Cloning

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State of the Question

The process of making a clone, a genetically identical copy. Cloning can refer to the technique of producing a genetically identical copy of an organism by replacing the nucleus of an unfertilized ovum with the nucleus of a body cell from the organism.

Cloning is the process of creating an identical copy of an original. A clone in the biological sense, therefore, is a multi-cellular organism that is genetically identical to another living organism. Sometimes this can refer to "natural" clones made either when an organism reproduces asexually or when two genetically identical individuals are produced by accident (as with identical twins), but in common parlance the clone is an identical copy by some conscious design.

Divine Revelation

Genesis 9:5

From man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life.

Psalm 139:13-16

You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth. Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.

Isaiah 49:1-5

The LORD called me from birth,  from my mother's womb he gave me my name. . . . And I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,  and my God is now my strength!

Luke 1:15

He (John the Baptist) will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb,

 

Catechism of the Catholic Church

346 In creation God laid a foundation and established laws that remain firm, on which the believer can rely with confidence, for they are the sign and pledge of the unshakeable faithfulness of God's covenant. For his part man must remain faithful to this foundation, and respect the laws which the Creator has written into it.

 

301 With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence:

“For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured, if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living.” (Wisdom 11:24-26)

 

346 In creation God laid a foundation and established laws that remain firm, on which the believer can rely with confidence, for they are the sign and pledge of the unshakeable faithfulness of God's covenant. For his part man must remain faithful to this foundation, and respect the laws which the Creator has written into it.

 

354 Respect for laws inscribed in creation and the relations which derive from the nature of things is a principle of wisdom and a foundation for morality.

 

1700 The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son1 to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity.

 

2293 Basic scientific research, as well as applied research, is a significant expression of man's dominion over creation. Science and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all. By themselves however they cannot disclose the meaning of existence and of human progress. Science and technology are ordered to man, from whom they take their origin and development; hence they find in the person and in his moral values both evidence of their purpose and awareness of their limits.

 

343 Man is the summit of the Creator's work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures.

 

The Magisterium of the Church

 

Vatican II (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council)

Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practice them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonor to the Creator. (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 27)

 

Without the Creator the creature would disappear ... But when God is forgotten the creature itself grows unintelligible". (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 36)

 

In effect, the absolute inviolability of innocent human life is a moral truth clearly taught by Sacred Scripture, constantly upheld in the Church's Tradition and consistently proposed by her Magisterium. This consistent teaching is the evident result of that "supernatural sense of the faith" which, inspired and sustained by the Holy Spirit, safeguards the People of God from error when "it shows universal agreement in matters of faith and morals". (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 12)

Pope John II

The various techniques of artificial reproduction, which would seem to be at the service of life and which are frequently used with this intention, actually open the door to new threats against life. Apart from the fact that they are morally unacceptable, since they separate procreation from the fully human context of the conjugal act, 14 these techniques have a high rate of failure: not just failure in relation to fertilization but with regard to the subsequent development of the embryo, which is exposed to the risk of death, generally within a very short space of time. Furthermore, the number of embryos produced is often greater than that needed for implantation in the woman's womb, and these so-called "spare embryos" are then destroyed or used for research which, under the pretext of scientific or medical progress, in fact reduces human life to the level of simple "biological material" to be freely disposed of. (1995 encyclical letter of Pope John Paul II The Gospel of Life 14)

 

Human life, as a gift of God, is sacred and inviolable. (1995 encyclical letter of Pope John Paul II The Gospel of Life 81)

 

Pope John XXIII

“transmission of human life is entrusted by nature to a personal conscious act, and as such, is subject to the all-holy laws of God,” in assisted human procreation “ …one cannot use means and follow methods that could be licit in the transmission of the life of plants and animals.” Encyclical Mater et Magistra. 111: AAS 53 (1961) 447.

"The transmission of human life is entrusted by nature to a personal and conscious act and as such is subject to the all-holy laws of God: immutable and inviolable laws which must be recognized and observed"(Encyclical Mater et Magistra).

Finally, a child has the right to be born. Each of us has the responsibility of guarding these rights for the defenseless child. Never must we slip into thinking that anyone has the right to a child at any cost, or that a child is like a piece of property to be had (Encyclical Donum Vitae, II, 8).

Procedures designed to influence the genetic inheritance of a child, which are not therapeutic, are morally wrong. To try to correct a genetic disorder, such as cystic fibrosis, is morally permissible, whereas to manipulate the genetic structure to produce human beings selected by sex or some other quality is wrong. Attempts to produce a "breed" of humans through cloning, twin fission, or parthenogenesis outside the context of marriage or parenthood is immoral. These manipulations violate the personal dignity of the human being and attack his integrity and identity. (Donum Vitae, I, 6.)

Any production of human beings for the sake of experimentation, research, or the harvesting of organs is morally wrong. Such actions reduce a human being to simply disposable biological material. (Cf. Donum Vitae, I, 5.)

Any medical research or observation which jeopardizes the health or life of the unborn child is morally wrong. (Cf. Donum Vitae, I, 5.)

 

Ecclesiastical Tradition

 

The Pontifical Academy for Life, instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1994 specifically to examine bio ethical issues, has noted two fundamental moral objections to cloning (1997).

A first objection relates to the dignity of human procreation. Each human person should have the right to be born of the natural sexual union of a man and a woman. Cloning would be a denial of this process and this right. The cloning process would involve what the document calls a 'radical rupture' of the ordinary bonds of parenting and family. Cloning is the production of a life in a process that is the most removed of all from the truly human process.

The second is related to the dignity that is to be accorded to each person without discrimination. That dignity demands the recognition that a person is never to be treated merely as a means to another end. A cloning programme may be aimed at the production of genetically engineered human beings, or may be undertaken to replicate genetically one particular human being. Doing this means subordinating such cloned beings to the purposes of others, for utility or satisfaction or even mere curiosity. Such a process is intrinsically wrong.

The Teaching of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church

 

The Catholic Church has the authority to act as the authentic interpreter of all the moral law, that is, not only the law of the gospel, but also the natural law, which is an expression of the will of God.

 

St. Thomas Aquinas described the natural law as “…the rational creature’s participation in the eternal law.”

 

The Church also teaches that “there is an inseparable connection willed by God, and unable to be broken by man, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning.”

Human Reason

If man is created, then there must be a Creator, and man is therefore subject and accountable to that Creator.  Although popular thinking in the form of secular psychology and humanistic thought would have one to believe that man is accountable to no one other than himself, and that man is the ultimate authority, the Bible teaches differently. 

The book of Genesis teaches that God created man, and gave man responsibility over the earth (see Genesis 1:28-29, and Genesis 9:1-2).  With this responsibility comes the obligation to answer to God.  This means that man is not the ultimate authority over himself, and that he is therefore not in a position to make decisions about the value of human life.  Neither then is science the authority by which the ethics of cloning, abortion, or euthanasia are decided.  According to the Bible, God is the only One who rightfully exercises the sovereign control over human life. To assert control over things like this is to place oneself in God’s position.  Clearly man is not to do this.

The Bible, however, draws a clear line between animals and humans, and gives us ethical guidelines:

·       Humans were created separately, in God's image, unlike the animal kingdom (Genesis 1:27). Our existence extends beyond physical death (Luke 16:19-31, Philippians 1:23). This is nowhere indicated for animals.

·       God allowed humans to kill animals (Genesis 9:2-3). Concerning other humans, He gave the commandment: 'Thou shalt not kill [the Hebrew ratsach means 'murder']' (Exodus 20:13).

·       God entrusted humans with dominion over the animal kingdom (Genesis 1:26). But humans were never told to have dominion over other humans, nor manipulate them, as would be the case if cloning humans.

Furthermore, humans are meant to have fathers and mothers, to be where possible the offspring of a sacred marriage relationship, the family ordained by God. While unfortunate circumstances in a fallen world mean that sometimes children have to be raised by only one parent, a clone could never have two parents. Thus the artificial cloning of a complete human being, because it deliberately sets out to cause such a situation, is opposed to biblical principles.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported in their March 7, 2002 issue that infants conceived with use of intracytoplasmic sperm injection or in-vitro fertilization have twice as high a risk of a major birth defect as naturally conceived infants. Other complications from assisted reproductive technologies were described as well.

 

Resources

 

John Paul II. The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae). Times Books, Random House, New York, 1995.

 

Instruction on Bioethics, Donum Vitae. Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. (1987).

 

Pontifical Academy for Life, Reflections on Cloning http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdlife/documents/rc_pa_acdlife_doc_30091997_clon_en.html

 

Hansen M, Kurinczuk JJ, Bower C, Webb S. The Risk of Major Birth Defects after Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection and in Vitro Fertilization. New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) 346:725-730, March 7, 2002.

 

Schieve LA and Others. Low and Very Low Birth Weight in Infants Conceived with Use of assisted Reproductive Technology. NEJM 346:731-737, March 7, 2002.

 

Editorial. Infertility Treatment - More Risks and Challenges. NEJM 346:769, March 7, 2002.

 


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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture texts are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

 

© 2011 Robert J. Schihl

 

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