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Cloning and the Culture of Death

The Definite Article

BY Ellen Wilson Fielding

January 10-16, 1999 Issue | Posted 1/10/99 at 2:00 PM

 

“Is There a Clone in Your Future?” by Mark S. Latkovic(The Catholic Faith, November-December 1998)

Mark Latkovic writes:

“[F]or the Christian, the technological engendering of new human life must raise the theological question of whether these techniques lead to an appreciation of the ‘fragility of the human being,’ to an awareness of our total ‘dependence on God,’ and to an attitude of concern for the ‘essential,’ i.e., concern for communion with God and neighbor.”

“Thus, at the heart of the debate over the new reproductive technologies, are not just technical questions (e.g., will it work?), but spiritual ones (e.g., who is man?). … There may not be a clone in your future, but the issues that science in general, and cloning in particular, raise for belief are ones that each and every one of us must grapple with.

“Unfortunately, many have simply resigned themselves to a life of unending scientific ‘progress’ unimpeded by any notion that our science needs to be subject to moral as well as technical criteria. … But as people of faith who believe that we are created in God's image, with intelligence and freedom, in order to be his stewards of the visible world, we must not forget our status as creatures.”

“For what reasons is cloning being proposed? Everything from: duplicating individuals with exceptional intelligence and beauty; reproducing the likeness of a dead loved one; the possibility of choosing a baby's sex; creating selected frozen embryos to be transferred in utero at a later time to supply spare organs, etc. … Even if all of this were possible, the cloning of a human being would not mean, obviously, that we have an ‘exact duplicate,’ as in the story line of Boys from Brazil, where Hitler was cloned. There is, we note, the influence of upbringing, environment, and culture. Still more significant is the spiritual soul, which as the Pontifical Academy of Life reminds us, ‘is created directly by God, [and] cannot be generated by the parents, produced by artificial fertilization or cloned.’

“What all these reproductive technologies have in common is their separation of the intimate bonds which exist between sex, marriage, and parenthood. Just as the Church teaches that it is never right to use contraception because it severs ‘love-making’ from ‘baby-making,’ it teaches that cloning, in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and other methods which substitute a technological process for the deeply personal act of marital sexual intercourse, are wrong, because they sever ‘baby-making’ from ‘love-making.’

“[C]loning and other reproductive technologies … distort (or totally dispense with!) the natural ‘language of the body’ inherent in the marital act by which the couple simultaneously exchange the gift of themselves, while remaining open to the gift of the child. Moreover, cloning mocks the fact that God has created us male and female. Although we are gendered beings, cloning says that at least one sex is dispensable.

“[S]cience and technology are great goods …ut left to their own devices, they cannot give us the moral norms needed for us to choose wisely in accord with integral human fulfillment. … [W]e must emphasize that our morality cannot be derived from science itself, or from what ‘works,’ or from the ethical system of the surrounding culture. … Hence, while the Church views with compassion the deeply rooted desires of infertile married couples to have children, and considers infertility research a good thing, she also teaches that efforts to help couples achieve pregnancy must respect the child's need to be conceived as the fruit of his parent’ personal act of marital intercourse.

“Unfortunately, cloning does not help us to see that we are to be cooperators with God, but rather makes us ‘conspirator’ against God's plan for human life. It is, therefore, one more lethal weapon in the arsenal of those who want to expand the ‘culture of death' against the ‘culture of life.’”

Ellen Wilson Fielding writes from David-sonville, Maryland.

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