Three months after it issued a statement calling any and all manipulation of human embryos “inherently immoral and a fundamental violation of human life,” the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America this week issued a second statement expressing “firm opposition to creation of cloned embryos, either for reproductive purposes for so-called therapeutic purposes.”
“Although the latter is usually judged acceptable even where the former is condemned, we urge recognition of a basic truth: All cloning is reproductive,” the hierarchs wrote in the statement, titled “On the Cloning of Human Embryos.”
Challenging the notion that pre-implantation embryos are merely cellular and not human life, the hierarchs stated that “scientifically and biologically, all human cellular life is by definition human life,” constituting “an actual organic unity, a specific and unique human individual, endowed with human nature and bearing the image of God.”
“The fact that much in the life of an embryo is potential does not alter its nature as a human being,” the hierarchs continued. “Because the DNA or genetic code is fully present from fertilization (or, we must specify today, from the onset of embryonic growth), unique and individually differentiated human life is fully present, even though it has not been expressed as specific organs or capacities, and even though it may twin to produce multiple offspring.”
The statement calls for a legal ban on nuclear transfer and parthenogenesis, which it sees as “inherently immoral,” adding that “we may not use evil means to achieve good ends; therefore we may not kill human embryos, even to make possible life-saving or life-enhancing therapies.”
At the same time, however, the hierarchs noted that research on the “harvesting of stem cells from adult tissue and from the blood of umbilical cords,” which have “proven to be as potentially useful for therapeutic purposes as embryonic cells,” should be supported with public (government) funding.”
“Laws, such as exist in Western European nations, covering the private sector as well as government-funded institutions, should be passed to prohibit all human cloning and embryonic cell research,” the hierarchs concluded, urging passage of the Brownback bill, S. 790.
The complete text of the Holy Synod’s statement appears on the web site of the Orthodox Church in America at Statement on Cloning and in the January/February 2002 issue of “The Orthodox Church,” the Church’s official newspaper.