Catholic Church statement on Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

We urge politicians to take into account the serious concerns of the Catholic Community when they deal with the issues in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill.

This bill raises grave concerns not only in what it explicitly covers but in its scope and how it may be amended to deal with abortion.

We have previously informed the Prime Minister, in connection with this legislation, of our worry at the proposals which diminish the natural status of fathers and disturb the natural bonds between parents and children.

We believe that we represent a wider public disquiet by drawing attention to our further concerns arising from the bill. These include the proposals to cross the species barrier, entailed in the creation of hybrids and chimeras. This is not a justifiable direction for legitimate scientific research.

It is a dangerous and unnecessary precedent which does not respect the dignity of the human person. We note that such practices are banned in Canada, Australia and many European countries.

We are concerned at the level of control government provides to the work of scientists and researchers in what can be very complex areas. We are convinced of the need for a National Advisory Committee which is free of commercial research interests to give appropriate advice to Government on bioethical issues.

Such a group needs to be widely representative of ethical expertise within society. The public debate has so far been dominated by scientific and medical opinion when in reality mature ethical systems have a more crucial contribution in dealing with the issues at stake. The role of the existing HFEA is inadequate in meeting these needs and of informing the wider public of developments.

There is also a need for an honest appraisal of foetal sentience which to our mind was not adequately recognised in recent parliamentary considerations.

We are appalled at the presence of abortion and its continued expansion in our society. Every abortion is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person. We call on the government to review the soaring level of abortion and its damaging impact on individuals and society.

The HFE bill should not in any way be used to increase abortion but if the matter is addressed it must only be to provide measures which dramatically reduce this social ill and contribute to creating a society more sensitive to the rights and value of human life.