Australian Cardinal May withhold Communion from New South Wales Premier over Cloning

Anglican and Catholic leaders are coming together in opposition of a new bill in New South Wales (NSW) that would allow therapeutic cloning, The Sydney Herald reports. Archbishop Cardinal George Pell, one of the most vocal opponents of the new legislation, warned Catholics in a press release on Monday against the bill that would allow "therapeutic cloning", "human-animal hybrids", "fertilizing immature eggs from aborted girls with adult male sperm" to form new embryos, and "mixing the genetic material of more than two persons."

Because the bill retains the ban on human reproductive cloning, all embryos must be killed no later than 14 days after they have been created. With this in mind, Cardinal Pell states, "We were all embryos once. That is how we started and from there we developed. The human embryo cannot develop as anything other than a human being. Therefore, it has intrinsic human dignity and should be afforded that most basic of human rights — the right to live, to grow, to prosper."

NSW Premier Morris Iemma, a supposedly "practicing" Catholic politician, introduced the bill which will be debated in parliament today. Speaking on behalf of his fellow bishops in the state, Cardinal Pell called all Catholic politicians to be morally accountable to their Catholic faith in this vote. He states, "No Catholic politician — indeed, no Christian or person with respect for human life — who has properly informed his conscience about the facts and ethics in this area should vote in favor of this immoral legislation."

Brisbane Times Reports quotes Cardinal Pell, "it is a serious moral matter and Catholic politicians who vote for this legislation must realize that their voting has consequences for their place in the life of the church." The Cardinal also told reporters that he may withhold communion from the Premier for his outspoken support of the new bill.

Today, all politicians will be casting a conscience vote, and the Cardinal challenges them not to follow the example of the commonwealth that legalized therapeutic cloning in 2006. He condemns the rapidity with which the bill is being pushed through saying, "We should not blindly follow the lead of other parliaments in passing such unethical legislation."

The Cardinal also warns that this legislative change will only lead down a slippery slope towards even more extreme abuses of human rights. "To produce a human embryo with the express purpose of destroying it for research — as if it were a lab rat — is a perverse new direction for human experimentation."

Cardinal Pell hopes to awaken the consciences of Australian politicians, but the Herald reports that so far he is meeting with much stubborn resistance.

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