Strictly speaking, the Vatican is a place and no more. It is an
autonomous state, covering just 108 acres, situated within the City of Rome,
guaranteed recognition by the Lateran Treaty between Italy and the Vatican in
The central authority of the Catholic Church is more correctly
referred to as the Holy See (the See or seat of Peter) and the central
administration is the Roman Curia, most of whose offices are located within the
Vatican. Some are in the City of Rome but regarded as 'extra territorial'
The Secretariat of State
The principal office through which all other offices communicate
officially (either externally or internally) is the Secretariat of State. It is
under the control of the Cardinal Secretary of State. It has two sections, one
for internal or general affairs and the other for relations with other states.
The Secretariat of State is directly responsible for a number of other offices and publications:
- Official Bulletin of the Holy See (Acta Apostolicae Sedis)
- The Pontifical Yearbook (Annuario Pontificio)
- Vatican Press Office
- Central Office of Statistics (and Statistical Yearbook)
The Roman Curia's administration of the Church is done mainly through the nine Congregations (or departments, sometimes called 'dicasteries') each headed by a Cardinal:
o The Doctrine of the Faith
o Eastern Churches
o Sacraments and Divine Worship
o Causes of Saints
o Evangelization of the Peoples
o Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
o Catholic Education
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Established by Pope Paul III in 1542 to defend faith against
heresy and false teachings. It was formerly known as 'Holy Office' and is
responsible for everything connected with the teaching and customs of the
Church. Its resident members (including 14 cardinals) meet weekly.
Congregation for Eastern Churches
Pius IX established the Congregation in 1862 and its
responsibility is for those Churches of Eastern Rite which are in communion with
Rome (Copts, Melkites, Maronites Syro- Malabar, Syro- Malankara
etc.). It deals with them in the areas covered by the rest of the list of
Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship
Originally two separate departments (Congregation for Sacraments
founded by Pius IX in 1908 and Congregation for Divine Worship founded by Paul
VI in 1969) the Congregation is responsible for everything related to liturgy
and sacraments, except for what comes within the competence of the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Congregation for the Causes of Saints
In 1588 Pope Pius V established the Congregation for Rites, and
entrusted to it the responsibility for worship and the causes of saints (the two
were connected because the saints are celebrated first of all in the liturgy).
Pope Paul VI's reforms of 1969 gave the Congregation a separate identity and
re-ordered its methods of dealing with petitions from dioceses, for the
canonization of individuals.
Congregation for Bishops
The Congregation was founded originally in 1588 for the setting
up of local Churches, and is still responsible for the setting up of new
dioceses and for the appointment of bishops.
In 1958 the Commission for Latin America was set up to look at
the particular needs of the Church in Latin America and to assist the Latin
American Bishops' Conference [CELAM]. It was incorporated into the Congregation
for Bishops in 1969.
Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples
This Congregation has its roots in the commission set up by Pius
V and Gregory XIII to look after the mission to the East and West Indies and to
assist the Church in the Protestant territories in Europe. In 1622 it was
reformed by Gregory XV as 'Propaganda
Fide' to look after the new local Churches. Presently it is responsible for
South Eastern Europe, the Americas, almost all of Africa, the Far East, New
Zealand Oceania (with the exception of Australia), Asia and almost all the
Congregation for the Clergy
The 'Sacred Congregation of Cardinals' Interpretation of the
Council of Trent' was set up to implement the decrees of that Council, and
gradually its competence was divided between the various Congregations as they
came into being and developed. The Congregation of the Council kept its name
until 1967 when it became the Congregation for the Clergy. It has three areas of
o The pastoral, spiritual and intellectual development of the clergy
o The promotion of catechetical and pastoral initiatives
o The proper administration of the material goods of the Church.
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
In 1908 the Congregation for Religious brought together two
previously existing bodies to look after all forms of consecrated life within
the Church, including the religious orders and societies, hermits, virgins and
secular institutes. It took its present name in 1967 under Paul VI.
Congregation for Catholic Education
In 1588 Pius V set up the Congregation for Roman University
Studies to look after these institutes and similar universities in Paris,
Bologna, Salamanca etc. State schools came within the competence of the
Congregation in 1870 and in 1915 the seminaries also were included. Its
competence today covers:
o The seminaries for priestly training and other places of religious formation
o The Catholic universities and similar institutions
o All schools under Church control.
o Other offices within the Roman Curia
The three tribunals are:
o The Apostolic Penitentiary : this deals with matters in the 'internal
or public forum), the granting of absolutions and other
o The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature works in three areas:
o as supreme tribunal or court of the Church,
o as administrative tribunal, and as a strictly administrative body, a
ministry supervising the work of ecclesiastical courts and
o The Roman Rota is a court of higher appeal at the Holy
rights within the Church and assist the work of other
The Pontifical Councils
All of the Councils of the Holy See have their origins in the
last century, and their competence is indicated clearly enough by their titles.
Pontifical Council for the Laity (1976, Paul VI)
Pontifical Council for Christian Unity (1960, John XXIII)
Pontifical Council for the Family (1981, John Paul II)
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (1967, Paul VI)
Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum' (the Holy See's charities, 1971, Paul VI)
Pontifical Council for the Care of Migrants and Itinerants (1970)
Pontifical Council for the Care of Health Workers (1985, John Paul II)_
Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Texts (1917, Benedict XV)
Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue (1964, Paul VI)
Pontifical Council for Culture (originally 1965, Paul VI as Secretariat for
Dialogue with Non Believers)
Pontifical Council for Social Communications (originally 1948,
Pius XI, as Pontifical Commission for the Cinema)
The Pontifical Commissions
The Commissions deal with more specific areas of competence:
Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Goods of the Church (1993)
Pontifical Archeological Commission (1852)
Pontifical Biblical Commission (1902)
Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Vulgate [Latin text of the Bible] (1907)
Other institutions within the Vatican
The Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA)
is what some people refer to as the 'Vatican Bank'. Others refer to the
Institute for Religious Works (IOR) as the bank. Neither is strictly true,
although APSA is treated as bank by other banking institutions.
APSA was set up after 1870 to look after what the Holy See had
left after the loss of the Papal States with the unification of Italy. Its work
became more important after the 1929 Lateran Treaty with Italy, when the Vatican
was compensated for the loss of territory. The monies paid in compensation were
invested and form a large part of the ordinary income of the Holy See. It also
looks after the ordinary financial administration of the Curia (salaries etc.)
The IOR is an office set up to gather and administer funds for
religious purposes. It provides clearing-bank services for those working in the
Vatican and for many religious orders, who hold a large proportion of its
investments and their yields. The Holy See receives the profits it makes on its
The Prefecture of the Papal Household took its present form in the re-organization within the Vatican under Paul VI. The running of the Papal Household involves the pope's daily timetable, principally events like audiences (private and public).
Other institutions connected with the Holy See
The Vatican Secret Archives preserves a great deal of material
relating to the history of the Papacy, but for various reasons, much of what
there was to the time of Innocent III (1198-1216) has been lost. The most
important part is the register of Papal bulls from that time onwards.
Separate from the Archives is the Vatican Library. Like the Archives, it has lost most of what existed up to the XIII century but preserves many historically important manuscripts.
The Vatican Polyglot Press has its origins in the XVI century and with the Vatican Publishing House is now mainly concerned with the production and distribution of the documents of the Holy See. Vatican Radio, Vatican Television and the Vatican's own (unofficial) newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, are all fairly recent additions to the Church's efforts to evangelise. The radio was founded in 1931 and the TV centre in 1983. The newspaper was founded in 1861 and is published every day in Italian and weekly in a number of other languages, including English.
Other sources of information regarding the Holy See are its own yearbook (Annuario Pontificio, in Italian) and the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (the official Latin text of all documents issued by the Holy See). The Statistics Office of the Secretariat of State publishes a Statistical Yearbook which gives detailed statistics for the Catholic Church worldwide. The figures are a few years out of date simply because of the time it takes to collate them.
The Vatican is on the Internet at http://www.vatican.va:
In the Catholic Church, Bishops and Archbishops are appointed by
the Pope. When a diocese falls vacant, the process for appointing a new bishop
begins. The Apostolic Nuncio (the Vatican ambassador) inquires for names,
seeking opinions from bishops and priests of the diocese, and anyone else he
thinks appropriate. He compiles a 'ternus' - list of 3 names - of
candidates and presents it, with his own opinions, to the Holy See. The Pope may
accept one of the candidates or consult further. The whole process is
Church law (Canon 378) states that a suitable candidate must be:
o "Outstanding in strong faith, good morals, piety, zeal, wisdom, prudence and human virtues, and posses those other gifts which equip him to fulfill the office of the bishop";
o "Held in good esteem";
o At least 35 years of age;
o A priest ordained for at least 5 years;
o Hold a doctorate or a licentiate or at least be well versed in sacred scripture, theology, or canon law.
If the candidate chosen accepts his appointment, it is announced,
and he must take office within 3 months. It is recommended that there be a
public church service or Mass when he takes office.
Running a vacant diocese
A bishop (or archbishop) is required to submit his resignation to
the Holy See when he reaches the age of 75. The Pope either accepts his
resignation or asks him to continue. Otherwise, a diocese normally becomes
vacant because of a bishop's poor health or his death.
What happens immediately? ( Canon 419)
When a diocese becomes vacant, the Co-adjutor Bishop - if there is one becomes diocesan bishop immediately. If there is no Co-adjutor, the following process takes place:
If there are any Auxiliary Bishops, the most senior begins to
govern the diocese. If there is no Auxiliary Bishop a 'College' comprised of
senior priests in the diocese governs the diocese. In either case, the 'College
of Consultors' - a group already appointed by the previous Bishop is required to
meet and elect a Diocesan Administrator within 8 days.
The Administrator must be a priest, at least 35 years old, and
"outstanding for doctrine and prudence" (Canon 425). He will take over
the running of the diocese from the time he is elected until a new Bishop
WHO IS A CARDINAL?
are appointed by the Pope to form a special 'College of Cardinals' whose
main task is to elect a new Pope, when that office becomes vacant, in a meeting
called a 'conclave'. They are also sometimes asked to represent the Pope at
Pope periodically calls a meeting of the College of Cardinals, called a
Consistory'. Consistories are normally called when new cardinals are created.
The most recent consistory occurred in May 2001 when Pope John Paul II appointed
Church law (canon 351) says that Cardinals are bishops, "outstanding in doctrine, virtue, piety and prudence in practical matters". Cardinals of 80 years of age or older cannot vote in a conclave, and the maximum number of electors at any time is 120 (John Paul II, Universi Dominici Gregis, 1996).
procedure following the death of the Pope was revised by the Vatican in
1996. The new document (Universi Dominici Gregis, "The shepherd of the
Lord's whole flock") replaces the previous instruction of 1975 from Pope
Chamberlain (Camerlengo) of the Holy Roman Church (presently the Spanish
Cardinal Martinez Somalo) is the one who ascertains the Pope's death in the
presence of the Papal Master of Ceremonies and a number of other members of the
Papal Household. He notifies the Cardinal Vicar for Rome who in turn notifies
the people of Rome. The Chamberlain seals the Pope's apartments and begins to
make arrangements for the burial. It is the Dean's responsibility to inform the
Diplomatic Corps and Heads of state.
days of official mourning are declared and burial takes place between the fourth
and sixth day after death (except for special reasons). Popes are usually buried
in St Peter's Basilica, where the body will be laid in state for people to pay
Preparations for the Election
heads of departments (including the Secretary of State and Prefects of
Congregations) cease to exercise their office and the day-to-day running of the
Church is done by the College of Cardinals, called together by the Dean,
Cardinal Gantin. The routine business of departments is looked after by their
Secretaries. Important decisions are taken by the College of Cardinals, but they
have no power to take decisions that would normally be left to the Pope himself.
One of the most important priorities is preparation for the election of the new
of the changes made in the 1996 document concerns the conclave. The word itself
comes from the Latin cum clave (literally "with a key") and meant that
the cardinals were locked in the Apostolic Palace until they produced a result.
Now the Cardinals are to be housed in a new building inside the Vatican's walls
called the Domus Sanctae Marthae (St Martha's House) and move from there to the
Papal Palace and the Sistine Chapel for the actual voting process. While they
are moving to and from their new accommodation they are forbidden to communicate
with anyone not involved in the election.
1059 the election of the Pope has been reserved to the cardinals alone and this
is their principal function - this is the first thing said about them in the
Church's Code of Canon Law. Cardinals are not an 'order' in the Church like
bishops or priests and so they are not ordained as cardinals, simply appointed
by the Pope. From time to time the Pope calls a meeting of cardinals called a
'Consistory' and announces the names of new cardinals. The creation of new
cardinals ensures that there is a sufficient number eligible to vote (i.e. under
the age of 80) up to a maximum of 120.
cardinals were originally a group of clergy who were around the Pope to advise
him. By the 12th century the cardinals consisted of 7 bishops of dioceses round
Rome, 28 priests from Roman churches and 20 deacons. Cardinals are still ranked
as cardinal bishops, cardinal priests and cardinal deacons, even though now
(since 1962) they are all required to be bishops before they are made cardinal.
days after the pope's death (and not later than 20 days) the election begins
with a mass in St Peter's celebrated by all the cardinals. That afternoon the
cardinals proceed to the Sistine Chapel, where voting has traditionally taken
place beneath Michelangelo's fresco of the Last Judgement. The revised rules
make no mention of the tradition of the white smoke that signals the end of
voting and election of a new Pope.
Even though they are no longer locked in, the process is still referred to as a
'conclave' and the process is made as private and secret as possible, even to
the extent of ensuring that an electronic sweep is done in the chapel to detect
any 'bugs' planted.
cardinals take an oath promising secrecy and the order is given, Extra omnes
("all outside"). The oath of secrecy forbids them to communicate with
anyone not involved in the election, or even to disclose details of the votes
when the election is over.
there were three methods of choosing the new Pope. The first was by acclamation,
when all the cardinals agreed to one name proposed, without prior arrangement.
This, however, appears never to have happened. The second was by compromise,
when a stalemate was resolved in one of three ways - - a simple majority, plus
one - a ballot between the two strongest candidates - delegating the election to
a small group of between 9 and 15.
there is only one method, a simple two-thirds majority (or two thirds plus one
if the number is not exactly divisible). [N.B. See the section 'Resolving
begins on the first day, when one ballot is held in the afternoon if possible.
If the first ballot does not produce a result, there are two ballots each
morning and each afternoon until a result is declared.
The Papal Master of Ceremonies hands out voting papers, giving at least two or three to each cardinal. Nine cardinals are chosen by lot for three tasks: three are to be scrutineers, three are to collect the votes of those who are sick and unable to be in the Sistine Chapel but who are nonetheless able to vote, and three are to double-check the counting. The ballot paper is divided in two: the top half carries the words "Eligo in Summum Pontificem" (I elect as pope...) and the bottom half is blank for the name to be written in. The handwriting on the bottom part should not be identifiable as belonging to any cardinal, and the inclusion of a second name will render the ballot null and void. The Master of Ceremonies and others leave, the doors of the Sistine Chapel are closed and the vote begins. In order of precedence, each cardinal elector holds up his completed ballot paper. He then carries it to the altar and places it in a receptacle. He swears that his vote is for his choice and puts the paper onto a plate, which he uses then to drop the voting slip into the receptacle on the altar.
When all votes have been placed in the urn (including the votes of any sick cardinals whose votes have been collected from the Domus Sanctae Marthae), the urn is shaken. A scrutineer takes the votes out one by one, in full view, and puts them into another container, making sure that the number of slips corresponds to the number of voters. If not, the ballot is void.
scrutineers sit at a table in front of the altar. The first scrutineer unfolds
each paper, notes the name and passes it to the second, who does the same. The
third then reads out the name that has been written down and the electors can
make note of the names and votes. The scrutineers write down the number of votes
received by each name and the last scrutineer collects the voting slips by
threading a needle through the word Eligo and collecting the slips on a thread
which is then knotted. (The slips are burned at the end of the session, together
with any notes the electors have made.) The names are counted and if a name has
received two-thirds of the votes, the pope has been elected. The counting is
checked by the third group of three cardinals (the 'revisers') who examine both
the original voting slips and the scrutineers' notes. The Chamberlain records
the votes in each ballot on one sheet of paper and after the election this is
given to the new pope before it is stored in a confidential archive.
the first ballot does not produce a result, the process is repeated for three
days only. After three days of unsuccessful voting, the procedure is suspended
for a day to give time for prayer, reflection and informal discussions. The
voting then begins again for a series of seven more ballots. If there is still
no conclusion, another pause is taken before a further seven ballots. If this
still does not produce a result, one more pause and another series of seven
ballots follow. Finally, however, the cardinals are addressed by the Chamberlain
about what to do next.
election goes forward in the way that the majority of electors decide. A result
can now come from an absolute majority or by a vote on the two names that
received the largest number of votes in the last ballot. Here, too, an absolute
majority is required.
successful candidate is then asked by the Dean of the College of Cardinals,
"Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?" When he
gives his agreement, he is then asked what name he will choose as Pope. This
agreement and choice is then signed and (assuming that the person is already a
bishop) he is immediately Bishop of Rome. The cardinals pay him their respects
and the Cardinal Deacon announces the result of the election to the people in
St. Peter's Square. The new Pope
comes out and gives them his blessing. There is no longer a coronation ceremony,
but the Pontificate is inaugurated at a ceremony in St Peter's a short time
later (in the case of Pope John Paul II it was six days later.)
The dictionary definition speaks of a celibate person as someone
who is not married and is bound or committed to remaining unmarried (so while
two people who are engaged, for example, are not married, they are not committed
to remaining unmarried).
The word 'celibacy' is often confused today with 'chastity',
which means "abstaining from unlawful or immoral sexual activity"
(Oxford English Dictionary). Strictly speaking, the word 'celibacy' does not
govern sexual activity. So, while some people may be technically celibate, they
may be having sexual relations and yet are committed to remaining unmarried.
Nonetheless, many will describe themselves as 'celibate' because they are not
having sex, when strictly they mean they are 'chaste'
The history of celibacy
The tradition of celibacy seems to be exclusively Christian and
to have been connected from the beginning with the virtue of chastity. It is
evident that Jesus remained unmarried, but the reference to the apostle Peter's
mother in law (Mark 1:30) indicates that not all of Jesus' followers were
unmarried. The letters of St Paul make it clear that at least some of the early
Church leaders (its bishops and priests) were married (Letter to Timothy 3:1-5).
There was no law established in the first three or four
centuries. There is evidence, however, that even at this time many priests were
unmarried or withdrew from marriage after ordination. Further evidence suggests
that the people did not always approve of married clergy, and there is reference
to people being urged not to stop going to services just because they were being
led by a married priest.
The Council of Elvira in Spain (about 306 A.D.) forbade all bishops, priests and deacons from having wives. This practice then began to apply to the whole of the Western Church through various Papal decrees from Pope Damasus I onwards. Damasus regarded sexual intercourse as 'defilement' (a legal impurity rather than a sin, along the lines of the Old Testament Jewish laws - see Leviticus 15:18).
The so-called 'Dark Ages', however, saw a decline in priestly
morale and discipline as society itself fell into turmoil. About 1018, Pope
Benedict VIII responded against this decline and brought in stronger laws to
support clerical celibacy and made it impossible for the children of priests to
inherit property (which had often been church property in the first place). This
move was strongly supported by Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) and his application
of existing rules is regarded as the first effective enforcement of clerical
The Second Lateran Council in 1139 seems to provide the first written law that made it impossible for a cleric to get married. Later, after the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, the Council of Trent (a meeting of the bishops of the Church, held in North Italy) reaffirmed the tradition of celibacy in 1563. Yet, despite arguments from some of the bishops present, the Council said that it was not a law that came from God but a Church tradition that could be changed. It said, too, that the Church's position on celibacy in no way minimised its high regard for marriage: the two callings were quite distinct and had their own distinctive demands.
The present position
The Church's position remains essentially what it was at the
Council of Trent. Celibacy is not an essential element of priesthood (in other
words there could be a priesthood which is not celibate), but it is considered
as an important part of priesthood, and a sign of the priest's commitment to be
free to serve God and his people.
The Catholic priest and celibacy
It is clear from the above that the Roman Catholic Church has had
a long tradition of requiring celibacy of its priests. By the ordinary rules of
traditional morality, chastity has always been required of them, in the same way
that it is required of everybody.
The promise of celibacy is made by the future priest during the ceremony of ordination as a deacon; a stage before priesthood. The bishop says to the candidate: "Celibacy is both a sign and a motive of pastoral charity, and a special source of spiritual fruitfulness in the world. By living in this state with total dedication, moved by a sincere love for Christ the Lord, you are consecrated to him in a new and special way. By this consecration you will adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart; you will be more freely at the service of God and mankind. By your life and character you will give witness to your brothers and sisters in faith that God must be loved above all else, and that it is He whom you serve in others."
By 'Roman Catholic' we mean the Church that regards the Pope in Rome as its highest authority on earth. The 'Eastern' or 'Orthodox' Church (some of which also recognize the Pope as head) have a different tradition, and allow married priests. They will allow married men to be ordained priests, but will not allow priests to get married (in other words, if you want to be a married priest, you would have to get married first and then be ordained a priest). Their bishops are not married, nor are their monks.
Recent exceptions: married former
In some countries recently there have been exceptions to the
celibate tradition, and there are married Catholic priests. They have all come
from the Church of England where they were working as Anglican ministers and
were married (the Anglican Church, like the other Christian churches, allows its
priests to be married, and - unlike the Orthodox Church - will allow people who
are already ordained to get married afterwards). With special permission from
Rome, these men have been ordained as Catholic priests and remain married. It
has been made clear to them that if their wives should die, they would not be
allowed to marry again. It has been made clear that these circumstances are
exceptional, and that celibacy for priests remains the normal tradition.
The procedure laid down by the Catholic Church in declaring a person a saint is
found in the Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister,
promulgated by John Paul II on January 25, 1983.
To begin a cause it is necessary for at least 5 years to have passed since the
death of the candidate. This is to allow greater balance and objectivity in
evaluating the case.
The bishop of the diocese in which the person whose beatification is being
requested is responsible for beginning the investigation. The promoter group
(Actor Causae): diocese, parish, religious congregation, association, asks the
bishop through the postulator for the opening of the investigation. The bishop,
once the nulla osta (permission to go ahead) of the Holy See is obtained,
forms a diocesan tribunal for this purpose. Thereafter, witnesses are called
before the tribunal to recount concrete facts on the exercise of Christian
virtues, the theological virtues: faith, hope and charity, and the cardinal
virtues: prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, and others specific
to his state in life. In addition, all documents regarding the candidate would
be gathered. When these demands are satisfied may be declared
Once the diocesan investigation is done, the acts and documentation are passed
on to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The Public Copy used for
further work is put together here. The Postulator, who is placed in Rome,
follows the preparation of the Positio, or summary of the documentation that
proves the heroic exercise of virtue, under the direction of a Relator of the
Congregation for the Cause of Saints. The Position undergoes an examination
(theological) by nine theologians who give their vote. If the majority of the
theologians are in favour, th e
is passed on for examination by cardinals and bishops who are members of the
Congregation who meet twice a month. If their judgment is favourable, the
Prefect of the Congregation presents the results of the entire course of the
cause to the Pope , who gives his approval and authorizes the Congregation to
draft the relative decree. The public reading and promulgation of the decree
follows declaring the person as the
For the beatification of the
Servant of God a miracle attributed to the person duly verified, is necessary.
The required miracle must be proven through the appropriate canonical
investigation, following a procedure analogous to that for heroic virtues. This
one too is concluded with the relevant decree. Once the two decrees are
promulgated (regarding the heroic virtues and the miracle) the Holy Father
decides on beatification, which is the concession of public worship, limited to
a particular sphere. With the beatification the candidate receives the title of Blessed.
For canonization another miracle is needed, attributed to the intercession of
the Blessed and having occurred after his/her beatification. The methods for
ascertaining the affirmed miracle are the same as those followed for
beatification. Canonization is understood as the concession of public worship in
the Universal Church. Pontifical infallibility is involved. After Canonization,
the Blessed acquires the title of Saint.
Abortion is a much debated and controversial topic. What is the
teaching of the Catholic church on the matter?
Abortion is the ejection of an immature and non-viable foetus from
the womb of a woman. When this happens naturally there can be no grounds for any
sort of moral judgement. Where the abortion is 'procured' that is, done directly
or caused to happen, then, the Catholic Church says that, a grave moral wrong is
From the earliest times the Church has condemned abortion. One of
the earliest statements condemning abortion is recorded in a document called the
Didache, written in the 2nd century A.D. According to it: "You shall
not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish".
The teaching has been repeated through the centuries and as early as the 4th century the Church made abortion a crime with its own proper penalties. In the 16th century, Popes Sixtus V and Gregory XIV said that causing or having an abortion means that the guilty person is automatically excommunicated (cut off from the Church). This position is clearly stated again in the Church's own collection of laws (the Code of Canon Law, 1983): "A person who actually procures an abortion incurs automatic excommunication" (Canon 1398).
The Church says that human life begins when the woman's egg is fertilized by a male sperm. From that moment a unique life begins, altogether different from the life of the mother and of the father. The features which distinguish it from it’s parents - the colour of the eyes, the shape of the face, etc. - are all laid down in the "genetic code" that comes into existence then. Each new life that begins at this point is not a potential human being but a human being with potential. No one can point to the twelfth day or the fourth week or any other time and say, "This is when I began being me." The process of life begins at conception while birth is only the end point of the life within the womb of the mother.
The right to life
The Catholic Church takes a stand against all practices that degrade human rights and dignity. It’s opposition to abortion comes from a recognition of the basic rights of all individuals. These individuals include the unborn, who have their own due importance. They also have rights which cannot be taken away from them. One such right is the right to life.
The 'Catechism of the Catholic Church' (1992) states that the embryo
must be treated from conception as a person (n. 2274) and it stresses that the
inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive
element of a civil society and its legislation.
The Catechism quotes from the document 'Donum Vitae' ('The
gift of life') from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
(the office that deals with matters of faith and morals). That document says:
"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by
civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on
single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by
the society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the
persons by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin.
Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human
being's right to life ... from the moment of conception until death."
In other words, a person does not have a right to life because
someone gives him/her that right. The person
has the right to live because he/she is a human being, and a human being
from the moment of conception. As no-one can give him/her that right, no-one can
take it away also.
The same argument applies in the case of euthanasia. Nobody has the
right to take away the gift of life from an old or sick person, even if that
person appears to have given consent or expressed a desire to be put to death.
The Church says that "ordinary" means of preserving life should be
used in the case of irreversibly or terminally ill people, but
"extraordinary" means are not demanded. This is especially true when
treatment may be difficult or painful and have no lasting effect.
In other words, if a person is clearly soon going to die, medical
care may be withdrawn and that person be allowed to die naturally. In all cases,
treatment for pain relief should be given, since this is considered as
"ordinary". Food and water are not medical treatment and withdrawing
them from a terminally ill person is wrong and actually causes death.
Recent formal teaching of the Pope
In 1995, Pope John Paul II wrote an encyclical letter (a teaching letter to the whole Catholic Church) called 'Evangelium Vitae' (Latin for 'The Gospel of Life'). In that he deals with three major 'life' issues, abortion, euthanasia and the destruction of human embryos in medical research. He also touches briefly on issues like suicide and the death penalty. The letter repeats very clearly the Catholic Church's position on abortion.
basic principle stated is: "I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing
of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral" (EV n. 57). This
principle applies to all the aforesaid cases. The principle admits that
accidental and even indirect killing is not always wrong, and that legitimate
self-defense can sometimes cause death.
Pope calls abortion murder, saying that we need now more than ever to have the
courage to look things in the eye and call things by their proper name. He
acknowledges the tragedy that abortion can often be for the mother, and the
emotional suffering it might cause her. The decision is often not made for
selfish reasons, but to protect things like her own health or the living
standards of the rest of the family. Sometimes there is a fear that the
conditions into which the child is to be born are so bad that it is better that
the child is not born. Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however
serious and tragic, can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent
human being (EV n. 58).
The word 'euthanasia' comes from two Greek words whose literal
meaning is "well death". Today it is also referred to as "mercy
killing" and is understood as causing or bringing about a person's death
painlessly, usually because the person is suffering greatly, terminally or
irreversibly ill, or severely mentally, or physically disabled. It means doing
something (or omitting to do something) with the intention of causing death: the
intention is a very important element.
While presumably mercy killing has been practiced throughout
history and in different cultures, attempts to make it legal have been made only
fairly recently. In some countries attempts have been made to legalize
euthanasia, without much success.
In 1940 the Catholic Church officially condemned the administering of euthanasia to a person with physical or mental defects or for economic or racial reasons. The Church has repeated its opposition many times since then.
The Church's position: the right to life
The Church's opposition to euthanasia is founded on the principle
that all human life is sacred, and no-one has the right to take away that life -
there are exceptional circumstances when the Church would accept that life might
be taken deliberately, but these are only for reasons of self-defense and
capital punishment. Even in the case of capital punishment, however, the Church
would argue that there would appear to be very few cases when some other sort of
punishment might not be found as an alternative to capital punishment.
The position was stated most recently in the Pope's Encyclical
Letter Evangelium Vitae (Latin for "The Gospel of Life") of March
1995. The document takes as one of its starting points what it calls "the
incomparable value of every human person" (EV n. 2). This means that each
human life is to be valued from its very beginning (which the Church regards as
the moment of conception) to the moment of natural death. Nobody has the right
to take that life from another person, even if the person has appeared to give
consent. Since it would be premeditated killing, the Pope says that (depending
on the circumstances) it is the same as murder.
The Pope suggests that a prevailing tendency today sees life as
something that should bring pleasure and well-being, and that suffering is seen
as a setback that people cannot accept. In this case death becomes a
'liberation' from suffering. He also speaks of a culture which sees people in
terms of their 'productivity' or efficiency: when people grow old they then
become a burden on society and so their lives lose their value.
Euthanasia and the treatment of the dying
The Church makes an important distinction between euthanasia and
what it calls "aggressive medical treatment" to prolong the life of a
terminally-ill person. Sometimes a person's life can be prolonged for a short
period by medical treatment. If, however, that treatment is both costly (in
terms of resources) and distressing for the patient (and family), it may be
judged better to allow the patient to die naturally. Clearly, nothing can be
done that will deliberately cause or hasten the death of the patient. In all
cases ordinary medical treatment (especially pain-relief) should be continued.
In some cases, the use of large doses of pain-killers can actually bring on or
speed up the death of the patient. Pope Pius XII in 1957 said that it is
acceptable to relieve pain with drugs even if this leads to lower levels of
consciousness and accelerated death. He did stress that it is not right to
deprive people of consciousness without good reason, because people need to be
able to respond to others, especially family, and (if they are religious)
prepare themselves to meet God.
There is an important point to be made here with regard to what
'medical treatment' means. In some cases of what is called 'persistent
vegetative state' (PVS), patients have had not only medical treatment but also
food and water withdrawn from them. This of course leads to their death. The
Church would not accept that food and water are medicine, and to withdraw this
basic ordinary sustenance is effectively to kill someone by starving them to
It is argued sometimes that the patient's own consent or request
for euthanasia should be the most important consideration. There is a serious
risk, however, that if people say while they are healthy that they want to be
'put to sleep' if ever they become a burden etc. they might actually feel very
differently about it when they are in that condition; the problem is all the
more difficult if they are no longer able to communicate their wishes clearly.
Similarly, if one is in great pain or suffering from mental problems then the
person is not in a position to make a free and balanced decision.
Decisions left in the hands of doctors or relatives are very
risky also. It might not always be clear that relatives or doctors are always
acting in the patients' best interests. A doctor may be waiting for an organ for
a transplant, for instance, or for a bed to become free, and relatives may
simply wish to be relieved of the burden of an ill member of the family. Consent
alone, however, would never justify the taking of another person's life. There
have been recent examples of people that have been diagnosed as PVS (see above),
and when doctors have been able to communicate with them and ask them if they
want to live, the answer 'yes' has come back clearly. This has led to calls for
more research into PVS.
On 25 June 1997, the Pontifical Academy for Life issued a document
called Reflections on Cloning. The document concludes with a summary of two
fundamental moral objections to cloning.
A first objection relates to the dignity of human procreation. Each
human person should have the right to be born of the natural sexual union of a
man and a woman. Cloning would be a denial of this process and this right. The
cloning process would involve what the document calls a 'radical rupture' of the
ordinary bonds of parenting and family. Cloning is the production of a life in a
process that is the most removed of all from the truly human process.
The second is related to the dignity that is to be accorded to each
person without discrimination. That dignity demands the recognition that a
person is never to be treated merely as a means to another end. A cloning
programme may be aimed at the production of genetically engineered human beings,
or may be undertaken to replicate genetically one particular human being. Doing
this means subordinating such cloned beings to the purposes of others, for
utility or satisfaction or even mere curiosity. Such a process is intrinsically
The Pontifical Academy was instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1994
specifically to examine bioethical issues. It is based in the Vatican.
Over the last two decades
scientific developments have been proceeding at a rapid pace. Nowhere has this
been more true than in human genetics. One cannot pick up the daily paper or
listen to a news show without hearing of yet another new discovery, development
or application of a new procedure.
There are two main problems
with this steady stream of information: The information itself is becoming more
and more complex and the applications are predicted to be revolutionary.
Frequently the research is only at the very beginning stages. Much of this
research has an ethical dimension. In this Update we'll take a look at
the field of stem-cell research. We'll explain what stem cells are and why there
are ethical concerns.
Most Americans have had some
sort of a biology course in high school; some have had a college-level course;
but few have had specific courses in molecular genetics or bioengineering. Thus
we may have some sort of general idea of the topic, but not grasp the real core
issues. Several ethical issues were raised with the recent near-completion of
the Human Genome Project (the project that identified and mapped the structure
of human DNA)—privacy, potential disqualification for insurance, the
possibility of predicting some aspects of one's health at birth, to name just a
few. The technology goes forward, however, and often without sufficient
breathing room to understand the technology, much less consider its
This happened again with the
debate over embryonic stem-cell research. Research on adult and embryonic stem
cells of animals and humans has been going on for several years, and a national
bioethics commission made some recommendations about this research. On August 9,
2001, President Bush announced his decision to allow the federal government to
provide funding for research on 64 lines of embryonic stem cells. These lines
came from destroyed human embryos obtained from in vitro fertilization clinics.
The president's decision caused an enormous debate in terms of both science and
ethics. Many commentators, religious leaders, scientists and members of the
public weighed in on various sides of the debate, and an advisory committee will
now monitor the research. But what is the debate about?
WHAT ARE STEM CELLS, ANYWAY?
First, what are stem cells and
why are they so important? Essentially, stem cells are cells that have the
potential to become many different kinds of cells. They are the means by which
cells in the body can be replenished. In the very early embryo these cells are totipotent—that
is, they have the potency to become any kind of body cell. In adult stem cells,
the cells are pluripotent—they have the capacity to become a variety of
cells, but not all. Scientists hope to obtain lines of these embryonic stem
cells—large numbers of them grown from a common source—and coax them into
becoming specific kinds of cells.
For example, a biologist at my
college recently succeeded in having blood cells from bone marrow grow into
nerve cells. Other scientists have recently reported success in having embryonic
stem cells grow into three different types of blood cells. The goal of this
research is to use these stem cells to develop various tissues that can then be
used to repair damaged tissues in the body—heart tissue to repair a damaged
heart, nerve tissue to repair a damaged spinal column or reverse the effects of
Alzheimer's disease. The research is very interesting, complex and promising.
WHICH STEM CELLS?
Now let's look at a particular
kind of ethical problem. Which stem cells should be used for research, adult or
embryonic? Many have argued that adult stem cells are difficult to obtain, very
hard to coax into developing into other tissues and, consequently, their use
would involve much more time and money to obtain the desired results. Up until
very recently, this was generally true.
But now research has shown
that adult stem cells can be isolated and developed. If this research continues
to be successful, there may no reason whatsoever to use embryonic stem cells,
which requires destruction of early embryos and poses a serious ethical problem.
Many argue that adult stem cells are where the resources for stem-cell research
should be directed. Continued success in this area would essentially eliminate
the need for embryonic stem cells—and put an end to a major ethical problem.
But the problem is that the
Bush proposal—and indeed the desire of many scientists and many in
Congress—is to use federal funds to support research on stem cells extracted
from already destroyed human embryos. Is this ethical? There are actually
two ethical questions here: First, is the destruction of the very early embryo
immoral? Second, if a vaccine or tissue is generated from these human embryonic
stem cells, would someone act unethically in using it?
Over the last few decades
there has been a strong affirmation by the pope and bishops that the human
embryo is to be valued and, in effect, treated as a person from the time of
fertilization forward. It is not to be destroyed or seen as disposable tissue
that can be used in research as any other tissue might be. Nor should such
embryos be generated specifically for research purposes. This of course is
possible, given the technology of in vitro, "outside the body,"
fertilization. And in fact, one fertility clinic in Virginia has reported that
in fact that is exactly what it is doing.
REACTIONS FROM POPE AND
What is the moral status of
the early embryo? Pope John Paul II gave his perspective on this debate in an
address to President Bush on July 23, 2001, during his papal visit. The pope
rearticulated his position on the use of embryos by saying: "Experience is
already showing how a tragic coarsening of consciences accompanies the assault
on innocent human life in the womb, leading to accommodation and acquiescence in
the face of other related evils such as euthanasia, infanticide and, most
recently, proposals for the creation for research purposes of human embryos,
destined to be destroyed in the process." The pope also called for the
United States to show the world that we can be masters and not products of
In a similar, though more
specific response to the Bush stem-cell proposal, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza,
then president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: "However,
the trade-off [Bush] has announced is morally unacceptable: The federal
government, for the first time in history, will support research that relies on
the destruction of some defenseless human beings for the possible benefit to
others. However such a decision is hedged about with qualification, it allows
our nation's research enterprise to cultivate a disrespect for human life....The
President's policy may therefore prove to be as unworkable as it is morally
wrong, ultimately serving only those whose goal is unlimited embryo
These claims are reflective of
the traditional teaching recently restated, for example, in the Instruction from
the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Vitae, that the
"human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of
conception and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be
recognized" (I, 1).
The Instruction is careful to
note that the Church has not taken a philosophical position on the time of
ensoulment. However, "From the moment of conception, the life of every
human being is to be respected in an absolute way…" (Donum Vitae,
While the hierarchy of the
Catholic Church has left open the resolution of the actual time of ensoulment,
it has in fact insisted that the prudent response would be to recognize that as
a practical matter ensoulment is coincident with fertilization. This position,
combined with the traditional respect-for-life position of the Church, is what
propels its opposition to embryonic stem-cell research.
THE BEGINNING OF LIFE
Some, while respecting this
teaching of the Church, make further ethical observations about the early
embryo. First, fertilization is a process that takes about 24 hours to complete
and therefore is not a specific moment one can point to. As a side note, should
a human be cloned, there would be no fertilization at all because the nucleus of
one cell is placed into another cell that has its nucleus removed and is
stimulated to begin cell division. The life of that individual would not begin
Second, the whole development
of an embryo into a fetus and eventually into a child is a process, not a series
of sharply defined steps. This is important because it is really difficult to
tell precisely where a fetus is in the process of development. One knows where
the fetus is after the stage has been entered into. It is not easy to make
precise developmental statements and then moral judgments made in relation to
But more specifically, many
ethicists focus on the fact that up until about a week or so into the pregnancy,
the fertilized egg has the capacity to divide and become identical twins. In
some cases it has been observed that such divided eggs blend back together into
one blastocyst (what the fertilized egg is called at around 4-5 days of
And if the egg is fertilized
in vitro, one cell can be removed (to have its genetic structure analyzed) and
the developmental process is not harmed. In fact, all the cells of the
blastocyst can be separated and each has the capacity to become a whole human
being. This point is clearly important biologically: These cells can become
either a whole organism or be coaxed into becoming any specialized cell in the
But this is important
philosophically also. Because the cells of the blastocyst can be divided so that
each part can become a whole, the blastocyst lacks true individuality—the
capacity not to be able to be divided.
If one were to divide me, you
would wind up with two halves. If one divides the cells of the blastocyst, one
obtains several cells all capable of becoming individuals. The reason why this
is philosophically important is that if the organism is not first an individual,
it is difficult to understand how it could be a person. Being an individual
organism is a first necessary, though certainly not sufficient, stage for being
On the basis of the argument
that the blastocyst is not yet an individual, some would argue that while the
blastocyst is a living organism, possessing the human genetic code, such an
organism is indeed valuable, but its value is not yet that accorded to a person.
Therefore some would conclude
that killing the human blastocyst is not murder because there is as yet no
personal subject to experience that wrong. Such a killing is a disvalue, to be
sure, but a disvalue that might be offset by other positive values, such as
health. The conclusion that some would draw, then, is that at least a case can
be made for the use of human embryos in stem-cell research.
Once again, the Church does
not endorse this view. The specific reason for the rejection of this position is
the affirmation that fertilization, the time when egg and sperm merge and form a
new genotype, is considered to be the biological beginning of the new human
life. Together with this affirmation is the correlative presumption that this is
the time of the infusion of the soul. Although there is no official doctrine on
this position, the attitude of the Church is that moral priority should be given
to this position.
The second problem is, could
someone use a vaccine or tissues from such research in an ethical way? The term
for this problem in moral theology is called cooperation. It can be
either formal or material. Formal cooperation involves a person
directly intending to participate in the evil act of another. For example, a
person would be formally cooperating with a moral wrong if he or she obtained
drugs and helped prepare them so they can be used for euthanasia.
Cooperation may be material,
not formal, if a person does not intend the evil act but may be involved in some
of its consequences. For example, a nurse who is opposed to abortion but works
in a hospital where abortions are occasionally performed may still provide
nursing care for the woman who came for abortion.
In the case of stem-cell
research, this framework of degrees of cooperation allows several responses to
be proposed. First, the patient need not intend the destruction of the embryos
and thus any cooperation would not be formal. Thus, one could use the vaccines
without an ethical breach. Second, the moral distance between the use of the
vaccine by the patient and the original research is so great as to render any
cooperation remote at best.
Finally, for use of the
research to be immoral, the act of destroying a blastocyst must itself be
immoral. If one follows the line of reasoning that the blastocyst is not yet an
individual and, therefore, not yet a person, its killing would certainly be a
disvalue but would not be a moral evil having the equivalence of murder. Thus
individuals would be able to use the clinical products that come from such
Such reasoning would be
unacceptable to the teaching of, for example, Donum Vitae or the
encyclical letter of John Paul II Evangelium Vitae. The basis for
rejecting such procedures is the recognition of the human embryo's being
accepted as a full human person from the moment of conception and, therefore,
having an intrinsic dignity and value that cannot be compromised in the name of
THE BROADER ETHICAL QUESTION
But there is another question
that is, I think, equally as important as the ethics of the use of human embryos
in research. That question is a public policy question: Should we continue with
our policy of research into high-tech, expensive therapies that may not be
available to many citizens because they are uninsured, underinsured, or because
their insurance plans might not cover experimental treatments? The dominant
trend in American medicine is high-tech intervention to cure or try to maintain
the status quo of a patient. The implantation of a new model of an artificial
heart is another example of such high-tech intervention. Clearly many of these
interventions do save lives. And significant developments have been made in the
treatment of many forms of cancer. But some perceptions of the success of these
interventions are inflated. One study showed that on television shows the
success rate of cardiopulmonary resuscitation is over 70%. In real hospitals,
however, the success rate is under 5%. This is not in itself a reason not to do
CPR, but perhaps we might question whether it is appropriate in the particular
circumstances of this patient.
The stem-cell debate might be
an opportunity for us to ask if we should not, as a nation, begin to focus on
prevention rather than cure as our dominant health-care strategy.
Prevention will not prevent
all diseases and will not help if there is a trauma such as a car accident. But
a strategy of prevention including services such as care for pregnant women
including proper diet information, well-baby exams including vaccinations, and
information on lifestyle issues such as diet, smoking and excess drinking would
go a long way to preventing the early onset of many diseases.
The resistance to removing or
restricting the use of soda and candy machines in elementary and secondary
schools shows that we have a long way to go in even thinking about the most
elemental forms of prevention of disease.
Of course prevention is rather
boring. It certainly would make for very dull TV shows. Who would not rather
watch the fast-paced, high-tech ER than a physician instruct a person in a
proper diet? Anyway, who wants to watch his or her diet all the time? Who has
time for exercise and all the other things we learn are good for us? Prevention
is a hard sell. But, in the long run, it is better to try to prevent heart
disease than repair a damaged heart. It is better to manage one's diet than take
insulin continuously or have a leg amputated because of circulation problems
resulting from diabetes.
I am not arguing that we
should abandon research or high-tech medicine. I am arguing that we as a country
seriously need a national debate on health care and the kind of interventions
that would be beneficial for all citizens, not just the wealthy.
Currently, it seems like much
research on specific diseases is driven by powerful lobbying groups who have
celebrity spokespersons who sometimes have the disease for which funding is
sought. Parents whose children are afflicted with terrible diseases bring their
children to congressional hearing rooms. The implication is that if Congress
does not fund this particular legislation and a relative dies, it is the direct
fault of Congress. But we know that we cannot fund research for all diseases,
and certainly we cannot fund them equally. While all of us are sympathetic to
the plight of the sick and suffering, a genuine ethical question is, who get
access to such congressional hearings? One seldom sees the poor, the socially
marginalized, the unemployed, the underinsured moving about in these circles.
How does health-care policy affect their lives, particularly since they probably
have no insurance to begin with?
What I am arguing here is that
the stem-cell debate focuses our attention on yet another critical and important
technical development in the fight against disease. Yet it also should make us
question whether we as a country should channel all our resources to this form
of research, or should we also begin to devote resources to prevention. Our
health-care budget is limited; thus the question of the justice of how such
resources are allocated is a critical one.
In addressing all of the
questions covered in this Update, it's important to remember the Church
does not wish merely to be a naysayer against development and scientific
progress. In fact, the Church is very positive and supportive about advances in
science that improve the quality of human life.
Most of the world knows that
the Church works in many places, often in areas of high poverty, seeking to help
liberate the human family from disease. In evaluating how to move ahead, whether
it is in the laboratory or in society at large, always we are to remember an
underlying principle: to value the dignity of human life.
Is Stem-Cell Research Moral?
What is the
Catholic Church's position on stem-cell research? How did the Church arrive at
debate over federal funding for stem-cell research involves in vitro
fertilization (in a petri dish) to create embryos from which stem cells can be
extracted. This debate includes research on "leftover" embryos, those
created in a petri dish but not used for implantation in a woman's uterus.
Church's objection is to creating life this way—whether the embryo is
successfully implanted or used only for research. In either case, a human life
is created but deliberately prevented from reaching its full potential.
In his 1995
encyclical The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II wrote: "Human
embryos obtained in vitro are human beings and are subjects with rights; their
dignity and right to life must be respected from the first moment of their
existence. It is immoral to produce human embryos destined to be exploited as
disposable 'biological material'" (1,5).
fertilization is not the only way to obtain stem cells. They can be extracted
from adults (not as usable for research) or from an umbilical cord after a child
is born. The Catholic Church has no objection to research using stem cells in
those ways. The use of that research is a separate, but related, moral issue.
theologian whom I consulted said that opposition to federal funding on stem
cells from embryos created expressly for this purpose also reflects fear that
such approval may lead to direct federal funding for abortion (currently not
allowed) because this authorization could be used as an argument that embryos
are not human persons. Aborted fetuses are also a source of stem cells. That, of
course, emphasizes that these are human lives.
On June 29,
2001, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops, wrote on behalf of the nation's Catholic bishops to President George W.
Bush, urging him not to authorize federal funding for embryonic stem-cell
research. "Government must not treat any living human being as research
material, as a mere means for benefit to others," wrote Bishop Fiorenza.
Pope John Paul II made the same request during a private meeting with President
Bush on July 23, 2001.
On August 23,
2000, the National Institutes of Health issued guidelines on stem-cell research.
That same day, Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat for
Pro-Life Activities at the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops
(headquartered in Washington, D.C.), issued a strong critique of those
guidelines. Both documents can be found in the September 7, 2000, issue of Origins,
a newsletter published by Catholic News Service. Your parish or local library
may have a subscription.
whom I consulted wrote, "While much good may come from the proposed
research, we must not lose sight of the fact that the means used to reach that
good end must also be moral. The end does not justify the means. In this case,
curing even thousands of persons does not justify the destruction of others,
even though they are still in the embryonic state of development."