Reading the Vatican’s new bioethics instruction

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s new instruction “Dignitas Personae” (“The Dignity of a Person”) draws heavily on a handful of previous documents when it addresses biotech issues like cloning, stem cells, embryonic experimentation and genetic therapy.

For those who want to examine several of the sources, here is where to click:

“Donum Vitae” (“The Gift of Life”), the 1987 instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on procreation, which laid the groundwork for the new document issued Friday.

“Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”), Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical on the inviolability of human life at every stage of development.

The speech by Pope Benedict XVI to the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2006 on “The Human Embryo in the Pre-Implantation Phase.”

The speech by Pope Benedict XVI to participants of a 2006 symposium on the theme “Stem Cells: What Future for Therapy?” organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The document treats a number of biotech issues that have come up before at the Vatican, and Catholic News Service has covered them:

In January, Pope Benedict XVI offered his take on the main issues of the document when it was under prepration.

Last year, a Vatican official was optimistic about efforts to reprogram cells to act as stem cells, without creating human embryos.

Also in 2007, church officials reacted to a British Parliamentary proposal to legalize laboratory creations of animal-human hybrid embryos.

In March last year, the Pontifical Academy for Life said Catholic health care professionals have an obligation to refuse to participate in any medical intervention or research that foresees the destruction of human life.

In 2006, a Vatican official said female egg donors, doctors and researchers involved in the destruction of embryos for stem-cell studies can face excommunication.

And in 2006, Pope Benedict had positive comments about stem-cell research — as well as warnings against any destruction of human life at its earliest stages.

One Response

  1. It would be more accurate to state ” VATICAN CITY — The Holy See’s new instruction ‘Dignitas Personae’ …” rather than citing the Vatican as the source of this document.
    Professor Brian Ferme, director of St. Pius X Canon Law Institute in Venice and consultor for the CDF, said that the use of “Vatican” and “Holy See” equivocally is erroneous and inaccurate.
    Although the general public equates the Vatican with the Holy See, it is just easier to use “the Vatican”. However, for sheer accuracy’s sake, the Holy See or CDF would be a better choice.
    According to Cindy Wooden (CNS), many news outlets make the same mistake.

    It is a good article though and it is about time the CDF released something official regarding the dignity of the person in more detail.

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