Vatican Statement on the Status of Embryos - September 2000

POPE JOHN PAUL II: "The legal norm in particular is called to define the juridical status of the embryo as a subject of rights, recognizing it as a biologically irrefutable fact which in itself calls for values that neither the moral nor the juridical order can ignore. "

"For the same reason, I consider it my duty once again to assert these inviolable rights of the human being from his conception on behalf of all the embryos which are often subjected to freezing (cryopreservation), in many cases becoming an object of sheer experimentation or, worse, destined to programmed destruction backed by law. "Likewise, I confirm that it is gravely illicit, because of the dignity of the human person and of his having been called to life, to use methods of procreation which the Instruction 'Donum vitae' has defined as unacceptable to moral doctrine. The illicitness of these interventions on the origin of life and on human embryos has already been stated (cf. 'Donum Vitae,' I, 5; I1), but it is necessary that the principles on which the same moral reflection is based be taken up at the legal level.

I therefore appeal to the conscience of the world's scientific authorities and in particular to doctors, that the production of human embryos be halted, taking into account that there seems to be no morally licit solution regarding the human destiny of the thousands and thousands of 'frozen' embryos which are and remain the subjects of essential rights and should therefore be protected by law as human persons."

"I also call on all jurists to work so that States and international institutions will legally recognize the natural rights of the very origin of human life and will likewise defend the inalienable rights which these thousands of 'frozen' embryos have intrinsically acquired from the moment of fertilization. Government leaders themselves cannot shirk this duty, if the value of democracy, which is rooted in recognizing the inviolable rights of every human individual, is to be safeguarded at its very origins."

PONTIFICAL ACADEMY FOR LIFE: "From a biological standpoint, the formation and the development of the human embryo appears as a continuous, coordinated and gradual process from the time of fertilization, at which time a new human organism is constituted, endowed with the intrinsic capacity to develop by himself into a human adult. The most recent contributions of the biomedical sciences offer further valuable empirical evidence for substantiating the individuality and developmental continuity of the embryo. To speak of a pre-embryo thus is an incorrect interpretation of the biological data. ... The ethical exigency of respect and care for the life and integrity of the embryo, demanded by the presence of [a] human being, is motivated by a unitary conception of man ('Corpore et anima unus') whose personal dignity must be recognized from the beginning of his physical existence."