Vatican to Issue Bioethics Instruction on Cloning, Stem Cell Research in December

Thu Nov 27, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST

By Kathleen Gilbert

November 27, 2008 ( - Cutting-edge questions on human cloning and stem-cell research are among the topics to be addressed in a Vatican document due for release December 12 of this year, according to the Catholic News Service.

The document, which has been in the works for at least two years, will reportedly act as a follow-up to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s (CDF) 1987 instruction, Donum Vitae, by exploring more recent ethical problems and therapeutic options.

When the doctrinal congregation convened in January 2007, prefect Cardinal William Levada said that much of the discussion at that meeting focused on bioethics, and hinted at the formation of the new document. 

Pope Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Ratzinger had headed the congregation when Donum Vitae was published, had explicitly urged the session to re-examine bioethics in light of modern developments.  He reminded them that the starting point for the church’s reflection remains the same: "The two fundamental criteria for moral discernment in this field are unconditional respect for the human being as a person from the moment of conception to natural death, (and) respect for the originality of the transmission of human life through the acts proper to spouses."

Benedict listed such practices as the freezing of human embryos, pre-implantational diagnosis, destructive embryonic stem cell research, and attempts at human cloning as evidence that nature-based guidelines for the beginning of life must be tightly held lest "the barrier that served to protect human dignity" be violated.

“This ‘Donum Vitae II’ has not been conceived in order to abolish the preceding document, but to confront the various bioethical and biotechnological questions which present themselves today, which at the time were unthinkable,” Archbishop Amato, secretary of the congregation, said in January of last year.

See previous coverage:

Vatican Soon to Issue Update to Document on New Reproductive Technologies

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