Friday, December 12, 2008


VATICAN CITY , 12 DEC 2008 ( VIS ) - This morning in the Holy See Press Office the Instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “Dignitas Personae” on certain bioethical questions was presented. It was published in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Polish.

Archbishops Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Bishop Elio Sgreccia, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life; and Maria Luisa Di Pietro, associate professor of Bioethics at the Sacred Heart University, Rome and President of the “Science and Life” Association took part in the press conference.

Archbishop Ladaria affirmed that this instruction is the fruit of study that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith undertook in 2002 on new questions in bioethics with the goal of bringing the same dicastery’s instruction “Donum vitae” (1987) up to date. The document, approved by the Pope, “forms part of the ordinary Magisterium of the Successor of Peter” and “is of a doctrinal nature”.

This instruction “encourages biomedical investigation that respects the dignity of all human beings and of procreation. ... At the same time, it does not exclude diverse biomedical technology as ethically illicit and”, he said, “will probably be accused of containing too many prohibitions. Nevertheless, faced with this possible accusation it is necessary to emphasize that the Church feels the duty of making those without voices heard”.

Archbishop Fisichella noted that the document “attempts to express the Church’s proper, authorized contribution to the formation of conscience, not only of believers but also of those who try to hear the arguments presented and to debate them. This is”, he said, “an intervention that forms part of the Church’s mission and should be listened to not only as legitimate but also as necessary in a pluralist, secular, and democratic society”.

For her part, Professor Di Pietro noted that before examining the questions dealt with in the document, such as techniques of assisting fertility, in vitro fertilization, the freezing of embryos and eggs, embryo reduction, and pre-implant diagnosis, “it is necessary to remember the three fundamental goods that govern each of the decisions”:

- The recognition of the dignity of the person of each human being from conception to natural death, with the consequent subjectivity of the right to life and physical integrity.

- The unity of marriage, which carries with it the reciprocal respect of the right of the spouses to become father and mother only through one another.

- The specifically human values of sexuality that “demand that the procreation of a human person be desired as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses”.

Bishop Sgreccia referred to the third part of the document that speaks of newly proposed therapies that involve the manipulation of the embryo or the human genetic patrimony.

“The text holds that it is necessary”, he said, “to keep in mind one fundamental distinction: theoretically, genetic therapy can be applied to somatic cells with directly therapeutic ends or to germinal cells”. As regards the latter, “it is not possible to intervene as there still does not exist a safe technique”, he stressed, “because it could entail the risk of deformation in the hereditary genetic patrimony of future generations”.

The former president of the Pontifical Academy for Life affirmed that “the distinction between reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning is untenable and thus also always presupposes a reproduction”.

Click here to read the summary of the document


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