Thursday, April 21, 2005

Vatican announces upcoming document on bioethics

Last week an announcement was made by Msgr. [Monsignor] J. Augustine Di Noia, the Vatican’s undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), that a document addressing bioethical issues is being prepared. The CDF used to be the commission headed by Benedict before he was elected pope. So, we can safely assume that this upcoming document will reflect the influence and the bioethical teachings of Benedict himself.

Among the issues that will be featured in this document will most likely be stem-cell research. California, the San Francisco Bay Area in particular, is poised to be a world leader in this. And the lucrativeness of this biomedical venture can be seen in the vigorous bidding of several local cities to be the “home” of the new California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM)--which will oversee the research on stem cells. The CIRM was formed as a result of last November’s elections in which California's voters approved research using stem cells. The tiny town of Emeryville, which is just across the bay from San Francisco, is seen as a strong contender for the spot.

Di Noia, according to the report, says that the church does not oppose research or therapy using adult stem cells and that the upcoming document is "not intended to stop development but to make sure the development keeps the human person in view."

An earlier document touching on the issue of biomedical and therapeutic research was recently dealt with by the International Theological Commission of which Benedict was President. In this document, entitled Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God, one can find glimpses of what the future CDF document might contain. It reiterates the Catholic position on these advanced medical methods of research, as well as other life-issues. The document says that “In assisted suicide, direct euthanasia, and direct abortion - however tragic and complex personal situations may be - physical life is sacrificed for a self-selected finality. In the same category is the instrumentalization of the embryo through non-therapeutic experimentation on embryos, as well as by pre-implantation diagnostics.”

I am looking forward to this document. Perhaps before the document’s publication and promulgation--but certainly after all my final exams and research papers are out of the way--I will outline the reasoning behind the Church’s stance against embryonic stem cell research (different from adult stem cell research). Contrary to the belief of some, the underlying reason for the Church’s position is not so much religious or theological, but rather philosophical and humanistic. This means that the Church’s position stands on principles with which EVERYONE (not just the religious or Catholics) should find resonance, because they are “human” and “universal” principles.

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