Center for Inquiry calls Vatican’s position on biomedical technology deplorable and scientifically insupportable.

December 12, 2008 | By | 1 Reply More

The Vatican has released a 32-page document titled “Dignitas Personae” condemning numerous procedures considered “immoral” by the Catholic Church, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), the freezing of unfertilized eggs, embryonic stem cell research, and the testing of embryos to help identify those with defects. The Center for Inquiry, a think tank headquartered in Amherst, New York has just issued a press release indicating that it “deplores” the Vatican’s pronouncement.

The Vatican’s position has no justification other than religious doctrine, according to the Center for Inquiry, and may have a serious adverse effect on scientific research and the development of medical therapies.

“I regret the renewed effort by the Vatican to censor—indeed prohibit—research in reproductive science,” said Paul Kurtz, chairman and founder of the Center for Inquiry. “Do we have to wage the Galileo battle again? The Vatican claims that their objections are “moral,” but they are based on a theological doctrine that a formless fertilized egg is a full human being, a position which most scientists reject.” Kurtz says there is a need to defend freedom of scientific research and the positive good that can ensue for countless numbers of infertile couples. “The effort to curtail stem cell research is especially disturbing in the view of the possible beneficent results for improving human health,” he said.

The Vatican has focused on commonplace scientific technologies used in the United States and elsewhere, which the Church believes demean human “dignity,” and bring humans perilously close to “playing God.” The Church continues to hold steadfast to its key theological proclamation that “life begins at conception,” thereby rendering as “illicit” the use of embryos or fertilized eggs in research or otherwise, including IVF for married Catholic couples wishing to conceive.

Dr. Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry (and author of the book Future Bioethics: Overcoming Taboos, Myths, and Dogmas) said that “the Vatican has once again manifested its regrettable preference for religious doctrine over science. Until roughly fourteen days after conception, one cannot even meaningfully refer to the embryo as an individual, let alone the equivalent of an adult human, since both twinning and fusion are possible until that point.” Lindsay added that the Vatican’s rejection of IVF on the ground that it results in the discarding of embryos is especially ironic since from 60 to 80 percent of embryos conceived “naturally” are spontaneously aborted. “If the Vatican wants to prevent embryos from ‘dying,’ then they will have to instruct couples to avoid sex completely.”

“The bottom line,” says Lindsay, “is that the Vatican is telling those who need medical assistance to seek help from theology, not therapy.”

[Emphasis added]

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Category: Health, Religion, Reproductive Rights, Science, Sex, snake oil

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Pazdziernik says:

    CDF's Dignitas Personae clearly states that "the cryopreservation of oocytes is not in itself immoral". However, “for the purpose of being used in artificial procreation” it is “to be considered morally unacceptable”. So to write "the freezing of unfertilized eggs" is "condemned procedure" is a very narrow reading of the Holy See's Press Office's release and inaccurate.

    Dr. Ronald A. Lindsay, whom you quote does not appear to have an understanding of the unacceptability of IVF from the quote you selected. Embryos that die "naturally" do not constitute abortion. IVF is not immoral solely because as a result of these techniques and procedures these young human persons are discarded, manipulated and destroyed. IVF is above all unacceptable because man becomes a product of scientific and medical techniques rather than the fruit of love between a husband an a wife.

    The Holy See, it is safe to say, has a much broader and deeper understanding and presentation of these topics than is manifest in either your posting and Dr. Lindsay's quotation.

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