Stellungnahme - Statement - Opinión
 published: 2006-01-10

Human Embryo Research

Personalist interpretation in the light of Father Joseph Kentenich’s organic thinking


Dra. Elena Lugo (izq.) en la Jornada de Bioética en Nuevo Schoenstatt, Argentina

Dr. Elena Lugo (l.) in the Conference in Bioethics in Nuevo Schoenstatt, Argentina

Dr. Elena Lugo (l.) bei einer Bioethik-Tagung in Nuevo Schoenstatt, Argentinien


Dra. Elena Lugo: El embrión humano no es tan sólo vida humana potencialmente persona, sino que ya es persona actual en su ser.

Dr. Elena Lugo: The human embryo is not only human life potentially a person, but already person

Dr. Elena Lugo: Der menschliche Embryo ist nicht potentiell Person, sondern bereits tatsächlich Person in seinem Sein.

Fotos: Archiv © 2006


El científico Hwang Woo Suk

The Corean stem cell researcher Hwang Woo Suk

Der koreanische Stammzellenforscher Hwang Woo Suk

Fotos: Archiv © 2006


SCHOENSTATT, mkf. With the recent broadcasting of the false supposed historical discoveries by a South Korean scientist – relative to cloning and stem cell experimentation – a reflection on the topic was obtained from Sr. Dr. Elena Lugo, an expert in bioethics.

Last May, South Korean scientist Hwang published in SCIENCE magazine an article in which he assured having created twelve chains of embryonic stem cells from patients affected by diverse illnesses and which opened the possibility of healing through the stem cells. Immediately, scientists and opinion leaders wanted to see in this announcement the remedy for curing illnesses like diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, or cancer and they fell over backward trying to convince humanity of the marvelous future which was in store. The only obstacle was the "retrogressive" Catholic Church which was opposed to this advancement by defending the dignity of the human embryos which were divided into pieces and proposed the use of adult stem cells. On December 29, 2005, the National University of Seoul named a nine member committee to investigate the scientist Hwang Woo Suk and announced that all of his findings relating to the creation of stem cells were false.

A "horrible blow" to thousands of patients was discussed on many news media…..Also discussed was the definitive blow against the reputation of the South Korean pioneer in genetic cloning. With their hand on the pulse of time, many ask themselves: And now what? Is this not the moment in which God speaks aloud of the dignity of the human embryo?

Father Kentenich’s thinking applied to bioethics

The bioethical evaluation of biomedical research with human embryos cannot be limited to the perspective of a secular bioethics with a "mechanistic" direction as would be termed by Father Kentenich.

Secular bioethics is generally and fundamentally characterized by a pragmatic method to solve the problems and conflicts in the areas of study of bioethics. Its method rests upon the minimal assumption to count on a thinking community with a pluralistic direction and interested in avoiding as far as possible all harm, fostering the welfare of the majority and resolving problems through consensus or a negotiated accord.

This modality of study and application of bioethics seems charming and attractive since it responds to the desire to participate democratically; it appears to be respectful of individual freedom and to be attentive to the private character of conscience; it facilitates social commitment which becomes, in many cases, a civil law; and finally, it places itself on the margin of divergent ideologies with the aim of fostering unity in action. The result is pragmatic.

The pragmatic method supposes depression or moderate skepticism as far as being able to know the ultimate foundation of truth and the basis of good in a universal sense or of necessary objectivity. Before questions like the nature of the human embryo, death, the use of natural resources and clinical practice, practical commitments are sought supported on procedures for dialog and dialectics agreed on beforehand which allow the coexistence of diverse ethical options.

Now then, can a majority – even when it thinks and is benevolent – determine what is true and good on such fundamental themes like life, death, the environment, and human interactions? The most adequate answer is no; but to demonstrate it one can turn to organic thinking which can act as an integrating context of ontological self-centeredness, the natural moral law and the vital dynamics pertinent to the actual questions in bioethics.

Organic mentality vs. mechanistic mentality

The first objective of organic thinking is to restore the harmony between immanence and transcendence in life, in the thinking as in moral human acting and in all its activity, including love. It seeks to foster not only the natural dimension but the supernatural dimension in a respectful and fertile reciprocity.

In intimate attachment to the harmony between transcendence and immanence, organic thinking demands a practical- ethical-psycho-spiritual-formative commitment of the person as a total person. Thus it sets up the central idea to respond to the challenges in bioethics. Theory and practice complement each other and are inseparable in organic thinking. At the same time, this thinking offers a self-motivation –educative to include in the answers to the bioethical challenges, the commitment of attitudes and personal virtues in a web of attachments including persons representing the community in general, in solidarity with professionals in biomedicine or sciences which form them.

When human reasoning is complemented by the light of religious faith, the method of study in bioethics is widened to pay attention to and recognize the validity of the spiritual dimensions and the transcendental component of the object studied. In general, this supposes protecting human goods inherent to the person’s being (dignity, integrity, and attachments) beyond utilitarianism, the use of technology, and the reduction of life to its mere functioning.

Personalist bioethic response to the present challenges

How would the personalist organic bioethics respond to the challenge of the research with human embryos including the staminal cells and cloning?

  1. In the first place, the ontological status of the human embryo would be stated precisely:
    1. The human embryo is not only human life which is potentially a person, but it is an actual person in its being, in the essential and substantial sense of the word person even when it does not exhibit the functioning of a conscious being, reflexive and interactive –communicative, trustee of an interior, and with the capacity to express itself physically.
    2. The human embryo is a child of God. This reality is basic to its true dignity and holiness. In as much, its human nature is a good which reason recognizes and faith affirms as a gift from the Provident love of the Father God.
  2. Then the ethical implications which derive from this interpretation of the human embryo as a person with its own identity would be questioned, even compatible with a division into two embryonic entities (twins). It would then be indicated:
    1. All technical or biomedical intervention in the life of the embryo must respect its bodily integrity and its orientation toward life as a natural and supernatural good. From there then only is allowed the genetic examination and the therapy when they suppose it is a substantial good for the life and the health of the embryo with a minimum risk to the embryo.
    2. On the other hand, experimentation and research is only allowed when it will not harm in any way its integrity and dignity.
    3. If the extraction of multiple cells (matrix) destroys the embryo, it would not be acceptable.
    4. All manipulation with germinated cells with the intention of generating technically a deliberately deficient embryo or not leading to its natural birth with the intention of using it as a material experiment leading to a therapeutic aim in some future would be prohibited.
    5. The use of cells extracted from the blood of the umbilical cord, the extraction of cells in adults capable of leading to embryonic stages, would be fostered.

It is important to remember that according to the vision of Father Kentenich, the value of the human embryo as the treatment which it deserves, results organically inseparable to the value of the natural process of human procreation as an expression of conjugal love as a reciprocal gift of two persons in the sense of being incarnated spirit in sexual complementation. On the other hand, research with embryos very often mechanically separates this in its natural and normative context: gestation in continuity with matrimonial unity and fertility.

Translation: Carlos Cantú Family Federation La Feria, Texas USA

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