Half human, half animal?

British scientists have recently received a green light from their regulatory agency to create “hybrid embryos.” Using cloning technology, these embryos are made out of human and animal parts. By injecting a human nucleus (the “human genetic package”) into a cow egg that has had its own genetic package taken out, a defective human embryo can be created.

People sometimes imagine this would make a half-human, half-animal creature and, hence, the name “hybrid embryo.” However, because the nuclear genetic package is entirely human, the new embryo would actually be human with various cow molecules present as “contaminants” within the embryo’s biochemical machinery. The reason for trying to produce these maimed human embryos is to be able to destroy them before they grow too large, prior to reaching two weeks of age, in order to obtain their stem cells.

This bizarre project of creating partially damaged human embryos using cow eggs is being promoted largely because of the difficulty of getting women to agree to donate their eggs. Most women balk at the idea of handing over their own eggs voluntarily so that scientists can use them for cloning experiments. Not only is the procedure for obtaining eggs invasive, painful and dangerous for women, but they often feel a natural protectiveness towards their own eggs, their fertility, and any children they might engender. 

This instinct to “protect our own” is deeply rooted not only in human beings, but throughout the animal kingdom, and only the most cursory ethical reflection is needed to grasp the moral problem with creating human offspring in laboratories, using an admixture of cow components, in order to scientifically cannibalize them.

We see this natural instinct to protect one’s embryonic offspring very powerfully illustrated in the case of the emperor penguin. It is the only mammal bold enough to remain in Antarctica throughout the entire winter, while others migrate to warmer climates. The story of the breeding habits of emperor penguins has fascinated millions in the recent big-screen movie, “March of the Penguins.” These animals find one mate, to whom they are singularly faithful, and each female lays one softball-sized egg, which she hands over to her mate. She then strikes out on a two-month feeding frenzy in the waters of the ocean, leaving her partner to incubate the egg through the worst of the polar winter, having only his body fat to sustain him.

Through shrieking windstorms and weeks of winter darkness, the male carefully balances the egg containing the growing embryonic penguin on the tops of his feet, where there is an apron of densely-feathered flesh which seals out the deadly cold. That egg remains on his feet for more than 60 days, and during that period, the male eats nothing and loses up to half of his own body weight. If the egg should happen to fall out of its protective hutch, it can freeze solid on the polar ice in a matter of a few short minutes. The mother normally returns around the time the child hatches. After hatching, an emperor chick spends its first two months nestled within its mother’s or father’s belly pouch, where the temperature hovers at a protective 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Parents take turns caring for the young chick, feeding it regurgitated food until it eventually becomes ready to exit from its secret hutch and face the brutal elements of Antarctica.

The incredible solicitude of the emperor penguin for its own pre-born offspring, scrupulously protecting them even in their most vulnerable embryonic stages, is a powerful testament to the proper order of creation, where older members of the species naturally go to great lengths to assure the safety and well-being of younger members.

Part of the progress of human civilization over the centuries has been in a similar protection for the young, where children have come to be seen as a sacred trust, an end in themselves, and not merely a means for the satisfaction of parental (or scientific) desires. Father Raymond de Souza has summarized the matter well:

“It is a hallmark of Western civilization that children are to be seen as good in their own right, persons with rights and dignity entrusted to the care of their parents. This is such a commonplace idea that we do not stop to consider it a great civilizational achievement, but it is. In the ancient world both infanticide and child sacrifice were not rare, and in general the legal status of the child was akin to other property in the household. It was the long painstaking work of centuries -- drawing upon both religious and civil resources -- to arrive at the cultural and legal consensus that the child does not exist as an object for the benefit of others, but that the child must be treated as a subject for his own sake.”

Today, however, we are being powerfully tempted to subvert these primary intuitions and instincts by forcefully removing our young from the protective harbor of the womb via abortion, and by going even further and desecrating our own embryonic children as mere objects for scientific aggrandizement, treating them as repositories for deriving spare parts or stem cells.

Some in our society pretend that this type of scientific research represents “progress,” but it actually represents a regress to a time when children were considered objects to be disposed of by others. One reason that “The March of the Penguins” was such a hit was because of the way it highlighted the kind of parental love, protection, and sacrifice to which each of us naturally is drawn. The destruction of our own through embryonic stem-cell research -- as much as some might wish to cloak it in terms of techniques such as “hybrids” -- is a reversion to the barbarism of former ages.

The remarkable extent to which many members of the animal kingdom seek to protect their own embryonic offspring should give us pause as a society to reflect on basic questions, and help us regain our moral equilibrium, lest we continue to rush headlong into transgressing our own nature and our most sacred obligations towards our young.

Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and did post-doctoral work at Harvard. He is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, MA, and serves as the Director of Education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. See www.ncbcenter.org

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...