Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Brazilian bishops affirm wrongness of all embryo destruction and abuse

In response to the recent Brazilian supreme court ruling allowing destructive research on surplus IVF embryos, the bishops of Brazil have reiterated that life, which begins “at fertilization,” should be protected “in all circumstances.” The bishops stated that the embryo is “a human life,” as confirmed by “embryology and biology, and therefore the human embryo has the right to be protected by the State.”

The bishops "reaffirm that the mere fact of being in the presence of a human being demands full respect for his integrity and dignity: any behavior that could constitute a threat or an offense to the fundamental rights of the human person, the first of which is the right to life, is considered gravely immoral”.

The Brazilian bishops' statement is important. It is sometimes asserted in pro-life circles, for example, that IVF practices are tolerable, permissible or even desirable - even though IVF practices involve embryo destruction, embryo freezing and the foreseen death or "wastage" of surplus embryos. Similarly, some people also believe (wrongly) that, while embryo destruction is wrong, there is nothing wrong with IVF from a secular ethical perspective if no embryo destruction takes place. IVF, however, is in fact intrinsically wrong from a secular ethical perspective, whether or not embryo destruction takes place. The Church's teaching on the intrinsic wrongness of IVF is itself based on secular (though by no means irreligious) ethical perspectives, in particular the dignity of the human being as a member of the human family. As the Church teaches in Donum Vitae:

"Such fertilization entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children"

and therefore

"[t]he political authority consequently cannot give approval to the calling of human beings into existence through procedures which would expose them to those very grave risks noted previously....As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of his conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights."