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Thursday, December 8, 2016
Scottish Bishops warn of 'scientific opportunism' behind human embryo legislation
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┬áIn a Pastoral Letter to be sent to all 500 Catholic parishes in Scotland this week the Bishops, Conference of Scotland will urge the Government to allow a free vote in parliament on the forthcoming Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. In the letter, written by Archbishop Mario Conti, President of the Joint Bio-ethics Committee the Bishops recognise, the "right and duty (of MP's) to vote in such issues according to conscience" and point out that many other countries have " drawn the line at human cloning" though regrettably the UK Government has not. Quoting from a statement by the "Pontifical Academy for Life", the Bishops describe, the fusion of animal and human material resulting in hybrid embryos as a "monstrous act against human dignity. The full text of the letter is shown below together with the text of a covering note being sent to all Parish Priests in Scotland. Pastoral Letter issued by Archbishop Conti, President of the Joint Bio-ethics Committee on behalf of the Archbishops and Bishops of Scotland January 2008 Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Greetings! Early in this new year the Westminster Government will present legislation which would extend the scope already enjoyed by researchers and genetic scientists to create human embryos in vitro and experiment on them (up to a period of 14 days). The fact that other countries have drawn the line at human cloning has not detained our Government from proposing to go further still, to permit inter-species fertilisation and the fusion of animal and human material resulting in hybrid embryos. [For example by the injection into an enucleated cow,s egg of a human cell nucleus - a nucleus which contains the genetic code of an individual human being.] Such a step has appalled other legislatures and has been described by the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life as a "monstrous act against human dignity. We recognise that there is a drive on the part of those pursuing genetic experimentation to extend the scope of their work, and it is totally consistent with the motivation of international drug companies to push what might prove to be in their commercial interests. There is a natural desire for this on the part of those affected by genetic diseases and by other conditions which theoretically might benefit from further research, but we should never seek to do good by doing wrong. The opportunism of those in the scientific field in the pay of commercial interests appears staggering in its cynical exploitation of the situation. It is also questionable whether the dedication of finite resources to ethically ambiguous or morally unsound experimentation is prudent, when examples can be given of successful outcomes by other means, as in the recent case of adult versus embryonic stem cell research; the former already producing ethically sound dividends and successful therapies. The Catholic Church is likely to be criticised for seeking to influence the current debate in Parliament. This should not deter us from standing up for what is right. Apart from the fact that the Church is not alone in its opposition to the proposed legislation, it has a democratic right to support those who adhere to its well-developed and coherent bio-ethical teaching and to put forth arguments to assist politicians who seek to make a conscientious decision in their role as legislators. The Church acknowledges and defends their right and duty to vote in such issues according to conscience. It is true that Members of Parliament represent their constituents and must reflect in a general way their needs and aspirations. They must also be mindful of the pragmatic manifesto of the party to which they belong and for which they were elected. However their personal integrity is essential both in regard to their private lives which should conform to their public stances and their votes which should reflect their ethical convictions in issues of justice and morality. In such matters they must enjoy the freedom which belongs to every citizen and it is to be hoped that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet will respect that freedom and allow a free vote for all in Parliament. "The moral well-being of the world can never be guaranteed simply by structures alone, however good they are, wrote our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, in his recent encyclical, Spe Salvi. Our democracy is a case in point. The Holy Father continued by noting that such structures "cannot and must not marginalise human freedom. Even the best structures function only when the community is animated by convictions capable of motivating people to assent freely to the social order. There is a challenge here not only to politicians but to all who, in a democratic society, have the right and duty to express their convictions in matters of justice and moral behaviour. In a following paragraph the Pope states: "Science can contribute greatly to making the world and mankind more human. Yet it can also destroy mankind and the world unless it is steered by forces outside it. (Spe Salvi: 24,25) It is our conviction that such a steer is provided by the wisdom of the ages, influenced by the word of God mediated through the Church,s teaching and expressed today by well-informed, conscientious decisions of men and women of good will and faith. It is this which gives us the confidence to write as we do, and to commend our case not only to our own people but to all who hold human life and its integrity in great respect. With every blessing, Yours devotedly + Mario Conti Archbishop of Glasgow To all parish priests in Scotland Dear Father, I am enclosing for your parish some important briefing materials relating to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which was recently debated in the House of Lords. It will go to the House of Commons later this month. You will find four enclosures with this letter: 1. 6 copies of a Parish Resource Pack Please read this yourself and pass copies to active parishioners who might be willing to organise meetings and co-ordinate action on this Bill. One of these parishioners might be prepared to act as the "Parish Contact referred to below. 1. One copy of a Pastoral Letter written on behalf of the bishops which you should copy. There is space on this document for you to write in the name of your local M.P (s) and of a "Parish Contact. Once this is done the page can be photocopied and widely distributed within the parish, perhaps by appending it to the weekly parish bulletin or by inviting some parishioners to distribute it after Sunday Mass. 1. Bullet points highlighting key points from the Pastoral Letter copied on the reverse of this letter Ad Clerum. 1. A copy of the Michigan Catholic Conference DVD Copies of this excellent short film are available to allow every parish priest to be able to have access to it so it is available in his parish areas. It has been produced in the USA and explains clearly the science of stem cell research and why research on human embryos is not necessary. It is ideal for showing at a parish meeting. 1. A flyer for a series of public meetings organised by LIFE, Right to Life and CARE at different venues in Great Britain in the Spring of 2008. These documents have been prepared by the Bishops┤ Conference of England and Wales and are published for Scotland with its agreement. We record our thanks to the Church in England and Wales which shares our concern about these matters and which has been so ready to share this material with us. Further copies of the printed documents can be downloaded from the website of the Bishops┤ Conference of England and Wales at www.catholicchurch.org.uk There will also be regular updates in that website as the Bill progresses through Parliament when amendments may be added to change the law on abortion. I know you will appreciate and recognise the importance of the moral issues raised by this Bill and encourage our people to do what they can to influence our parliamentarians to make choices which are consistent with the values of the Gospel. Yours sincerely, +Mario Conti Archbishop of Glasgow President of the Commission for Christian Doctrine and Unity The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill Bullet Point Summary of the Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of Scotland * Early this year the Westminster Government will present legislation which would allow the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos. Such procedures are banned in other countries and have been described by the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life as a "monstrous act against human dignity. * This experimentation is backed by commercial interests who see in it the potential for profit. However, now the scientific community is increasingly appreciating that the use of adult stem cells is both ethically and practically a better solution than creating human (or hybrid) embryos to harvest for stem cells. * The Catholic Church is likely to be criticised for seeking to influence the current debate in Parliament. This should not deter us from standing up for what is right. The Church has a democratic right to put forth arguments to assist politicians who seek to make a conscientious decision. * The Church acknowledges and defends their right and duty of MPs to vote in such issues according to conscience. Their votes should reflect their ethical convictions in issues of justice and morality. There should therefore be a free vote in Parliament on this and related issues. * In his recent encyclical, Spe Salvi. Pope Benedict XVI states: "Science can contribute greatly to making the world and mankind more human. Yet it can also destroy mankind and the world unless it is steered by forces outside it. Such a steer can be provided by the wisdom of the ages, influenced by the word of God mediated through the Church,s teaching and expressed today by well-informed, conscientious decisions of men and women of good will and faith. * It is this which gives the Bishops the confidence to write as they do, and to commend their case not only to our own people but to all who hold human life and its integrity in great respect. Source: SCMO
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