Back in 1996, Dolly the ewe made headlines. Dr. Ian Wilnut, a Scottish scientist, had cloned a sheep and had proven to the world that this could be done. Although some people were in awe that this had been accomplished, others were totally against this on the premise that this was immoral and only God had the right to create life in any form. This criticism came mostly from the religious populations indicating that even though we now had the technology to do this, it didn’t necessarily give us the moral right to continue on the path of cloning. As cloning came to the forefront of the news, Catholics began to reference the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith written in 1987 and approved by Pope John Paul II. It was an article titled “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation.”
At the core of its teachings, the Catholic Church advocated against all forms of human cloning and stem cell research. This is based on the assertion that from the moment of natural conception, a human being is created in the like image of God. This would certainly follow that the Catholic Church believes that human life should not be created or tampered with in such a scientific way. The church believes that this goes against the sovereignty of the Lord, the creator of the universe of all living organisms. People who are against human cloning for spiritual reasons adhere to the belief that technology and human wisdom allows us to do many scientific performances to human life; however, this is still viewed as immoral in the eyes of God and should therefore not be permissible.
The Catholic Church’s belief is that God is almighty and meticulously creates us together in the womb and that the rights of an unborn child must always be protected. Because God makes all life unique in his image, he alone should be the creator of every soul. This creation of every life from conception should not be tampered with by outside forces. Some believe that human cloning is a form of sorcery in the eyes of the Lord. Many believers who are against the idea of human cloning have come to this belief by interpreting the holy scripture. The scriptures do not directly address human cloning and other acts brought about by scientific or technological advancement, but the epistles do say that the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God. This could be interpreted as being against human cloning (part of man’s foolishness to think he can create or reconstruct life such as God would do).
From the perspective of a non-Catholic, the Catholic Church and its traditions may appear strict and the disciplines unnecessary. Some people believe that the traditions are man-made and that the Lord does not approve of such unprofitable rules imposed on our free-will as humans. Some believe such restrictions limit the freedom that the Lord gives us: The Freedom to be led by his Spirit and to do what he wants of us even if it goes against the mainstream beliefs of the church system. Again, this is all a matter of perspective and is based on varying belief systems.
In Donum Vitae, I, 6, the Catholic Church did address that procedures should not be designed to influence the genetic order of a person/child and that this is considered morally wrong. In the case of trying to correct a genetic disorder such as cystic fibrosis, this was permissible; however, this process could only take place if it did not change the genetic structure of a human being. In this publication, they further indicated that the production of a human being done through research, experimentation, or with the harvesting of organs was morally wrong and was not accepted by the church. The premise was that any procedure which jeopardized an unborn child’s life was just wrong.
There is much controversy on this subject, both from the religious and secular populations. This is a topic that will not go away soon and as technology and modern science advances we are likely to hear more on this. Stay tuned!