Pope Benedict XVI invited the members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to give particular attention to “the difficult and complex problems of bioethics.” In this context, he indicated that the “Church’s magisterium certainly cannot and should not intervene on every scientific innovation. Rather, it has the task of reiterating the great values at stake, and providing the faithful, and all men and women of good will, with ethical-moral principles and guidelines for these new and important questions.”
“The two fundamental criteria for moral discernment in this field,” he added, “are unconditional respect for the human being as a person, from conception to natural death; and respect for the origin of the transmission of human life through the acts of the spouses.”
The Pope highlighted new problems associated with such questions, such as the freezing of human embryos, pre-implantation diagnosis, stem cell research and attempts at human cloning.
All these, he said, “clearly show how, with artificial insemination outside the body, the barrier protecting human dignity has been broken. When human beings in the weakest and most defenseless stage of their existence are selected, abandoned, killed or used as pure ‘biological matter,’ how can it be denied that they are no longer being treated as ‘someone’ but as ‘something,’ thus placing the very concept of human dignity in doubt.”
The Holy Father highlighted how “the Church appreciates and encourages progress in the biomedical sciences, which opens up previously unimagined therapeutic possibilities.”
At the same time, he pointed out that “she feels the need to enlighten everyone’s consciences so that scientific progress may be truly respectful of all human beings, who must be recognized as having individual dignity because they have been created in the image of God.” In this context, he concluded by ensuring participants in the plenary assembly that study of such themes “will certainly contribute to promoting the formation of consciences of many of our brothers and sisters.”