Polish Bishops on Funding Human Embryo Research

"Human Dignity Is Inviolable. It Must Be Respected and Protected"

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POZNAN, Poland, JUNE 29, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the statement published Sunday by the episcopal conference of Poland on the European Parliament's decision to finance research on human embryos and embryonic stem cells.



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On June 15, 2006, the European Parliament in the first reading voted on the seventh Framework Program on scientific research and development, and called for the European Union funding of research on human embryos and embryonic stem cells. Given the nature of this decision which clearly has its ethical dimension, the episcopate of Poland gathered at the 336th plenary session in Poznan, wish to present their opinion on this matter.

We are in favor of scientific development in the European Union and we advocate greater funding for scientific research. We respect and support the right to freedom of research, each man's right to health and treatment, and the duty to assist those who are ill. We are aware of the fact that research into human stem cells holds great promise from a cognitive and therapeutic point of view.

Nevertheless, the result of the vote in the European Parliament gives rise to our grave ethical objections since research into human embryonic stem cells undertaken out of concern for some people's health and life is done at the expense of destroying other human beings. Such objections cannot be passed over in silence and therefore, we must express our determined opposition to the financing of research by the European Union which leads to the destruction of human embryos. Research into embryonic cells is carried out at the expense of human embryos who from their very beginning, that is from the moment of conception, have the right to that unconditional respect which is morally due to the human being ("Evangelium Vitae," no. 60).

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights contains a provision that says: "Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected" (art. 1). Such dignity is due to every human being from conception to natural death. Treating a human embryo as an object of experiments and, thus its instrumentalization is a flagrant violation of this dignity.

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Poland ruled that such activities are incompatible with the principle of a democratic state governed by the rule of law: "A democratic state governed by the rule of law holds man and his most precious weal as a supreme value. By this weal, we understand life which in a democratic state governed by the rule of law must enjoy constitutional protection in each stage of its development" (Ruling by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Poland dated May 28, 1997).

The decision of the European Parliament also raises serious objections in view of the fact that the EU fundamental principle of subsidiarity is not respected in this case. The European Union is expected to provide funding for research which is incompatible with national legal systems in place in many member states, including Poland. The area that provokes such controversy: The regulation of ethical questions belongs solely to the competence of member states.

Following the decision of the European Parliament, research which is unlawful under national law should be financed from the EU budget, and in this way, also from the contributions of the states where such research is illegal. The promotion of such a practice in the European Union would be detrimental to its cohesion, subjectivity and would clearly lead to unnecessary conflicts. This is why we are outspokenly against such solutions.

The Polish bishops attending the 336th plenary session of the conference of the episcopate of Poland fully endorse the position taken by the commission of episcopates of the European Community, as expressed during its plenary session in November 2005. It was later reiterated by the COMECE bureau in May this year. It is our conviction that the European Union should focus its research on many other promising areas also involving stem cells but the ones procured from adult persons.

As it was expressed in the position of the Permanent Council and the Scientific Council of the conference of the episcopate of Poland, Feb. 26, 2004: "such a form of therapy does not raise any ethical doubts and is a genuine hope for those ill and suffering, unlike the creation and use of embryonic stem cells."

We urge the European Parliament to revise its decision on this issue. It does not promote the cause of respecting dignity of the human being nor does it serve the common weal. Such a mistaken decision which fails to take into account a fundamental value, i.e. that of human life, undermines confidence in the European Union and its decision-making processes.

We call on all people of good will, on the Council and on the European Commission, to take all measures in order not to allow the implementation of the decision taken by the European Parliament on the financing of research on embryos and embryonic stem cells.

Signed: Polish cardinals, archbishops and bishops attending the 336th plenary session of the conference of the episcopate of Poland

Poznan -- Gniezno, June 25, 2006