– Fausto Gomez OP
Cloning of cells and tissues is a valued biomedical technique, particularly in regenerative medicine, and offers no major ethical problem as long as the general norms of research on human subjects are followed. In this context, “the manipulation of animal or plant cells is acceptable as long as there is proper use, no scientific and financial exploitation,” and respect for biodiversity (Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, Charter for Health Care Workers, 2016).
Most people throughout the world consider human cloning “repugnant,” immoral. The European Council has forbidden human cloning: “Any intervention whose object is to create a human being genetically identical to another, whether alive or dead is forbidden.” The Declaration on Human Cloning, endorsed by the United Nations (2015) invites all member states to “prohibit all forms of human cloning, in as much as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life.” Similarly UNESCO: “Practices contrary to human dignity, such as cloning whose end is the reproduction of human beings.”
BASIC ETHCIAL VALUES
Why is human cloning immoral? The manipulation of human beings through cloning is contrary to human dignity, singularity, autonomy, equality, and other basic ethical values related to sexual relations, procreation, marriage and family. It is de-humanizing.
Reproductive human cloning is against human dignity and individual identity. Human dignity is sublime human dignity, the incomparable value of every person. It includes essentially the right to individual identity and singularity (cf Pontifical Academy Pro-Vita, Reflection on Cloning, 1997). Each individual person is unique, and unrepeatable, precisely because he or she is a person with unique inherent dignity (rational, free, relational, transcendent) and basic rights. Each person wants to be himself or herself, and live his/her life: “Genetic difference is a powerful symbol of separate identity” (H. Watt). Human cloning is the “production” of a copy of another human being – a copy almost identical to the one who provided the nucleus. The body of the person is constitutive element of the human person, who is body-soul, “one in body and soul” (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes). In the body and through the body, one touches the person himself/herself in his concrete reality.
Reproductive human cloning treats the cloned individual as “means.” Reproductive cloning implies a manipulation of human beings: the human embryo is treated as a means. The “product” of reproductive cloning is “used” as a means and not respected as an end. Hence, it is immoral: every person is an end in himself or herself, never a means to another (Kant). Cloning turns the human being to be born through reproductive technologies as if it were a thing: “the child is treated as an artifact” (J. A. Martinez Camino). He will not be anthropologically unique, but someone else: a duplicate. This will be for the cloned individual psychologically traumatic: “I got to be me.”
Reproductive human cloning is against the nature of human sexuality and procreation. It is against the natural order of sexual relations and procreation. It is asexual “production” of an individual through technical intervention, instead of being pro-created from the intimate sexual actuation of a married couple, the man and the woman who are his/her parents. As the Pontifical Academy for Life comments, cloning “tends to make bisexuality a purely functional leftover, given that an ovum must be used without its nucleus in order to make room for the clone-embryo.” The asexual reproduction may make the contribution of men – as husbands and fathers – not needed. Unscrupulous, inhuman, unethical powerful persons may manipulate human cloning to “produce” servants – slaves -, or all women, or all men, or “designer babies,” or babies “a la carte.”
Ethically speaking, reproductive human cloning is immoral and totally unjustifiable. Christian faith accepts the ethical arguments, and goes beyond them.
CHRISTIAN FAITH AND REPRODUCTIVE HUMAN CLONING
Based on rational and theological arguments, the Catholic Church in particular condemns human cloning and other reproductive technologies, including in vitro fertilization (IVF). We read in the important document Donum Vitae: “These procedures are contrary to the human dignity proper to the embryo, and at the same time they are contrary to the right of every person to be conceived and to be born within marriage and from marriage” (Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Vitae, 1987).
Reproductive human cloning is against the principle of human dignity: “At every stage of his existence, man, created in the image and likeness of God, reflects the face of his Only-begotten Son” (Dignitas Personae). Human cloning today amounts to tinkering with human nature. It entails predetermining the characteristics of a human being: providing one’s genetic identity to the cloned individual amounts to an imposition – to “biological slavery” (New Charter for Health Care Workers). Of course, the human soul cannot be cloned: it comes from God. God is the creator. It is important to note, furthermore, “that in the attempt to create a new type of human being one can recognize an ideological element in which man tries to take the place of his Creator (Dignitas Personae).
Reproductive human cloning is against the ethical principles of equality and singularity. As a human being and a Christian, we insist: To want to reproduce a duplicate of ourselves appears immorally egotistic; to wish xeroxed copies (clones) of specially endowed persons will end in discrimination and inequality. Human cloning is, furthermore, against the right to singularity: “The fact that someone would arrogate to himself the right to determine arbitrarily the genetic characteristics of another person represents a grave offence to the dignity of that person as well as to the fundamental equality of all people” (Dignitas Personae).
Reproductive human cloning is against the nature of human sexuality and marriage, and therefore “intrinsically illicit” (Dignitas Personae). Asexual reproduction is clearly against the proper meaning of human sexuality as language of life and love. Human sexuality is an integral constitutive part of human personhood. It speaks of the complementariness between man and woman. Human cloning is against marriage as union between husband and wife, as “reciprocal self-giving” between husband and wife. Conjugal love between the spouses is manifested in conjugal actuation, which is a deep expression of marital love open to life. The two inseparable meanings of the conjugal act are the unitive (love-making) and the procreative (life-making) meanings. Reproductive human cloning is against God’s plan: “In the encounter with another person, we meet a human being who owes his existence and his proper characteristics to the love of God, and only the love of husband and wife constitutes a mediation of that love in conformity with the plan of the creator and heavenly Father” (Dignitas Personae). Indeed, human cloning entails “a radical manipulation of the constitutive relationality and complementarity at the origins of human reproduction” (Reflection on Human Cloning).
In human cloning, parenthood is impoverished (H. Watt). The cloned individual will have no genetic parents, but only “providers” of nucleus and enucleated egg. A child has the right to be conceived by an authentic conjugal act between husband and wife, and be gestated by his/her mother. Children have a right to their unique genetic identity and autonomy; to be born of two parents: to be “begotten,” not “made” as objects in a laboratory; procreated, not “produced.” In the technique of cloning, women may be reduced to purely biological functions (providing ova and womb).
Certainly, the cloned child will have the same dignity and rights of a child who is procreated by his/her mother and father: “Every child which comes into the world must in any case be accepted as a living gift of the divine Goodness and must be brought up with love” (Donum Vitae).