Monday 19 May 2008

SPUC asks Archbishop Nichols to correct and clarify his statement on the value of embryonic human life

It is dismaying for pro-lifers, of all faiths and none, to hear the words of Vincent Nichols, the Catholic archbishop of Birmingham, today on BBC Radio 4's World at One. He said: “…What we’ve been trying to say all along is ‘What is the value that we give to human life in its first beginnings?’ Now clearly it’s not the same as we would give to another adult sitting next to me…”

As a Catholic, and as a pro-life campaigner, I am naturally familiar with Pope John Paul II's presentation of church teaching on the value of pre-natal life, which is completely contrary to the position set out by Archbishop Nichols.

Pope John Paul II writes, for example, in Evangelium Vitae (61) : "Human life is sacred and inviolable at every moment of existence, including the initial phase which precedes birth..."

Elsewhere, quoting Donum Vitae, the Holy Father said: "'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, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life'" (Evangelium Vitae 60)

With great respect, and especially in the light of the current debate and MPs' votes on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, a bill which shows such complete contempt for prenatal human life, I do sincerely hope and pray that the archbishop will reconsider what he said and issue a correction and clarification.

Archbishop Nichols also said to his interviewer: “In your introduction I think you quite rightly said that these [the question of saviour siblings] are painful dilemmas and I don’t believe there are black and white answers.”

I am asking the archbishop if he will make it clear that the practice known as “saviour siblings” is opposed by the Catholic Church for a number of reasons.

According to Donum Vitae, published in 1987 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in-vitro fertilisation is in itself illicit and in opposition to the dignity of procreation and of the conjugal union, even if everything is done to avoid the death of the human embryo.

Furthermore, the creation of “saviour siblings” necessarily involves the testing and discarding of human embryos who may either carry the same genetic problem as their sibling, or they may not be a good tissue match.

Finally, creating a human embryo in order for him or her to become a tissue donor for a sibling is contrary to the human dignity of that embyo.