VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said that there is no outcome that can justify the use or destruction of embryos for scientific purposes, even for the commendable cause of trying to help those suffering from incurable diseases.
“Some branches of research, in fact, utilize human embryos, inevitably causing their destruction. But we know that no ends, even noble in themselves, such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society, can justify the destruction of human embryos,” he said May 18.
Pope Francis spoke during a meeting at the Vatican Thursday with people affected by a rare and incurable genetic brain disorder called Huntington’s disease, along with their families and caretakers.
His comments were significant, given the massive slate of members from the medical and scientific communities who treat the patients with Huntington's and perform research on how to prevent the disease or slow its progression. Present were some 1,700 people from 16 different countries. Sponsors for the event included major corporations such as Virgin Airlines.
There are several ethical problems surrounding the research on Huntington’s disease, including the use of embryonic stem cells taken from embryos made through in vitro fertilization.
The Pope noted this fact during the audience, encouraging scientists to pursue scientific advancement only through means that do not contribute to the “throw-away culture” which treats human beings as objects for use.
The is not the first time Francis has spoken out against embryonic stem-cell research. In his 2015 environment encyclical Laudato Si, he decried “a tendency” within the field of science “to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos.”
“We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development,” he said, adding that once technology disregards ethical principles, “it ends up considering any practice whatsoever as licit.”
“When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities — to offer just a few examples — it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected.”
Once the human being seeks absolute dominion, the foundations of our life “begin to crumble,” the Pope said in Laudato Si, so that instead of cooperating with God, man puts himself in God’s place “and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature.”