Claim of Cloned Baby Draws Sharp Criticism

"Expression of a Brutal Mentality," Says Vatican

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The reported birth of the first cloned baby is in itself an "expression of a brutal mentality, devoid of any ethical or human consideration," the Vatican says.



Joaquín Navarro-Valls, director of the Vatican Press Office, said last Saturday that "the announcement, without any evidence, has already caused skepticism and the moral condemnation of a great part of the international scientific community."

Brigitte Boisselier, scientific director of the cloning company Clonaid and "bishop" of the Raelian sect, said during a press conference in Orlando, Florida, that the baby "Eve" was delivered Dec. 26 by Caesarean section.

Las Vegas, Nevada-based Clonaid was founded in 1997 by a French racing car driver who changed his name to Rael and launched the Raelian sect, which believes that life on earth was created by extraterrestrial scientists.

According to the announcement, which has not convinced the scientific community, the baby girl is a clone of a 31-year-old who cannot have children with her husband. The Raelians said that four other cloned babies are due within 30 days.

"We will wait for the fifth birth before stating that we have achieved a scientific success," said Boisselier, who declined to discuss a number of details.

Eve was born in an undisclosed place "outside the United States," the group said.

Verification of the cloning has been entrusted by Clonaid to a team of scientists, whose names have not been disclosed. They are coordinated by Michael Guillen, former science correspondent of ABC-TV's "Good Morning America," Boisselier explained.

"In eight or nine days at most, we will have the results," said Guillen, who added that Eve's DNA will be compared to her mother's to verify the cloning.

"Let's hope that it is an unfounded announcement," Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said over Vatican Radio. "However, even if it is so, I consider it grave, because reproductive cloning and so-called therapeutic cloning represent an extreme of rupture before humanity."

Bishop Sgreccia described the announcement as a "crime against humanity, because it imposes an enslavement, the transformation of a human individual into an object of play and of fantastic productivity."

The defense of humanity must begin with the law, "a law that is effective and able to penalize transgressions," the bishop stressed.

"There must be a limit beyond which one cannot go," he added. "It is not a limit of an ideological-cultural character: It is a limit of humanity. I think that in legislative bodies, both national as well as international, ranging from the European Union to the U.N., there is a clear and effective initiative and position."

Domenico Di Virgilio, president of the Italian Association of Catholic Doctors, warned against the procedure of cloning, which to date has shown serious problems in mammals.

There were 272 attempts made before Dolly the sheep was produced, something that "expresses the technical difficulty," he explained.

Moreover, he said, the animal, at 3 years of age, showed the aging signs of a 14-year-old. This "indicates that there is something that we do not know how to control or direct in a concrete or correct way," Di Virgilio added.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration, which approves all experimentation for medical purposes, initiated an investigation following Boisselier's announcement. Countries such as Great Britain, Germany, Israel and Japan already have laws banning the duplication of human beings.