos and, while not having made an official pronouncement on the matter, has led with tacit approval of embryo adoption. When news first broke on the scheduled destruction of thousands of frozen embryos in Britain in 1996, many women stepped forward to accept implantation of the embryos in order to give them a chance to be born. Most of the women offering to adopt the embryos came from Italy, spurred on by an article appearing in the Catholic Church’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.  The August 21, 1996 edition of L’Osservatore Romano contained an article written by Maurizio P. Faggioni, O.F.M entitled The Question of Frozen Embryos. In it, Rev. Faggioni presented the case for “prenatal adoption” saying it differed substantially from “surrogate motherhood” which has been condemned by the church. “This solution, suggested as an extreme ratio to save embryos abandoned to certain death, has the merit of taking seriously the value of the embryo’s life, found in such jeopardy, and of courageously accepting the challenge of cryopreservation. It seeks to check the evil effects of a disordered situation,” he wrote.  See the Zenit coverage and related LifeSite coverage: