Today's report by the bioethics council "deserves attention from all concerned about technological abuse of human life," said Cardinal Keeler, who chairs the U.S. bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities.
He praised the bioethics council's support for banning specific activities that he said demean human dignity, such as creating human/animal hybrids; placing human embryos in the bodies of animals, or in women's wombs for purposes other than a live birth; and the buying, selling or patenting of human embryos.
The cardinal called on Congress to strengthen the council's recommendations for monitoring in vitro fertilization clinics to prevent harm to women and children.
But Cardinal Keeler also said two council recommendations raise serious questions.
"First," he said in a statement, "the council favors banning the use of embryos in research beyond a certain number of days in their development. Notably, members did not agree on the number of days, or on the reason for this policy."
"The decisive fact," the cardinal said, "is that human life is a continuum from the one-celled stage onward. Any cutoff point after this event is arbitrary -- providing no principled reason not to extend the time limit for destructive research, once the precedent is established. We should not start down this road, but explore ways to discourage research that attacks any human life."
"Second," he continued, "the council recommends a ban on 'conceiving a child' using procedures such as cloning, or the use of eggs derived from fetal tissue or embryonic stem cells. However, 'conceiving a child' according to the council means only the act of creating an embryo 'with the intent to transfer it to a woman's body to initiate a pregnancy.'"
"A cloning ban based on what a researcher may 'intend' to do with an embryo after cloning occurs is, first of all, unenforceable," Cardinal Keeler stated. "More importantly, it misstates where the wrong lies in such procedures."
"Human cloning is wrong because it treats human life as an object of manufacture -- not because a researcher, having created the embryonic human, may 'intend' to allow him or her to survive," he noted. "These procedures should simply be banned."