Injecting human DNA into a non-human egg is a “monstrous” undertaking, of “Frankenstein” proportions, according to the Catholic church. Next they’ll be telling us that The Earth is flat.
These comments, delivered in an Easter sermon by a high-ranking Cardinal, are part of the Catholic church’s recent campaign against The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, currently passing through the UK House of Commons.
Amongst other things, this ground-breaking legislation will allow the use of human/animal hybrid embryos for stem cell research. This is an important enabling technique that involves removing the DNA from animal eggs and replacing it with somatic human DNA to allow the creation of stem cells for use in studying and treating debilitating diseases. One of the technique’s main advantages is that it avoids the use of stem cells generated from human embryos, greatly easing the associated supply and ethical problems.
The UK government considers this as a key piece of legislation that will allow the UK to continue to lead the way in stem cell research. Of course, the Catholic church disagrees with the bill and they have every right to enter into the ethical debate on it. But the way they are going about it is wrong.
Ethical debate must always be based on fact, if not, it is no longer a debate. In it’s addresses on this issue, the Catholic church has deliberately bent the truth and used alarmist language in an effort to stimulate their congregations into action. A letter sent to one MP by a citizen protesting that “We don’t want people who are half human, half cow walking down our street.” would suggest that their efforts are having some success.
What’s even more worrying is that some of the troops that have been successfully mobilised by the church’s efforts are members of the UK government itself. Twelve Catholic members of parliament (MPs) have demanded the freedom to vote with their conscience against the bill, rather than being forced to follow the party line and have threatened to quit if they are not allowed to do so. This would be a disaster for the government, so the prime minister is being forced to consider their demands.
There is nothing wrong in principle with a free vote on this subject, but the fact is that the Catholic MPs are seeking to replace their party line with the Catholic church’s.
UK government policy being altered by the direct action of the Catholic church? In a secular society, this must set alarm bells ringing.
I would be willing to bet that none of the twelve MPs who are demanding the right to exercise their religious beliefs in policy decisions used their religious beliefs as part of their election campaigns. That generally doesn’t happen in the UK.
For all I know, the MP I voted for in the last election could be Catholic and I would have no problem with that as I would assume that in this secular society his religion would not directly affect policy-making. But I would be extremely angry if he (ab)used my mandate to take part in this purely religious and non-fact-based attempt to de-rail a policy of such importance.
I’m sure that suffers of the many debilitating diseases that stem cell research hopes to cure would be angry too.