Rorate Caeli
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Instruction "Dignitas personæ"
on some bioethical questions

Introduction

1. The dignity of a person must be recognized in every human being from conception to natural death. This fundamental principle expresses a great “yes” to human life and must be at the center of ethical reflection on biomedical research, which has an ever greater importance in today’s world. The Church’s Magisterium has frequently intervened to clarify and resolve moral questions in this area. The Instruction Donum vitae was particularly significant. And now, twenty years after its publication, it is appropriate to bring it up to date.

The teaching of Donum vitae remains completely valid, both with regard to the principles on which it is based and the moral evaluations which it expresses. However, new biomedical technologies which have been introduced in the critical area of human life and the family have given rise to further questions, in particular in the field of research on human embryos, the use of stem cells for therapeutic purposes, as well as in other areas of experimental medicine. These new questions require answers. The pace of scientific developments in this area and the publicity they have received have raised expectations and concerns in large sectors of public opinion. Legislative assemblies have been asked to make decisions on these questions in order to regulate them by law; at times, wider popular consultation has also taken place. These developments have led the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to prepare a new doctrinal Instruction which addresses some recent questions in the light of the criteria expressed in the Instruction Donum vitae and which also examines some issues that were treated earlier, but are in need of additional clarification.

2. In undertaking this study, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has benefited from the analysis of the Pontifical Academy for Life and has consulted numerous experts with regard to the scientific aspects of these questions, in order to address them with the principles of Christian anthropology. The Encyclicals Veritatis splendor and Evangelium vitae of John Paul II, as well as other interventions of the Magisterium, offer clear indications with regard to both the method and the content of the examination of the problems under consideration.

15 comments:

Jordanes said...

Very appropriate it was issued on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the pro-life movement and protector of the unborn.

Dan Hunter said...

Excellent document, but wasn't this already established by the Vatican in documentation previously?

Jordanes said...

It's an update of Donum Vitae, to address new immoral technologies that have been developed since that earlier document was issued. No doubt there might be those who would argue that since the Church hadn't formally condemned the new technologies, they might be okay. Simply applying the principles of Donum Vitae would enable one to conclude the new developments are immoral, but the Church is removing all doubt by issuing a statement through under her ordinary magisterium.

Dan Hunter said...

Jordanes,

Thank you.

Michael R. said...

This document seems to be saying that existing frozen embryos cannot be implanted in the womb of an "adopted" mother, and cannot be destroyed. Am I reading this corectly?

Jordanes said...

I'm not sure that's exactly what it's saying, but I think your appraisal is pretty much an accurate one. The relevant passage is:

It has also been proposed, solely in order to allow human beings to be born who are otherwise condemned to destruction, that there could be a form of “prenatal adoption”. This proposal, praiseworthy with regard to the intention of respecting and defending human life, presents however various problems not dissimilar to those mentioned above. All things considered, it needs to be recognized that the thousands of abandoned embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved. Therefore John Paul II made an “appeal to the conscience of the world’s scientific authorities and in particular to doctors, that the production of human embryos be halted, taking into account that there seems to be no morally licit solution regarding the human destiny of the thousands and thousands of ‘frozen’ embryos which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons”.39

So, it would be that existing frozen embryos may not LICITLY be implanted in the womb of an "adopted" mother, and may not licitly be destroyed. Anything we try to do to solve this problem will be sinful. It acknowledges that the intention is praiseworthy even though the action is morally illicit, and under double effect the action itself must not be sinful: the good intention of saving a life doesn't make the act licit. The Church can't approve prenatal adoption of frozen embryos, because the Church can't tell people, "Do evil that good may come of it." I suppose the only "solution," such as it is, is to stop producing human embryos illicitly and wait a few decades to let the deep freeze kill the embryos now frozen, taking no further direct acts to end their lives (and I think thawing them and letting them die is too close to a direct act to be licit).

It's a monstrously sick and twisted world we live in . . . .

Anonymous said...

Unless I am getting confused with some other bioethical issue, I believe I have heard (from a reputable priest) of a moral solution to the question of frozen embryos.

That is, the natural mother of these embryos is obligated in justice to give birth to these people, so the natural law is fulfilled.

Again, someone more knowledgeable than me may be able to offer further insight, if any...

Jordanes said...

That is, the natural mother of these embryos is obligated in justice to give birth to these people, so the natural law is fulfilled.

Yes, that would be perhaps the least morally objectionable thing that could be done, even though it does not remove the illicitness of the way they were conceived and would be implanted. As a practical matter, of course, it is unlikely that most of these mothers would be able to carry and give birth to all of their children who are now frozen: in some cases there are 10 or more embryos, and many times these mothers are middle aged or approaching middle age.

Theophilus said...

It is useless to issue such document to a dechristianized (not to mention decatholicized) world. Unless it is for Catholics in name only who have a misconception about the matter due to bad catechesis, but those do not care either.

Joe B said...

I have an issue with it. It says it might be OK to vaccinate children with vaccines from stem cells obtained from illicit sources (that includes abortion sources) so long as you tell them you don't agree with it.

Search under vaccines to find it. There seems to be a problem in there.

Jordanes said...

For most people, using such vaccines that were originally made from aborted babies is a form of remote material cooperation in evil, which can be justified for proportionate reasons.

Joe B said...

I understand the theory of proportionate reasoning and it's application if using the vaccines didn't support continued abortions. If one were merely using up old cadavers, maybe. But that's not the case here. More babies will be murdered if the vaccines are used and work. Hard to figure a proportionate reason for supporting more mass baby butchering.

And I think the pre-Vatican II reasoning would have been to reject this case altogether and instead strongly encourage the development of other sources of vaccines, as it is getting harder and harder to deny that other licit sources are or would be available with a little scientific effort.

This loophole will now be used to further the need for more abortions and for parents to give consent when it isn't truly applicable. Not very well thought out in the big picture.

Jordanes said...

I understand the theory of proportionate reasoning and it's application if using the vaccines didn't support continued abortions. If one were merely using up old cadavers, maybe. But that's not the case here. More babies will be murdered if the vaccines are used and work. Hard to figure a proportionate reason for supporting more mass baby butchering.

The Church does not say that use of such vaccines is necessarily the same as supportiung more mass baby butchering. Also, we have to consider not just whether or not there are proportionate reasons, but also "differing degrees of responsibility." The Church in "Dignitas Personae" said:

"Grave reasons may be morally proportionate to justify the use of such 'biological material.' Thus, for example, danger to the health of children could permit parents to use a vaccine which was developed using cell lines of illicit origin, while keeping in mind that everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their health care system make other types of vaccines available. Moreover, in organizations where cell lines of illicit origin are being utilized, the responsibility of those who make the decision to use them is not the same as that of those who have no voice in such a decision."

Researchers, clinical professionals, always have an obligation never to kill children to obtain material for creating vaccines, and never to use such material obtained from slaughtered children. But the fact is that parents do not always have an obligation to refrain from using such vaccines.

This loophole will now be used to further the need for more abortions and for parents to give consent when it isn't truly applicable. Not very well thought out in the big picture.

People can take anything the Church says and twist it to their own ends. Those looking for loopholes will "find" them even if they aren't there. That doesn't mean the Church shouldn't say what might or might not be justifiable in any given situation.

Joe B said...

"The Church does not say that use of such vaccines is necessarily the same as supporting more mass baby butchering."

But that is exactly what happens, therefore it is.

"Also, we have to consider not just whether or not there are proportionate reasons, but also differing degrees of responsibility."

Including the responsibility of whoever ultimately put this abortion industry-supporting document out.

"People can take anything the Church says and twist it to their own ends. Those looking for loopholes will "find" them even if they aren't there."

Good people aren't looking for loopholes. They just don't know the limits, and the abortion industry isn't going to tell them, it's just going to go right on doing it's grisly work until challenged, and then they are going to pull this quote out and say something like "See, the Catholic Church approves this work. It's all about saving lives, and who's child's death isn't grave enough - yours?"

"That doesn't mean the Church shouldn't say what might or might not be justifiable in any given situation."

And the killings continue. You still haven't given us a justifiable situation. We need teachings based on eyes-wide-open reality, not theoretical possibilities (or impossibilities, in this case).

Jordanes said...

But that is exactly what happens, therefore it is.

In your opinion. Your Holy Mother disagrees with you.

Including the responsibility of whoever ultimately put this abortion industry-supporting document out.

If you really think this document is "abortion industry-supporting," then you would seem not to have the intellectual gifts and dispositions necessary to understand such documents, so you should probably just not bother trying.

then they are going to pull this quote out and say something like "See, the Catholic Church approves this work. It's all about saving lives, and who's child's death isn't grave enough - yours?"

As I said, those looking for loopholes will "find" them even if they aren't there." But the fact remains that the document doesn't say what such loophole-seekers would claim that it says.

You seem to want the Church to just come right out and say that it is never justifiable for people to use vaccines manufactured today from biological material cultured from biological material cultured from biological material cultured from the flesh of murdered unborn children. But the Church correctly says that it can be justified to use such vaccines. I understand that you don't like it, and yet that is what the Church says.

And the killings continue.

That doesn't mean the Church shouldn't say what might or might not be justifiable in any given situation.

You still haven't given us a justifiable situation.

The document does.

We need teachings based on eyes-wide-open reality, not theoretical possibilities (or impossibilities, in this case).

Then you should have no problem with Dignitas personae.