NYS Bishops Statement on Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Published on June 24th, 2005

Dear People of God,

Ours is a world in which, for several hundred years, we have all benefited from the extraordinary achievements of scientific research, technological skill and human creative genius. Yet neither in the past nor today have men and women ever been free to disregard the questions of the meaning of human life and the defense and protection of human dignity that are the foundation of all human rights and the basis of civil society. The past has taught with too many examples that human ingenuity can be used for destructive purposes if not harnessed to a proper vision of the human person in accordance with natural law, aided by the insights of religious faith.

In the present day, these dangers are again emerging in the scientific experimentation involving cloning and embryonic stem cell research. There are several bills now pending before our state legislature in Albany that are humanly and ethically unacceptable to any person who values human life. These bills would authorize and finance the creation and subsequent destruction of human embryos through cloning and embryo experimentation.

While most of the scientific community shares the public’s moral revulsion and rejection of human cloning, the term “therapeutic cloning” is now being used to make some cloning appear acceptable, even desirable, because it implies that some cloning might help cure disease or open up new advances to help those who are suffering. Whether one calls it cloning or “somatic cell nuclear transfer,” whether it is done for “therapeutic” or “reproductive” reasons, the cloning of human beings is morally unacceptable by reason of natural law. Moreover, the destruction of human embryos– whether they are manufactured by cloning or in vitro fertilization techniques – is ethically unacceptable and we remain unalterably opposed to any legislation that promotes such destruction.

The campaign for embryonic stem cell research is a campaign that overlooks the fact that embryos are human and therefore, destroying embryos to harvest stem cells is destroying human life.

This position echoes that of Pope Benedict XVI, the bishops of the United States and the dictates of our Catholic tradition of moral reasoning. We also join with the General Assembly of the United Nations which, earlier this year, called on governments to prohibit all forms of human cloning because they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life.

We call on our policymakers to affirm the dignity of human life by banning human cloning in all its forms and prohibiting the destruction of human embryos for stem cell research. At the same time, we urge our state to invest in ethically acceptable research to advance medical knowledge and the treatment of disease. There has not been and is not now any reason to destroy embryonic human life for stem cells when adult stem cells are readily available and can be obtained without harm to any human being. Indeed, the only successful therapeutic experiments to date have used adult stem cells, and have helped to lessen the symptoms and the pain of those suffering with various diseases and disabilities.

Through our Catholic health care ministries, we are committed to eradicating suffering and curing illness wherever possible. Contrary to public perception, Catholic institutions are in the forefront of exciting new developments in adult stem cell treatments, helping to heal and fight disease. We pledge to work with government leaders to advance scientific inquiry and medical progress in a manner that safeguards respect for human life and human rights and the benefit of all.

We urge the Catholic faithful to learn more about the emerging subject of stem cell research by contacting your diocesan respect life office or the State Catholic Conference. And we urge Catholics and other citizens of good will to register concerns about destructive human embryo research with elected state officials. Cloning and embryo research do not enhance human dignity. Such research contradicts the meaning of sound ethical judgment and the very essence of human dignity itself.

Faithfully in Christ,

Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York

Most Rev. Howard J. Hubbard
Bishop of Albany

Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio
Bishop of Brooklyn

Most Rev. Edward U. Kmiec
Bishop of Buffalo

Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham
Bishop of Ogdensburg

Most Rev. Matthew H. Clark
Bishop of Rochester

Most Rev. William F. Murphy
Bishop of Rockville Centre

Most Rev. James M. Moynihan
Bishop of Syracuse

Most Rev. Basil Losten
Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford

Most Rev. Gregory Mansour
Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn

Approved by the NYS Board of Bishops
June 24, 2005

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