Human Cloning

Fr. Giles O.F.M.

The issue of cloning is in the media again. The "Vatican" has denounced the idea. And yet there is a large well-financed group in Rome that is striving to be the first to clone a human. There are countless other fringe groups who have made this a part of their "religion" and are enthusiastically striving to accomplish this before all others.

There are many reasons for opposing such things just as there are many arguments in favor of it. But, interestingly enough with all the discussion involved, there is little understanding of just what it means to clone a human being.

Cloning is basically a method of asexual reproduction. Men have been doing this for a very long time with plants. When we root a cutting from our favorite plant and produce another plant, we have basically cloned the parent plant. Almost all of our grafted fruit trees are essentially clones from a single ancestor.

This has brought a difficulty to the philosophical world when dealing with the soul. What happens to the soul of the plant? Does the parent plant's soul divide? Is it reproduced? Or is a new soul given to the clone?

It appears from the studies of philosophers that the vegetal soul (life principle) can be reproduced or divided just as the physical body. Thus there is no moral difficulty in accepting the fact of cloning in the vegetative realm.

This same thing — growing a complete whole from one or more of its parts (cloning) — is also known to occur "naturally" among the lowest forms of animal life.

Science has taken this a step further and has now cloned higher forms of life — most notably "Dolly" the sheep. And since that time has succeeded in cloning other animals.

The cloning of plants is easy as they are relatively simple life forms, but the cloning of mammals presents a challenge because they are much more complex. We cannot just cut off a part of a mammal and expect it to regenerate a complete new life like the original. Our advancement in the field of microbiology has shown us some of the more secret workings of God's creation, and thus pointed us in the direction we need to take to asexually reproduce mammals.

In essence, the scientist takes a mature cell (having a complete set of chromosomes — diploid) from a living animal and also takes an unfertilized egg cell (having half a set of chromosomes — haploid) from an animal of the same species. The haploid set of chromosomes is removed from the egg and the diploid chromosomes from the mature cell are implanted into the now empty egg cell. The egg now has a complete (diploid) set of chromosomes, which it normally would only have after uniting its own haploid set of chromosomes with the haploid set of chromosomes supplied by a sperm cell. The egg cell has been "tricked" into behaving as if it had been fertilized, because it now has a complete set of chromosomes. With a jolt of electricity the cell begins to grow and divide and after being successfully implanted in the womb of a host mother it eventually produces another fully functional living animal.

This new animal has the same genetic makeup as the original. The chromosomes that it carries within its cells are set out in the same pattern as the original. It is very much, genetically speaking, like an identical twin, only separated by time and space. But, as most everyone knows, identical twins are not identical. The environment and nurturing play great roles in forming the individual. And in humans, identical twins have different personalities, which are manifested because they have two different souls.

In the animal cases of cloning it is clear that the cloned animal begins life in a different cell (unlike identical twins which result from the splitting of a single fertilized egg); it grows and develops in a different womb; it is born to a different mother; it is fed and raised in a different time and place; etc. It shares only a similarity in the arrangements of its chromosomes.

Just as a cutting from a plant will not grow exactly the same as the original (It responds to its own particular environment and adapts itself accordingly.) so likewise the clone of an animal will not grow exactly the same as the "parent".

The question now turns to the soul or life force of this cloned animal. It appears that this soul too would have to be considered in the same light as that of the plant soul. It has somehow been divided or reproduced, with the physical body of the creature.

"The manifestations of animal life do not warrant us in arguing to the existence of a spiritual principle. The animal is not a person; the world of spiritual beings and spiritual values is closed to it. Therefore it is not an end, but only a means; and it is as a means that the animal has always served man." (Fundamental Questions of Philosophy, Rev. August Brunner S.J., 1937, p. 156)

Our progresses in these areas are well and good in themselves. God has placed us at the head of all His creation in this world, and it is our duty to study the book of creation and see the great workings of the Creator. All of these things were made by God for our use. And as long as we are not abusing or using His creation for evil, we may study, manipulate and place our own hands to work on His creation.

Now if you are a careful observer of the Scriptures, you will have noticed that man has already been cloned right in the beginning with the creation of Eve. She was "cloned" from a rib from the side of Adam. And Adam states: "She now is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, for from man she has been taken." Likewise the physical body of Christ was formed from that of His mother Mary.

So theoretically speaking the cloning of man is possible. And even changing the sex of the clone is possible. For this is exactly what God did in creating Eve. Instead of duplicating the X,Y chromosome pair that was in Adam he changed it to an X,X chromosome pair in Eve. So not only should we be able to clone, but also we should be able to genetically alter that which is cloned.

With humans it is certain that each person is given a unique soul that is created by God. The soul is immortal and simple. It cannot be divided or reproduced. Ethically speaking we know we must consider human life to begin the moment that the soul is united to the body (death takes place when the soul departs from the body). From a practical point of view we must consider this union to occur at the moment of conception. Therefore with cloning, it must be that a new soul is created and united with the body (cell) of the new human life as soon as it begins life (respiring, taking in nutrition, growing, etc.)

The issue now turns upon the question of whether we should clone or not. Just because we are able to do something, does not mean that we necessarily should do it. We run into difficulty, morally speaking, when we set our hands to manipulating God's highest creation on earth — man who is made to His own image and likeness. We have the right and obligation to correct defects with the human body, but we have no right to produce defects or to interfere with God's established plan of procreation.

There are many problems with our methods of cloning. First there were many mistakes that were made when trying to clone animals. Many monsters were created, and there were many failures. If we work from the premise that each of these was a true life with a soul, then many animals were sacrificed in the pursuit of science. This may be acceptable in animals, but it most certainly could not be deemed acceptable for humans. Every human has an immortal soul made to the image and likeness of God — even those who are defective and are thus deemed "monsters" or "handicapped". Ethically speaking then we have no right to destroy them no matter how young they might be. It matters not whether they are mature enough to survive outside of a womb or whether they are only single cells that have just begun their lives. We have no right to destroy any human life.

We can and should seek to improve the lives of the handicapped and the human "monsters" that come into this world from whatever cause. Just as we seek to correct evils of sickness or repair parts of the "healthy" that get broken or cease functioning correctly, so must we seek to alleviate the suffering of others who are unable to help themselves. Likewise, we have an obligation to prevent as much as we morally can the further creation of such "defectives". For example: the question of the mentally retarded having the right to marry. Many get hung up on the idea that everyone is entitled to sexual gratification — somewhere we have been misguided into thinking that everyone has a universal right to sexual gratification. If we consider the sacrament of marriage (extra-marital sexual intercourse is obviously immoral) then we are led to consider the primary purpose of marriage — the bearing and raising of children for Heaven. Those who are incapable of (or unwilling to) fulfilling the duties of bearing, caring for, raising and teaching children, have no right to marry.

To be rather blunt, the mentally retarded have no moral right to procreate and bring more defective people into this world. The same holds true even if their condition is not hereditary, because they are incapable of caring for their own children.

Now if we take this same principle into the laboratories of the scientists who are doing reproductive experiments (cloning, in vitro conceptions, artificial insemination, etc.) with humans, we see that they have no moral right to reproduce humans that they are unable or unwilling to care for. And they have no right to kill any human that they deem unworthy of life.

To put it into terms that we are rather familiar with already: it is much like a woman taking fertility pills and thus conceiving multiple babies simultaneously. Then with the help of the "doctors" they determine that she is incapable of carrying all these children so they selectively murder the children that she does not wish to carry. Everyone who has not lost his right mind can see the evil in this. Yet, this is exactly what happens with most of our scientific "reproductive" techniques. We conceive multiple humans and then selectively destroy those we can not care for or do not want. They may be just a few cells big or even a single cell, but they are still human and have the same rights as you or I.

We have no right to bring them into this world nor do we have any right to send them out of this world in these circumstances. There is only one morally acceptable way for us to bring children into this world and that is through the sacramental institution of marriage. Children should be conceived in the intimacy of true love and welcomed and treasured as the gifts from God that they are. They should be seen as children of God — made in His image and likeness — that are destined to spend eternity with Him. Unless we can reasonably hope to accomplish this goal of leading our children to Heaven, we have no right to conceive them in any way.

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