Saturday, December 13, 2008


The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has just released Dignitas Personae (Dignity of the Person), the first "instruction" on reproductive technology in more than 20 years. The 33-page instruction updates a 1987 document, Donum Vitae (The Gift of Life), which then asserted the integrity of the human embryo.

Full text---
This instruction of a doctrinal nature is expressly approved by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. It therefore falls within the category of documents that "participate in the ordinary Magisterium of the successor of Peter" (Instruction Donum veritatis, n.18), and is to be received by Catholics "with the religious assent of their spirit" (Dignitas personae, n. 37).

A short excerpt with respect to those questioning the beginning of life:

As is known, abortion is "the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth".45 Therefore, the use of means of interception and contragestation fall within the sin of abortion and are gravely immoral. Furthermore, when there is certainty that an abortion has resulted, there are serious penalties in canon law.46. 43 The interceptive methods which are best known are the IUD (intrauterine device) and the so-called "morning after pills". 44 The principal means of contragestation are RU-486 (Mifepristone), synthetic prostaglandins or Methotrexate. 45 JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, 58: AAS 87 (1995), 467. 46 Cf. CIC, can. 1398 and CCEO, can. 1450 § 2; cf. also CIC, can. 1323-1324. The Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law declared that the canonical concept of abortion is "the killing of the fetus in whatever way or at whatever time from the moment of conception" (Response of 23 May 1988: AAS 80 [1988], 1818).

And a short excerpt to guide Catholics who profess to stand "in good conscience":

57 Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, 73: AAS 87 (1995), 486: "Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection". The right of conscientious objection, as an expression of the right to freedom of conscience, should be protected by law.
Thus, the instruction enshrines the embryo not only as a human being but also as a whole "person" with all the "philosophical and legal consequences that such recognition might entail", according to Bishop Rino Fisichella, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It also reprises the Church's condemnation of in vitro fertilization and the "eugenic mentality" arising from advances in genetic engineering, saying: "In the attempt to create a new type of human being, one can recognize an ideological element in which man tries to take the place of his Creator."

The instruction comes at a time when:

- US president-elect Barack Obama, who is to take office on January 20, is expected to act quickly to reverse an executive order by President George W. Bush banning embryonic stem cell research. Obama also promised to immediately sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act, which removes restrictions on abortion.

- French bioethics law is set for review next year.

- Hybrid Human-Animal Embryo Research is being challenged in The UK.

- The Philippines RH bill (HB 5043), which aims to coercively promote abortifacients, is being deliberated in Congress.

May the dignity of the person prevail. Amen.

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