FROZEN EMBRYOS AND CLONES


Do human embryos and human clones have souls?

The Church affirms that human life is sacred from conception to natural death, thus asserting the inviolability of all human beings. So, the question is really, are embryos and clones, if ever produced, human beings?

This question is answered adequately by philosophy and science. Science shows us that different kinds of existing things, called a being, belong to specific categories of being. Among living beings we can determine from the genetic makeup of the individual what kind of being it is. Human sperm and egg cells have only half the complement of human genetic material, and a limited lifespan. They do not replicate and organize themselves in any way. They are "human" in that they come from human beings, but they are not human beings. However, after they unite to form a fertilized ovum all the genetic material that will ever be needed is present to constitute a human being. Furthermore, other than needing a special environment at different stages (whether the womb or the cradle), all that will determine their growth is the unfolding of the genetic plan contained within and the addition of nutrients and time. This cannot be said of sperm and egg. Their independent life is fixed. The life of a human being is not – all it needs is the right environment, food, water, oxygen and love. Whether two cells or two billion cells, this is true.

In the case of frozen embryos, if they can be revived and if they are then still living, then they are human beings, and all human beings by definition have a soul. Since such embryos have developed into human children we know this to be true. The same would be true of clones. If the processes, no matter how artificial and unnatural, result in a being that is materially human in makeup and can live and develop into a child, then that child will have a soul. No creature as materially complicated as a man can live without the spiritual form which theology calls the soul.


Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

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