ADDRESSING the new British Ambassador to the Holy See at Castel Gandolfo last Saturday, John Paul II departed from the normal platitudes to deliver an oblique but stinging rebuke to Her Majesty's Government. An "area of concern", he said, "in which Christians can offer a privileged witness, is that of respect for life in face of attempts to legitimise abortion, the production of human embryos for research, and processes of genetic manipulation such as the cloning of human beings. Neither human life nor the human person can ever legitimately be treated as an object to be manipulated or as a disposable commodity" The Holy Father went on to explain that the "sublime dignity" of each human being at every stage of life "demands the greatest respect and dignity on the part of individuals, communities, nations and international bodies" That Tony Blair and the United Kingdom would not qualify for inclusion in the ranks of those individuals and nations who have lived up to this call will be lost on nobody. In fact, the announcement on Monday that a Stem Cell Bank, the first in the world, will be opened at Potter's Bar underlines the UK Establishment's commitment to destructive research on human embryos.
John Paul II is once again providing the leadership which the world so clearly needs at this time. Like many other international observers he must be finding it difficult to explain the total dedication of this government to destructive embryo research, which has been shown to have little medical benefit. Meanwhile, recent spectacular advances with adult stem cells have led other nations to turn away from all forms of human cloning. Spectacularly, the Australian House of Representatives voted 8943 to ban all cloning on August 29th, and in the USA a finely balanced debate continues.
The real reason for the spin and bias obscuring the UK debates on the relative merits of adult versus embryonic stem cells must be money. Millions and millions of taxpayer's pounds will be siphoned into Medical Research Council (MRC) projects such as the £2.6 million Potters Bar Stem Cell Bank, but patent licences for the exploitation of the breakthroughs produced will be granted to private sector bio-tech companies owned by an individual close to the Labour Government.
The Holy Father has put his finger on a grave disease afflicting our national body politic. We are guilty of destruction, manipulation and trivialisation of human life without parallel in history. We deserve the papal rebuke.